Monday, November 23, 2009

War Against the Maoists: But Who Are They and What Do They Want


This article was published in Radical Notes, November 19, 2009.

Author's Note: This is meant to be a simple and brief exposition of the goals and strategies of the Maoist movement in India for people who may not have much awareness about it and are confused by the propaganda in the mainstream media. This does not go into the arcane debates about mode of production in India, the debates among communist revolutionaries over strategy and tactics etc. This aims at people who, for example, are perplexed why the Maoists, instead of trying to ensure safe drinking water like an NGO, rather, often resort to violent activities against the Government

War Against the Maoists: But Who Are They and What Do They Want

Rita Khanna


The Indian government is launching a full-scale war against the Maoist rebels and the people led by them in different parts of the country. The initial battles, without any formal announcement, have already started. For this purpose, they intend to deploy about 75,000 security personnel in parts of Central and Eastern India, including Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand. The government will organize its regular air-force in addition to paramilitary and specially trained COBRA forces. The air-force has begun to extend its logistic support.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram have declared the Maoist rebels to be ‘the biggest internal security threat’ to India and a hindrance to ‘development’. The mainstream media seem to have taken them at their face value. Their publications and television programmes seem to be building a war-hysteria against the Maoist rebels regardless of the fact that this attack by the government will be directed against some of the most deprived of the Indian people. Indeed this is turning into a war of the state against its own people!

While paying lip service at times to the notion that the current people’s insurgency led by the Maoist rebels has its root in decades of vicious exploitation of the poor, especially the dalits and tribals, the blare of government propaganda tries to convince us that the Maoist rebels are dangerous, blood-thirsty terrorists determined to establish their areas of influence. The Government is preaching that the Maoists can go to any extent to maintain their influence in these areas – by either preventing the government from undertaking development activities or using the power of their guns, killing disobedient individuals. Their ideology is to terrorise the common people, wrest power from the democratically elected governments and destroy the entire fabric of the society.

The government and the media want us to believe that the only people, apart from a few romantic misguided intellectuals, who willingly support Maoists are the poor, ignorant, uneducated, uninformed tribal people. They seem to claim that no sensible, intelligent person living in a society like ours would support them voluntarily. But is this a true picture?

Could it be that the Maoist rebels are supporting and organizing the poor, exploited people to fight oppression, to establish a more egalitarian society where the wealth of our growing economy will be spread among all, not merely among a very small minority? Could it be that in the name of suppressing the Maoists, the state is going all out to break the backbone of these poor peoples’ fight? Could it be that the government is planning to wage a war, in our name, against our own sisters and brothers to help line the pockets of the rich?

In this hour of crisis, we must ask those questions that the government seeks to suppress.

What do we really know about the Maoist rebels, their ideology, their plans and programs? Why does the government need to go to war against its own people and inside its own territory? Are the Maoists really blocking development? Who are these Maoists anyway and what do they want?

Let us take one question at a time.

Who are these Maoists?


The Maoists are revolutionaries mainly consisting of the extremely poor people including a large number of dalits and tribals. They come mainly from the toiling masses of India and they are trying to organize the vast population of such masses of this country. They seek to arm and train them so that these masses can resist the onslaught of the rich. In this effort they go beyond the idea that mass movements should focus on some specific issues like increase of wages, better health care, more honesty of public servants and so forth.

The view of the Maoist rebels is that the poor and exploited people must first and foremost establish their own democratic political power and their own state power in various places. This is because without controlling state power, the poor and the exploited can at most hope for only limited improvements in their living conditions, i.e., so long as it does not inconvenience the rich who usually control the state power. So, the Maoists mobilize the poor to fight against the existing state, even armed fight if possible, as they consider the existing state to be a set of agents acting for the big multinational corporations, rich landlords and the wealthy in general.

The fight is an extremely challenging and unequal one as the rich are aided by the government bureaucrats, the police and even the military. Also, contrary to what the Government and the mainstream media are propagating, the Maoist rebels are actually completely opposed to individual killings, they openly denigrate such stray terrorism-like acts. What they have been attempting to build up is a mass movement, even armed, to take on the violence of the ruling classes and its representative state machinery.

The Maoist movement was born in India in the late 1960s, after a radical section of political workers broke away mainly from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) because they felt the CPIM and other such parties like CPI, RSP, etc. had discredited themselves with their opportunist politics of placating and compromising with the rich. The movement has a long history of development. The present party, CPI (Maoist), came into being in 2004 by the merger of a number of fraternal organizations.


Is development in India arrested because the Maoist rebels are blocking it?

What is the state of the people of India at present? With its current high rate of growth, this is also a country of abject poverty and extreme inequality. Home to 24 billionaires (second largest in Asia according to Forbes), India can also boast of 230 million people who go to bed on a half empty stomach (World Hunger Report).

A country whose economy grows at 9% cannot feed its own population – at least 50% of the people live below the official poverty line and 47% of children below the age of three are underweight (World Bank report, Undernourished children: A call for reform and action). In this so called ‘hub of knowledge economy’, only 11% of the total population can afford higher education and 50% of the students drop out before class eight to start living as casual labourers (Education Statistics, Ministry of Human Resource Development). This is true of most of India not just the areas where Maoist influence and control is high. Then how can we say that development in India is being blocked by Maoists?

Maoists do not oppose `development’ at all, they only oppose the `pro-rich development’ at the expense of destitution or often total destruction of the poor. For example, in Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh they oppose setting up of helipads but there, the poor themselves, led by the Maoist rebels, have built irrigation tanks and wells for help in agriculture something the Indian government did not bother to do. The Indian government routinely blames the Maoist rebels that they blow up schools! But what the Government tries to suppress is that these blown-up school buildings were actually being used or requisitioned to become camps for security personnel!


And what changes do they want? Why do they want these changes?

(1) Overhauling the entire structure of oppression instead of piecemeal reforms


In addition to all the woes described above, India is also a country, where thousands of Muslims can be butchered in broad daylight by fascist Hindu forces (the most widespread and gruesome such pogrom in recent times happened in Gujarat in 2002), while the ministers and police look the other way. And these features are not stray results of the misdeeds of a few villains. The existing socio-political system in India has a built-in mechanism which ensures that the common masses would be oppressed by a rich and powerful few. Widespread systemic violence is required and is routinely applied by the Indian state so that common people remain disciplined and do not revolt in the face of oppression


(2) Land to the tillers and destruction of the landlord class


About 60% of the Indian population is still dependent on agriculture. However the primary input, land, is predominantly concentrated in the hands of a few landlords and big farmers. Close to 60 percent of rural households are effectively landless [NSS report]. The elite in the villages, by their collusion with the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats have blocked any meaningful land reforms. In the last four decades the proportion of households with little or no land (landless and marginal farmer households) has increased steadily from 66% to 80%. On the other hand the top ten percent rural households own more land now than in 1951 (Source: NSS report).The Maoist revolutionaries want to change this to ensure equitable distribution of land. They do not deter from collective armed fight of the landless and poor peasants and the poor rural labourers against the existing state power for achieving this goal.

(3) Freedom from moneylenders and traders


Indebtedness in rural India has been increasing by leaps and bounds especially in the recent decades. Public rural banks are closing down due to relaxation of government regulation. Therefore, instead of securing credits from public institutional sources, rural folk are now being forced to approach the village money lenders (who are often big landlords or rich farmers as well) on a larger and larger scale. Unscrupulous traders are adding to the misery of the poor peasants. They sell spurious inputs to small and marginal peasants at exorbitant prices. They also make huge profits by buying their harvest at throwaway prices and selling them in urban areas at a premium.

Not-so-well-off peasants, in this no-win situation, of course end up needing substantial credit. Private moneylenders and various for-profit financial companies take advantage of this situation by extracting enormous sums from peasants. Interest rate could be as high as 5% per month. The BBC News reported that more than 200,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997 under the pressure of such indebtedness. The Maoist rebels want to change this



(4) End of caste system and eradication of untouchability

It is well known that the caste system is still thriving in India. Economically it keeps the overwhelming majority of the people in dire poverty and politically it suppresses their fundamental democratic rights. Often the lower castes are robbed of their human dignity. They are even denied access to public facilities like some sources of drinking water, schools etc. An expert group of the planning commission reports that in 70% villages lower caste people cannot enter places of worship and in more than 50% villages they don’t have access to common water sources (Expert committee report to the Planning Commission).According to an NCDHR report, on average, 27 atrocities (including murder, abduction and rape) against dalits take place every day. The well-off landed sections in the villages still come mainly from the upper castes. They use brahminical ideology to try to keep all other sections of the population under domination. The same is true for usurers, merchants, hoarders, quarry owners, contractors–all mainly come from the upper castes. In short, the upper castes are still very much in command in all aspects of rural life. Often with their own private army of goondas they run a parallel raj. The Maoists want to break this stranglehold of the upper castes and ensure equal rights for dalits and adivasis.


