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.
Report produced by PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
Between December 26th and 31st 2014, a PUDR fact-finding team visited 9 villages of Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh to ascertain reports of arrests, intimidation and harassment, including sexual abuse by security forces who are stationed there to fight the Maoists. Predominantly Adivasi villages, the residents of Basaguda, Kottaguda, Pusbaka, Lingagiri, Rajpeta, Timmapur, Kottagudem, Korsaguda and Sarkeguda, narrated the daily acts of violence and violations committed by armed personnel residing in security camps. Apart from documenting the continuance of ‘area domination’ by the security forces, the report draws particular attention to:
The large number of ‘permanent warrants’ issued against the populace, of which a significant number is declared as ‘absconders’. A rough estimate indicates that as many as 15-35,000 people live under the threat and fear of these warrants in Bijapur alone.
The lawless conduct of the armed personnel and Special Police Officers (SPOs) who routinely raid, beat, loot, detain and compel the Adivasi villagers to perform ‘begar’ (free labour) at the security camps. Instances of sexual torture were also noted.
Secularism and socialism can be thrown out, so saysthe Hindutvavadi. Among those who protested against this suggestion were, of course, the Congress. But then, increasingly, many of us who live in Congress-ruled Kerala are unable to tell the Congress from the BJP as they have thrown out not just secularism and socialism but even minimal forms of liberalism. For our rulers seem as adamant as the BJP in forcing down our throats at least a softer version of Hindutva, reinforced with protection to shameless plunder of public resources and repressive police measures. Now young people and activists in Kerala, many of who were active in many protests including the Kiss Protests, are being pursued and hounded by the police. Apparently, a few people who participated in the latest edition of the Kiss Protests, the Lovefest, were hounded by the police for having been seen in the vicinity of a police station repeatedly! The most convenient excuse is pursuing the Maoists, a fear that is easily excited in our fattened and lazy middle classes. By the way, I am actively considering saving some money by ending my subscriptions to newspapers. In fact it is not being on FB which makes me feel out of touch with the world these days. Two leading human rights activists, Thushar Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, have been arrested and the papers are busy covering that shameful and utterly criminal waste of our common resources, the opening ceremony of the National games.
I am not surprised at all, having been an observer of local politics. In Kerala, after the Left-Right differences in politics came to an end, what we have seen is the transformation of our politics into a neofeudal space inhabited by powerful male leaders and their craven followers vying for power. Because the discourse of social development still lingers and the oppositional civil society has not yet given up, entry of predatory capital from national or global sources has not been easy. However, a whole generation of NRI — Malayali –capitalists based in the Gulf countries who essentially manage the wealth of the rulers there have been able to enter Kerala unimpeded.It is this group which is increasingly taking over our resources in overt and covert ways, legally and illegally. These capitalists themselves are interesting — their transnational belonging needs to be studied. They have apparently managed to become part of the non-democratic political systems in the Gulf countries, entering the lower levels of the court there, as juniors who help manage the rulers’ wealth. And from that position of strength, they now work to systematically undermine everything that Malayalis hold dear : our welfarist democracy, social development achievements, our rich ecology.Continue reading Murdering Democracy in Kerala : the Latest→
Are we living in a democratic dictatorship? ‘Democratic dictatorship’ is a much debated concept in Kerala. I am referring not to that here but to the dictatorship of the executive led by democratically-elected politicians. Recent incidents seem to indicate that this is now an ever-growing tendency in our democracy.
