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Caught in between

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

As the government’s anti-Naxal operations are in progress in the states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal, Naxals are re-structuring their war tactics using techniques like laying pressure bombs in the jungles and constructing new pits with wooden spikes in order to sabotage the operations. Defence Minister A.K.Antony has granted permission for the Indian Air Force (IAF) to open fire during anti-Naxal operations. The IAF has deployed copters to assist the State forces in their operations against the Naxalites-Maoists but the anti-Naxal operations were delayed due to the polls in Maharastra and Jharkhand.

 Caught in the middle of this conflict are the tribals from these states, who are tortured and abused by the officials, terrorised by the rebels and neglected by the government for years.

 In Chattisgarh,it is reported that  alarmed tribals are trying to get hold of makeshift identity cards, so that they could show ‘they are neither Maoists nor anti-Maoists’. The local governments have failed to provide any protection or assistance to these people who grow vegetables, collect forest products, make hand-rolled cigarettes and distill liquor to make a living.

Since the anti-Naxal operations started, the influx of tribals from Dantewada and Bijapur districts in Chattisgarh to the plains and the forest regions of Bhadrachalam in Khammam district have increased. Indian Express reported that over 16,000 Gotti Koyas have migrated from Chhattisgarh between 2005 and July 2009 to escape harassment by police officials and Salwa Judum members. Hundreds of Naxal sympathisers from among the migrant Gotti Koyas have been arrested and the Forest and Police Departments have sought permission from the State government to send the migrants back to their native places. According to Forest Department officials, the tribals may resort to ‘massive deforestation by settling in the forests and hence they should be evacuated immediately.

 When Salwa Judum unleashed violence in the name of anti-Naxal operations by the Chattisgarh government in June 2005, thousands of adivasis fled their villages. Helpless after having lost their seeds and cattle, they were living in constant fear for their lives. Though the Supreme Court had directed the State government to rehabilitate the tribals, the government has made little efforts jn this direction.

 Himanshu Kumar, the Gandhian activist who has been working among tribals in Bastar for more than 17 years, had set up an ashram in Dantewada and rehabilitated adivasis from 30 districts. But the ashram was demolished by the police forces on May 17, 2009.He said, “If the government is not willing, let me do it. I can bring peace in a week. You withdraw your forces and provide the amenities that were stopped after Salwa Judum started: doctors, schools, aanganwadis. Naxalites have said they will not interfere with my rehabilitation work because I have no political ambitions. “

 Salwa Judum resulted in a 22-fold increase in the ranks of Maoist rebels.Himanshu warns that “Operation Green Hunt will result in genocide of Adivasis. Those who survive will become Naxalites.”

Out of their desperation and frustration, the tribals have taken weapons in their hands in a last attempt to sustain their lives. Maoists have trained thousands of tribals including women and children to fight as foot soldiers, teaching them to lay landmines and to make remote-control detonators for explosives. They are indoctrinated in the ideology of fight against government rule and landlords. Those who pledge allegiance to the Maoists are rewarded. But the tribals are also subjected to intimidation and  coercive obligations by the Maoists.

The CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) use repressive measures against the tribals. They even beat up doctors who go into jungle to treat the patients. The tribals live in abysmal conditions, subjected to constant harassment and torture. They are shot dead by the police on suspicions of Naxalite links; and such police atrocities remain unquestioned. Himanshu complains that they have tried to file 1,000 FIRs against the police but not even one has been registered.

 So when justice in any form is denied to them, how can we blame the tribals for anti-government uprisings? The authorities who are responsible to protect them are taking away their rights and forcing them out of their lands to satisfy corporate interests. On the other side are the Naxals who promise them what the government has failed to provide for years.

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The Burmese struggle for democracy

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

International pressure on Burmese junta to give up anti-democratic rule and  open political dialogue with the opposition is mounting.The military regime has shown signs of acceptance of democratic policies in the country. The Burmese Democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi had called for direct talks with the military regime following the visit of two senior US diplomats as part of the US’s new diplomatic policies towards Burma.

