New on my other blogs

"Gandhi is dead, Who is now Mahatmaji?"
Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen


29 April, 2010

Man reported living without food for 70 years!

Sky News says Indian doctors are studying the case of Prahlad Jani, an 83-year-old holy man in Ahmedabad who has been living without food for seven decades.

The source of the report is not clear.

I had worked in Ahmedabad as a news agency correspondent during 1966-68. If the report is correct, Prahlad Jani must have been living without for more than 25 years already. But I did not hear of him and his feat.

During that period a couple of cases of elderly devout Jains inviting death by going on indefinite fast were reported. But I did not come across any mention of this holy man in the local media.

Earlier in my professional career I had come across the case of Dhanalakshmi, a teenaged girl of Coorg (Kodagu) who was reportedly managing without food. The story was broken by The Hindu’s Mercara (Madikeri) correspondent and picked up by national and foreign media.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked the Bangalore Medical College to study the case of Dhanalakshmi, whom the media had dubbed the Wonder Girl of Coorg. After a few days doctors reported that her brother was caught trying to smuggle food into her hospital room.

Here’s the Sky News report reproduced by Yahoo! News

Also reproduced are archival material about the Dhanalakshmi case:

Time magazine report

A follow-up report published by The Hindu

Indigenous peoples assert their rights and Mother Earth's

The following is the Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples of the World adopted at World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held at Tiquipaya, Bolivia, from April 19 to 22, 2010:

Mother Earth can live without us, but we can’t live without her

We, the Indigenous Peoples, nations and organizations from all over the world, gathered at the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, from April 19th to 22nd, 2010 in Tiquipaya, Cochabamba, Bolivia, after extensive discussions, express the following:

We Indigenous Peoples are sons and daughters of Mother Earth, or “Pachamama” in Quechua. Mother Earth is a living being in the universe that concentrates energy and life, while giving shelter and life to all without asking anything in return, she is the past, present and future; this is our relationship with Mother Earth. We have lived in coexistence with her for thousands of years, with our wisdom and cosmic spirituality linked to nature. However, the economic models promoted and forced by industrialized countries that promote exploitation and wealth accumulation have radically transformed our relationship with Mother Earth. We must assert that climate change is one of the consequences of this irrational logic of life that we must change.

The aggression towards Mother Earth and the repeated assaults and violations against our soils, air, forests, rivers, lakes, biodiversity, and the cosmos are assaults against us. Before, we used to ask for permission for everything. Now, coming from developed countries, it is presumed that Mother Earth must ask us for permission. Our territories are not respected, particularly those of peoples in voluntary isolation or initial contact, and we suffer the most terrible aggression since colonization only to facilitate the entry of markets and extractive industries.

We recognize that Indigenous Peoples and the rest of the world live in a general age of crises: environmental, energy, food, financial, ethical, among others, as a consequence of policies and attitudes from racist and exclusionary states.

We want to convey that at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, the peoples of the world demanded fair treatment, but were repressed. Meanwhile the states responsible for the climate crisis were able to weaken even more any possible outcome of negotiations and evade signing onto any binding agreement. They limited themselves to simply supporting the Copenhagen Accord, an accord that proposes unacceptable and insufficient goals as far as climate change action and financing to the most affected countries and peoples.

We affirm that international negotiation spaces have systematically excluded the participation of Indigenous Peoples. As a result, we as Indigenous Peoples are making ourselves visible in these spaces, because as Mother Earth has been hurt and plundered, with negative activities taking place on our lands, territories and natural resources, we have also been hurt. This is why as Indigenous Peoples we will not keep silent, but instead we propose to mobilize all our peoples to arrive at COP16 in Mexico and other spaces well prepared and united to defend our proposals, particularly the “living well” and plurinational state proposals. We, Indigenous Peoples, do not want to live “better”, but instead we believe that everyone must live well. This is a proposal to achieve balance and start to construct a new society.

The search for common objectives, as history shows us, will only be completed with the union of Indigenous Peoples of the World. The ancestral and indigenous roots shared by the whole world must be one of the bonds that unite us to achieve one unique objective.

Therefore we propose, require and demand:

1. The recovery, revalidation and strengthening of our civilizations, identities, cultures and cosmovisions based on ancient and ancestral Indigenous knowledge and wisdom for the construction of alternative ways of life to the current "development model", as a way to confront climate change.

2. To rescue and strengthen the Indigenous proposal of “living well”, while also recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with whom we have an indivisible and interdependent relationship, based on principles and mechanisms that assure the respect, harmony, and balance between people and nature, and supporting a society based on social and environmental justice, which sees life as its purpose. All this must be done to confront the plundering capitalist model and guarantee the protection of life as a whole, through the search for inclusive global agreements.

3. We demand States to recognize, respect and guarantee the application of international standards of human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights (i.e., The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ILO Convention 169) in the framework of negotiations, policies, and measures to confront climate change.

4. We demand States to legally recognize the pre-existence of our right to the lands, territories, and natural resources that we have traditionally held as Indigenous Peoples and Nations, as well as restitution and restoration of natural goods, water, forests and jungles, lakes, oceans, sacred places, lands, and territories that have been dispossessed and seized. This is needed to strengthen and make possible our traditional way of living while contributing effectively to climate change solutions. Inasmuch, we call for the consolidation of indigenous territories in exercise of our self-determination and autonomy, in conformity with systems of rules and regulations. At the same time we demand that states respect the territorial rights of Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation or in initial contact, as an effective way to preserve their integrity and combat the adverse effects of climate change towards those peoples.

5. We call on States not to promote commercial monoculture practices, nor to introduce or promote genetically modified and exotic crops, because according to our people’s wisdom, these species aggravate the degradation of jungles, forests and soils, contributing to the increase in global warming. Likewise, megaprojects under the search for alternative energy sources that affect Indigenous Peoples’ lands, territories, and natural habitats should not be implemented, including nuclear, bioengineering, hydroelectric, wind-power and others.

6. We demand changes to forestry and environmental laws, as well as the application of pertinent international instruments to effectively protect forests and jungles, as well as their biological and cultural diversity, guaranteeing Indigenous Peoples’ rights, including their participation and their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.

7. We propose that, in the framework of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, states establish a policy that Protected Natural Areas must be managed, administered and controlled directly by Indigenous Peoples, taking into account the demonstrated traditional experience and knowledge towards the sustainable management of the biodiversity in our forests and jungles.

8. We demand a review, or if the case warrants, a moratorium, to every polluting activity that affects Mother Earth, and the withdrawal of multinational corporations and megaprojects from Indigenous territories.

9. We urge that states recognize water as a fundamental human right, avoiding its privatization and commodification.

10. We demand the application of consultations, participation, and the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and affected populations in the design and implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures and any other intervening actions on Indigenous territories.

11. States must promote mechanisms to guarantee that funding for climate change action arrives directly and effectively to Indigenous Peoples, as part of the compensation for the historical and ecological debt owed. This funding must support and strengthen our own visions and cosmovisions towards “living well”.

12. We call for the recovery, revalidation and strengthening of Indigenous Peoples’ technologies and knowledge, and for their incorporation into the research, design and implementation of climate change policies. This should compliment Western knowledge and technology, ensuring that technology transfer processes do not weaken indigenous knowledge and technologies.

13. We propose the recovery, development and diffusion of indigenous knowledge and technology through the implementation of educational policies and programs, including the modification and incorporation of such knowledge and ancestral wisdom in curricula and teaching methods.

14. We urge States and international bodies that are making decisions about climate change, especially the UNFCCC, to establish formal structures and mechanisms that include the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples. They must also include local communities and vulnerable groups, including women, without discrimination, as a key element to obtain a fair and equitable result from climate change negotiations.

15. We join in the demand to create a Climate Justice Tribunal that would be able to pass judgement and establish penalties for non-compliance of agreements, and other environmental crimes by developed countries, which are primarily responsible for climate change. This institution must consider the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples, and their principles of justice.

16. We propose the organization and coordination of Indigenous Peoples worldwide, through our local, national, regional, and international governments, organizations, and other mechanisms of legitimate representation, in order to participate in all climate change related processes. With that in mind, we call for an organizational space to be created that will contribute to the global search for effective solutions to climate change, with the special participation of Elders.

17. We propose to fight in all spaces available to defend life and Mother Earth, particularly in COP16, and so we propose a 2nd Peoples’ Conference to strengthen the process of reflection and action.

18. The ratification of the global campaign to organize the World March in defence of Mother Earth and her peoples, against the commodification of life, pollution, and the criminalization of Indigenous and social movements.

28 April, 2010

Nepal Maoists call indefinite strike to force political change

Nepal'sMaoists have announced an indefinite strike from May 2 if the ruling parties don´t come around to their agenda of a national government and drafting a people´s constitution.

Maoist Chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal declared the infinite strike amidst an interaction programme with media persons at Hotel Yak and Yeti on April 26. The party has set the deadline of May 1, the day of the party´s proposed mass urban-centric demonstrations, to meet their demands.

"Taking into account the whole political scenario and background, our party has reached a conclusion that massive pressure and intervention of the people is essential to safeguard national independence and people´s supremacy and for peace and constitution-drafting," Dahal said. However, the Maoist chairman said his party would remain open for talks with the ruling parties.

According to him, thousands of party volunteers would be mobilized from May 1 in the major cities to make the "third Mass Movement" peaceful, and warned that the government would be responsible for any untoward incident if demonstrations are suppressed though violent tactics.

