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


31 May, 2010

Fact-finding team calls for withdrawal of POSCO

A fact finding team travelled to Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa to look into the human rights violations in the wake of May 15 police attack on the activists of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) and villagers affected by the proposed POSCO project.

The team headed by retired judge of the Bombay High Court Justice H Suresh included veteran social activist Chitranjan Singh, Professor Kalpana Kannabiran, veteran public health doctor Dr. Punyabrata Gun, senior journalist Bolan Gangopadhyay and human rights activist and journalist Harsh Dobhal.

Upon its arrival on 24 May morning the team held detailed discussions with representatives of political parties, leaders of people’s movements, journalists, academics and other concerned citizens at Bhubaneshwar. On 25 May, the team traveled to Balituth, proposed POSCO site of Dhinkia, Gobindapur, Patana and other villages and interacted with the local residents and victims of May 15 police firing in an attempt to get first hand information. Following are the prima facie observations by the fact-finding team and a detailed report would be complied and published soon.

The police attack on May 15th on peaceful protestors was totally uncalled for and should have no space in a democratic country like India. Police first opened tear gas shells, then rubber bullet firings and finally resorted to a brutal lathicharg when the determined villagers refused to leave the site. Over 100 persons were injured in the police action, five of them critically. Violating norms of criminal procedure, women protestors were manhandled by the male police.

In violation of international norms and standards on the treatment of the injured even during war times, the Orissa administration did not provide any medical help to the injured. The team interacted with a number of injured persons who have been languishing in their villages without any medical help as they fear police arrests if they leave the villages and the administration has not arranged for any medical help for them.

The team also interacted with a number of residents of Balituth who were neither protestors nor against POSCO project but their shops and houses were set on fire by police without any provocation. We witnessed the burnt down structures of about 15 shops and 6 houses. We could see that while no protest is going on at that site, two vanloads of police personnel are still camping there.

A number of villagers testified that the police set on fire the protest site and the shops and houses but ironically, police has filed cases against anti-POSCO movement leader Abhay Sahu and others for arson and looting. Similarly, police has filed false cases against about 800 people who were protesting against the project in a democratic and peaceful manner.

After traveling to these affected villages, the team has found that the most of the land being proposed for acquisition is rare and fertile land, rich in biodiversity and eco diversity. All the affected villagers have depended on this land for their livelihoods for centuries. Displacing them from there is an attack on their lives and livelihoods and will have very serious and irreversible impact on the fragile and unique ecology of the area.

The proposed land acquisition for POSCO is a violation of a number of Constitutional rights. The team has observed that the villagers are determined not to leave their land and wage a protracted struggle against any displacement.

The fact finding team demands immediate withdrawal of all forged cases against villagers and anti-POSCO movement leaders, release of those arrested, withdrawal of police force from the area, put an end on terrorizing the local populace, allow free movement to and from these villages and initiate immediate withdrawal of the proposed POSCO project from this site. The stiff resistance to POSCO and popular support to this people’s struggle from outside is reflective of the fact that this is a crucial issue of national importance and national interest.

Members of fact-finding team:

- Justice H Suresh
- Chitranjan Singh
- Dr. Punyabrata Gun
- Prof. Kalpana Kannabiran
- Bolan Gangopadhyay
- Harsh Dobhal

Above is a press release issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong.

28 May, 2010

AHRC: India’s conscience nailed in the gutter of caste

The Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, says in a statement:

The stoning to death of 22-year-old Swapna and her husband 28-year-old Sunkari Sriniwas on 23 May by Swapna's family near Krishnajiwadi village, Nizamabad, Andhra Pradesh state is one more proof to the stark reality of the continuing practice of caste based discrimination and caste prejudices in India. Swapna belongs to a Hindu upper caste family. Her parents and relatives were opposed to Swapna's marriage with Sriniwas, a Dalit.

The family believed that one of them marrying a lower caste is a shame upon the family and that other upper caste families will ostracise them for having a relationship with an untouchable.

Despite her family's resistance, Swapna married her fiancée Sriniwas in March this year. Swapna's family wrecked vengeance upon the couple by storming into Sriniwas' house, dragging the newlywed couple out and later stoning them to death just outside their village. A case of murder is registered against the suspects by the local police.

The brutal murder of Swapna and Sriniwas must shame every person who cares to be called an Indian.

While India has been defiant and sensitive to national and international criticism on everything related to caste based discrimination, it has refused to show similar sensitivity in dealing with the issue at the domestic level. Though the country had enacted laws to counter caste based discrimination, of which some are currently under review, like the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 it is a reality, that at the very minimum, the implementation of these legislations are half hearted and often left at the mercy of caste prejudiced law enforcement officers.

Though India boasts about some of its senior bureaucrats, a former President, Chief Ministers and constitutional court judges including the former Chief Justice as members of the Dalit community, in reality, the effect has been only symbolic. The ordinary Dalit continues to face discrimination and social stigmatisation throughout the country. The fact that the parents of a woman went to the extent of stoning their own daughter to death for marrying an untouchable Dalit, underlines the fact that mere legislations will not end caste based discrimination. The incident also is the grim reminder to the fact that caste prejudice is deep-rooted in India.

Caste based discrimination is widely considered to be worse than slavery and any other forms of discrimination known to human. Over the period of the past 3000 years, it has had its influence sans continents. While caste, its parallels and their influence have been mostly wiped off from the society in most parts of the world, in South Asia, in particular Nepal and India, caste remains the singular denominator with which individuals are evaluated in the society. To deal with such a deep-rooted violence mere law making is not enough.

A legal text is only the mere codification of certain principles, norms and rules. In punitive jurisprudence, a law could also be a deterrent against a crime. But the deterrence factor of the crime, in this case, caste based discrimination as referred to in the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, depends upon the effectiveness in the execution of the law. This is where India and its entire justice institutions and policies have failed.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has documented cases over the past ten years, where atrocities committed against the members of the lower caste were refused to be registered as crimes at police stations. The general failure of the law enforcement mechanism in the country coupled with the caste prejudice of the officer who runs the system poses a double walled challenge to a complainant who would want to register and investigate his complaint and prosecute a person who has committed a crime that is covered under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

In addition to the lack of willingness of the government to root out caste prejudice is the omnipresence of the caste prejudiced mind in government policies. One of the worst forms of caste based discrimination is the continuing practice of manual scavenging. The Indian version of manual scavenging is literally carrying of human excreta on heads by the Dalits, in particular by the members of the lowest of the lower caste communities.

In spite of a dozen laws preventing manual scavenging the practice continues in India due to more than one reason, of which an important one is the lack of adequate sanitary facilities in most parts of the country. Investment in proper sanitation facilities is a factor conveniently overlooked even in the national capital, New Delhi. Of course a government has no reason to spend money on sanitation if there are a few million lower caste persons destined to do the job of scavenging for a meagre pay.

The lower caste has also been let down by their own leaders like Ms. Mayawati, the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, who have spent millions worth of tax payers' money to erect her own statues and that of her deceased political mentor.

Whenever there has been a national and/or international debate on the issue, so far the government of India has prevented any form of intervention on the issue from external agencies like the United Nations on the ground that caste and dealing with caste is an internal matter of the country. This is similar to the arguments of the Sri Lankan President, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Mr. Robert Gabriel Mugabe the President of Zimbabwe that ethnic and other state sponsored violence is a matter of internal discussion of their respective countries and that no external help is required to sort it out.

The unique and staunch resistance posed by the government of India against any form of assistance to deal with caste based discrimination in India has resulted in the practice being allowed to continue unabated. Though, it is not for an external agency to resolve a domestic issue, but receiving some help would not hurt.

There are thousands of couples and individuals who have faced similar fate as that of Swapna and Sriniwas in India. There will be many more. But the ultimate blame for allowing such dehumanising practice to continue must be upon the governments that have ruled India for the past 62 years.

Caste prejudice and caste based violence in India can be addressed. But that requires a change in the government's Brahminical mind, irrespective of its political colour. Until that happen India will have to bear the burden of carrying a broom of shame perpetually tied to its back.

25 May, 2010

Hind Swaraj marchers denied permission to meet Irom Sharmila

The following is a press release issued jointly by Human Rights Alert, Manipur, and the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, on the Hind Swaraj march from Kerala to Manipur in solidarity with Irom Sharmila:

Drawing inspiration from the non-violent protest of Ms. Irom Sharmila of Manipur, a group of activists, artists, journalists, writers, academics, research scholars and students organised a national campaign, the Hind Swaraj Peace March, in India.

The march is organised in support and solidarity of Sharmila's ten-year long fast, calling upon the state and non-state actors to end the culture of impunity and violence. The march also demands the withdrawal of the draconian law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.

The march started on 8 May from Cherthala, Kerala state and will terminate in Imphal, Manipur state on 27 May. Cherthala is the constituency of Mr. A. K. Anthony, the Defence Minister of India. En route the march staged plays and held public meetings in Bangalore, Chennai, Vijayawada, Pune, Bhopal, Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati and Itanagar. Award winning writer and novelist Prof. Sara Joseph and social activist Mr. Civic Chandran, both from Kerala are leading the march. The march also marks the centenary of Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), a movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in his effort to create a non-violent world.

