From A World to Win News Service:
The following article by the JNU (national university in
Against the War on the People) appeared on sanhati.org on 19 October. It has
been slightly edited. Delhi
Chattisgarh is a state in central India, part of a broad swath of remote forested lands running north and south in the country’s interior. The Indian government, the UPA coalition headed by the Congress Party Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, launched Operation Green Hunt against the "Naxal" (Maoist)-led insurgency in October 2009. Most of the inhabitants are tribal people (adivasis) who work as day labourers and earn much of their living from the forests – for instance, gathering and selling leaves used to make bidi cigarettes, or harvesting flowers used to make liquor. To deprive the insurgency of their support, state-organised vigilante groups and other security forces "relocated" 50,000 of these people into squalid prison-like camps near roads where the military can watch over them. Operation Green Hunt is now being intensified by the new Indian government headed by the Hindu fundamentalist Narendra Modi, who was assured of U.S. support in his September talks with President Barack Obama. The CRPF is the central police force.
In mid-October we were informed through the media of yet another "encounter" and "fierce gunbattle" in the forested tracks of Bijapur district in Chattisgarh. Three "Naxal women" were reportedly killed by the joint security forces constituting a hundred-odd CRPF and police, all of whom were left unscathed. While the truth in all such cases is always the most difficult to discern, any such instance reminds us of the horrors of the Sarkeguda (2012) and Edakmetta (2013), fake encounters of adivasi villagers in the same Bijapur district – massacres that too were initially passed on by the security forces as "fierce gunbattles with Naxalites".
The corporate media of course parroted the same. Despite the desperate attempts on the part of the police, the CRPF and the Home Ministry to plug the loopholes, it was soon clear that on the fateful night of 28 June 2012, around 600 forces of the CRPF, CoBRA [commandos] and state police surrounded the hamlet of Sarkeguda and indiscriminately fired upon the hundreds of adivasis from the adjacent villages who had gathered to discuss the preparations for their annual seed festival. While the then-Home Minister Chidambaram claimed to have hunted down "hardcore Maoists", according to the then-Union Tribal Affairs Minister’s own admission out of the 20 persons gunned down, half were school-going teenagers; a child who sustained injuries was just four years old; they carried no arms; and none had any criminal record.
A near exact re-enactment of the same horrific incident happened just a year later in Edakmetta village of the same Bijapur district. On 20 May 2013, in the depth of the night security forces surrounded villagers gathered to celebrate the "Beej Pondum" or seed festival and a volley of bullets was indiscriminately fired, killing eight villagers, including three children and others between the age of 28-30, all unarmed. The claims of the government soon dissipated and such has been the history of brutalities or fake encounters in the Indian state's five-year long, ever-intensifying war on people in the name of Operation Green Hunt.
Five years since it began, the beneficiaries of this war remain the same, only its executioners have changed hands. The war on people that was flagged off by the Manmohan-Chidambaram combine in 2009 [then the Prime Minister and Home Minister, respectively], today has an even more brutal Modi-Rajnath [today's Prime Minister and Home Minister] combine to pursue the hunt. We can recall, even after the Sarkeguda fake encounters, when all the progressive-democratic sections were outraged at such cold blooded murder, the then-Home Minister Chidambaram was categorical in his justification/support for the CRPF. He said, "The encounter for some reason is being called a fake encounter. The CRPF has said he has nothing to hide, nothing to fear. I am the home minister and the CRPF is under me. We have been absolutely candid, frank and upfront." The present Home Minister Rajnath Singh has gone a step further saying that during his tenure as Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, he had given a "free hand" to police officers to deal with Maoists and assured them that they would not be "hassled" by the Human Rights Commission. And with that he prepares the grounds for further fake encounters, massacres, arson, loot, torture, and rape by the security forces with the complete backing of the government. This only shows the single-mindedness with which the Indian state wishes to pursue this war.
But alongside the brutality of this single-mindedness, what this also serves to show is a desperation of the Indian state. The big corporates, multinational corporations and Indian monopolists like Tata, Birla, Ambani, Adani and Mittal, at whose behest the UPA had declared this war to facilitate the indiscriminate looting, plunder and sale of trillions of dollars worth of natural resources in the central and eastern adivasi heartland of India, are today ever more hungry for profits. With hundreds of government-corporate agreements to mine, extract and sell at pittance now stuck in the pipeline, they are ever more eager to crush the resistance of the people struggling to defend their life, livelihood and dignity against the model of death, destruction and displacement that is being championed by the state in the name of "development" or "progress".
This was evident in the virulent corporate backing behind Modi's campaign in which he promised to deliver on his promises of a more "iron-handed" approach (than the erstwhile UPA regime) in steamrolling all "obstacles" to the path of "nation’s development" (read the path of unbridled looting of resources). Delivering on the above promises, and to the delight of big business, right after coming to power Modi has shoved aside all environment/forest/wildlife regulations in his blitzkrieg of clearances. In about a month’s time, the government gave the go-ahead for a record 175 projects. Doing away with the independent experts, Modi "streamlined" the National Board for Wildlife to make it more "investment friendly", which then, in a record sweep, cleared 133 of the 160 waiting projects in two days! Making a mockery of the so-called transparency of public institutions, none of the details of these lightening clearances are being made public so as to avoid widespread protests and outrage.
Taking Chidambaram’s project to its logical culmination, the plan is to overhaul the already weakened environmental laws; distort the environmental impact assessment rules; restructure the National Green Tribunal; allow coal mining without any public hearing; and also take away the right of the gram sabhas [local councils] to oppose any project in adivasi land. What is in store is a pro-corporate and anti-people drive of genocidal proportions.
The carrying out of the above goals entails the further intensification of Green Hunt to brutally crush all resistance from the people to save their lands, livelihoods and resources (said to threaten the "investment climate"/"development"). After assuming office, Modi has already added 10 more CRPF battalions to the lethal arsenal of the state comprising various security forces and commandos with support from the Army and the Air Force, along with Israeli drones – and private militias. Out of the total 36 battalions of central forces in the state, 29 were deployed in Bastar alone. Now, with the 10 additional battalions deployed again in Bastar, this adds up to 39 battalions with nearly 30,000 paramilitary personnel in this district, making it one of the most militarized regions of the subcontinent. As the head of Bastar Modi also has appointed the infamous Kalluri, the man who was held responsible by the democratic rights activists across the country for the burning down of 300 adivasi houses in Tadmetla and Morapalli in 2011.
The witch-hunting voices of opposition to Greenhunt is just an another extension of Operation Green Hunt: In October, several democratic groups intended to organise a meeting in Vishakapatnam to expose the state's brutalities in Operation Green Hunt and mobilize opinion against it. But, to ensure that no news of the state's war on the people reaches the urban centres, several civil liberties and political activists were taken into preventive custody to disallow the meeting. Arrests, suppression and gagging of democratic voices against Green Hunt has been a central feature of this war since it began in 2009 – be it Dr Binayak Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Sachin Mali, Hem Mishra and countless other people's activists and organizations. A few months back, professor G.N. Saibaba, one of the conveners of the Forum against War on People in
, was similarly
hunted down, abducted and charged with a plethora of false cases by the state. Delhi
But as the state escalates this war on the most oppressed adivasi and dalit [so-called "untouchables"] people of the country to usurp their land and resources, the progressive democratic section must unite and build a most resilient movement standing in solidarity with their struggle for their forests and livelihood and demanding an immediate end to Operation Green Hunt.