Indian Vanguard

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Archive for the ‘Article’ Category

PUDR Statement – Commute the Death Sentence of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan

Posted by Admin on August 29, 2011

August 28, 2011

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi (PUDR) is deeply distressed by the President’s rejection of the appeal for mercy for the three accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The three accused, Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan had been awarded the death penalty in 1997 by the TADA Court and the same was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1999. While the crime committed is heinous, there are a number of reasons that should permit commutation of their sentence to life imprisonment.

The trial of the accused was conducted in a TADA court with all the associated biases of altered procedures and that TADA permitted. Hearing the appeal, the Supreme Court had to conclude that nothing has been established to show that the accused attempted to overawe the government or to strike terror in the people and therefore the accused were acquitted of the charges under TADA. (pa. 59, 61, 67 1999 (5) SCC 253, Nalini & ors. Vs Union of India). Yet the fact that the trial was conducted under TADA unfairly affected those accused.

TADA specifically barred appeal to the High Court. Thus the accused were denied one of the two appeals that are available to every person sentenced to death.

1. TADA also permitted the admissibility of confessions to the police as evidence. Normal law disallows such confessionals since these are routinely taken through torture. The conviction in the present case was crucially based on confessions by 17 of the accused which each of the accused retracted once they reached the court, alleging that these were extracted under duress. One of the accused died while in police custody. These facts should have been sufficient to prohibit the use of the 17 confessionals, but the same was not done.
2. The atmosphere surrounding a TADA court and the impact it has on even the judicial mind, let alone that of the opinion makers in society, weighs the scales heavily against the accused.
3. The Supreme Court judgement also clearly records that the accused had no intention to kill any person other than Rajiv Gandhi. The Court records that the motivation of the accused was to avenge the atrocities committed by the IPKF in Sri Lanka. Given this fact alone, there is little to fear a repeat of similar crime. or to reason today crime does not

Today, when the President on the advice of the Union Cabinet has rejected the mercy appeal, there are many more reasons to be sympathetic to the mercy appeal:

1. Exemplary conduct has been exhibited by the accused during their 20 years in prison. Perarivalan completed his BCA and is pursuing the MCA course. He has helped educate many illiterate and semi-literate prisoners, has helped many in passing their Class 10, 12 and even graduate level exams, has formed a musical troupe teaching both instrumental and vocal music. Prisoners taught by him have formed a „Perarivalan Kalvi Paasarai‟ which is assisting children from poor and impoverished background to get education. Murugan passed the BCA and MCA as well as certificate courses in Radio & TV mechanics and Two wheeler engine mechanics. He is a talented painter and an exhibition of his paintings was inaugurated by the former Director General Prisons. Santhan has written numerous poems, short stories and a novels. One novel was highly acclaimed in Tamil literary circles and his poems have been published in many magazines. He also tends to the temple in the prison and conducts the daily pujas. The three prisoners have not been accused of committing any prison offence or come for any adverse notice by the prison officials in their 20 years on stay there.

2. There has been a delay of 12 years in the examining of the mercy petition. This has led to the three prisoners undergoing a sentence of life imprisonment. The orders of execution being readied today amount to a second penalty for the same crime. It has been established by the courts that delay in execution is sufficient ground for commutation. (Smt. Triveniben v. State of Gujarat, 1989 (1) SCC 678; Daya Singh v Union of India 1991 (3) SCC 61). The court has also expressed its anguish at the plight of death row convicts due to prolonged delay in deciding commutation petitions. (Sher Singh v. State of Punjab (1983) 2 SCC (Cri) 248; Jagdish v State of M.P. 2009 (2009) 9 SCC 495).

3. Today there are a large numbers of people in Tamil Nadu appealing to the government to spare the lives of these three prisoners. Given the compassion shown by society at large it is only logical that the Sovereign in a democratic order should value this sentiment.

PUDR therefore appeals to the Governor and to the Government of Tamil Nadu to show compassing in sparing the lives of the three prisoners. The killing of these three persons serves no social objective today. Sparing them would in fact protect the citizens of our country from the ill-effects of promoting of revenge as a justifiable objective.

Paramjit Singh
Harish Dhawan
Secretaries, PUDR

Posted in Tamil Eelam | 2 Comments »

Understanding Exploitation in Rural Bihar: A Note

Posted by Admin on July 28, 2011

June 23, 2011, Source:Sanhati

By Anirban Kar


Even in this era of finance and globalization rural land ownership still occupies a central position in political economy of India. Peoples’ resistance, be it in Sompeta or in Narayanpatna, has revolved around similar aspirations; that of secured ownership of land. On the other hand, opposition to tenancy reform in Bihar and disbanding of Amir Das commission investigating Laxmanpur Bathe massacre show how desperate big landowners are to hold on to their privileges.

Since 60 percent of Indian population live in rural areas and about 60 percent of the total Indian labour force is engaged in agricultural activities, it is perhaps obvious that one cannot ignore the land question while ascertaining the structure and dynamics of Indian political economy. However the broader question which has occupied academics and activists since the 70s is: what is the nature of exploitation in rural India? In particular, to what extent capitalist mode of exploitation has replaced semi-feudal exploitation that India inherited from colonial period. Change in the structure of exploitation is a real possibility because Indian rural economy has got increasingly integrated with the global circuit of capital over the last forty years. The first major wave came in the 70s through ‘green revolution’ and later a bigger one in the 90s through ‘liberalization, privatization and globalization’. There is now enough evidence (see for instance, [KW] and [AC] especially in the context of rural Bihar) to show that the former failed to change the fabric of exploitation in Indian hinterland. But what can we say about the second wave of ‘reforms’? Has it really brought significant changes in the structure of exploitation in the rural landscape?

