MEDIA PRAXIS / The Verdict
A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies. (Manifesto of the Communist Party: 1848)
Now, again a spectre is haunting. The region is Indian sub-continent and the spectre is of people’s movements. All the exploitative powers in the Indian sub-continent have come together to pulverize the resistance movements.
movements soaked in anger against the usurious usurpation of forests, hills, rivers and ocean waters, movements voicing protest against the destruction of the livelihood and autocratic attempts to transmogrify lives into that of zombies trapped in internal diasporia in alienation saturated heterotopias-- are simmering and glimmering and igniting fire in the minds of the oppressed people across the country.
Roiling with contained anger at the revisiting of colonial history with a new face, the deep hinterlands of the Indian sub-continent is once again witnessing the explosion and implosion not seen since late Sixties when the peasants and tribal uprising shook the entire Indian peninsula.
Spontaneous and peaceful in nature with stray incidents of a cornered-retaliatory violence- the movements like in the Sixties when the sub-human conditions of tribal folks and landless labourers came to fore following the revolt, at the dawn of the new millennium the protests are revealing the rapacious Medusa locks of corporate greed.
The result-even as the wild life on land, air and sea are fast disappearing from the country - the Indian State in a bid to keep the memories of the creatures of the wild alive and as an apology to Nature, are churning out forces like-Octopus, Cobras, Scorpions, Tigers (with green stripes) Cats of all hues and shades, Grey Hounds, Mastiffs, Wolves, Vipers, Black Mamba etc.
If by any chance the Indian Home Ministry exhausts the zoological who’s who in their war against the people’s resistance, then the readers and viewers of the corporate establishment media may soon read and hear eulogised announcements of forces with names like Vampires, Draculas, Aadamkhors-all with a sole purpose- to crush people’s movements and usurp the land, rivers and oceans, for corporate houses.
After all there is gold in the hills and pearls of profits in water. Indian sub-continent is witnessing what the American sub-continent witnessed in 19th century-the Gold Rush. The country is the 21st century El Dorado for the western world and their Indian lackeys. And like in the past when the imperialist forces decimated the American natives, the history is being re-enacted in India.
Describing the devastation during the Gold Rush, Rawls, James J. and Orsi, Richard J. in their book “A golden state: mining and economic development in Gold Rush California,” write, “The human and environmental costs of the Gold Rush were substantial. Native Americans dependent on the health and bounty of the natural environment, became the victims of starvation and disease when it suffered from the effects of placer mining (or the later, even more damaging, hydraulic mining), as gravel, silt and toxic chemicals from prospecting operations killed fish and destroyed habitats. The surge of mining population also resulted in the disappearance of game and food gathering locales as gold camps and other settlements were built amidst them, causing the forests to be cut down and domestic animals put to graze on the land. Later farming spread to supply the camps, taking more land from the use of Native Americans. Starvation often provoked the Native tribes to steal or take by force food and livestock from the whites, increasing white hostility and provoking retaliation against them.
“The Act for the Government and Protection of Indians passed on April 22, 1850 by the California Legislature, allowed settlers to continue the Californio practice of capturing and using Native people as bonded workers. It also provided the basis for the enslavement and trafficking in Native American labor, particularly that of young women and children, which was carried on as a legal business enterprise. Native American villages were regularly raided to supply the demand, and young women and children were carried off to be sold, the men and remaining people often being killed in genocidal attacks.” The same dance of death reduced the African continent from lush green land of plentiful to a bleached, gnarled bones, with its people now dying in hunger and women opening their legs for a loaf of bread to feed their children and themselves.
The countries in this continent, reduced to the darkest darkness of a black hole, emerge at the dawn only to disappear in the twilight of gun fires; and this blood-soaked melee of power, hunger and survival rake in profits for the corporate dictators strutting around as peddlers of “democracy and development.”
