Stand by the people’s resistance for their jal-jangal-jameen!
Far away from the city lights, blacked out by the media, the central and eastern regions of India have been pushed to a bloody civil war. This war silently co-exists with the mass hysteria that the brahmanical fascist government is brewing in the name of ‘nationalism’, in the other parts of the country. It is a war, run by the Indian state with the active aegis of its US masters, on the most impoverished and marginalized people of the country. More than 2.5 lakh paramilitary forces, around 600 elite combat forces, notorious vigilante gangs and now even the army, air force, drones and the ISRO satellites are being deployed, to fight this war. Codenamed Operation Green Hunt by the previous UPA government at the time of its initiation, this all-out military assault on the adivasis has reached a new gigantic level under the present Hindutva-fascist BJP regime.
The official pretext of the war, faithfully parroted by the corporate media, is to ‘flush out’ the Maoists. The usual tale of ‘fighting terrorism’ that US and Israel and their apologists keep telling us. However, in reality it is an attack not just on the Maoists alone but on the entire Adivasi population that inhabit the forested regions of Chhattisgarh as well as on all progressive, democratic and conscientious voices. Although currently Chhattisgarh is in the centre of the war, this spate of military offensive by the state has spread over to Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and parts of Karnataka, Kerala and Bengal as well. Progressive and democratic forces have been saying right from the beginning that the real aim of this Operation is simply to clear these areas of its residents, mainly adivasis, for the gigantic corporate and mining greed to make brutal and devastating inroads to loot the mineral and natural resources of the country. So much for the cannibal ‘nationalism’!
A War without Witnesses:
We have seen the recent spate of attacks in Chhattisgarh on activists like Soni Sori, who suffered a brutal chemical attack on her face, along with the hounding out of journalists Malini Subramaniam, Alok Putul and lawyers of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group; the threats to Bela Bhatia, Jean Dreze, Lingaram Kodopi, etc, as well as the arrest, incarceration and intimidation of several other local journalists like Somaru Nag, Santosh Yadav, Prabhat Singh and many others. Fact Finding teams visiting Bastar to investigate the truths have also been hounded.. Recently members of Fact Finding team which included JNU Prefessor Archana Prasad and DU professor Nandini Sundar were also booked under false charges. The Chhattisgarh government does not spare its own officials too, as a dalit CJM from Sukma district Prabhakar Gwal was also discharged from his duty for taking pro-adivasi stands. These instances however are nothing but pre-emptive attempts by the Modi-Rajnath-Raman Singh combine to silence all democratic and dissenting voices as they prepare for a massive onslaught on the adivasi hamlets of Bastar and other parts of Chhattisgarh. The notorious Inspector General of Police S.R.P. Kalluri has already announced his “Mission 2016” according to which he has charted out his plans of ruthlessly crushing the Maoist movement by the end of this year. If Kalluri’s previous tenure as the IG of Bastar is any indicator, this new ‘mission’ only entails greater militarization of the state, brutal suppression of all democratic voices, showcasing false surrenders while security forces raze down villages with complete impunity.
Currently 58,772 para military forces have been deployed in Bastar and other parts of the state and these regions have been termed as ‘conflict area’. Such massive deployment of forces makes it one of the world’s most militarized areas. In entire Bastar region the ratio of paramilitary to the civilians is 40: 1; in every 5 kilometre there is a paramilitary camp, belonging to CRPF, BSF or ITBP. The Air Force is being deployed now. Satellite images and surveillances are also being used to track the human settlements within the forests to facilitate aerial bombing and other forms of military assaults. The present spate of orchestrated attacks on activists and lawyers were preceded by massive sexual violence by the security forces and several false encounters.
Though the Salwa Judum was banned by the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court in 2011, new vigilante groups with different names like Samajik Ekta Manch, Adivasi Ekta Manch etc are being P.T.O. propped up, which play the role of the ruthless extra-legal arm of the state. Funded and founded by landed and corporate interests, these are renewed attempts by the state to arm locals from within the adivasi community and pit them against each other. These vigilante groups along with the para-military have unleashed gruesome acts of state terror including rape, arson, torture and even fake encounter.