Two caveats are called for. First, this note does not aspire to answer the above question, which requires, among other things, extensive as well as intensive macroeconomic analyses well as case studies (see for instance, [BB] and [AS] respectively; both argue in favour of capitalist mode of exploitation). While some facts about land ownership has been discussed widely in the recent past (see [BB] and [VKR]), such as, increasing fragmentation of land, decreasing surplus from agriculture and a stagnant workforce locked in agriculture; some others have escaped our attention. In this small note, I shall try to highlight a few such factors. Second, this note will be primarily based on evidence from Bihar and considering the uneven development of India I shall not claim any universality for my propositions. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Article, Bihar | 5 Comments »

Malkangiri: A Really Dark Corner

Posted by Admin on April 18, 2010

Dola Mitra

Malkangiri district, in Orissa, is back of the beyond. It borders both Andhra Pradesh and the Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh. Of its six lakh population, 80 per cent belong to the Bonda, Bidai, Gadwa, Poraja, Kumbhar, Kamaar, Kondh and Karia tribes, and live on the margins—no roads, no electricity, no hospitals, no drinking water supply, and a very poor public distribution system. No wonder this hilly, forested region has been a Maoist hotbed for decades. The police and the special forces call this forbidding area the AOB (Andhra-Orissa border) with the sense of a place they’d rather not be in. The locals have never seen any government working for them; and therefore, the Maoists are both their government and their police. A senior police officer says at least 30,000 tribals of the district openly support the Maoists; the rest do so tacitly.

The hardship is all too evident in villages like Guntawada. Many young men, like Kanakaraju and Indrakarama, work as casual labourers at APGenco’s Upper Sileru power project. When they come home, they bring kerosene the supervisor hands out and use it to light lamps. His generosity means the world to them: the village has never had electricity.

In village after village in this district, this dark irony repeats itself. Inaccessibility and deprivation are the norm.

Ragi-jowar flour for her child; transport, Malkangiri style.

In Kankaraipoda village, Lobo Khilo, Undartai Khilo and Dhalai Khara complain that few among them have ration cards. They grow some paddy but mostly work as labourers with private contractors, who never pay on time. “Malaria is a constant companion in summer and we lose many workdays,” says Lobo. “The nearest hospital is in Chitrakonda, about 15 km away. When we fall ill, it is better to stay put than walk that far.”

A crumbling two-room house serves as an anganwadi and school in a village of Korukonda block. ‘Sabhiye padhantu, sabhiye badhantu (Let’s all study, let’s all grow)’, it says on the wall. But this Oriya-medium school with classes till Std V has only one teacher. His teaching methods are as erratic as his schedule. Not a single child can elaborate on what has been taught in school. Any question, and they lapse into their tribal speech. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gautam Navlakha: Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion

Posted by Admin on April 2, 2010

[In January 2010, leading democratic rights activist Gautam Navlakha accompanied Swedish writer Jan Myrdal to the jungles of Central India, and engaged in conversations with the leadership of CPI(Maoist). In the following essay, being published exclusively at Sanhati, he explores further the various facets of Maoist politics and the socioeconomic and cultural life in the Dandakaranya region. – Ed Source: Sanhati]

(Click here for a pdf version of the article)

When every abuse has been hurled and epithet employed against the Maoists, half-truths and untruths begin to acquire wings. They are diagnosed, dissected, and demonised; the intelligentsia are reluctant to face facts. Yet we are still compelled to demystify reality and to answer some fundamental questions: Why this war? Who are these people, the “single biggest threat” to India’s internal security? What is their politics? Why do they justify violence? How do they perceive their “people’s war”, their political goals and themselves? How do they intend to take a leap from their forest strongholds into the world outside?

This desire to humanize the demonised and to get to know the Maoists first hand, i.e., not simply through conversations, books, and documents, but to travel and meet and to see for myself, had been building up for many years. Twice I came close to making the trip. On the first occasion, I was ditched by two young journalists who failed to show up at the rendezvous. On the second occasion, I was unable to prepare myself at short notice. I was not going to miss out on this, my third opportunity. Anyways, what follows is that I – along with Swedish writer Jan Myrdal – saw, heard, read, discussed, debated, and argued during a fortnight-long journey in January 2010 in what the CPI (Maoists) describe as a guerilla zone, where they run Jantanam Sarkar (JS) or their “people’s government”. Although “guerilla zone” is still an area of contention and control between the government and rebels, it is nevertheless an area where the Indian State has been forced to retreat and is using military force to re-establish its authority. Read the rest of this entry »

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Arundhati Roy: Walking with the Comrades

Posted by Admin on March 21, 2010

(Click here for a pdf version of the article)

Arundhati Roy finds a quiet moment to herself during a punishing visit to the forest where she became the first journalist/writer to break the taboo of of interviewing Maoist guerrillas in their lair.