Dahal also denied reports that his party has been training its cadres in urban warfare tactics. "They were trained to manage the massive demonstrations," he said, "We absolutely dismiss the propaganda that they were being trained in military skills." There are news reports and pictures about the Maoists training their cadres with khukuris and sticks at camps in various districts, and that they would be at the forefront of the Maoist demonstrations.

He claimed that such training took place only in Morang and that the party has directed its local bodies not to train cadres with lathis and Khukiris. He also said the seizure of more than 600 Maoist sticks by police in Kavre on Sunday had been hyped up.

"If the other side resorts to violent tactics, there will be violence. It is said the state begins violence at first," he said.

Accusing the government of making massive preparations to suppress the demonstrations, he said the Maoists have already decided to "retaliate" if the government takes to violent methods to crush the demonstrations.

In closed-door training sessions, Maoist leaders have been telling their cadres that they should now be ready for a "last battle" to capture state power.

Dahal also argued that the general strike is not his party´s wish, but is the only option for fulfilling the historic necessity of peace and constitution.

The former rebel leader also argued that his party had withdrawn the party´s continuous strikes earlier after the High Level Political Mechanism was formed, but the mechanism could not make headway due to the apathy of NC and UML leaders following the demise of NC president Girija Prasad Koirala.

He also passed the blame for breaking the system of consensus onto the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, which, according him, led to the current political deadlock.

The Maoist chairman said his party mulled a no-confidence motion, but decided to drop the plan after the game of "buying and selling parliamentarians´ votes" began.

According to Dahal, the more people hit the streets, the quicker will come the results, and people won´t have to suffer long.

26 April, 2010

Praveen Swami’s not so fabulous fables

The following is a statement released by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association:

If there is one infallible indicator of what the top Indian Intelligence agencies are thinking or cooking up, it is this: Praveen Swami’s articles. Each time the security establishment wishes to push a certain angle to this bomb blast or that, Swami’s articles appear magically, faithfully reflecting the Intelligence reports. After the Batla House ‘encounter’, he launched a tirade against all those who were questioning the police account of the shootout labelling them all ‘Alices in Wonderland’. He went so far as to identify ‘precisely’ how Inspector Sharma was shot by claiming that "abdomen wound was inflicted with [Atif] Amin's weapon and the shoulder hit, by Mohammad Sajid".

And no sir, Swami’s conclusion was not based on postmortem reports of the killed, fire arm examination report or ballistic report but on this innocent fact: “the investigators believe that…” He certainly brings in a whole new meaning to ‘investigative journalism’.

Swami, however, felt no need to pen an article when the postmortem reports of Atif and Sajid revealed that they had been shot from close range and that neither of them sustained gunshot wounds in the frontal region of the body—an impossibility in the case of a genuine encounter. Was it because the police and the Home Ministry chose to remain quiet after the revelations—hoping that the storm would blow over?

Flip-flops on German Bakery Blasts

And meanwhile there was the German Bakery blast in Pune. Writing less than a week after the blasts, Swami hinted at the possible involvement of the Hindutva groups, namely Abhinav Bharat (“Hindutva Terror Probe Haunts Pune Investigation”, 19th February 2010). Indeed, this was mood in the ATS (though this was no deterrent to the large-scale illegal detention and brutal interrogation often at private premises, of scores of Muslim youth in Pune.) Even the following week, the Home Department officials were not ruling out the possibility of the involvement of the Right-wing Hindutva groups. But that was February. By March, political impatience at the probe taking such a turn was palpable. Responding to a riled Shiv Sena in the legislative assembly, Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil thundered: “I will inquire if Raghuvanshi really indicated to the media about involvement of Hindu organizations in the Pune blast and if he did, action will be taken (against him)." As if on cue, two days later, Rakesh Maria was installed as the new ATS chief. This was of course only after a few months when Vinita Kamte, widow of the slain ATS officer Ashok Kamte, made serious allegations casting aspersions on Maria’s role in responding to the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s call for reinforcements during 26/11.

CCTV Footage

Since its start, the probe had little to go on by way of leads except for the CCTV footage. While the Pune police commissioned experts to draw sketches of the suspects based on this footage, ATS dismissed this exercise as “anything but useful” as their source, the CCTV footage, was itself grainy. (Siasat, April 12). Where does Swami stand on this? He wrote in his 19th February piece: “All that investigators have by way of suspects are three men recorded holding brief meetings before the blast by a poor-quality closed-circuit television camera. From the videotape, it is unclear if the men had anything to do with the attack.”

Exactly a month later, Swami conveniently develops an amnesia about Abhinav Bharat and even about the poor quality of CCTV footage. What was earlier ‘unclear” and hazy has in one month segued into solid shape: in the form of top Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Mohammad Zarar Siddi Bawa ie., Yasin Bhatkal. Suddenly imparted with enlightenment, Swami writes dramatically of how a closed circuit television camera ... “recorded evidence that Bawa had returned to India—just minutes before an improvised explosive device ripped through the popular restaurant killing seventeen people and injuring at least sixty.” The poor quality (by Swami’s own admission) and useless (by the ATS’s admission) visual evidence has morphed into precious footage of Bhatkal, “the fair, slight young man with a wispy beard” … “dressed in a loose-fitting blue shirt, a rucksack slung over his back.”

Clearly, Swami’s changing perceptions about the CCTV footage is in accord with the shifting attitude of the ATS itself. The ATS began by keeping the option of probing Abhinav Bharat open; developed cold feet, preferred to lapse into the usual Lashkar-IM litany, ‘rediscovered’ hitherto worthless footage and resurrected the IM. In an unequivocal reference to the manner in which innocent Muslim youths were arrested earlier by the ATS in its pre-Karkare days, a senior officer of the Pune Police admitted that “There have been some arrests in the Pune blast incident just as in the case of the 2006 Malegaon explosions. But we would never know whether those arrested were actually the men who triggered the blasts.” (Siasat, April 12, 2010). Rumours that the probe might be handed over to the National Investigative Agency must have also pressured the Maharashtra ATS to show ‘results’—and viola, within two weeks of taking over, Maria submitted a preliminary report to the state government identifying the hand of Bhatkal and IM in the blasts. This was of course promptly and proudly relayed by R.R. Patil to the legislative assembly (surely to the relief also of the Shiv Sena legislators). Is it a coincidence that the Pune Police Commissioner has been transferred, ostensibly for the rising crime graph a couple of days ago? It seems improbable that the running battle between the Pune police and the ATS—whose current chief Maria had thrown a tantrum following Vinita Kamte’s accusation, demanding the support of the state Home Ministry—had no role to play in this.

The Bangalore Blasts

When two crude bombs went off outside the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium ahead of the match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore on 17th April, Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya announced that the State Police were investigating the alleged involvement of the cricket betting lobby. He forcefully denied any link with the earlier blasts in the city in 2008.

But Yasin Bhatkal seems to have preoccupied Swami’s mind on 19th April for he evokes him again in connection with the stadium blasts (“Stadium Blasts herald new IM offensive”). Citing the ever cooperative ‘investigators’, he says that the ‘similarity in design’ and the manner in which some bombs failed to explode are a sure indicator of the IM hand. Beyond this, he has nothing to link Bangalore bombs to Bhatkal. But good stories can always compensate for lack of facts. His piece, “To Bangalore with Hate” on 21st April (which has charming subtitles such as Jihad at ginger plantation”), is no less crude than the two bombs at the stadium. Swami here details the biographies of SIMI activists in South India, making the link, ever so cleverly, between SIMI—and yes, IM—and the stadium blasts, without providing any evidence of their actual linkage. Life stories of these men are proof enough, he assumes.

It is quite clear that Mr. Swami has provided a (sometimes entertaining) dramatized version of the charge-sheets files by the various police departments across the country. While it may make for a good script, we do hope that Mr. Swami understands what charge-sheets are: a list of charges or allegations, which the police has still the burden to prove in a court of law--not irrefutable or established truth. Perhaps, Mr Swami fancies himself a literary genius who believes in narratives acquiring their own lives. In which case, he has manufactured a large corpus of mediocre short stories.

Courtesy: Countercurrents

23 April, 2010

Hind Swaraj Centenary Journey from Kerala to Manipur begins on May 8

The march has been christened Hind Swaraj Centenary Journey as it coincides with the 100th anniversary of the publication of Mahatma Gandhi’s work of that name.

Civic Chandran, one of the coordinators of the event, has stated that the march will be flagged off from Cherthala, home town of Defence Minister A.K.Antony. It will pass through Bengalooru, Chennai, Nellore, Vijayawada, Pune, Bhopal, New Delhi and Kolkata and end at the Imphal jail where Irom Sharmila is incarcerated.

Irom Sharmila, a Manipuri poet described by Maheswata Devi as the woman set to be the iconic figure of the 21st century, is in the tenth year of her fast. Repeatedly released and rearrested, she has been continuing her hunger-strike in jail. The authorities are keeping her alive through nasal feeding but her internal organs are said to have suffered irreparable damage.

As is well known, her non-violent movement is in support of the demand for repeal of the five-decade-old Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the North Eastern states under which the civilian population has practically no legal recourse or redress against excesses or atrocities committed by the armed forces. This situation contravenes the basic tenets of justice and human rights.

“Defence Minister A. K. Antony is a Malayalee and it is to address his conscience and through him that of our Government that we are beginning the Hind Swaraj Centenary journey from Cherthala, from where he hails,” Civic Chandran says. “It will culminate in Imphal where Irom Sharmila is jailed. The journey traverses through the major cities of India.”

