The situation in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh today

September 21, 2009

This article presents a summary of the current situation in Chhattisgarh, and also has a translated leaflet from the recent rally of BSKSS in Bastar.

By Sudha Bharadwaj. Columnist, Sanhati

This article is written on behalf of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee), C/o CMM Office, Labour Camp, Jamul, District Durg, Chhattisgarh.

The Government of Chhattisgarh admits that since the start of Salwa Judum (SJ henceforth) in the year 2005, 644 villages of district Dantewada, whose overwhelmingly adivasi population is about 350000, have been emptied out.

Our common sense understanding that en masse displacement on this scale could only have been made possible by extreme violence is vindicated by the horrifying incidents of arson, loot, murder, rape, and widespread arrests by the SJ and security forces that have continuously been coming to light, and which can no longer be ignored.

In honest moments, security experts of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC) in Kanker district admit that this is the well known American counter-insurgency strategy of “draining the water to kill the fish”. In addition, many of us who are witness to widespread displacement all over Chhattisgarh for rich mineral resources believe that there is also considerable evidence that the motive for ground clearing is acquisition for mining companies.

Whatever the motive, what is the situation in Dantewada today?

The 200,000 by-default Naxalites

Recently the Home Minister admitted that out of the 50,000 “internally displaced persons” who were being housed in the roadside SJ camps since 2005, now barely 8,000 remain, the rest of them have run away. The recent incidents of a trigger happy CRPF jawan killing a woman and baby in the Cherpal camp, or of SPOs beating three persons to death in the Matwada camp, perhaps illustrate why. And yet – all schools, health centres, ration shops, (of course polling booths), which have been totally withdrawn from the 644 villages, (and even gram sabhas for determination of forest rights!) continue to be run from those camps.

The administration openly declares that the people of all those villages who have refused to come to the camps, all those villagers who have not joined/ co-operated with the Salwa Judum, those who are still daring to sow their fields in the affected villages (only to flee when the security forces arrive leaving the vulnerable behind to be killed or arrested), and certainly those who are living in the forests, are automatically “Naxalites”.

All youth found in the abandoned villages, and all persons from these villages who come to markets are beaten black and blue and thrown into jail on mere suspicion. And there is always a stock of uniforms and rusty “bharmars” to show as seizures.

Even conceding that around 50,000 persons might have fled to Andhra Pradesh and maybe another 50,000 to Orissa or Maharashtra, this means that at least 200000 people, by virtue of being in the forests or “Naxal stronghold” areas, have now been declared “Naxalites” by the State, and therefore it is considered legitimate that they can be starved of food, medical supplies and access even to village markets. No doubt “anti-Naxal operations” against them have, and would further result, in swelling the ranks of armed militants. For now, the ever present issues of land and livelihood have turned into the burning issue of the very survival of these hundreds of thousands of people. And history tells us that in those circumstances, the adivasi people have always fought fiercely. Even 14 battalions of paramilitary forces, who, apart from occasional forays for “searching” within a small radius of their base, remain holed up in thanas, jails and schools with electrified barbed wire fencing, are feeling quite helpless against the swarm attacks of hundreds of Naxalite militia.

In the past few months, at least 25 jawans have committed suicide after killing their officers and colleagues out of sheer stress.

The demolition of “middle ground” and attack on Gandhian institutions

That the Government of Chhattisgarh is hell bent on demolishing any “middle ground” is amply illustrated by its treatment of the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, an NGO inspired by Gandhian ideology, which has been trying to implement the recommendations of the NHRC with regard to rehabilitation of the displaced villagers, and to provide legal aid for the filing of FIRs/ complaints in the cases of disappearances and rapes.

The Ashram was demolished recently; rice being taken to the villages of Lingagiri, Basaguda and Nendra, which have been resettled by the Ashram, was confiscated as “being supplied to Naxalites”; and a young volunteer of the Ashram – Sukhnath – has been booked under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act.

