Statement condemning the state’s attack on the leaderships of people’s resistances

December 4, 2011

by Sanhati Collective

We strongly condemn the Indian government’s attempts to suppress the various peoples’ movements across the country against the exploitation, oppression and state-sponsored corporate plunder, by attempting to decapitate their leaderships. This seems to be the preferred policy, after having failed to throttle these movements by letting loose repression on the people.

On November 24, Koteswara Rao, alias Kishenji, one of the senior-most politburo members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is involved in an armed resistance movement across India, especially in the adivasi (indigeneous people)-populated forested regions, has been killed by security forces in the state of West Benga in what is increasingly evident as a fake encounter. Such extrajudicial killings to liquidate the top leadership of the Maoist movement seem to be the preferred solution of the government to neutralize this “threat”. The Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, has clearly stated that specific targeting of the Maoists’ leadership is the main task for tackling this insurgency, which has been repeatedly described by the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh (the architect of the neoliberal reforms which have devastated the Indian poor over the last two decades) as the “biggest internal security threat” to the Indian state. That this is in direct contravention of clear directives laid down by the National Human Rights Commission and judgements by various state high courts and the Supreme Court, seems to be of no consequence to this government which hypocritically empahsizes about the “rule of law”. Such extrajudicial killings, which have become the routine practice of the Indian state in countering resistances, are also in violation of the1949 Geneva conventions relating to armed conflict to which India is a signatory. It is even more reprehensible that the murder of Kishenji was committed while his party was trying to initiate talks with the West Bengal state administration via government-appointed interlocutors and had in fact earlier offered a period of cease-fire which the state failed to respond to. The deceptive nature of the state is borne out by the fact the West Bengal chief minister had been publicly maintaining that no operations of the joint forces were being conducted and was urging the interlocutors to proceed with the negotiations. This incident reminds us of the killing of Azad, the spokesperson of the CPI(Maoist), by the Andhra Pradesh police last year when he was similarly trying to initiate talks with the central government. These killings are therefore indicative of the fact that the state apparatus floats the possibility of such negotiations as a counterinsurgency measure in order to track and liquidate the leadership.

The armed resistance movements are not the only ones in the line of fire of the central and various state governments. Just as the news of the killing of the CPI(Maoist) leader was coming in, the Orissa police suddenly arrested Abhay Sahoo, the leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), during the evening of 25th November. For the last six years, the PPSS has been leading the peaceful resistance of the villagers in coastal Orissa against the proposed multi-billion dollar steel plant of the Korean multinational POSCO. This project has received clearance from the Environment Ministry in a grossly illegal manner, in direct violation of the Forest Rights Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment notification, despite two of the Ministry’s own inquiry committees’ recommendations that the granting of such a clearance would be a crime. While the matter is still being heard in court, and the people of the villages are bravely resisting the attempts of the government to forcibly occupy their lands, this arrest of the PPSS leader is a direct attempt by the state to break down the movement by robbing it of its leadership, as a precursor to unleashing the state forces on the villagers in an attempt to deprive them of their lives and livelihoods.

The killing of Kishenji and the arrest of Abhay Sahoo makes it evident that the Indian state is finding it increasingly difficult to suppress the spectrum of resistance that has developed against its neoliberal policies, with the multinational corporations becoming increasingly impatient in their wait for the promised lands and resources. Therefore it has adopted the policy of annihilating the leadership of these movements by killing or imprisoning the leaders. It is of no consequence whether the movements are armed or unarmed; it appears that the Indian state’s only response to them is repression and more repression. What the rulers of India, and the corporate interests they serve, do not realize is that this would just make the struggling people of India more resolved in their resistance and could also result in increased violence across the country.

We demand that the government immediately stop its ill-advised moves to annihilate or imprison the leaders of the peoples’ struggles that are going on in India, as a part of its security operations to crush these movements that are based on the peoples’ genuine aspirations toward a better life and for protecting their lives and livelihoods. We demand the immediate release of Abhay Sahoo, and the withdrawal of the trumped up charges against him. We also demand that the countrywide operations of the security forces going on in the name of Operation Green Hunt be immediately stopped as this is bringing untold misery to the lives of the most deprived and marginalized sections of the Indian population.