 On November 19, United Nations, the 192-nation world body, approved a resolution condemning Burma for its systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedom of the Burmese people .The resolution urged for the immediate and unconditional release of more than 2,000 political prisoners in the country including Suu Kyi. The resolution also advocates the freedom of assembly, association, movement and freedom of expression.

 The Burmese Permanent Representative to the UN condemned the resolution as “anachronistic and flawed.” He defended the junta’s position by saying that Burma had already approved a new constitution and is preparing for a general election in 2010 which would be free and fair. The junta has recently released 1000 political prisoners. However China, Russia, India and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries have a different take on the issue. They maintain that constructive dialogue and cooperation are the only way to promote human rights and a resolution pinpointing the flaws would be counter productive.

 During the recent US-ASEAN summit, US President Barack Obama called for the unconditional release of Suu Kyi and to open genuine dialogue between the government, democratic opposition and ethnic minority groups.

 Burma is under military dictatorship since 1962 and the junta’s repressive and abusive policies have dragged the country into civil war forcing the ethnic groups of remote areas to engage in armed struggle. The military campaigns of the Burmese junta have left thousands of people internally displaced, especially the ethnic minority groups.

 Thanks to the military junta, Burma ranks as the third most corrupt country in the world according to the ‘2009 Corruption Perceptions Index’ by Transparency International, a Berlin-based global civil society organization. Forced labour, human trafficking and child labour are rampant in the country; and according to the human rights organizations, there is no independent judiciary in Burma. The women’s pro-democracy movements in exile and international movements to defend women’s rights are formed to protest against sexual violence against women by the military regime as an instrument of control.

 The totalitarian regime seized power in a coup in 1988 and the opposition was brutally suppressed .Suu Kyi who was under house arrest won the general elections held by the regime in 1990 but the regime refused to hand over power. Ne Win, a believer  in Stalinist ideologies, led the country along the ‘Burmese Road to Socialism’ by implementing ideas like  nationalization, isolationism, ethnic cleansing, and a police state. The oppressive rule of the regime, now known as the ‘State Peace and Development Council’, continues even today.

 Aung San Suu Kyi

 Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democratic campaigner and leader of opposition National League (NLD) has been fighting against the unjust and suppressive rule of the military junta since 1988.She has spent the last 14 years of the past 20 years in detention under the junta regime. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her tireless efforts to bring in democracy in Burma.

Suu Kyi, born on 19 June 1945 , is the daughter of Burma’s democratic hero, Aung San, who was assassinated during the transition period of Burma in July 1947. Suu kyi came to India in 1960 accompanying her mother Khin Kyi, who  was appointed as Burma’s ambassador to India. She was inspired by the non-violent methods of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi and campaigned for peaceful democratic reforms in Burma. She went back to Burma in 1988 and led the revolt against General Ne Win. Suu Kyi who was under house arrest won 82% votes in the general elections held by the regime in 1990 but the regime refused to hand over power .

 Suu Kyi was released after six years but was again arrested in 2000 when she tried to travel to the city of Mandalay defying travel restrictions. She was released in 2002, but was again arrested in a year following a clash between her supporters and the government. Government rejected NLD’s pleas to release her as she was suffering from low blood pressure and dehydration. Her detention was due to expire on May 2009 but she was convicted and sentenced for another 18 months of detention  for breaching the conditions of her house arrest as a US person broke into her compound to meet her. There are criticisms that the whole episode was designed by the junta to keep her away from the general elections that are to be held in 2010. But in a surprising move, on 9 November 2009, the military government has indicated that Suu Kyi may be released soon and also that she’ll be allowed to take part in the general elections. But the Burma’s constitution has provisions that bar her from holding office.

 Aung San Suu Kyi’s non-violent campaigns have won support from Western nations in Europe, Australia and North and South America, India, Israel Japan and South Korea. Suu Kyi, referred to as ‘Daw’ by the Burmese people, a term that denotes respect for older women, has become one of the international icons of democracy and fight against injustice.

 

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Operation Green Hunt fuelled by corporate interests

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Operation Green Hunt is the name assigned to the concerted efforts by the government against the Maoist rebels in the states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

In the first phase of the operation in November in the Kanker district of Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, the objective was to cover the 6,000 sq km swathe of forest called the Abuj Marh, hold the territory and to help and assist the government agencies to initiate developmental work. The seven-phase operations are expected to last for two years. The Central Paramilitary Forces along with special action group (SAG), anti-Naxal special action squads (C-60) of the state security agency and Commando Battalion `for Resolute Action (CoBRA), specially trained in jungle warfare, were deployed for the operation.

