A Report on the Killing Fields of Bastar – AGNI, Mission 2016, and the Killing of Innocents

December 11, 2016

By Sadhana. 

Sadhana is a writer from Dandakaranya. This is a translation of the article published in Telugu daily – Andhra Jyothi in November 2016.

The police and paramilitary forces are killing people indiscriminately in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. At least one person is killed daily in the rural areas of Chhattisgarh.

Bastar’s Inspector General of Police (IG), S.R.P. Kalluri openly declared “for every single death of police person, there will be a dozen Maoists’ deaths.” In this backdrop, the rural Bastar has been turned into a virtual killing field.

Series of macabre killings

Madakam Hidme was gang raped and killed in a fake encounter on June 13 in Sukma district. Even before the people’s anger had not subsided, another incident came to light belatedly wherein a couple – Apka Manoju and Tati Pande – were killed on May 17 at Karnar in Bijapur district. Various adivasi organisations and political parties are reacting with great concern.

On July 16, protesting the gruesome killings, people observed bandh. With one voice, they demanded that IG Kalluri be dismissed from the service. Sohan Pottavi, Member of Parliament and former minister Aravind Netam and many other leaders of different political parties raised their voice against the ongoing killing spree by the police and paramilitary forces.
Killing children – brutality at its peak

While the series of protests are going on, on 25 September 2016, under the limits of Burugam police station of Bastar district, police killed two school children. This savage incident depicts the bleeding picture of Bastar. Without any wink of enquiry, IG Kalluri instantly announced a reward of Rs one lakh to the trigger-happy police. He also announced that police eliminated an important Maoist leader. But the facts are infinitely far from truth.

These two teenagers were studying in Eethametta Primary School in Dantewada district. Binju was in 8th standard and Sonku was in 9th class. Both were arrested at midnight from their relative’s house by Burugam police and shot them dead in the early hours of the next day.

The police dished out a story that an encounter took place for more than an hour and two Maoists were killed, one among them being a big leader. Police also stated that at the encounter place, they found a large amount of arms and ammunition, revolutionary literature and articles of daily use.

Protests galore

Immediately after this gory killing, the relatives of these boys revealed the truth to the world and urged all the political parties and adivasi society leaders to see that the culprits are brought to book and punished so that justice is done to them. Many opposition party leaders, including Soni Sori of AAP, addressed press meets and explained the facts. They all, with one voice, condemned it as a fake encounter and demanded that IG Kalluri be dismissed from service.

Devaki Karma, MLA of Dantewada, wife of Mahendra Karma who was the icon of Salwa Judum, too condemned the killing of students in the fake encounters. Kalluri could not stomach the criticism from her and though patently indecorous it was, he immediately arraigned her in the long list of Maoist supporters.

The actions of the fascist rulers would naturally bring some changes in the equations among the ruling classes. When Mahendra Karma got into the hands of people’s guerillas on 25th May 2013, he blurted a few words in his last moments, hoping that would save his life: “Bygone is bygone. Let us work together”. Kalluri must take note of these things.

Why Mission 2016 in Bastar region now?

Mission 2016 has been going on for the last ten months in the Bastar region. Encounter killings increased exponentially as part of Mission 2016. In fact, Operation Green Hunt that began in 2009 saw increased number of killings and gang rapes.

Before the Operation Green Hunt, the campaign of Salwa Judum continued for five years when hundreds were killed, thousands were tortured and their properties vandalised, and lakhs of adivasis were displaced. While the Bastar’s populace has been facing the catastrophe for over a decade, Mission 2016 is an additional whammy.

The political observers are pointing out that the 12th Five Year Plan is coming to an end, Operation Green Hunt reached its deadline and hence the police and paramilitary forces have decided to intensify the attacks under a new plan i.e. Mission 2016.

AGNI – a new avatar of Salwa Judum

As a sequel to this, AGNI (Action Group of National Integration) came into being afresh as a state-sponsored organization. The organizers of AGNI held a Lalkar rally (challenging rally) at Jagdalpur. Police joined in good numbers in that rally and IG Kalluri played the vanguard role.

While police fight Maoists inside the forests, AGNI has been planned to fight the Maoist intellectuals in urban areas, IG Kalluri said. He praised the organizers for initiating such an organization. Some pseudo-intellectuals like – Anand Mohan Misr, Lakshmi Kashyap, Farook Ali, etc. were roped into AGNI.