The same screenplay is being played out in Indian sub-continent. Not that Indian sub-continent had not seen the imperialist invasion and greed earlier, but then the battle-lines were not so obfuscated, as it is now. The script that is being played out in the forests is more insidious.
The forested regions are home to some of the oldest communities of India, described variously as adivasi (aboriginal), vanvasi (forest dwellers), girijan (people of the hills) and after the transfer of power in 1947, the Indian constitution under a façade of benevolence brought them under a collective name of “Scheduled Tribes.”
What the powers of the State had forgotten is the history of struggle and resistance by tribes who are no strangers to displacement. The Godavari hills still reverberate with the sound of the drums when tribes of Koya and Reddy opposed the British colonial oppression.
Similarly, for the Santhal resistance, a British officer remarked in his journal: “The one piece of equipment they did not have among their meagre possessions was a white flag.”
The scene today is also the same. Raising the white flag is not an option for the Chenchu of the southern Tiger Hills, the Gond of the central Adilabad, the Gadrchiroli, the Moraya and Dorla Koya of Chhattisgarh, or the Dongri Khond of Orissa who lead a simple life not very different from their stone-age ancestors.
Though overtly there seems to be nothing that would attract the predators from the corporate houses, but then like in the 19th century American continent, or in Africa, the adivasis are sitting on a cornucopia which they can jingle their insatiable money vaults.
According to a research report, “a conservative list includes bauxite in Orissa, Iron ore in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states, and deposits of uranium, limestone, marble, dolomite, tin, graphite, copper, gold, diamonds, corundum, beryl, alexandrite and fluorite, and possibly coal in addition to teak, hardwood, bamboo, waters of several rivers, wildlife and fish. The bauxite deposits alone have been estimated to be worth between US$2-4 trillion. “
This El Dorado which the pirates from the multinationals are eyeing, stretches approximately 10,000 kilometres encompassing uncharted dense forests known locally as Abhujmad (unknown forests) cutting across states like Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
And in the language of the government, the corporate establishment media and self-proclaimed “security” experts, the stretch is the “red corridor”, “red zone” or “Maoist stronghold”.
Of course, the tribes are not the only one who inhabit this stretch, along with them living on the fringes are petty traders, police and forest departments and guerrillas termed as “Naxalites”, “extremists”, “Maoists” or the self-described armed squads of the Communist party of India-Maoist.
The Maoist party, which is one of the biggest factions of the so-called Naxalite parties, is reportedly known for sabotage activities, arbitrary violence, sometimes amounting to barbaric brutality.
But for the State this brand of Naxalism has come as a boon and a bogey to launch a war against the tribes, ironically under the name Operation Green Hunt. A hunt to throw out the natives from the forests and hand it over to the corporate for ravaging and pillaging.
The scale of pillaging operations can be seen from the fact that a small state like Jharkhand has signed 90 memorandum of understanding (MoU) with various big plundering houses. The now tainted chief minister of the state once lauded by the corporate media, was found in possession of 1 billion $. Till date no enquires have been made as to who were the beneficiaries who paid these monies.
With Operation Green Hunt being planned as long drawn protracted armed campaign, every vested interest in the region wants to perpetuate the violence and since such armed conflict grants enormous powers to extract bribes shady activities like poaching and logging has abounded.
The State in its indifference to environment or the natives want to install power plants, open cast mines, highways, airstrips and of course generate employment for the tribal folk as measly-paid security guards or sweat shop workers and prop up some of the folk as quisling collaborators.
But not everybody wants to be a quisling collaborator. Struggles in Nandigram, Singur, Plachimada and other places have shown that people’s resistance call them Naxalism or by any other name, cannot be suppressed and it is this spectre which is haunting the State and Corporate predators alike in the post-recession period since even the uneasy squeamish urban populace is fast losing faith in the Friedman economics.
Prabhat Sharan is a Senior Journalist and Editor of MEDIA PRAXIS a monthly magazine published from Mumbai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org