The march will be led by Sara Joseph, writer and activist. The following is the itinerary:

May 8, 2010: Flag-off from Cherthala, Kerala

May 9, 2010: Bengalooru, Karnataka

May 10, 2010: Chennai, Tamil Nadu

May 11, 2010: Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh

May 13, 2010: Pune, Maharashtra

May 15, 2020: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

May 16, 2010: New Delhi

May 18, 2010: Kolkata, West Bengal

May 20, 2010: Guwahati, Assam

May 21/22, 2010 Imphal, Manipur

Civic Chandran hopes the authorities will appreciate the need to respond humanely, as is appropriate for a state that respects human rights and the rule of law, to the ten-year-old struggle by Irom Sharmila.

The noted human rights activist and Nobel laureate Sherin Ibadi has said, “If anything happens to Irom Sharmila, the Indian state, the Indian Parliament, the Prime Minister and the media that closed its eyes to this decade-long struggle should be held responsible.”

Adds Civic Chandran: “We too, cannot shirk our responsibility. Amidst the deafening noise of violence speaking to violence across the length and breadth of our country, here is a call to respond to non-violence, with humility, with truth.”

He has requested all people to cooperate with the Hind Swaraj Centenary Journey by organizing events in the cities through which it passes, publicizing the journey, raising finances to meet its expenses and talking to the local media about it.

Civic Chandran:
Phone: 09633751353

T.R.N Prabhu

Sunny Paikada,
Convenor, Hind Swaraj Centenary Samithi
Phone: 09446234997

22 April, 2010

Nepal Maoists take lessons on media handling, plan to launch TV station

Nepal's Maoists plan to launch their own television channel and a national broadsheet daily to disseminate "correct information" about the party.

Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai presented a concept paper in this regard during a training session at the party headquarters, Paris Danda, last Sunday, according to the website of Republica, which describes itself as “a team of professional management and journalists — one of the best in the Nepali media”.

Maoists have already formed two committees – editorial led by Dr Bhattarai and managerial by Dinanath Sharma -- to study if a television channel will also be viable.

According to a participant in the training session, the party has classified the Maoist publications into three categories -- central, regional and local. "While the central publications will be directly monitored by the party's top body, the regional and local publications will be handled by the corresponding committees," he said.

He added that the party took the decision as various publication houses have been found collecting advertisements in the name of the party. He hoped the new move would discourage the trend.

The meeting categorized Janadisha daily, Janadesh weekly, Red Star fortnightly and Samsleshan monthly as central publications under the direct monitoring of the party.

"Perhaps the tabloid-sized Janadisha daily will be converted into a broadsheet daily and Janadisha weekly into a magazine," he said.

Journalists Prashanta Jha, Tirtha Koirala, Raghu Mainali, Krishna Jwala Devkota and Narayan Sharma trained Maoist leaders on handling of the media.

Jha dwelt on effective dissemination of information in the international arena, Koirala on the relationship between leaders and media houses, Mainali on professionalism and management and Devkota on advocating the rights of the proletariat.

Speaking at the training session, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal directed the revolutionary journalists to ask people to hit the streets for the promulgation of the people's constitution.

"This month, just ahead of constitution-drafting, is crucial for Nepali people. So you have to ask people to hit the streets," a participant quoted Dahal as saying.

Dahal presented two possible scenarios amidst the looming crisis: "They will either dissolve the Constituent Assembly and enforce presidential rule, or ask us for the CA deadline. But the constitution will not be promulgated as they just want to adopt the 1990 constitution and we will not agree. So there is no alternative to hitting the streets," Dahal said. He argued that the constitution would be drafted only if the people took to the streets.

Pakistan's Dalits demand their rights


THARPARKAR, Pakistan – Long accustomed to discrimination, Pakistan's Hindu Dalits are fighting a new form of harassment that is driving them from their ancestral villages in the Tharparkar district of Sindh.

About 70 Dalit families have left to protest the growing incidence of kidnapping of their young women. The kidnapping typically leads to rape or forced conversion to Islam and marriage.

That fate befell a 15-year-old girl, Daya, recently, the Dalits say. Kidnappers snatched and forcibly converted her, after which a local Muslim landlord, Mumtaz Hangorio, married her, said Arjan Meghawar, a Dalit.

"Daya ... was kidnapped when the entire family was asleep", he told Central Asia Online. "They were told that she converted to Islam in a local madrassa".

Her family has been unable to see her, he said, calling that situation typical for the families of kidnap victims.

"The kidnappers have ordered the Dalit community to stay quiet; otherwise, they will abduct more girls", Meghawar said.

He rejected the claim that the girl converted voluntarily. "First, Daya is only 15", he said, "which means she is not legally eligible to marry; second, she was not produced in any court to record her statement in this regard". The minimum age for marriage in Pakistan is 16.

Daya was the second Dalit girl victimized by men from the majority community, according to the Dalits. Local men kidnapped and gang-raped Kasturi, 17, on January 24, said Veerjee, head of the Kohli Association.

The abductors are "local bigwigs belonging to the ruling Pakistan People's Party, who are now issuing threats to keep the Dalit community silent", he said.
Kasturi's parents have paid a price for disregarding such threats and complaining to the police, he said; even the police are now harassing them.

"Even though (rape) is a non-bailable offence", Veerjee said, "the local court granted bail to the accused". Kasturi and her family had to flee the village because the suspects threatened them, he added.

Section 365-B of the penal code allows only higher courts, not local ones, to grant bail to those suspected of "kidnapping ... any woman" with forced marriage or sexual intercourse in mind, Arshad Malah, a legal scholar, told Central Asia Online.

Fed up with injustice and fearful for their safety, the fleeing Dalit families (about 400 individuals) have abandoned the village of Aakli and relocated to the plains near Mithi, said Hot Chand Toghani, a social activist with the Thardeep Rural Development Programme.

The government could do more to help them, he said. It has only "distributed 100 application forms for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP)", he told Central Asia Online.

The government is doing its best to protect the Dalits, said Shaarjeel Memon, a member of parliament representing Tharparkar from the ruling party.

"The district government has been directed to establish houses for them and provide food and water", he told Central Asia Online. "They'll be receiving aid money from the BISP very soon. We are trying to convince them to end their protest and return to their villages".

That idea doesn't sit well with some aggrieved Dalits.

"No one can imagine how difficult it is to leave one's ancestral village", said 70-year-old Mehendero Meghawar. "But we've decided not to go back".

Kidnapping brides from the Dalits and forcibly converting them are common abuses, said Sono Khangharani, a Dalit social worker who pins the blame for such acts on local landlords and other influential residents.

"The Dalits are the poorest of the poor and are discriminated against daily, even though the Pakistani constitution promises equal rights to all", he said.
Khangharani is the first Dalit to receive a governmental award. President Asif Ali Zardari named him a recipient of the Thamgha-e-Imtiaz civilian honour in August 2009.
Pakistan has nearly three million Hindus, and 75% of them are Dalits.

Dalits encounter discrimination from both Muslims and higher-caste Hindus, Khangharani said. "Untouchability" bars them from accessing public places.

"Neither Hindu nor Muslim barbers will shave Dalits or give them a haircut", he said. "Hindus and Muslims won't eat food prepared by the Dalits, either. Such practices concerning untouchability are very common in Sindh".

Islam not only forbids forced conversion and forced marriage, it mandates equal treatment of all religious minorities, said Mufti Wali Khan Almuzaffar, a prominent Islamic scholar. Islam has no concept of untouchability and the idea of an untouchable social class comes entirely from tradition and myth, he added.

The writer is an independent journalist and social researcher based in Karachi. He can be contacted at

Courtesy: Countercurrents

20 April, 2010

Rs. 1500 Crore “Maoist Empire” or How the Police plants stories in the Press


“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” - Joseph Goebbels

Propaganda is one of the main weapons of the government of India’s Operation Green Hunt. The propaganda war is being waged in order to mould public opinion and turn liberal voices against the enemy, the Maoists. As part of this propaganda campaign, the government has brought out large, full colour advertisements (paid for by taxpayers’ money) in major newspapers which have portrayed the Maoists as “ruthless killers” and as destroyers of public property.

However a more insidious, and clandestine, part of the propaganda war, is to plant stories in the mainstream media in the form of “news”, which the average reader, having faith in the objectivity of the media as the main source of information, will take at face value as the truth. It is quite difficult to identify a news item as a police plant (we might just be able to guess), but a news story which appeared recently in the press, and was widely circulated, is a good illustration of what might be a story planted by intelligence agencies, with the connivance of the press.

It is a news story about the “Maoist empire”, the ways and means by which the Maoists apparently function like a corporation to raise a huge amount of money by “extortion, drugs, looting, ransom and robbery” to the tune of Rs 1500 crore. The main, and most widely circulated story appeared in the Sunday Times of India of 11th April, 2010, as a Special Report titled “The Maoist empire Rs 1500 crore and counting” datelined Bhubaneshwar/Ranchi/Kolkata and written by three named staff reporters of Times of India.

It describes in considerable detail the financial operations of the Maoists, analyses state-wise earnings from extortion, levies on businesses, poppy cultivation etc. and also delves into how this money is channeled into various states to run Maoist operations therein. Overall, it appears to provide convincing evidence that the Maoists are running a mafia under an ideological disguise. On reading, it seems to be a well researched piece of investigative journalism exclusively done for ToI by staff reporters. However everything did not seem to be so straightforward when nearly the same news story (in many places a word to word translation) was found to have been published in Bangla in the newspaper Icore Ekdin on 11th April. In Ekdin, the news was datelined New Delhi and described as “nijaswa pratibedan”, which means it was done by staff correspondents of Ekdin. On looking up on the internet, the thing became clearer.

