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Posts Tagged ‘Interviews’

Interviews

Posted by Admin on August 16, 2009


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We fight for the people, and our only partners are the oppressed: Maoist Leader Koteshwar Rao

Posted by Admin on July 26, 2009


Date: June 21
Kolkata: A Maoist leader says the rebels are ready for “a protracted war” in Lalgarh, the area in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district that security forces are trying to free from the control of tribals and Maoists.

Defiant stance, A May picture of Koteshwar Rao, who says the stand-off between the Maoists and the government won’t end until police atrocities stop and the administration builds infrastructure at Lalgarh. Indranil Bhoumik

Defiant stance, A May picture of Koteshwar Rao, who says the stand-off between the Maoists and the government won’t end until police atrocities stop and the administration builds infrastructure at Lalgarh. Indranil Bhoumik

“Tell Buddhababu, his forces should fight us—the guerrillas—and not the tribals,” said Koteshwar Rao, who heads guerrilla operations of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in West Bengal. Buddhababu is a reference to West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Seven months ago, tribals of Lalgarh, backed by Maoist guerrillas, seized control of the area in protest against alleged police atrocities. The administration last week deployed state and central forces to flush out the guerrillas, and has since regained control of the Lalgarh police station.

Rao, who claims to have amassed a huge cache of arms and ammunition, wants a dialogue with the state government, but the administration has ruled out any negotiations with the radical group or the tribals.

“Our aim is to free the locals of Lalgarh, who are living under the terror of the Maoists,” said Raj Kanojia, inspector general of police (law and order).
‘Let them send another 500 companies (of police)… This protracted war is not going to end soon.’

“The tribals are a pawn in the game…they are being used by the Maoists as a human shield. We are trying to flush out the Maoists, who have come from other states such as Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.”
In a telephone interview from Lalgarh, Rao denied that the Maoists were shooting from tribal shoulders. “They support us, and the support is entirely voluntary,” he said. Edited excerpts: Read the rest of this entry »

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Need to redefine nationalism: Binayak Sen

Posted by Admin on July 19, 2009


binayak_sen_20090526Since before Maoists were declared terrorists, Binayak Sen was treated like one for almost two years. The social activist, who works among the tribals and mine workers of Chhattisgarh was lodged in Raipur Central Jail, accused of being a Maoist conduit. His crime – being a doctor, he had agreed to treat the Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal. In a stunning move that one hopes is not routine, the state government clamped the dreaded Unlawful Activities Act on Sen and kept fighting against his release – without any proof, without any witness.

Released on bail and recuperating at his house after undergoing heart surgery at the Vellore Medical College, Binayak Sen tells
Zeenews.com’s Shashank Chouhan about his days in prison and how this country needs to reclaim its lost values.

Shashank: Is your case only an example of what’s happening across Chhattisgarh?

Binayak: Indeed. I have earlier also described mine as an index case- it only highlights problems in the other parts of the state. I had a lot of support from NGOs, Nobel laureates etc; think of the hapless tribals who don’t have that. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bimal: Interview with “One of the Most Wanted Persons” in India

Posted by Admin on July 19, 2009


maoist forces in IndiaThis is an interview with Bimal, a leader and Politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). It was conducted with correspondents The Times of India, April 27, 2009 and then published by People’s Truth.

WE WANT A SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PATH AND INCLUSIVE GROWTH TRAJECTORY THAT WON’T DIVEST THE POOR FROM THE FRUITS OF THEIR LABOR

You are one of the most wanted persons of the country. Even Left Front Chairman Biman Bose announced months ago that you have entered Bangal from Jharkhand. What made you come here?

(Smiles) I am not new to this terrain.

I first came to Bengal from Dandakaranya in 1995.. I have been to the villages in Lalgarh in West Midnapore in 1998. The Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa (BJO) border zone, as well as North Bengal, has been our priority. North Bengal — which would give us access to the North-East, Bangladesh and Bhutan. But we chose the BJO because that is part of a contiguous forest cover spread over Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bengal and Bihar. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mainstream politics not for us, says Koteshwar Rao,a member of the politburo of Communist Party of India (Maoist)

Posted by Admin on June 15, 2009


*This is a rare interview with Koteshwar Rao, a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the partys highest decision-making body. He is also head of the partys guerilla operations in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa. The original comments on this article said The 51-year-old Maoist leader refused to be photographed and set his own terms for the meeting. Mints reporters were asked to arrive at a school in Chakadoba where they waited for around 5 hours. At around dusk, they were escorted to where Rao wasa clearing in the jungle that was reached after a brisk 30-minute walk. In a conversation that lasted at least 5 hours, Rao, who greeted the reporters with the Maoist Lal salaam or red salute, explained the Maoist philosophy. And his groups ultimate objective.

*  *Edited excerpts:*

*The administration alleges that you ambush people and run awaythat you dont have the courage to fight them*

Absolute rubbishthey know we dont run away, but say so because they can neither ignore us nor can they fight us. Even on 2 November, when Buddhababus (West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee) convoy was attacked, I was within a kilometre of where the blast took place. Huge forces were deployed, the area was combed, but I did not run away. All our comrades in (West) Bengal are sons and daughters of the soil. Where will they run away? For the last five years, I am camping here and helping the organization grow. The Intelligence Branch knows everything. They know what I look likethey even have a picture taken last year. Read the rest of this entry »

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IBN interview with Arundhati Roy on Taslima and Nandigram

Posted by Admin on December 5, 2007


Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. How do India’s leading authors respond to the treatment given to Taslima Nasreen over the last 14 days? That’s the key issue I shall explore today with Booker Prize- winning novelist Arundhati Roy.

WRITE AND WRONG: Arundhati Roy says Bengal govt's behaviour was 'ridiculously unacceptable.'

Karan Thapar: Arundhati Roy, let me start with that question. How do you respond to the way Taslima Nasreen has been treated for almost 14 days now?

Arundhati Roy: Well, it is actually almost 14 years but right now it is only 14 days and I respond with dismay but not surprise because I see it as a part of a larger script where everybody is saying their lines and exchanging parts.

