Guest Post by AR VASAVI
January, 26th, 2016, the 66th year of celebrating the declaration of India as a ‘Republic’ and the passage of the Indian Constitution, witnessed an unusual gathering at an auditorium at Challakere town (Chitradurga District, Karnataka). Local residents, farmers, shepherds and a number of environmentalists, academics, reporters, and students from various towns and cities of Karnataka participated at a public hearing on the appropriation by the governments of India and Karnataka of more than ten thousand acres of a common grazing land called the Amrut Mahal Kaval which had been allocated to various public and private sectors for the construction of a futuristic ‘science city’. Organised by Amrit Mahal Kaval Hitarakshana Haagu Horata Samithi [Amrit Mahal Kaval Conservation and Struggle Committee] the public hearing was to assess the pros and cons of such land allocation. Local shepherds and farmers from the surrounding villages highlighted the impact of the loss of their grasslands (kavals). In their eloquent and well-thought-out statements, the local residents sought to retain their rights to the grassland (a collectively maintained resource) and to the livelihoods and life that it enabled. They questioned the undemocratic process by which their land had been appropriated and commented on the nature of the nation’s institutions. Although they had all been invited, none of the representatives of the government departments and the organisations which had received land deemed it worthy to attend this public hearing. This meet and the visit to the Kavals (now cordoned off with a double boundary; an outer wire fence and an inner stone, concrete and steel meshed 15 feet high fence, reminiscent of high-security prisons) were testimony to the unusual trajectory of the Indian Republic where the voices of common people are increasingly silenced and the state, and its institutions of the military, the science establishment, and some private players have gained ascendency.
Continue reading The ‘Non-Science’ Of Grabbing Grasslands And Promoting A Futuristic ‘Science City’: A.R.Vasavi
Earlier this month, I travelled to Gambella in South West Ethiopia to visit the 100,000 ha farm managed by Karuturi Global Ltd ; an Bangalore-based company that hopes to use its farm in Ethiopia to become one of the largest food producers in the world. Karuturi has become the most visible symbol of what activists have termed “land grab” in Africa; a term that is as contentious as the process itself. At various times, Kafila has also carried pieces on the subject. Some the material put out by groups like Human Rights Watch has been hard to verify, but the process itself is worth following. Appended below, my Sunday story for The Hindu.
Gambella (Ethiopia): Last August, Ojulu sat smoking a cigarette outside his thatch-roofed hut in Pino village when a rising tide of water seeped through the reed fence. “The water came in the morning,” Ojulu said, “And stayed for a month.”
As Ojulu and his neighbours scrambled to higher ground the Baro river swirled through the village, gathering in force until it breached a series of dykes, built by Bangalore-based Karuturi Global, and swamped the company’s vast 100,000-hectare farm. “Karuturi blocked the natural route of the water [with the dyke], so the water came into our village,” Ojulu said. “Karuturi was the cause of the flood.” Read the rest of the story here
Guest post by MAHTAB ALAM
The state of Jharkhand was created after several decades of struggle. On 15 November, the state completed 12 years of its formation. The day is considered to be the birth anniversary of the legendary leader Birsa Munda. The state, famous for its rich mineral resources, occupies an area of 28,833 square miles (74,677 square km) and has a population of nearly 330 lakh people according to 2011 estimates. Like every year, the formation day was celebrated with the great pomp and show by the government and the political elite in the state capital Ranchi and elsewhere.
However, this year, greater effort was made to bolster its ever declining public image due to mass displacement, brutality by police and security forces and rampant corruption in the state over the years, by giving advertisements not only in local and Hindi newspapers but also in major national dailies. On 15th of November, in the Times of India (Delhi edition), a full page advertisement was published with smiling faces of Shibu Sonren, once a popular leader and referred as Dishom Guru or the Great Leader of Tribal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief and also head of the ruling alliance, along with chief minister Arjun Munda and his team, in Hindi with the heading, ‘Vikas ke path par agrasar Jharkhand: Zameen par utri Haqeeqat’ (Jharkhand on the path of Development: Reality on the ground), enumerating ‘landmark works of development’ of the government. I was also told by friends that similar advertisements appeared in other newspapers as well. Continue reading Jharkhand, twelve years later: Mahtab Alam
Guest post by ARUNA CHANDRASEKHAR
If we cut the entire forest down, where will we live?’- Muria adivasi, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh
I don’t even know how to begin addressing a story as blindly biased in its premise as this one in the Wall Street Journal, which draws an obtuse line between loss of forest cover and land usage by adivasis, when it is land grab by industrialization that is endangering all we have left.