Last month, quietly, unannounced, Arundhati Roy decided to visit the forbidding and forbidden precincts of Central India’s Dandakaranya Forests, home to a melange of tribespeople many of whom have taken up arms to protect their people against state-backed marauders and exploiters. She recorded in considerable detail the first face-to-face journalistic “encounter” with armed guerillas, their families and comrades, for which she combed the forests for weeks at personal risk. This essay was published on Friday in Delhi’s Outlook magazine and

Women guerriillas supervise the backstage for the Bhumkal feast. Bhumkal an annual ceremony means Earthquake

The terse, typewritten note slipped under my door in a sealed envelope confirmed my appointment with India’s Gravest Internal Security Threat. I’d been waiting for months to hear from them.

I had to be at the Ma Danteshwari mandir in Dantewara, Chhattisgarh, at any of four given times on two given days. That was to take care of bad weather, punctures, blockades, transport strikes and sheer bad luck. The note said: “Writer should have camera, tika and coconut. Meeter will have cap, Hindi Outlook magazine and bananas. Password: Namashkar Guruji.”

Namashkar Guruji. I wondered whether the Meeter and Greeter would be expecting a man. And whether I should get myself a moustache.

There are many ways to describe Dantewara. It’s an oxymoron. It’s a border town smack in the heart of India. It’s the epicenter of a war. It’s an upside down, inside out town.

PLGA militants are the hardhitters of the Maoist fighting force.

In Dantewara the police wear plain clothes and the rebels wear uniforms. The jail-superintendant is in jail. The prisoners are free (three hundred of them escaped from the old town jail two years ago). Women who have been raped are in police custody. The rapists give speeches in the bazaar.

Across the Indravati river, in the area controlled by the Maoists, is the place the police call ‘Pakistan’. There the villages are empty, but the forest is full of people. Children who ought to be in school, run wild. In the lovely forest villages, the concrete school buildings have either been blown up and lie in a heap, or they’re full of policemen. The deadly war that’s unfolding in the jungle, is a war that the Government of India is both proud and shy of.

Red Shadow: Centenary celebrations of the adivasi uprising in Bastar; Sten gun at hand

Operation Green Hunt has been proclaimed as well as denied. P. Chidambaram, India’s Home Minister (and CEO of the war) says it does not exist, that it’s a media creation. And yet substantial funds have been allocated to it and tens of thousands of troops are being mobilized for it. Though the theatre of war is in the jungles of Central India, it will have serious consequences for us all.

If ghosts are the lingering spirits of someone, or something that has ceased to exist, then perhaps the new four-lane highway crashing through the forest is the opposite of a ghost. Perhaps it is the harbinger of what is still to come.

The Day of the Bhumkal: Face to face with "India's greatest Security Threat"

The antagonists in the forest are disparate and unequal in almost every way. On one side is a massive paramilitary force armed with the money, the firepower, the media, and the hubris of an emerging Superpower.

On the other, ordinary villagers armed with traditional weapons, backed by a superbly organized, hugely motivated Maoist guerilla fighting force with an extraordinary and violent history of armed rebellion. The Maoists and the paramilitary are old adversaries and have fought older avatars of each other several times before: Telengana in the ’50s, West Bengal, Bihar, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh in the late ’60s and ’70s, and then again in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra from the ’80s all the way through to the present.

Staying Put: People of Kudur village protest the Bodhghat dam, ‘It does not belong to the capitalists, Bastar is OUrs’y

They are familiar with each other’s tactics, and have studied each other’s combat manuals closely. Each time, it seemed as though the Maoists (or their previous avatars) had been not just defeated, but literally, physically exterminated. Each time they have re-emerged, more organized, more determined and more influential than ever. Today once again the insurrection has spread through the mineral-rich forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal— homeland to millions of India’s tribal people, dreamland to the corporate world.

The Damned: Villagers from the submergence area of the proposed Bodhghat dam

It’s easier on the liberal conscience to believe that the war in the forests is a war between the Government of India and the Maoists, who call elections a sham, Parliament a pigsty and have openly declared their intention to overthrow the Indian State. It’s convenient to forget that tribal people in Central India have a history of resistance that pre-dates Mao by centuries. (That’s a truism of course. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t exist.) The Ho, the Oraon, the Kols, the Santhals, the Mundas and the Gonds have all rebelled several times, against the British, against zamindars and moneylenders. The rebellions were cruelly crushed, many thousands killed, but the people were never conquered. Even after Independence, tribal people were at the heart of the first uprising that could be described as Maoist, in Naxalbari village in West Bengal (where the word Naxalite—now used interchangeably with ‘Maoist’ —originates). Since then Naxalite politics has been inextricably entwined with tribal uprisings, which says as much about the tribals as it does about Naxalites.

Armed Strugglers: A village militia, the ‘base force’ of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army

This legacy of rebellion has left behind a furious people who have been deliberately isolated and marginalized by the Indian Government. The Indian Constitution, the moral underpinning of Indian democracy, was adopted by Parliament in 1950. It was a tragic day for tribal people. The Constitution ratified colonial policy and made the State custodian of tribal homelands. Overnight, it turned the entire tribal population into squatters on their own land. It denied them their traditional rights to forest produce, it criminalized a whole way of life. In exchange for the right to vote it snatched away their right to livelihood and dignity.

