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Archive for February 1st, 2010

Excellent summary of events – historical perspective

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2010


From: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?264001

The Claws Of The State


The war on Maoists is backed by a parallel war on rights activists
Jyoti Punwani

There are things I haven’t forgotten about that October night 30 years ago, like the shock of discovering that my knees were shaking as the banging on the door grew louder. The voices, coarse and angry, were asking for P.V. Bhaktavatsalam, the lawyer who had dared to defend those charged with being Naxalites in a state obsessed with eliminating them. The parallels with modern-day Chhattisgarh couldn’t be greater.

Back then, between August and October 1980, ten young men had been killed in police encounters in the North Arcot and Dharmapuri districts. Their crime? Organising peasants in that backward region, where the Naxalites had a base. M.G. Ramachandran, then chief minister, had given the police, headed by the megalomaniacal Walter Dawaram, a carte blanche to crush the peasant movement. The police went about their task in the only manner they know: eliminating the leaders and arresting those protesting these murders for sedition.

In those post-Emergency days, when human rights was a cause that attracted celebrities, an all-India fact-finding team set out to investigate these ‘encounters’. Headed by Cho Ramaswamy, editor of the Tamil magazine Thuglak, it included environmentalist Claude Alvares and senior journalist Mohan Ram. None of these names mattered. We had barely checked into our lodge when a mob of plainclothesmen and “victims of Naxalites” started stoning our lodge. After what seemed an eternity, uniformed police escorted us out of the lodge and the town “for our own safety”. I remember the cringing gratitude I felt towards these “saviours” as they drove away their own drunken colleagues, but not before Claude’s glasses were broken and Mohan was given a black eye.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve thought about that night often. Nothing seems to have changed, except the ruling parties. The Naxalites are active again in our most backward areas, and the police have again been given a free hand. Once again, anyone exposing the illegal actions of the police—the rapes and killings of adivasis over the last five years—has been targeted. Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian, has been evicted from the area; Dr Binayak Sen was jailed. Over the last two months, fact-finding teams trying to enter the forests of Chhattisgarh and Orissa, where tribal resistance to land being acquired for private industry is being brutally suppressed, have been attacked or turned back.

In Narayanpatna, Orissa, an all-women’s team out to investigate last November’s killing of two adivasi leaders in police firing was first attacked inside a police station and then on the road. The attackers were plainclothesmen and civilians who were later “dispersed” by policemen.
In Chhattisgarh, the police have set up an obstacle course for teams trying to reach the Maoist heartland of Bastar. On December 14, they seized the vehicles of an all-women team, citing irregularities in the drivers’ documents. When the women tried to go ahead by bus, the police warned the bus drivers not to carry them. All this was to “save” them, the women were told. The police let them have a taste though—a mob punctured the tyres of the bus in which the team was returning. Prof Nandini Sundar of Delhi, a petitioner in the Supreme Court against the government-backed Salwa Judum, was stalked by the police, turned away by hotels and hounded by Bastar’s unique tribal Special Police Officers in the hostel she stayed the night. She, too, had to return without reaching her destination. Only Medha Patkar managed to breach, briefly, the police’s ‘No Entry’ sign, but not before her team was attacked with eggs by Salwa Judum tribals on Dantewada’s main road as police stood by, watching.

But 30 years on, three developments have changed the situation radically. One, the Centre has openly entered the fray, sending its forces to crush the Maoists, making the adivasi areas a war zone. Two, the police have raised anti-Maoist groups: Salwa Judum in Bastar and Shanti Samitis in Orissa, which can tackle human rights busybodies too. Finally, “human rights” has lost the halo that propelled celebrities into action. Two years after DIG Mohandas sent us packing from Tamil Nadu, declaring, “I can tell you for sure that no fact-finding committee will be allowed to come here”, another team did just that. (By then, the encounter toll had risen to 21.) Heading the second team were socialist MPs Surendra Mohan and Mrinal Gore, and Swami Agnivesh. Today, human rights groups wonder who can break into Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwaranjan’s protected zone, where tribal eye-witnesses to “encounters” are so well protected against “outsiders” that, despite Supreme Court orders, their own lawyers are denied access.

