In a statement issued on April 16th 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) claimed that the ‘National Policy and Action Plan’ to combat Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is ‘a multi-pronged strategy involving security and development related measures’. This new policy, apparently in place since the NDA government came to power at the centre, claims to have ‘zero tolerance towards violence coupled with a big push to developmental activities so that benefits of development reached the poor and vulnerable in the affected areas’. The statement talks of substantial improvement in the LWE scenario by indicating reduced incidents of violence over the last four years. Within a week of this statement to the press, several Maoists are killed in an alleged encounter in Gadchiroli district of Maharastra and, then, in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh. The Maharashtra state police immediately issued press notes and organised a press conference on April 24th declaring the operation an unmitigated success. A week later, Chhattisgarh police did the same. Even as the death count of Maoists kept rising, the police claimed that none of their personnel, primarily the elite C-60 force in Maharashtra and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), were seriously injured let alone killed in action.
The NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movements) has written the following letter, signed by many movements and orgnizations, to the Governor and the Chief Minister of Chhatisgarh
Date: 11th May, 2017
Shri Balram Das Tandon, The Hon’ble Governor, Raj Bhawan, Raipur, Chhattisgarh,
Shri Raman Singh, The Chief Minister, Civil Lines, Raipur, Chhattisgarh
Sub: Revocation of suspension orders of upright, Dalit woman officer, Ms. Varsha Dongre, Asst. Jail Superintendent, Raipur Central Jail and restoration of peace and good government in the V Schedule adivasis areas of Bastar – Reg.
Respected Balram Das Tandon ji and Shri Raman Singh ji,
We, the undersigned, representing a large number of people’s movements and organizations, across India, as the National Alliance People’s Movements (NAPM), are writing to you with a deep sense of anguish regarding the arbitrary suspension of a young and dynamic dalit woman officer of your state, since she publicly expressed concerns over the serious human rights abuses of young adivasis girls in the jails of Chhattisgarh.
[ This is a letter addressed to Raman Singh, the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh by several concerned individuals and organizations regarding the impunity with which medical guidelines are put aside by professionals who enjoy the patronage and protection of the state government.]
We, the 138 undersigned individuals and organizations working across the country on health and women’s rights are shocked and dismayed that the case against surgeon Dr. R. K. Gupta has been dismissed by the Hon’ble High Court on grounds that “the alleged act committed by the petitioner was while acting in discharge of his official duty and admittedly no previous sanction was obtained before initiating prosecution case against him”.
The Anita Jha Judicial Enquiry Commission report has clearly pointed out that “It is evident from the facts that in the camps organized on 8.11.2014 and 10.11.2014 there was a breach in the important necessities hence the standard operating procedure were not followed. As a result of which the symptoms of infections were found in post operative female beneficiaries“. It further states that “On the background of deliberation of investigation point number 1 to 3, investigation committee has found following persons Guilty/responsible, functionary, during 08 and 10 November, 2014:- 4.1 For not following standard procedures and for medical negligence by immediate functionary Block Medical Officer, Takhatpur…………….and surgeon who conducted surgery in tubectomy camp at Sakri and Gaurella ( Surgeries were completed by the same surgeon in the both camps)”.
Statement of Solidarity for journalists’ movement in Chhattisgarh
We extend our unconditional support to the journalists’ movement proposed on December 21, 2015 in Jagdalpur district of Chhattisgarh demanding the enactment of a protection law for scribes and immediate release of two reporters Santosh Yadav and Somaru Naag, who were arrested in September and July this year in fabricated cases and charged under Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA). We have seen a surge in the attack on right to freedom of expression in recent times where journalists have been intimidated, bullied and even killed in different parts of the country. This has raised questions over legitimacy of democratically elected governments and is threatening the basic principles of democracy. Continue reading Release Santosh-Somaru! Enact protection law for journalists, Repeal CSPSA: Statement of Solidarity→
This is a review by JUSTIN PODUR of Nirmalangshu Mukherji’s book Maoists in India: Tribals Under Siege (Pluto Press 2012)
Central India is a place where all the fault lines of “development” in today’s world converge. Indigenous people, vast stretches of natural forest, mineral-hungry corporations; media, government institutions, and political parties heavily compromised by private interests; people’s struggles, armed insurgency, counterinsurgency, military occupation, paramilitarism – all are present, and until recently, it has all been a well-kept secret.