Karan Thapar: She, I believe, has been in touch with you . What has she told you about the experience that she has been through?

Arundhati Roy:Well I have to say that I was devastated listening to what she said because here’s this woman in exile and all alone. Since August she’s been under pressure, she says, from the West Bengal police who visit her everyday saying, “Get out of here. Go to Kerala, go to Europe or go to Rajasthan. Do anything but get out of here. People are trying to kill you,” not offering to protect her but saying get out. On 15th November when there was this huge march in Calcutta against Nandigram, they said, “Now you’re going to be killed so we’re going to move you from your flat to some other place” and they did it but they withdrew most of her security which is paradoxical because on the day when she was supposedly the most under the threat, she had no protection. A few days later they gave her a ticket and pushed her out of the state.

Karan Thapar: Listening to the story she told you about herself, do you believe that the West Bengal government’s behaviour has been unacceptable?

Arundhati Roy: Well it has been utterly, ridiculously unacceptable. I mean, what can I say? Here you have a situation where you’re really threatening and coercing a person.

Karan Thapar: Far from protecting her, they were threatening her?

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely.

Karan Thapar: What about Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee? He is a poet, he is an author; how does he emerge from this story?

Arundhati Roy: He emerges from the story, as far as I am concerned, as the principal scriptwriter who managed, quite cleverly, to shift all the attention from Nandigram to Taslima. Taslima is not the person who is displacing the poor peasants of Nandigram. She is not the person who is robbing people of their daily bread.

Karan Thapar: So he used her as a pawn to take the pressure off himself in terms of Nandigram?

Arundhati Roy: I think very successfully because we are discussing her and not Nandigram right now.

Karan Thapar: So he’s failed to stand by any of the constitutional duties that as a Chief Minister he should have upheld?

Arundhati Roy: I should say at this point that we do not have the constitutional right to free speech. We have many caveats between us and free speech so maybe he has upheld the constitutional rights to us not having free speech.

Karan Thapar: On Friday, Taslima announced that three pages from her autobiography Dwikhandito, which allegedly had given offence to critics, are to be withdrawn. Do you see that as a sensible compromise or a mistake?

Arundhati Roy: Well, neither. She does not have any choices. She is just like a person who has now got the protection of the mafia which is the state in some way. She has nowhere to go. She has no protection. She just has to blunder her way through this kind of humiliation and I really feel for her.

Karan Thapar: You used an interesting phrase. You said she has to blunder her way through this humiliation. Was withdrawing those three pages, admittedly under pressure, a blunder?

Arundhati Roy: I don’t know. Honestly, we can all be very brave in the security of our lives but she has nobody to turn to and nowhere to go. I don’t know what I would have done in that situation.

Karan Thapar: She had no other choice, perhaps.

Arundhati Roy: She really is in a mess. I think it is a reflection on all of us.

Karan Thapar: Let’s come to the issues and the principle that underlie what I call the Taslima Nasreen story. To begin with, do you view freedom of speech as an absolute freedom, without any limitations or would you accept that there are certain specific constraints that we all have to accept?

Arundhati Roy: It is a complicated question and has been debated often. I personally, do view it as something that should have no caveats for this simple reason that in a place where there are so many contending beliefs, so many conflicting things, only the powerful will then decide what those caveats should be and those caveats will always be used by the powerful.

Karan Thapar: So you’re saying that given the fact that many people are vulnerable, freedom of speech for them should have no caveats, it should be absolute and that’s their only protection?

Arundhati Roy: I think so because if you look at the facts, you have outfits like VHP or the Bajrang Dal or the CD that the BJP produced during the UP elections, you see that they do what they want to do. The powerful always do what they want to do. It is the powerless and the vulnerable that need free speech.

Karan Thapar: Let’s explore the position that you’re taking – free speech is an absolute freedom and there should be no limitations on it. What about the view that by criticising Islam, Taslima has offended beliefs which for tens of millions of Indians, maybe for hundreds of millions are sacred? These are beliefs that underlie their dignity and their sense of identity. Should freedom of speech extend that far as to threaten people’s sense of themselves?

Arundhati Roy: I don’t believe that a writer like Taslima Nasreen can undermine the dignity of 10 million people. Who is she? She is not a scholar of Islam. She does not even claim that Islam is her subject. She might have said extremely stupid things about Islam. I have no problem with the quotations that I have heard from her book. Dwikhandito has not been translated into English, but let’s just assume that what she said was stupid and insulting to Islam. But you have to be prepared to be insulted by something that insignificant.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you some of the things that she said, not from Dwikhandito, but from an interview she gave to Anthony McIntyre, The Blanket in 2006. She says, “It’s not true that Islam is good for humanity. It’s not at all good. Islam completely denies human rights.” Elsewhere she talks about what she calls the venomous snake of Islam. To me that sounds as if it goes perhaps beyond a simple critique and into deliberate provocation.

Arundhati Roy: It sounds like Donald Rumsfeld or some Christian fundamentalist.

Karan Thapar: And you would rile at him so why not rile at her?

Arundhati Roy: Yeah, but I wouldn’t say ban him or kill him. I would say what a ridiculous person. What a ridiculous thing. How can you start reacting to everything like that? We have an infinite number of stupidities in the world. How can you start having your foundations rocked by every half-wit?

Karan Thapar: Let’s put it like this, does freedom of speech necessarily include the right to offend?

Arundhati Roy: Obviously it includes the right to offend otherwise it wouldn’t be the freedom of speech.

Karan Thapar: But is that an acceptable right in India?

Arundhati Roy: One person’s offence is another person’s freedom.

Karan Thapar: That maybe so in England and America where Western levels of education have allowed people to hear something offensive without reacting violently. In India, where the education levels are so disparate, where religion is so emotionally and passionately held, then if you have the freedom of speech merging into the right to offend, you end up provoking people often to violence, sometimes to death.

