India – Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion
Posted by hetty7 on March 8, 2012
This article was originally published by Sanhati. We thank them for making this available.
This is the Introduction. In the coming weeks SAREV will publish the entire article.
Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion
When every abuse has been hurled and epithet employed against the Maoists, half-truths and untruths begin to acquire wings. They are diagnosed, dissected, and demonized; the intelligentsia ae reluctant to face facts. Yet we are still compelled to demystify reality and to answer some fundamental questions: Why this war? Who are these people, the “single biggest threat” to India’s internal security. What is their politics? Why do they justify violence? How do they perceive their “people’s war”, their political goals and themselves.? How do they intend to take a leap from their forest strongholds into the world outside?This desire to humanize the demonized and to get to know the Maoists first hand, i.e., not simply through conversations, books, and documents, but to travel and meet and to see for myself, had been building up for many years. Twice I came close to making the trip. On the first occasion, I was ditched by two young journalists who failed to show up at the rendezvous. On the second occasion, I was unable to prepare myself at short notice.I was not going to miss out on this, my third opportunity.
Anyways, what follows is that I along with Swedish writer Jan Myrdal – saw, heard read, discussed, debated, and argued during a fortnight-long journey in January 2010 in what the CPI (Maoists) describe as a guerilla zone, where they run Jantanam Sarkar (JS) or their “people’s government”. Although “guerilla zone” is still an area of contention and control between the government and rebels, it is nevertheless an area where the Indian State has been forced to retreat and is using military force to re-establish its authority.
Truth, it is said, is the first casualty of war. Therefore, it is not surprising that Indian government denies the very fact of prosecuting a war against the CPI (Maoist)! Instead, it is said that they are merely carrying out “police action” to restore civil authority. A police action brings the image of a baton or lathi wielding cops trying to restore order in a riotous situation. Whereas 75 battalions (bns) of central para-military forces especially trained in jungle warfare and assisted by more than 100 bns of state armed constabularies, the Indian Reserve bns and the SPO’S, all heavily armed, have been deployed (1)Besides, Union Minister of Home P Chidambaram categorically asserted that Indian government had a “legitimate right” to use “as much force as necessary” against the Maoists. (Times of India, March 13,2010). An extraordinary control regime is in place, which among other things, regulates entry and exit into areas held by the Maoists guerillas, somewhat akin to entering another country. Unless people carry identity cards signed by the Superintendent of Police they can neither enter nor exit from the area.
As for the movement of goods, this too has been curtailed; weekly markets have been shifted to local security camps, where one has to register oneself, provide list of members for whom rations is needed, and allowed rations which can last for no more than a week. In the forest, people had to walk for a few hours to reach the weekly haat (market), but now the required travel time is a full day , even two, because of the location and the encumbrances (ID cards, checkpost,registration at camps, search of bags) imposed.
The war on Maoists is not because they want to overthrow the presently constituted Indian State, which the Maoists have been fighting for nearly half a century(2). By their own admission, it will take them another 50-60 years to succeed. Also, to borrow PM’s words while referring to their military strength, the Maoists possess “modest capabilities”. Moreover, it has nothing to do with their wanton acts of violence. Record of parliamentary parties, in varying degree of culpability, is worse. Besides, the fact that after 62 years of “transfer of power” 80% of our people survive on less than or equal on Rs.20 per day. whereas 100 families own wealth which is equivalent to 25% of the GDP, invites us to remain skeptical of Indian rulers commitment for the life and liberties of mass of our people, the overwhelming majority of Indians.
As far as I am concerned, reason for ‘operation green hunt’ is because Maoists offer formidable resistance against implementation of hundreds of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for mining and mineral-based industries in predominately tribal India, where they enjoy considerable support (3) Without weakening this resistance. Government of India’s mineral as well as FDI policy will remain unrealized. It is worth remembering that there is a consensus between Congress, BJP and CPI (M) to curtail political activities by “LWE” and to create an atmosphere, in the words of Prime MInister, “conducive to investment” and :”rapid economic development”. This has laid the ground for a long drawn out bloodletting, the likes of which has not been seen in the 60 years since 1947. This will be a “fight to the finish”, in which, one side is bent on destroying the ‘LWE” and the other side determined to defend themselves. It threatens to be a prolonged attritional warfare. Having staked so much on this policy and invested in prosecuting this war, it is not surprising, that the government shows no signs of reversing or radically modifying its current policies.Indeed it is even reluctant to make public the MOUs signed by various state governments citing “‘commercial secrets” but unmindful of larger public concerns.
In other words, Indian government has much to hide.
Democratic rights activists oppose war against our own people, under any pretext, because political aspirations ought not to be suppressed militarily. Behind every war is a long history of struggle, over-ground and peaceful. In 62 years fifteen parliaments have been voted in, and it is apparent to any discerning person, voters continue to remain impoverished, disempowered and barely able to survive. It is also our experience that, once the genre of laws under the rubric of “national security” is invoked, this not only criminalizes legitimate activities, but simultaneously legitimizes unlawful acts of the authorities.
