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Archive for August, 2007

Urban revolutionaries in Naxal fight

Posted by Admin on August 30, 2007

The arrest of two men – a former college professor and an ex-student leader – in Mumbai presents a shadowy confusing world of urban revolutionaries.

Vernon Gonsalves and Sridhar Srinivasan were arrested with arms and explosives.

Police in Vidarbha, where these men are said to operate, say they are Naxals – not just members but senior leaders of CPI Maoist – the banned Naxal group.

”Fashionable parable of Leftism in the drawing rooms of Mumbai results in fatality and murdering of innocent villagers in Gadchiroli,” said Pankaj Gupta, Inspector General, Anti-Naxalite Operations, Maharashtra Police.

Police say just because Vernon and Sridhar were educated, urban activists, it does not mean they are not hardcore Naxals.

”This is a banned organisation. Being a member of CPI (Maoist) is an offence in itself. But a number of cases have been registered against both of them, of looting explosives, burning railway engines, encountered attack on police,” said Gupta.

So why the delay in arresting them?

”You have to realise system of CPI (Maoist) party underground. All activities (of CPI Maoist) are secret. They have double roles, double names. On one side, they are activists, on another side they may be working for them,” said Gupta.

”Sufficient evidence that people earlier working as activists have participated in violent activities as Dalam members. Similar evidence that Dalam members have been shifted to perfectly front organsaitions for propaganda,” he added.

But this police claim opens up a minefield of debate on the nature of support to Naxal cause.

Student radicals

Vidarbha, the backward region of Maharashtra, acted as a magnet for student radicals from Mumbai in the 80s.

”As far as myself goes, I don’t think I have made any big sacrifice. I am teaching in college and getting good salary. I am only active in women rights movements and democratic rights movements,” said Shoma Sen, Professor, Civil Rights Activist.

”But as far as some of my friends in the student movement go, they did continue their revoltionary lives and make these sacrifices. Some of the people I knew, Vernon, Sridhar and others seem to have gone underground,” Sen said.

Shoma names others like the academic Anuradha and her husband Kobad Gandhi.

Police documents say they are senior Naxal leaders but Shoma calls them victims of state repression.

”Anuradha Gandhi, who was mass leader friend of mine was active here. Now there was this thing among lawyers: ‘Look madam, sooner or later you will be put under TADA.’ Now there was a choice before her. She could continue that way and go and sit in jail. Or she could go to another place and take another name and work. They are out to fight against the state. That is the path they have chosen,” Sen said.

Shoma Sen is unapologetic about the Naxal movement and its aims, even its use of violence. These views have placed her on an informal police watch list.

The police do not admit to this watch list but privately it says more than 30 groups are being closely monitored.

Legal support

On the surface are civil rights groups, those working for the poor or for students. But according to police, in reality, Naxal front organizations meant to provide legal support or help with propaganda.

Surendra Gadling is a Nagpur-based lawyer known to take up only cases of those arrested as Naxals.

”I believe in Mao’s ideology. If that makes me a Maoist, then yes I am a Maoist,” said Surendra Gadling, advocate.

It’s an increasingly polarised debate with little middle ground for an activist who wants to work for social change but does not support the Naxals.

Paromita has been working with Tribals in Gadchiroli for nearly a decade and was labelled a Naxal supporter when she spoke out against fake police encounters.

But she was also targeted by the Naxals when she condemned their killings.

Of the two, she says, the Naxal groups are more dangerous because there is no one to question them unlike the state.

”We have to understand, in this environment, the police at least we know them. They are in uniform. Even when they killed China Matami, I could identify the police. I could go to High Court and say this inspector is responsible. As a citizen, there was a face I could hold responsible,” said Paromita Goswami, activist.

”The problem with non-state people are, who are these people, how do we identify them, what are there names, what do they look like, why do they kill people. For us as citizens when we have a right to life it doesn’t matter whose bullet is killing the tribals,” Goswami said.

What angers Paromita is her’s is not a view shared by many other civil rights groups.

”When the police arrests someone they raise a hue and cry but when Naxals kill tribals they are nowhere to be seen,” said Goswami.

Is it a wider Naxal political strategy? On one hand to reject the Constitution and wage war on the state but selectively invoke the same Constitution and its rights when need be?

”What’s wrong with that? Because you are rejecting it, it means through a process you would like to overthrow the present system and replace it with a better system. But while you are living in the present system, you use so many things of the present system,” said Shoma Sen.

The same language of human rights is now surfacing after the arrest of Vernon. So is this in defence of an innocent man or is it again the Naxal strategy to mislead?

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Five-day bandh by Maoists in Malkangiri

Posted by Admin on August 30, 2007

Malkangiri (Orissa), Aug. 28 (PTI): A day after exploding a landmine at Kalimela, Maoist outfits today called a five-day shut down in the district to protest alleged excesses by security forces in Andhra Pradesh during anti-naxal operations.

The Maoists put up posters and banners at several places in the district to garner support for the bandh.

Shops and business establishments downed shutters and vehicles kept off the roads. Schools and colleges were, however, closed today on account of Raksha bandhan festival.

Security forces intensified patrolling and combing operations and borders with neighbouring naxal-affected states of Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were sealed to prevent ultras from sneaking in, police said.
The Maoists had triggered a landmine blast at Kalimela yesterday and at least 17 CRPF personnel had a narrow escape when their vehicle crossed the area just seconds later.

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Maharashtra Naxals’ identity raises questions

Posted by Admin on August 28, 2007

Is Vernon Gonsalves, arrested in Mumbai last week, a Naxal leader who wanted to blow up Mumbai? Or is he a social activist charged only because he worked in the Naxal-impacted district of Chandrapur in Maharashtra’s Vidharbha region?Police in Vidharbha say there is no ambivalence.


There are 16 cases against Vernon and serious charges.So why did it take more than a decade to arrest him? Police say, it was because of a familiar naxal pattern. ”They have double names, double roles, at some time have been activists and other times have been underground Pankaj Gupta, IG, Anti-Naxal Operations.And so the police claim Vernon Gonsalves visible as an activist slipped into an invisible role in his alias as Vikram, senior leader of the banned naxal group CPI Maoist.But Vernon’s lawyers say these are trumped up charges, a legacy of the time he and his wife Susan Abraham spent working with tribals in Chandrapur in the eighties.