(5) Freedom from exploitation by foreign multinationals and its local partners


Since 1991, foreign capital in alliance with big capitalists like Reliance, Tata and state bureaucrats, has penetrated vast sectors of the Indian economy. Every sphere of our life, starting from road construction, electricity generation, communication networks to food retail, health and education are under direct control of this coterie. In the name of ‘development’ thousands of acres of land are being transferred to big business and multinationals. For example, in Bastar, Chattisgarh, in the name of Bodh Ghat dam, tens of thousands of Adivasis are being forcibly evicted from their “jal-jangal-zameen” (water-forest-land). In Niyamgiri, Orissa the land which is the abode of several Dongria tribes has been handed over to the multinational Vedanta group which will completely destroy the livelihood of these tribes affecting more than 20,000 people. The state government and the mainstream opposition parties of the state are actively supporting such activities. The Maoists, over the years, have been resisting such plunder.

(6) Ensuring people’s democratic rights


It is well known that elections are often a sham in India. The parliament, as we have seen several times, is a bazaar where the rich and the super-rich can buy the MPs. According to ADR (Association of Democratic Reform), the average asset of an MP has gone up to 5.12 crore in 2009 from Rs 1.8 crore in 2004. In our democracy the erstwhile rajas and maharajas, like Scindias, are still proliferating and controlling the local economy and polity at many places.

And we also know the state of judicial system in our country. Salman Khans and Sanjeev Nandas can kill by running cars over common people and still they can escape the law for very long, perhaps forever. B.N. Kirpal, the judge, who arbitrarily ordered that Indian rivers be interlinked, ignoring the resulting ecological and human calamity, joined the environmental board of Coca-Cola after he retired. The Maoists want to establish people’s court where poor people can get true justice. In fact, such courts run in many places where the Maoist movement is strong.

(7) Self-determination for the nationalities

The Indian government ruthlessly suppresses national aspirations of a number of people. These people and their land became part of India by accident – because the British raj annexed their homeland or a despotic king wanted their land to be a part of India. Lakhs of Indian troops have been deployed in Kashmir and north-eastern states to curb such struggles of the people in these states for their national self-determination. Since 1958, AFSPA has been imposed in north-eastern states, which allows armed forces to conduct search and seizure without warrant, to arrest without warrant, to destroy any house without any verification and to shoot to kill with full impunity. In Kashmir, there is 1 military personnel for every 15 civilian. Cold blooded murders, like those of Thangjam Manorama Devi, Chungkham Sanjit, Neelofar and Asiya Jan, are carried out frequently in the name of ‘countering terrorism’. The Maoist rebels seek to establish freedom of self determination for all nationalities.

So, to sum up, the new society the Maoists want to establish will have the following components:

–Land to the poor and landless. Later on cooperative farming is to be established on voluntary basis.

–Forest to the tribal people.

–End of rule of the rich and the upper caste in villages and uprooting of caste system. Uproot all discriminations based on gender and religion.

–Seizure of the ill gotten wealth and assets of multinational corporations and their local Indian partners.

–Self determination for the nationalities, political autonomy for the tribes.

–Establish a state by the poor, for the poor where the present day exploiters would be expropriated.

–Participation of people in day to day administrative work and decision making. Democracy at the true grassroot level with people having the power to recall its democratic representatives.

In summary: ensuring that all types of freedom, rights and democracy for all sections of toiling masses.

What have the Maoists-led people’s struggles achieved so far?


Information in this section is taken, purposely, from the expert group report to the planning commission, which is available on the web.

Contrary to what the media try to portray, the government’s own report says that the movement led by the Maoist rebels cannot be seen as simply blowing up of police stations and killing individual people. It encompasses mass organization. Mass participation in militant protest has always been a characteristic of such mobilisation


Although the Maoists by their own admission are engaged in a long term people’s struggle against the oppression by the present India state, their movement has already achieved some short term successes in improving the condition of the poor people.

Maoist movement in India was built around the demand of ‘land to the tillers’. Numerous struggles, led by the Maoists, have been fought all over the country especially in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, to free land from the big landholding families. In many such cases landlords have been driven away from the villages and their land has been put in the possession of the landless poor. But the police and paramilitary do not allow the poor to cultivate such lands. In Bihar, landless Musahars, the lowest among the Dalits have struggled and have taken possession of fallow Government land. This has had the support of Maoists.

Under the leadership of the Maoists the adivasis have reclaimed forest land on an extensive scale in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Orissa and Jharkhand. The adivasis displaced by irrigation projects in Orissa had to migrate to the forests of Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh in large numbers. The forest department officials harassed and evicted them on a regular basis. The movement led by the Maoists put an end to this.

In rural India the Minimum Wages Act remains an act on paper only. In the forest areas of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand, non-payment of the legal wages was a major source of exploitation of adivasi labourer. Maoists-led struggles have put an effective end to it. These struggles have secured increases in the rate of payment for picking tendu leaves (used for rolling beedies), washing clothes, making pots, tending cattle, repairing implements etc. The exploitation previously had been so severe that as a result of the sustained movement led by Maoists the pay rates of tendu leaves collection have over the years increased by fifty times.

The movement has given confidence to the oppressed to assert their rights and demand respect and dignity from the dominant castes and classes. The everyday humiliation and sexual exploitation of labouring women of dalit and tribal communities by upper caste men has been successfully fought. Forced labour, begari, by which the toiling castes had to provide obligatory service for free to the upper castes was also put an end to in many parts of the country.

In rural India, disputes are commonly taken to the rich and powerful of the village (who are generally the landlords) and caste panchayats, where the dispensation of justice is in favour of the rich and powerful. The Maoist movement has provided a mechanism, usually described as the ‘People’s Court’ whereby these disputes are resolved in the interests of the wronged party.

Why then, does the government need to go to war against its own people led by these rebels instead of hailing them as true patriots?

There is a simple answer. Chattisgarh, Orissa are rich in mineral wealth that can be sold to the highest multinational bidder. The only obstacle standing between the corrupt politicians and ALL THIS MONEY are the poor, disenfranchised tribal people (and the Maoists leading them). So, this war. This is not something new in India or for that matter in other parts of the world. Mobutu’s corrupt regime selling off the Belgian Congo piece by piece to the US, Belgium and other countries comes to mind. In the sixty years of independence from direct colonial rule, the Indian state has been doing the same. It has systematically impoverished the overwhelming majority to serve the interest of a powerful few and their foreign friends.

The impending war to evict the tribal people from their villages, in the pretext of eliminating the Maoists, will be fought at the behest of big corporations, who want to control and plunder our resources such as mineral, water and forest. It is high time that we recognize this pattern of waging war which will be fought by the poor on both sides, but will benefit only the big capitalists and their cheerleaders in the government.

Note
: For an interested reader, the webpage: bannedthought.net contains an enormous wealth of information about the Maoist rebels, including their own documents.



















Sunday, November 22, 2009

Operation Green Hunt Cartoon: Tribal Maoist vs. Indian State and Capitalists


(“Vadi” is a person who advocates or promotes. This cartoon shows the tribal person, defending the land and advocating Maoism vs. the repressive forces behind the MoUs (Memorandums of Understanding), the contracts to seize tribal lands for big Indian capitalists and multinational corporations.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NDF Philippines: Mindanao Could Become Another Afghanistan

nuns lead march against US troops in the Philippines

Under the Obama Regime, Mindanao could become another Afghanistan

Jorge “Ka Oris“ Madios, Spokesperson, National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao

Philippine Revolution

On the occasion of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s two-day visit to the Philippines, the National Democratic Front-Mindanao (NDF-Mindanao) reiterates the demand of the Filipino people for the US government to immediately pull-out the US Pacific Command’s 600-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP) from Mindanao and elsewhere in the Philippines.

Should the US refuse and instead continue heightening its military intervention and escalate its participation in counter-guerrilla operations, Mindanao and the entire Philippines could become another Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam where its forces will be caught in a spiral of armed mass resistance.

Despite persistent denials of Philippine and US officials, there is clear proof that US soldiers have been participating in counter-guerrilla operations jointly with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao and other parts of the Philippines. However, US military officials have been more forthright in bragging about the participation of American soldiers in operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayaff.

This year, US military elements were documented to have had an active role along with AFP regular troops in four separate operations in the town of Quezon, and the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia in Bukidnon province. American soldiers penetrated local villages in search of local guerrilla units of the New People’s Army (NPA). Since 2002, American troops have also been sighted in other parts of Mindanao, as well as in Samar, Panay, Bicol, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon.

The NDF-Mindanao would like to warn Ms. Clinton that in participating in local counter-guerilla operations, US forces are bound to suffer a bigger number of casualties. Last September, at least two American soldiers were killed when ambushed in Indanan, Sulu by local armed groups. Earlier this year, an American soldier was wounded in Bicol when the AFP unit he was embedded in was ambushed by NPA Red fighters.

Highlighting Ms. Clinton’s visit, the NPA has launched series of tactical offensives and sanctions across Mindanao as one way of underscoring the demand of the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces for the Obama government to immediately withdraw all its forces from the country and to end its interventionist policy.