Arundhati Roy: First of all, I think we have to understand that education is a very loaded term because modernity is what is creating some of this kind of radical fundamentalism. And it’s not like traditional India anymore. In fact, if you look at any studies that have been done, actually communal riots have increased.

Karan Thapar: Aren’t you evading my point? You’re questioning what is meant by modernity and education but you and I know that the levels of sophistication in terms of being able to handle offence to your religion or criticism of your God vary hugely.

Arundhati Roy: What I am saying is that level of sophistication is far better in rural areas than urban areas.

Karan Thapar: You mean that rural Indians are better able to take criticism of Ram or Allah?

Arundhati Roy: If you look at the kind of riots in rural and urban areas, you’ll see that, historically.

Karan Thapar: Let me give you a specific example. If criticism of Islam by Taslima Nasreen leads to a situation where people come out and riot on the streets and there is a real genuine threat that innocent people could end up killed, what in that circumstance should be the government’s priority — to defend freedom of speech or prevent the loss of human lives?

Arundhati Roy: I don’t think that’s a choice. I think they have to protect freedom of speech and do everything that they can to prevent the loss of human life because here what is happening is that this kind of right to offend or ‘my sentiments have been hurt’ have become a business in democratic politics. Let’s say the political parties are engineering these situations which lead to a loss of life otherwise why should it be that Dwikhandito has been on the bestseller list for four years in West Bengal and nothing has happened and suddenly when there’s a massive march and a massive mobilisation against the CPM, the book suddenly reappears as insulting people’s faith?

Karan Thapar: So you’re saying mischief makers, manipulators whipped up sentiments four or five years after the book was published, to deliberately try and corner Taslima and to create an atmosphere that perhaps worked in some peculiar way to the advantage of the West Bengal government?

Arundhati Roy: Look at who’s benefiting from it. All the anger about Nandigram has now suddenly turned to us asking the same state that criminally killed people in Nandigram to now protect Taslima Nasreen.

Karan Thapar: Are you trying to suggest that perhaps that the West Bengal government was in some way involved in engineering this incident to deflect attention from Nandigram to Taslima?

Arundhati Roy: I would say that it would have had a lot to do with it and I am saying that it is so easy to do these things.

Karan Thapar: When the situation happened, it would have perhaps been judged as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s dilemma. Perhaps as a poet and author he felt a need to defend or desire to protect the freedom of speech. As a Chief Minister, undoubtedly he knew that he had the duty to stop and prevent the loss of human life. If therefore, by putting pressure on Taslima Nasreen to leave the state for a while, he was able to save ten or fifteen lives that would have otherwise been lost on the streets of Calcutta, did he not do the right thing?

Arundhati Roy: No, I don’t think so. I think that’s the game that they would like us to play. ‘I did it in order to defend innocent lives.’ But I think there’s a deeper script in the understanding of what is known as the deep state. I think that this was a provocation that actually could have ended up creating a loss of lives because, I want to go back to it, why should it be that for four years that book was on the market and no lives were lost. Everything is in the timing.

Karan Thapar: So you really do believe, when you use phrases like the deep state that there was a conspiracy, even though we don’t fully understand it, to deflect attention from Nandigram to Taslima and to perhaps put her in a position where under pressure she was forced to leave and the government didn’t actually have to physically throw her out?

Arundhati Roy: I wouldn’t use the word conspiracy because that sounds like an intelligence operation and I don’t think that something like this needs to go as far as a conspiracy but I would certainly say that you need to examine the timing of this because that’s all we are ever left in India. No one ever gets to the bottom of anything. It is always like, who benefits, why did this happen now. I would like to know, why it happened now.

Karan Thapar: So you’re saying something that’s pretty fundamental. You’re saying that far more simple —as you did at the beginning— that the West Bengal government behaved unacceptably. Now you’re saying that there was almost Machiavellian intent, not a conspiracy but a Machiavellian intent behind the way they have played this game out?

Arundhati Roy: You are making it sound like I have a very deep insight.

Karan Thapar: No, you have a deep distrust and a huge suspicion.

Arundhati Roy: That’s true but I also know that this is the word on the street. You don’t need a rocket scientist to figure this out. It is something that we have seen happening over and over again. It is nothing new or amazing that’s happening.

Karan Thapar: Let’s turn to the Central Government’s response to Taslima Nasreen. Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Pranab Mukherjee said that India would continue extend protection and sanctuary to Taslima Nasreen and then he added that it is also expected that guests will refrain from activities and expressions that may hurt the sentiments of our people. How do you respond to that?

Arundhati Roy: It is like being sentenced to good behaviour for the rest of your life which is a death sentence for a writer. If I had to live somewhere in those conditions, I would become a yoga instructor or something. I would give up writing because this is such a nasty thing to do. Here is a woman who is a Bengali writer. She can’t function outside. It’s a question of principle anyway. It is not about her, it is about us. What kind of society are we creating? Sure it’s tough to take the kind of things she said about Islam but she should be put in her place, intellectually and otherwise. Not like this where she will become a martyr to somebody else.

Karan Thapar: When Pranab Mukherjee says that it is expected that guests will refrain from activities and expressions that may hurt the sentiments of our people, is he in a very real sense giving Muslim fundamentalists a veto, both over what Taslima can write and say and therefore whether she can stay in Calcutta?

Arundhati Roy:Who does he mean when he says ‘our people’? Am I included for example? Because by saying this he certainly hurt my sentiments. You can’t really match people’s sentiments.

Karan Thapar: You are quite right. ‘Our people’ includes the whole range of people but I suspect that when he says our people he had those who we were protesting against Taslima on the streets of Calcutta in mind. Has he, therefore, given them a veto over what she can write and say, and therefore a veto over whether she can continue to live in Calcutta?

Arundhati Roy:It is not her. He has taken a veto over all of us. I mean I have also been told by the Supreme Court that you will behave yourself and you will write how we ask you to write. I will not. I hope that is extended to everybody here.

Karan Thapar: Given that Taslima’s case is not a unique case, you’ve suffered as you said at the hands of the Supreme Court, M F Hussain has suffered, art students in Baroda have suffered, even people doing cartoons and satires of Gandhi on YouTube have suffered, are we an intolerant people?