But visit Chandrapur on Tuesday, more than Vernon, it is Susan who is remembered as a young activist. She doubled up as a lawyer.”Advocate Susan was very active in the workers movement. She campaigned for fair wages for workers,” said Bhagwan Patil, Advocate.Bhagwan Patil, is Susan’s close associate and fellow activist. ”We rarely met Vernon. He was usually out of Chandrapur for his activities. We never tried to probe what those activities were,” Patil added.

The couple moved out of Chandrapur long ago in the early nineties but 15 years has not erased the memory of Susan’s work as an activist. Her legacy has survived but not Vernon’s. In fact barely anyone here knew him. ”Vernon did no social work here, only Susan did,” said Devendra Gavande, Journalist. He often met Susan but remembers her husband as a shadowy figure. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘India is a nation of two planets: rich and poor’

Posted by Admin on August 28, 2007

August 28th, 2007 by churumuri

PALAGUMMI SAINATH, the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, who was recently named as a recipient of the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award, spoke to Sunil Sethi, the books editor of NDTV, over the weekend:


What has changed in the last 10 years: “We are in the middle of the greatest agrarian crisis since the eve of the Green Revolution. We are seeing a collapse of agriculture; hundreds of thousands of people are leaving villages for cities in search of jobs which are not there; we are seeing a collapse and tanking of prices of cash crops which people were persuaded into growing; and we are seeing some of the largest numbers of suicides (112,000 in the last ten years) in our history.”

How has political leadership changed: “The ruled are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way, the rulers are unable to rule in the old way. People are far more conscious of their rights, and assert them more positively. The devolution of governance is a major advance as is the upsurge of the oppressed classes and castes. However, while there is a devolution of power at the village level, you have a huge centralisation at the global level. You have a WTO (World Trade Organisation) which makes sweeping decisions that crack at your agriculture. Your village sarpanch cannot handle that.”

The gaps are gigantic, and they are growing: “Who you are, where you are, and what you do matters a great deal in India today. If you belong to the top 10-15 per cent of rural India, or the top 15-20 per cent in urban India, you are expericiencing a lifestyle you never dreamed of. If you belong to the bottom 40 per cent of either urban or rural India, you are experiencing a deprivation you never imagined. The gaps are just gigantic and they are growing. When the national rural employment guarantee scheme (NREGA) was launched, in Andhra Pradesh, in less than 7 days, 2.7 million people had queued up and given applications, included landed farmers.”

The rich are getting richer, poor poorer: “If you look at Forbes , the oracle of capitalism, India ranks 4th in the number of dollar-billionaires, after America, Germany and Russia. More recently, some gentleman paid Rs 15 lakh to pick a preferred number for his cellphone. Yet, we rank 126th in human development, behind Botswana. The average farm household’s monthly per capita expenditure is Rs 503 out of which 60 per cent is spent on food, and 18 per cent on fuel, clothing and footwear.”

Our definition of poverty is a farce: “Our definition of povery excludes education, health and santitation… Hunger keeps rising, food per capita available keeps falling, unemployment keeps rising, migration keep rising, but poverty keeps falling. It is as if poverty has a separate existence, independent of food intake, lifestyle, employment and education.”

We are eating less under liberalisation: “In 1991, the foodgrain available per Indian was 531 grams per day. In 2005, it had fallen to 437 grams. Meaning, the average Indian is consuming 100 grams less per day than he did 10 years ago at the cusp of liberaliation. On the other hand, you and I are eating better now than we ever did. It raises the qeustion, what the heck are the bottom 40 per cent eating?”

The basic inequality of our society remains: “The four or five basic issues of Indian society have never been resolved. Today, we can get an SEZ (special economic zone) cleared in six months; we have not managed land reforms in 60 years, except in three States. We not have resolved tenancy reforms, regional issues, or caste. Basically, the unequal nature of our society has changed only for the worse. It’s like building a penthouse on the 50th floor without a foundation.”

Healthcare has gone for a toss: “Of the monthly per capita income of a farm household, which is Rs 503, Rs 34 is spent on health and Rs 17 on education. Over 200 million do not seek medical attention because they simply cannot afford it. This is the same country that boasts of medical tourism, and hands out of billions of rupees to corporate hospitals on the promise of reserving 30 per cent of their beds for poor people which they never do.”

Not two nations, two planets: “The urban poor are rural poor who have migrated. We are pushing people to cities but not designing cities to accommodate them. Those who come from the villages are neither farmers nor workers. They are the in-betweens, domestic servants and the like. It is no longer a two-nation divide, it’s two planets. Vastly different lifestyles, vastly different living standards, and vastly different levels of stress and distress.”

Photograph by Sadanand Menon

Also read: Will private agriculture colleges kill our farmers?

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The Indian State’s Killing Squads

Posted by Admin on August 28, 2007

In the familiar pattern, within hours of the Hydrabad blasts, the police miraculously tell us which militant groups are involved. Almost every day our media obediently beams out images of ‘terrorists’ triumphantly displayed by their captors. For years since 2002, IPS officer Vanzara similarly displayed his trophies – young men and women (Sameerkhan Pathan, Ishrat Jehan, Javed from Kerala, Sohrabuddin Sheikh…) killed in supposed attempts to target Modi or other top Sangh Parivar leaders. Now we have an admission that one of those killings was staged (and linked to it, a trail of other murders of Sheikh’s wife and another eyewitness). Vanzara has defended all the killings as an act of ‘deshbhakti’ – a sentiment well in line with the notion of patriotism that scripted the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat.
But the issue goes beyond the one-dimensional tales of good cop-bad cop, and far deeper than the question of communalization of the State machinery by BJP Governments.

To refresh our memory:
The first recorded fake encounter is said to date back to the repression on the Telengana peasant movement. In the 60s and 70s, custodial and extra judicial killings of Naxalites became standard police practice. In the days of insurgency in Punjab, thousands of youth were similarly butchered.