The NDF-Mindanao denounces the publicity gimmick of Ms. Clinton in her plan to have her picture taken with the victims of recent supertyphoons that left thousands homeless and more impoverished then before. This is hypocrisy of the highest sort!

It is a historical fact that US logging and mining companies and big agribusiness corporations have been the biggest plunderers of Philippine natural resources and pollutants of the environment. The destruction that they have caused and continue to cause is the single-biggest cause of landslides, flooding and ecological imbalance. They are among the biggest landgrabbers that have displaced millions of peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao and the entire country.

The US government is overlooking the responsibility of US monopoly corporations over the destruction of the Philippine environment. If Ms. Clinton and the Obama government were any sincere in the Filipino people’s plight over the continued environmental degradation, they would compel logging and mining concessions and big agribusiness corporations, especially those which are directly-owned or are in partnership with US-based companies, to immediately stop their operations.

Instead, the US brazenly took advantage of the calamities by deploying American troops for so-called humanitarian operations which only serve to mask US imperialism’s military interventionism.

Social Transformation and the Question of Poitical Violence

This article appeared in the blog dsujnu.blogspot.com

Social Transformation and the Question of Poitical Violence

“Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one.” – Karl Marx


At a time when the spectre of Maoism is haunting India’s ruling classes, a vehement debate has been launched by the media, academics, and intellectuals on the question of violence. The likes of Manmohan-Chidambaram-Buddhadeb have also been referring to it of late, by making constant ‘appeals’ or threats to the revolutionary forces to ‘abjure violence’. As if the masters of the country who never lose sleep over the violence caused by the present exploitative system leading to the death of lakhs of indebted peasants, millions of stillborn and malnourished children, or the tens of thousands perishing in the absence of the very basic health facilities, the three hundred women who die in pregnancy or child-birth everyday in the country, or for that matter the 77% of the population living on an average daily income of less than Rs.20, has been rudely awakened by the practice of political violence by the revolutionary masses. Simplistic and false distinctions between democratic struggle vs. armed struggle, mass movement vs. ‘militarism’ etc. have also been resurrected, reflections of which are seen in the present political discourse in JNU as well.

Such facile debates on violence play down the fascist violence unleashed in the vast countryside by the feudal lords, rich peasants, village strongmen and their armed goons over the small and marginal peasants, dalit landless labourers and adivasi peasants. It does not recognise the coercive extraction of surplus labour by big capitalists from millions of workers in the ‘unorganised sector’, existing in the state of bondage or semi-bondage. The cacophony over ‘violence’ seeks to submerge the anguish of the classes and sections who have suffered forcenturies the burden of exploitative and regressive production relations in our society, replete with daily violence. It conveniently covers up the forcible and violent subjugation of a whole people or nation in the name of ‘territorial integrity’, as the experience of Kashmir, North East or Punjab exemplifies. For the oppressed masses, violence is an everyday experience, a fact of life. They know it well, as they are the targets of this violence. For Marxists too, violence has never been the central issue. What is central is the question of putting an end to the exploitation of one human being by another and of one class by another, through revolutionary social transformation.

Revolutionary social transformation is the essence of Marxism: The great teachers of Marxism, including Marx himself, emphasised the absolute necessity of the use of force in order to overthrow the exploitative classes and for the capture of political power by the oppressed. Marx and Engels in the concluding paragraph of the Communist Manifesto wrote, “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” While summarising the concrete historical experiences of Paris Commune, the first ever worker’s government that “stormed heaven” and overthrew the bourgeoisie from the seat of power in 1871 through armed insurrection, Marx stressed the need of the proletariat to organise and arm itself in order to defeat the bourgeoisie and to defend the victories of the revolution. On the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin emphatically upheld the necessity of revolutionary violence in his State and Revolution, “the liberation of the oppressed class is impossible not only without a violent revolution, but also without the destruction of the apparatus of state power which was created by the ruling class”. Mao, who was at the helm of the Chinese Revolution and who developed the strategies and tactics of revolution in the colonial and semi-colonial context, noted that “the seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution.” No wonder, the question of violence that has been so clearly addressed by generations of Marxist revolutionaries, is deliberately obfuscated not only by the proclaimed anti-Marxist, but also by the pseudo-communists who have deviated from the path of class struggle and socialism. By criminalising the armed resistance and revolutionary violence of the oppressed, they openly or implicitly facilitate and justify the repression of the rulers, thereby siding with the oppressors in the violent class struggle.

Revolutionary social transformation and the capture of political power by the oppressed is not possible without revolutionary violence: The theory and practice of Marxism as well as the history of worldwide communist movement shows that no radical reordering of the society is possible without the oppressed classes confronting the violence of the oppressors with revolutionary violence. The quest for maintaining ‘peace’ and ‘order’ in any society with exploitative social relations, is nothing but a ploy of the ruling classes to continue unhindered the existing exploitative system. The Indian ruling classes is also no exception to this. Even India’s First War of Independence in 1857 or the various tribal rebellions during the colonial period were violently suppressed by the British colonial army. The agrarian armed struggle of Telangana under Communist leadership was crushed by Nehru’s Congress government after the transfer of power in 1947 through the deployment of Indian Army. Similarly, the national liberation struggle led by the Mizo National Front in the North East was quelled by the use of army and air force, which also involved the forced displacement and ‘clustering’ of 80% of the total Mizo population in resettled villages. The national liberation movements of the people of Kashmir, Nagalim, Manipur or Asom etc., who have been fighting to achieve the democratic right of self-determination, have likewise been confronted militarily by the Indian state. ‘Peace’ in Punjab was established in 1980s through a violent extermination campaign that culminated in the storming of the Golden Temple by the Indian security forces during ‘Operation Blue Star’. The violence perpetrated in all these cases, which have confronted the ruling classes of the country, has been variously justified by the ruling classes and their political parties, including those wearing the mask of communists, the CPI and later the CPI(M). Most of these movements have strived for democratic revolutions under the leadership of their respective national bourgeoisie. The Indian ruling class comprising of the feudal and comprador big bourgeoisie however has repeatedly resorted brutal suppression of the revolutionary potential of these people’s movements and their democratic aspirations through the use of the state and its coercive apparatus, primarily the armed forces.

The character of the present Indian society, the tasks of the Indian revolution, and the necessity of armed struggle: The Communist Party of India followed a revisionist policy from its very inception, and tailed the Congress during anti-colonial movement. After 1947, the undivided CPI got enmeshed in the quagmire of parliamentarism, the question of revolution being never seriously addressed. The CPI(M) too had a similar analysis about the Indian society as CPI, for whom sharing of political power with the ruling classes through parliamentary elections became the single-point agenda. It was the great Naxalbari armed agrarian uprising in 1967 which blazed the trail of revolution in the subcontinent, combining revolutionary theory with practice. Hailed as the ‘Spring Thunder’, the Naxalbari movement for the first time correctly analysed the character of the Indian state and society, its class composition, and the need of armed struggle. Quite contrary to the understanding of CPI, CPI(M) and other such revisionist forces, which characterised the Indian society as bourgeois democratic, the Naxalbari movement established the semi-feudal and semi-colonial character of the Indian society. It identified the Indian state as the combined class-rule of feudalism, comprador big bourgeoisie and imperialism, who are the targets of the Indian revolution. The task was to bring in the New Democratic Revolution under the leadership of the proletarian party. ‘Land to the tiller’ became one of the important programs of the revolution, which mobilised the landless and small peasants. This also gave the framework to understand the caste question with all its significance from a Marxist perspective, a question which was so far ignored or brushed aside by the revisionist communist parties.

Since the contradiction between the broad masses and feudalism was identified by the Naxal movement as the primary class contradiction in the Indian society, the fight against feudal exploitation and state oppression was conducted through armed agrarian struggle, on the basis of worker-peasant alliance. In the period of 1967-74, the Naxalbari movement made initial efforts to implement the strategy and tactics of protracted people’s war through area-wise seizure of power, building base areas in the countryside, and developing people’s revolutionary power by replacing the power of the Indian ruling class. Though the movement suffered serious setback due to severe repression in the ’70s, Naxalbari showed the oppressed masses of the entire subcontinent the path of liberation through an intensified class struggle against their oppressors, whereas the revisionists offered only class collaboration. Naxalbari was a clear break from those who have abandoned the path of Marxism, and rejected revolutionary violence in the name of ‘democracy’, or for ‘making use’ of the parliament. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism became the political weapon of the people, while armed struggle for capturing political power the strategy. 42 years of Naxalbari’s glorious legacy has proved beyond doubt that in the Indian social reality, it is the only path of revolutionary social transformation. To ask the revolutionary masses to ‘abjure’ violence therefore is to ask them to give up Marxism, and class struggle. As long as the ruling classes retain its powers to exploit and oppress through open and systemic violence, political violence of the oppressed will continue to be relevant, justified, and necessary.

