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.
• 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;
PCC, CPI (M-L);
Delhi Solidarity Group;
Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh;
Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Manipur;
Kashipur Solidarity Group.