In counter-insurgency operations in all the states of the North East and Kashmir, in the anti-naxal operations in Andhra Pradesh, fake encounters became routine. In a rare candid moment, ex DG, BSF EN Rammohan has admitted that …”In Kashmir, only a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (of the sort South Africa set up after apartheid ended) will enable India to make peace with the Kashmiri people.” (HT, May 4, 07)

The recent massacre of tribals in Chhattisgarh who, according to the police, were ‘naxal sympathisers’ recalls to mind the Bhawanipur massacre of March 9, 2000, after which the DIG (Mirzapur) told the PUDR/APDR team that ‘it is justified if they die or get killed. They are criminals’. The 16 agrarian labourers shot dead at Bhawanipur were not even charged with any crime, let alone convicted; they were ‘criminals’ because they dared to organize for their wages and rights. These are examples of the familiar phenomenon of the police policy of “shoot and label the corpse posthumously as naxalite”. And lest we think Left-ruled states to be better off – the Left Front-ruled Tripura Government (which implements that excellent cover for killers in uniform – AFSPA) faces allegations of 103 tribals killed in fake encounters since 1993. (Zee News, May 16)
Given the long history of encounter killings in India, naturally an entire discourse has developed to defend summary executions by the police and armed forces. Some of its pet positions are as follows:
“Do it but don’t talk about it”
On December 30, 1991, VG Vaidya, director, IB, wrote a letter to the then Punjab DGP KPS Gill regarding some press interviews in which police officers had defended and given detailed accounts of staged encounters to the international press.
“Their professional compulsions in executive action should not get reflected in their public utterances, which should be correct and responsible,” Vaidya wrote. (HT, May 4, 07) In other words, he was saying murder is a ‘professional compulsion’, but the killers must be discreet rather than boastful.

“If we insist on human rights for terrorists, the police cannot fight terror or organized crime”
There are many who argue that Kauser Bi’s killing was somehow worse than that of Sohrabuddin’s; and many media reports have harped on the fact that Sohrabuddin was a ‘criminal’ who extorted money from marble dealers, not an ‘innocent man’, and that therefore the police was justified in killing him. BJP’s deputy leader V K Malhotra said that Sohrabuddin and others gunned down by police were not “innocent” and should not be “glorified” so. (HT, April 27) One wonders: would it be ok by Malhotra if Babubhai Katara, caught red-handed committing crime, was gunned down? Why bother with fair trial and proof and the right to appeal and benefit of doubt, Mr. Malhotra – we know he’s guilty, let’s just execute him. Ok, we can make a concession and torture him first to make him confess to trafficking and a sex racket and rape to boot – and then shoot him. We can always say he was escaping, or that he attacked the police.

Torture and murder in uniform, and the convenient habit of branding dissenters as ‘terrorists’, gets legal sanction through a host of laws past and present – TADA, POTA, AFSPA, MCOCA, et al. Take the case of the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act – which has been deployed recently to arrest the veteran civil liberties activist, PUCL Vice President Dr. Vinayak Sen, who had been exposing the fake encounters and state terror in the wake of the ‘Salwa Judum’ in Chhattisgarh. In a recent interview KPS Gill suggests that to tackle insurgency and terrorism, the police can’t afford to have their hands tied by considerations like human rights. So, he laments that laws like TADA and POTA are opposed – forcing the police to opt for staged encounters. In other words, according to Gill, we need laws that can brand people as criminals/terrorists and execute them…so that the police can keep things legal! (Outlook, May 14, 07)

This sentiment is echoed by none less than West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who chose World Human Rights Day to declare that “human rights need not apply for terrorists”. (Indian Express Kolkata Newsline , December 11, 2006) Without custodial torture and the special licence to kill, how would convenient confessions be extracted and culprits punished? It helps when you know in advance that an entire social section or ideological group is by definition “terrorist” and “anti-national” – then you can draft confessions in advance and pin them onto likely candidates picked at random. It helps if courts are not too fussy about things like ‘evidence’ and ‘human rights’ where terrorism cases are concerned.

In a recent instance, a young man Arun Ferreira, a bright graduate of St. Xavier’s College Mumbai, was picked up from a meeting at Deekshabhoomi in Maharashtra. According to the police, literature relating to SEZs and Khairlanji, as well as ‘pamphlets carrying excerpts of an interview of Arundhati Roy’ were found on his pen drive and person – clear indication that he is a Maoist with malafide intentions! A raid on his wife’s home revealed – horror of horrors- 24 sociology textbooks – further proof of guilt no doubt. When he was produced in court in Nagpur, there were lacerations on his body and he complained that the police placed ice on his genitals. The Magistrate took no notice of this, and gave permission for him to be subjected to the dubious method of ‘narco-analysis’. This latter form of torture allows the police to suggest things to the victim in a sub conscious state, and then rest their investigation, quite literally, on whatever the subject dreams up. Of course, the police can do the dreaming too, and edit or sex up the dreams to suit their needs. Once a person is branded as ‘guilty’, prior to any investigation, based on political beliefs, or social identity, our system, including in most cases the courts, gives an almost unlimited free hand to the police to extract confessions and concoct criminals to fit crimes. Small wonder if this extends to a license to indulge in staged ‘encounters’.

“Encounters are a form of vigilante justice, filling the vacuum caused by the failure of judicial justice”
“Extra-judicial killings are akin to murder,” says former Punjab and Mumbai police Chief Julio Rebeiro. (HT, May 4, 07)
But in the same interview, Ribeiro suggests that extra-judicial killings get public and political support because of judicial delays in justice, and that if speedy justice were possible there would be no extra-judicial killings. KPS Gill, master of encounter murders in Punjab, elaborates this position without any apologetic note: “When the conduct of judges themselves is questionable, the police officers begin to think, who will implement the laws, who will protect society…. “And in this noble mission of “protecting society, “in fighting militancy and organised crime, mistakes are bound to happen. Take the (May 1997) shootout case in Delhi’s Connaught Place where two businessmen were mistakenly killed by the police; the cops are still facing trial for it. A similar thing happened in London after the 7/7 bombings, when an innocent Brazilian immigrant, Jean Charles de Menezes, was shot by the police. Nobody raised a hue and cry over that incident, and the officers responsible have subsequently received promotions and there is no stigma attached to their action. It’s important that the intentions and motives of the officers are correctly assessed in such cases.” (Outlook, May 14, 07)