The same report had appeared on 11th April

(1) in Central Chronicle (a Madhya Pradesh-based news portal) under the category News Flash, datelined Bhubaneswar and attributed to agencies;

(2) in Asian Age as a news story by a named correspondent;

(3) and in the Mumbai Mirror as a news story datelined Kolkata and again by a named correspondent.

The game was given away by the Mumbai Mirror story which attributes the news, even in the title of the news item, to intelligence agencies.

Therefore, what we see is that the same news story, including many common phrases and sentences, appearing in at least four different newspapers on the same day, three in English and one in Bangla (and also possibly in the Hindi press), and all claiming (except the Central Chronicle which attributes it to Agencies) that it is a piece of investigative journalism written by their staff reporters.

It is not even the case that the news first appeared in the Times of India (in the most detailed form) and was later copied by other newspapers, because the news appeared in all the papers (including in print) on the same day.

A quick Internet search traces the story about the Rs 1500 crore “empire” of the Maoists to an article that appeared in the intelligence agency-run blog Naxal Terror Watch on 6th June, 2009. It is clearly a news story that was planted by the intelligence agencies (which the Mumbai Mirror divulged) with the connivance of reputed national newspapers, as a piece of propaganda to malign their adversaries, the Maoists. Such plants, appearing innocuously as news stories, and then getting widely distributed, soon become “public wisdom” and provide fodder to talk show hosts and news channel anchors and to the Internet-savvy chatterati to push their own viewpoints in different fora and mould public opinion.

Courtesy: Countercurrents

Stopping entry of genetically modified food

Jai Krishna, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India, writes:

Do you remember the terrible genetic modification bill proposed by Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan? While the media seems to have forgotten this bill, we have not.

The proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill is an attempt to ease the entry of genetically modified food into India and appease foreign biotech corporations.

Chavan is serving foreign corporations, not the people of India. To draw attention to Chavan's intentions, Greenpeace volunteers are demanding a citizen's arrest of the minister as we write.

Can you make sure Minister Chavan hears from us all? Click here to send an email:

Earlier, Chavan wrote a letter to the former health minister copied word for word from reports funded by biotechnology companies. Now he has been pushing for the BRAI bill, which will approve GM foods to enter India without any checks, trampling the rights of elected representatives and forcing GM foods on all of us.

In a recent consumer poll 89% of the people said that they held the right to reject GM foods.

We stopped Bt Brinjal
and saved our food from permanent damage. But if BRAI is on, safe food is off.

Email Minister Chavan now to protect our food from genetic contamination:

Thanks a billion!

19 April, 2010

Confrontation between state and poor acquiring dimension of civil war


It is understandable that human rights/civil liberties organizations should come out with statements deploring the killing of security forces (e.g. PUDR press statement on the wiping out of 75-odd CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh on April 6) on the purely humanitarian ground that any loss of life is deplorable. But civil society groups or individuals who view the issue from a larger perspective need to take a more rigorous and clear-cut stand. If they agree that the fundamental issues raised by the Maoists are right, even if they do not accept their tactics (in other words, if they are well-disposed towards the basic Maoist critique of the present exploitative system and sympathize with their efforts to build up alternative structures of egalitarian governance in their areas of control, without supporting their tactics of indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians), they have to recognize the stark reality.

The stark reality is that the confrontation between the recalcitrant Indian state (which is adopting an oppressive neo-liberal model of development) and its opponents (the rural poor and tribal villagers who are facing displacement by that model) is fast acquiring the dimensions of a civil war. In such a war situation, the liberal-bourgeois pacifists can condemn both the disputing parties, and wash their hands off, shouting: “plague on both houses.” But can we afford to withdraw and refuse to take sides in this war?

If we are opposing the Indian state’s neo-liberal model of development and its oppressive policies to impose it on our people by displacing them from their homes, we should define our position with regard to the various popular protest movements that are breaking out in different forms – ranging from Gandhian non-violent types like the Narmada Banchao Movement or the anti-steel plant agitation in Kalinganagar on the one hand, to armed resistance by forest-dwellers and tribal people organized under Maoist leadership on the other. The mainstream media propaganda builds up a peculiar dichotomy between these two types of movements – describing the former as part of `democratic’ protest, and denouncing the latter as `terrorism’ – as if the Maoist movement is not democratic. It is as if protests and agitations can be termed democratic only if they are non-violent. But what if thousands of people in a particular area, comprising the majority of the population, decide to opt for armed resistance, after their non-violent forms of protest are violently suppressed by the state ? This is what is happening in Chhattisgarh. The reasons why the tribal people in Dandakaranya have taken up arms have been well-documented – not only by human rights activists, but also by no less an important body than the Planning Commission Experts Group in its report on extremist-affected areas a few years ago. For years together, their basic needs had not only been ignored by the state, but whenever they tried to assert their economic demands through peaceful democratic avenues – like demonstrations asking for higher prices for tendu leave collection, or access to forest produce – they were ruthlessly suppressed by the police.

What needs to be asserted – and which is deliberately suppressed by the mainstream media – is that even the non-violent protest movements (accepted as `democratic’ by the bourgeois-liberals) are violently opposed by the state through the use of military force (witness the experience of the Narmada Banchao movement, or of the Gandhian Himangshu whose ashram in Chhattisgarh was destroyed by the police). If the followers of these non-violent movements, after their disillusionment with the `peaceful’ means of constitutional protest, take up arms tomorrow to protect their homes and occupations, should we denounce them as `terrorists’?

The Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, says that the Naxalites have forced a war on the Indian state and its people. It’s the other way round. The Indian state has forced a war on the Indian poor by imposing on them a corporate sector-induced model of development – threatening wide sections of rural people ranging from the villages of Orissa, Jharkhand in the east to Rajasthan and Haryana in the north, who are being ousted from their lands. They are breaking out in protest demonstrations. The state responds by resorting to violence to suppress them. It has built up a well-structured a military network consisting of a variety of forces going under the names of CRPF, CISF, Special Operation Group, Eastern Frontier Rifles, etc. in various states. Exposures by independent reporters (in magazines like TEHELKA) have revealed how the senior officials and their juniors in these para-military forces have been consistently killing innocent people in false encounters, raping women, burning villages, not only in Maoist-dominated villages of Chhattisgarh, but also in Manipur and other parts of the north-east. The CRPF in particular has earned a notoriety for atrocities in areas wherever they had been deployed. The national media may shed tears for the death of the 75-odd CRPF soldiers in Chhattisgarh. But then, these soldiers, by being cannon-fodders of the Indian state, however tragic it might be, suffered the fate that – I’m sorry to say – they deserved. Should the bourgeois-liberals and human rights activists shed tears for the young dedicated Nazi soldiers (who massacred the Jews), and were killed in reprisal by the Soviet Red Army ? Surely, there should be a limit to the tolerance that bourgeois-liberalism allows!

To come back to the latest incident of the Maoist attack on the CRPF camp in Chhattisgarh…. if we accept it as a part of a civil war, such killings are inevitable (just as the CRPF killings of Maoists) in a violent system that has been institutionalized by the Indian state. The difference between the CRPF violence (involving `false encounters’, raping of tribal women, burning their homes, etc.) on the one hand, and the Maoist violence on the other (which means attacks on oppressive landlords and the police and para-military forces like the CRPF which come to the aid of the landlords) - has to be distinguished by civil society groups.

Courtesy: Countercurrents

16 April, 2010

No Longer At Ease: From Dinakaran To Koda


Let me set out with the caveat that I do find corruption abhorrent, but what I am trying to do in this essay is question the paradigm in which the discourse on corruption is framed. This definitely is not a defence or indictment of the people mentioned here - I believe that the procedure established by law should take care of it.

Some time back at a party that was also a meeting, I was incensed with a friend justifying a leading celebrity civil society careerist's exit as the head of a prominent International non-governmental organization in India as owing to " conflict of interest". In other words, this person from a privileged socio-economic background had transferred funds to organizations where he had stakes - directly or indirectly - some of us - not so sophisticated call it benaami, but others largely seem to have a preference for "conflict of interest"

It took me more than a month to balance what I was writing about judicial corruption in India. I re-wrote more than half a dozen times. I set out writing the article in the context of the activism against Justice Dinakaran's elevation to the Supreme Court on grounds of alleged land-grabbing. What got my goat in the process was a marginal media story when an historical moment was captured by a state agency like the National SC Commission - it set out looking at whether Justice Dinakaran was being castigated for his Dalit identity. What was ironical was the way "progressive" friends including those that have been pioneers of the Dalit movement instead of grabbing the opportunity to nuance this discussion - taking a hard look at how only people from certain identity categories get persecuted for corruption generally, distanced themselves from the discourse.

What was also shocking was a statement that Justice Dinakaran was not a Dalit any more because of his conversion to Christianity. All of this is in the realm of media gossip available for all of us consumers of mainstream media.
I have been disturbed and suspicious about efforts like Transparency International for almost one and a half decades now - more so after I read the second novel in Chinua Achebe's African trilogy - No Longer at Ease. It is the story of a first generation Igbo youth who gets into the Colonial civil service in Nigeria - the conflicts that he passes through as a price for the cultural transition that is forced upon him - and finally he ends up taking a bribe - as a sort of a cultural resolution of a first generation encounter with an "alien" culture that is at the same time restricting and empowering. A single novel that changed the way I look at corruption some thirteen years back. Why I find it necessary to share some of my perceptions here.