So I’m going to do this paragraph by paragraph.
India’s forest cover decreased by 367 square kilometers between 2007 and 2009, and it was primarily tribal and hilly regions that were to blame.
The tribal and hilly regions are the last vestiges of India’s forests. How can you blame entire regions, without casting any aspersions on institutions or practices responsible? Continue reading What the Wall Street Journal Can’t See in India’s Forests: Aruna Chandrashekhar
This statement, signed by many individuals and organisations, was released on 29 November by the CAMPAIGN FOR SURVIVAL AND DIGNITY
CONDEMN THE REPRESSION ON POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI AND THE LIKELY IMMINENT ATTACK ON THE PEACEFUL PROTESTERS OF THE AREA
The undersigned condemn the growing brutality of the state repression being unleashed against the peaceful, democratic protesters of the POSCO project area, who are only fighting for their legal and fundamental rights. This repression has reached a peak with the arrest yesterday (Friday) of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti leader Abhay Sahoo. The government’s constant announcements of its intention to start construction in the area lead us to apprehend that there will be more violence and brutality against the movement. Continue reading Statement Condemning the Repression of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
This press release was put out by the NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS on 14 November 2011
Post-facto Green signal to Phase-I of Lavasa by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) given on the November 9th is a blot on the democratic process and a shockingly dangerous precedent in the history of environmental action in India. MoEF’s improper action has infact sent shock-waves to eco-activists within the country and also across the world. Although it is not the first time in the long history of Indian Environmental clearance regime that political highhandedness has been used to subvert rule of law and the ends of justice, this case is unique since the clearance has disregarded well established evidence based on facts collected by no other than the MoEF itself. It is surprising that the Ministry’s decision has come in the wake of the case filed by the Maharashtra government against 15 persons including promoters of Lavasa Corporation for alleged violations of the Environment Protection Act (EPA), while the Maharashtra Chief Minister on the other hand has recommended that Lavasa be considered for environmental clearance, exposes the double standards of the state government. Continue reading Clean Chit to Law-Breaker Lavasa, a Blot on India’s Democracy and Environmentalism: NAPM
This release comes via the NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS
Nellore, September 18 : “Government of Andhra Pradesh has given licenses to 28 companies to establish thermal power plants with a total capacity of 32,000 MW. How can a fragile coastal zone can take up so much of ecological pressure ? Is this the way to plan the needs of electricity for development ?” asked the delegates who had come from different parts of the State and joined by eminent social activists Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Banwari Lal Sharma, Gabriele Dietrich, Sister Celia, Manoj Tyagi, Viveknanad Mathane, P Chennaiah, Ramakrishnam Raju and others. Jan Sansad was hosted by NAPM and Jana Vigyan Vedika at the premises of Nehru Yuva Kendra, Nellore. Continue reading ‘Jan Sansad demands a Development Planning Act not an Act to Facilitate Land Acquisition’
This statement about today’s events in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha, comes from the CAMPAIGN FOR SURVIVAL AND DIGNITY
Today, more than a thousand armed police besieged the gram panchayat of Dhinkia in Jagatsinghpur District of Orissa to crush the resistance to the POSCO steel plant. For the entire day thousands of people sat in the heat, where several people (including children) and even two policemen fainted. At noon the Collector declared their protest “unlawful” and subsequently loudspeakers blared threats about use of tear gas, lathi charges, “those engaging in unlawful protests being dispersed” continuously for four hours. Efforts were made to divide the protesters as well. The protesters remained firm. Eventually, perhaps afraid of the heavy media presence and unable to break the will of the people, the police withdrew. The people have left some of their number on guard, fearful of the police’s return at any time. Continue reading POSCO: Lies, Crimes and Atrocities
This 17 minutes long film won the Vasudha, Environment Award at the International Film Festival of India in Goa, 2010.
Since even the chief minister of Bengal admits that violence was used in Singur to acquire land against the wishes of farmers who owned and/or worked it, there’s virtually nobody who claims otherwise (except our favourite newspaper).
So the line that goes is that it is the state government which botched it up. If only you had allowed the Tatas to acquire land on its own, if only the land acquistion act didn’t require the Evil State to acquire the land… market forces of demand and supply would have prevailed. Continue reading Are the Tatas not to be blamed for the Singur fiasco at all?
On 14 August, leading dalit activists from Kerala protested in Pathanamthitta against the continued road blockade organised by the joint front of trade unions which claim to be fighting for the rights of plantation workers. They were prevented from proceeding to Chengara and were arrested, to be released by evening. Meanwhile, the trade unions agreed to lift the blockade by 3 at noon. They however demand that the people who have occupied the plantation should all leave in 10 days’ time, and if this does not happen, the blockade will be on again.
