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Thursday, June 13, 2013

India-Dual Power in a Guerrilla Zone-part 1

From Maoist Revolution;

by Bernard D'Mello and Gautam Navlakha

A press statement issued by Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (CPI [Maoist]) on May 26 states that the "goal of this attack was mainly to eliminate Mahendra Karma and some other reactionary Congress top leaders". It pointedly reminds Chhattisgarh's state government leaders and state police officials "who are hell-bent on crushing the revolutionary movement of Dandakaranya" that they suffer from a "big illusion that they are unbeatable". Mahendra Karma too falsely believed "that Z-plus Security and bullet proof vehicles would save him forever". The statement also clarifies that in Chhattisgarh "there are no differences between [the] ruling BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and opposition Congress in terms of policies of suppressing the revolutionary movement. Only due to public pressure, as well as to gain electoral benefits, some of the local leaders of the Congress at times came [out] in condemnation of incidents like [the] Sarkeguda and Edsametta massacres".

The convoy was returning from a "Parivartan Yatra" ("March for Change") rally in Sukma and the Maoists knew not only that Karma and Patel were in the convoy, but even the route that it was to take. The assassinations were thus meticulously planned and executed, though they took a two-hour long gun battle with the state forces to accomplish, a clash in which many who merely serve or protect (the latter, armed personnel) the oppressors, and do so because they have little choice, were either killed or injured. The Maoist guerrillas reportedly even provided first aid to some of these persons who suffered injuries.

Righteous Indignation Against Maoist Violence

Inevitably, in the aftermath of such incidents the chorus of righteous indignation against Maoist violence fills the waves, especially on TV. So, one has to constantly reiterate that there are two reigns of political violence in Bastar. The first, state and state-sponsored terror -- heartless and coldblooded, it has constantly been outdoing itself in barbarity and callous indifference to human life. The second, the political violence of resistance -- it is driven by an urge to transcend the prevailing exploitative economic relations and overthrow the oppressive social and political order. This, the violence of the oppressed, is reactive; it stems from the continuing acts of violence of the oppressors.

More important, the violence of the oppressors and the violence of the oppressed seem to have had a profound effect on the political culture and social psychology of the oppressed. There's this almost natural fury -- hot passion -- of the tribal peasants, men and women, even those in the Maoist militia and the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), for they have suffered so much at the hands of their oppressors, and there's a public memory of the exploitation, the oppression, the misery, the anguish that has been passed on over generations. Of course, there's a public memory of the collective resistance too, for instance, that of the Bhumkal Rebellion of 1910. One has to repeatedly restate these simple truths, for the intellectuals of the establishment want to blot them out. They want them left out of remembrance or consideration, just as they want to obliterate from public memory the reasons for the civil war, of which something akin to a "strategic hamlets programme" was sought to be executed by the SJ backed by the security forces, and this was the first phase of the anti-Maoist counterinsurgency, with Operation Green Hunt (OGH) being the grand design of its second stage.

The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has been rather upfront in stating the main reason for this war. Talking to select group of editors on September 6, 2010 he pointed out that "Naxalite [Maoist] areas happen to be those areas which are the heartland of India's mineral wealth . . . If we are not allowed to exploit the mineral resources of this country, I think the growth path of this country will be adversely affected". This was repeated by him in a speech to Indian Police Service (IPS) probationers on December 24, 2010: "Naxalism [Maoism] today afflicts central India where the bulk of India's mineral wealth lies and if we don't control Naxalism, we have to say goodbye to our country's ambitions to sustain a growth rate of 10-11 per cent per annum". The Bastar region of Chhattisgarh happens to be one such area which is mineral rich but where large parts have been turned into a guerrilla zone by the CPI (Maoist) -- tracts where the revolutionary movement is strong, but where the Party and its mass organisations are in power only as long as the guerrillas have the upper hand over the state's forces, and where power can revert back to the Indian state when they are forced to retreat.

Therefore, sections of the corporate media bay for the blood of the "leftwing extremists" and the human rights groups are being equated with the latter. Far away from the scene of the Maoist ambush, ensconced in the safety and comfort of their TV studios, the big guns, TV anchors and "talking heads", have been booming! They cannot stomach a successful ambush by the Maoist guerrillas. "This is a major setback for Operation Green Hunt"; "Shouldn't it be overhauled and intensified?" or better still, "Shouldn't the Army be deployed on the frontlines in Bastar?"

The Congress now seems bent on intensifying OGH with the despatch of additional central paramilitary forces. The BJP chief minister of the state, Raman Singh, initially suggested that the union government go in for talks with the Maoists. It may be noted that the latter have always been open to negotiations, even as they have insisted that they will not give up on the use of force. Nevertheless, the fiddling BJP, trying to discover what may serve its politics of one-upmanship, has now made common cause with the Congress to step up the joint battle of state and central forces against the Maoists. And, the Congress must surely be pleased with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo's statement demanding "firm action" to put an end to such Maoist "depredations" and urging "all democratic forces to fight the politics of violence".

Salwa Judum -- Terror Arm of the State Forces

We refuse to join the chorus of righteous indignation against Maoist violence. Why? The credentials of the leaders of this chorus against Maoist violence, this so-called "anti-terrorist" chorus, are well known -- in the eyes of the victims, whether ordinary adivasis in southern Chhattisgarh or Muslims in Gujarat, they stand convicted of terrorism on a scale that constitutes "crimes against humanity". The Congress-led UPA government sanctioned the "security-related expenditure" that funded the SJ. The state BJP government turned the other way when the funds for IDP camps went into the personal coffers of SJ leaders. And, the mining companies contracted with the SJ warlords for "protection and 'ground-clearing' services". The SJ which Karma led was "a land and power grab masquerading as a local uprising", as Jason Miklian, writing in the journal, Dialectical Anthropology ("The Purification Hunt: The Salwa Judum Counterinsurgency in Chhattisgarh, India", 33, 2009, p. 442, 456), put it.

In Dantewara, Bastar and Bijapur districts in Chhattisgarh, in the context of large-scale acquisition of land by corporations in what is a mineral-rich region, entire villages were evacuated and villagers forcibly herded into camps, from which those who escaped were branded Maoists and hunted down. Indeed, SJ, which organised the evacuation and forced herding "was created and encouraged by the [state] government and supported with the firepower and organisation of the central police forces." No, this quote is not from a report of one of the country's civil liberties and democratic rights organisations, but taken from chapter 4 of a 2009 draft report authored by Sub-Group IV of the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms, set up by the Ministry of Rural Development, New Delhi. Without mincing words, this report referred to "the biggest grab of tribal lands after Columbus" in the making as being initially "scripted by Tata Steel and Essar Steel who want[ed] seven villages or thereabouts, each to mine the richest lode of iron ore available in India."

The period from June 2005 for about eight months witnessed the depredations of the SJ backed by the state's security forces -- the murders of hundreds of ordinary Gondi peasants, the razing of hundreds of villages and the forcible herding of people into camps, the sexual atrocities against women, vast stretches of cultivable land lying fallow, the total disruption of the collection of minor forest produce, lack of access to the weekly haats (local markets), the schools turned into police camps, the complete trampling upon of the rights of people. It was only when the Maoists raised a Bhumkal militia and their People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) launched a series of "tactical counter-offensive campaigns" that the Indian state began to re-think its counterinsurgency tactics.

To be continued....

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