One of the narratives that has been universally inherited from the colonial legacy is the notion that third world countries are generally inept at administration and more importantly. This is precisely where the methodologies adopted for corruption evaluation through processes such as Transparency International’s need to be examined with suspicion. If we take the United States or Qatar as examples, the former ranks 19th with a score of 7.5 and the latter 22nd with 7.0. India interestingly has the 84th place amongst 180 countries with a low score of 3.4. I can intuitively vouch that at least in its twentieth century history there has never been a serious contestant for the US Presidency who has not accessed corporate money. Barack Obama's success lies not in so much having subverted the system or being clean of vested corporate interests - but on the contrary, in subverting the racial stereotypes surrounding the system.

Some interesting insights do emerge when corruption in India is seen within this frame. From Bangaru Laxman to Koda, most of the people who have had to receive some form of social, legal or political sanctions for corruption related misdemeanours come from certain marginalised identity groups. A clear case of shining India with dreams of super-powerdom in its eyes - appropriating the colonial paradigm and turning its gaze inwards towards Dalits and Adivasis mainly. It is fairly commonplace in public offices including academic spaces to hear statements that point to the ineptitude and corruption of people who manage to get in through reservations!

A journalist friend was sharing a rumour about Shibu Soren the other day, about how he deposited the entire two crore rupees that he received as bribe for saving the P.V Narasimha Rao regime in his personal bank account. It really is not surprising that there are no such jokes floating around about Vajpayee. In fact Vajpayee has acquired iconic status in Indian democratic lore. The reason that Muslims do not figure so prominently within the discourse on corruption has to do with their gross under-representation in public life and moreover, vast majority of Muslim faces in public life happen to be Ashraafs. The same logic can be applied to other minority religious identities like the Sikhs or Christians.

As far as I know almost all Indians pay a bribe at some point of time or the other. Many do it out of compulsion ranging from trying to access public health services to getting a PDS/ration/BPL card. While others, including me, do it for reasons ranging from getting a railway ticket confirmed to saving the government of the day. It is therefore rather amusing to see the righteous indignation amongst the latter - exempting themselves from the scanner that establishes the causes of corruption.

It is not my case that all those who do get persecuted or prosecuted for corruption are deserving of our empathy like Obi Okonkwo, the protagonist of No Longer at Ease - but it definitely is my case that the discourse on corruption in India is built on a hegemonic premise of caste as it is built on other hegemonic premises elsewhere!!

13 April, 2010

An obnoxious move to muzzle freedom of expression

The following is a statement issued by Sukla Sen for EKTA:

The news report that a "private citizen", or rather a "social worker", has filed a police complaint against Arundhati Roy on the ground that her recent essay 'Walking with the Comrades: Gandhians with a Gun?' carried by the Outlook magazine in its March 29 issue has glorified Maoists and asked for actions under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 is extremely disturbing. It is an obnoxious move to muzzle freedom of expression which is highly condemnable.

The move is comparable with the demand for banning of the 'Satanic Verses' or the 'Moor's Last Sigh' by Salman Rusdie or ‘Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India’ by James Laine or such other publications. Or endlessly harassing M F Husain through court cases and threats of arrest for his works of art. In fact here the implications could be even grimmer.

It is hardly anybody's case that a celebrity cannot be publicly questioned or critiqued for her/his public role and works. And glorification of gory violence, by whosoever, needs be stoutly opposed. But an attempt to muzzle voice, when there is no case of any "hate speech" or so, and intimidate dissent is utterly distasteful and dangerous. We do strongly condemn it and urge the government of Chhattisgarh to desist from taking any rash action.

We also appeal to the common citizenry to protest against any such move in that direction.

Sukla Sen
for EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity)

12 April, 2010

People's Tribunal report on Operation Green Hunt

The Independent People's Tribunal on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab and Operation Green Hunt concluded its three-day proceedings on Sunday with the jury comprising of Justice (Retd.) P B Sawant, Justice (Retd.) H Suresh, Professor Yash Pal, Dr. P. M. Bhargava, Dr. Mohini Giri and Dr. K S Subramanian presenting an interim report to the public, Government and the media on the issues under consideration.

The interim report was prepared after the jury members heard depositions and testimonies from affected people and activists from the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa.

Presenting the recommendations of the jury before the media, public and Government, Justice Sawant said, “There is a perception within the Government and media that by organizing meetings like the IPT, we, everyone present in this room, are supporting the Maoists and the death of the 76 CRPF jawans. Let me clarify this position for once and for all. We are not supporting the Maoists. We do not support violence in any form, State or otherwise. We are discussing here the problems of the tribals and the crisis that is pushing people to the brink of desperation and escalating the cycle of violence.”

It was clear that the state had let the tribals and the poor of this land down. Instead of restoring their faith in the Constitution of India, its judiciary and its spirit, the Government asked for abjuring of violence. “Are these morals only to be remembered in such times, and to be forgotten when atrocities are committed by the state itself?”

Dr. P M Bhargava noted that civil society needs to stand resolute in resisting the current development paradigm and that the case of the BT Brinjal was a case in point for small victories of the people. “ The patience of the masses was running out and there had to be some serious rethinking.”

Dr. Mohini Giri lamented that the Government took no notice of People’s Tribunals like these and their recommendations. She criticized the Government for its lack of understanding of the issues that affected people and implored them to do so immediately.

The interim report of the jury states, “Gross violation of the rights of the poor, particularly tribal rights, have reached unprecedented levels since the new economic policies of the 90’s. The Fifth Schedule rights of the tribals, in particular the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and the Forest Rights Act have been grossly violated. These violations have now gone to the extent where fully tribal villages have been declared to be non-tribal. The entire executive and judicial administration appears to have been totally apathetic to their plight. It could well be the severest indictment of the State in the history of democracy anywhere, on account of the sheer number of people (tribals) affected and the diabolic nature of the atrocities committed on them by the State, especially the police, leave aside the enormous and irreversible damage to the environment.

The first session of the day took stock of the situation in Orissa with regard to industrial and mining projects, land acquisition and people's resistance movements against such displacement and dispossession. Addressed by activists Praveen Patel, Praful Samantra, Abhay Sahu and photographer Sanjit Das, the narratives pointed out how corporate greed colluding with government officials was bleeding out the tribals.

Praveen Patel who presented a paper on the 'Political Economy of Mining' pointed out that under the current policy foreign companies were getting away with virtual robbery, taking huge profits, paying very little in taxes and in fact exacting a huge price from the poor (especially tribals) who are displaced and who suffer severe health and livelihood impacts from the rampant pollution.

The problematic exploitation of iron and bauxite ore was further highlighted in Praful Samantra's talk. For example, the sites containing the most bauxite ore are located atop mountains and correspond to the sources of numerous streams. Mining the ores ruins water supply for the Adivasis living in the area and leaves the company with zero liability. Protests are suppressed in a manner similar to that seen in other states: “...last year 14 people were shot dead. In the last six months, villagers have been banned from leaving their areas, even to go to the hospital. In September 2009, 30 innocent villagers were put in jail and branded as Maoists. We went there and fought for them because they were innocent. The administration assured us that they would be released but they are still in jail. Their families are starving.”

Abhay Sahu, a leader of the Anti-POSCO movement, spoke about the situation on ground. Local people have been protesting the proposed port project, to be built by POSCO which would ruin the lucrative beetle vine cultivation as well as destroy the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of fishermen. He testified on the intimidation tactics used by the State-company nexus to kill the protests: “On 29 November 2007, state and company goons set fire to a village in my area. They occupied all schools and building in the area. When people started fighting back, the police had to abandon their posts.”

Lingaraj Azad, a tribal rights activist, talked about the delicate balance of nature in Niyamgiri, Orissa, where the Dhongria Kondh tribe has dwelled for centuries. The Niyamgiri hill is under threat from Vedanta Resources for its bauxite reserves. “We have abundant herbs and trees. In the hills, there are 8,000 to 9,000 people in 200 villages. These people know nature and nature knows them. Soil, earth, water, trees—these are regarded as God and prayed to. They have no material possessions except Nature and all of it. There is no concept of private property, it is all for common use.” The Niyamgiri mining project has been receiving international media attention after the human rights violations at Vedanta mining sites were made public.

Ajit Bhattacharjea, a journalist, stressed that lands in tribal areas were community property and did not belong to the State. Handing these lands to corporates must stop.

Banwari Lal Sharma appealed to the politicians: “We need to spread a message of peace and make these politicians understand that we are not their enemies but we are all friends. When they sell away the country they are selling away parts of themselves.”

Several eminent personalities, including Arundhati Roy, Shoma Chaudhury, Bianca Jagger, Arun Aggarwal, Kavita Srivastava and Advocate Shanti Bhushan, addressed the second session.

Arun Aggarwal presented a well researched paper on the Economics of Mining. According to him, revenue from mining activities to the state accounted for a measly 1.4% of total profits while the rest was pocketed by the corporation. The politics of mining was so complicated and corrupt that the nexus could be tracked between the corporations, politicians and police. For him, the fact that the ultra left movement was situated in areas of mineral wealth concentration, mining activities and displacement of people was a point of great importance and not to be ignored. He recommended that all mining activity should be conducted by Government owned enterprises so that the profits could be distributed more equitably.

