FORUM AGAINST WAR ON PEOPLE
Indian State’s War on People and the Assault on Democratic Voices
3PM-8PM, 24TH APRIL 2010
Gandhi Peace Foundation, Deen Dayal Upadhyay MARG, ITO, DELHI
SPEAKERS: Randhir Singh, Justice Rajender Sachar, PK Vijayan, Madan Kashyap, Sumit Chakravorty, Neelabh, B D Sharma, S A R Geelani, Aparna, Kabir Suman, Darshanpal, Arundhati Roy, Ravinder Goel, Karen Gabriel, N Venuh(NPMHR), S R Sankaran(to be confirmed), Kalpana Mehta, Rajkishore, Varavara Rao, G N Saibaba, Mrigank, Ish Mishra, Radhika Menon, Shivmangal Sidhantkar and others
Operation Green Hunt is an unprecedented military offensive on the people: Indian government has been at war with the people of Kashmir and the North East for decades. In the name of ‘national security and integrity’ and ‘national interest’, the government has been trying to crush the democratic aspirations of these oppressed nationalities with state terror. Through Operation Green Hunt, the government has brought its war on people to the heart of India. If the total number of government forces presently engaged in this Operation is taken in its entirety (including the paramilitary forces and the state police) it comes close to a quarter of a million (2.5 lakh). This is more than double the US forces presently deployed in the occupation of Iraq —approximately 1.2 lakh— and bigger than the armies of Australia, Netherlands and South Africa put together. The war preparations alone speak volumes about the real intentions of the government. Air Force helicopters equipped with guns are used against the adivasis, airstrips are constructed in Raipur and Jagdalpur, tens of Jungle-Warfare schools are established to train the forces in special operations, new barracks and bases to station armed forces are prepared all over the war zone, and public buildings such as schools, panchayat houses and health centres are converted to camps for the Security Forces and torture chambers. In the name of fighting Naxalites/Maoists, new armed forces such as the CoBRA, Jharkhand Jaguar, C-60, etc are raised with public money to unleash terror on the adivasis. With a heinous intent, special emphasis is given by the government to recruit adivasi youths into government forces and state-sponsored vigilante gangs to instigate a bloody internecine war. To top it all, army commanders are deputed to oversee the war operations while the US is providing ‘advisors’, military intelligence, satellite surveillance and overall ‘tactical guidance’.
The hidden objective behind this unprecedented military offensive is to crush all forms of people’s struggles and revolutionary movements so as to clear the way for the giant multinational companies, with whom hundreds of MoUs have been signed by the government. Till September 2009, MoUs worth of Rs.6,69,338 crores have been signed in the adivasi regions of these states (which is 14 percent of the total pledged private investment in the entire country). Arcelor Mittal alone is planning to invest $24 billion for the production of iron-ore in the mineral-rich regions of Jharkhand and Orissa. Likewise, the financial worth of the unexplored bauxite deposits of Orissa alone is estimated to exceed $4 trillion. The powerful foreign and Indian corporations are lying in wait for the government clears the land of the adivasis and smash their resistance, so that they can move into the land with earth-diggers and empty the land out of its minerals. The stage has been set to undertake what has been termed by a Government-appointed committee as the “biggest land-grab after Columbus”. The target this time is not the indigenous inhabitants of North America, but the adivasis of central and eastern India.
The ongoing War on People leaves a trail of devastation and death: In the wake of this war imposed by the government on our own people the death-count in mounting. In a region where 40 people are said to be killed every week on an average (Outlook, 22 February 2010), what the corporate media has missed or has deliberately overlooked is the sheer number of adivasis who died in the hand of the government’s armed forces. Whereas the government has claimed success in killing around 170 ‘Maoists’/‘Naxalites’ during the joint operations under Operation Green Hunt till now, whereas the media quoted the Maoists saying that none of the killed were the members of their organisation. There are reasons to believe that a great part of the dead were unarmed and defenceless villagers killed in cold blood by the joint forces in fake encounters. The killing of adivasis in Gompad, Singanmadugu, Tetemadugu, Dogpadu, Palachelim, Palad, Kachalaram and scores of other villages in Chhattisgarh seems to have followed such a pattern.