Having dispossessed them and pushed them into a downward spiral of indigence, in a cruel sleight of hand, the Government began to use their own penury against them. Each time it needed to displace a large population—for dams, irrigation projects, mines— it talked of “bringing tribals into the mainstream” or of giving them “the fruits of modern development”. Of the tens of millions of internally displaced people (more than 30 million by big dams alone), refugees of India’s ‘progress’, the great majority are tribal people. When the Government begins to talk of tribal welfare, it’s time to worry.

Boy, What A Smile: Comrade Kamla, 17, wearing a pistol on her hip. Also, a miracle.

The most recent expression of concern has come from the Home Minister P. Chidambaram who says he doesn’t want tribal people living in ‘museum cultures’. The well -being of tribal people didn’t seem to be such a priority during his career as a corporate lawyer, representing the interests of several major mining companies. So it might be an idea to enquire into the basis for his new anxiety.

Over the past five years or so, the Governments of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal have signed hundreds of MOUs with corporate houses, worth several billion dollars, all of them secret, for steel plants, sponge-iron factories, power plants, aluminum refineries, dams and mines. In order for the MOUs to translate into real money, tribal people must be moved.

Therefore, this war.

When a country that calls itself a democracy openly declares war within its borders, what does that war look like? Does the resistance stand a chance? Should it? Who are the Maoists? Are they just violent nihilists foisting an out-dated ideology on tribal people, goading them into a hopeless insurrection? What lessons have they learned from their past experience? Is armed struggle intrinsically undemocratic? Is the Sandwich Theory—of ‘ordinary’ tribals being caught in the crossfire between the State and the Maoists—an accurate one? Are ‘Maoists’ and ‘Tribals’ two entirely discrete categories as is being made out? Do their interests converge? Have they learned anything from each other? Have they changed each other?

Gathered Storm: Dance troupes of various Janatana Sarkars perform on Bhumkal Day

The day before I left, my mother called sounding sleepy. “I’ve been thinking,” she said, with a mother’s weird instinct, “what this country needs is revolution.”

An article on the internet says that Israel’s Mossad is training 30 high-ranking Indian police officers in the techniques of targeted assassinations, to render the Maoist organization “headless”. There’s talk in the press about the new hardware that has been bought from Israel: Laser range finders, thermal imaging equipment and unmanned drones so popular with the US army. Perfect weapons to use against the poor.

Gathered Storm: Dance troupes of various Janatana Sarkars perform on Bhumkal Day

The drive from Raipur to Dantewara takes about ten hours through areas known to be ‘Maoist-infested.’ These are not careless words. ‘Infest/infestation’ implies disease/pests. Diseases must be cured. Pests must be exterminated. Maoists must be wiped out. In these creeping, innocuous ways the language of genocide has entered our vocabulary.

To protect the highway security forces have ‘secured’ a narrow bandwidth of forest on either side. Further in, it’s the raj of the ‘Dada log.’ The Brothers. The Comrades. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Article | 8 Comments »

Sanhati: Development Terrorism in India

Posted by Admin on January 11, 2010

Source: Revolution in South Aisa Posted by Ka Frank on January 9, 2010

77% of the people of India live on less than $0.50 per day

This article was published on the newly launched website of the International Campaign Against the War on the People of India on January 7, 2010.

The Developmental Terrorism of the Indian State

A document prepared by Sanhati Collective

It has been widely reported in the press that the Indian government is planning an unprecedented military offensive against alleged Maoist rebels, using paramilitary and counter-insurgency forces, possibly the Indian Armed Forces and even the Indian Air Force. This military operation is going to be carried out in the forested and semi-forested rural areas of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand,West Bengal and Maharashtra, populated mainly by the tribal (indigenous) people of India. Reportedly, the offensive has been planned in consultation with US counter-insurgency agencies. Read the rest of this entry »

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The tribal ‘Ruchikas’ of Dantewada

Posted by Admin on January 8, 2010

Javed Iqbal
First Published : 08 Jan 2010 12:26:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 07 Jan 2010 01:53:22 PM IST

Operation Green Hunt to flush out the Maoist rebels from central India may have begun only last November, but the hapless tribals of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region have been at the receiving end of official hostility for years before that. It is not clear why they should attract official ire, but they do. The state machinery, of course, denies any such sentiment.

Take the case of four Muria tribal women from the village of Samsetti. The Muria say they don’t know anything about rape; their word for it is closer to baalatkaar than anything else. On July 6, 2006, according to witnesses, government-appointed special police officers and Salwa Judum members gang-raped three young women, 19, 22 and 23, during a raid on Samsetti, which is in Dantewada district. Another girl was allegedly raped in January of that year. But the state wanted to know nothing about it.

When they went to file a complaint at the police station, the girls say they were threatened and chased away. It was discovered later that there were allegedly 24 cases of rape in the entire Konta block, but only six women would speak up. Four were from Samsetti, one from Arlampalli and another from Bandarpadar. The complaints, however, were not recorded.

Finally, on March 27, 2009, the women first wrote straight to the superintendent of police and the district collector. Nothing happened. Then a complaint case was jointly filed with the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Konta, on April 29.

Interestingly, while statements were being recorded at the court on June 16, the accused were said to be loitering around the corridors. On the next court date, July 17, when the testimonies of the victims were meant to be heard, the magistrate was absent, allegedly ‘called away to headquarters’. The magistrate also magically disappeared on the next court date, August 12.