The play performed in the Hind Swaraj Peace March named Meira Paibi (torchbearer women) highlights the women's movement for peace in Manipur. In Manipur however the play had to be cancelled since the 17 member team could not enter the state owing to the road blockade organised by the Naga political groups. Only five members were able to afford to reach Imphal by air.

An application filed by the Hind Swaraj Centenary Committee, including Prof. Sara Joseph and Civic Chandran, requesting permission to meet Sharmila at the hospital room where she is detained by the state government, was not even accepted to records by the Chief Minister in complete contrast to what Sharmila represents. The team however went to the hospital and talked to Sharmila without entering her room.

On 23 May, the Centenary Committee held a press conference in Imphal addressing the media about their journey and movement to strengthen Sharmila's non-violent protest. In addition the Committee has spoken to thousands of people across the country about Sharmila and the issues in Manipur during the three week long journey from Kerala, including a press conference at Guwahati.

Speaking to a group of journalists, activists, students and academics in Guwahati, Prof. Sara said: "the choice before the post independence India in this critical historical juncture is between Maoist leader Mr. Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishanji and the iconic peace activist Irom Sharmila. If we refuse to engage with Sharmila we will be forced to confront Kishanji."

"Kishanji's way is the path of violence which the world has rejected many a times. However Sharmila's is the path of non-violent people's struggle that has been successful in the past. Which path should India and the civil society choose?" Prof. Sara added.

Adding to the discussion Chandran said: "Kishanji and Chidambaram are birds of the same feather. However they represent different classes. One seeks to uphold and the other seeks to gain power through violence; both are in an unholy alliance."

"Maoists have become a pressure valve for the system. The only choice before the oppressed classes is to embrace Sharmila's way of peaceful and democratic struggle…" Chandran added.

Prof. Sara said: "this peace march is to address the state and the civil society and tell both that they must engage in non-violence. The solution to the threat faced by democracy is to have more democracy."

Commenting on the issues in India's northeastern states Chandran said "India's northeastern states provide clear evidence of the internal colonisation with its manifest social, cultural and political dimensions."

"The only way to make the people living in the northeast to realise that they are part of India is by recognising and respecting their identities, autonomy, freedoms and democratic rights." Chandran added.

Meira Paibi, a play the march performed in Malayalam and Hindi talks about India's northeast to the rest of the country.

Concerning the fragility of peace in the region Chandran said: "any small disturbance is sufficient to upset life in the northeast. Manipur has been cut off from the rest of the world over the issue of a former guerrilla leader's desire to visit his home village."

Speaking to the media in Imphal, Mr. Babloo Loitongbam, the Director of Human Rights Alert said: "Though the situation has deteriorated to the extent that essential medicine and food items are scarce, the centre and the state governments have been unresponsive to the situation."

"We demand that they talk to each other immediately to resolve the long jam. Let the people get back to their normal life" added Babloo.

Speaking about the collective responsibility of India and its people to respect Sharmila's unique protest Chandran said: "as the noted human rights activist and Nobel Laureate Ms. Shirin Ebadi 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."

"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" Chandran added.

Emphasising the importance of non-violence and its role in a democratic state Chandran said: "Long live the dream of a non-violent alternative enunciated in the Hind Swaraj and the possibility of the non-violent people's struggle epitomised by Irom Sharmila."

"Let us work together for a self reliant and decentralised federal India. As Mahasweta Devi predicted, let us hope the twenty first century will be known and marked by Irom Sharmila" said Chandran.

23 May, 2010

Peace Now, says Dr B. D. Sharma

The following is the text of a letter which Dr. B.D.Sharma, former Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Government of India, has written to the President of India:

Dear President,
Sub: PEACE NOW in tribal areas
1. I, with my life-long association with tribal affairs, beginning with the troublesome days in Bastar (1968) and having the privilege of being the last Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (1986-1991), am constrained to approach you at a critical time when we are witnessing virtual collapse of the constitutional regime for the tribal people while being attacked and suppressed in a war-like situation.
2. I approach you directly because people (including the tribal people) look to you as also the Governors as the constitutional head of India and the concerned State discharge their duty to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, made explicit respective oaths. As President, you have various rights and duties under Article 78 of the Constitution whereby all discussions of the Cabinet and administration are to be communicated to you and you are expected to submit matters for consideration of the Cabinet.
3. In particular, the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution requires the Governor to give annual report and such special reports required by the President with regards the administration of the Scheduled Areas and the power of the Union in your name shall
“extend to the giving of directions to the State in the administration of the said areas” (V th Schedule, pr.3)
No reports of consequence have been made. The constitutional machinery of the Tribes Advisory Council (V th Schedule, pr.4) yielded no advice.
4. Under the law, the Governor can ensure that no law of Parliament or the State shall apply to the extent indicated. At present, tribals are being ruthlessly exploited and suppressed by uses and abuses of land acquisition and public order. Yet no action is taking place.
5. In fact – going by the Ministry of Home Affairs perception, the tribals are effectively not the responsibility of the Union – which is only assisting the State government. How can this be? The executive power of a State extends to the Scheduled Areas subject to the provisions of the Fifth Schedule. Moreover, ‘the executive power of the Union shall extend to giving of directions to the State as to the administration of the said areas.'
6. I am constrained to state at this critical phase of the history of tribal people that the Union Government is guilty of abdicating its Constitutional responsibility by allowing the situation to degenerate from that of stray revolts in 1960s to ‘warlike situation' at the moment. It has remained unconcerned with the simmering discontent from day one with the adoption of the Constitution. It has not issued a single direction to any State in 60 long years. You as head of the nation, at a critical time must ensure that the Union Government accepts unequivocally its Constitutional responsibility with due apologies for the decimated, shattered and disinherited tribal communities whose irretrievable loss- physical, economical and emotional - is an un-washable blot on the fair face of our nation that still stands by equity and justice.
7. May I invite your kind attention to some crucial aspects of virtual ‘warlike' situation vis-à-vis the tribal people in extensive parts of our country. No less than a person, one of your worthy predecessors, Shri K.R. Narayanan in his address to the nation on January 26, 2001 drew pointed attention to enlightened laws for protection of tribal lands and their affirmation in judicial verdicts, yet plagued by dilemmas of development that were not suitably addressed. He poignantly observed, ‘l et it not be said by future generations that the Indian Republic has been built on the destruction of green earth and the innocent tribals who have been living there for centuries.'
8. Amidst exceptions, there is cruel insensitivity and total lack of understanding, some honourable exceptions apart, about the tribal ethos amongst our ruling elite when they address the tribal as ‘poor' and talk about his joining the ‘main stream' of national life. They hurt the simple people to the core who are super-sensitive about their ‘honour'. Let it be known that tribal is not poor. He is Deprived and Disinherited in his own Domain, his ‘DES' , ironically amidst the unbounded bounty of Mother Earth to her dearest children. They are the brightest jewels in the rich mosaic of great Indian civilization proud of its vivacious diversity.
9. That is not all. The tribal people are ‘the most democratic people on earth'. The founding fathers, therefore, especially bestowed them with a protective shield, the Fifth Schedule described as ‘Constitution within Constitution'. Yet these communities were virtually ‘criminalised' on the dot with the adoption of our Constitution. The colonial laws engulfed the hitherto excluded areas. They have no place for the ‘community' and its ‘customs and tradition', the unwritten laws of their ‘ Village Republics .' The Governors, endowed with limitless powers for removing any such dissonance, have remained unaware to date about the catastrophic impact of this lapse on their part on the life of the tribal people.
10. The Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA), appeared to come as a saviour that is designed to erase the above mentioned historical injustice. It engendered unprecedented fervour amongst the tribal people throughout the country. It was perceived as restoration of their dignity and tradition of self-governance, symbolized by ‘Mava Nate Mava Raj' (Our Village Our Rule). Yet this fervour has faded as no one's concern. It is so because the ruling elite are not prepared to go by the spirit of PESA. It remains virtually unimplemented in all States.
11. The fund of goodwill for the tribal people in our country has been phenomenal beginning with the Panchasheel of Nehruvian era; the unique Constitutional provisions elevating tribal affairs as a national task away from party considerations; matchless commitment for elimination of exploitation concomitant with development in Tribal Sub-Plans (1974); ushering in Village Republic like frame under PESA (1996) and a pledge to undo Historical injustice in Forest Rights Act (2006). Yet, the saddest part of this commitment is that no promise in that long chain has remained unbroken, in some cases even promises-squared, cubed and beyond. I am enclosing an illustrative list of broken promises.
12. In this realm of broken promises, predatory administration and unconcern at the top that could not even keep a count of heads displaced, unrest spread and revolts multiplied. It was natural for the victims in the wild who could not be conquered even by the British. The cooption-bid through so-called developmental programmes backfired. It vitiated the egalitarian ethos. The youthful rebels against iniquitous system became their allies. ‘With dadas in the vicinity at least– guard, daroga and patawari —no longer bother us,' was the simple response of the simple people, reported by me way back in 1989. Yet no amends have been attempted notwithstanding ubiquitous admission that it is not a law and order problem.
13. In conclusion, I would like you to urgently consider:
• persuading the Union to publicly state its special responsibility towards the tribals;
• initiating proposal for PEACE NOW;
• setting up a chain of command to the highest level, amenable to access, by those affected, for regular oversight, review and action;
• honouring within one year honestly all promises that have been made to the tribal people and broken by the state
• examining immediately and reversing decisions where permissions requiring consultation with the people under PESA were fabricated, coerced or otherwise vitiated;
• working out a comprehensive solution to confront the existing chaos and,
• visiting some of the areas experiencing intense Constitutional crisis.