An attack on democratic voices: By these acts of fascist repression, the government has made it very clear that the Naxalite movement is not the only target of its war operations. Any movement, organisation or individual that fights for people’s demands and against government policies, is to be branded as a part of the Naxalite/Maoist movement and suppressed by the government through Operation Green Hunt. Swapan Dasgupta, the editor of the journal People’s March in Bengali and owner of Radical Publications was arrested. He died in police custody on 2nd February 2010 even before his trial began due to police torture. He has become the first martyr to fall under the draconian UAPA. Lalmohan Tudu, president of People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) in Lalgarh was picked up from his house and shot dead by the paramilitary forces on 23rd February, 2010. On 20th November 2009, Wadeka Singana, the president of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), Narayanpatna in Orissa along with another activist was shot dead by the police during a rally to protest against the atrocities committed on women by the government’s armed forces. Two of the CPI(ML) leaders Ganapati Patro and Tapan Malik have been arrested on numerous trumped up charges. In Kalinganagar 28 platoons of special police were used to attempt to forcibly acquire land for a road in service of Tatas. When the Bisthapan Birodhi Janmanch Sukinda led adivasis protested, police firing on 30th March 2010 led to bullet injuries to 16 tribal people. Repression is intensifying in the anti-land acquisition movements of Niyamgiri and Jagatsinghpur and against movements under Lok Sangram Manch in Rayagada of Orissa.
The Vanavasi Chetna Ashram of Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian social activist working in Dantewada for the past 18 years among the adivasis and fighting against the atrocities of Salwa Judum, was razed to the ground on 17th May 2009. In three eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh no mass activity is allowed by declaring these districts as ‘Naxal-infested.’ Two PUCL activists, Sheema and Vishwa Vijay were arrested in Utter Pradesh. Hundreds of leaders of farmers’ organisations in Punjab were arrested to prevent their democratic right to protest against state killings of farmers and other leaders. Thousands have been imprisoned in jails all over the country and tortured for allegedly being Naxalite/Maoist ‘sympathizers’. People’s organisations like PUCL, IAPL, PUDR, RDF, PDFI, CRPP, APDR, DSU, etc. and their activists have been falsely implicated by the government. This is an attempt to unleash state terror in order to curtail our democratic rights and to silence all voices of dissent against this genocidal Hunt of the Adivasis. A climate of undeclared emergency now prevails in the country in the wake of this war on people and the assault on democratic space by the Indian State.
The Home Minister, who has been campaigning desperately to mobilise support for this US-dictated war on the poorest of the poor, has even gone to the extent of denying the existence of Operation Green Hunt! Similarly, he continues to utter the rhetoric of ‘Talks’ while refusing to take a single step towards creating a conducive atmosphere for any negotiation to take place. Such, lies, hypocrisy and double-talk by Chidambaram with the support of the Arnab Goswamis, Rajdeep Sardesais and his other wily allies in the corporate media, has not been able to hide the truth of this war. Even the Supreme Court of India, while hearing a petition on the ‘disappearance’ of 12 adivasis from Gompad village of Dantewada district during Green Hunt, castigated the government’s offensive. The court observed, “Some of the reports appearing in the media are disturbing. Over two lakh people have been displaced in this fight… Where will they go? What will they grow?” (IBN Live, 17 February 2010).
The resistance to the government’s war on people is growing: The millions of adivasis under direct attack from the state’s offensive are using all means to defend themselves and their jal-jangal-jameen. The democratic and progressive sections of the country have also come out against the government’s war on the people in the last few months. Individuals and organisations within India and abroad have in one voice condemned the government’s genocidal war. Hundreds of protest rallys, dharnas and demonstrations are being organised in different parts of the country and outside. Peasants, workers, employees, intellectuals, artists, writers, civil rights activists, students etc. have registered their strong protest against the government, and demanded an immediate halt to the Operation Green Hunt. The need of the hour therefore is to unite and build the broadest possible solidarity among the people against this war and intensify the resistance. Only an unceasing wave of mass resistance can stop government’s assault on struggles against sale of the country and plunder of resources and suppression of democratic struggles.