The magistrate, Amrit Karkate nervously rides his bicycle to court every day from his house in Konta – the bastion of the accused. A warrant for the 30 accused was finally issued in October to the police stations of Dornapal, Konta and Bhejji. Yet no arrests were made. The accused are said to be missing yet one of them is even giving speeches. The SPOs are on duty but for some reason they’re missing, too. Read the rest of this entry »

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Amit Bhattacharyya on the Historic Importance of the Lalgarh Movement

Posted by Admin on January 3, 2010

Source:Revolution in South of Asia Posted by Ka Frank on January 2, 2010

PCPA meeting near Lalgarh

In this article, Amit Bhattacharyya, a professor of history at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, takes up two important subjects.First, he describes the people’s development projects that the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities and the Maoistshave undertaken in the region around Lalgarh in the areas of land distribution, irrigation, road building, health, education and the preservation of adivasi culture. Secondly, he responds to some urban intellectuals criticisms of the role of the Maoists in the Lalgarh movement, and their objections to the movement’s use of arms to resist the much larger and more heavily armed central and state military forces.

Originally Posted by Democratic Students Union, December 31, 2009

War Against the People and the Historic Lalgarh Movement

-Amit Bhattacharyya

The Indian ruling classes and the central government they have set up to serve them have very recently declared one of the most unjust and brutal wars against the people which is quite unprecedented in the history of our country. Such a massive mobilization of armed forces, paramilitary forces, police forces and air forces totalling around 1 lakh personnel, along with US-Israel military assistance of various types only highlights the magnitude of the war.

They have identified the Maoists as the ‘greatest threat to the internal security of the country since independence’ i.e, the security of the Indian ruling classes. The entire forested region in central and eastern India have been divided into seven Operating Areas, which they want to ‘clear’ within the next five years of all resistance, including that by the Maoists and other Naxalite organizations. A massive amount of money to the tune of Rs.7300 crore has already been earmarked for meeting the cost of this war.

Needless to state, this war against the people is being waged in the interests of foreign capital and domestic big comprador capital. Hundreds of MoUs have been signed between imperialists and domestic sharks and the central and state governments that would further intensify the process of plunder and loot of our vast natural resources and bring more displacement and add to the misery and ruin in the lives of the impoverished people of our country. Lalgarh, nay, the Jangal Mahal region, is a region that, as the central home minister Mr. P. Chidambaram declared, would be treated as a laboratory to undertake experiments in dealing with this ‘greatest internal threat’ and then to utilize that experience for crushing resistance in such states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. We propose to deal with the great Lalgarh movement that has already found its rightful place in the history of just struggles of our country. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Admin on December 20, 2009

The After Kill Of Narayanpatna

The bloodshed may have halted, but violence, fear and the possibility of starvation still haunt. SANJANA reports from the remote Orissa town where police killed two Adivasis last month
image Cycle of death
With police restricting harvest, children may end up starving Photos: Tarun Sehrawat

THE VOICE at the other end of the line is weak and tired. It’s past 8 pm. “We are on our way to the village,” he says. “We walk six hours every day – three hours at daybreak from our village into the forest and three hours at sundown back to the village. We hide in the jungles during the day and come to the village at night. We don’t want to be arrested by the police who come to our villages during the day,” says the 24-yearold. A few minutes of conversation later, he asks if his name and village can be kept anonymous. “If the police read the report, they may come to our village and hunt us down,” he says. Nothing you say can dislodge the fear.

Three weeks after a police firing, Narayanpatna in Orissa continues to resemble a war zone – with near-empty villages. The 24-year-old Adivasi that TEHELKA spoke with is only one of several hundred families who live in constant fear.

On 20 November 2009, two Adivasis died in the paramilitary forces’ firing at the Narayanpatna police station. Both the Adivasis were part of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh – an Adivasi organisation in the region that is fighting for the last 15 years for the Adivasis’ right over land – and were part of a 150 strong group that had gathered at the police station to protest over continued police harassment. Last week, in the story ‘A zone of twisted law’ (issue 50 dated 19 December, 2009) TEHELKA had detailed attempts by the state to derail the CMAS and other Adivasi organisations working in the area by equating them directly with the Communist Party of India (Maoist) active in the region. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sandwich Theory and Operation Green Hunt

Posted by Admin on December 17, 2009

Source: by Radha D’Souza

The ‘Sandwich Theory’

I was piqued by the phrase ‘sandwich theory’ when I first heard it from Delhi students. They were referring to the views of a section of articulate, influential, middle India in the wake of the controversies over Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh and now Operation Green Hunt. The ‘theory’, if we may call it that, holds that the Adivasis and rural poor are caught in the crossfire between armed Maoist ‘terrorists’ on the one side and a militarised Indian state on the other (see Report of the Independent Citizens’ Initiative on Chhattisgarh for example). It is the duty of middle India, according to the ‘sandwich theory’, to ‘rescue’ the hapless Adivasis and rural poor from the armed combatants. Both combatants have ulterior motives: the Maoists wish to take political power through the barrel of their guns, and the India state wishes to grab Adivasi lands and natural resources and hand them over to corporations, foreign and domestic. Thus, the ‘sandwich theory’ sees middle India as the saviour of the nation as envisioned in the Indian Constitution. The apparent neutrality of the theory is appealing to many. Equally, many are uneasy about ‘sandwich theory’ not least because it frames the question as one of ‘violence versus non-violence’ and forces them to given a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer with little room for debate (e.g. NDTV, ‘The Buck Stops Here’ 23/09/09, 07/10/09, 20/10/09). The privileged statuses of the proponents of this theory, the positions they occupy in academia, media, institutions of governance, and such, adds to the scepticism of privilege that many even in middle India have developed over the years since Independence. Although there is widespread opposition to Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt, their understanding of it divides middle India. The ‘sandwich theory’ merits reflection, therefore.