I remain
With regards,
Yours sincerely,
(B.D. Sharma)
Copy to

1. Shri Manmohan Singhji
Prime Minister of India ,
South Block, New Delhi

2. Shri Pranab Mukherjee
Finance Minister
North Block, New Delhi

3. Shri Veerappa Moily
Minister of Law and Justice
Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi
4. Shri P. Chidambaram
Home Minister of India
North Block, New Delhi

5. Shri Kantilal Bhuria
Minister Tribal Affairs,
Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi

6. Dr C.P.Joshi
Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj
Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi

7. Shri Jairam Ramesh
Minster of State, Ministry of Environment and Forest
Paryavaran Bhawan, Lodi Road , New Delhi
Dr. B. D. Sharma’s address:
A11, Nanglirajapur
Nizamuddin East
New Delhi-110013
Tel 01124353997

21 May, 2010

Chhattisgarh: Democratic processes alone will yield positive results

The following is a statement by Ms. Nandini Sundar, Mr. E. A. S. Sarma and Mr. Ramachandra Guha, who have moved the Supreme Court for steps to end civil strife in the tribal areas:

As co-petitioners in a Public Interest Litigation before the Supreme Court (WP 250/2007)
urging the end of civil strife in Chattisgarh, we write to express our shock and horror at the detonation of a bus in Dantewada district by Maoists on 17th May, killing around 50 innocent civilians.

We condemn such senseless and inhuman violence and those responsible for it.

Violence has no place in a democracy and those that adopt violent means to express themselves cannot and should not be condoned in any manner whatsoever. We convey our sympathy to the families of all whose lives have been lost in this ghastly incident.

It is unfortunate that innocent tribals and other civilians are caught in the ongoing violence in Dantewada and other parts of eastern and central India. We reiterate our consistent plea to the government to reach out to the tribals and the other local communities in these areas through tangible confidence building measures, including the announcement and implementation of a policy that recognises the Constitutional rights of the tribals in the notified areas. We feel that any strategy based on violence will prove counterproductive in the long run.

We firmly believe that democratic processes alone will yield a positive outcome in these areas where the extent of violence seems to be on the increase.

Nandini Sundar
E. A. S. Sarma
Ramachandra Guha

19 May, 2010

EKTA condemns violence, renews call for dialogue

Sukla Sen, EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai, writes:

EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity) hereby strongly condemns the lethal attack by Maoist insurgents yesterday (Monday) afternoon on a private bus at Chingavaram on the Dantewada-Sukhma road in Chhattisgarh in an overly successful bid to kill a group of travelling armed Special Police Officers (SPOs) -- Adivasi youths recruited to battle Maoist insurgency in the state, with the full knowledge that the bus was carrying also a large number of unarmed civilian passengers taking no part in the ongoing armed conflicts between the insurgents and the state. This is morally utterly repulsive.

We also, on this note, strongly disapprove the brutal summary executions of unarmed civilians, including Adivasis and other sections of the poor and marginalized, by the Maoists tagging them as “informer”.

At the same time, we also take note of the fact that a large group of SPOs, maybe around 20, elected to travel by a bus full of civilian passengers, plying through an area known to be prone to mine blasts and other forms of armed assaults by the Maoists, despite the fact they are engaged in an open and no holds barred war with the insurgents, killing each other at the first available opportunity. This amounts to virtually holding the civilian passengers as helpless hostage and trying to use them as human shield for their own safety. It is also just unacceptable.

While on this orgy of gory violence, the reflexive cry of Sri Chidambaram in the wake of these tragic murders for more of the same (failed measures), asking for an “expanded mandate” i.e. permission to use air strikes against the insurgents operating in an area with deep forest covers and sheltering for ages large number of adivasi inhabitants is also unacceptably disturbing. So is his vituperative verbal assault on civil society groups committed to uphold democratic values and norms so as to cover up his own dismal performance as the Union Home Minister.

The fact that the detailed recommendations made by a body of recognized experts appointed by no less than the Planning Commission of India to tackle Maoist insurgency have gone completely unheeded despite persistent failures of the tried and tested repressive measures deserves close attention.
On this note, we also strongly condemn Orissa government’s armed assaults on unarmed civilian resistors protesting against proposed mega projects by the Posco, and also Tata, Vedanta etc., overriding all ecological, social, and also legal, considerations.

It seems that the state is bent upon sending the message, in unison with the insurgents, that in Indian democracy peaceful protests have no reasonable chance of being heard and the only way out is armed banditry.

At the end, we again appeal to the warring parties to immediately come to the negotiating table and eschew blood spilling violence. Obviously the “democratic” state has a greater responsibility and just cannot afford to emulate a band of armed outlaws.

The sate must also immediately have an authentic and thoughtful relook at the “strategy” being pursued hitherto by it and make serious attempts to initiate inclusive and participatory development to better the lot of the marginalised Adivasi populations, in particular - the main constituency of the insurgents, to cut them off from their principal support base.

Mindless armed action will only bring in more and more tragedies it its wake.
An internal disturbance fuelled by an overpowering sense of alienation felt by a significant section of the population born out of desperate poverty and cruel oppressions cannot be and must not be tackled the way a war is waged against a clearly identified uniformed external enemy.

17 May, 2010

Macabre drama in Orissa: Nachiketa Desai’s reports

A macabre drama is unfolding in poverty-stricken Orissa where the state government has begun to crush over a dozen peaceful people’s movements against forciblel eviction from their land and other sources of livelihood to help giant multinational corporations usurp mineral-rich forest and fertile agricultural land, writes journalist Nachiketa Desai in a report circulated by Countercurrents.

See “Conspiracy against non-violent resistance movements in Orissa

See also article “Orissa: Miners’ Paradise” by Nachiketa Desai

Can 'civilized' people show such disrespect for land and those who cultivate it?

Felix Padel writes:

Dear Friends

It's so painful to witness the vicious attacks on the Kalinganagar and anti-Posco movements in Orissa. It is a similar story in all over Central Tribal India. Not just because the women, men and children in these movements have risked everything to stand up against a corporate invasion of their land, with exemplary integrity and non-violence, but also because this state violence perpetrated by police and goondas contains the seeds of future atrocities, and acts as the surest recruiting ground for Maoist insurgency.
To understand what is happening demands comprehending simultaneously the credulity of so many middle class people who believe that these foreign-financed industries really will usher in a new age of prosperity for all, and on the other side, the incredulity of farmers whose families have always lived on the land that government servants can perpetrate such terror and get away with it.

How can 'civilized' people show such disrespect for the land and those who cultivate it? When village people meet the ruthless reality behind the smiling face of Tata's or Posco's multi-million PR machinery, and see the land and communities they've struggled to preserve over generations annihilated, where should they place their exasperation
and rage?

Felix Padel

Felix Padel is a freelance anthropologist trained at Oxford and Delhi Universities. He has been living in a remote village of southwest Orissa with his Adivasi wife for the last 17 years. His first book analyzed the imposition of colonial structures over a tribal society. His latest book ‘’Sacrificing People: Invasions of a Tribal Landscape’ has been published by Orient Blackswan). He is a great-grandson of Charles Darwin.

Courtesy: Countercurrents

16 May, 2010

Anti-POSCO movement: Chronology of events

Below is a chronology of events in Orissa where more than 100 villagers were injured, five of them seriously, and 18 persons, including five women, were arrested by the police yesterday during a peaceful protest against the Posco project. It has been prepared by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS)

8.30 PM: PPSS President Abhay Sahu appealed to everybody to extend immediate support for the treatment of the injured people. Also, he requested all concerned and well-meaning people to extend their solidarity for the causes of people in struggles.

8.20 PM: Information received from PPSS activists from Dhinkia that about two Activists named Natha Swain (32 male from Nuagan) & Ramesh Das (35 male from Dhinkia) are critically injured with metal bullets. Immediate Medical Care is needed for them as they lost a lot of blood so far. All roads to anti POSCO Villages are blocked & sealed by Police. There is no way to get medical support /go out of the Village because of the police blockade. Among the 100 persons injured persons more than 60 percent are women or children.

6.10 PM: Manorama Khatua, woman leader, PPSS informed that women were mercilessly beaten up by male police.The situation is under tense. 5 persons are seriously injured. Injured people are not able to access for medical treatments.

5.00 PM: An alliance of some people’s organizations and activists organized a protest Dharna in front of the Governors’ House against police atrocity at Kalinga Nagar (TATA)and Balitutha(POSCO).

4.00 PM: Information reached that Police have blocked all the roads to the proposed site and the people are forced to remain inside their villages. Outsiders are not allowed to enter into the area.

3.15 PM: More than 100 persons got injured by teargas shell and police firing. 18 persons including 5 women got arrested. The houses, shops, sheds, tents belonging to local people in and around dharna location were burnt down by the Police.

3.10 PM: News came in local TV channels that CPI has called for a 12 hours Kujang Bandh (shut down) in protest of police atrocities and arrest of its leader and activists, which was confirmed from CPI state office.