Naxalism is not the problem, it is the solution: The expansion of the revolutionary movement over the last four decades to a vast region of central, eastern and southern India has now strengthened to become the ‘largest internal security threat’ for the ruling classes. The people, particularly the adivasi masses, have successfully overthrown the old exploitative system in large swathes of Dandakaranya, and are creating in its place embryonic forms of people’s government (Janatana Sarkar). The masses are now running their own affairs throughrevolutionary people’s committees, ushering in a people-centric development. They are also defending the gains of the movement by building armed people’s militia, involving the entire population. They have fought back state violence perpetrated through the armed forces or Salwa Judum, and successfully prevented the corporate loot of their resources. The present war on people is nothing but an intensification of the class struggle between the rulers and the ruled, moving towards an all-encompassing civil war. The world-wide economic crisis is pushing the Indian state towards intensified exploitation of the people and their resources, whereas the mass resistance is also taking more militant form, drawing large sections of the oppressed classes towards the revolutionary movement. In such a volatile context, there is every possibility that the present imperialist crisis will turn into a revolutionary one. History has shown that the crises of imperialism have weakened the domestic and imperialist ruling classes, thereby paving the way for revolution. The question therefore is not of choosing violence over non-violence, but of Marxism over revisionism and fascism, of freedom over exploitation and injustice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Should We Have Talked to the Chhattisgarhi Mother?



Mainstream, Tuesday 17 November 2009, by Somnath Mukherji

The much anticipated Operation Green Hunt has started in fits and starts. It is a high stake hunt. The government is waiting to re-assert its authority in the forested reaches of Central India. The corporations are waiting for unhindered access to the wealth underneath the land. The Maoists are [perhaps] waiting for the atrocities to begin so that the discontent takes deeper roots into the hearts and minds of the adivasis. And the adivasis...what are they waiting for? We do not know. We do not know because we never asked them.

The Chhattisgarh State Government never asked them when framing the industrial policy of the State that discouraged all cottage industries and occupations that could have benefited small endeavours by communities. The adivasis were never asked whether they wanted to do agriculture on their land or vacate it en-masse for steel, bauxite and iron-ore processing plants. In fact, on October 12, at the public hearing for Tata’s mega steel project, villagers were prevented by security forces from attending it. The project was cleared in the presence of a staged audience of 50 people without a hitch. The proposed plant will churn out 5.5 million tonnes of steel annually that will be needed to build, bridges, flyovers, malls, cars, high rises—almost everything that the adivasis from Lohandiguda will never use. A total of 10 villages will be displaced from 2044 hectares of land. A few hours away by bus, Essar is to set up a steel plant of similar capacity.

Very few journalists went out of their way to find out if the feelings of the adivasis were hurt after their villages were torched or their harvest looted; if they felt resentful when the government-backed vigilante, the Salwa Judum, smoked them out and herded them into camps. By December 2007, fifty thousand of them, according to a Human Rights Watch report, were being held inside 24 barbed wired camps in unhygienic conditions. The media went where the state directed it—to the schools blown up by Maoists or to the site of the truck that overran an IED. The adivasi was neatly kept out of the reports filed from the sites of these ghastly attacks. The media never reported that close to 300,000 people have been rendered homeless by the senseless violence, not just from guns but also from the paradigm of development that seems to being ushered in on six-lane highways.

The hallways of Raipur and Delhi were so abuzz with discussions on M-O-Us and M-A-Os that everyone forgot about the 65,000 adivasis who fled into neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Did they want to go back and live in their homes on their lands? Did they want to live at all? They were no one’s problem. Where were they to go to complain about the rapes and loots? Police? Judiciary? When they did muster up the courage to file complaints aided by civil organisations, the state lashed out at the organisations. Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA), a Gandhian organisation, has been working for two decades in empowering tribal communities around Dantewada. On May 17, the state power was on full display when the ashram of VCA was razed to the ground under the watchful eyes of 500 strong CRPF personnel.

The crimes of the VCA had been unpardonable —they have helped to file more than 500 complaints [none of which have been acted upon till now] on behalf of the adivasis, for rape, loot, torture and murder against the law enforcement agencies and the Salwa Judum. The VCA also had the temerity to petition the Bilaspur High Court against the against the police encounter in Singaram where 19 “Maoists” were killed. The villagers claimed the dead to be their unarmed relatives. Ever since then the VCA’s staff has been threatened and assaulted to strike fear so that their voice is stifled—a gentle admonition from the powerful state not to act impudently. After all, the state had already set an example by keeping Dr Binayak Sen in jail for over two years on trumped-up charges. It was a reaffirmation of the state’s with-us-or-against-us logic and for the others to draw lessons from it. Look, the state seems to say, we don’t care what you do in your spare time whether it is reducing infant and maternal mortality, or saving the fast vanishing bio-diversity, don’t dare question our logic of either arming civilians or co-opting the role of media in a democracy. The sentiments of the state have often been faithfully echoed by refined intellectuals who profess to capture the complexity of the whole situation in the length of their columns and decry the nonsense the activist-types spout. The nonsensical activists are perhaps the only actors that can stop the brutalisation of the adivasis through peaceful negotiations.

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No one went to the Gonds or the Gothikoyas and explained to them that the Constitution of India, the country in which they live, has special provisions to protect their lands under the Fifth Schedule. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has certainly not been in touch with them. As if it was not enough protection, the Forests Rights Act of 2006 ensured the rights of the Scheduled Tribes and forest dwelling communities over their land and common property natural resources. Or perhaps, the woman from Lingagiri misunderstood the Act and ran away from her home when her village was raided and gave birth to her son in the forest. Perfect plot for an English thriller to be read while waiting for a flight that never seems to be on time. And you must have guessed the name of the boy by now—son of the forest, Adavi Ramadu. Fact and fiction are so tightly interlaced in Lingagiri that it seems unreal.

When the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) did finally go to Dantewada after “activist” people like Prof Nandini Sundar filed a PIL in the Supreme Court against Salwa Judum for the atrocities perpetrated by them, they were accompanied by a large contingent of armed security personnel. The members of the NHRC team themselves were all IPS officers—a blow to its impartiality. The adivasi women were questioned in the camps in presence of gun-totting security personnel and the Salwa Judum activists—the alleged tormentors. None of the women admitted of rape in such a conducive atmosphere. To the utter surprise and consternation of the the team, the entire village of Chikurubatti ran away at the sight of the approaching team accompanied by armed CRPF jawans. In spite of their best intentions, the team did not get to hear what the adivasis had to say. They did not think that the entire village fleeing said something.

No one asked the adivasis anything. That is the way it is supposed to be. These people belong to the sacrificial stock. With the meditative resolve of a tantric we have sacrificed them at the altar of development. Although tribals constitute eight per cent of India’s population, they are 40 per cent of the 60 milion people displaced by large projects from 1947 to 2004. The people of southern Chhattisgarh might just boost the percentage.

We will mobilise our ground and air forces, enact laws which divide the society along the for-us-against-us lines, send our Ministers and bureaucrats to the US to confer on techniques of anti-terrorism, counter-insurgency and “governance”, hold talk shows after talk shows in ties and imitative body language, sanction crores of rupees for development packages, but one thing we will not do is to take off our blinders and squat next to the mother who delivered in the forest and ask her, “Hey mother of Adavi Ramadu, why did you have to flee your home? What will make your life a little easier?”

The author is a volunteer with the Association for India’s Development and has been working with the VCA in Chhattisgarh and ASDS in Andhra for rehabilitating refugees driven from their homes by the violence in Chhattisgarh.

New Film: When the State Declares War on the People


A 15 minute Trailer on the Human Rights Violations in Chhattisgarh resulting from Operation Green Hunt.

Synopsis


We have been hearing many stories about the human rights violations before and after Operation Green Hunt was announced. Allegations and counter-allegations have been going around. Fact-finding investigations have uncovered the atrocities security forces are committing in these areas, but now those very findings are being questioned.

At such a time it is crucial to present the reality and tear the veils obscuring the truth. When the State Declares War on the People is a 15-minute trailer by Gopal Menon based on his recent coverage of the ground reality in Chhattisgarh. This short film contains exclusive interviews with victims and their testimony including 1 1/2 year old Suresh who had three fingers chopped off his left hand, an old man who was electrocuted and whose flesh was ripped off with knives, women raped by Special Police Officers and CRPF.

The film also presents the views of Arundhati Roy and Mahesh Bhatt, two eminent citizens who have been closely following developments in Chhattisgarh. The clear intention of the State – to wipe out all resistance through terror in the name of fighting the Maoists – is demonstrated in this film.


About the Director


Gopal Menon is an activist-filmmaker focusing on caste, communalism and nationality. He was arrested twice while trying to go to Lalgarh and beaten with rifle butts and lathis. He was detained in Dantewada too. This is a trailer of a larger film on the Indian State’s war on the people.