Democratic Values and ‘Sandwich Theory’

Middle India values democracy, and most will agree that, in principle, democracy demands respect for every man, woman, and child, rich or poor, urban or rural, of any caste or nationality. Respect for all entails crediting all human beings with basic intelligence by virtue of being human. Democracy is based on the belief that all people possess the capacities to determine their destinies. If this is true, then the ‘sandwich theory’ is fundamentally undemocratic.

Most people in middle India today agree that the Adivasis and rural poor have real and legitimate grievances against the economic policies of successive governments. According to the ‘sandwich theorists’ the Maoists exploit their grievances to further their own ends. This precludes the possibility that at least a section of the Adivasis and rural poor may have chosen to go with the Maoists. The argument denies the Adivasis and the rural poor their agency, their capacities to determine what is and is not good for them, and basic intelligence to decide whom they wish to support and why. The attitude implicit in the ‘sandwich theory’ masks the latent authoritarianism that lurks beneath the facade of compassion for the poor. Of course, the Adivasis and the rural poor do not articulate their political choices in the language of scholars from Harvard and Oxford, IIT and JNU, or theories of democratic development, civil society, post-communism or post Marxism, but that is not to say they are passive victims without self-determination. By portraying them as hapless victims of Maoists and the State alike, middle India can avoid engaging with the Adivasis and rural poor as political equals. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Zone Of Twisted Law

Posted by Admin on December 13, 2009

Two Adivasis — supposed Naxals — are killed by police in a remote Orissa town. SANJANA pens the only on-the-spot report from a land where the state dubs dissent as automatically Maoist PHOTOGRAPHS BY TARUN SEHRAWATimage Vigil A woman in Dombsil village
sits before the wreckage of her house, destroyed by the CMAS

IF GIVEN a map and told this town’s name, chances are you’d find it difficult to spot. Devoted scrutiny would reveal, ultimately, a small two-street settlement in Orissa, about 500 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, almost astride the border with Andhra Pradesh. There are tens of thousands of remote Indian towns like this but there is a good reason to take a closer look at Narayanpatna.


On the afternoon of November 20, the Indian Reserve Battalion, a paramilitary force stationed at Narayanpatna police station opened fire on 150 Adivasis who had gathered in front of the station. Two people, Wadeka Singanna and Andru Nachika, died; around 60 were injured. The victims were members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), an Adivasi rights organisation working in Narayanpatna block. They were protesting against excesses committed by police and paramilitary forces that entered their villages during search and combing operations.

Narayanpatna block (in Orissa, a block is an administrative unit comprising several villages which falls under a tehsil) is a hilly tract of land on the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border. Almost 90 percent of the 45,000 people who live in the block are Adivasis. For several years, according to the police, the block has witnessed violent attacks by Maoists – informers and contractors have been declared anti-people agents of the state and murdered with impunity and even police stations have been blown up. The November 20 firing, it is clear, took place in an extremely troubled land.

The reasons for the actual firing, however, are less clear. After travelling to the spot, TEHELKA discovered that even nine days after the incident, there was no consensus on the events of that day.


In a press conference two days after the firing, SP Deepak Kumar laid out the official police version: leaders of CMAS broke down the police station gates and confronted Gaurang Sahu, the inspector in charge of the station. Heated arguments followed. At one point in the altercation, the Adivasis snatched a self loading assault rifle and opened fire. In all, 22 rounds were fired, claimed the SP and Sahu was shot in the leg. According to him, the police firing that killed the two CMAS leaders was in self-defence, in retaliation to the firing by the Adivasis.
image Cause for alarm Seeing
TEHELKA staffers, a 26-member
Special Operations Group team
starts search and combing
operations in Basnaput village

However, senior district administration officials and a government-appointed lawyer who reached the town a few hours after the firing offered TEHELKA a different account of the day. Off the record, a medical staffer involved in the post-mortem said that the bullet injuries indicated that the two leaders had been shot from behind, along the spine. No bullet injuries were found on their legs, suggesting that the police were shooting to kill, not to incapacitate. Singanna, a key CMAS leader, was shot 14 times, with some of the shots being fired after he fell to the ground. When TEHELKA asked the medical staffer about the injuries sustained by Inspector Sahu, there was silence. In a feeble, nervous voice, he revealed that the injuries were by no means grievous. Ask if the examination of Inspector Sahu’s wounds showed signs of a bullet injury and the staffer tells TEHELKA he wants to be excused. He has a family that depends on him and would like to keep his job, he says. A constable at the police station who, too, refused to identify himself told TEHELKA that the injured inspector declined an offer to airlift him to Visakhapatnam, the nearest major city. The constable admitted, however, that that evening, Gaurang Sahu was limping around. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mr. Chidambaram, How can you do this to your own people?