The need for such an organisation is felt more than ever before for the rules. The retired IAS officer, BKS Raj expressed his displeasure when some student toppers in the Bastar region answered that unemployment was the reason for the Maoist problem. It is obvious that he is unable to digest even the mild reasoning.

He was the Principal Secretary to the Chhattisgarh government during the days of Salwa Judum. AGNI would extinguish the fires of reasoning and truth from thinking minds. Kalluri would eliminate students like Binjo and Sonku.

Attempts to thwart dissenting voices

During Salwa Judum days, many intellectuals and well-wishers of adivasi people solidly stood in support of the Bastar people. They did their bit in defeating Salwa Judum. They fought legal battle against abolition of the SPO system too.

They exposed the unprecedented killings and oppression before the Indian people and people abroad as well. Operation Green Hunt followed Salwa Judum but it is also opposed by them. Intellectuals who opposed the suppression of people, from Prof. Saibaba of Delhi University to Soni Sori, a school warden in Dantewada are also put to many harassments and atrocities.

This year, Prof. Nandini Sundar, rights activist Bela Bhatia and journalist Malini Subramaniam and many other pro-people intellectuals were threatened, harassed and implicated in false cases. AGNI in Bastar and Bhumkal in Gadchiroli became necessary to suppress these dissenting voices.

However, these fascist organizations are transient and could hardly withstand to the force of people’s movements eventually.

Corporitasation of Bastar and growing people’s resistance

There seems to be another angle to Mission 2016. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP has been in the power since 13 years. The state government is trying its best to serve the interests of the ruling classes. At the same time, the government is not even revealing the details of the plethora of agreements made with corporate powers to the legislators.

It is an open secret that Salwa Judum was born with the blessings of megabucks. The corporates – Tatas and Essars – are hatching many a conspiracy since June 2005. The political chieftain of the big business – Modi – visited Chhattisgarh twice to observe how the big business is taken care of. Even then Tata and Essar could not fulfill their dreams.

People in ten panchayats opposed Tata project. Lohandiguda is one among these panchayats. Baldev Singh is the son of the Late Ajamber Singh, who 47 years ago fought against the Tatas. Baldev Singh is continuing his father’s legacy. Baldev Singh said: “I know that I have to fight against Tatas to save my land. I won’t care even if I have to give up my life in this struggle.

As a result of determined fight of hundreds of families against Tata’s plant, Tata had to give up his plans to set up the plant in Lohandiguda. In Dhurli Bhansi too, Essar had to face people’s opposition. This resistance had to be suppressed with an ‘Iron Hand’. Modi has kept in his mind the task of completing Ravghat railway line.

The rulers want to finish these tasks before the next elections. Mission 2016 wants to complete the infrastructural works soon to obviate any further bottlenecks like Lahandiguda or Dhurli Bhansi.

Saffron brigade’s malicious interventions and turmoil in educational institutions

While this being the scenario in Bastar, overall in India, attacks grew multifold on students and universities, after the BJP assumed power at the centre. Hindu fascists are resorting to attacks on many educational institutions, students and student leaders.

There were demonstrations against these onslaughts in TISS (Mumbai), Guwahati and Tuljapur in 2015. Police attacked the students of School of Open Learning in Delhi University. All India Forum for Right to Educate (AIFRTE) condemned this. The unrest in FIIT, JNU, Allahabad, Jadavpur, Burdwan and AMU (Aligarh) is well known.

IIT of Chennai and Ferguson College in Pune too came under attack. Many student organization in India and abroad condemned the attacks on students. The suicide of Rohit Vemula, a research scholar at University of Hyderabad, shook the entire world. The harassment and persecution of Kanhaia Kumar, Omar Khalid and Anirban by the Hindu communal hooligans and police were opposed by intellectuals worldwide.

Noam Chomsky, Gayatri Spivak, Barbara Harris White, Michael Davis were among the 500 academics and intellectuals who sent their protest to Indian government. Ignoring the criticism from all the sides, Rama Sankar Kataria, on June 19th in Lucknow University said that saffronisation would not only be done in Lucknow University, but in the entire country.

The pronouncements by the hardcore elements from the saffron brigade of the parliamentarians like Sadhvi Prachi, Yogi Adityanath, Vinay Katiyar, R.K. Sinha, Balbir Punj would be warning us over the ominous trends.

It is a bitter truth that the killing of these two students occurred in the backdrop of corporatisation of rich mineral sources and saffronisation of human resources. Unless the student community is vigilant and stand up against these forces, they cannot defeat Hindu fascist forces and organizations like AGNI.