The struggles play out differently in different parts of Central India. In Orissa, indigenous people’s movements have battled mining companies and stalled projects for years, in Kashipur and Lanjigarh. In Chhattisgarh, in the northern Bastar region, one of India’s billionaires, Naveen Jindal of the Jindal Group (also a polo player and a Congress Party Member of Parliament for a different district), wields tremendous economic and political power. The mines use captive power plants, coal or hydro, so each mine causes massive ecological and agricultural damage. In a profile by Mehboob Jeelani in Caravan Magazine on March 1, 2013, Jindal explained his philosophy: “We don’t control all the raw materials, but we have captive mines for 60 or 70 percent. This is something my father really believed in—that we must control our raw materials. If we don’t, then other people control us. So we made a conscious effort to acquire coal and iron ore mines.” In southern Bastar in Chhattisgarh, a Maoist insurgency is fighting against government forces, police, paramilitaries, and vigilante groups, from bases deep in the forest, in a war that was largely unknown for decades.
In India, the secret of the insurgency was broken by a series of atrocities committed by a group called Salwa Judum, starting around 2005. Salwa Judum in the Americas would be called paramilitaries, but in India is called a vigilante group. Salwa Judum was organized by the state and headed by a Congress Party politician named Mahendra Karma. It burned hundreds of villages, committed murder and rape, and tried to channel the indigenous people of the forest villages into roadside camps, where their movements could be controlled. This was all done in the name of fighting the Maoist insurgency, and it largely failed on those terms: Maoist numbers increased, the indigenous people went deeper into the forest. But it was a human disaster, and that human disaster has continued. The objective is the lands where the indigenous people (in India called adivasis) live – specifically the minerals underneath those lands, which put them in the way of the extractive development model and hence, in the line of fire. Continue reading To Break a Siege: Justin Podur→
Protests against Sexual Violence continue in Delhi. Earlier this morning, there was a gathering to protest against the gruesome sexual violence committed on Soni Sori while in custody in Chhattisgarh under the supervision of Ankit Garg, Superintendent of Police, Dantewada. Ankit Garg was awarded with a presidential police medal on Republic Day (January 26) in 2012.
On a recent trip to the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, I visited a village called Bamhni. The Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS; People’s Health Collective, a rural hospital) of Ganiyari runs an outreach clinic there. Every Tuesday, one or two JSS doctors and a small team of health workers get into a Mahindra Bolero SUV in Ganiyari and drive an hour-and-a-half to reach Bamhni.
I spent much of the day with an even smaller JSS team that reaches out even beyond this outreach clinic. The area we were in is part of the Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary, which has existed since the mid-70s. As happens with several Indian wildlife reserves, this one has several villages located inside its boundaries. In 2009, Achanakmar was declared part of Project Tiger, the more stringent Indian effort to save that splendid animal. More stringent, that is, in the conditions it spells out for villages in designated sanctuaries. When Achanakmar joined Project Tiger, the residents of Bamhni and several other villages were told they would have to move out of the “core zone” of the sanctuary, so as to leave the tigers an area where they would be undisturbed. Continue reading What Development Means: Dilip D’Souza→
Any moment now I expect India’s litfest mafiosi to describe this article on the ‘Essar Kahani Utsav’ by Akshay Pathak as an ‘attack on free speech’:
Money was not the only thing coloured there. Long pieces of cloth in different colours hanging outside the venue— in classic Teamwork Productions style (the event management company organising this festival)—conjured a sense of celebration. The packaging was good. It mostly is—like that of the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival, also organised by the same company.
The mood inside, though, didn’t match. That is, if you set aside the sight of visibly uninterested festival organisers and district administrators finding ways to pat their backs. And there was certainly no festive air around the 600-odd Adivasi children who had travelled hours on foot and buses to hear stories on an empty stomach—“the district administration miscalculated the numbers”, the organisers explained to me later, and so they had run out of food for the children. [Read the full article.]
Last weekend, I attended a wonderful rally by the Adivasi Mahasabha in Raipur – some 10-15 busloads of people came from Dantewada and Bastar alone, while large numbers came from other parts of Chhattisgarh and even other states like Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal. The procession was flagged off by Dhurwa dancers while the rear end was brought up by Marias with their large dhols and bison horns. In between were thousands of militant marchers shouting slogans against militarization, demanding peace talks, the release of their arrested leaders, the implementation of the Supreme Court judgement on Salwa Judum, and all their constitutional rights with respect to land, forest and water. These were men and women who had lost everything to arson and loot by Salwa Judum, who had been interned in camps but managed to return home and pick up their ploughs again, who face the daily threat of arrests, beatings and encounters by the security forces, who have to negotiate with the Maoists everytime they wanted to access panchayat funds, who live a life on the razor edge of survival. And yet here they were, laughing, cheering and vowing to fight till the last breath, fight for their constitutional rights and in a constitutional way.