This means that once the authorities proscribe an organization, and place curbs on their activities, including propagating, organizing, etc. then anyone offering any help to any member of the proscribed organization (e.g. medical help, legal assistance, or even help a member of such organization get employment or attends a meeting organized by them and addresses such meetings) ends up committing a crime. Were this ban to be lifted the very same evidence ceases to incriminate. Thus the most innocuous facts can get invested with criminal intent no sooner “national security” considerations come into play. Also, there is a strong likelihood of evidence being manufactured, facts misconstrued or twisted, to suit the State’s objective of silencing critics of its policy of curbing the so called internal sources of threat to security.
We are witness to systematic abuse by authorities wielding arbitrary powers. Apart from arrests, torture, fake encounter the authorities have become brazen enough to suppress voices of dissent by accusing them of being “Naxalite sympathizer” as though to be a Naxalite or a Maoist is in itself criminal.(4). It took Supreme Court judges to remind the government counsels that to hold sympathies is not a crime. Recently we also saw how an attempt was made to mislead the Supreme Court by the officers of the court representing the Union and Chattisgarh Government, about a purported ambush.that took place on early hours of Feb. 9, 2010 near Gachchanpalli in Dantewada district of Chattisgarh (5). Moreover, proclaimed absconders sought by the first class magistrate in Korita (Chattisgarh) , for a crime of alleged gang rape, brazenly move around the Bastar region, and in full view of the police; the police accost, threaten and lead mobs to attack social activists, but little of it finds its way into the corporate newspapers.
Independent social activists have been evicted from the areas (such as Himanshuji of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) or thwart women’s team that visited Narayanpatna in Orissa or members of National Association of Peoples Movement who went to Dantewada (Chattisgarh) are thwarted from visiting areas to ensure that truth about a dirty war does not find its way into public domain.
And even Union Minister of Home shied away from attending a public hearing in Dantewada, after promising to do so in a published interview. Indeed, government forces on the ground carried out demolition of VCA ashram, arrested, beat up and implicated in criminal cases members of VCA, prevented social activists from reaching Dantewada and siding with mobs led by proclaimed offenders.
It is this repressive climate of war, which makes it incumbent, that we do not succumb to official diktat to tailor our convictions and go beyond official propaganda to understand for ourselves the Maoists, who are our own people.
1. Security forces possess light mortars, machine guns, rocket launchers, INSAS rifles, FN 35 and Glock pistols, Hecker and Koch MP 5 machine guns and Carl Gustav Reconaissance Recoilless rifles. Besides. they have air force providing helicopters for ferrying troops in and out of combat zones, aerial surveillance…Maoists claim they possess INSAS rifles, AK 47s, self-loading rifles and cache of explosives. The Hindstan Times 10th October 2009.
2. The war against Naxals and Maoists has a long history of bloodletting. For instance police sources themselves admit that between March 1970 and August 1971 in Kolkata and its suburbs 1,783 CP (ML) supporters were killed. On single day on August 21, 1071 in Baranagar, near Kolkata 1000 young people may have been slaughtered in a single locality. Escape routes were blocked and police guarded every lane. By 1973, more than 32,000 CPI (ML) leaders, activists and supporters were jailed. In West Bengal alone there were 17,787 prisoners of which 12,016 were young and 1399 below 18 years. Such was the phobia that 20 incidents of firing on unarmed Naxalites inside jails took place between 1970-72. The killing of 8 prisoners and injuries to 60 of them in Midnapore Central jail on 17th December 1970 and the 21st of February, 1971 killing in Berhampore jail where 10 inmates dies and 62 were injured, were some of the worst. (Taken from Low Intensity Conflict, CPI (Maoist) for internal circulation, year and place of publication not known)
3. “It i very clear, that the anti-Naxal operations are being carried out in those districts (East Singhbhum, Khunti, Gumla, Bokaro, Giridih, Chatra, Latehar, Ramgarh, and Hazaribagh) where the villagers are opposing the proposed projects for steel plants, mining industrie, Power projects, Dams and sponge iron factories. …Therefore we have every reason to believe that the so-called operation green hunt or anti-Naxal operation is to get the Adivasis and other local settlers lands clear for the Corporate Houses rather than cleansing the Maoists from the areas. It seems that the state is essentially battling for the corporate houses in the name of the Maoists and instead of creating peace the government is creating insecurity in the state.” (Ref: gov/025/2010) to the Union Home Minister P Chaidambaram.