Some of Menon’s earlier films are Naga Story: The Other Side of Silence, Hey Ram!! Genocide in the Land of Gandhi, PAPA 2 (about disappearances in Kashmir) and Resilient Rhythms (a rainbow overview of the Dalit situation) amongst others.

The trailer for this film is available on YouTube in two parts:


Part 1 (8:17 minutes) at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rygJzzutBOg

Part 2 (6:44 minutes) at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66Kvl3e1MlM


Gopal Menon can be contacted at the e mail ID gopalmenonfilms@gmail.com or over the phone number 98807420771



Below is a report on a screening of the film at the Press Club of India in Delhi.

Maoism a local problem, with local solutions: activists

Vaibhay Vats, Indian Express, November 16, 2009

New Delhi: In a decrepit hall at the Press Club of India, a handful of people watched glimpses of Gopal Menon’s film, When the State Declares War on the People. The 10-minute preview, which began with the tale of a child whose fingers were chopped off, spoke of the atrocities committed by security forces in the Maoist war zone.

The screening is part of a campaign to drum up support against Operation Green Hunt. The short preview of the film was followed by an interaction with the media, where Menon was joined by Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar.

Kumar, director of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Chhatisgarh, said, “If anyone stays in Bastar and Dantewada for a few hours, you can hear several tales of horror from everywhere.” Describing himself as “a commentator you don’t want to listen to when you’re losing the match”, Kumar was critical of the attitude of the state towards dissenting voices. “People taking up these issues are being labelled anti-national or Naxal sympathisers,” he said.

Menon, who was content to let his film do the talking, added, “Incidents of violence by the state are not getting the same attention as incidents of Maoist brutality.”

Kumar said dialogue was essential between the state and its people. “Forget the Maoists, talk to your own people. Maoism is a local problem with local solutions,” he said. On why the Maoists had not come to the table despite the offer of talks by the Home Minister, Kumar said the killings needed to come to an end for any meaningful discussion to take place.

Kumar, who will be meeting P Chidambaram, said, “The Home Minister cannot repeat the statement that law and order is a state subject. With gross human rights violations escalating the conflict, sincere efforts from the Centre are required.” Deeply engaged as a grassroots activist, Kumar stayed clear from any dogmatic positions, but simply stated, “Operation Green Hunt is leading to that stage — the point of no return.”

Indian Gandhian: “Green Hunt Will Result in Genocide of Adivasis”


Times of India, November 13, 2009



Gandhian Himanshu Kumar has been working among tribals [adivasis] in Bastar for more than 17 years. Though he has rehabilitated 30 villages devastated by the Chhattisgarh government’s anti-Naxalite campaign Salwa Judum, his ashram was demolished by the government in May this year. Kumar spoke to Jyoti Punwani:


How did you rehabilitate the villages?

As a Gandhian, I could not just stand by and watch when Adivasis who had fled their village because of Salwa Judum, were beaten up for having returned to their village to depose before the NHRC [National Human Rights Commission]. I decided to set up camp in that village. If the Salwa Judum forces came to burn it, they would have to burn me first. We persuaded the villagers to come back. They had lost everything seeds, cattle because whenever they tried to return, the Salwa Judum forces hounded them into camps and burnt their village. We arranged for everything, helped them plough their land. Slowly others began returning. Peace reigned in those villages till last month when Operation Green Hunt began.

The Supreme Court has directed the government to rehabilitate the tribals. If the government is not willing, let me do it. I can bring peace in a week. You withdraw your forces and provide the amenities that were stopped after Salwa Judum started: doctors, schools, aanganwadis [child/mother care centers].


Will the Maoists allow these to run?

Medical officers tell me ruefully that it’s the CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] that beat up their doctors who go into the jungle to treat patients. They beat up teachers too. They are furious that these people can travel safely inside the jungle, while they get blown up. I pointed out that doctors and teachers don’t go there with weapons like the CRPF does! Naxalites have said they will not interfere with my rehabilitation work because I have no political ambitions.

Is a dialogue possible?

What stops the government from talking to the Adivasis? You are a democratically elected government, find out what your people want. As for the Maoists, how can the Centre tell them to stop violence without stopping it first? Every day, your forces demand liquor, chickens, women… they behead a child in front of his grandfather, rape Adivasi women at will… And when the Adivasi picks up a lathi, they cry foul. Why are the forces there in Bastar? The Maoists weren’t marching into Delhi. Nor did the Adivasis plead for protection from them.

When the police, the administration, the judiciary has turned against the Adivasis, the Maoists have stood by them. The forces are there only to hunt the tribals from their land, so that the state can hand it over to corporates. The state has no desire for peace and is too arrogant to acknowledge its crimes. We have tried to file 1,000 FIRs against the police; not one has been registered.

Salwa Judum saw a 22-fold increase in Maoist numbers. Green Hunt will result in genocide of Adivasis. Those who survive will become Naxalites.

Politics of the Belly

The Statesman


Shamita Basu
Tribal communities in India have historically existed as parceled out sovereignties. This has strengthened ethnicity and made the tribals more self-conscious and politically competitive. State boundaries have had to be redrawn, leading to the creation of Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.
However, what makes Lalgarh exceptional is that the local tribals have not demanded the right to self-determination. Nor for that matter have they sought a redrawn map of Bengal, like the Gorkhas in the Hills. The movement in Lalgarh began as a discourse on moral ethnicity when the tribals were attacked by the police last November. The movement has now been linked to that of the Maoists. The line that differentiates the tribal from the Maoist is getting increasingly blurred.
The present scenario in the tribal belt is somewhat reminiscent of British India. The colonial ruler in league with the upper caste landlords and zamindars would forcefully usurp the tribal land and resources and evacuate them from their hearth and home ~ the Rajmahal hills. The process, criminalised by the money-lenders and the sexual exploitation of women, eventually culminated in the Santhal rebellion.
India of the 21st century has not substantially altered the colonial policy. Indeed, the lack of development reflects the colonial mindset. Besides, tribal land and resources have been plundered. The Special Economic Zones have been planned on inalienable tribal land without the distribution of economic benefits.
Economic plight
CIVIL society has been largely indifferent to the economic plight of the tribals. It has even been argued that the governmental model of development might simply misfire, even threaten the subaltern perception of “development”. This view has provided a comfortable escape route for the government.
The question of tribal welfare now occupies the centrestage in Bengal. The gradual loosening of state power has opened up the space for democratisation in the form of discord, protest and rebellion. What used to be a shadow line of the Maoist movement has become more prominent. It is becoming progressively difficult to separate the militia from the tribal population. No wonder the state treads nervously.
The political class generally has tried to link tribal disaffection with that of the Maoist militia. The idea is to run down both in the public perception. The other method, resorted to by the administration, is to invoke such stringent legislation as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to curb what it calls the state of internal terrorism. This is a puerile perception
Maoism historically has its roots in the agrarian and tribal societies in India. Its revival need not be sought in its ideology ~ of the reluctance of the Left radical to join the political mainstream. A close look is necessary to determine what exactly sustains these movements at the popular and grassroot level and why it is able to extract support from the human rights activists and the radical section of civil society.
The obsessive concern with investments in industry is dangerous. Even the West has begun to question what the German sociologist, Ulrich Beck, has called “The Risk Society” ~ a product of the industrial society. “Just as modernisation dissolved the structure of feudal society in the 19th century, modernisation today is dissolving industrial society and a new modernity is coming into being.” By linking up the critique of industrialisation with the cause of the poor and the marginalised, the ideology of the Maoists has been significantly recast.
The contradiction of Indian politics lies in its espousal of a development model that is anachronistic in nature. The paradox of a developing society is that it borrows from a model that has outgrown itself in the West, but is parceled out to the East. Just as under-development in the Third World was once perceived to have been created. The emergence of what can be called the civil society movement in India is largely linked to this new brand of modernity that is beyond the pale of its classical industrial design.
Complex process
THE paradox of this model of development makes both the economic and political solution an extremely complex and elusive process. There may be hope yet if the State jettisons its absolutist stance. It must realise that thoughtless industrialisation can be hazardous for the climate. It can even destroy the natural habitat that had traditionally sheltered man, both physically and psychologically. In this quest for a safe society based on distributive justice and the protection of man’s basic needs, the government must function as a partner of the people. Instead of focusing on markets and breeding consumerism, the government must interact with its impoverished citizens and meet their fundamental needs ~ food, water, medicine and sanitation. Development doesn’t mean only the construction of sprawling industrial townships, multistoried apartments and luxury resorts.
Thus far, the government has not been able to delink development from industrialisation, urbanisation and market-driven resource generation, one that is based on outdated Western models. And if the question of welfare is swept under the carpet by according increased priority to security and terror, the appropriate development model will be relegated. The State can do so at its own peril.
The Maoist ideology is of lesser moment than the material structure that sustains such ideology. What Jean Francois Bayart famously described as “the politics of the belly” sustains Maoism. This happens when the state is impervious to the needs of the subaltern, most importantly his subsistence level. The government has attempted an economic overdrive long after the 19th century industrial development model outlived its utility.
Instead of silencing a people’s movement, the Government of India must be sensitive to the development paradigm. The establishment must reflect on its policies if it wants to silence the subaltern gun.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Operation tribal hunt?