Arundhati Roy: We’re just messy people. Either we have the principle of free speech or you have caveats that will fill up this whole room and we will all just be silenced. There will be no art, there will be no music and there will be no cinema.

Karan Thapar: Are you moving in that direction where caveats to free speech are becoming so many that there is no freedom to be artistic?

Arundhati Roy: What I am saying here does not matter. I might believe in this but I know that tomorrow I have to deal with the thugs of the government, courts of the fundamentalist and everybody else. In order to live here you have to think that you are living in the midst of a gang war. So what I believe in or don’t believe in is only theoretical. However, how I practice is a separate matter. How I survive here is like surviving amongst thugs.

Karan Thapar: But then the corollary to what you’re saying is very important. You’re saying that artists, particularly those who see things differently, particularly those who are stretching out and wanting to be new and avant-garde, have to contend with the thugs, as you call them, with the government and the majority that’s trying to push them back.

Arundhati Roy: We do and we will. The thing is that I also don’t expect to be mollycoddled. I know that we have a fight on our hands and how do we survive in this gang war. The state is just another gang, as far as I am concerned.

Karan Thapar: So you’re saying that it is not easy to be different in India?

Arundhati Roy: Well, it’s challenging and we accept that challenge.

Karan Thapar: What’s your advice to Taslima Nasreen?

Arundhati Roy: I really don’t have any advice. I feel very bad for her because, let me say this, her’s is actually the tragedy of displacement. Once, she has been displaced from her home. She has no rights. She is a guest and she is being treated very badly. She is being humiliated.

Karan Thapar: Arundhati Roy, it was a pleasure talking to you on Devil’s Advocate.

Source:Mumbai Girl

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Interview with Nepal’s Maoist Leader Dr. Bhattarai

Posted by Admin on November 4, 2007


Interview with Nepal’s Maoist Leader Dr. Bhattarai

November 3rd, 2007

When reporting on the Maoists in Nepal, Western journalists tend to focus on Chairman Prachanda, ( nom de guerre of Pushpa Kamal Dahal), usually overlooking the major influence that Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has wielded within the Party—from the very beginning to the present time. Although it is Prachanda’s face that will greet you on the official Maoist website, it is fair to say that it is the combined efforts of Prachanda and Dr. Bhattarai, together, that have so altered the course of Nepal’s history.

Dr. Bhattarai’s credentials are impressive. He seems to have thrived in the academic world. He garnered the highest score in the National School Leaving Certificate (SLC) in 1970. In 1972, he came first in the Intermediate Science exams. He received his Bachelors in Architecture (Honors) in 1977 from Chandigarh, India, and his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) in 1986. His doctorate thesis on “The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal- A Marxist Analysis” was later published by Adroit Publishers (Delhi 2003). He has a number of other books to his credit and is a regular contributor to both Nepali and English periodicals.

No less impressive is his reputation as a superlative chess player. Prior to his ascendancy in the political realm, when the World Chess Federation (FIDE) president Max Euwe gave a simultaneous exhibition in Kathmandu, Bhattarai played him: He beat Euwe, the ex-World Champion, in 23 moves with what is remembered as “a brilliant queen sacrifice.”

On February 4, 1996 Bhattarai gave the government, led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, a list of 40 demands, threatening civil war if they were not met. His demands included:

1) The end of the “domination of foreign capital in Nepali industries, business and finance”
2) The abrogation of “discriminatory treaties, including the 1950 Nepal-India Treaty”
3) The confiscation of “land under the control of the feudal system”, to be “distributed to the landless and the homeless.”

The Maoists declared the People’s War.

Dr. Bhattarai went underground for almost eight years. In May 2002, the Nepal government announced a bounty on his head—dead or alive–of $64,000–a vast fortune in Nepal.

In February 2003, he was designated by the Maoists to head a five-member negotiation team in peace talks with the government to end the ongoing People’s War. He emerged from hiding one month later.

He is now Senior Standing Committee Member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Head of the International Department of the Party, and Convener of United Revolutionary People’s Council.

Dr. Bhattarai married Hisila Yemi, a Newar Buddhist girl met at university. Today she is known by the nom de guerre Parvati, a political leader in her own right. Together they have one daughter.

It is perhaps pertinent to note that Dr. Bhattarai hails from a village in the western district of Gorkha, ancestral home of the kings of Nepal. It is no accident that anti-feudal sentiments have long permeated this area. The western districts have the poorest record in child literacy, child labor, landless households and per capita food production. Out of necessity, a large percentage of western Nepalis migrate to India as laborers; the region is substantially sustained by remittances sent to the folks back home: Little wonder then that this became the initial support base of the Maoist movement.

I interviewed Dr. Bhattarai long after sunset at his compound. Although he had spent the day in back-to-back closed-door meetings, he was attentive, engaged, polite and seemingly oblivious to the fact that the hour approached midnight.

Interview with Dr. Baburam Bhattarai

DUNHAM: I’d like to begin with the monarchy–the monarchy as your foe. It seems to me that the Maoists couldn’t have wished for a better enemy than King Gyanendra, widely regarded as an arrogant, rigid, ruthless, foolish and out-of-touch king– unless you wished for the king’s son, Prince Paras. The monarchy has had its wings clipped but royalists still exist, many among them denying that they are royalists. Who do you most distrust: monarchists or “closet” monarchists?

DR. BHATTARAI: It’s not a matter of personal distrust. We keep these things in historical perspective. We are not interested in individuals. We are interested in institutions, which have hampered the development of Nepal. This illegal monarchist institution, which presides over a feudal economy, politics and culture, and that has been ruling Nepal society for the last 250 years—this has been the biggest obstacle for Nepal moving into the modern age. We want to abolish this feudal institution. In that sense, whosoever is in favor of abolishing this institution, we are ready to align ourselves with them. But those who don’t want to abolish the monarchy or want to keep the monarchy in one form or another—we distrust them.

