The Indian government intends to deploy 100,000 troops – ostensibly against Maoist insurgents – in 7 states in central and eastern India, including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, a vast area inhabited by tribal groups. Forces withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir (e.g. Rashtriya Rifles) and the Northeast are joining battalions of CRPF commandos, the ITBP, the CoBRA and the BSF, equipped with bomb trucks, bomb blankets, bomb baskets, and sophisticated new weaponry. Six IAF Mi-17 helicopters will provide air support to these ground forces, in which the IAF’s own special force, the Garuds, will participate. The actual strength of the intended targets of this massive action – the Maoist cadre – is believed to be no more than 20,000. Besides the dangers of any state offensive against any section of the people, the scale of the offensive suggests that the state is unable to distinguish the millions of tribals in this area from the Maoists, and has chosen the quick solution of war on the entire region. Several groups which are not Maoist – like the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Dantewada – have been clubbed with them and are being targeted. The basic question is, why is the state planning war against its most deprived, oppressed and impoverished populations?
Central India is rich in mineral wealth that is already being auctioned: Till September 2009, Rs 6,69,388 crore of investment had been pledged toward industry in the troubled areas—14 per cent of the total pledged investments in the country. All that stands between politicians/ big money bags and this wealth is the tribal people and their refusal to consent to their designs. Even constituent bodies of Indian state machinery acknowledge the gross failure of state in the tribal areas of the country in no uncertain terms. The Planning Commission Report on Social Discontent and Extremism, has clearly identified equity and justice issues relating to land, forced displacement and evictions, extreme poverty and social oppression, livelihood, malgovernance and police brutality as widespread in the region. The Approach Paper for the 11th Plan states:
Our practices regarding rehabilitation of those displaced from their land because of development projects are seriously deficient and are responsible for a growing perception of exclusion and marginalisation. The costs of displacement borne by our tribal population have been unduly high, and compensation has been tardy and inadequate, leading to serious unrest in many tribal regions. This discontent is likely to grow exponentially if the benefits from enforced land acquisition are seen accruing to private interests, or even to the state, at the cost of those displaced.
The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution grants tribals complete rights over their traditional land and forests and prohibits private companies from mining on their land. In spite of all this, in the name of fighting the Maoists the state – in blatant violation of Constitutional rights and against the recommendations of its own committees – is all set to evacuate the entire area of the tribals and ghettoise them by forcing them into ‘relief camps’, to allow free rein to big business. Instead of addressing the basic rights and needs of the tribals, the impatience of the state/big business in the face of the stiff resistance from them, is leading it to a full-scale war on people who are already fighting an everyday battle for livelihood and survival.
In the past as well the state has tried to crush all popular resistance, armed or not. It has repeatedly ignored and/or suppressed non-violent resistance, be it in Bhopal gas-victims or the ‘Narmada Bachao’ Andolan. Various human rights activists who have spoken out against its policies have also been targeted through draconian instruments like the Chhatisgarh Special Public Safety Act, 2005. It has also brutally assaulted protesters in Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh and Khammam and conducted military offensives in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh that have been seriously questioned. Now, along with an increasingly uncritical, elitist and complicit media, it is set on drumming up war hysteria to legitimise its own extra-Constitutional programs. The fact that it has either rejected or dismissed offers of talks and mediations – while hypocritically calling for them – indicates the extent to which it is invested in this war. The Central Government’s military offensive further dilutes the federal character of Indian democracy as it covertly shifts the maintenance of law and order off the state onto the centre list.
This war on the people also entails a further shrinking of already limited spaces for democratic dissent and articulation of pro people development paradigms. It opens the way for the state to act with force against any form of dissent or struggle. Any individual or organization protesting against the policies of the state can be labelled as a threat to ‘internal security’. To understand the politics and economics of the current state offensive, we urge people to look beyond the current hype being built by the government and pliable sections of the media. This indicates the emergence of a dangerous consensus towards a police state that will render the people and resources pliable to the demands of global capitalism and authoritarianism.
We call upon all progressive forces – students, teachers and workers – to resist the latest plan of the Indian government. Stop state violence against people.
Join our demand for a peaceful, egalitarian and secular society.