Madvi Mukesh, 18 months, is missing three fingers, lost when security forces allegedly killed his mother


Those who haven't read today's The New Sunday Express please read this.

Operation tribal hunt?
Javed IqbalFirst Published : 15 Nov 2009

DANTEWADA(CHHATTISGARH): The authorities call it Operation Green Hunt, going by the conventional wisdom that the Maoists being chased — in Chattisgarh in this case — fight from thick jungles. But many of the victims appear to have nothing to do with the insurgency.


Witness accounts, in one instance among others, show that security forces killed seven people in Goompad village of Konta Block in Dantewada district in the concerted action that began six weeks ago. Two more people were killed from the neighbouring Bandaarpar village the same day.

In Goompad, Madvi Yankaiya (age 50) was hacked to death with an axe, his brother Madvi Joga said. Madvi Bajaar (50), his wife Madvi Subhi

(45), their daughters Madvi Kanama (20) and Madvi Mooti, (8) were killed, as their home was closest to the approaching forces. Also killed were their neighbours, Soyam Subaiya (20) and Soyam Subhi (18). They had been married only for a year.

The Adivasis of Bastar have little or no use for the Roman calendar; so it is hard to calculate the date of the attack, or the exact age of the victims. But surviving witnesses put it around the first week of October — which was the time that Green Hunt commenced. The Dantewada SP said an encounter took place at Goompad on October 1. They produced no bodies of alleged Naxalites at the police station. It was claimed that the villagers carried away the bodies of the dead.

On the day of the attack, most of the villagers fled when they heard gunfire and screams. Few looked back to see what was happening. But they did see that the attackers wore ‘punjaar gadu’, which, translated from Gondi to Hindi, means ‘phoolwale kapde’ — an adivasi way to describe jungle fatigues.

Many villagers left for the Andhra Pradesh border with just the clothes on their backs and a few other items. A few returned after the security forces left to assess the damage. Two homes were burning. And lying before one was 18-month-old Madvi Mukesh, covered in blood, crying next to the remains of his aunt, Madvi Mooti (8).

He was missing three fingers. His mother lay in a pool of blood — as also his maternal grandparents.

The villagers who returned to bury the bodies claim they saw numerous stab wounds on the bodies of most victims. One said Mukesh lost three fingers in an attack with a sharp object on his 20-year old mother. He was spared.Mukesh’s father was in another village that day and would meet his first born again only when they’d crossed the state border to enter Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. More than half the villagers of Goompad are now internally displaced persons (IDPs), living in fear of the AP authorities. They don’t mean to return home. Interestingly, only the villagers of the Dorla tribe fled. The Muria tribals have remained at Goompad.

All the dead are Dorla. Their ‘para’ or section bore the brunt of the assault — the rest had time to escape into the jungle.

At Goompad, villagers claim there are an equal number of Muria and Dorla families. The first Muria family came around 25 years ago. Now the ratio is almost equal. There have been no inter-tribal tensions in this village.

“We go to their festivals, they come to ours,” said one IDP in an undisclosed village in Khammam district.

“What about the Naxalites? Have they done anything to you?” I asked.

“No.”

“Have they done anything good for you?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“Sometimes they come and take us for meetings and sometimes they ask us for food when we barely have enough, but they mostly leave us alone.”

Goompad is in the interior. It is off the road, devoid of government services, always seen as a ‘Naxalite supporting’ village by the security forces. Villagers never openly criticise the Naxalites for fear of informers lurking in their midst. But I often speak to them alone. I asked another villager, ‘Have the Naxalites ever beaten anyone here in this village?”

“Once, when a man didn’t want to go to a meeting.”

Union Home minister P Chidambaram may be right when he says Green Hunt is a media creation — for a version of it has been happening in Chhattisgarh over the last four years.

The security forces have indiscriminately killed non-combatants in areas not

under government control. The victims are termed as Naxalites. The press in Chhattisgarh is harassed and reporters imprisoned for talking to villagers, so few are willing to enter these areas. There are reports that villagers were also punished for talking to reporters and outsiders. The pattern persists — the security forces comb an area, claim they killed Naxalites, and villagers speak of atrocities — provided someone listens.

Many have migrated to Andhra Pradesh, Others do not leave Chhattisgarh but retreat further into the jungles. Those who do go to AP tend to return because of harassment from the authorities and the local populace. Their new settlements are often burnt down.

Meanwhile, 315 new families from Chhattisgarh have migrated to AP. Each police station has a list of local tribals. Anyone not on the list is a suspected Naxalite. Intra-village tensions often take place over land — in Maamillavaye village of Khamam district, the resident tribals burnt the settlements of the Chhattisgarh arrivals. They also burnt the settlements of IDPs living for the last four years. Some have been there for over 10 years.

Eventually, a compromise was reached with the help of local activists. The villagers of Maamillavaye promised to rebuild the IDP settlement.

At Kamantome village, also in Khammam, a recent alleged Naxalite encounter saw nine villagers detained for six days. Seven were released without charge. Two, Madvi Hidma and Sodhi Oonga, are still in Warangal jail. Kamantome is a village of the Muria tribe. Most of them have been there for four years — escaping the Salwa Judum-Naxalite conflict. They have neither ration cards nor voter Ids. Each villager possesses two to three acres of land and is in constant dispute with the neighbouring native Muria villagers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In defence of the defenceless


This article on janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam, the people's human rights movement of Kerala appeared in today's Indian Express Cochin edition.

In defence of the defenceless

Shevlin Sebastian

First Published : 11 Nov 2009 05:36:00 AM ISTLast Updated :

In Palakkad, there was a series of thefts of gold ornaments in 2008. Finally a group of Tamilians were nabbed. When asked where the ornaments were, they said they had given it to several people including a goldsmith, Sunil Kumar.


On August 19, last year, Sunil was told to come to the Ottapalam station and was illegally detained for nine days. He says that he did know it was stolen property when he made rings and necklaces for the customers. The police told Sunil’s family that he could be released only if gold was deposited in the station.

With great difficulty the family bought gold valued worth Rs 2.3 lakh, and gave it to the police but despite that Sunil was slapped with ten cases. One case was for ‘habitually receiving stolen property’. Sunil later secured bail and was free. In July this year, another group of Tamilian thieves were caught. On July 30, Sunil was told to come to the Cherpulasserry police station although he had no business dealings with this group. He was again detained. This time, Kochi-based human rights organisation Janakeeya Manushyavakasha Prasthanam (JMP) got into the picture. As the JMP was about to file a habeas corpus petition in the high court, the police released Sunil on August 14. But sometime later, the Circle Inspector M V Manikandan called Sunil and told him to give 20 sovereigns of gold or he would be arrested. This conversation was secretly taped by JMP activists.

Subsequently it was broadcast on a news channel and reports appeared in several newspapers.

Thereafter, Manikandan was suspended.

“Thanks to the help of the JMP I was able to fight the police,” says Sunil.

Thushar Sarathy, the general secretary of the JMP, says the aim of the organisation is to uphold human rights. “Both the state and the police tramples on human rights all the time,” he says.

What is frightening is the violence that is meted out to those who are taken into custody.

“In 90 percent of the cases, there is torture by the police,” says Thushar. These include electric shocks to the genitals and the soles, slapping of the ears, denial of sleep, and abuse of family members. The JMP fights for those who have been illegally detained in jail, for former Naxalites who are jailed on flimsy reasons, for people who have been forcibly evicted from their lands, and migrant labourers who are harshly treated.

Thushar cites the case of two workers who died when they fell off a building in Kakkanad.

“There were no safety measures,” he says. “Migrant labourers are always risking their lives.” They get lower wages, as compared to Malayalis, and work longer hours.

There are no proper facilities for food and stay.

The JMP did a thorough investigation and sent the report to the government. Recently the JMP, with the help of the Right To Information Act, proved that there is far too much overcrowding in all the jails of the state. They also discovered that the majority of the police cases are slapped against Dalits and Adivasis.

“I don’t deny that there are Dalits who resort to crime but many innocent people have been framed,” says Thushar.

The idea is to force people to confess to crimes even though they are blameless. “The police prefer to slap false cases on people.” However, in court, these cases fall apart. “The conviction rate is only 27 percent,” he says.

Knowing that most charges are cooked up, the JMP has been involved in several programmes.