Well, in this view, what better “intentions and motives” could Vanzara have – it was “deshbhakti”, after all, that spurred him to eliminate potential terrorists. And if one “innocent” anti-national got killed …what’s one Muslim more or less?
But the nature of the killings does not support this thesis of a few excusable ‘mistakes’ in a well-intentioned quest for justice. Despite all the propaganda, ‘encounters’ are not a form of vigilante justice spawned by righteous frustration of the failure of speedy judicial justice. They are not comparable to a vigilante hero taking law into his hands and eliminating a threat to society because ‘the system’ will not deliver. Rather, fake encounters, custodial torture and branding of dissent as “terrorism” in order to justify violation of rights – these are the system. After all, if frustration with legal delays and failures are a justification for vigilante justice, who has better right to it than the victims of the massacres by police at Arwal or Hashimpura, for whom justice has either been delayed for twenty years or denied? The judicial enquiry into the Kalinganagar firing has now been dissolved midway – on the pretext that the Supreme Court forbids sitting Judges from heading commissions of enquiry. The court has backed out from its promise of justice for the victims of Nandigram. Would Gill and Co. support, or at least excuse, the people of these areas if they lost faith in the legal process and decided to become agents of justice?

It just isn’t enough to nail a stray police officer in Ganderbal or Gujarat and pat ourselves on the back for justice done. Not police officers alone but political forces that rule must be held accountable for every police or army murder. At the very least, we need a comprehensive National Truth and Reconciliation Commission – to acknowledge and investigate each and every act of torture, murder, massacre by the state machinery.

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Q&A/ Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh

Posted by Admin on August 27, 2007

R Krishna Das / New Delhi August 26, 2007

Do you think the Naxal cloud has cast its shadow on the development and economic growth of Chhattisgarh?
Over the last three-and-a-half years, Chhattisgarh has seen a new phase of developmental activities in the state. The state is high on the growth trajectory and has attracted investment of Rs 1,10,000 crore. The investment is not just on paper. Companies have started giving shape to the proposals and have signed MoUs with the government. Not just in the power sector, private players have shown interest in the steel and aluminium sectors also. Cement plants in the state are in expansion mode.
The state will soon become power surplus and, by Diwali, we will stop power cuts in the entire state. Private companies have inked pacts for producing 30,000 Mw of power. We expect at least 80 per cent of this to be translated into action — of which the state will have the right to purchase 7.5 per cent on favourable terms. The attractive industrial policy of Chhattisgarh is swaying the investors.
But the government has failed to acquire land for the Tata Steel plant and the IFFCO power plant.
The state government will directly communicate with the villagers and convince them about the projects and the prosperity these will bring. The Communist parties are playing a double role over industrialisation and provoking the villagers into holding protests. In West Bengal, they are inviting the Tatas and other industries, while in Chhattisgarh their leaders are spearheading villagers’ campaign to oppose the steel plant in Bastar. Even the state government is wary of Naxal leaders’ involvement in villagers’ protest, like in Nandigram. Direct interaction by the government will help in ending the deadlock.
In Bastar, the hotbed of Naxal movement, development works worth more than Rs 400 crore are stuck.
The situation in Bastar is different. When the country’s premier road construction agency — the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) — failed to complete its project, how do you expect the state government, with hardly any resources, to construct roads in the insurgency-prone area? The BRO is specially equipped to construct roads in difficult terrains. It was assigned road works on a national highway and not an interior road. Unfortunately, it could not complete even 25 per cent of the work.
The state can construct roads which will pave the way for development. Funds are not a problem. But it needs a proper action plan and the Centre’s assistance. The Union government should prepare a five-year action plan for road construction in all the Naxal-infested pockets of different states and deploy special force to provide security cover to the persons involved in the project. This would facilitate completion of projects. It is true that the development works will gather pace once peace is established in the region.
How do you see the Naxal problem in the present context?
Had Mao or Charu Majumdar been alive today, they too would have been stunned by the changing nature of the Naxal movement, which is now confined to extortion and unleashing atrocities on the poor tribals for whom the rebels claimed to be waging a war against the government. The poor in the interior areas are deprived of the benefits of the public distribution system, basic health and other facilities. This has propelled them to revolt against the rebels and launch a peaceful movement that has become popular as Salwa Judum.
There are reports that the Salwa Judum campaign has got diluted over the last couple of months?
It is not so. Generally, rallies and meetings cannot be organised during monsoon. It is a spontaneous movement of the people and it will continue.
How long can the government go on feeding thousands of tribals staying in different relief camps?
Till they stay in the relief camps. (About 53,000 villagers are staying in 22 relief camps set up by the government to house the people who have abandoned their habitats following Naxal fear). The government is arranging training programmes for their self-employment.
There is a perception that the tribals have been pushed to the camps so that it is easier for industry to acquire their lands on behalf of multinational companies?
This is a misconception. The villages or the pockets from where the tribals have fled do not have any mineral deposits. It is not so easy to acquire the land of tribals under the established laws. Moreover, no multinational or any industrial house will want to put up a plant tucked away unobtrusively in a corner. No one wants to even invest in Bastar and it is the government that has convinced a few.
How are you going to find a solution to the Naxal problem?
We have been concentrating on curing the symptoms and not the root cause of the problem. The issue is not confined to any particular state and hence, the Centre needs to take the initiative to design a joint action plan.
The Naxal problem cannot be solved in instalments and a comprehensive long-term strategy is required to deal with the situation. The Dantewada region, the worst Naxal infested pocket, is endowed with world-class iron ore. But unfortunately, the tribal youth still remain paupers as the NMDC (National Mineral Development Corporation) is exporting iron ore to China and Japan. If there is some value addition before exporting the iron ore, local youth can get employment and this will distance them from the rebels.
Did the Chhattisgarh government fail at its level to create a strategy in dealing with the Naxal problem?
The road to the solution of Naxal problem is difficult. But it is not that there is no solution to the problem. We succeed sometimes, we fail sometimes. The state government has hired advisors. Their suggestions may or may not be result-oriented, but the government has to explore all possibilities.
The Naxal problem has emerged as the biggest threat to democracy as rebels want to rule through the barrel of the gun. As I had said stated, the problem is not confined to Chhattisgarh alone. Many other adjoining states are also under its grip. If Chhattisgarh launches operation, the rebels slip into neighbouring states. That is why we are stressing on joint operations. Had it been an affair of Chhattisgarh alone, we would have crushed the Naxal movement by now.