The gruesomeness of the state terror can be gauged from the recent instance of rape and fake encounter of an adivasi woman, Madkam Hidme. On the 13th of June, the CRPF picked Makdam Hikme out of her home in Sukma district. Next day the press reported the death of a top Maoist guerilla, in a ‘fierce gun battle’ with the armed forces. Makdam Hikme was wearing a sari during the time she was picked up from her house; her corpse that was returned to her family was however wearing an over-sized, brand new Maoist guerilla outfit, that surprisingly did not have any blood stain or even a single bullet hole, while her body had twenty of them.
Her throat was slit, her left hand was broken and her thighs and private parts had wounds clearly indicating rape before she was gunned down. The police and CRPF hurriedly buried her body. The vigilante gangs stopped Soni Sori from reaching Hikme’s village, against which she sat on a hunger strike. Finally the High Court intervened and ordered a fresh Post-mortem of Hikme’s body. This incident is symptomatic of the larger picture of how villagers are being framed, tortured and mutilated by the armed forces. The rape of an eleven year old school girl, preceding the rape and murder of Hikme, bore the markers of brutality that the people in Bastar are currently being subject to.
What lies beneath: the real intention behind this war:
The corporate greed core of this war right from its inception at the behest of big corporations in this mineral rich belt is the biggest open secret today. Tata, Mittal, Essar, Rio Tinto, Ambani, Adani and many such big corporate are the direct sponsorer of this war, since their investment interests have been resisted by the people so far. Right from the time of Manmohan till Modi, this war is being fought at the behest of these corporations. Right after coming to power, the Modi government made whopping clearance of about 175 pending projects, by blatantly flouting the Forest Rights Act and other legal safeguards for the adivasis. In 2015, the Central Government decided to hand over 35,867 hectres of forest land to the corporates and the consent of the adivasis residing on such land is no longer held mandatory for such take over. In the beginning of 2016, the Chhattisgarh government, declared PESA and FRA null and void while it handed over land to the Adani groups in Sarguja district for extraction of coal.
Similar situations are emerging in both Odisha and Jharkhand too, where the state governments are acting as active henchmen for corporates, to facilitate land grab, by destroying local livelihoods. The war will only be intensified in the coming days with further fire power resulting into immense destruction, destitution, dispossession and deaths of the people in Chhattisgarh as the state is desperate to operationalize the corporate plunder. The people on the other hand are fighting for life! They are fighting for their jal-jungal-zameen, for dignity, for their sheer human existence! Let us raise our voices of protest and resistance against this brutal war and thus join this battle for life, justice and dignity. Having hardly provided even basic amenities and resources, in fact having hardly acknowledged that they even exist for the last almost seven decades, the government today is hell-bent on robbing the adivasis of even their natural resources – their jal, jangal, zameen. For the adivasi population of Chattisgarh as well as Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra the forthcoming battle is a battle for their existence with dignity. They are, with every means possible, resisting this war for they hardly have an option. The question that confronts us today is whose side we stand on? The present context calls for a united opposition to this war and solidarity with the adivasi population of our country.
Bastar Solidarity Network:
This is a platform of progressive and democratic people who oppose this gruesome war by the Indian state on the most impoverished masses of the country. BSN already has its chapters in Kolkata and Mumbai which has already done quite a few public meetings, protest dharnas, wall graffiti and other campaign work to bring to the public notice the horrors of this war and to build an opposition to the same. While the media run by the same corporate houses that are funding this brutal war is not expected to raise a voice against this, the responsibility for opposing this sanguinary war without witnesses falls on the progressive and democratic forces of the country. We call upon all democratic forces in Delhi to break the silence and join us in opposing Operation Green Hunt and the war on the adivasis.