2.30PM: Police version: people threw country bombs at the police therefore the forces retaliated! PPSS version: it’s a blatant lie. Company deployed anti-socials and some pro-POSCO leaders joined with the Police, threw bombs to mislead the democratic and peaceful movement.

2.25 PM: After tear gas, rubber bullets, the police started firing with real ones.

2.10 PM: Police action started against the people by throwing tear gas & rubber bullets from 100 meter distance.

1.43 PM: The district collector and superintendent of police made announcements over microphone asking people to disperse immediately or else face the action.

12.00: Around 50 activists of All India Youth Federation, All India Students’ Federation & Communist Party of India demonstrated before the Police Commissioner office at Bhubaneshwar. They were arrested and later released.

11.38M: Standing at 20 meters’ distance from Dharna place was taking positions and waiting for orders to fire.

10.45 PM: Congress ex-MLA Umesh Swain on his way to Balithuta was detained at Kujang police station.

10.40 AM: About 600 pro-POSCO people joined the anti-POSCO camp and participated in the resistance.

10.38 AM: At Balithuta, numbers of villagers have swelled up from 600 to 3700. Villagers were in no mood to retreat, more people joined from Nuagaon, which was earlier considered as pro-POSCO area.

10.36 AM: Section 144 of IPC was introduced in the areas covering 3 kilometer radius of Balitutha. Police warned people to leave the place within 10 minutes.

10.15 AM: There is spontaneous protest of the people in front of Paradeep Police station and Kujang against the illegal detention of the MP Bibhu Prasad Tarai. At Balithuta, numbers have swelled up. There are about 3700 villagers facing 1500 or so armed police. Villagers are in no mood to retreat, more people are joining from Nuagaon panchayat .

10.07 AM: D. Raja, Politburo Member, CPI informed that he has spoken to Orissa Chief Minister. The CM told him that he would enquire to the matter and assured that no force would be used.

9.45 AM: Condemning the aggression by the Naveen Patnaik Government, Prasant Paikray, the spokesperson – PPSS told, ‘the chief minister is directly implementing the police operation through his Principal Secretary, who is issuing instructions to SP and District Collector.

9.25 AM: Appeal made to concerned citizens to call SP (-Debadatta Singh)'s mobile no-09437094678 urging him not to use force. Responding calls of human rights activists, political leaders, environmentalists, journalists, advocates, film-makers from across the country, he informed - ‘POLICE HAS COME PREPARED TO USE FORCE AGAINST THE PEOPLE’.

8.57 AM: District Collector and Police Superintendent spearheaded police in 15 Vehicles towards dharana place.

7.00 AM: Around 600 villagers sat in dharna place at Balithutha . Police vans arrived at the dharna place

4.00 AM: Bibhu Prasad Tarai, Member of Parliament (MP) of Jagatsinghpur from CPI was detained and put at Circuit house at Kujang at 2AM (mid-night of May 15) on his way to Dhinkia.

May 14, 2010 – Police made flag-march from Kujang to Balitutha.

May 11, 2010 - 25 platoon of Police forces, 5 ambulances and 3 magistrates enter into the area and forcefully occupied the nearby school campuses.

May 3, 2010: Bijay Kumar Patnaik, IAS, Principal Secretary to CM returned back from South Korea after 15-days’ visit. PPSS leader Abhay Sahu alleges that on behalf of Chief Minister, he has represented to settle the ‘deal’ with POSCO Company and the entire cost of his visit was borne by the POSCO

For more information, please contact: Prasant Paikray, Spokesperson, PPSS, and Cell: 09437571547

Stop police attacks on peaceful protesters in Orissa

The following is a joint statement issued by a number of concerned citizens:

New Delhi: We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the unprovoked firing and arson carried out by the Orissa state police against a dharna of farmers and fisher folk opposed to the proposed POSCO steel project in Jagatsingpur district.

As per latest reports, today over 100 people have been injured and many shops and houses in Balitutha village, the site of the dharna, have been set on fire by the policemen. Around 40 divisions of policemen were involved in the operation, which continues even now as we write this. Hundreds of villagers belonging to the PPSS (POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Samiti) have been sitting in a peaceful dharna since 26 January 2010 to express their dissent against the proposed plant.

It is also outrageous to note that the atrocities and arson by the police at Balitutha at the moment is being led by the SP of the district while chief minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar is issuing statements like “We are for peaceful industrialization” to the media. Naveen Patnaik is known for his ruthless manner in which he has dealt with democratic resistances in the past 10 years in the state, in which many innocent people have lost their lives to police firing and other forms of violence perpetrated by the state.

Prior to today’s police action, there was already an economic blockage imposed by the state administration of the villages earmarked for land acquisition and where resistance is the strongest. There is a strong fear that any police raid on the villagers to oust them from their land will result in the loss of innocent lives in an area where thousands were already killed when the Orissa Super Cyclone hit the area just a decade ago. Nevertheless, the area is endowed with rich natural resources and has a prosperous economy of its own, and the local communities – as they have expressed it over and over again – do not want to trade their resources, economy, and cultural identities for mere corporate greed.

We believe that, to crush peaceful dissent in such a brutal manner can only serve to undermine Indian democracy and push large sections of the Indian population to the point of desperation. At no point, in their struggle for over five years, have the anti-POSCO protesters indulged in any violent activities and have instead set an example to the rest of the country on how to carry out a democratic struggle based solely on the mass support of ordinary men and women.

We appeal to all Indian political parties and concerned citizens to oppose the Orissa government’s ill-considered and draconian action against the anti-POSCO protestors and demand the immediate withdrawal of police forces from the area. It is only through peaceful negotiations that a resolution can be found and the common people’s crumbling faith in Indian democracy restored.

Yours sincerely,
1. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, New Delhi
2. Medha Patkar, NAPM
3. Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist, New Delhi
4. Sandeep Pandey, NAPM
5. B Ramakrishna Raju, NAPM
6. Praful Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Orissa
7. Meher Engineer, Academic, Kolkata
8. Ashok Chaudhury, NFFPFW, New Delhi
9. Subrat Kumar Sahu, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
10. Sanjay Bosu Mallick, NFFPFW
11. Madhumita Dutta, Vettiverr Collective, Chennai
12. Nityanand Jayaraman, Journalist, Chennai
13. Shweta Narayan, Community Environmental Monitoring, Chennai
14. Dr Karen Coelho, Academic, Chennai
15. Shazia Nigar, Delhi University and NAPM, New Delhi
16. Soumitra Ghosh, NFFPFW – North Bengal Regional Committee, Siliguri, West Bengal
17. Mamata Dash, Researcher and Activist, NFFPFW, New Delhi
18. Amit Sengupta, Journalist, New Delhi
19. Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, New Delhi
20. Ravi Hemadri, the Other Media, New Delhi
21. Manshi Asher, Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
22. Shalini Gera, Friends of South Asia, Delhi
23. Shibayan Raha, New Delhi
24. Madhu Sarin, Researcher and Activist, Chandigarh
25. Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
26. Saswati Swetlana
27. Ashish Fernandes, Bangalore
28. Amar Kanwar, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
29. B Karthik Navayan, Advocate, Hyderabad
30. Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center
31. Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
32. Maj Gen (Retd) S G Vombatkere
33. Rashida Bee, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
34. Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
35. Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
36. Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
37. Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
38. Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide
39. K P Sasi, Independent Filmmaker, Bangalore
40. Anivar Aravnd, ICT Consultant, Movingrepublic, Bangalore
41. Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh, New Delhi
42. Latha Jishnu, Journalist, New Delhi
43. Chanda Asani, Academic, Jaipur
…and many more concerned citizens

13 May, 2010

Battle for Dandakaranya


Bastar (Chhattisgarh): A fierce battle is raging along the Indrawati river in Central India. On one side of the river are deployed the para military forces of the Indian state. On the other side, in dense forest, are the Maoist guerrillas.

The Indian militia calls the battle, Operation ‘Green Hunt’, which is aimed at flushing out the Maoists from the mineral rich forest land so that Indian and multinational corporations can fatten their bottom line by exploiting iron ore, coal and bauxite. The Maoists are fighting to protect the 40,000 square kilometers of dense forest land known as Dandakaranya from these marauding companies.

The Indian militia has deployed at the front a private army of teenaged Adivasis raised under the banner of ‘Salwa Judum’ to provide local support to the Central Reserve Police force (CRPF). The police of Chhattisgarh operate from the safety of police stations, far away from the battle field. In the battle for the control of Dandakaranya, mostly the adivasis and the CRPF men drawn largely from the poor and socially backward class families from across the country die. Rarely do the senior officers of the police, the bureaucracy or the top executives of the MNCs get killed.

Maoists have ‘liberated’ the mineral-rich region where governments have existed only in the form of greedy contractors and corrupt policemen and forest officials, leaving the mass of tribals to suffer in poverty, disease and illiteracy while outsiders strip away Bastar's minerals.

“The country is on a boil. In the last 60 years, we have made the rich more rich and the poor more poor. The condition of over 60 crore people of our country is deteriorating day by day. If such a scenario continues, there would be great trouble, what kind of trouble is unpredictable,” says Professor Yash Pal, leading space scientist and former chairman of University Grants commission.