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Maoist leaders vow decisive struggle to abolish monarchy

Posted by Admin on August 27, 2007

Kathmandu, Aug. 24: The CPN-Maoist, in an effort to solicit suggestions and muster support of civil society and the people for its 22-point demands that were announced a few days ago as the pre-conditions for the constituent assembly election, organised a massive interaction programme in the capital on Friday in which the Maoist leadership vowed to launch a decisive struggle to abolish monarchy and establish a democratic republic.

“We are in the historic process of holding the constituent assembly election, which is a great opportunity for the Nepalese people to shape the fate and future of the country but there are equally strong challenges and hurdles before us in accomplishing the goal of creating a new Nepal,” said Maoist chairman Prachanda.

He said that the feudal elements under the patronage of monarchy are the biggest hurdle in holding free and fair constituent assembly election and abolition of monarchy and declaration of a republic was a must prior to the CA election. The Maoist supremo, however, believed that such hurdles could be easily overcome only through the united efforts of the political forces and the people.

The Maoists had earlier unveiled 22-point demands as the condition for ensuring the smooth conduct of the constituent assembly election and had announced that they would launch a movement if their demands were not met. The demands included, among others, abolition of monarchy, declaration of a republican set up, fully proportional representation election system and action against those who have been indicted by the Rayamajhi Commission.

In the interaction, leaders and members of civil society and professional groups had raised several issues relating to the CA election and current political situation. According to them, constituent assembly election must be held under any circumstance and the ongoing political and peace process must not be aborted.

There was unanimity that monarchy was the main hurdle but the speakers were divided on the modus operandi of the Maoist agitation.

Some speakers like Dr Sundar Mani Dixit, Dr. Gunanidhi Sharma, Om Gurung, Dr. Arun Sayami, Shyam Shrestha, Daman Nath Dhungana, Laxman Aryal, Kanak Dixit, Sitaram Tamang, Indrajit Rai and Navaraj Subedi supported the republican set up. However, some of them expressed reservation on some issues that Maoists have raised on the eve of the election.

Daman Nath Dhungana and Shyam Shrestha questioned whether it was the right time to raise this issue again as the seven party alliance and the Maoists had earlier agreed that the fate of the monarchy would be decided in the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly.

Indra Bahadur Rai, a security expert, was a bit critical of the current security situation and YCL activities and suggested that both army and the Maoist People’s Liberation Army should be mobilised during the election.

Navaraj Sudedi, a lawmaker, supported most of the 22-point demands and suggested the Maoists to be prepared to quit the government for republic.

On the issues and concerns raised by the participants, Maoist chairman Prachanda said, ” Nepalese people saw a great miracle in the form of an agreement and unity between the seven parliamentary parties and revolutionary force that was established after the ten year people’s war and we also thought that another miracle would be possible by holding constituent assembly election through which monarchy could be abolished and republican set up declared,”

The Maoist Chairman refuted the charges of some political parties that the CPN-Maoist was shying away from the CA elections.

“We waged the people’s war to address the disparity in the Nepalese society and draft a new constitution through the CA elections,” he said.

How can a party that came up with the agenda of the CA, backtrack from its own commitments?” he questioned.

Prachanda said that his party had shown maximum flexibility in signing different agreement with the coalition partners with the hope that families of nearly ten thousand CPN-Maoist militias who lost their lives in the people’s war would be duly compensated by the state.

The CPN-Maoist also had strong hopes that the government would make public the whereabouts of thousands of disappeared people. “Although the government had committed that it would make public their whereabouts in 25 days, nothing concrete has been done to keep its commitment despite the elapse of 25 months.

He said his party was in support of CA that would give an outlet to all the social and political problems besetting the nation. `The current political situation indicates that the CA to be elected on Nov 22 would not address the demands and aspirations of the Nepalese at large but would fulfill the interests of a particular group which are not in support of real political change in the country,” Prachanda said.

“We do not want an election which is similar to the election of the Panchayat days (Rastriya Panchayat),” he said adding, going by the present situation postponing the election by four or five months would do no harm to the nation,” he added.

“We are in support of CA elections that would look into the demands of people from all cross sections of the society ? dalits, Mahesis, women, indigenous, ethnic and oppressed communities.”

Prachanda also warned that his party would take a stern step if its cadres continued to be gunned down in the Terai and other parties of the country with the government turning a deaf ear to such forms of violence.

The Maoist Supremo said the CPN-Maoist had entered the peace agreement with the seven parties believing that the issues of inclusive republican democracy, compensation to the martyrs’ families and the whereabouts of those disappeared in the course of the people’s movement would be made public.

“But the parties took advantage of our leniency and betrayed us, so we strongly feel that we should not go to the polls without getting our demands addressed,” he said adding, “We will, however, not abandon the peace process or break our understanding with the seven parties.”

Substantiating the need for a fresh round of struggle, he said the recent developments have proved that monarchy and constituent assembly cannot go together, which forced us to launch a movement for a republic,” the Maoist chairman said.

According to the Maoist leader, the movement was necessary to instill public enthusiasm for the election and political transformation as the euphoria and excitement that the Jana Andolan II had aroused among the people had slowly died down.

Earlier, senior Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, highlighting the objective of the interaction, said that his party wanted to go to the people and educate them on the recent political developments, for which the party has felt the need to solicit suggestions from the civil society.

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Gang rape: People demand Judicail Enquiry

Posted by Admin on August 25, 2007

Activists are crying hoarse that the government is turning a blind eye to the reported gang rape of 11 tribal women in Visakhapatnam and are demanding a probe by a sitting judge.

Meanwhile, the alleged victims are facing a double tragedy.

They are reportedly not being accepted back home because tribal custom requires the guilty to be brought to book and the women to be cleansed after that as per tribal rituals.