A few months back, a notice with the photos of well-known public figures, which identified them as Maoists, appeared in the Mananthavady police station at Wayanad. These were pictures of senior, very well-known activists who have fought battles for democracy in Kerala. Following widespread protests, the police was forced to remove the notice. On 28th July this year, Jonathan Baud, a Swiss citizen was arrested by Valappad police for attending a commemoration meeting of a Maoist leader, Sinoj, who died in an accidental explosion at the forested Kerala- Karnataka border. Mr Baud was in India on a tourist visa. His arrest was big news in the media which had happily swallowed policespeak, and so he was also projected as a Maoist. The reports claimed that he had come here with the express purpose of attending the meeting, and that he delivered a solidarity speech there. Later, when the Commemoration Committee made public its own version of events, the police sensationalism was refuted and had to be withdrawn. The charge against Mr Baud are apparently limited to violation of visa conditions and it was admitted that he had no Maoist links. Continue reading Creeping Dictatorship: Concerns from Kerala→
From time to time in the history of every nation there emerges a maverick force that collapses the existing system by taking its logic to the extremes. Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party are precisely that, a ‘wild card’ in Indian politics, threatening to turn it upside down in ways no one could have imagined before.
Ever since they were born out of the throes of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, a couple of years ago, everyone has tried to slot the AAP in the regular political categories of right, left and center. Some have dubbed the Aam Aadmi Party as the ‘new Congress’ and others as the ‘B Team’ of the BJP. Supporters of the party have hailed its leader Arvind Kejriwal as a ‘modern day Gandhi’ while one opponent has intriguingly called his party ‘right wing Maoists’! Continue reading Aam Aadmi, Khaas Politics: Satya Sagar→
Notwithstanding the opposition of many Adivasi organizations and progressive forces, the government of Kerala appears bent on moving forward with its project of recruiting Adivasis as home guards, paying them Rs.500 per day, to take on the Maoist guerrillas allegedly active in the Western Ghats. It is obvious that the state government is not learning lessons from the Salwa Judum experience in Central India and is bent on making Adivasis scapegoats in its impending showdown with the Maoists. Continue reading Adivasis of Kerala: Citizens or Cannon fodder?→
This statement was put outby the PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES on 26 May, and the one below it on 25 May by PUCL’s Chhattisgarh unit
PUCL Condemns Killings of Congress Party leaders, their PSOs and Ordinary Villagers by Maoists in Dharba Ghati of Sukma District, Chhattisgarh
The PUCL strongly condemns the ambush of a Congress party election cavalcade by the dalam of the CPI(Maoist) party at Dharba Ghati area in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Saturday, 25th May, 2013, resulting in the death of 28 people including Congress party leaders, their personal security officers and ordinary villagers of the area. PUCL denounces as totally unacceptable, the abduction, kidnapping and subsequent killing in cold blood of the Congress party President of Chhattisgarh, NK Patel, and his son Dinesh. The Maoists also killed Mahendra Karma, the founder of the dreaded Salwa Judum, and his security guards. Continue reading PUCL statement condemning the Maoist massacre in Darbha Valley→
We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the horrific massacre of leaders and workers of the Congress Party and the security forces accompanying them, carried out by the CPI(Maoist) in Chhattisgarh on Saturday. We also wish to express our deepest condolences to the families of all those killed in the convoy of Congressmen returning from an election rally at Sukma in Bastar dtrict.
The killing of senior state Congress leaders and their cadre is particularly barbaric and reprehensible as they had, in the course of the Maoist ambush, become captives or had surrendered voluntarily. This is tantamount to cold-blooded murder of prisoners in custody, an act that goes against all norms even in a state of civil or international war. The targeting of a political party in this fashion by the Maoists is also highly disturbing. Continue reading Statement condemning the Maoist politics of murder Chhattisgarh→
“Let us declare that the state of war does exist and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites.” Those are not the words of a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), though the film has that too. These words are of Bhagat Singh, revolutionary freedom fighter who has today been appropriated by everybody for their own purposes.