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Sapan Das Gupta Editor of Bangla People’s March UAPA prisoner now on ventilation in hospital

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2010


"Sapan Das Gupta Editor of Bangla People’s March UAPA prisoner now in ventilation in mackanjee ward ICU, SSKM. Friends are invited by hospital authority to have a last look."

See report below from Express India news by Madhuparna Das. If any worse happens it will be a State murder.

P.Govindan kutty
Editor, People’s March

Source: express News India

Kolkata The ban on the People’s March — a mouthpiece of the Maoists — was lifted by the Press & Registration Appellate Board (PRAB) over three months ago. But two persons arrested in Kolkata have been in jail since owing to their association with the publication.

The state police officers plead ignorance about the lifting of the ban.

Sapan Dasgupta, editor of Bengali version of People’s March and Sadananda Singha, its publisher, were picked up from their homes in Garia by the Special Branch of Kolkata Police on October 7. The press in Maniktala Industrial Area was raided and all documents and equipment were seized.

They were charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for publishing a banned periodical that allegedly contained “seditious matter”, even though the ban had been lifted. And they were remanded in judicial custody.

A senior officer of Kerala Police said: “The People’s March was proscribed in February 2008 after the Ernakulam District Collector banned it on January 15 on the ground that it indulged in publishing seditious matters, exhorting the public to take up arms for violent struggle and promoting divisive tendencies in the country.”

But a ruling of the PRAB on August 7 this year set aside the Collector’s order and held that “the magazine regains its force and becomes operative with immediate effect.”

The Board, comprising Chairman Justice K N Ray and member Ramesh Gupta, said as per Section 8(b) of the Press and Registration of Books Act, no publication could be banned on these grounds. The ruling stated: “Seditious offences may be taken cognizance of under the IPC or other relevant laws.”

Jacob Punnoose, Director General of Police, Kerala, said: “In December 2007, we arrested P Govindan Kutty, the editor, publisher and printer of the periodical.” Later, the state government decided to ban the publication after issuing an order. However, the PRAB has quashed the order. “But I cannot comment on why the ban was lifted by the PRAB,” h added.

Kutty, the 63-year-old editor, had appealed to the Board against the ban, and in August, after nine months, it allowed the publication to restart.

“The PRAB has allowed me to come out with the magazine once again, the first issue has been published in November,” Kutty said on phone from Ernakulam, Kerala. The issue has an interview of Central Committee member of the CPI(Maoists), Ganapathi as its lead article.

“The West Bengal Government has taken a step worse than the Kerala government,” he said. “I was arrested by the Kerala Police and subsequently my magazine was banned.” But Swapan Dasgupta was arrested for publishing a banned magazine at a time when the ban had already been lifted, Kutty said. Dasgupta was slapped with a case under UAPA. “But where does the case stand if the ban does not exist? I have decided to appeal to the court for the release of two innocent persons.

The DGP, Bhupindar Singh, said: “Dasgupta and Singha were arrested for publishing a banned magazine which is the mouthpiece of the Maoists. We are yet to receive any written order saying the ban has been lifted.

Ashok Bakshi, a senior Public Prosecutor of the state, however, said: “If the ban on the magazine does not exist then legally they should be released. But the case is pending in Sealdah court.”

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Dispossessed tribals targeted in India’s fake war on terror

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2010


By Sudha Ramachandran

The general distrust of tribals of the government’s ‘development agenda’ stems from the fact that while their lands are acquired in the name of ‘their’ development, they are yet to see any of it reach their villages Narayanpatna and other villages in Orissa’s tribal-dominated districts of Koraput and Malkangiri are enveloped in a blanket of fear. ‘Operation Green Hunt,’ a major military offensive launched by the government against Maoists, is yet to reach these villages but tribals are already getting a taste of things to come.

Two months ago police shot dead two activists and injured scores of others of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), a tribal organisation that is campaigning for tribal rights over land. Arbitrary arrests of tribals have forced hundreds to flee their homes and villages. And on Saturday last, Maoists attacked a jeep carrying security personnel, killing four people.