The voice of civil liberties is still sought to be silenced: two more supplementary charge sheets, again not disclosing any legally admissible evidence, have recently been filed against Dr Binayak Sen, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, even after unconditional bail was granted to him by the Supreme Court. Apart from the cases filed against Salwa Judum in the Supreme Court, numerous cases filed against fake encounters in the High Court of Chhattisgarh, and private complaint cases in the lower courts drag on without providing substantial relief, despite the best efforts of the Petitioners. Strident demands made in rallies of local adivasi organizations in Bastar, protesting the handing over of their lands to companies, meet with no response, either from the district administration or the Governor – the constitutional authority of the Scheduled Areas.

It is in this context that the implications of “clearing out the Naxalites by military operation” have to be understood. Today, this can only mean an indiscriminate massacre of adivasis, a full scale war against hundreds of thousands of people, against the people at large.

How can “civilians” and “combatants” possibly be distinguished under such a dispensation? Have not our experiences in the North East and Kashmir told us that there is no “quick end” to such a war? We are already witness to the recent incidents of Singhavaram…Kokawada….Vechapal, cases where people came out on the streets in Bastar to protest that the so-called “militants” killed by the security forces and SJ SPOs were actually only simple villagers.

That is why, it is with a sense of great urgency, and in defiance of the fascist attitude of the Government of Chhattisgarh, that we appeal to all democratic minded people of this country to demand that –

First and foremost, the hundreds of thousands of displaced adivasis of Dantewada be allowed to return to their villages and rebuild their ravaged agrarian and forest based economies. Thus their rights to food, to basic health, to land and livelihood, and above all – to life, must be assured.

It is only this, that can ensure a de-escalation of the polarization between security forces on the one hand and the adivasi people at large on the other, and can avoid potential genocide in the name of counterinsurgency.

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Leaflet from rally of Bastar Sambhag Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (BSKSS)

Translated from Hindi by Amit Singh, Sanhati. Click here for a report on this recent rally in Bastar, Chattisgarh. Click here for original leaflet [Hindi, JPG] » and
here for original list of slogans raised in the rally [Hindi, JPG] »

Dear People of Bastar,

The existence of Bastar is in danger. The existence of people of Bastar, especially of Adivasi peasants, is in danger. In the name of mines, in the name of Bodh Ghat Dam, in the name of big industries, thousands of acres of land is being transferred to the big capitalists. Green dense forests are going to be destroyed. The life stream of the rivers that never dry is being cut away. Tens of thousands of Adivasis are forcefully being evicted from their zal-jangal-zameen (rivers-forests-lands). This displacement is taking place in the name of development. Under the excuse of industrialization, under the pretense of providing employment, in the name of irrigation and electricity, this displacement is in continuation. For the welfare and profits of the big capitalists the government has signed the agreements and now we are forced to run away from our ancestral lands. Our opinions, our consent has no meaning here. For the sake of public purpose the land of anyone could be legally acquired (confiscated) anytime – the government holds this right by a draconian law. That law is – Land Acquisition Act of 1894 – a law created by the British imperialists for evicting the people of colonies from their own land. In todays independent India, for ‘public purpose’, that is to say for the purpose of big capitalists and multinational companies, the land of people is being appropriated by taking the course of that law.

Facing protest, the government flexes its muscles with its armed forces. By Laathi-Jail-Bullets people are made to understand the meaning of development.

Brothers and Sisters! Come! Lets have a look upon the pro-capitalist lethal policy of the development of Bastar!

Under the name of development and employment Bailadila mines were started. The iron ores are being exported to Japan, North Korea and China at throwaway prices. Railway lines – they were started in the name of public interest. Tens of thousands of goods trains, one Passenger train. After the demand of permanent employment in the year 1978, there was firing – tens of Adivasis were brutally killed in the shootings spree, tens of thousands of huts were burnt to ashes. Thousands of Adivasis were rendered homeless to take care of themselves without any support. Women of Bailadila were disgraced, dishonored and humiliated. We demand the account of Bastar’s so-called development from Bailadila!