DUNHAM: And do you think that there are still a substantial number of people who are secretly monarchists?

DR. BHATTARAI: Yes, there are secret monarchists. Being Marxists, we like to think in terms of class systems. Because of the monarchists’ class interests, and their landed interests, their economic collaboration and their cultural linkages with Hindu fundamental interests—these people would like to save the monarchy, whether secretly or openly. And they are substantial in number. But they are gradually decreasing in numbers and becoming isolated from the people. In that sense, their days are numbered. We don’t regard them as a big adversity. If they are not backed by big foreign powers, I think the days of the monarchy are numbered.

DUNHAM: What about members of the army? Are there still significant numbers of secret monarchists within their ranks?

DR. BHATTARAI: In the lower levels of army personnel, most of the members are against the monarchy– let us say below the rank of major. But above the rank of major– colonel and general– there are still people with a privileged background who are linked with the Shah and Rana families. These people are either secretly or openly for the monarchy. These people are also decreasing in number but still they are powerful. They occupy the senior-most positions in the army.

DUNHAM: You mentioned the fundamentalist Hindus. Do you regard that as a growing institution?

DR. BHATTARAI: When Prithvi Narayan Shah [the first king, 1722-1775] founded the centralized feudalist state of Nepal, he gave it a slogan that means a real Hindu State. The real cultural background of the state, in that sense, is Hindu fundamentalism. Hindu fundamentalism is still substantial in numbers. They are the real backbone of the monarchy.

DUNHAM: And how deep does the Hindu state run in Nepal?

DR. BHATTARAI: I think that it is quite strong. It isn’t as strong as it is in India. It’s more deeply rooted there. But in Nepal’s case, since it lies between India and China (or the Tibetan Autonomous region of China–Buddhism dominated) there has always been a mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal, as well as various national religions indigenous to Nepal. In that way, Hinduism is more diluted in Nepal than the Hinduism of India.

DUNHAM: So the king has support in India?

DR. BHATTARAI: Yeh, some of the ruling classes in India– mainly the Hindu fundamentalist parties–they seem to be in favor of the monarchy. The majority of the political parties– Indian National Congress, which is the ruling party in India– they don’t seem to be overtly in favor of the monarchy. But, yes, a section of the ruling class in India is in favor of the monarchy.

DUNHAM: Here’s my impression of the average Nepali assessment of government officials: Corrupt; greedy; jealous of one another; promising the people anything they think the people want to hear but, in fact, focusing their attention on building private mansions, getting SUVs, sending their relatives on shopping sprees, etc. There is also the issue of age. When one thinks of members of Parliament, one thinks of very old men indeed– holding onto their power no matter what. If this impression meshes with the Maoist party’s impression, how can you be sincere when you say you want to work with the guys in government?

DR. BHATTARAI: Yeh, when you have to choose between the whale and the deep sea, the choice is very difficult. But since the monarchy has been the biggest obstacle for social development in Nepal, for the last 250 years, we must choose any ally who is ready to fight against the monarchy. That is the choice forced upon us. In that sense, you are right. The Parliamentary political parties cannot be trusted, they themselves are very corrupt, they don’t have any vision for a new Nepal. That is well known. Even so, to do away with the monarchy and to fight against feudalism, we thought is was more prudent to align ourselves with them– for the time being. If it is possible, we will try to reform them. We prefer it that way. But if they are not ready to reform, then the path will take its own course.

DUNHAM: The Madeshi problem. I’ve been coming back and forth to Nepal many times and I thought I knew a lot about Nepal. But I realized in December 2006 that I had never heard of a Madeshi problem. I didn’t know this. It was a completely new thing to me. Two or three weeks ago I went down to Birgunj and Janakpur and I talked to ten or twelve leaders–intellectuals–not leaders of the radical parties—but some I think, were radically inclined and preferred not to share with me everything they felt. Anyway, my impression was that the Terai has a legitimate gripe against the government of Nepal. They have been marginalized, parodied, belittled and ignored for decades and now, I think, they have taken a cue from the Maoists– how the Maoists have focused attention on issues in the last ten years—the Madeshi are sort of imitating the Maoists in getting their point across. The Madeshi I talked to, they themselves felt now marginalized by Yadav and Gwala Singh and these guys, and they felt like they no longer had a voice. Ironically, they had been marginalized within the issue of marginalization. Where is the Maoist focus on this situation and how important is it to address the discontent in the Terai?

DR. BHATTARAI: You have raised a very valid question. Nepal is a multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic country. Being of small size, there is a lot of diversity: national diversity, social diversity and regional diversity. Within these diversities, the Madeshi issue is an instance in which the people feel marginalized by the central state. Our party, the Supreme Maoists, during the People’s War, we raised the issue of the marginalized nationalities and regions, including the Madeshis. We were the ones who really empowered them, who really led them to fight for their cause. Then came the peace process. Then there was some confusion. Some people thought we had compromised with the state and some of the royalists and Hindu fundamentalists from India– who were against our movement– they tried to grab this genuine agreement with the Madeshi people and they instigated this Madeshi movement. The genuine movement of the Madeshi people was highjacked by the unscrupulous elements from India and Nepal. We support the general cause of the Madeshi people. We must support it because their cause is genuine. They need liberation from the oppressive state of Nepal.
We have promised the Madeshi autonomy. But when the Nepali Congress government wasn’t prepared to declare autonomy right now, or declare a free state right now, then we made a sort of compromise that we would go for an election with the constituent assembly and after the election, we would go for a federal structure. Some people thought, if it was postponed in that way, the federal system might never be achieved. The general agreement was there. But there were some– the royalist people were never for a federal system in Nepal or autonomy for the Madeshi people–they instigated, created the problem.

DUNHAM: But there are also people in Terai who aren’t asking for autonomy but, rather, advocating for Secession from Nepal. How realistic is that?

DR. BHATTARAI: No, I think that is just a fringe group. The movement of the Madeshi people is just looking for autonomy within the federalist state of Nepal. The Maoists are for that. Our movement raised that question. We fully support that. Those who claim they want to separate from Nepal—they are an insignificant minority. They could be instigated by elements from India.

