Attack on bus in Dantewada – Response from Arundhati Roy, PUDR, PUCL, HRF, MKP, CPIML(Liberation)

May 24, 2010

May 25, 2010

Press Statement by Peoples Union for Democratic Rights

The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) strongly condemns the recent Communist Party of India (Maoist) attack targeting a local passenger bus resulting in the indiscriminate killing of 11 special police officers (SPOs) and 24 civilians in Dantewada. It is equally reprehensible that the SPOs, in the course of the anti-Maoist operation, were made to travel in a passenger bus, thus exposing the life of civilian passengers to inordinate risk by using them as human shields. Such acts whereby civilians fall victim are unacceptable and irresponsible.

PUDR has repeatedly emphasised the unacceptability of the use of improvised explosive devices against targets where non-combatants’ lives are at risk. Such wanton acts of violence make things worse for the common people whose cause the CPI (Maoist) seeks to represent.

Incidents such as these are anti-people. It not only rationalises the strident argument made by the state favouring increased deployment of forces and military power making things worse for the common people, but also leads to an escalation of tensions between communities.

Asish Gupta and Moushumi Basu
Secretaries

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Press Release by Human Rights Forum

The blasting of a private passenger bus near Chingavaram in Dantewada district of Chattisgarh on May 17 by the Maoists is a horrible incident. The Human Rights Forum condemns it unreservedly.

Whatever the sins of the Chattisgarh and Central governments, it is inhuman on the part of Maoists to have lain in wait and blown up a private vehicle in which a large number of unarmed civilians were travelling. According to reports, over 30 people, including 15 civilians have died in the blast.

We recall that the Maoists had fired upon a private jeep near RV Nagar in the Visakhapatnam Agency of AP on May 10. Six adivasis, including a woman, sustained bullet injuries on that occasion. Fortunately, there were no fatalities and all the injured are recovering. The adivasis were returning from a weekly shandy when that incident took place. There were a few policemen in the jeep, but the presence of a number of tribals should have been reason enough for the Maoists not to fire upon the vehicle and put the lives of civilians at risk. That the Maoists still resorted to the firing reflects a callousness that is unacceptable.

HRF is of the view those who claim to struggle for the people must do so responsibly and with full accountability. We demand that the Maoists desist from such inhuman acts.

S Jeevan Kumar (HRF president)
VS Krishna (HRF general secretary)
Dt: 18-5-2010

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Press Statement by People’s Union for Civil Liberties

PUCL strongly condemns the brutal killing of the innocent civilians traveling in a bus at Chingavaram on the Dantewada-Sukhma road in Chhattisgarh on 17 May 2010.

Killing of innocent civilians is the most heinous crime against the humanity and has no justification whatsoever. PUCL feels that no objective could be desirable that is sought to be achieved at the cost of human lives and security. As is evident from the past experience dialogue remains the most potent and viable means of lasting peace.

It is reported in the press that Home Minister has offered for talks with the CPI (Maoists), subject to cession of violence. PUCL appeals to the good sense of the fighting parties to come to the negotiating table and resolve the outstanding issues through the process of a dialogue.

— By Pushkar Raj, General Secretary

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Statement by Arundhati Roy

Source – Outlook

Media reports say that the Maoists have deliberately targeted and killed civilians in Dantewara. If this is true, it is absolutely inexcusable and cannot be justified on any count. However, sections of the mainstream media have often been biased and incorrect in their reportage. Some accounts suggest that apart from SPOs and police, the other passengers in the bus were mainly those who had applied to be recruited as SPOs. We will have to wait for more information. If there were indeed civilians in the bus, it is irresponsible of the government to expose them to harm in a war zone by allowing police and SPOs (carriers of the mantle of all the crimes of Salwa Judum) to use public transport. Also, for a sense of perspective, let’s not forget that right at this moment, in Kalinganagar and Jagatsingpur in Orissa, hundreds of police are firing on unarmed people protesting the corporate takeover of their land.

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Press Release by Asian Centre for Human Rights

May 18, 2010

New Delhi: “The dastardly attack on a civilian bus by the Maoists in Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh on 17 May 2010 killing at least 35 people including 24 civilians and 11 Special Police Officers (SPOs) is uncondonable” – stated Asian Centre for Human Rights in a press release today. Several others injured when the Maoists blew up the civilian bus between Gadiras and Chingavaram in Dantewada district.

“Any attack on civilians by the Maoists cannot be condoned. Such attacks on civilians violates international humanitarian law and constitute war crime under Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” stated Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

“This is not the first dastardly attack on civilians by the Maoists which is a clear violation of the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.” – further stated Mr Chakma.

ACHR urged the Maoists not to attack civilians. The ACHR also recommended that security forces should not travel on civilian buses as this increases the risk to the lives of the civilians.