An effigy of Andhra Pradesh police chief M A Basith was burnt before the Visakhapatnam Collectorate.

The police chief had dismissed the reported gang rape of 11 tribal women allegedly by special party police personnel early on Monday as a ploy by Maoists to discourage the police from carrying out combing operations in the agency areas.

”We demand a probe by sitting judge. The hearings should be held in the village and not somewhere else,” said a tribal woman.

”When they are labeling me, Pasiya Padma, a Maoist for protesting atrocities, they can so easily label anyone of these tribal women and men as naxals and arrest them,” said an activist.

Activists say there was a deliberate delay in getting the alleged victims medically examined. Samples have also been sent to the Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Hyderabad.

”Not a single responsible official has gone there. They are making all these comments sitting elsewhere. Can any woman come out and seek justice in such circumstances,” said D Prabhavati, AIDWA.

The police have refused to comment on camera but a rape case is booked by a government servant and also of prevention of atrocities against SC/ST.

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Rape victims face social boycott

Posted by Admin on August 24, 2007

G. Narasimha Rao
You are policemen’s women, husbands tell them

Photo: K.R. Deepak

MISSING HER MOTHER: Bharati, daughter of a rape victim, being consoled by a neighbour at Vakapalli on Thursday.

PADERU: Even as a strong wave of protest is sweeping against the gang-rape of 11 Girijan women in the Visakha agency area, and the police top brass fully denying the charge, more insult is heaped on the victims in the shape of a social boycott.

Since they have returned to their village Vakapalli in G. Madugula mandal, about 50 km from here on Tuesday night, the rape victims are not allowed into their home. “You are policemen’s women,” their husbands told them. The women watch their children from a distance. The victims are given shelter by village headman Korra Dumarayya.

The women faced “Keedu” (lost the honour as they were raped by other men) and redemption for them is only after those who brought them “Keedu” are punished. Then they will be purified according to Kondu rituals.

“This is our custom and decided by our elders,” said Dumarayya on Thursday at the village. However, he seems not too happy with the trauma the women are facing.

Among the women, Janaki has a small boy, Eswara Rao, who is still fed by his mother’s milk. Now, Janaki’s husband Masteswara Rao is giving gruel to his son.

Vantala Rendo has two daughters. When the younger one Bharati, just about two years, was brought outside her house by a neighbour she started crying after noticing her mother.

The rest of the women have school-going children. The children loiter around the headman’s house and their mothers watch them with pain in their eyes as they could not feed them after coming back from school, a daily chore a mother will not miss. Husbands of victims were in their fields on Thursday afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Traders rampage mars Reliance retail opening in UP

Posted by Admin on August 24, 2007

Lucknow, August 22: About a hundred small businessmen, led by the president of Uttar Pradesh Udyog Vyapar Mandal and Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha member Banwari Lal Kanchal, went on a rampage at two Reliance Fresh retail outlets of the city on Wednesday, damaging property and items kept for sale. The police used lathis to disperse the mob at the Jankipuram store and arrested Kanchal and three of his supporters.

Reliance Fresh launched its operations in the city on Wednesday, with the opening of nine outlets. Trouble started around 11 am in Alambagh when the mob, led by Kanchal, reached the outlet and started throwing around products. The staff pulled down shutters, but the mob kept pelting stones and damaged a few shopping trolleys.

The police reached the spot after a while and dispersed the mob. But Kanchal and his supporters were unfazed. From there, they marched to the Jankipuram outlet around 5 pm where another bout of hooliganism followed. They broke window panes and furniture, and smashed items kept in the store. However, the police was quick to respond this time and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd. “We also arrested Kanchal and three of his supporters and an FIR was lodged”, said Rajeshwar Singh, Circle Officer, Maha Nagar. One more case was lodged against Kanchal at the Gudumba police station.

A senior Reliance official said the attacks were pre-planned. “They don’t want is to provide better and cheaper products to the residents of Lucknow. We are also paying better prices to farmers. The mob not only destroyed property but also misbehaved with women, journalists and the police,” he said. Incidents of rowdiness were also reported at a couple of RPG retail outlets and in an outlet of Spencers Daily. A mob raised slogans against “mall culture” outside a retail outlet in Rajendra Nagar. On its way to Jankipuram, the mob also stopped at the Spencer’s Badshah Nagar outlet.


FB supporters ransack Reliance outlet In Kolkata


Kolkata, August 18: Forward Bloc supporters today ransacked one of the Reliance Retail outlets coming up in the city. The incident took place around 4.30 pm at an outlet situated at the Nanda Mullick Lane in Girish Park Police Station area. Preparations were on at the store for the inauguration. Read the rest of this entry »

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The real face of the “Chinese miracle”

Posted by Admin on August 24, 2007

July 31st, 2007

30 July 2007. A World to Win News Service. On 17 July the manager of a kiln in north China and one of his subordinates were sentenced to life imprisonment and death respectively. This followed the shocking news in June about the slave labour scandal, which revealed how people have been forced to work in brick kilns in Shanxi province.

These men were accused of holding workers in virtual slavery and forcing them to work in furnace-like brick kilns. The kiln owners ran the factory like a prison according to state media reports, using guard dogs and beatings to deter escapes.
During the trial of the accused it was also revealed that at this particular kiln they had enslaved 34 labourers, including nine who were mentally disabled. In the year before their arrest, 19 workers were injured. The state media reported that at least 13 died from overwork and abuse, including a labourer who was allegedly battered to death with a shovel. Their daily toil started at 5 in the morning and lasted for 16 to 20 hours. The slave workers were locked in a bare room with no bed or cooker, allowed out only to work in the red-hot kilns, from where they would carry heavy loads of newly fired bricks on their bare backs. Many were badly burned. They were fed once a day, given steamed bread and cold water during the only break of the day, lasting 15 minutes. Witnesses testified in court that the hard work was accompanied by lashes and beatings.