DUNHAM: Let’s talk about the youth of Nepal. 60% of the population in Nepal is under the age of 30. They are active in the streets but they emerge as political office-holders much more slowly than they do in the West. It frustrates them. How can the Maoists integrate the youth of Nepal into the political positions of power so that their frustrations are better addressed?

DR. BHATTARAI: In fact our movement mobilized the youth. You’ll see the majority of our cadres in our People’s Liberation Army or in the women’s movement or the Dalit movement or the so-called untouchable movement–most of them are youth. Our party is given full credit for mobilizing the youth. We join with the general aspirations of the youth. I think they are the biggest strength of our movement. You see, the PLA, more than 30,000 living in camp internments, most of them are youths between 22 and 25 years of age. We’ve been able to organize and mobilize the youth and represent their aspirations.

DUNHAM: I guess what I’m trying to say is, yes, in terms of numbers I see that. What I don’t see is in terms of leadership. I don’t see a younger group coming forward. Where is the representation under 40 or, let’s say, under 50 in the government? There’s a gap here.

BHATTARAI: If you look at it from our party’s viewpoint, all the five ministers that we have chose, all of them are under 50 and some are below 40. And if you see the 83 members of the interim legislature we have nominated, the majority of them are between the ages of 30 and 40.

DUNHAM: Are you addressing the education of the youth? And their ability to find a job, once they have received an education?

DR. BHATTARAI: Yeh, that’s a good question. The biggest problem of Nepal is unemployment. That’s why many youths migrate to India and other foreign countries in search of jobs. Most of them are uneducated. Even some who are educated but don’t get good employment in Nepal migrate to the West– the US, Canada, Australia and other places. We have to provide them with a good education, technical education, political education and create jobs within the country. This will be the focus of our development policy in the days to come. Our party has given due importance to spreading education and providing jobs within the country. If you see within the interim legislation, we fought hard to include employment as a fundamental right. It is the first time in Nepali history where we have included this as a right in the constitution.

DUNHAM: Are you developing specific job programs?

DR. BHATTARAI: Whatever can be done, we are pushing forward and our thrust has been to initiate developmental works so that jobs are created for the youth. Creating infrastructure—building road, dams—could be constructive in mobilizing the youth in large numbers. This is what we are proposing. Let’s see what happens.

DUNHAM: To what extend are the other parties dragging their feet?

DR. BHATTARAI: Other parties are dragging their feet. If you see the experience of the past 15 years, when the Parliamentary parties were in power, they followed such a wrong economic policy so that the employment wasn’t there. The so-called development growth was there—but growth without employment. So this lopsided, distorted development policy should be corrected and we want to follow an economic policy where there is growth and employment.

DUNHAM: Tying into the economics: The industrialists who I have talked to in Kathmandu are resistant to the Maoists coming into power. How do you approach them? How do you gain their trust? How do you work with businessmen who have so much to lose financially? Have you been in any kind of conversations with these men?

DR. BHATTARAI: Yes, we are in conversation with industrialists. In fact we are organizing some contracting programs with the educated members of the Chambers of Congress and industries. We have tried to remove some of the misconceptions they have about us. And now we think that whatever misconceptions they had about us is mostly clear. They know that we are for representing industry in this country. We are for a democratic revolution, not a socialistic revolution right now. In the democratic phase of the revolution, the private property will be there. The industries and trade will not be seized. It will remain in private hands. The state will play a guiding role, but the property will not be nationalized. Once this fact is clear to them, that we are the ones who can ensure real stability in the country– peace in the country– in that sense, they will absolutely come to our side.

DUNHAM: What about foreign investors? I’ve read that big investors have pulled out recently because they are giving up on political stability in Nepal. They have cold feet. How do you get them to come back and embrace the idea of investing in Nepal?

DR. BHATTARAI: If you look back in history– Nepal, because of its backwardness, lack of industrial development, lack of development climate– there has never been significant foreign investors in Nepal– even before our movement started ten years ago. The economic development of the last 40 or 50 years, the growth rate went very slowly—less than 2% per annum. It’s a very low growth rate. This can’t be blamed on us, you see. The reason why foreign investment is less is because there is less demand: there is poverty, when the people are poor—they don’t buy goods. Because of this, foreign investors are not attracted. But once this democratic change is complete, once we go for big infrastructure development projects, then foreign companies won’t oppose the idea of investment. We are not against foreign investment. The only thing is that the priority should be given for national self-reliant development. And the foreign investors play a secondary role, a supporting role. We should rely more on our indigenous resources: labor, capital and market.

DUNHAM: For many years NGOs have pumped money into the country and perhaps created the notion among the people of Nepal that foreign countries are always going to help them, bail them out. You speak of self-reliance. Do you believe that NGOs are a barrier to self-reliance?

DR. BHATTARAI: Yeh, NGOs and INGOs haven’t played a very positive role. Instead of creating productive employment they have been more of a parasite– bringing money from the outside and continuing the goods from the outside. Whatever money comes through the NGO agencies, it definitely won’t trickle down to the real masses of the people–only a few people, some elites in our nobility area– they have pocketed that money and created a separate class of elites. That has definitely alienated the masses. This is one of the reasons we were given the right to revolt in the countryside.

DUNHAM:
How do you curb the NGOs? There seems to be an inordinate number of NGOs in Nepal, compared to other countries. It’s almost a cottage industry here, where everyone can set up an NGO and put a picture in a Western newspaper of an undernourished child and say, “GIVE”.

DR. BHATTARAI: (laughing) Yes, exactly. You’re right, you’re right. This is a very disturbing development taking place. I think NGOs have to be regulated and controlled.

DUNHAM: You would suggest a central watchdog monitoring organization?

DR. BHATTARAI: Yes, it should be there, it should be there. We are in favor of that.

DUNHAM: Regulations for all NGOs?