Police have called for a ban on the CMAS. They allege it is a Maoist front. They have blamed its ‘anti-people activity’ for the crackdown in Narayanpatna. But it is hard to dispel the feeling that the crackdown is to protect powerful vested interests — non-tribal landlords, the liquor mafia, mining companies and contractors — who want action taken against the CMAS’ activism. Tribals being arrested by the police have been slapped with serious charges, including sedition and waging war against the state.

The Constitution’s Fifth Schedule, an array of laws and supreme court judgments recognise the rights of tribals over ancestral land and prohibit its transfer to non-tribals. For decades, however, tribals have been dispossessed of their land by non-tribals, mining companies and the state. While some of this land has been acquired by non-tribals through subterfuge, much land has been taken over by the state for ‘development projects’ like dams and mining.

Increasing tribal activism through mass struggles has forced the government and private companies to put several mining projects on hold. Since April last year, the CMAS has reclaimed 2,000 acres of tribal land in Narayanpatna and cultivating it. A similar campaign by the Malkangiri Zilla Adivasi Sangh has resulted in tribals reclaiming their land, cultivating and harvesting the crop in villages like Damapada and Atalguda.

This tribal assertion has prompted landlords, the liquor mafia and mining companies to form goon squads that go by the name of ‘Shanti committees’ to intimidate tribal activists. These ‘Shanti committees’ are said to have been set up with the encouragement of politicians, police and bureaucrats and are unleashing violence on tribals in Koraput and Malkangiri districts. It is this violence that the CMAS was protesting, when police shot dead its activists in November.

At stake is control over mineral rich land that is worth a fortune. Orissa has 70 per cent of all of India’s bauxite reserves and 90 per cent of its chrome ore and nickel. Mining companies — Indian and multinational — are keen to extract this wealth. But tribals live on this land and are determined to protect their land, forests and streams from destruction by the ‘development projects.’

Many non-tribals wonder why tribals are unwilling to give up their land for dams and mining projects, even when the government is promising them compensation and resettlement. Why do they want to throw out mining giants that are promising them jobs?

Cheated

Travel around Koraput town provides answers to these questions. In Dhamanjodi, where the state-owned NALCO has been running an aluminum plant since 1985, many tribals who gave up their land were not compensated. Those who did, received little and this was frittered away. Their land and money gone, they looked for jobs at NALCO. But these have gone to non-tribals.

Bauxite mining has devastated the environment and rivers in the area have dried up. And tribals in the nearby Mali Parbat area have seen this. They are opposing the mining project there to be started by a host of national and international mining corporates.

There is little doubt that if the Niyamgiri Hills in Kalahandi district are handed over to mining giant Vedanta, the experience at Damanjodi will be repeated. Mining activity will level the hills, which the Dongaria Kondhas regard as living gods. They are agitating to prevent Vedanta’s entry.

Tribals displaced by the Balimela hydroelectric power project in Malkangiri in the early 1970s have been resettled near the dam but their villages don’t have electricity. Dams and development projects have brought nothing for the tribals but poverty and destruction of their way of life.

The general distrust of tribals of the government’s ‘development agenda’ stems from the fact that while their lands are acquired in the name of ‘their’ development, they are yet to see any of it reach their villages. The intensity of this distrust is reflected in the rising number of protests by tribal communities against state policies that seem to be conniving to keep them deliberately poor so they can be repressed easily through military action.

As in Chhattisgarh, in Orissa too violence by police and Shanti committees is driving tribals out of their land. ‘Operation Green Hunt’ will take this further. While Maoists will melt away into forests and neighbouring states, tribals will bear the brunt.
Colonial ethnographic accounts described the Kondha tribals as practitioners of human sacrifice. These were aimed at justifying the brutal suppression of their resistance to British rule. Today tribals, even those who are waging the battles politically, are being branded as Maoist to justify their eviction from their land.

(The writer recently travelled in Koraput,Orissa) Deccan Herald

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