This week I reviewed War and Peace in Jangal Mahal, edited by Biswajit Roy, for The Hindu. Kafila readers will be familiar with at least two of the essays in the compilation – by Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam and will remember our hectic debates on the subject.
The collected letters of correspondence between the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the Indian state is an archive of corpses: policemen and guerrillas, commanders and comrades, police informers and Maoist sympathisers. The body count racked up by each serves as a signalling mechanism for the other.
Except for the police and Maoist commanders, the dead usually don’t get to choose sides; their identities are written in reverse, a teleological narration that details seemingly insignificant decisions that end in death.
In June this year, the CRPF, state police and CoBRA battalion killed 19 men, women and children in an anti-Maoist operation, claiming those killed were hardened Maoists. When newspapers reported that villagers said they were conducting a public meeting when they were surrounded by police and shot, the police pointed to six troopers injured in the encounter and asked why villagers were holding a meeting in the middle of the night.
The Maoists have an explanation for their violence as well. “The notion of just principle in a normal situation is different from that [in] a war-like situation,” wrote Maoist commander Kishenji in a letter to the Bengali daily, Dainik Statesman , in which he explained his party’s policy of killing police informers, “During war, freedom of thought, consciousness, initiative and innovation is much limited in scope.”
Read the rest of the review here
Summarized version of statement by concerned academicians, students and activists.
For full text of the statement visit
and http://www.pragoti.in/node/4567 .
In a statement of apparent ‘self-criticism’, dated September 1 2011, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has offered an apology for the posters threatening Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze, Gokul Vasant and Nandlal Singh and members of Gram Swaraj Abhyan. But they have not tendered an unconditional apology for the brutal murder of NREGA activist Niyamat Ansari and threat to Bhukan Singh for allegedly being ‘police informers’ and ‘cheating local people’ of their forest land.
86 families in Kope Gram Panchayat, including Bhukhan and Niyamat, were part of a larger movement to secure legal entitlements over forest land under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, which was opposed by the same corrupt contractors involved in committing malpractices in the NREGA Programme. His team exposed a scam involving Rs 2.5 lakhs leading to an FIR being filed against the local Block Development Officer. Within days after this, on 2nd March 2011, Niyamat was beaten to death. The fact finding report published by Gokul Basant- Nandlal Singh has hinted towards possible involvement of Maoist with corrupt middlemen, illegal contractors, forest department and local administration.
Continue reading Statement on the killing of Niyamat Ansari and “apology” by the CPI (Maoist)
First published in The Hindu
Narayan Sanyal is a 74-year-old man with white hair parted to one side and fibromatosis in both hands. His arrest memo notes that he wears dentures, has spots on his body and smokes cigarettes. “My health is not going well, arthritis is a new thing catching up, age is telling,” he writes in a letter addressed to a ‘Dear friend V’. This letter and two others became crucial evidence in the conviction last week of Mr. Sanyal, Kolkata businessman Pijush Guha and eminent doctor and human rights activist Binayak Sen.
Behind their conviction lies a curious paradox to which the Chhattisgarh police has never given a satisfactory answer: Why was Mr. Sanyal — whose Maoist connections led to charges against the co-accused in the first place — himself never charged with sedition or conspiracy to wage war or even with belonging to or supporting an unlawful organisation until well after Dr. Sen’s arrest under those serious offences?
Continue reading Suddenly Sanyal: The Many Arrests of Narayan Sanyal
Last week, the Chhattisgarh police were caught in an extraordinary encounter in the forests of Dantewada. The encounter was interesting not just in the event itself, but also in the Police’s attempts to shape media perception during and long after the encounter.
On Kafila, we devote a considerable amount of our time trying to decode how the press covers particular events. Perhaps this post shall go some way in explaining why our morning papers look the way they do.
If the police are to believed, on August 4 this year, the Koya commandos were caught in a Maoist ambush, yet through brilliant rear-guard action emerged completely unscathed, along with the body of a “Maoist fighter”, a 12 bore shotgun and two IEDs to boot.
The “ambush” caught a lot of us in the press unawares: something had happened in the forest – but what? A series of strategic leaks had primed the media to expect “major losses” among the security forces – so when the police emerged from the jungle unscathed, everyone was expected to heave a collective sigh of relief.
However, for once, the Chhattisgarh based press was skeptical.
Continue reading What if man dies in the forest, and no one is around to see it?
Ever since Mukram hit the news, there has been a sure and steady attempt to cut-off access to the areas surrounding the Chintalnar Camp.
In the meantime, sources who helped me and a reporter from Tehelka access the villages are worried about their safety. SPOs in Chintalnar have reportedly threatened to “take action” against villagers who help the press.
The following is a recent article for The Hindu that has provoked some of the backlash against the press.
A series of shots rang out in the night far beyond the barricaded perimeter of the Central Reserve Police Force camp here in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. For a few minutes, the sentries on duty returned fire before their guns, and the ones that sounded in the distance, fell silent.
By morning, the adivasi settlements around the camp had emptied, the villagers wary of being caught and questioned by the CRPF’s morning patrol. “Everyone is hiding in the forests,” said a villager from Markaguda, a village about two km from the camp, “I expect we shall be beaten up this morning.”