A statement on the arrest of 13 political activists in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu has always had a very high handed police, infamous for extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrest of political dissidents of all hues. In recent times, thanks to the popular Koodankulam agitation the authoritarian ways of the state police seems to have acquired a ‘nuclear’ edge.

On 6 October 2012, as 13 senior members of the Peoples Democratic Republic Party met at a school in Kundrathur near Chennai city they were all arrested by the ‘Q Branch’, as the local intelligence bureau is called in Tamil Nadu. The arrested members and supporters of the party have been since remanded to judicial custody in Vellore central prison and a case under section Cr. L.A 17 (1) registered against them. Continue reading “A statement on the arrest of 13 political activists in Tamil Nadu”

The afterlife of a massacre

Aman Sethi/ The Hindu

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.

Read the full story on Caravan’s website. I will be happy to answer questions/comments on Kafila

“Nobody Can Stop The Revolution”

Over the weekend, a number of journalists received the following statement from Ganapathy; General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). In the text, Ganapathy clarifies the Maoist stance on a broad range of topics – particularly Kashmir, the Commonwealth Games, the Ayodhya Verdict, Mamta Bannerjee in Bengal, Obama and the North East.

However, the fact that the questions are posed by an obviously sympathetic “interviewer” and our inability to send any follow-up questions means that, I personally, treat this as a policy document rather than an “interview”. To get a quick newsy sum-up, you could read my report for The Hindu.

I felt it would be interesting for our readers to go through this text to get a sense of “What Maoists Want”.  As a reporter, I am only too aware of how Maoist politics is severely under-reported as opposed to their military tactics.

As neither the Maoists, nor Mr Ganapathy are currently in a position to defend their views on Kafila; I have disabled comments on this post. Afzal’s acerbic (and spot on) comment has changed my mind. Have allowed comments on this piece.Hopefully, this document shall serve as a reference point for further discussions on the Maoist movement.

Continue reading ““Nobody Can Stop The Revolution””

On Torture and Testimonies

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.

Over the last three days, I and a reporter from the Times of India have been working on a story in which a group of adivasis from two villages in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district have accused the BSF of torturing a number of young men and women from their respective villages by beating them and also administering electric shocks.

Continue reading “On Torture and Testimonies”

Dear Chattisgarh Police, Are You Mad?

Javed Iqbal of The New Indian Express on being targeted by the Chattisgarh Police as being on the side of the Maoists:

A High Court lawyer from Mumbai was in Dantewada a few days ago and had gone to the police station to speak to the police and understand the ground realities of Dantewada. SSP Kalluri accused him of being a Naxalite informer, and had him locked up in the police station. He was eventually let off the same evening, visibly shaken, after some frantic phone calls.

The very fact that the Chhattisgarh police would rather target civil society activists, opposition party workers and journalists than investigate the Maoists, is explicit proof of their incompetence. A kind of fascinating wife-beating syndrome, where they can’t get the Maoists, so the insecure, frustrated police will go after soft targets like journalists, activists and opposition party members.

They arrested CPI party workers for the attack on Audesh Singh Gautams home, and adivasi CPI leader Manish Kunjam confirmed the same. He, himself, has no police security. It was withdrawn by the police months ago even though there have been numerous threats to his life. He has been openly critical of the Salwa Judum that roams around Bastar, armed to its teeth, and has spoken up against corporate land grab, supporting and helping to organize the anti-displacement movements across Bastar.

Now, according to the police press release that implicated Lingaram Kodopi, Nandini Sundar, Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy, I’ve been mentioned as someone who had gone with the Maoists, ‘videographing’ their failed assassination attempt on Audesh Singh Gautam.

Forget that they police don’t know the difference between a ‘photographer’ and a ‘videographer’. Forget that the police don’t know that at 1:00am there’s no light, and videography and photography is useless. And I believe the Maoists have infra-red cameras? Why? Because they’re ‘infra-red’? [Read the full post]

Crossed Wires: Intelligence and Counter-intelligence in Chhattisgarh

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.

Mukram violence worsens; adivasi girls allege rape

 

Two sisters live in a clearing in the forest about 10 km beyond the abandoned houses and empty yards of Mukram village in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. A third young girl cowers in the courtyard of her aunt’s house in neighbouring Tokanpalli. Between 14 and 18 years of age, Kose, Rame and Hidme (names changed) say they fled their homes in Mukram after they were sexually assaulted by Special Police Officers of the Chhattisgarh Police on May 22 this year.
“We can’t return to Mukram,” said Rame, “If they [the SPOs] find us again, they said they would cut my body into pieces and bury it in cement and no one would ever find it.”