The most remarkable thing about Sanjay Kak’s new film Red Ant Dream is Punjab. Occupying more than a third of the film, its use of the revolutionary sentiment in today’s Punjab takes forward the debate on the Maoist and other resistance movements in India. Instead of getting into the debates around the Maoist movement in central India, the film makes for a powerful document of the how and why the revolutionary ideal lives in India 2013. Continue reading Let us declare that a state of war exists→
Himanshu Kumar is a Gandhian activist who, together with his wife, ran the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh for 22 years. He learned the local adivasi language (Gondi) and worked through the Ashram to help adivasis access their rights under the law. Starting in 2005, during the murderous Salwa Judum campaigns of vigilante groups against the adivasis of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, Himanshu worked to try to get villagers back to their homes, get people falsely accused out of jail, and win justice for the victims of police and vigilante crimes. His Ashram was eventually bulldozed and he was forced to move to Delhi, from where he continues to try to follow up with legal cases on the state’s treatment of the adivasis. JUSTIN PODUR interviewed him there in February 2013.
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→
A Controller and Auditor General (CAG) report tabled recently in Jharkhand Assembly says most of Jharkhand jails are housing prisoners beyond their capacity by the end of 2010. Significantly, the most crowded jails are in Garwa, Latehar and Simdega districts where anti-naxalite operations by police and para-military forces are on. The basic question to ask is: are Jharkhandi adivasis & moolvasis increasingly taking to crimes or is the society labeling them criminals.
There are three basis on which young rural adivasi men & women are arrested: Continue reading Free the innocent undertrials and Jharkhand’s jails won’t be overcrowded: Stan Swamy→
Hello folks! I need your help and hence this appeal to all of you!
I have been a journalist for a long time but never managed to write a full book on my own all these days. One reputed publisher has now approached me to write a book about the Maoists and I am very excited about it. The publisher thinks that the Maoists are a very ‘sexy’ topic and I should write about them because as a veteran journalist I am qualified to write on anything under the sun.
Let me give you some background. Basically publishers have figured out there seems to be lots of money in printing anything penned by an Indian writer. Novels, plays, travelogues, diaries, memoirs, collections of old essays, homework notes from school, whatever- because the entire world is willing to read anything written by Indians. It seems people around the planet had assumed all these decadesthat Indians were completely illiterate and now that has been finally proven untrue they want to read EVERYTHING they write. Continue reading Mowgli meets the Maoists: Satya Sagar→
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.”
(Nepal’s Prime Minister, Dr BABURAM BHATTARAI, visited India in his first bilateral trip since taking office, in the third week of October. Bhattarai spoke at the Jawaharlal University, Delhi, where he had earned his PhD from the Centre for Study of Regional Development, about the political evolution in Nepal, particularly after the 1990 and 2006 movements as seen through the prism of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
Before beginning his substantive speech, he declared, “I am what I am because of JNU,” amidst thundering applause and cries of Lal Salaam.
Update: A Day after the publication of this post, Tehelka changed the status of Essar from “Principal Sponsor” to merely one of several “patrons” on the Goa ThinkFest website.
Guest post byBOBBY KUNHU
Without doubt, one of the most important documents to make its appearance after the arrest of Soni Sori by the Chattisgarh Government in Delhi on 4th October 2011 was the cover story titled, “The inconvenient truth of Soni Sori” that appeared in Tehelka, written by Shoma Chaudhary. It tells the story of Soni Sori and her nephew Linga Kodopi as narrated to Tehelka and the sequence of events that led to their persecution.
Nonetheless there is an intriguing twist to how this story was framed. The introduction of the story goes: “Why were two tribals and the Essar group framed by the Chhattisgarh police? Why are Soni Sori and Linga Kodopi being systematically silenced? This chilling story of one family reveals more about India’s Naxal crisis than any official document can.”
In other words, Tehelka is arguing that Essar is also being framed in this narrative along with Soni Sori and Linga Kodopi.
Civil society, including human rights groups, in Bengal are now divided on Mamata Banerjee government’s ‘open and hidden’ conditions regarding the release of political prisoners who have been jailed during the Left front rule as well as talks with Maoists and Maoist-backed Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities in Bengal’s tribal hinterland, known as Junglemahal.