“Today, millions of people, mostly tribals, are migrating from their ancestral land to far off places like Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab and Gujarat to toil as labourers. There must be something terribly wrong with our development policy which is making this happen,” points out Prof. Yash Pal. “In the name of development, we are mining for minerals which we export to China, Japan and other countries. We dig land, we dig forest, we uproot people living in this land for the so-called development and progress,” he adds. “Having uprooted the adivasis, we set up highly polluting industries and destroy the most-beautiful and green forest land of our country. We are destroying the soil of India, we are destroying the people of India.”

Prof. Yash Pal was addressing a press conference in Raipur, the state capital of Chhattisgarh, on the eve of a peace march to Dantewada calling for talks and national debate to find an end to the civil war in the tribal-dominated mineral-rich forest-covered areas of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Prof. Yash Pal was among the group of over 50 concerned citizens who participated in the peace march from Raipur to Dantewada from May 6 to 8. Among the other participants were Swami Agnivesh of Bandhua Mazdoor Mukti Sangathan, Prof. Banwarilal Sharma of Azadi Bachao Andolan, veteran Gandhian Narayan Desai, chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith, Thomas Kochery of World Fisherfolk Forum and Radha Bhatt, chairperson of Gandhi Peace Foundation.

There was a consensus among the participants of the peace march that faulty development model of the country, which marginalized the vast majority of rural poor, the indigenous dwellers of the forest, was responsible for the civil war-like situation in not just the forested areas of central India but also in the North-eastern states and Kashmir.

There was also a consensus among them over the means of restoring peace in the country. “Gun versus gun is not the solution. Violence only would breed more violence. If the government thinks that it would be able to eliminate the Maoists by bullets, it is greatly mistaken. Look, what happened in Vietnam,” points out Prof Yash Pal.

“Are we going to annihilate the entire population of Adivasis, just like the Americans did with the Red Indians, to push forward development and progress?” asked Radha Bhatt of the Gandhi Peace Foundation.

“In the name of dam construction and mining, millions of people are getting displaced,” points out Thomas Kochery. “They are getting displaced from their land, forest and water”, he adds. This is the first kind of violence the poor people are facing, this is the first form of terrorism in the country.

“The second form of violence is by Naxalites who take up arms to retaliate the first form of violence. And the third form of violence is when the army and the para military forces use guns to put down the second form of violence,” he points out. “We are here to say that peace can be achieved by removing all the three kinds of violence from the country.”

“A long-lasting peace can be achieved only by holding talks amongst all concerned to find out a sustainable people-centric development paradigm,” says veteran Gandhian Narayan Desai.

Despite having spelled out the objective of their peace march from Raipur to Dantewada, the marchers faced ugly demonstration from a handful of supporters of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress as well as from some representatives of trade, commerce and industry bodies.

The first to react was Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh who ridiculed the peace initiative by mocking at them and obliquely referring to them as the sympathizers of the Maoists. “Why do these intellectuals wake up only when the government starts operations against the Maoists and keep quiet when the members of our security forces get killed,” he said.

Taking a cue from the chief minister’s statement, a handful of workers of the BJP, the Congress and the local chamber of commerce and industry held demonstrations in Raipur, Jagdalpur and Dantewada, shouting, “Naxal supporters go back, go back.”

None of these demonstrators was local adivasi and only represented the trading community of the district towns of Jagdalpur and Dantewada which has been exploiting the adivasis over the last several centuries and which thrives on the ongoing war against the Maoists. “The traders of Jagdalpur and Dantewada are the main suppliers of foodgrain, grocery and other essential commodities to the security forces. Their total turnover of supplies to the security forces is in the range of Rs2000 crore yearly,” points out a resident of Jagdalpur who was a student union leader of the local college about a decade ago.

The state government and members of both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress, with active participation of the police and local goons have been preventing independent journalists, lawyers and human rights activists from visiting Dantewada by organizing violent attacks against them.

Anyone trying to find out what is happening in Bastar on both sides of the Indrawati river is promptly branded by the Establishment as ‘Supporter of Maoists’.

A Gandhian worker, Himanshu Kumar, who has been running ‘Vanvasi Chetana Ashram’ for the last 17 years, was dubbed as ‘Maoist sympathiser’ and his Ashram razed to the ground by the authorities after he raised the issue of mindless killing of innocent adivasis by the police-backed Salwa Judum private militia.

A couple of journalists have been detained by the police after they tried to cross the Indrawati river to find out what was happing in the deep forest.

Forest people’s movements call for end of militarization of forests

The following is a joint statement issued by forest people's movements on May 12:

Today, the police have killed one person in Kalinganagar and critically injured at least 30 more; at the proposed POSCO plant site in Jagatsinghpur, Orissa. Twenty-five platoons of police have been deployed to crush the people defending their land. They expect another attack tomorrow or the day after.

As national platforms of democratic forest movements, with more than 200 organizational members spread across the country, we unequivocally condemn this brutality. But such atrocities are not occurring in isolation. Operation Green Hunt and the increasing militarization of the conflict in central India is wreaking devastation in our homelands and closing the space for democratic struggles. We first reiterate the following facts, to expose the myths being promoted by the government:

• In all the areas where Operation Green Hunt is underway, aside from individual atrocities, security forces are now preventing people from entering the forest, cultivating their lands or collecting minor forest produce. The numbers that are threatened with starvation or disease as a result is not even known. These facts have been ignored even as the tragic loss of lives in Maoist attacks has received a lot of attention. How can an offensive with such results be justified?

• An offensive in the name of the “rule of law” has been launched in areas where the government has never shown the slightest respect for the law. Under the law, land acquisition in Scheduled Areas is subject to consultation with the gram sabha (village assembly); diversion of forest land in all forests is subject to the consent of the gram sabha; and people have rights over village common lands, forests, water bodies and grazing areas. Can the government name a single place in the country where the rights of people over forests and lands have been fully recognised and respected? Can it name a single “development” project in the forest areas that has complied with the requirements of law? Rather, in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh alone, after 2006 the government has illegally granted in principle or final clearances for the use of 15,411 hectares of forest land to various “projects”.

• The government's true intentions are revealed by their response to democratic movements in the majority of forest areas, where the CPI(Maoist) does not exist. As an indicator, in just the few weeks between March 20 and April 20, activists in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam and West Bengal were arrested or attacked by police for the crime of standing up for the law and demanding legal rights. The protesters at POSCO and many other places, who have no link whatsoever with the Maoists, are being attacked.
These are examples of a trend that has become far worse with Operation Green Hunt, under which the label “Maoist” is used to justify all kinds of brutality. The Home Minister's latest statement threatening anyone “supporting Maoism” with jail is clearly aimed at justifying yet more such brutality.

• The conflicts in forest areas, whether with the CPI(Maoist) or with other movements, have nothing to do with “security” or “development”. What is at stake is the right of people to control their ecology, their production systems and their lives. Can a community lead a life of dignity when they are harassed, beaten or killed every time they cultivate forest land, collect minor forest produce or protest evictions? People are not demanding welfare; they are struggling for the right to live with freedom and dignity. This is the true meaning of security, development and the rule of justice.

• It is clear that the government's offensive is driven by more obvious interests – resource grabs (in water, minerals and land) have become a key source of profits. As the Maheshwar Dam, Vedanta or POSCO projects were found to break the law, the government has scrambled to bend or break the law itself to favour the corporates. When the Forest Department promotes illegal policies in international negotiations on climate change (i.e. the REDD agreement), these are not just condoned but promoted as a point of pride.

Meanwhile, people's rights over minor forest produce, forest land and common lands are frustrated at every turn by official violations of the Forest Rights Act. Clearly this is why the government now wants to crush all resistance, whether it is organised by the CPI(Maoist) or not.

Beyond Green Hunt: A Call for Democratic Space

We believe in and stand for the mass democratic struggle of the working people for social transformation. From this perspective, the damage is not limited to this offensive and the devastation it is wreaking. More insidious but much longer lasting is the destructive impact this militarization is having on the democratic space for people's struggles. This militarisation is not limited to Operation Green Hunt.

Even outside this offensive, the government has consistently used its force against all democratic formations and those who speak the language of people's rights; it has thrown the Constitution to the winds. The CPI(Maoist) has also engaged in indiscriminate physical attacks against those who are of a different political allegiance, and has often shown little tolerance for those who are engaged in other movements or who are critical of them. The turning of vast areas of the country into war zones, where all else is subordinated to the perceived military needs of the government or the CPI(Maoist), is unacceptable. It constitutes a betrayal of the values that both the CPI(Maoist) and the government claim to believe in. For this reason above all, there is an urgent need at this moment to restore basic democratic norms in the conflict zones.

Our Call:

1. The paramilitary forces must be withdrawn and the Salwa Judum, as well as other similar private militias in other states, must be disbanded. Public facilities – schools, clinics, etc. - must be treated as out of bounds for the conflict.

2. The government must respect the rights of people over their lands, forest produce and community forest resources as provided by the Constitution, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, the Forest Rights Act and other such laws. It must comply with the requirements under these Acts relating to the consent of the community prior to diversion or acquisition of land.

3. The security forces must stop interfering with the rights of people to cultivate their fields, go to markets and engage in their livelihood activities.

4. Illegal arrests, fake encounters and police murders must be halted immediately.

5. The CPI (Maoist) should make clear its position on the activities of other political forces in the conflict areas. It should respect the right of the people to be members of other parties, including opposing parties, or other movements and to otherwise exercise their democratic rights.