Worried that such scandalous news would tarnish the image of the so-called “Chinese economic miracle”, the authorities at first tried to give the impression that such incidents are rare and happen only due to the cruelty of some individuals and greedy kiln owners. However, it came out in various reports that working in brutal and sometimes slave conditions appears to be common, if not in all of China, at least in some inland provinces such as Henan and Shanxi. The authorities, at least on the provincial level, were aware of this situation but deliberately ignored it because of a commitment to boosting economic growth at any cost.
Hundreds of parents had been looking for their missing children and had reason to believe that they had been forced to work at the brick kilns. The government took action only when these parents posted an open letter on the Internet accusing the Henan and Shanxi authorities of ignoring them and even protecting the kiln owners and human traffickers. “A Henan reporter who had helped expose the business accused officials of keeping parents from finding missing children. ‘In our reporting, the biggest obstacle has been lack of cooperation from some authorities in Shanxi’, Fu Zhenzhong, a television reporter, told The China Youth Daily. ‘Some are still coming up with any number of ways to keep parents from rescuing their children.'” (Reuters, 17 June) Finally, close to 1,000 workers were released in a series of police raids and inspections of 7,500 kilns in the central China provinces of Henan and Shanxi.

The traffickers connected with the kilns hunted children on the streets. They used false promises and even kidnapping to obtain children under ten years old and then sold them to kiln owners for less than €50 each.
As a result of this scandal, Shanxi courts convicted a total of 29 people for their role in this slavery. A dozen more are awaiting trial.
The Chinese government could not limit the scandal to one isolated case in one kiln, but did its best to limit the impact by punishing a score of low-level officials. Higher-ranking officials were cleared of wrongdoing. Disciplinary measures were taken against nearly a hundred so-called Communist Party members.

Contrary to what the Chinese authorities and their promoters in the West might want people to believe, there are reasons to think that working conditions in various places in China are not totally different from the situation that came to light in these kilns. For example, the UK Guardian reported 18 June 2007: “From the densely packed factory zones of Guangdong Province to the street markets, kitchens and brothels of major cities, to the primitive factories of China’s relatively poor western provinces, child labour is a daily fact of life, and one that the government typically turns a blind eye to…. as Hu Jindou a professor of economics at Beijing University of Technology says, ‘Forced labour or child labour is far from an isolated phenomenon. It is rooted deeply in today’s reality, a combination of capitalism, socialism, feudalism and slavery.'”

(Actually, while capitalism, feudalism and slavery do mingle in contemporary China’s economy, socialism was abruptly overthrown there through a coup d’état in 1976 after Mao’s death, when those whom Mao called the capitalist roaders within the Communist Party took power by force. The continued existence of state-owned industries today is not a sign of socialism, but of a state capitalist sector of the economy in which the working people are just as exploited as in the private sector.)

The same report refers to a different case in Guangdong province. Middle school students from faraway Sichuan Province complained that they were being abused through a work-study programme that supplied young workers from western China to an electronics assembly plant in the south-eastern industrial boomtown of Dongguan, where labour shortages are common. They were forced to work, supposedly to pay back their school fees. Students complained that they worked 14-hour days, including mandatory overtime. They also said that their pay was withheld from them. In some instances, those who wished to quit the programme had no way of telephoning their families or paying for transportation home.

A similar report of this sort appeared in the German magazine Der Spiegel 6 February 2005. Ullrich Fichtner wrote that the two-decade long economic miracle of Shenzhen province, whose annual economic growth rate has hit 15 percent, rests on the shoulders of young women factory workers such as the malnourished Tang Shotsen, who works from early morning until late night seven days a week making coffee machines for 500 yuan (45 euros) a month, and the young women who assemble plastic dolls, put together watch bands from unfinished leather, make trainers and glass parts for copy machines and do numerous other jobs. In these factories the risk of injury is high. Labourers are often badly injured, losing a finger or burning part of their body, but there is no sign of insurance and medical care, only a few plasters and bandages.

The journalist Fichtner reports that women constitute 70 percent of the 5.5 million seasonal workers from all over China in Shenzhen and the factories in the surrounding area. In some parts of the province such as Nanshan, a high tech centre, this figure is even higher. The migration of young women started in 1980 when Deng Xiaoping called Shenzhen, a city in Guangdong province, a laboratory for the watchword he adopted for China: “To get rich is glorious.” The march of young women searching for a better life coming from all over China to Shenzhen hit a peak in the mid 80’s and early 90’s, when the news of this place of “dreams” spread all over China. Soon these dreams turned out to be illusions and Shenzen a place where life pours out of the workers and into the products they make.

One result was that a vast number of women ended up working as prostitutes in the city and surrounding area. The German report describes the lives of women such as Chou Venil, who works in massage parlour seven days a week from 8 am to 8 pm for 54 cents per hour. The report continues, “Older women with bad teeth stand on the sidewalks holding photo albums. These albums are in fact catalogues of prostitutes, with page after page of passport photos of deformed and swollen faces indicating the vanished dream of the poor girls. The older women whisper, ‘Girls, mister, they are young, they don’t have AIDS, mister…'”
Prostitution seems to be an integral part of this economic boom. These women face huge problems. Their dreams have vanished, and now they have to fight for a job they never dreamed of: “In the southern boom city of Shenzhen, thousands of armed police were deployed earlier this week to quash a protest by more than 3,000 prostitutes and karaoke hostesses who were left without jobs after a crackdown on massage parlours and discos.” ( Guardian, 21 January 2006) The city is notorious not only for the street prostitutes but the huge number of concubines kept as “second wives” by foreign businessmen, especially from Hong Kong.

Behind this reality is another bitter truth: many of those young women who came to Shenzhen are from families where female children were not welcomed. They come from places where giving birth to a girl once again is considered as a disaster and infanticide of baby girls is common. This evil disappeared or vastly diminished after the new democratic revolution in 1949 and China’s advance toward socialism. It has once again erupted in the last couple of decades in China, along with many other aspects of capitalism and other oppressive economic and social relations.

These examples from Guangdong are particularly important because unlike Shanxi, where the slave labour brick kilns are located, Guangdong is not an isolated, backward area but a coastal province emblematic of China’s rapid growth and the success of its export industries. It is the country’s richest province. Guangdon’s success depends on the super-exploitation of workers from other, far poorer areas, especially the hinterlands, and, to a large extent, women. Without the kind of backward conditions in the countryside symbolized by slavery in the brick kilns, China’s modern industry would not be so profitable.