4. To be referred to in a chargesheet against Kobad Gandhy, filed by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in FIR No 58/09 Dated 20.09.2009 on 18.02.2010 in the court of Ms Kaveri Baweja, Tis Hazari, Delhi, is not the nicest experience of life. Yet the reference is neither unflattering nor inaccurate. It is the intent they attach to it, or rather what the officials perceive to be wrong, unlawful…that’s the issue. It is not my intent, it is the intent the officials attribute which makes evident the obnoxious nature of UAPA. The charge sheet says “Mr Gautam Naulakha (can’t the MHA ensure that people’s names are not mis-spelt given the many years of surveillance) of PUDR is quite supportive to their outfit CPI (Maoist) and he (Kobad Gandy) met him many times in Delhi and Mumbai prior to his arrest in the present case. He also met him in Tihar Jail, Delhi” (pp.15) (Emphasis added) The exact implication of “quiet supportive'” and “met him many times” arises only because it is considered ‘unlawful’. In other words once you proscribe a political party , and prevent its ideology from being propagated or promoted, as well as declare as unlawful and terrorist the organization and its members, then you criminalize what is normal and legitimate.If the law says that meeting, holding a meeting even between three persons belonging to a proscribed organization is ‘unlawful’, then they are justified in taking away a person’s freedom. Membership of a proscribed organization is a crime (us 10 and 20 Of UAPA). Thus hob-nobbing with members of proscribed organization is unlawful too. These provisions are accompanied by procedures and rules which enhances the power of police and prosecutor at the expense of he accused.. And simultaneously relaxes the exacting standards for collecting, collating and use of evidence.
5. Let me cite two instances. On February 8th the Supreme Court ordered that in Writ Petition (Criminal) No 103 of 2009, 12 disappeared Adivasis including Shambho Sodi be produced before it on Feb 15th, 2010. The case related to victims and witnesses to a massacre at Gompad village on 1st October 2009. Since the 2nd of January 2010 Shabho Sodi had gone missing. When on order of the apex court she was brought to Delhi by the Chattisgarh police for treatment no one was allowed to meet her not even her lawyer. By the time the court ordered that the lawyer be allowed to meet her without the police being present she had once again gone missing. In response to this on 29th January 2010, the court ordered that she, along with 11 Adivasis, be brought back to Deli by 15th February, 2010. However, on Feb. 9th the apex court was informed that in pursuance of its order on the evening of February 8th , a team of 300 police guided by Hari Ram a SPO left on foot for Gachchanpalli to fetch seven of the twelve adivasis. The police team reached at 5 a.m. of 9th February the village of Gurkha, on way to Gachchanpalli, where they first met with a landmine explosion in which SPO Hari Ram lost both legs and another police personnel got injured. Thereupon the police team came under firing of the Maoists. The fax produced before the apex court also said that Gachchanpalli was a Naxal hotbed. Since neither media nor social activists are being permitted to enter the ‘war zone’ there was no independent confirmation of the story. However, a fact-finding team by Coordination of Democratic Rights Organization (which among others comprised APCLC, HRF, PDF, PUDR, CPCL, NPMHR etc) found that DGP of Chattisgarh who claimed that two SPOs were killed on 9th of February were being less than truthful. The team visited Gompad village on 13th February , 2010 and villagers stated that no such incident had taken place. Instead on 10th February SPOs and a police party attacked the village of Gachchanpalli, near Gompad, and picked up 10 of the villagers and took them to Dornapal Base Camp. Village head Pudiam Lakshmaiah told the team that Kadithi Muthaiah (35), Kadithi Vankaiah (25), Kunjam Veeraiah (35), Kunjam Chilakaiah (32), Parisi Venkaiah (25), Parisi Veeraiah (20),Vanjam Dharma (34), Madivi Edima (32, Povasi Edima (30), and Sodi Podiya (45) were forcibly taken by the SPO and police and they had not heard anything since then. Thus it is evident that Chattisgarh authorities in connivance with Union Home Ministry and its various agencies will go to any length to thwart efforts to bring out the truth.
This is not all. On 6th January, 2010 a team of social activists were accosted by members of Maa Danteshawri Swabhiman Marich and prevented from participating in a padyatra called by Himanshuji of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Dantewada. The same members of this organization had attacked VCA and also abused and hurled eggs and stones at social activists. Allof this was dutifully broadcast by a malleable media as a manifestation of advisasi anger against the supposed pro-Maoist proclivity of the social activists.The fact that 6th January attack on social activists was led by Soyam Mukka an absconder in a case of gang rape of a Adivasi girl in March 2008 (case No 84/09 of 2009) by the Judicial Magistrate First Class in Konta and that all this took place in full view of Chattisgarh police, one which claimed that they were unable to trace any of the eight alleged rapists, makes the role of the state government, police administration and union home ministry suspect.What is also obvious that institutions of State and its agencies and the corporate media would much rather patronize alleged rapists and killers and looters than allow truth to become public.
It is this deliberate attempt to silence all voices and not allow any independent views to filter out of the war zone and on the other hand patronage given to alleged rapists, killers and looters that makes this ‘dirty war’, nay “police action” so life threatening as far as constitutional democracy is concerned.
Article to be continued..