Shanti Bhushan asked civil society not to remain silent but condemn violent acts by Maoists. Accepting the fact that tribals had been exploited for years, civil society’s failure to condemn the recent carnage was being perceived as support of Maoist violence. “How can you accept an armed resistance and overthrow of the State with violence? What is the agenda of the Maoists? If they mean well, then why don’t they give up arms and participate in elections? Let it be all done in the open.”

Shoma Chaudhury, Editor-Features, Tehelka, dwelt on the role of the media and accepted that the debates and discussions on television channels were resolutely and sadly binary. The discussions on these topics needed to be made more complex, because they required a combination of solutions. “Keeping out perspectives – whether the Government’s, Civil Society’s or the general public will only narrow down the discourse on these complex problems that we find ourselves in. This exclusion in itself is a very dangerous trend and needs to be arrested”.

She added, “There is no place for violence in a democracy. Agreed. However, did democracy exist in the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa? Democracy does not only mean election. The judiciary, police, forest officials and magistrates all represent India’s democratic structure and it is these very institutions that have failed the people.”

Bianca Jagger, who has returned from a visit to Orissa, spoke about her experience with the Dongria Kondh tribe. Despite being a foreigner she related to the problem of India’s tribals. Her experience of having worked as a human rights activist in Latin and Central America shows that indigenous communities everywhere are being pressured by the current development paradigm.

She said there was a lot to be learnt from indigenous communities and their ecologically sustainable lifestyle, and added, “I request the Government of India to introspect on why there is an armed insurrection to begin with?”

Arundhati Roy began by asking a very poignant question: “Does the government want war or peace?”. In the current context of anti-Maoist operations and rampant industrial activity that was displacing people, “it seems to me that war is a synonym for creating an ideal investment climate.” According to her, in the 1970’s and 80’s, democracy was the single largest threat to imperialist, capitalist western nations who overthrew democracies in Latin America. Now however war is being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq to install democracy and all its associated institutions. She questioned the nature of democracy, as it existed today, saying “democracy and democratic institutions have been reduced to being vessels of Free Market Capitalism”.

The Independent People’s Tribunal was organized by a collective of civil society groups, social movements, activists, academics and concerned citizens.

For more information, please contact: Sherry 9953466107 or Purnima 971178868

11 April, 2010

Making All The News That’s Fit to Print 'Fit'


When The New York Times says, “fit,” it means all the news that’s fit to print if its reporters want to continue to have “access,” the door that opens and ushers a reporter into the multiple seats of power, both public and private, that control America. And the door stays open as long as the reporter behaves himself and doesn’t embarrass his handlers with tough questions or voice opinions that do not have official approval.

So it was, in the wake of the video showing the gunning down of Iraqi citizens by U.S. Apache helicopters, that the Times ran a soothing “There, there” story in effect explaining that “boys will be boys.”

“Experts Cite Conditioning and Heat of Combat to Explain Iraq Airstrike Video,” read the headline. You see, the article explains, in order to kill somebody, you’ve got to make a game out of it, you have to dehumanize your victim because that makes it so much easier to kill him. As one officer explains, “Military training is fundamentally an exercise in overcoming a fear of killing another human being.”

This is another way of saying that war is a perversion in that it forces people to perform acts that in any other context they would find morally repulsive, unless they were confirmed sociopaths. This is why a country shouldn’t go to war unless it absolutely has to because in the process it emotionally cripples the young men and women who serve.

There may be times when a war is a necessary perversion, but neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is a necessity. Both are wars instituted by policy wonks who really think it’s all a game and have no concept of the crippled mindset necessary to kill another human being. Both wars muddle along like slithering blobs driven by their own momentum and continued simply because they are already in motion and to withdraw might injure our credibility, which is being shredded anyway because of our inability to bring either war to a satisfactory conclusion.

However, the above is part of a larger debate that is studiously avoided by our mainstream media. Corporate media never questions policy because said policy is set into motion by the Beltway’s corporate masters.

Getting back to the article in question, what is noticeable is the question the reporter failed to ask. Granted, in this day in age it is considered impolite for a reporter to ask tough questions and doing so might end up getting him stripped of his “access.” This would mean he’d have to revert to the old-fashioned journalistic techniques of digging and wearing out shoe leather.

Let us allow that the pilots were on edge and easily spooked. This brings us to the single, most important question the Times reporter failed to ask the experts: Why was the Fire Discipline so lax? One of the components of Fire Discipline is that a soldier fires when commanded to and ceases when commanded to. The assumption is that the individual in command has enough presence of mind to cease firing when a threat no longer exists.

Now, bending over backwards until the back is ready to break, one might say the initial encounter with the group of civilians milling in the street was a tragic action brought on by confirmation bias, which security analyst Christopher Albon defines as “the tendency of the human mind to unconsciously prefer information reinforcing existing beliefs. In this case, the fact the pilots were looking for armed insurgents made them predisposed to believe that any item carried by the persons were weapons.”

Firing on the van that came to assist the wounded was a gratuitous act of violence. If you listen to the dialog between pilots and the individual on the ground responsible for Fire Discipline, it is obvious that the pilots’ blood is up. They’ve killed and they want to kill some more, an unfortunate side effect of combat. This is why Fire Discipline is so important. It is the responsibility of the commander to recognize this and to order his men to cease fire when a threat is no longer present.

When the van showed up, it is obvious it only wanted to collect the wounded. Yet, the pilots begged their controller for permission to fire. They begged and pressured and in the end they controlled their controller and he folded and gave permission to fire on a van that represented no threat whatsoever. Fire Discipline broke down completely. And, of course, the Times never questioned this because it would have been impolite to do so.

After all, boys will be boys, so why sweat it? Once again, the Times made the news fit to print.

Case Wagenvoord describes himself as a citizen who reads. He blogs at and welcomes comments at

Why Dalits don’t trust Maoists


Dalits really, really distrust the Maoist movement of India and Nepal. As the Maoist movement begins to challenge for state power in Nepal and has struck a serious level of alarm in the ruling elite in India, this question has important ramifications for the future of south Asia.

The Dalit movement in India is the largest and fastest growing threat to the status quo, followed at some distance by the Maoists. Interestingly, almost all the Dalit leadership I know, mostly mid-level cadre in the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), India's third largest national party and main force in the Dalit liberation movement, are ex-Maoists.

When asked why they distrust the "Naxalites", the common term for the Maoist movement, they point out, to start with, that almost all the rank and file fighters in the Maoist movement are Dalits or tribals and almost all the leaders are "high caste". The Dalits I know have had firsthand experience with just how casteist the Naxalite/Maoist leadership is.

When delving into the "political line" put forth by the Maoist movement in India and Nepal, it is rare to find mention of caste/varna, let alone any attempt to address caste/varna (colour) in any sort of historical perspective. It would seem that the Maoist leaders would prefer to blend class with caste and avoid any dealing with such a potentially divisive question.

The Dalit movement exemplified by the BSP cadre I know is firmly rooted in organizing Dalits into community collectives and focused on mobilizing Dalits in exercising their voting rights. When it is pointed out that no ruling class has ever peacefully relinquished its privileges, i.e. through elections, my Dalit comrades point out that 85% of Indian Dalits still believe in the one, unifying tenet of Hinduism, varna/caste/colour. Simply put, most Dalits believe they are being punished by God for sins in a previous life and their lot as "untouchables", Dalits, is God’s will. If God willed your punishment today with the promise of a better rebirth in the next life , then trying to lift your and your children’s lot above that of cleaning communal toilets is going against Gods will. Sounds like a brilliant scheme for social control using a religion, in the opinion of all the Dalits I know.

Taking into consideration just how mentally enslaved most Dalits remain, moving the masses of Dalits from being so crushed and broken to real liberation might take a series of steps instead of one giant leap, or so my Dalit comrades seem to feel. Dalits may have to see for themselves that casting a vote is not going to midwife any real liberation for the rank and file. While acknowledging that a series of trials and errors may mark their struggle and that the Maoists scorn such an approach, Dalits feel that if the Maoist movement continues to ignore varna/caste while depending on Dalits to win power, Dalits are doomed to see their struggle for equal rights and justice betrayed by the new Brahmins, the leaders of today’s Maoist movement.
One fact remains utterly non-debatable and that is that India and Nepal remain overwhelmingly a society of villages. Equally non-debatable is that in Indian and Nepalese villages, caste rules. How the Maoist movement can hope to succeed without even addressing this issue in any real way bodes ill for any hopes that the Maoist movement offers solutions to the most barbaric, inhumane system of human oppression in the world, the Apartheid in India and Nepal.

In a previous incarnation, Thomas C. Mountain was the publisher of the Ambedkar Journal and a founding member of the Phoolan Devi International Defence Committee. He can be contacted at

08 April, 2010

Ekta's call for end to violence

The following is a statement issued by EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai:

It is to express and put on record our deep pain and anguish at the massacre of 76 members of the central and state security forces in the early hours of April 6 in the thick jungles of mountainous Mukrana in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh while carrying out the Operation Green Hunt to counter and crush the raging Maoist insurgency in that area as a part of their duty.

That these 76 young lives from ordinary families from different corners of India were tragically lost while engaged in waging war against the “enemy” in the call of duty is hardly a factor mitigating the present tragedy. Loss of so many young human lives, otherwise completely avoidable, cannot be considered as anything but utterly unfortunate. They fell to the bullets of those whom they had been sent to “hunt”.