We often hear about the “Chinese economic miracle” after the socialist road was abandoned following the death of Mao in 1976. Since then China’s economy has achieved a growth rate of about ten percent a year. But this growth has been achieved at the cost of enormous and galloping disparities, among them the economic gaps between the cities and the countryside, agriculture and industry, and the better-off coastal provinces and the poor interior, as well as the reversal of the emancipation of women. These inequalities are the source of enormous profits and enormous suffering. They are also a sign of a radically different social system since Mao’s time.

Mao said that the real difference between capitalism and socialism is not what a society is called but what road it is on. Socialism could not just immediately abolish what it had inherited from the whole history of exploitation, including these and other major oppressive social differences, above all the division of society into classes, and all the ideas, customs and practices that came from those property relations. But when the proletariat held state power, the revolutionaries under his leadership fought to reduce the very same gaps that have become yawning chasms in China today. They did this by policies based not on what produced the most wealth in the short run, but what would bring about the balanced, equitable and liberating growth of society as a whole.

Socialist China did achieve economic miracles. Its sustained growth rate was enormous compared to comparable countries like India. In only a few decades the people’s average lifespan doubled. But the question was not how to produce the most, but the purpose of production and consequently how to produce. Should the wealth produced by labour increase social disparities and inequalities and further enslave the working people? Or should it increasingly allow the working people to become masters of production and all of society? Should the working people be beasts of burden, or should they lead the vast majority of people in the revolutionary transformation of China and turn it into a base area for world revolution to liberate humanity and bring about communism, a globe freed of the chains of the social inequalities and relations that bring such misery and hold back human potential?

The policies of the leadership of the communist party regarding these issues, Mao said, determine whether or not a country is really socialist, and whether or not that party is really communist. The truth of this idea is dramatically demonstrated in the contrast between China of today and of Mao’s day – the contrast between his China on the road to an enormously different future for the whole of mankind, and the hell-bound country of the 21st century that has brought back so much of the evil of the past.
Since the capitalist roaders enshrined private property, made profitability the highest goal and dissolved the collective forms of ownership and way of life in the countryside, much of the two-thirds of the population that is still rural has been abandoned. In the cities, the vast majority have become wage slaves – able to earn a living only as long as their labour enriches capital. Even the country’s most profitable and highest-tech industries are dependent on super-exploitable rural migrants, and most of those businesses are in the hands of foreign capitalists. Poverty and oppression is a condition for the wealth the country produces. China has replaced socialism with globalized capitalism.

While it is certainly true that the vast majority of people are not kept in the kind of literal slavery found in the brickyards, what has been happening in the poorest and most backward areas of China sheds light on the kind of society it has become. Most importantly, it shows what kind of social relations have come to characterize Chinese society. Where working people were once masters and liberators, now once again they are slaves

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Defensive violence is not illegal

Posted by Admin on August 23, 2007

P A Sebastian, founder president of International Association of People’s Lawyers, says Vishnu and Vikram believe in an ideology that shuns offensive violence but accepts its defensive avatar

The founder president of International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), P A Sebastian, is angry at the state’s attitude of branding every voice of dissent as that of a Naxalite and every protest against its authority as anti-national. The IAPL has been at the forefront in fighting cases in defence of several alleged Naxalites like Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Vishnu and Murali.

On Tuesday, the Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested its lawyer K D Rao for his alleged Naxal links. In an interview to Mumbai Mirror, Sebastian speaks of how the state machinery has now turned against IAPL for having stood for the democratic rights of Ferreira and others.


IAPL has been defending several arrested individuals who the police claim are Naxalites.
The question is not whether they are Naxalites or not. The question is: do they have any democratic rights? All are equal before law. There is no special law for a Naxalite, as there is no special law for RSS. Similarly, law does not differentiate between Vikram, Vishnu or Sonia Gandhi. You can’t arrest someone just because they belong to a particular group or party. You can’t arbitrarily arrest people and torture them for their ideological leanings.

Are you saying that Vishnu, Vikram, Murali and Ferreira are not Naxalites.
Anyone who raises a voice of dissent against the state, anyone who fights for the rights of the poor and deprived in this country is branded as a Naxalite. They are arrested and tortured to send a signal to the people to deter them from questioning state’s authority and reveal its failures.

Over 83 per cent of people in India earn less than Rs 20 a day. Tribals, who have been living in the jungles since time immemorial, have been branded as encroachers as jungles are state property. Forest officials and police harass them. There is an explosive situation in the country and the Indian state is sitting on powder keg. Vikram, Vishnu, Rao and others have been fighting for the rights of these people and so the state wants to terrorise them and anyone who raises a voice of dissent. And to fight this dissent, this term called “Naxalite” has been invented. They are political workers, not Naxalites.

K D Rao has been part of IAPL for sometime and has argued in defence of Arun Ferreira. Why do you think he was picked up?
If you look at the case in which he has been arrested, you will understand. The case dates back to 2001 in which a policeman was killed in the witness box while Rao was cross-questioning him. What has Rao got to do with his killing? Since then, police have not been able to arrest anyone. Suddenly after six years, they have picked up Rao. What were they doing until now? Rao was not hiding anywhere. It is all because IAPL has stood up for people like Ferreira who have fought against state oppression. The state is victimising us. They have even been keeping a watch on our movements. On Sunday night, when ATS officials raided Vikram’s house in Andheri, Susan (Vikram’s wife), who works with us, called me up. The inspector told Susan there was no use calling me up as I was not keeping well and had just come out from Bombay Hospital. Now, this is a fact that I had not told anyone. How did ATS come to know of it?

You are calling them political workers, but how do you justify violence in this political revolution?
There is difference between offensive violence and defensive violence. Vishnu and Vikram are people who believe in an ideology that shuns offensive violence but accepts defensive violence. Defensive violence is not illegal. There is nothing in the Constitution that says you can’t protect yourself, even if it requires the use of a weapon to kill someone.

The state only cries “violence, violence”. It never gives the context in which a particular violence has taken place. It’s the state that has been using offensive violence against the oppressed.

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