Mamata and her ministers have rejected the demands for unconditional release of all political prisoners, immediate withdrawal of joint forces from Junglemahal and public announcement on non-enforcement of the draconian central law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Maoists and PCPA have accused Mamata of eating up her pre-poll words on those demands. A large section in the human rights movement including the intellectuals and activists who actively joined the Mamata-led campaign for regime-change now supported these demands. But some of their fellow travellers have differed on political and legal grounds.
The differences revealed contradictions between the pre-poll and post-poll positions of Mamata as well as chinks in the armour of human rights groups on the attitude to the new government, Maoists and PCPA. Tension among all the stakeholders in the process— Mamata, Maoists, human rights groups and individuals— was well-known within the concerned circles for quite some time. But none of the stakeholders dwelt on it in public before the assembly polls when they had made common cause against the CPM, particularly, the atrocities by CPM-joint forces combine.
I would like to dwell on post-poll dilemmas and fissures in the pro-Paribartan civil society in Bengal later. But this piece is primarily aimed at reporting the increasing manifestations of the hitherto latent tension.
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’)
[An edited version of this review has appeared in Biblio.]
The Absent State: Insurgency as an Excuse for Misgovernance
by Neelesh Misra and Rahul Pandita
Hachette India, 2010
272 pages, 495 Rs
Indian journalists have written books on conflict as diaries of their years of reportage, putting together their stories and experiences. The task of looking at conflicts with a broader perspective has been left to the security experts who mostly write from, well, a security ‘angle’. It is great, then, to see a book by two journalists, on the conflicts in Kashmir, the north-east and the Maoist belt. Journalists won’t give you footnotes but at least they can write lucid prose. Continue reading The Present of the Absent State→
So you’ve been following the Binayak Sen case. What now? What are the aspects and implications of the case to consider now that he is out on bail?
Here are a few that come to my mind. Your mileage may vary.
*The suspicious things Sen is supposed to have done. For example, you have heard often that Sen visited Narayan Sanyal in jail multiple times. Why, you ask. Whatever the reason, think of this: In 2006, before the first time (and indeed before each subsequent time), he wrote to the Raipur Jail Superintendent asking for permission to visit Sanyal. After this request made its way through the police bureaucracy, senior police officials in Raipur wrote to the same Superintendent saying “Central Jail Raipur mein bandi Narayan Sanyal se bhent karne ke liye Dr. Binayak Sen jaata hai to is karyalay ko koi aapatti nahin hai.” (“This department has no objection if Dr. Binayak Sen goes to meet Narayan Sanyal who is detained in Central
If the police had no objection to the visits “at the time”, why was this later an issue at all? Why have learned commenters made so much of this, hinting at dark things Sen must have been doing? One example, note how the author of the ‘report’ says “Admittedly, the meetings took place with prior permission from jail officials”, but has let stand the implication that there was something dark going on).
On Friday morning, when I started for the Supreme Court to attend the bail hearing of Dr. Binayak Sen, like many of our friends and comrades I was not sure of whether he would be granted bail. I was afraid that the case would be adjourned once again, as many of us who are regular visitors of courts expect, aware of the delaying tactics of government counsels, and the history of tareekh par tareekh. Kavita Srivastava, who has been following the case closely and campaigning tirelessly for Binayak’s release along with others, put the spirit back in me. It couldn’t get any worse, she said.
Fortunately, it turned out to be a good Friday. I was happy, as were my friends and comrades. We wanted to scream out of joy and happiness but we restrained ourselves for we were in the court premises and could be booked for ‘contempt of the Court’. Naturally, it was one of the happiest moments our life. Binayak and Ilinia a source of inspiration for hundreds of students and youth like me. I am happy for Binayak, for his family, especially for his mother, for ordinary (read extra-ordinary) people of Chattisgarh and for thousands of his supporters and justice loving people. Continue reading Chidambaram khush hua: Mahtab Alam→