As the human toll is tragically rising – in terms of death, destruction and displacement – in the ongoing armed conflict, we fervently appeal to the warring parties to immediately cry a halt to this intensifying orgy of blood spill and engage in a purposeful dialogue, also involving concerned representatives of the civil society

While we have hardly any claim over the armed Maoist insurgents, except as co-citizens; the democratic government led by our elected representatives is duty bound to show due sensitiveness to this call for peace.

And, the state stands to lose its moral legitimacy if it continues to show callous disregard for human lives – lives of its own citizens. It just cannot afford to emulate the armed insurgents out to capture state power through the use of blazing guns.

And it must also address the issue of its persistent failure, and worse, to uplift the conditions of vast sections of India’s adivasi populations in the war zones and also elsewhere. That’s the way to eliminate the support base for insurgency.

The mindless recourse to bullets is just not too cruel, it is also counterproductive.

We also urge all right thinking citizens to mount moral pressure on the side of peace – just and fair peace at that.

Sukla Sen
for EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity)

AHRC calls for debate in India for better law against torture

As the Indian Cabinet discussed the introduction of a domestic law criminalizing torture in the country today, the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, said in a statement:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomes the move and finds it as an encouraging opportunity for the law enforcement agencies, civil society organizations and for the general public to participate in local and national discussions about how the law against torture should be and what it must address. A draft Bill prepared by the government in 2008 is available here.

Why a separate law against torture is required?

Torture is practised by law enforcement agencies in India as a crude shortcut for crime investigation. Investigating agencies justify the use of torture arguing that they often lack advanced training and equipments for crime investigation. The concept of modern policing is still a mirage in India, where the police is expected to function as a tool for social control than to serve the citizens.

It can be argued that a large number of law enforcement officers in the country believe that the deterrence quotient against a crime is the possibility of being tortured, rather than the crime being detected, prosecuted and punished in the legal process. Extensive delays in court proceedings and the repeatedly demonstrated professional and intellectual paucity of the country's prosecutors appear to offer a layperson's excuse for the widespread belief among law enforcement officers that the only punishment a criminal might get in India is the torture at the hands of the investigator.

This has led into a situation where torture is widely practiced, particularly in the police stations, throughout the country. Police officers and other law enforcement officers generally consider torture as an essential investigative tool for investigation. Policy makers and bureaucrats believe that there is nothing wrong in punishing a criminal in custody, not realising the fact that a person under investigation is only an accused, not a convict and further, that even a convict must not be tortured. This is due to the lack of awareness about the crime, its nature and seriousness.

As early as in 1981 the Supreme Court of India has said "...othing is more cowardly and unconscionable than a person in police custody being beaten up and nothing inflicts deeper wound on our constitutional culture than a state official running berserk regardless of human rights" Kishore Singh V. State of Rajastan (AIR 1981 SC 625). Internationally, torture is considered as one among the most heinous crimes like slavery, genocide and maritime piracy against which there is an absolute prohibition and the principle of ius cogens applies. When torture is committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack, torture can also be treated as a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute.

The National Human Rights Commission of India has repeatedly recommended the government to criminalise torture. The Commission once said "aily the Commission receives petitions alleging the use of torture, and even of deaths in custody as a result of the acts of those who are sworn to uphold the laws and the Constitution and to ensure the security of its citizens. Such a situation must end, through the united efforts of the Government..."

The UN Human Rights Committee as early as 1997 has expressed its concern about the widespread use of torture by the law enforcement agencies in India. (CCPR/C/79/Add.81). Similar concerns were expressed by the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/IND/CO/19) in 2007 and the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (E/C.12/IND/CO/5) in 2008.

In a democratic framework, torture undermines democracy and the rule of law. Its open or clandestine use undermines the fundamentals of democratic governance. Law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, practicing torture reduce itself into an instrument of fear. This image and torture often diminish criminal investigation into a mere charge based on confessions. Fair trial, an important part of the rule of law framework, has no place in such an environment.

The practice of torture is not limited to policing. Paramilitary and military units also resort to torture, often brutal. Whether torture is practised by a military detachment or by the local police, the possibility for a victim of torture to complain is very limited in India. The absence of witness protection laws, proper investigation mechanisms including medico-legal facilities, and prosecution mechanisms, render complaint making suicidal for a victim. This allows torture to also be used for blackmailing, as a form of revenge and for monetary gain.

A domestic law against torture is thus required to deal with the central deficit in India's policing.

Torture is not criminalized in law as a separate or special offense in India. Provisions in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Sections 330 & 348) penalises acts that can also be considered as torture, with seven and three years of imprisonment respectively if proven guilty. But the offense attracts no particular relevance if the crime is committed by a police officer. The treatment by the law as of now is to deal torture as a regular offense. The two provisions in the Penal Code also falls short of covering all aspects of torture, as defined in the International Convention against Torture, a document India has signed 11 years before and failed to ratify till today.

About the pending Bill:

The International Convention against Torture defines torture as "... any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

The proposed Bill in Section 3 however reduces torture as " Whoever, being a public servant or being abetted by a public servant or with the consent or acquiescence of a public servant, intentionally does any act which causes:- (i) grievous hurt to any person; or (ii) danger to life or health (whether mental or physical) of any person, is said to inflict torture.

'Grievous hurt' is defined in Section 320 of the Penal Code as "irst - Emasculation; Secondly - Permanent privation of the sight of either eye; Thirdly - Permanent privation of the hearing of either ear; Fourthly - Privation of any member or joint; Fifthly - Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint; Sixthly - Permanent disfiguration of the head or face; Seventhly - Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth; Eighthly - Any hurt which endangers life or which causes the sufferer to be during the space of twenty days in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits." Therefore, other injuries that could be considered as torture in international law will be excluded if the current Bill is legislated.

The law is also not gender sensitive. While emasculation could be torture, rape or other forms of sexual violence often committed against women in custody will not be torture in the proposed Bill.

There is also a limitation clause in the Bill that requires a complaint of torture to be made within six months from the incident. In the Indian context often victims are not in a position to lodge a complaint soon after the complaint. The Supreme Court of India has held in numerous occasions that in crimes like rape, often the complaint is made after the elapsing of months and sometimes years. When a complaint of rape can be made by a woman even after six months of the incident, there is no reason why in the case of rape committed by a public servant, it must be made within six months.

The Bill also falls short of specifying a mechanism to investigate torture, or of any witness protection arrangements. Given the nature of the crime it is imperative that torture must be investigated by an investigating agency independent of the police and having no officers on deputation from any other law enforcement agencies. One of the reasons for the failure of successful prosecution of complaints against police in the country is that the investigation is conducted either by police officers directly or indirectly involved in the crime or their superiors. There is no need to enumerate why a victim or witness having a complaint against a government servant like a police officer in India requires protection. In countries where the practice of torture has been reasonably contained, both these requirements are met. In jurisdictions where these basic requirements are not followed, like in Sri Lanka, the law has become useless.

What could be done?

A good law penalising torture and its effective implementation can be the beginning of real change towards good governance in India. An effective law against torture can change the negative public perception against law enforcement agencies. Peoples friendly policing will reduce all forms of crimes, in particular corruption, thereby indirectly addressing issues like corruption induced maladministration, poverty and malnutrition.

The Bill against torture, therefore before being formalised into a law has to be publicly discussed and debated. Given the importance of the law, the government has a responsibility to make available enough opportunities for the public to engage in the discussion. It is equally the responsibility of the civil society organisations in the country, particularly the media to generate public opinion about what is required to be addressed in the law.

Law enforcement agencies, in particular the state police, must make use of the opportunity to encourage the government to revisit its policing policy. India after 62 years of independence has no excuse to follow a policing policy based on punishment, fear and control that was required and thus practiced by the colonial administration. Entities like the Bar Councils and Bar Associations, who are more privileged to understand and interpret legislations must organise debates and encourage their members to participate in public discussions on the subject.

Democracy implies open and transparent public participation. A law criminalizing torture, if drafted and implemented properly, has the potential to radically enrich the future of the country and that of its citizens. Indians have a right to participate in the legislative process that will decide their future.

Case against human rights activists for organizing people's tribunal

Mr Kirity Roy, Secretary of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), who was associated with the European Union funded National Project on Prevention of Torture in India, was arrested by the Anti Terrorist Cell of Kolkata Police from his residence in Serampore on Wednesday. Although the police sought his remand, a magistrate released on bail in the evening.

Roy”s arrest was in connection with a case registered against him and some others for organizing a People’s Tribunal on Torture in Kolkata on June 9 and 10, 2008.

People Watch, the Madurai-based human rights organization, which was in charge of the National Project had organized hearings by people’s tribunals in different states of India.

Roy has been charged with offences under Section 170 (Personating a public officer), Section 179 (refusing to answer public servant authorized to question), Section 229 (Personation of a juror or assessor) and Section 120B (Criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code..

Roy was only one of the organizers of the People’s Tribunal on Torture. The panelists included Ms. Pamela Philipose, Executive Director, Women Feature Service, Mr. Ashok Chakravarti, former Senior Director, NHRC, Justice Malay Sengupta, former Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, Dr. Mohini Giri, former Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Mr. Ashutosh Mukherjee, former District and Sessions Judge, Dr. Tapas Bhattacharjya, Dr. Satyajit Ash, M.D., Psychiatrist, MON Foundation, Dr. Sreemantee Chaudhuri, Psychiatrist, Dr. A. K. Gupta, Head of Forensic Medicine, Calcutta Medical College.