Posted by Admin on December 7, 2009

November 25, 2009

Rice to ash: Sodi Idma with the remnants of his produce. Like most of the villagers of Tatemargu, he lost around twenty-thirty quintals of rice to the fire that ravaged his home, when his village was raided by the security forces on the 9th of November, 2009.

On the 9th of November, 2009, security forces had raided the village of Tatemargu of Konta Block, Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.

Once news of the approaching forces reached the village, all the villagers ran into the jungle with what they could carry. They scattered in all directions and only returned once they got news that the security forces had left their village. They returned to find burning homes and distraught villagers who were taken into custody by the security forces, and then released in the village itself. They told the rest of the villagers their stories and identified those who was taken away. Many took their time to return from the jungle. And only once all the villagers were back and reunited, did they begin to piece together what had happened – and who was missing.

Eventually, the villagers received news from villages closer to Kistaram, some fourteen kilometers away, that seven people were killed near the police station.

One of them was Madkam Idma from Tatemargu who ran with most of the villagers when news of the approaching forces reached them. However, he turned back to his home to collect some food to survive in the jungle. He was inevitably captured with some 14 other villagers, and was one of four of his village, who were taken towards Kistaram police station, where they were reportedly shot dead on the 10th of November.

Two villagers from Doghpar, who were working in the fields, were apprehended prior to the raid on Tatemargu, and were also shot dead.

Security forces had also raided the village of Pallodi, some 12 kilometres from Tatemargu, where they reportedly burnt some 30 homes and apprehended Madvi Joga, who was also shot dead as a Naxalite, taking the total dead to seven.

‘With so much difficulty I bring my children up, and this is what happens.’ Says Madkam Jogi, mother of the young Madkam Idma, who was described as a shy reclusive young man of twenty. She also had to clear the rubble from her home with her remaining son, who is around fourteen years old. She has around 10 acres of land and lost around 20 quintal or rice in the fire that consumed her home.

Eventually, a few of the villagers decided to go to Kistaram police station to recover the bodies. At the police station, they were told that the bodies were taken away. They returned, dejected and confused, and would eventually begin to assess all the damage to their homes and their produce.

Some villagers would also begin to rebuild their homes with whatever they could find. However, most of them are still afraid to return to their homes out of fear that the security forces would return. They now live in the fields or in the jungle.

At Tatemargu, there were around sixty burnt homes disproportionately damaged. Some were raised to the ground, and others were partially saved from the fire by the villagers. Some were made of brick and cement and others were smaller homes made of mud and hay. Some homes survived in their entirety with all their produce while others were burnt to the ground with everything in them – along with bicycles, clothes, money, radios and even the bell-gaadis.

One villager, Kalmu Soma, who has around 30 acres of land, lost around 60 quintals of rice, around 20 quintals of Mahua, a solar plate and its battery, a motorcycle and his home. Another, Vanjam Mungdroo, who has around 3 acres of land, lost around 3 quintals of rice, 1 quintal of Mahua, 2 goats, a chicken and his home.

Vanjam Idma lost 10 quintals of rice, 2 quintals of Mahua, 30 kilograms of imli and both of his homes.

Sodi Sukda, lost around 40 quintals of rice, 7 quintals of Mahua and a house of cement and brick that took him five years to build.

Hoongi Madkam, age forty, managed to save her house and her produce but lost her husband, Oonga Madkam.

Sukda Raja, age 50, lost his brother, Dodhi Raja.

‘These kinds of things happen in war’ – is what the visiting Naxalites would tell the villagers.

Devi Idma, helping to clear her father’s home of ash and debris, after the security forces attacked her village on the 9th of November, 2009.

The Combing Operation

On the day of the raid, which started around 11 in the morning, a few villagers, were apprehended by the security forces and then eventually released. They were kept in separate groups under different guard. Five were kept in one group, and ten in another. The two villagers from Doghpar were kept in the group of five.

According to the ones who were released, the security forces numbered to more than five hundred and they would begin to capture the goats, the chickens and the ducks of the village of Tatemargu and start cooking them in separate areas. There is no exact estimate on the number of animals eaten by the security forces but each home out of the 27 interviewed, claims to have lost an average of around two-three chickens. One villager claimed that six of his pigeons were missing. There is a rough estimate that around ten-fifteen goats and five-ten ducks were eaten.

The police had also taken the group of 10 villagers to a monolith painted in red that had been built to commemorate a fallen Dalam member Chutey Khoja, who was shot dead in Bijapur last year. He had apparently joined the Dalam as a ten-year old, claiming to be an orphan. In fact, he had joined the Dalam after an argument with his mother, who now lives alone at Tatemargu.

Eventually the police started to question the villagers about the Monolith. Who built it? Who is this person? Why is Comrade Chutey Amar Rahe written on it? When the villagers feigned ignorance out of fear, they were beaten. They eventually confessed that the Naxalites had asked them to build it and the police would begin to chip away at its base, hoping to destroy it. However, the structure remained – the security forces would only rip off the sickle and hammer that stood on the crest of the monument.

Around the same time, a few of the Special Police Officers (SPOs) would begin to misbehave with the six women that were in their custody. They would deliberately start cutting the hair of eighteen-year-old Jogi Madvi with a knife. According to the witnesses, who were eventually set free, a senior ‘adhikari’ in uniform, who spoke Hindi came to her rescue.