Press coverage has improved somewhat but not much. Even the sworn enemies of the left, like the Malayala Manorama, have kept largely silent. Not surprising, though — the Congress and others, including the interests that this newspaper represents, are patiently waiting for the LDF government to dig its own grave by provoking a Nandigram-like situation. Once the calamity begins, they will of course move in, like vultures. The Centre too of course is watching and waiting for CPM to make another big mistake.
These are strange times.There is a raging debate now on within the CPM and the LDF about the pending approval to proposed SEZs, and one of the key points of the conflict has to do with trade union presence within them.While a powerful section within the CPM wants to curtail workers’ rights within the SEZs,outside, on the road to Chengara, trade unions attack their ‘enemies’ — landless and marginalised people.
The Chengara Struggle Committee has called for protest meetings all over the State on 23 August; it has also appealed for a protective human chain around Chengara on 25 August.
If you are in Kolkata between 27 June and 2 July, you may do well to visit the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre, Kolkata, for an exhibition of photographs of Singur. There will also be a panel discussion and a film festival. Continue reading Under Development: Singur
[As reports started coming in on Wednesday of wanton killings of the local population by a combination of the state’s police forces and that dreaded being called ‘cadre’ in today’s West Bengal, the CPM lie-machine in New Delhi swung into action. Monobina Gupta, a senior journalist who has been covering the Left for almost two decades now, reports on both the press conference and the incidents that brought it forth. Our further information is that two days ago the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had called a meeting in Writers’ Building to plan out the offensive. As the report below shows, the Bengali daily, Bartaman had already predicted today’s action almost to the detail – obviously based on information that the CPM finds uncomfortable. We have also been informed that the call went out from the state CPM leadership of “Occupy and Liberate” Nandigram shortly before the cadres swung into action along with the police force. Thirty years of unbroken rule has made the state leadership belief that they can get away with anything. This time they may have miscalculated. It is also worth bearing in mind that faced with feisty women leaders like Medha Patkar and Mamata Banerjee the most disgusting colours of the CPM leadership are coming out. So if Biman Basu had gone on record saying that Mamata is behaving like a spoilt little girl (in Singur), then his comrade-in-arms Benoy Konar had done far better. He announced that women from his party’s women’s wing would “display their buttocks if Medha visited Nandigram”. We will soon be publishing Medha’s recent report after her return from Nandigram where she was actually greeted by a demonstration of buttocks – of about a hundred and fifty little Benoy Konars. Only, the women – even from his party seem to have politely refused. Some hope here – even though the top leadership of the Mahila Samity has been completely silent. Is comrade Brinda Karat listening? – AN]
For the CPM central leadership in Delhi defending police actions in Singur and Nandigram has now become a routine matter. It is left usually to Sitaram Yechury – second in command in the CPM politburo (and Rajya Sabha member) to address the media in Parliament and whitewash the whole incident.
Today was just one more of such press conferences. The CPM politburo member condemned the killings at the same time made it clear that the police had no choice other than to do what they did. “The kiilings are unfortunate. But we condemn such activities that took place even after
the West Bengal state government assured that no land will be acquired without the consent of the people.”
Continue reading Monobina Gupta on Nandigram and the CPM Whitewash
Even as the CPM general secretary Prakash Karat made his astonishing statement regarding the need for a ‘scientific’ land grab policy, his party’s totalitarian lie machine has moved into action to suppress the fact that it might be facing its Waterloo – or may we say, its Stalingrad? The lie manufacturing machine is working overtime to make it appear as though the struggle in Nandigram over the imminent acquisition of 14, 500 acres of land for a new SEZ is the outcome of mere ‘rumour mongering’ by ‘outsiders’ (The Hindu 9 January 2007). It is as though there were really no plans to that effect (though none of the leaders has yet denied this so far).
One of the sinister players here is the shadowy West Bengal CPM secretary and Left Front Chairman (sic), Biman Basu. Basu went on record saying that (a) a large number of ‘outsiders’ have been entering Nandigram [and this presumably is by itself a crime, in Basu’s language] and that the police should thus ‘investigate’ it. (b) these outsiders were “responsible for stoking fears among local villagers that they were on the verge of losing their land.” To give it a more sinister ring, Basu said: “ These people are still moving about in the Nandigram area [as though they are criminals who should have been put behind bars] and held periodic meetings at a four-storied building where social activist Medha Patkar addressed a meeting on December 3.”
Continue reading ‘Scientific’ Land Grab and the Lie-Machine