6. The right of refugees and the displaced to return home, especially in Dantewada, must be respected by the security forces and their private militias.

The following are signatories to the joint statement:

Campaign for Survival and Dignity:
Madhya Pradesh Jangal Adhikar Bachao Andolan
Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (Maharashtra)
Bharat Jan Andolan (Jharkhand)
Campaign for Survival and Dignity - Orissa
Jan Shakti Sanghatan (Chhattisgarh)
Adivasi Mahasabha (Gujarat)
Jangal Jameen Jan Andolan (Rajasthan)
Orissa Jan Adhikar Morcha
Campaign for Survival and Dignity - Tamil Nadu
Adivasi Jangal Janjeevan Andolan (Dadra and Nagar Haveli)
National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers:
Adivasi Banihar Shakti Sangathana (Chhattisgarh)
Nadi Ghati Morcha (Chattisgarh)
Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan (Jharkhand)
Chattisgarh Jan-ban Adhikar Manch
Birsa Munda Vu-adhikar Manch (Madhya Pradesh)
Patta Dalit Adhikar Manch (Uttar Pradesh)
Kaimnoor KShettra Majdoor Sangharsh Samittee,Sonebhadra,UP
Ghad Kshettra Majdoor Sangharsh Samittee,Uttarakhand
National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (North Bengal Regional

Courtesy: Countercurrents

10 May, 2010

Manipur situation volatile, says Human Rights Alert

The following is a statement from Human Rights Alert, Imphal, forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:

The ongoing economic blockade enforced by All Naga Student Association, Manipur, (ANSAM) and others in Manipur since April 11, 2010 has pushed the people of the state to the verge of existence. The state-wide strike organized by ANSAM blocking roads and National Highways 39 and 53, which are the lifeline of Manipur, has resulted in acute shortage of food, medicine and other essential commodities.

Manipur is a state where ordinary life is marred with extreme forms of violence ranging from abduction to murder committed by state and non-state actors. The strike led by ANSAM has added further miseries to people's lives. In remote hill districts like Tamenglong, even the government food storage facilities are empty since the past few weeks. In Imphal, the capital city, the government and private hospitals have closed down emergency services. Within the next few days they will be unable to maintain its life support systems due to shortage of essential supplies including medicines and oxygen.

The price of items like rice, kerosene and cooking gas have escalated to such a level that the ordinary people cannot afford to buy household needs anymore. Vehicles, including the inter-state and inter-district transport, are off the road as the fuel stations closed since weeks.

The strike is in protest against the state government's notification for holding elections to the autonomous hill district councils in Manipur under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council (3rd Amendment) Act, 2008. Additionally, the state government issued another notification for the first phase of the Autonomous District Council (ADC) elections in Manipur on April 26, 2010. After this, the organizations extended the strike to an indefinite period.

Naga organizations consider the ADC election a threat to their claim for 'Greater Nagaland', also known as 'Nagalim' a separate independent status within India merging neighbouring states into one entity with Naga racial supremacy.

In the midst of this tension, the NSCN-IM General Secretary, Mr. Th. Muivah was granted permission by the Union Government to visit to Manipur against the strong opposition of the state government on the ground that the visit would escalate tensions between communities.

The state administration increased security deployment in the border town of Mao to stop Muivah from entering Manipur. Two protestors supporting Muivah’s visit were shot dead and a group of 80 men and women were injured in police action and hospitalized. This triggered further protests and arson in some hill districts. The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and other Naga groups of Nagaland are extending support to the protestors.

The situation in the state is extremely volatile and with the slightest provocation an internal conflict may breakout. If this happens it could spread to a large area and destabilize the whole region. So far, neither the state nor the Union Government has taken any action to prevent the impending danger.

Analysts are of the view that the Government’s wait-and-watch strategy to the plight of the civilians and the use of brutal force against the protestors is deliberate and intended to sharpen ethnic divide and foment civil strife.

A group of civil society organizations have sent an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for immediate intervention. The letter is reproduced below. Those who wish to support the letter may convey their concern to the Prime Minister at the address below.

Open Letter

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister
7 Race Course Road,
New Delhi 110001, INDIA
Fax: +91-11-23015603/23019545/23016857/23014255

Dear Sir,

SUB: Appeal for Urgent Action To Diffuse Situation In The Border Areas Of Manipur And Nagaland, Following Firing On Unarmed Citizens Causing Several Casualties And Injuries.

We write to you with deep concern about the events as they are emerging in the border areas of Manipur and Nagaland, resulting from the proposed visit of the NSCN-IM leader, Mr. Th. Muivah to his hometown as agreed upon by the Union Government but contested by the Government of Manipur.

Instead of acting to help diffuse the situation, the state has responded by heightening its military response. Such action by the state has inevitably increased aggression from all sides and generated panic and insecurity among people of different communities in the region.

Not surprisingly, the situation has now deteriorated sharply, with the armed forces firing upon unarmed protestors in and around Mao village, resulting in three deaths and around 80 men and women hospitalized with injuries. Additionally, there are disturbing reports of other forms of repression of the local population by the forces.

We condemn such a response from the state and urge you to act immediately in order to bring the situation under control and restore normalcy to the region.

1. Angela Ralte, Mizoram
2. Anthony Debbarma, Borok People's Human Rights Organization, Agartala
3. Babloo Loitongbam, Human Rights Alert, Imphal
4. Bamang Tago, Arunachal Citizens Rights (ACR), Itanagar
5. Bondita Acharya, Purva Bharti Trust, Jorhat
6. Borok Women Forum, Agartala
7. D.Vari, Hmar Women Association
8. Fr. Santiago, Director North East Diocesan Social Forum, Gauhati
9. Grace Shatsang, Naga Women’s Union Manipur, Senapati
10. Hechin Haokip, CWG, Chandel
11. Helam Haokip, IRMA, Senapati
12. Jarjum Ete, Ex-Chairperson State Women Commission, Arunachal Pradesh
13. Lalam Mate, President, All Tribal Women Organisation, Chandel
14. Leimatombi, FAC, Bishenpu
15. Mary Beth Sanate, Rural Women’s Upliftment Society, Churachandpur
16. Mhon Kikon, Dice Foundation, Dimapur
17. Nazma Begum, OFT, Thoubal
18. Nonibala Narengbam, IRDSO, Wangjing
19. North East Network, Guwahati
20. Pramo, FFH, Thoubal
21. Rebati, ARDWE, Bishenpur
22. Rose Mangshi Haokip, Kuki Women Union Manipur
23. Shanghaidar Tontang, Weaker Section’s Development Council, Chandel
24. Shiluinla Jamir,Nagaland
25. Suhas Chakma, Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR)
26. Tamphasana, NEPSC, Imphal West
27. Asian Human Rights Commission - Hong Kong (AHRC)

09 May, 2010

Petition demanding public consultation on Nuclear Disaster Bill

Greenpeace has launched an online petition asking the Prime Minister to hold a public consultation before proceeding with the Nuclear Disaster Bill which lets US corporations off the hook for any nuclear accidents they cause on Indian soil.

The companies will have to pay only a meagre amount as compensation. Indian taxpayers will have to shell down millions for the nuclear cleanup and to compensate the victims.

Without any public debate, the Prime Minister is appeasing American interests and ignoring our safety.

You can sign this petition here

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness concept finds takers in West

Energy Bulletin

There’s a new movement afoot! Gross National Happiness — evaluating our society in terms of happiness rather than money. That’s what the GDP, Gross Domestic Product, measures — the amount of money flowing through the system. The problem is that GDP goes up not only when good things happen, but when bad things happen as well. Things like mining disasters or oil spills can put a lot of money into the economy.

Robert Kennedy said it best in 1968: “Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl...

“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

So what does Gross National Happiness measure? Happiness research finds that the things that most contribute to satisfaction involve time for family, friends, and community. Indeed, social ties are the chief ingredient in happiness. We’ve forgotten this and it’s why happiness in the United States has been on the decline for the last thirty years.

The problem is that most of us grew up thinking that if we were rich we’d be happy. But the research shows that after a certain point, more money does not contribute to happiness. In fact, it can get in the way because money often becomes more important than relationships. In particular, time becomes money, and there is no financial benefit to just hanging out with friends!

Essentially, we care too much about money. Some companies will seemingly do anything for money — cheat, lay people off, pay low salaries, poison the environment, make money from wars. Look at our mine disaster and the oil rig explosion. Companies cut costs on safety for the sake of profit.

The central idea of Voluntary Simplicity is to straighten out our thinking out about money. Money will always be a motivator, but it can’t be the primary one. We must put people and the planet before profit. One way to get people to think differently about money is to measure true fulfillment instead of just money. Measuring Gross National Happiness is one way to get people thinking about what truly matters.

This all started with the little country Bhutan deciding to measure Gross National Happiness instead of GDP. And now, cities around the world are starting to get involved. One of the first is Victoria, British Columbia, and recently a delegation met with the Seattle City Council to begin talks about making Seattle the first American city to use GNH as a measure.

What would be measured? In Bhutan and Victoria they’re using 10 indicators: psychological well-being, time use, community vitality, culture, health, education, environmental diversity and resilience, living standard, and governance.

As you can see, this is an exciting idea! Imagine how fun it would be to get together and talk with others about what these indicators mean for your own happiness as well as the well being of our society.