‘How can you do this to your own people?’ said the officer who apparently snatched the knife from the perpetrator and threw it away. The women weren’t mistreated after that.

The same officer also refused the food that was made from the livestock of Tatemargu..

The security forces left the village of Tatemargu around five in the evening and camped across the mountain in the jungle with the four villagers from Tatemargu and two from Doghpar. The next day, they entered Pallodi, where they allegedly burnt down 30 homes, and captured one villager.

Somewhere, on the way, all seven of them were shot dead.

Devi Mangdroo sleeping next to her son and the remnants of her burnt home, as well as her newest settlement. She lost around three quintals of rice in the fire that was started by the security forces.

Tatemargu, a Naxalite Village?

Most of the Muria villagers from Sukma first settled at Tatemargu around fifty years ago. They brought their techniques of cultivation from Jagdalpur and the abundance of resources made Tatemargu an ideal location for cultivation. They had an ample supply of water, and they have never used pesticides on their crops. Reportedly, agriculture has never failed in their village, even though cultivation has all but ceased in the majority of Dantewada and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh – ever since the inception of the Salwa Judum.

At Tatemargu, long before the Naxalites came, a villager was beaten or chastised by a forest official for cutting too many trees for cultivating land, or for some other discretion. ‘To live here, you must bear a few beatings.’ – was what the old women of Tatemargu would tell their children.

Eventually, the village would begin to thrive. The villagers started to build large homes with bricks and cement. Some of them would spend around five years building their homes. Many families had produced an average of around 30 quintals of rice per season. Two villagers, one Deva Kovasi, claims that a Special Police Officer (SPO) stole some Rs.30,000 from him when he was trying to escape the raid; the other, Oonga Kanmu, claims that he lost Rs.15,000, along with some jewels from his home.

Some families had around 30 acres of land, some around 100 cattle. There are currently around 800 people and a majority of the families have over 10 acres of land, yet there are still many poorer Muria who have only five to three acres. Most of the homes have goats, cattle, chickens and even some ducks. The village of Tatemargu, is unofficially described as the number one village at Konta block.

The Naxalites had imposed prohibition – restricting the intake of liquor rather than completely banning it. They also ensured that everyone worked on everyone’s land. Those who drank too much and did little work, weren’t allowed more than three acres.

The government opened an angaanbadi centre. There were 10 cases of polio in the village before the angaanbadi services started, but as anti-polio vaccines were made available through the angaanbadi service, there have been no cases of polio. However, angaanbadi services have been discontinued since the Salwa Judum started. Healthcare is now minimal. Only the leftover medicines for sore throats, fevers and headaches remain. Most have expired. If people are capable of traveling to a city for healthcare, they often choose to. If they are incapable of traveling and afflicted with a severe illness, they often just die.

In fact, Tatemargu in Konta Block has been left completely untouched by government influence ever since the Salwa Judum. One handpump was installed during Ajit Jogi’s last tenure and it has stopped working over a year ago. There is no one to repair it.

There has never been any electricity at Tatemargu. Two villagers had two solar panels which were wrecked by the security forces. They even vandalized whatever remained of the angaanbadi centre and the school.

Sodi Sukda sitting before the burnt produce from her home. She lost around forty quintals of rice – some seven years of produce.

Text and photographs by Javed Iqbal/For The New Indian Express

In 2005, the only remaining teacher was given a choice to teach in one of the Salwa Judum camps near Konta, or to discontinue his service. He has around twenty acres of land and more than a hundred cattle at Tatemargu, his home – he claims that he can produce around 30 quintal of rice, and 20 kilograms of ghee a year – why should he be a teacher in some Salwa Judum camp where he and his family would have nothing? As it is, his family grew up in Tatemargu and refused to budge, and he wasn’t ready to abandon them. Is this what makes me a Naxalite? Is this why I deserve to die?

Yet families were still split apart. Many families of Tatemargu have relations at Konta or Sukma, living in Salwa Judum camps. Quite a few of the villagers of Tatemargu keep that fact a secret for fear of retribution, or incurring the wrath of the Maoists. They seldom meet one another and only manage to do so clandestinely. When the villagers of Tatemargu travel, which they seldom do, they always claim to be from some other village.

Their markets have also shifted – they have to sell their produce to middlemen from Andhra Pradesh, for a price of Rs.600-Rs.700 per quintal for rice, or to Kistaram market, for Rs.990 per quintal. They barely sell their wares at Kistaram for fear of being apprehended, or branded off as ‘Naxals’. This market situation also led to the hoarding of rice. Additionally, the hoarding is also an indication of a man’s wealth – the more rice you have, the richer you are.

This has been their situation since the Salwa Judum started.

‘When Muria kill Muria, who benefits?’ Asks Poodiyan Lakhma of Tatemargu, regarding the Salwa Judum. He was in Andhra Pradesh when he got news of the attack on his village by security forces. The news was bittersweet – while his three children and his young wife managed to escape unhurt, his home was burnt to the ground. He lost two quintals of rice, one quintal of Mahua, forty kilograms of corn and 20 kilograms of salt. He has only three acres of land and is one of the poorer inhabitants of Tatemargu.

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