It launched a campaign against the illegal arrest and torture of two political activists by Agali police. The State Human Rights Commission ordered Rs 10,000 to be paid to each of the victims and proposed action against the errant police officers. The organisation conducted signature campaigns, protest meetings, and a seminar to publicise the illegal detention of Dr Binayak Sen, the national vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. The JMP filed a petition before the Kerala State Human Rights Commission asking for compensation for the victims of the Moolampally eviction drive. “Unless we fight for human rights our freedom will be taken away,” says Thushar. “Whichever political group comes to power, be it the UDF or the LDF, they have no qualms on trampling on our rights. Without human rights, there cannot be a free society.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Being neutral is the biggest crime


The National, November 6, 2009

VECHAPAL, INDIA : The staccato rattle of gunfire startled Poneym Pandroo from his sleep. He reached for his bow and arrow, quickly gathered his four children, and fled into the nearby jungle, away from the only home he had ever known.

He remembers the confusion as villagers ran for their lives as their houses were set ablaze behind them. Those who were not quick enough were chased down by the gunmen and savagely killed. When the villagers returned four days later, Mr Pandroo, 40, found his home destroyed. The gunmen had torched the paddy farmer’s thatched hut, looted his food grains, and slaughtered his chickens.

“They call us Naxalites,” he said, sitting outside his gutted home, gaunt, withered and trembling. “Because we refused to join Salwa Judum, we are automatically equated to Naxalites.”

Suspected of having links with Naxalites, or Maoist rebels, about 700 villages, such as Vechapal, in the Maoist heartland of southern Chhattisgarh, have been burnt down by the Salwa Judum, a state-sponsored anti-Naxal vigilante militia set up in 2005. Since then, its relentless attacks have forced 50,000 people to move into squalid government camps and another 250,000 people to flee into the deeper reaches of jungles, living a life of fear, hunger and misery.

Vechapal, located in the state’s Bijapur district, has been torched more than a dozen times in the last three years – recently in August. Tribals cower inside their huts at night, clutching axes and bows and arrows, fearing more attacks. Some tribal families have lost their homes so many times in arson attacks that they have given up on rebuilding all together. They sleep in tarpaulin tents in the nearby jungle at night. In rebel-controlled or “liberated villages” as the Maoists call them, like Vechapal, perhaps lies a plausible answer to why India is losing its war against the rebels.

The Salwa Judum attacks, the Chhattisgarh government claims, are meant to cleanse the countryside of Maoist influence. But far from breaking the Naxal web of support, this reign of brutality has transformed the region into a fertile Maoist stronghold and recruitment ground.

Those who visited Vechapal before the Salwa Judum was formed, testify that this was not always a Naxal-supporting area. Its loyalties shifted away from the state only to protect itself from repeated invasions.

“If the state wantonly kills villagers, they’re giving them a message that it has the power to do so only because it wields guns,” said Himanshu Kumar, a human rights activist. “The state is thus inspiring villagers to embrace guns.”

The rebels actively exploit the anger of such people who now view the state as their enemy and the rebels as modern-day Robin Hoods sympathetic to their woes. Armed Naxalite guerrillas boldly roam the village in battle fatigues for their signature monthly meetings and freely come and go from the nearby jungles for nightly rests and daytime meals.

They have managed to create a state within a state. Villagers travel to the nearby jungle to attend Jan Adalats – the “people’s courts” of the rebels – to settle local disputes.

The Naxalites have told the villagers that the persistent attacks on their homes are a conspiracy by multinational mining companies which, in connivance with the state, want to take over their land to gain access to the mineral-rich tribal belt. The villagers tend to believe them.

They now greet outsiders with “Lal Salaam”, or Red Salute, the traditional greeting of the Maoists. “They are our protectors from oppressors,” Mr Pandroo said of the Naxalites. “Now we don’t salute the Indian flag, but only the Red flag.”

Comrade Vijay, the deputy leader of the local Naxal squad that controls 70 villages in Bijapur district, said in an interview that public support for the rebels had increased threefold since the Salwa Judum came into existence. “Our cadre strength has gone up, our area of operation has expanded,” he said.

His men, he revealed, were training villagers on tactics to “protect themselves” from the invading forces more effectively with their traditional weapons, mainly bows and arrows. Young boys are plucked and trained to plant detonators in the ground for improvised explosive devices.

Previous government fact-finding missions agree with the view that the Naxal movement is spreading rapidly because of rising support from tribals caught up in the crossfire between the government and Naxalites. A fact-finding committee in October 2008 comprising senior bureaucrats, activists, and intelligence officials said the main support for the Naxalite movement came from dalits – people belonging to the “lowest” castes – and Adivasis, India’s tribal population.

But Raman Singh, Chhattisgah’s chief minister, dismisses the view, claiming that Salwa Judum is a “spontaneous reaction of the people” against growing Naxal tyranny. He likens Naxalism to a disease, the only antidote to which is cutting off the source of the disease: Adivasis living in Naxal villages. Salwa Judum, he insists, will only be disbanded “once the Naxal menace is eliminated”.

Himanshu Kumar, the rights activist, says this is comparable to the American counterinsurgency strategy of “draining the water and killing the fish”. “The state forgets that Adivasis are not fish, and the villages they inhabit are not fish bowls.”

For years, the state has punished “liberated” villages for harbouring Naxal sympathies. The administration has long stopped providing social and welfare support to villagers, already among the poorest, most disadvantaged people in India.

Vechapal’s tribals endure pitch darkness at night because the village is not connected to the power grid. The government-run higher-secondary school was burnt down by Salwa Judum three years ago. Weekly health check-up camps have long been discontinued. Instead, villagers rely on a local shaman, who chants prayers to exorcise evil spirits.

Vechapal is full of stories of dispossession and deprivation. Hunger and illness are endemic. The village is full of naked, chronically malnourished children with distended bellies and fly-covered noses.

Most tribals, who belong to the Gondi tribe, one of the aboriginal tribes in Central India, sweat all day long in the fields in the broiling heat wearing tattered lunghis, sarong-like lengths of cloth, doing the laborious work of thinning the rice plants. When agriculture fails, as it did this year as a result of a delayed monsoon, they are forced to scavenge in the forests for seeds, berries and wild vegetables.

Human rights activists warn about the forthcoming military counter-offensive being planned by the state to flush out Naxalites. There could be a potential genocide, they say, with the villagers of places such as Vechapal trapped in the middle between the military and the Maoists.

“This will only mean an indiscriminate massacre of tribals, a full-scale war against hundreds of thousands of people, against the people at large,” said Mr Kumar.

He suggests another solution. “To wean people away from Naxalites, don’t send in soldiers,” he said. “Send in doctors and teachers instead.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

US troops engaged in counter-guerilla operations in Mindanao



There is a notion that Obama has changed things for the better. Some people think that America is stopping their imperialist occupations now. But what is the truth. America is, as usual, continuing their covert and overt games to subotage the people's wishes across the world. And this report from Philippines endorses this view. There America's intereference is to help their puppet regime crush the maoist uprising.

US troops engaged in counter-guerilla operations in Mindanao

Philippine Revolution, November 2, 2009


Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos
Spokesperson
National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao
November 2, 2009

The National Democratic Front (NDF)-Mindanao has received more information regarding the actual participation of US soldiers in combat operations in Mindanao. This time, the operations are not just in Basilan and Sulu, but in other areas of the island as well. According to confirmed reports, US military personnel have been playing an active role in combat operations against the NPA in the hinterlands of Bukidnon.
Four separate incidents were initially cited. Around mid-February and in early July, US soldiers were seen participating in combat operations in Quezon, Bukidnon. These troops, together with a unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), engaged an NPA unit in a firefight and committed fascist acts against the residents in the area. In April and again in September, US troops were also sighted with AFP soldiers in Valencia and Malaybalay asking local residents for possible NPA locations and even intimidating civilians in the area.
Aside from these reports, the NDF-Mindanao has also received similar information from reliable sources in South Cotabato, Central Mindanao and the Davao provinces.
The increasing participation of US troops in combat operations in Moro areas have become even more common. Last September, at least two US soldiers were killed in an armed attack against a convoy of US troops in Indangan, Sulu. Earlier that month, US troops in a knee-jerk reaction to a nearby grenade explosion fired their guns indiscriminately at the port of Jolo, Sulu, damaging dock facilities and a nearby mosque. Back in 2002, a US Army serviceman, Sgt. Reggie Lane, embedded among troops of the 18th IB, shot Buyong-buyong Isnijal, a farmer in Basilan whom a combined team of US and Filipino soldiers raided his house.
These reports increasingly expose the lies behind the template pronouncements of US officials denying the actual involvement of its troops in combat operations in Mindanao. They provide further evidence that US troops belonging to the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF)-Philippines have been joining AFP units engaged in counterrevolutionary operations in the island.
Even as US and Philippine officials are quick to deny that US soldiers are engaged in combat operations, they do not deny that the US military has been actively involved in providing the AFP with combat and aerial intelligence as well as logistical support to AFP ground operations.
These incidents point clearly to increasing US military intervention and fascist atrocities in league with local puppet troops.
The NDF-Mindanao will continue to expose incidents of US military involvement in actual combat operations in the country, especially against the revolutionary forces and the people. Local commands of the New People's Army in Bukidnon have been instructed to closely monitor the movements of US soldiers and their participation in counterrevolutionary and antipeople military activites.
The NDF-Mindanao supports the recent efforts by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the senate committee on foreign affairs to review the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). We, however, believe that these efforts must not simply lead to amending some vague provisions of the agreement. Instead, the NDF-Mindanao echoes the call of patriotic Filipinos nationwide for the abrogation of the VFA, the Military Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and other one-sided military treaties.
It is these agreements that provide the framework for the US to permanently station its troops in the Philippines, engage in outright military intervention and wage war against the national democratic revolutionary movement in the country.
The NDF-Mindanao calls on the Filipino people to wage an allout, renewed, aggressive and sustained campaign against continuing US military intervention in the country.
We also urge the American people to demand the pullout of American troops permanently stationed in the Philippines and the cessation of US military interventionism in the country. We call on our Filipino compatriots in the US and other countries to help heighten public awareness in their host countries and internationally about US military intervention in the Philippines. #

Saturday, November 7, 2009

India’s 21st-century war

This article appeared in opendemocracy.net. For my readers i post it here.