You have a chance to do this at a class at the Phinney Neighborhood Center: “Happiness Lessons” to be offered on Tuesday, May 18th from 7:30-9:00. Donation $5. To register or for more information, call 206 783 2244.
Start thinking about truly matters for the well being of people and the planet!

(You can join a Simplicity Circle on Monday nights at 7:30-9:00 pm at St John’s United Lutheran Church at 55th and Phinney, across from the zoo’s west entrance. For info: contact Cecile Andrews at

Cecile Andrews is a long-time author on the subject of simplicity and originator of the Simplicity Circle idea. She's involved with projects to build Sustainability and Community in her North Seattle Neighborhood. The theme is living Simpler, Slower, and Smaller.

She has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University where she received her doctorate in education, and an affiliated scholar with Seattle University. A former community college administrator, she now works with community groups to explore the issue of living more simply: how to live lives that are sustainable, just, and joyful.


YouTube talk

Courtesy: Countercurrents

Government attempt to criminalize dissent deplored

The following is a statement issued by the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations:

The most recent alert (regarding use of section 39, UAPA) issued by the government in so-called public interest has brought out in the open what had so far been implicit in its anti-Maoist policy. The purpose of the circular is to intimidate voices of protests and dissent over government policies, particularly Operation Green Hunt. The statement criminalizes dissent and makes a mockery of the spirit of critical inquiry which is at the foundation of a strong democracy. As members of civil rights groups we consider the statement as an attack on civil society and reminiscent of the Emergency era.

The contents of the circular show complete disregard of the concerns expressed by Supreme Court when it rebuked the Chhattisgarh government for labelling human rights activists and legitimate activities as sympathetic to naxals, or the more recent concerns expressed by the Chief Justice over the governments war against its own people. It is not surprising that the government has also chosen to ignore the sympathetic and undoubtedly saner voices in its own ranks, which have a different perspective on addressing the problem.

We condemn the governments threat to use extraordinary draconian laws such as UAPA to constrain freedom of expression and free and informed debate on issues which are of crucial importance for the country. We further condemn the government for targeting political and civil rights groups who are doing no more than carrying out their democratic responsibility of ensuring equal protection of the Constitution to all sections of society.

Signed by

Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab); Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC, Andhra Pradesh); Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Nagpur); Coordination of Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Campaign for Peace and Democracy in Manipur (CPDM, Delhi); Human Rights Forum (HRF, Andhra Pradesh); Lokshahi Hak Sangathana (LHS, Maharashtra); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR, Andhra Pradesh); Peoples Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL, National); PUCL (Chhattisgarh); PUCL (Jharkhand); PUCL (Nagpur); PUCL (Rajasthan); Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Human Rights (PUHR, Haryana)

Unique peace march from Kerala to Manipur begins

From Cherthala, Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s home town in Kerala, a team led by writer and social activist Sara Joseph set out on Saturday for Imphal, capital of Manipur, on a unique peace march.

The march, christened Hind Swaraj Journey, has been organized to express solidarity with Irom Sharmila Charu, who has been on indefinite hunger-strike for about ten years demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The authorities have kept her alive by repeatedly taking her into custody on charges of attempted suicide and forcibly feeding her through nasal tubes.

This is the first time that activists from the southwestern state have taken out a march to express solidarity with a movement in the northeast.

The march has been organized by the Hind Swaraj Centenary Committee, which has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the book “Hind Swaraj” in which Mahatma Gandhi outlined his concept of non-violence.

In a statement, the committee said the aim of the march was not merely to convey greetings to Irom Sharmila, who is engaged in a campaign which may go down in history as the longest and most intense non-violent struggle, but also to impress upon the authorities the need to end their apathetic attitude towards non-violent agitations.

It added, “The entire world is today watching this non-violent struggle. But the government is not ready to talk to Irom Sharmila. Nor is it taking steps to withdraw AFSPA. The criminal silence the government maintains towards non-violent agitations even as it proclaims it is ready to talk to terrorists who are killing innocent people with guns and bombs needs to be questioned.”

The team was given a warm sendoff at a meeting in Cherthala town before it boarded a train for Ernakulam from where it left at night for Benglooru on the first lap of the 20-day journey. From there it will proceed to Chennai (May 10), Vijayawada (May 11), Pune (May 13), Bhopal (May 15), New Delhi (May 16), Kolkata (May 18), Guwahati (May 20) and reach Imphal on May 21. On May 23 it will leave Imphal. It is due to return to the state on May 27.

K.P.A.Rahim, Chairman of the Hind Swaraj Centenary Committee, who presided over the meeting, explained the reason why the committee decided to sponsor the march.

Sara Joseph, in her speech, revealed that when she and Civic Chandran, Coordinator of the march, met the Defence Minister in New Delhi recently he had told them the circumstances in Manipur did not permit repeal of AFSPA but the possibility of reducing its rigour was being examined.

She deplored the government’s refusal to talk directly to Irom Sharmila. It had sent some intermediaries to Sharmila but she was not ready to talk to middle men. “The whole problem can be solved if President Pratibha Patil talks to Irom Sharmila,” she added.
Speaking before flagging off the march, I pointed out that although the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was enacted only in 1958 it was really a remnant of the British period during which the colonial regime had held down the tribal populations of the border regions, over which it could never establish full control. I also expressed the hope that A. K. Antony, who had the courage to speak up for democracy in Indira Gandhi’s presence at the Guwahati session of the Congress held during the Emergency, would once again rise to the occasion and work for restoration of the democratic process.

See Tehelka story Irom And The Iron In India’s Soul

See also Kavita Joshi’s blog

07 May, 2010

Chhattisgarh Peace Marchers' encounter with hooligans

Picture: Countercurrents


Jagdalpur: The Peace March by eminent citizens demanding abjuring of violence by both Maoists and state forces and advocating a just and long lasting solution to the problems of the Adivasis of Bastar met with ugly protest demonstration by lumpen elements representing upper caste traders of the district town of Bastar.

The demonstrators shouted filthy abuses at the country's top space scientist Prof Yashpal describing him as a sympathizer of the Naxalites.

The hooliganism lasted for more than three hours, during which the peace marchers remained locked inside the conference hall of the Jagdalpur Press Club. Police identified the hooligans as local traders.

The demonstrators, numbering over 200, arrived on motorcycles outside the Press Club carrying sugarcane sticks, soon after the participants of the peace march began addressing a press conference. "We will beat these so-called intellectuals with these sticks. They have come to stop the 'Green Hunt' and in support of the Naxalites," their leaders shouted.

When this correspondent started taking pictures, four or five hooligans menacingly advanced towards him and pushed him away saying,"You cannot take our photographs."

Apprehending violence, the correspondent sent an SMS to Chhattisgarh director general of police Vishwa Ranjan apprising of the situation. Within five minutes a posse of policemen led by the superintendent of police arrived and controlled the mob. In the meantime, the hooligans deflated the tyres of the vehicles by which the peace marchers had come to Jagdalpur from Raipur and forced the driver of their bus to take it away.

When the peace marchers emerged from the press conference hall, the hooligans started raising slogans like "Naxalvadi vaapas jao, vaapas jao," "Green Hunt Ho kar rahega". Some of the hooligans were also shouting unprintable epithets interspersed with the slogan of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai".

"You intellectuals wake up and come here advocating peace only at a time when the government is launching its 'Green Hunt' to eliminate the Naxalites," their leaders were heard shouting amid the bedlam.

This was exactly what Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh had said yesterday at Raipur.

Peace marchers were compelled to return to the conference hall of the Press Club. They then invited representatives of the demonstrators to come inside the conference hall for a discussion. About two dozen demonstrators were allowed by the police to the discussion table. After an hour-long discussion, the demonstrators allowed the peace marchers to leave. However, as soon as the peace marchers emerged from the hall, the crowd outside again started shouting, "Naxalite sympathizers, go back."

Nachiketa Desai is a journalist who is travelling with the peace march

Centre’s warning: Supporting Maoists will invite 10 year jail

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) Those who speak in favour of Maoist guerrillas will face legal action and 10 years imprisonment, the government announced Thursday in a warning to civil society groups who raise voices in favour of Leftwing extremism.

"Any person who commits the offence of supporting such a terrorist organisation (like Communist Party of India (CPI)-Maoist) with inter alia intention to further the activities of such terrorist organisations would be liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or with fine or with both," a home ministry statement said.

It said such action would be taken under Section 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The home ministry said the government has noticed that some Maoist leaders were directly contacting certain NGOs and intellectuals to propagate their ideology and "persuade them to take steps (and) support the CPI-Maoist ideology".

"General public are informed to be extremely vigilant of the propaganda of CPI-Maoist and not unwittingly become a victim of such propaganda," the statement warned.

The Leftwing extremist group and all its front organizations have been designated as terrorist organizations by the government.

According to the ministry, the "sole aim" of the CPI-Maoist is to overthrow the Indian state.

It "continues to kill innocent civilians including tribals in cold blood and destroy crucial infrastructure like roads, culverts, school buildings, gram panchayat buildings so as to prevent development from reaching these under-developed areas", the statement added.

