After long preparation, debate and politics, finally the Indian government launched ‘Operation Green Hunt’ (OGH) in Jharkhand on March 10 with the objective of cleansing the state of Maoists. Though P. Chidambaram, the CEO of OGH does not use the term his officers di it shamelessly. Nearly 10,000 security forces consisting of CRPF, Cobra, Jaguar, STP and other groups have been deployed in the forests, choppers are roaming over the forests, schools are converted into military camps, forests are sealed and the combing operations are being carried out in the forests with the support of local Adivasi youth who are named as Special Police Officers (SPO), duplicated from the Salwa Judum theory of Chhattisgarh.
Since, there was huge media hype on Operation Green Hunt the Maoists fled the area much before the arrival of the security forces in the region. As a result, the security forces are targeting the innocent villagers. The operation has created uncertainty, brought threat to life and seized the freedom of the villagers, mostly Adivasis, in different parts of the state. The Adivasis who live in or around the forests and depend on it for their survival, are not allowed to enter or roam in the forests, the water sources are captured, the villagers are unnecessarily harassed, children are denied their right to education and the security forces misbehave woth the women. However, the billion dollar question is, is it really an operation to hunt for the Maoists?
The OGH concept itself is questionable. Theoretically, it is ‘Operation Red Hunt’ rather than ‘Operation Green Hunt’ as the Maoists neither look green nor depend on forests for their survival. It is the Adivasis who completely depend on agro-forests (greeneries). The government has been telling us for several years that the Palamu region of Jharkhand is the most Maoist- infested area. Presently, Simdega district comes under the same category but strangely the anti-Naxal operation was first launched in the Kolhan region. Needless to say the Jharkhand government has signed the most MoUs with corporate houses for establishing mining industries, power projects and steel plants. Obviously the anti-Naxal operations are being carried out in those districts (East Singhbhum, West Singbhum, Khunti, Gumla, Bokaro, Giridih, Chatra, Latehar, Ramgarh and Hazaribagh) where either the villagers are opposing the proposed projects or the government sees as an investment corridor.
Ironically, the government of India launched another operation on March 17 in the Chotanagpur region of Jharkhand, which can be called “Operation Mineral Hunt”. According to the latest report, choppers are being engaged for conducting an aerial survey to find out the existence of minerals in the region. Both the operations are being carried out simultaneously in the region by the government of India. Secondly, just a week after OGH was flagged off, the world’s second largest steel company POSCO announced shifting of its proposed 12 MT steel project from Orissa to Jharkhand, where it will invest Rs. 54,000 crore in a joint venture with SAIL in Bokaro. POSCO will have 60 per cent share and would get the Chiria Mines (2,000 MT reserve) easily for which the Arcellor Mittal Company was also bargaining hard.
The Chief Ministers of the so-called Red Corridor states are attending a series of meetings with P. Chidambarm on OGH on one hand and with the corporate houses for investment on the other. Of course, there is an investment competition going on among several states as the present era of development is measured on the basis of investment. Now the decline of hunger, illiteracy and malnutrition does not matter for the state. Therefore, one has every reason to believe that the so-called OGH is to clear the Adivasis' and other local settlers' lands for the corporate houses rather than to cleanse the region of Maoists.
Of course, the state is essentially batting for the corporate houses in the name of the Maoists and instead of creating peace the government is creating insecurity in the region. The Adivasis are in a state of uncertainty because of the way they have been treated in the country despite being the indigenous people. They always live peacefully and pay the heavy price for the development of the nation. The Adivasis are not against development but they don't want the foundation of development to be laid over their graves. In the present circumstances, the Adivasis are being targeted in each and every corner. They are the victims of both Maoist and state violence.
After kidnapping of Dhalmugarh BDO Prasant Kumar Layak, the Maoists had demanded release of innocent villagers from the jail. In response to their demand, Zonal Inspector General of Police Regi Dungdung publicly announced that the police have inflicted false cases against innocent villagers. Jasmi Mardi and Bahadur Mardi of Gurabandh village of Ghatshila were found innocent after reviewing their cases and released. Ironically, earlier, the police had portrayed them as Maoists, thrown them behind the bars and charged them under the sections 302, 120b, 349 of IPC, 27 of Arms Act and 17 CLA Act. The question is how can an innocent person be charged with such serious criminal acts? The Chief Minister also acknowledged that many innocent people were put in jail after branding them as Maoists.
The country faced a series of terrorist attacks, including the attacks on Parliament, Akshardham, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and 26/11. Our corporate Home Minister has now a different view of Jehadi terrorists. His latest discovery is that ‘Maoists are more dangerous than the Jehadi terrorists for the country’. The UPA government, therefore, wants to eliminate the Maoists before the completion of its present term. Of course, one can understand his position. The Jehadi terrorists have nothing to do with the minerals but the Maoists are very much associated with it. National and multinational companies are eying them but they are not able to establish their projects in the Red Corridor due to the people’s protests. The Maoists never hesitate to take credit for this. That is the main reason why the India government is ready to go in for unconditional talk with Pakistan but wants to eliminate the Maoists rather than go in for peace talks with them. It proposes a pre-condition peace talks with the Maoists to mislead the people.
Perhaps, history suggests that the Adivasi-dominated areas were never a matter of concern for the Indian state. fter liberalization these areas were identified as the haven for investment and projected as the mineral corridor. Meanwhile, the Indian state attempted to convert these areas into a corporate corridor by allowing the corporate sharks to enter. In 2005, the Indian government brought a legislation for establishment of the corporate corridor, which is called the ‘Special Economic Zone’ (SEZ) but it could not implementat the Act fully due to the mass protests. Finally, these areas were named Red Corridor so that the state can use the power of gun to convert it into Corporate Corridor. Licensed killings are very much welcomed, appreciated and even rewarded in our democratic setup.
The issue of Naxalism is four decades old. It emerged in the 1970s but the Indian state was not much concerned about it. When villagers stoned former Union Fertilizer Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and West Bengal Chief Minister Budhdev Bhattacharjee while they were returning from Bhumi Pujan (inauguration) of Jindal’s project in Midnapore district of West Bengal in 2008, the issue of Naxalism was brought to the centrestage. Finally, joint operations were called to cleanse the country of Maoists projecting them as the biggest security threat to the nation.
Operation Green Hunt is a license to kill the Adivasis who oppose the unjust development process, protest against state suppression and are determined to protect their heritage. It wants to transform the Adivasi lands into the corporate corridor, where corporate sharks will swallow the minerals and produce money for the country, making India a superpower with the blood of the Adivasis and other local settlers. All three economists, Montek Sigh Ahluwalia, Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram, are working towards Vision 2020 and they would do anything for it.
The India state sees the Maoists as a severe threat to the investment climate rather than a security threat to the nation. Our ruling elites want to suppress, shoot and bury the dissenting voice. They are more worried about the corporate houses than the communities, they are more concerned about GDP growth than feeding the country’s hungry people and they are more worried about the investment climate than the impact of the climate change. Those who are confused about Operation Green Hunt must realize at least now that it is not an operation to cleanse the country of Maoists but a hunt for minerals for the corporate sharks. It is Operation Mineral Hunt, my friends.
Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org