In an age of climate change and deepening inequality, the spreading Naxalite insurgency in India - not al-Qaida - may show the world its future.

A year on from the election of Barack Obama as United States president, the conflicts that dominated Washington's concern under his predecessor are still raging - and even increasing in intensity. This is particularly true of the arc of insecurity that stretches from the middle east through to southwest Asia, where - from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Israel-Palestine and Iran - the reality and potential of violence have hardly been diminished as a result of the change of administration.

Moreover, alongside the high-intensity conflicts where Washington is directly or by proxy involved in this region, there are other slow-burn insurgencies that often receive less attention than they deserve. The persistent rebellion in India of the Maoist guerrilla movement known as the Naxalites is one such. A reason for paying more heed to this issue is that the evolving nature of the Naxalite conflict - including the Indian government's approach in attempting to combat the movement - may represent a more accurate indicator of future trends in global insecurity even than the al-Qaida network.

A potent legacy

The internal United States debate about its future strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular has as much of its specific focus the current status of al-Qaida, and whether it still represents a major threat to US security interests.

The argument over whether (and by how much) to increase US deployments in Afghanistan - prompted by General Stanley A McChrystal's request for at least 40,000 more troops - is now complicated further by the political fallout of the now aborted rerun of Afghanistan's presidential election. The effect of the confirmation of Hamid Karzai as the election winner and thus president for a third term in office (after the withdrawal on 1 November 2009 of his rival, Abdullah Abdullah) makes it even harder for the pro-"surge" advocates to make their case (see Charles A Kupchan & Steven Simon, "Pull the Plug on the Afghan Surge", Financial Times, 3 November 2009).

Many of those who oppose such a move argue that the US is making a strategic mistake by seeing the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban groups as the main focus of its efforts. These are so embedded in local societies on either side of the border that they cannot, so the argument goes, be defeated in the conventional sense. It is far more important in this view to concentrate specifically on the al-Qaida leadership and that movement's most determined adherents. By doing so, the US military will lead the task of defeating terrorism and making the world a safer place.

This argument, though yet to be won, can be seen as a significant departure from the dominant thinking of George W Bush's "war on terror" - especially its tendency to describe any radical paramilitary group anywhere in the world as "terrorist". The logic of this view, embraced with glee by the neo-conservatives that provided the Bush administration's ideological fuel, was the radical division of the world into two absolutely polarised sides: with us or against us, there is no room for doubt or compromise.

The search for a more nuanced and targeted approach reflects a degree of new thinking from Barack Obama. The problem he faces is that the mentality of the "war on terror" has proved so influential, including by other states facing their own domestic insurgencies, that it is very difficult to change course.

A hidden rage

A case in point is the New Delhi government's developing assault on the Naxalite rebels in India.

The Naxalite movement has its origins in a land dispute near the village of Naxalbari in the northern part of West Bengal in 1967. This lasted several years and appeared to have been brought under control. But later, a number of leftist groups fired by a Maoist ideology made links with disadvantaged peoples in parts of rural eastern India; in the early 2000s, this coalesced into a renewed movement (see Ajai Sahni, "India and its Maoists: failure and success", 20 March 2007)

Since then, the Naxalites have grown in power and influence. They are often brutal in their methods but have managed to win support from huge numbers of marginalised people, in part because of the great brutality inflicted by security forces in the areas the guerrillas control. The Indian authorities are increasingly concerned at the threat the movement poses to the country's internal security - and even its much-vaunted economic miracle. For the state, and much of the economic elite, the Naxalite/Maoist rebels are simply terrorists who must be put down with whatever force is necessary (see "A world in revolt", 12 February 2009).

Since then, the Naxalites or Maoists have grown in power and influence, as part of a conflict with the authorities in which there has been great brutality on both sides. They are reported to be active in 220 of India's 602 districts across fifteen of India's twenty-eight states.

Much of the activity is spread across India's so-called "red corridor", which stretches from the Nepalese border down to the southern state of Karnataka. A current report says: "With a force of 15,000 armed cadres, they control an estimated one-fifth of India's forests. They are also believed to have 50,000 underground activists. Around 100,000 people, including the intelligentsia, are associated with various front organisations in different parts of the country" (see Prakash Nanda, "India's deadly war within", UPI Asia Online, 4 November 2009).

The problem with this view is that the guerrillas draw on the genuine injustices inflicted on poor Indians in rural areas, including (for example) the many thousands dispossessed of their lands and livelihoods by mining corporations and new industries (see Arundhati Roy, "The heart of India is under attack", Guardian, 30 October 2009). These injustices are part of the entrenched and increasing disparities in wealth and poverty that India's breakneck race for growth has created.

The war between the Indian state's security forces (including the armed militias it has organised) and the Naxalites is taking place amid this landscape of desperate poverty and inequality. The rebels' tactics include the use of roadside-bombs and ambushes, which have helped them kill over 900 Indian security personnel in 2006-09. In the period from April-June 2009 alone, they killed 112 security personnel in four key regions of combat: Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa; over three days in early June, twenty police lost their lives in two attacks (see Divy Khare, "Naxalites strike again, kill 10 cops in Jharkhand", Times of India, 13 June 2009). In Maharashtra, two Naxalites lured a police patrol into a trap and in an hours-long fight, seventeen policemen died (see Jim Yardley, "A growing Maoist rebellion vexes India", International Herald Tribune, 31 October 2009).

The authorities are now being shocked by years of accelerating conflict into raising the level of their response. New Delhi is mounting a large-scale operation - Operation Green Hunt - that is expected to involve some 70,000 paramilitary forces. The aim is partly to counter the spread of Naxalite influence beyond the most densely forested areas that have been their core domain into open countryside; Operation Green Hunt seeks to force the rebels back into the forests where they can (it is supposed) be more easily contained (see Anuj Chopra, "Jungle lair of the Maoist rebels", 5 November 2009).

The carefully planned operation could take several years to complete. At its root is the firm belief that the target groups, however strong their support, constitute a threat to the emergence of the new India as a global economic power. In such circumstances, strategic ores must be mined and factories built on suitable land. Those in the way - leftist rebels or local villagers - simply cannot be allowed to interfere with India's onward march to western-style modernity (see "China and India: heartlands of global protest", 7 August 2008).

It is especially pertinent to note that this rebellion has caught India somewhat by surprise. At the very time that India has finally embraced the consumer society, when burgeoning cities are replete with shopping-malls, entertainment venues and gated communities - violent extremists appear, as if from nowhere, to wreck the party and threaten the future (see Manmohan Singh, "'A Systemic Failure'", OutlookIndia, 4 November 2009). The fact that much of what is happening can be understood as a desperate response from intensely marginalised people is discounted.

A warming conflict

The import of the Naxalites and other Maoist groups in India may go far beyond the major internal-security problem they pose. From another perspective, they represent an early example of the kinds of radical response that could - if present dominant policies continue - become far more widespread in the coming decades (see "A world on the edge", 29 January 2009).

In the 2010-40 period, climate change will affect the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world in ever more pervasive ways. As the continents warm up much faster than the oceans and the croplands dry out, the consequence will be a sharp decline in the land's ecological "carrying-capacity" (see Shanta Barley, "A World 4 degrees C warmer", New Scientist, 3 October 2009)

This is also a world where there are enormous gaps in living-standards, life-chances and access to resources; where 10% of the world's people have over 85% of the household wealth; and where hundreds of millions of people in the global south (and north) are marginalised and resentful. The results, if such trends are allowed to continue, will be a combination of more fragile and failing states with intense migratory pressures; in turn this will reinforces the tendency of the world's elites to seek to "close the castle gates" (see "A tale of two towns", 21 June 2007).

In this perspective, the rational approach would be led by an awareness of how the dangers of socio-economic divisions and environmental limits make a new definition of security essential (see "A world in need: the case for sustainable security", 10 September 2009). A continuation of the current path may mean that al-Qaida will be seen as a short-term problem that withered away - and the Naxalite rebellion as the prototype conflict for the 21st century.

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