Intimidatory tactics against Gladson Dungdung

GLADSON DUNGDUNG, human rights activist, writer and Convenor of Jharkhand Indigenous People's Forum, writes:

This is to inform you that the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has been monitoring my activities almost every day, which I got to know from an officer of the Ministry who visited my office at 11 AM on 29th of April 2010. He informed me that I was taken seriously by the Ministry in 2008 when I had started raising serious questions against the Arcelor Mittal Company, who has signed an MoU for 12 Mt Steel Plant with an investment of Rs. 400 billion. Mr. Arjun Munda, then the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, had shown it as the biggest achievement of his one-year tenure. We the Adivasi youth had protested under the banner of Jharkhand Indigenous People’s Forum against a tie-up between the DON BOSCO ITI and Arcelor Mittal Company. Consequently, they had to break the tie-up.

According to the officer, the Ministry’s monitoring was intensified against me when I had written a letter to Mr. P. Chidambaram the Home Minister of India on 19 March 2010 asking him to stop Operation Green Hunt. I had also given him 10-point suggestions for dealing with the issue of Naxalism. When this letter reached to the Ministry, there was anxiety in the office and it was immediately sent to its Ranchi unit which was asked to submit a report about me immediately. Since, there was no any evidence against me related to so-called anti-national activities no action was taken against me.

However, the officer has asked me to send him a copy of my writing whenever I write a piece in future. I should report to him about any programme I organize or participate in, especially related to the issues of land, forest, water, Adivasi and Operation Green Hunt. I should also report to him about all the major activities I do on daily basis. It is obvious that the Ministry of Home Affairs has been monitoring my activities under pressure from the corporate houses. Hence, the Ministry is promoting the acts of intimidation and seizing my right to freedom of thought and expression.

Therefore, I appeal to all the civil society organizations, people’s movements and individual to oppose the unconstitutional acts of the Ministry of Home Affairs for the protection of my rights, the democracy and the Indian constitution.

PS: My friends also informed me that there is an attempt to book me under the charge of Sedition or any other serious offence.

See Gladson Dungdung’s recent article: I am neither a Maoist nor a Gandhian but an Adivasi

Gladson Dungdung can be contacted at

06 May, 2010

Demonstrators disturb Peace March meeting

Prof Yash Pal and Swami Agnivesh


A mob of about 100 slogan-shouting supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party barged into the public meeting of eminent citizens, including space scientist Yash Pal, veteran Gandhian Narayan Desai and former University Grants Commission chairman Ramji Singh, a day before they embarked upon a peace march from Raipur to Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.

A group of over 50 leading citizens had converged in Raipur on Wednesday (May 5) to take out what they call 'March for dialogue on peace and justice', calling for end to a civil-war-like situation in the predominantly tribal state of Chhattisgarh. These citizens comprising academics, scientists, social activists and Gandhian workers, want a 'ceasefire' between the state forces and Maoists to begin a nation-wide discussion on the model of development that the country should follow to ensure a sustainable, just and people-oriented economy and polity.

At a press conference, held before the public meeting, Prof Yash Pal said he was greatly pained at the plight of the tribals, farmers and the indigenous people in the last 60 years of Independence for which the powers that be and the middle-class in general were responsible. "Do we want to annihilate the entire race of aboriginal people, like America had done in the name of development?" he asked.

Interestingly, the Press Club of Raipur allowed the press conference of the leading citizens as an exception to its earlier resolution not to allow any press conference of human rights activists. The press conference lasted for more than an hour during which journalists asked leading questions like 'How can you advocate ceasefire when Naxalites are out to wage a war against the constitutionally-formed government?"

Swami Agnivesh, Prof Yash Pal and Narayan Desai explained the limited scope of the peace march saying the foremost thing was to stop violence from both the sides -- from the state and the Left extremists -- to facilitate a nation-wide dialogue on ways and means to have a sustainable and just development of the country in which people were at the centre.

Later, while the marchers held a public meeting at the town hall, near the district collector's office, a mob of over 100 people, stormed into the hall shouting slogans, "Naxal sympathizers go back", "Naxal sympathizers, shame, shame." The trouble-makers disrupted the meeting several times during which the speakers stopped addressing the gathering.

State director general of police Vishwa Ranjan said the trouble-makers belonged to the BJP and the Congress party. "Tempers are running high in Chhattisgarh over the wanton killings of tribals by the Maoists. Anyone advocating dialogue with them is perceived as the sympathizer of the Maoists," he added.

The top cop directed police offers of Jagdalpur and Dantewada to provide adequate security to the peace marchers.

05 May, 2010

I am neither a Maoist nor a Gandhian but an Adivasi


I appeared in public life through my human rights works, writings and speeches. However, I reached to a larger audience when I got a chance to appear in CNN-IBN and NDTV-24×7 debates on the issue of Naxalism last year. After these debates, I got immense positive and negative responses from across the country. I was upset for sometime precisely because of the most negative responses I got from youth who are running behind the market forces unknowingly. They ruthlessly questioned me about whether I get money from Pakistan, Nepal or China for speaking against the Indian State. I responded to a few of them with detailed explanations, but many believe P Chidambaram’s theory of this side or that side; therefore they are not ready to accept my rational arguments.

Meanwhile, I continued my work of raising the genuine issues of the marginalized people of India. Amidst, the so-called Operation Green Hunt (OGH) was also launched in the state of Jharkhand in the name of cleansing the Maoists. I passionately attempted to bring out the truth of the OGH, intention of the state behind the OGH and sufferings of the villagers caused by the OGH. As a result, so-called educated people intensified more personal attacks against me. There are also some e-groups where they attempted to coin me as a Maoist sympathizer and supporter. Finally, they have portrayed me as a Maoist Ideologue. I just laugh, laugh and laugh. Precisely, because how can a person suddenly become a Maoist ideologue without having an in-depth study on Maoism? I have never read about Maoism.

I deliberately do not read about any ideology because I know that Maoists teach the Adivasis about Maoism, Gandhians preach to them about Gandhism and Marxists ask them to walk on Marxism; but no one bothers about Adivasism, which is the best ‘ism’ among these, which perhaps leads to a just and equitable society. I have been raising questions about how the Indian State has deliberately destroyed the Adivasism. The Adivasi religion was not recognized by the Indian constitution, traditional self-governance was neglected, culture was destroyed, lands were grabbed and our resources were snatched in the name of development. But what do we get out of it? Should we still keep quiet? Are we not the citizens of this country who need to be treated equally? Do they care about our sufferings?

I’m one of those unfortunate persons who have lost everything for the so-called development of the nation and am struggling for survival even today. When I was just one year old, my family was displaced. Our 20 acres of fertile land was taken away from us in the name of development. Our ancestral land was submerged in a Dam, which came up at Chinda River near Simdega town in 1980. We lost our house, agricultural land and garden but we were paid merely Rs.11,000 as compensation. When the whole village protested against it they were sent to Hazaribagh jail. Can a family of six members ensure food, clothing, shelter, education and health facilities for whole life with Rs.11,000?

After displacement, we had no choice but to proceed towards the dense forest for ensuring our livelihood. We settled down in the forest after buying a small patch of land. We used to collect flowers, fruits and firewood to sustain our family. We also had sufficient livestock, which supported our economy. Needless to say that the state suppression continued with us. When we were living in the forest, my father was booked under many cases filed by the forest department (the biggest landlord of the country) alleging him as an encroacher and woodcutter. There was no school building in our village - therefore we used to study under the trees, and when there was rain our school was closed. But my father taught us to always fight for justice. Though he was struggling to sustain our family, he never stopped his fight for the community.

Unfortunately, on 20 June 1990, my parents were brutally murdered while they were going to Simdega civil court to attend a case and 4 kids were orphaned. Can anyone imagine how we suffered afterwards? The worst thing is the culprits were not brought to justice. Can anyone tell us why the Indian State did not deliver justice to us, who snatched our resource in the name of development? Why there is no electricity in my village even today? Why my people do not get water for their field whose lands were taken for the irrigation projects? Why there is no electricity in those houses, who have given their land for the power project? And why people are still living in small mud houses whose lands were taken for the steel plants? It seems that the Adivasis are only born to suffer and other to enjoy over our graves.

After a long struggle, we all got back to life but my pain and sufferings did not end here. When I was working as a state programme officer in a project funded by the European Commission, a senior government officer and an editor of a newspaper (both from the upper caste) questioned my credentials saying that being an Adivasi, how could I have gotten into such a prestigious position? Similarly, when my friend had taken me to meet a newly wedded couple of the upper caste in Ranchi, I was not allowed to meet them saying that being an Adivasi if I meet the couple, they might become unauspicious and their whole life would be at stake. Was I a devil for them?

However, when I joined another firm, I was totally undermined and not given the position which I highly deserved. I was racially discriminated against, economically exploited and mentally disturbed. Can anyone tell me why I should not fight for justice? Can those so-called supporters of the unjust development process, who have not given even one inch of land for the so-called national interest, coin me as the Maoist ideologue, sympathizer and supporter respond to me: why should I shut up my mouth and stop writing against injustice, inequality and discrimination?

I have lost everything in the name of development and now I have nothing to lose therefore I’m determined to fight for my own people because I do not want them to be trapped in the name of development. I have taken the democratic path of struggle, which the Indian Constitution guarantees through Article 19. A pen, mouth and mind are my weapons. I’m neither a Maoist nor a Gandhian but I’m an Adivasi who is determined to fight for his own people, whom the Indian State has alienated, displaced and dispossessed from their resources and is continually doing it in the name of development, national security and national interest even today.

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at