According to Home Minister Chidambaram, Operation Green Hunt is purely an invention of the media. The Central Government is just providing assistance by way of central paramilitary forces, intelligence-sharing and technical help.

But what made the government to take such extreme measures against its own citizens? And what has forced these people to take weapons and fight against the state? The unanswered question is whether this problem could be solved by military operations?’

 Maoists are the members of the banned CPI (Maoist), a descendent of the CPI (Marxist –Leninist) that led the Naxalite uprising in 1969 and was liquidated by the government. ‘ They believe that the innate, structural inequality of Indian society can only be redressed by the violent overthrow of the State.’ The Maoists’ guerilla army mostly consists of desperately poor tribal people who are denied the benefits of development and have been mercilessly subjected to exploitation for decades.

The problem of Maoist Naxalism is to be addressed immediately and their destructive activities brought to an end. The Naxalite activities have spread to 90 districts across 10 States in the country. But a military solution to suppress and eliminate the Naxalites and their supporters will never succeed. The root cause for the resistant movements and the people’s agitation should be sorted out which requires genuine efforts on part of the state and central governments.

Studies show that 85 of the country’s 100 poorest districts are in seven of those 10 states. In these ‘disturbed areas’, 32% of the population is below the poverty line. The state governments have a terrible record of delivering public goods and services in these districts. Only 68% of homes in these districts get safe drinking water while in other areas the number is 74%.

The people living in these areas are mostly tribals who never receive the special rights and privileges they are entitled to but are instead subjected to exploitation and caste discrimination.

Even after 60 years of independence they don’t have access to education, healthcare or even drinking water facilities. It is in their desperation and frustration that these people resort to violent protests. For them it is a fight to sustain their life because the government had failed to provide them the basic necessities.

Instead of trying to find a solution to these issues, government has decided to take military action against them. “Chidambaram is not alone in this decision; he represents the interests of the entire ruling class of the country, which constitutes not just the cabinet or the parliament or corporate,” Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Dantewada who has been working in the area for the past 17 years said at a convention in Banglore on November 7.

The mineral wealth of these ‘disturbed zones’ explains the sudden spurge in the military action against Naxalite movements. A  number of multinational mining and steel companies are waiting to get hold of mineral rich land in these areas. It is quite interesting to know that Chidambaram was a non-executive director of ’Vedanta’, one of the biggest players in this game which has a track record of human rights violations and gross environmental damage.

As Arundhathi Roy had pointed out there are bauxite deposits worth 4 trillion dollars in Orissa alone. There are millions of tons of high quality iron ore in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh and 28 other precious minerals like uranium, limestone, coal, tin, granite, marble, copper, diamond, gold, quartzite,corundum, beryl, alexandrite, silica, fluorite and granite. The power plants, dams, highways, steel and cement factories and other infrastructure projects that would be built include hundreds of MoU’s that have been signed already.

Salwa Judum- the people’s militia in Dantewada to fight against the Maoists was formed soon after an MoU was signed by the Tata Group, and was followed by the setting up of a Jungle Warfare Training School in Bastar. The government is alleged to have sanctioned 1,40,0000 hectares of prime land to industrialists for more than 300 Special Economic Zones and was forcibly acquiring lands in the name of public purpose to give it to private corporations.

In the name of counter-insurgency operations, other resistance movements against the state will also be named as Naxalism and swept off. For example in Lalgarh, the Pulishi Santrash Birodi Janasadharaner Committee (People’s Committee against Police Atrocities), a people’s forum separate from Maoists but sympathetic to them is constantly referred to as another wing of CPI(Maoists). All these are clear indications of the nexus between the government and the corporates and their well-planned strategy to silence protests by the people.

 See Also:-

Mr.Chidambharam’s war– Arundhati Roy

On war footing 

Naxalbari to Nalgonda

The road from Naxalbari

Naxalbari(1967) : The Naxalite movement in India

 

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