Four decades ago at the proposed cost of 250 crores the construction of Bodh Ghat Dam, even after having spent Rs 50 crores, was suspended because of the affected Adivasis’ movement against it. It would be fitting here to mention the popular concerted efforts and outstanding contributions of pro-people Dr. B. D. Sharma. Now why to resume it again at a cost of Rs 3600 crores? How and why the Ministry of Environment approved the project? Instead of Polavaram, Bodh Ghat and other big dams, why can’t we rely upon the irrigation by ponds, small dams, check dams, lift irrigation, anicuts and so on. Even after Tata was denied for the land, why the people’s land of 10 panchayats in Lohandiguda is being forcefully acquired? Why are people being bullied and threatened? Why lathicharge took place? Why were more than hundred people sent behind the bars? Why have the teachers, doctors and the whole government machineries been employed to facilitate the land acquisition for Tatas? Why were 300 people thrown in Jails in Nagarnar? Why the permission of pipeline was given to Essar Company for the transportation of iron-particles? Despite the railways, whose interests are being served here when the river water of Bastar is diverted to the Bay of Bengal? Who benefits? Railway costs Rs 300 per ton, where as pipeline requires a payment of Rs 30 per ton. Isn’t it that the land and people of Bastar are being denied to their water so that Essar could profit Rs 270 per ton? But why it should be?

The government has made agreements with Jindal, Mittal, Essar and other companies to give them tens of thousands of fertile land for their big industries. But how many jobs would be available to illiterate or semi-literate people of Bastar in the modern computerized mechanized industries? In whose interest Adivasis are being displaced by taking away their means of livelihood? Could the government be able to cultivate grains by the machines of industries after installing them on fertile lands? Why the cottage and small scale industries, based upon the forest products available in Bastar, are not being promoted? Why is there always the talk for big industries?

Come, the people of Bastar! The great Bhumkal (1910) will continue the fighting heritage of the martyrs. Together, for the sake of our existence and identity, we’ll consolidate our voices. Against our eviction from zal-jangal-zameen, we’ll agitate shoulder-to-shoulder. We’ll march ahead towards the path of movement for our real vikas (development).

Dated: June 1st , 2009, Monday. Time: 11 AM
Place: Start from College Ground the rally will go to Priyadarshini Stadium ground, Jagdalpur
Meeting: 2 PM

Published by: Bastar Sambhag Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (BSKSS)

Slogans for the rally:

1. Bodh Ghat Dam We don’t want – We Don’t Want, We Don’t Want!
2. Stop Bodh Ghat Dam – Stop the dam, Stop the dam!
3. Tata Factory We don’t want – We Don’t Want, We Don’t Want!
4. Will give our lives but not our land – Not the land, Not the land!
5. Its not the estate of Tata, Essar – Our Bastar!
6. Stop the big dams – Stop the dam, Stop the dam!
7. Shut down Aamdai, Metta mines – Shut down, Shut down!
8. Keep Inda Alive – Keep alive! Keep alive!
9. Don’t steal the greeneries of forest – Don’t steal, Don’t steal!
10. Don’t ruin the happy lives – Don’t ruin, Don’t ruin!
11. Don’t install the industry on fertile land – Don’t install, Don’t install!
12. Don’t evict us from zal-jangal-zameen (rivers-forests-lands) – Don’t evict, Don’t evict!
13. Shut down Raoghat mines – Shut down, Shut down!
14. Shut down Kuvvemari mines – Shut down, Shut down!
15. Shut down Budhiyarimaad – Shut down, Shut down!
16. Ta Ta to Tata – Ta-Ta!
17. Stop Essar Pipeline – Stop it, Stop it!
18. Don’t export Iron ore from Bailadila – Don’t export, Don’t export!
19. Long Live Bastar Sambhag Kisan Sangharsh Samiti – Long live! Long live!
20. Shut down Chargaon mines – Shut down, Shut down!
21. March ahead for Adivasi Existence – March ahead, March ahead!
22. March ahead for defending Adivasi Identity – March ahead, March ahead!
23. We all are one – We are one, We are one!
24. Our demands – We’ll achieve them!

How do we fight – Together we fight!

25. We don’t agree to the displacement for big capitalists – We don’t agree, We don’t agree!
26. Provide electricity in every village – provide it, provide it!
27. Open schools in every village – open schools, open schools!
28. Open hospitals in every village – open hospitals open hospitals!

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