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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