DR. BHATTARAI: Not all. There are some NGOs who may be really dedicated to the quality of society and people, driven by UN motives, or something like that—but most of these NGOs are profit-oriented, commercialized. So in a real sense, they are not NGOs. They needed to be regulated and controlled.

DUNHAM: What is the relationship between the Maoists and the political powers in Delhi? What should India be doing to better support the Nepali situation?

DR. BHATTARAI: Historically, there have been some problems with our neighbors to the south. Because ours is a smaller country, sandwiched between two big countries, India and China. Historically, there has been an ongoing rivalry between India and China. There is an inherent insecurity in Nepal that someday one of our big neighbors could eat Nepal up. And since we are more dependent on India– we are landlocked on three sides from India, and almost all of our economic interaction takes place with India– that fear-cycle is always there. But in the changed context, we think we need to improve our relationship with India. Particularly since last year, the Indian establishment has been playing a more positive role for the democratic cause of the country. Definitely, we would like to improve our relations. But we would like to retain our independence and sovereignty vis-à-vis these big powers. There are some problems. But we think it can be resolved.

DUNHAM: You mentioned that you are landlocked.

DR. BHATTARAI: We are India-locked.

DUNHAM: And yet, in terms of water, you have the second-greatest potential for hydroelectricity in the entire world. This must be a great concern and interest for the Maoists. Certainly the Indians would like to have that energy. How are you addressing that? I know that you can’t do anything right at the moment, but how would you like to address the hydroelectric potential while ensuring that the Nepali people are actually getting the benefit? In the past, there have been water treaties with India that proved to have been lopsided in favor of India.

DR. BHATTARAI: The water issue: It is a major resource for Nepal. If we could correctly exploit this resource, then we could really benefit. In that sense we are not against collaborating with India to harness the waterpower. We are not against have agreements with India on the water issue. But in the past, the water projects that were undertaken by India were, as you say, quite lopsided. India could monopolize the benefits and the Nepali people thought they had been deceived. There are some residual problems connected to that. But we would like to correct that. If we could come up with equality and mutual benefits, we would like to conclude fresh agreements with India. We are for that.

DUNHAM: In talking with Nepali people about India, I often sense a cynical reaction. If you would like to work with the Indians, what do you say to the Nepalis who don’t trust India?

DR. BHATTARAI: We have to act on two levels. On the government level, our relationship can be quite strained at times. But on the people-to-people level, the relationships are quite smooth and warm. Once there is a real democratic change in Nepal, and the Indian people support the change in Nepal, the relationship between the two people will definitely improve. If our movement is successful—we are able to abolish the monarchy and establish a democratic republic in Nepal—we should have a better relationship with democratic India. I think the earlier frictions we have had with India will abate.

DUNHAM: What is the Maoist’s current relationship with China and how important is Beijing in terms of the future of Nepal?

BHATTARAI: Beijing is important because it is a big power. Not only are the Chinese our neighbors, but also is an emerging world power, so we should have a balanced and friendly relationship with China. But the Himalayas separate China from Nepal. We have very limited linkages with China, economically and physically. We are bound to have more interaction with India than China but, even then, a better relationship with China will be to our advantage. China’s economy is growing very fast. As we are sandwiched between two fast growing economies, we could benefit from both India and China.

DUNHAM: I’d like to address the amount of violence that has taken place in Nepal in the last ten years. Approximately 14,000 people have died because of the conflict. After the uprising last year, everyone took a deep breath, a sigh of relief, but since then there have been frequent bouts of violence—pockets of violence here, pockets of violence there. And many people who I’ve interviewed claim that the Maoists, knowing and willingly, are engaging in acts of violence and intimidation. How do you answer that accusation?

DR. BHATTARAI: That’s not true. If you see—in light of the facts—the party which was the Revolutionary People’s War for ten years—and has played a very resourceful role in the peace process, which has improved in one year’s time. Before starting the People’s War, we were in Parliament. We were in peaceful politics. Only when Parliamentary and peaceful politics failed to bring about the desired changes in the country—and there was a lot of repression unleashed on the agitating masses—we were forced to resist. Violence threatened us. Violence was not our choice. If you analyze it correctly, during the ten years of the People’s War, we proposed peace talks, time and again. Three times we entered into peace talks. We voluntarily and unilaterally declared ceasefires. That shows that we were for genuine peace with the monarchal state, which was violent, controlled the armed forces of the country, and which was by nature very undemocratic, and they thrust all of this violence on us. Our violence was not offensive violence, but defensive violence. Resistance violence. Given the historical record I think it is not true if somebody alleges that we are still into violence. That’s not true.

DUNHAM: Well, let me ask you this: In 1996, the Maoists lit a fire. And I can’t think of one instance in the history of Nepal where a fire has created such energy around it, and so quickly. My question is: Can the Maoists control the fire they created? What happens, for example, if some of the Maoist youth are disenfranchised and go off on their own? All of the cadre—all of the youth you have assembled—

DR. BHATTARAI: It isn’t true. It is a proven practice: More than 30,000 youths who fought, who participated in the war, members of the People’s Liberation Army—they have been living in camps for the last six months—very peacefully, not a single person has revolted, so that is the proof. This whole thing is under the control of the party leadership.

DUNHAM: How long can you keep these youths in cantonments before—they’re young guys—how long can you keep them there before they become restless and –

DR. BHATTARAI: They won’t be ready to stay idle in the camps, if the political process doesn’t move ahead.

DUNHAM: If you had one question to ask Americans, what would it be?

DR. BHATTARAI: Being the sole superpower of the world, I think Nepal should be too insignificant for them. They shouldn’t be interfering with the internal affairs of Nepal. Nepal is not a threat to you, United States of America. We would ask them, just let the Nepalese people decide their own future, and you will see that we are the most peaceful people in the world, and that we are no threat to the United States of America, we are no threat to the American people. There was not a single American harmed during the last ten years of the People’s War. There is no reason to harbor any prejudicial interest.

Source: Mikel Dungham Blogs, November 1, 2007

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Interview whith Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa. (Nepal Times.)