This remarkable struggle has been waged, not just over one weekend, but over years. Indeed, the Salwa Judum leaders themselves credit the CPI with the destruction of their movement – both through mass actions and through legal means.
The police today raided my house between 6.30 and 7 am. I was out of the house when they did it. One of those days when I was not at home. They came with a search warrant and said that a khatarnak Naxalite was being shielded in my house.
My family was unable to gather the name, but they had come looking for a woman they said some Sunit / Sumit Sodi. The Bajaj Nagar police station of Jaipur, which very well knows my house, brought them. It was led by the DY SP of our area Rajendra Singh Shekhwat and they also sent police outside the People’s Union for Civil Liberties office. The Chhattisgarh raid was led by one Mr. Memon who was in plain clothes. His rank we do not know. He got papers from a court that my house has to be searched. Continue reading Kavita Srivastava: ‘Chhattisgarh Police Raided My House Today in Collusion with Jaipur Police’→
The Supreme Court has held that the use of extra-legal armed forces in Chhattisgarh is unconstitutional. Responding to a PIL filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramachandra Guha and E.A.S. Sharma, the court’s decision turns on the nature of the Salwa Judum and the appointment of special police officers under the Chhattisgarh Police Act. But if it were a judgment that had merely ruled on the technicalities, it would have been a welcome and competent order, but would have missed its moment of constitutional greatness. This judgment attains such greatness by virtue of its deft combination of insightful legal analysis, the articulation of a moral vision of constitutionalism and development and its sharp invocation of rhetoric (in the best sense of the term) and fiction to buttress its arguments.
Fiction, William Gass reminds us is the figure of truth. Law has always produced and promoted legal fictions and the substantive interpretation of law often rests upon on a body of rhetorical figures and scenarios. The imaginative and moral character of legal fiction can often be found wanting, but there are times when the courts produce inspired moral visions that outdo even literature. Although fiction in the manner of its making, is pure philosophy, Gass says that no novelist has created a more dashing hero than the handsome absolute, or conceived more dramatic extrications- the soul’s escape from the body, for instance, or the will’s from cause. Nandini Sundar v. State of Chattisgarh is an excellent example of the ways in which the law can productively use metaphor as legal argument (‘our constitution is not a pact for national suicide’)
I just finished a long essay for the cover of the May 2011 issue of Caravan magazine. In “At the Bloody Crossroads”, I plot the fate of the village of Tarmetla in the course of a year of ‘counterinsurgency”.
At 5:55 AM ON 6 APRIL 2010, Golf Company of the 62nd battalion of India’s Central Reserve Police Force [CRPF] radioed field headquarters at Chintalnar to report they were receiving small-arms fire in the “Tarmetla sector” and had sustained one injury. Golf Company was conducting a three-day area-domination exercise in the forests of Dantewada…
Operation Khanjar (“Dagger” in Hindi) was Golf’s last manoeuvre before the company was rotated out of Chintalnar to a less sensitive post. They were accompanied by their replacements from Alpha Company, who had just arrived from battalion headquarters in Barsur. The objective was to make their presence known in the district’s scattered hamlets: they were to spend three days sanitising the sector of guerrilla presence and acquainting the men of Alpha Company with the rolling hills and dry riverbeds that surround the CRPF camp at Chintalnar….
At 7:45 am, Golf Company’s deputy commandant, Satyawan Yadav, made a phone call from the vortex of the ambush to say that his company had been completely surrounded—and then the phone went silent.
Till very recently it was not possible to discuss Binayak Sen without referring to the corporate land grab and state repression in Chhattisgarh. Somehow Salwa Judum, the displacement of thousands of adivasis and the Maoist movement would come in the picture. Above all, what would come out is Sen’s work in the specific context of the suffering of the adivasis. Indeed soon after the bail order was granted, it came so naturally for Sen’s beaming wife to state that he will of course go back to resume his work in Chhattisgarh.
Upon his release from Raipur Central Jail on April 18 2011, Sen immediately called for a dialogue between the Maoists and the government and reminded us of so many other political prisoners languishing in the country’s jails. In the video showing Sen being greeted by his supporters after his release he enthusiastically joins in giving slogans saying, ‘Shankar Guha Niyogi Zindabad’. But the supporters soon after break into ‘Binayak Sen Zindabad’. You could immediately see this embarrassed look on his face, totally disapproving this iconisation.