Roy challenged the validity of the FIR against him in the Calcutta High Court (Kirity Roy versus State of West Bengal & others vide WP No. 25022(W) of 2008). On August 26, 2009 Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the High Court dismissed the petition on the ground that police investigation was necessary to find out whether the petitioner organized a parallel judiciary. Roy filed an appeal (MAT 1219/2009) along with a stay application (C.A.N. 10511/2009) in the Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohit Ranjan Shah and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh. The Division Bench of Calcutta High Court is scheduled to hear the case today (April 8).

Henti Tiphagne, Executive Director of People’s Watch, writes:

I personally collected facts of the case over phone from Mr. Kirity Roy, who was released on bail at 5.00 p.m. According to him, he was arrested at 9.45 a.m. by policemen in plainclothes, Anti Terrorist Police, Detective Police from Kolkata along with Serampore Police from his residence. They took him to the Headquarters of Kolkata Police at 11.00 a.m. and then for medical examination at the Kolkata Medical College. At 2.30 p.m. he was produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate for remand. A dozen lawyers fought for his bail. The State was determined to ensure that he was remanded and therefore they produced charge-sheet hurriedly along with the Prime Accused, Mr. Kirity Roy. But he was granted bail at 5.00 p.m.

The co-accused in the case are the then State Law Officer of the National Project, the State Legal Associate, the State Program Associate, three District Human Rights Monitor and myself, Director of the National Project.

The National Project on Preventing Torture in India ended on December 31, 2008.

We urge the authorities to:
• Drop the case against the above mentioned human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally
• Guarantee in all circumstances their physical security and psychological integrity;
• Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as with Article 12.2 (“the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”);
• More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.

The hidden story behind Operation Green Hunt

The following is a joint statement issued by a number of organizations opposed to Operation Green Hunt:

Operation Green Hunt was launched in the latter half of 2009 and a large contingent of paramilitary and military forces aided and abetted by mercenaries were deployed in large parts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

It is a war supposedly to free the people of these areas from Maoist influence. By repeated declarations and one-sided media statements the Government has made Maoists “the single largest internal security threat to the country”.

Advertisements are regularly appearing in all major newspapers which call Maoists nothing but cold-blooded murderers. They are being accused of terrorizing the poor, killing men and rendering women widows, destroying school buildings, as criminals who indulge in extortion. The Home Ministry then exhorts the common people to stop violence and become prosperous.

According to government sources, 203 districts are affected by Maoists. What we should ask is: are people prospering in the remaining 400 districts? Do people have enough employment there? Do children go to schools? Do innocent people not die untimely deaths there?

Let’s take the case of Delhi which is not affected by Maoists. Prices of basic food items have skyrocketed. One day it is sugar, another day milk, on the third the price of cooking gas or public transport – the government keeps increasing prices under one pretext or the other, or many a time without giving any reasons. While the common citizens pay ever-rising prices the benefits go increasingly to big companies. Sugar mills and traders make windfall profits by importing sugar and selling it at uncontrolled prices; Petrol fills the coffers of the likes of Ambanis.

We have witnessed many innocent people being killed in the last thirty years. Gas leak in Bhopal killed thousands but no punitive action has yet been taken against the management. In the case of the proposed Nuclear Civil Liability Bill, instead of protecting its citizens, the government has been trying to cap the damages to be paid by nuclear companies of US regardless of the destruction they cause. The killing of innocents is not acceptable to anyone, but why have the guilty of the 1984 riots belonging to Congress not been punished as yet? By inciting people to break down the Babri Masjid, BJP caused riots all over the country; why use the army against one set of supposed killers (Maoists and other “insurgents”) but set up tedious commissions for communal riots against another?

The other charge against the Maoists is that they are luring people by making false promises of prosperity. But one must not forget that the Maoist party and their predecessors came into existence long after ruling parties had made these promises to people for decades to garner their votes. It is the false promises of development which lacked any real will that gave opportunity to new forces and parties. At any rate the real reason to send the army to these states is not to flush out Maoists.

The reality is that our government is subservient to domestic and foreign capital. Today, these masters are not satisfied with control over the market—whether it is retail, whole sale, rural, urban, high end or of those that cater to basic necessities. They are desperate for the real estate, water, and minerals and other natural resources. The regions and states where the Operation Green Hunt is being carried out have a large proportion of tribal population who have been living under dismal conditions for decades. The only outreach of the government to them has comprised of the Forest Department and the police and neither has lost any opportunity to intimidate them. Unfortunately for the tribals, their land has vast mineral treasures hidden under their feet. To mine these and to process them, the concerned governments have signed unprecedented numbers of MoUs with Indian as well as foreign companies during the last five years. In this period another opportunity has also been created for real estate speculation and take-over with the SEZs Act.

If the MoUs have to be honoured then the government is under compulsion to remove the present inhabitants. Crores of people will be affected in this exercise. While the government is eager to implement the MoUs it has thrown to winds all the constitutional guarantees under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution which acknowledge the traditional rights of the tribals to the forest land. Notwithstanding the tall claims of Rehabilitation and Resettlement there has not been a single case so far of proper rehabilitation of the people who have been affected. All the ‘Modern Temples’—as Nehru used to call it—of ‘Development’ like Mega dams, Steel factories, mining establishments till date have been built on the graveyards of people who were never part of that much abused word, ‘development’. The poorest of the poor people of these regions are facing perhaps the worst ever murderous campaign, called “the biggest land grab since Colombus” by none other than the Ministry of Rural Development report of the Government of India! In the state of Chhattisgarh 644 villages have been vacated in the district of Dantewada alone by burning and looting. The residents are forced to live in inhuman conditions in refugee camps which lack basic facilities and are no more than night shelters. Lakhs are hiding in the jungles without any support system and lakhs have migrated to districts like Khammam in the neighbouring states. This eviction was carried out using a private army called Salwa Judum. But when this operation was not adequate as it met with stiff resistance from the local people as well as the civil society and a sizeable section of the media provoking worldwide indignation then further operations were planned using the pretext of Maoist threat. The people of India is time and again being informed and reassured by a suave, erudite, Mining Company Director-turned Lawyer- turned Finance Minister-turned Home Minister that the army will move in, clear the area of the Maoist ‘menace’, and development will follow closely on its heels.

Today it has become a crime to take the side of the tribals. Whether it is the Gandhians who provide them with rations, or the doctors who reach out for treating the tribals where the government has abandoned them, or the democratic rights organizations who expose the violence committed by the state or Salwa Judum. Such supporters have their Ashrams demolished, doctors and civil rights activists are thrown in jail, even fact finding teams are not allowed in the area. The tribals themselves are in a much worse shape. Complaints of rape are not filed, witnesses of police firing and atrocities are made to disappear and the Salwa Judum crosses over to Andhra Pradesh to intimidate the internally displaced tribals. Opposing the government and its excesses has been made the synonym of support to Maoists. Now, well known civil rights groups and leaders have been named explicitly in Kobad Ghandy’s charge sheet. They are being called the fronts of Maoists. This act of association has been carried to such extremes that even the Supreme Court has warned the Chhattisgarh police to refrain from using “Maoist supporter” as an “innuendo”. Not just in Chhattisgarh but in other states as well people are struggling against oppression and exploitation. To term all protest as Maoist has become the standard response of the government.

Does it mean that sooner than later the army will be called to deal with all resistance? Will prisons be filled up with the voices of dissent? The government’s own reports acknowledge that Naxalism has grown on account of neglect and miseries of the people. The response then calls for social and economic justice and not of military attacks under the guidance of American and Israeli specialists. Violence will evoke counter-violence because peaceful protests are facing firing everywhere leaving them little option. Whether we look at Tamil Nadu or UP or Karnataka or Maharashtra we find that freedom of expression is largely abridged and leafleting is also termed as sedition. Draconian laws follow each other with urgency to crush dissent, terming everything into a crime at the whim of those in power and bringing incarceration without trials in their wake. Media is run as a profit making venture by large corporations and it gives weightage and coverage to those in power.

No amount of force or use of army is likely to bring lasting peace. We should not forget that army has been used extensively in Kashmir and the Northeast. For sixty years these areas are under siege. In Manipur, for every citizen there are forty men in uniform – the result is false encounters, rapes and disappearances. The Home ministry states that at the height of insurgency there were 3000 extremists in Kashmir. The violence unleashed to contain them led to human right violations, rapes and disappearances – all leaving deep scars in the psyche of Kashmiris which still breed hatred and mistrust. UN figures suggest that the victims of army atrocities far outnumber those of the militants. But this has not taught any lesson to the government and it persists in repeating military offensive in large parts of the country. The problem cannot be solved by combat and will lend itself only to a political and economic solution.

In the light of this, we call upon all concerned citizens to come together and join the struggle for people’s rights to life, livelihood and resources.

We demand:
• Immediate and complete withdrawal of military and paramilitary forces.
• Allow independent observers to visit the affected areas.
• Make public all MOUs concerned with natural resource extraction and industrial production, 2005-09.

The following are among the organizations which have subscribed to the statement:
Delhi University Campaign against War on People;
Jawaharlal Nehru University Forum against War on People;
Forum against War on People;
Campaign against Genocide of Adivasis;
Citizens Initiative for Peace;
Manipur Students’ Association, Delhi;
Delhi Solidarity Group;
Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh;
Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Manipur;
Kashipur Solidarity Group.