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29 October, 2009

Opposition to use of armed forces against citizens

A group of Human Rights defenders is collecting signatures for a statement voicing opposition to the use of armed forces against insurgents. Those who wish to endorse the statement may kindly communicate their support to the group at by October 30.


We have read about moves to use the Air Force, assisted by ISRO satellite imagery, for so-called surgical strikes against CPI (Maoist) centres, situated among tribal habitats in the jungles of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. This is a matter of great alarm. The murderous impact of such aerial attacks on civilians, despite all claims to the contrary, is well documented in all its horrors in every instance, be it Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka or Pakistan. Though the Prime Minister has stated that the Air Force won't be used in offensive actions, this is hardly reassuring. There is already a long record of using the armed forces against internal uprisings and movements in the North-East and Kashmir, with numerous instances of gross human rights violations. The immunity it enjoys under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has made this doubly oppressive.

Whatever may be one's views on the activities of the CPI (Maoist), it is undeniably a political movement enjoying wide support among the people of these regions, overwhelmingly Adivasis living in utter poverty. Even the government admits these socio-economic-political dimensions. It is then imperative that the issue be addressed politically and not as a mere law and order issue.

We appeal to all to raise their voices and demand that the government step back from the disastrous course it is taking. The horrors inflicted on the Adivasi people by the state inspired Salwa Judum, condemned by the Supreme Court itself, are still fresh in our minds. We cannot stand silent while even more horrendous atrocities are being prepared; when the government is heading towards a war against its own people. This irony sears our minds --the last time a political movement in India had to face aerial attacks from the British colonialists--in Medinipur during the 1942 Quit India Movement.

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