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Press Statement from Mazdoor Kranti Parishad

18 May, 2010

The Central and the state governments in collusion with one another have been giving away the immense natural resources, particularly the minerals of our country to the big bourgeoisie of India and foreign imperialist countries for the limitless profiteering. All the established political parties have united to implement this policy of plunder in different states. As a result, lakhs of people particularly the tribal are being evicted everyday from their homes and land. These affected people are waging life and death struggles against this offensive of the state in various corners of our country. To finish these people’s movements at any cost, the Multi-national capital with the help of the governments, both the central and the state that are very loyal to it, has embarked upon the vicious Operation Green Hunt. In the name of it The CRPF, The State Police, The Armed bands of the ruling classes (Salwa Judum etc.)have been carrying on unprecedented State terror on the people of different states for the last few months. The objective of this State terror is obviously to crush the activities of the Maoist continuing in various parts of the country. We once again condemn unequivocally this heinous State terror and demand the immediate repeal of the ban on the Maois

At the same time we are greatly disturbed at what happened at Dantewada on 17th May, 2010, as a part of the Maoists’ programme of waging war against the State of India. It is learnt that with a view to eliminating the gangsters of Salwa Judum, masquerading as Special Police Officers (SPO), a passenger bus has been blasted to pieces and more civilians have been killed than the SPO-s. We do not agree with such activities. We think this sort of act is absolutely undesirable and hope there will never be a repetition of this. It will hardly help a movement if civilians are punished only for traveling in the same bus with the security personnel.

We on behalf of the Mazdoor Kranti Paarishad (MKP) deeply condole the death of the civilians and express our sympathy for their families.

Amitava Bhattacharya,
General Secretary, Mazdoor Kranti Parishad (MKP)

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Press Statement by CPIML (Liberation)

After ambushing 75 CRPF men in early April, Maoists have struck again in Dantewada. On 17 May afternoon, a passenger bus was blown up in a
landmine blast that left more than 30 passengers killed and at least another 15 passengers seriously injured, some of them reportedly quite critical. The bus was carrying some 50 odd passengers including some Special Police Officers (recruited by the state in the course of the Salwa Judum campaign), but there were no state police or CRPF personnel. In 2003, the PWG had targeted a bus in Warangal in Andhra Pradesh, for which they had subsequently offered regrets and apologies, but this time around the Maoists have feigned their ignorance about civilians being present in the bus.

In terms of casualties, this is the fourth major Maoist action since February. While two of these actions concerned only the state forces (the attack on the EFR camp in Silda in West Bengal in February and the ambush of CRPF personnel in April), the other two incidents, a massacre in a village in Bihar’s Jamui district and the blowing of the passenger bus in Dantewada, involved large numbers of civilian casualties, including many poor adivasis. Such indiscriminate attacks, divorced from any immediate context of people’s struggle, and the resultant large-scale loss of human lives, are clearly indefensible. Removed from the issues and struggles of the people, such incidents only alienate the broad masses and end up strengthening the very state and its repressive campaign the Maoists claim to be fighting.

The state has indeed been quick to exploit the situation. In an interview to NDTV, Chidambaram called for a `larger mandate’ to tackle Maoist insurgency that would possibly involve air-support. He said security forces and concerned chief ministers all had been demanding air-support for anti-Maoist operations. The same channel also cited a survey which indicated considerable `popular’ support for army intervention. Chidambaram said the `people’ were ready for harder options while it was only the government which was exercising caution and restraint! While some Congress leaders, Digvijay Singh in particular, attribute the Chhattisgarh incidents to the utter failure of the BJP government in the state on the `development’ front, the BJP is accusing the Congress of pursuing a soft and half-hearted line.

By all indications, there is a growing ruling class consensus for a more aggressive military campaign even while ruling out the option of direct army deployment in the immediate context. The issue of anti-Maoist strategy however figured quite prominently in the May 17-19 Army commanders’ conference in New Delhi, and the Army is clearly getting ready for a larger and more central role, however indirect. Television channels too have lost no time to project the Dantewada episode as a `turning point’ in the ongoing operation. The so-called Digvijay Singh school of `democratic’ opinion in the Congress is no dissenting voice giving primacy to development and political solution – it is essentially a contention between two repressive strategies, the BJP’s discredited and defeated Salwa Judum model of Chhattisgarh model versus the Andhra model of the Congress.

Meanwhile, the Home Ministry has intensified its campaign against human rights activists and civil society organizations that have questioned the theory and practice of Operation Green Hunt. Chidambaram misses no opportunity to threaten dissenting intellectuals with dire consequences under the draconian UAPA. After the latest incident in Dantewada, he immediately demanded an answer from the intellectuals and civil society activists as if they were responsible for the incident! The May 22 issue of Tehelka talks of some IB communiqué listing 57 organisations including prominent civil liberty organizations like PUCL, PUDR and APDR and well-known communist parties like CPI(ML)(Liberation) as `front’ organizations for Maoists! With every passing day, Operation Green Hunt is increasingly turning out to be nothing but Operation Witch Hunt!

This witch hunt will certainly have to be resisted, and resisted by insisting on and carrying forward the logic of people’s struggle and democracy. It is true, that peaceful protests are often considered weak and subjected to state repression, as is happening right now in Orissa where the government is trying to crush all opposition to the Tatas in Kalinganagar and POSCO in Jagatsinghpur by unleashing state repression and state-sponsored corporate coercion. But this cannot justify the indiscriminate acts of the Maoists which only alienates the masses and ultimately ends up weakening people’s movements and strengthening the state. The resistance to operation green hunt will therefore have to go hand in hand with the rejection of Maoist anarcho-militarism.