Posted by Admin on October 31, 2007


“I stand with the revolution”
Interview with Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa in Nepal, 28 October

MIN BAJRACHARYA
By raising demands on the eve of the constituent assembly elections, the Maoists are accused of being against polls. Why are you going against the very agenda you raised?
On a superficial level, it looks like the CPN-M was behind the delay in elections. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see that the NC and other parties are the main culprits. Take a look at our demands, and see if they are legitimate or not. The parties are responsible for the election postponement because they refused to budge.

Don’t you see that you are endangering the peace process and a return to war?
We have seen that danger. If the government tries to suppress our peaceful revolution with weapons then it will be clear that they have no desire to hold elections or change to a republic. I don’t think they’ll make such a stupid move. But history has shown that in extreme cases, people do resort to stupidity. So we haven’t dismissed that possibility.

In the span of one-and-a-half years, what have you accomplished and what have you lost?
Our recently concluded fifth plenum answers this question. There were forces that tried to isolate us by labelling us terrorists. They have failed. The middle class no longer misunderstands us and we have established international relations. But there have also been losses. We have had trouble making the changes we wanted. We failed to make the people understand many of our agreements. Regressive forces have made use of that. Our weaknesses in madhesi, janjati and republican issues have been exposed.

Are you a hardliner?
No. There are right-wingers, middle-of-the-roaders, and leftist factions in our own party and they are in constant conflict.

So where do you stand among those factions?
We are revolutionaries and I fall into that category. Our party follows the revolutionary code. I am on the side of revolution and if the party line goes against my beliefs, then I will stand with the revolution.

It is said that you have tried to establish yourself against Chairman Prachanda.
That is also part of a conspiracy. I do not surface in public much, and that is my weakness. This rumour has spread because certain factions wish it.

You have said that you do not want a republic like that in Iraq or Sikkim.
We want a Nepali republic, where Nepalis make the decisions. Foreign help will be required, but not foreign direction. If foreigners try to direct us instead of just helping us, it will be an attack on our national integrity.

You have maintained that there is an Indian hand in everything, but we do not see you opposing it.
Our line on India is clear. There are many treaties and agreements with Nepal that need to be changed. We don’t want to ruin our relationship with India, we want to make it better in the future. But our party will oppose India’s incorrect actions. Certain factions in India are hatching a conspiracy against the movement of the Nepali people. This is an attack on our independence. The madhesi incidents are also anti-national.


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`A multi-pronged approach is necessary’: Shivraj Patil.

Posted by Admin on September 14, 2007



Interview with Union Minister for Home Shivraj Patil.

In the third week of September, the Union government convened the first meeting of the Standing Committee of Chief Ministers of States affected by naxalism. A new term, two-track response, was evolved to describe the measures needed to be taken with regard to areas under the growing influence of naxalism or Maoism. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil spoke to T.K. Rajalakshmi on the understanding within the government on this issue. Excerpts from the interview:

The recent meeting of Chief Ministers of some of the States affected by naxalism shows that there is an urgency and a willingness to deal with the problem differently. Some quarters have expressed a need to look at the issue holistically to relate it with the socio-economic plight of the people whose cause the naxalite groups claim to espouse. How does the Centre view this two-track response?

This problem has been there for some years and from the beginning we have been trying to solve it by adopting certain methods. We do not think it can be solved by adopting only one method. That is why from the beginning we have been saying that the issue should be treated as something that relates to economic development and social and political justice, and that the people who are involved in it must be persuaded to believe that guns are not going to help solve the problem. What will help is the understanding. But if some people are bent upon using only violent methods, the state is bound to protect innocent people’s property and lives. That was being done in the past and that is why we thought that once again we could meet and discuss these issues in greater detail to bring about better cooperation and coordination between the activities of the States. This is not a two-track approach but a multi-track approach – discussing issues, development of the economy, doing political and social justice – and if necessary as a last resort, doing one’s duty and controlling the violent activities of some people against innocent persons.

Given the regrouping of outfits such as the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre and the renewed activities of naxalites in certain States, what exactly does the Centre have in mind in terms of dealing with the situation? It also appears that there has been an escalation in the scale of activities of these groups. Is a ban one of the options?

We are not stopping at a ban. We are developing the economy as well. If regrouping is taking place, we shall have to put in all effort to see that violence is not allowed to continue. No, there has not been a manifold increase in the scale of activities. In some States, the activities have come down; the killings have also come down. In some States these have increased. If one takes the sum total of all the incidents and killings in the affected areas or the affected States, it will be noticed that they have actually come down. The killings may show an increase and that is because of the improved kind of explosives being used.

Dialogue is known to be the best political option, but as the Andhra Pradesh experience has shown, talks have not borne much result. The failure of the talks drew criticism from certain sections that the Andhra Pradesh government was going soft on these groups.

We are talking to people in Pakistan and other countries; should we not talk to our own people? Why should we treat talking to our own people as a soft approach? We are expected to persuade them, remove their grievances, and if necessary take action as per the law.

What is failure? If the killings have come down, it is not a failure. Why should we say that it has been a soft approach? It is a fair and just approach. If total success has not been achieved, to that extent one can say that we have not been as successful as we should have been. We have to remove the problems faced by people. We have to help them develop themselves, develop the areas where they live in, and give them amenities as are available in the advanced regions. We have to give them economic, political and social justice. We have to convince naxalites that by killing others they will not get anything, but by cooperating and by understanding the real situation, they will be able to get their grievances solved. That is the approach they should take.

Naxalites claim to enjoy considerable support among the poor. How would the Centre view their extremist actions, in comparison with other forms of extremism threatening the country?

If economic grievances are there and if someone is angry, we should understand that. If separatists are trying to be violent, we can come to the conclusion that either they have wrong conceptions about the situation prevailing in the country or that they have been instigated by some people across the border or that they have a narrow and parochial approach to problems.

So is it primarily an economic question?

It is not only economic. There is no one way; it has to be a multi-pronged approach to [address] their real grievances – economic and social justice and unemployment.


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Interviews

Posted by Admin on September 6, 2007


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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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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.

Excerpts:

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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