Indeed, Sen seems very far off from celebrating his release as a major victory for democracy or a boost forIndia’s image as a modern democracy and so on. He seems really far off from the dominant discourse which seeks to cleanse the ‘Binayak Sen issue’ of the harsh realities of India’s dirty war, the inequality and the injustice towards the adivasis and their suffering. Continue reading Chronicle of a Bail Foretold: Saroj Giri→
DB Power is a subsidiary of DB Corp Ltd, a media conglomerate that owns four newspapers, including the Hindi Dainik Bhaskar and English DNA, that have a combined readership of 17.5 million readers, and the My FM radio station.
The company’s most recent project in Dharamjaigarh shall displace 524 families from six settlements to extract 2 million tonnes of coal every year to fuel a 1320 MW thermal power plant that shall be built in the adjoining district of Janjgir.
No prizes for guessing what the Dainik Bhaskar’s coverage was like:
This open letter by SHIV VISWANATHANhas been circulated by Communalism Combat
Dear Professor Manmohan Singh,
I hope you don’t mind the temerity of this letter. It is written as one scholar to another, one citizen to another. I know you are a PM and people like me may not be influential. However some things must be said and said clearly.
One of the issues that the Binayak Sen trial has revealed is the quality of the investigative process in the case and the nonchalance with which the police has flouted even routine guidelines, safeguards and rules.
“email referring to an occupant of the White House as a “chimpanzee” was introduced by the prosecutor as evidence of the kind of “code language” terrorists resort to. But tragically, it is the Chhattisgarh police that have had the last laugh in this round.”
On Christmas Eve, the Raipur Sessions court delivered a surprisingly harsh sentence in the case of The State of Chhattisgarh versus Pijush Guha, Binayak Sen and Narayan Sanyal, where B.P. Verma sentenced all three to life imprisonment for “conspiring to commit sedition.”
This latest ruling on a sedition case isn’t so much about the narrowing of the space of expression in India (there are far more illustrative cases here, here and here) but more about the wide application of the sedition law to convict when the supporting evidence is questioned by the defence.
Prosecution teams seem to have figured out that in cases involving “Maoist issues” – a poor investigation can easily be supported by planting “seditious” documents and pushing for sedition.
Through the course of this post, I shall try to collate some my coverage over the last two weeks to give you all a sense of how the trial proceeded. As always, I this piece serves as a starting point for further discussions. I would urge readers to post comments with links to articles that they found interesting (along with their own thoughts of course).
Over the last month, the levels of violence in Chattisgarh appear to have de-escalated to a degree. I say de-escalated rather than reduced because the violence is largely driven by raids and counter-raids between the Maoists and the security forces, which is very different from the chaotic and un-nerving violence described in the recently leaked Iraqi war-logs covered by the Guardian and the NYT.
Sources in the police and the Maoists agree that the reduction is largely due to this year’s torrential monsoons which submerged large parts of the interiors in Dantewada and Bijapur. In the monsoons, the jungle tracks used by both forces turn into fast moving streams, making it difficult to launch operations and confining the forces to their camps.
I was going to write out a reply to the comments on Shuddha’s post, Kashmir’s Abu Gharaiab, but thought I would expand it into a larger post.
I’d like to make clear that I have been to Kashmir only once – and that too for a few hours in the aftermath of the earthquake, so if anyone writes back saying, “I should see the ground reality in Kashmir”; I concede that point straight off the bat. I should see the ground reality in Kashmir; we all should.
However, over the last eight months, I have had the opportunity to interact very closely with central paramilitary forces like the BSF and CRPF in the course of their deployment in Chhattisgarh, where I work. Many of the men conducting anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh have served in Kashmir and the North-East theatres.
On May 16 this year, adivasis, attending the weekly Sunday bazaar at Unchapur in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon district, found six corpses stretched out on the main thoroughfare of the village. In a note placed on one of the bodies, the CPI (Maoist) took responsibility for executing the six villagers for succumbing to “the lure of money” and serving as “police informers”.
The Rajnandgaon killings are a manifestation of the escalation of the confrontation between Maoist cadres and security forces in Chhattisgarh. As the scope of the conflict has widened from purely armed engagement to the disruption of intelligence networks, the Maoists and security forces have both enlisted civilian support for intelligence gathering. This has made the adivasis targets in a war being fought in their name.