Statement against Government of India’s planned military offensive in adivasi-populated regions: National and international signatories

October 12, 2009

Sanhati (www.sanhati.com), a collective of activists/academics who have been working in solidarity with peoples’ movements in India by providing information and analysis, took the initiative to bring together voices from around the world against the Government of India’s planned military offensive in Central India. A statement (Hindi version here, Bengali version here, Telugu version here, Italian version of Letter here, Italian version of Background Note here, Spanish version of Letter, Spanish version of Background Note) and a background note were drafted in consultation with Indian activists, and duly circulated for endorsement. Readers are encouraged to endorse by mailing sanhatiindia [at] sanhati [dot] com with full name and affiliation.

To

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister,
Government of India,
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi,
India-110 011.

We are deeply concerned by the Indian government’s plans for launching an unprecedented military offensive by army and paramilitary forces in the adivasi (indigeneous people)-populated regions of Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal states. The stated objective of the offensive is to “liberate” these areas from the influence of Maoist rebels. Such a military campaign will endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of the poorest people living in those areas, resulting in massive displacement, destitution and human rights violation of ordinary citizens. To hunt down the poorest of Indian citizens in the name of trying to curb the shadow of an insurgency is both counter-productive and vicious. The ongoing campaigns by paramilitary forces, buttressed by anti-rebel militias, organised and funded by government agencies, have already created a civil war like situation in some parts of Chattisgarh and West Bengal, with hundreds killed and thousands displaced. The proposed armed offensive will not only aggravate the poverty, hunger, humiliation and insecurity of the adivasi people, but also spread it over a larger region.

Grinding poverty and abysmal living conditions that has been the lot of India’s adivasi population has been complemented by increasing state violence since the neoliberal turn in the policy framework of the Indian state in the early 1990s. Whatever little access the poor had to forests, land, rivers, common pastures, village tanks and other common property resources has come under increasing attack by the Indian state in the guise of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other “development” projects related to mining, industrial development, Information Technology parks, etc. The geographical terrain, where the government’s military offensive is planned to be carried out, is very rich in natural resources like minerals, forest wealth and water, and has been the target of large scale appropriation by several corporations. The desperate resistance of the local indigenous people against their displacement and dispossession has in many cases prevented the government-backed corporations from making inroads into these areas. We fear that the government’s offensive is also an attempt to crush such popular resistances in order to facilitate the entry and operation of these corporations and to pave the way for unbridled exploitation of the natural resources and the people of these regions. It is the widening levels of disparity and the continuing problems of social deprivation and structural violence, and the state repression on the non-violent resistance of the poor and marginalized against their dispossession, which gives rise to social anger and unrest and takes the form of political violence by the poor. Instead of addressing the source of the problem, the Indian state has decided to launch a military offensive to deal with this problem: kill the poor and not the poverty, seems to be the implicit slogan of the Indian government.

We feel that it would deliver a crippling blow to Indian democracy if the government tries to subjugate its own people militarily without addressing their grievances. Even as the short-term military success of such a venture is very doubtful, enormous misery for the common people is not in doubt, as has been witnessed in the case of numerous insurgent movements in the world. We urge the Indian government to immediately withdraw the armed forces and stop all plans for carrying out such military operations that has the potential for triggering a civil war which will inflict widespread misery on the poorest and most vulnerable section of the Indian population and clear the way for the plundering of their resources by corporations. We call upon all democratic-minded people to join us in this appeal.

Click here for list of National Signatories

Click here for list of International Signatories

Detailed Background Note for the statement

Click here for Hindi version of statement [PDF, Hindi]

Click here for Bengali version of statement [PDF, Bengali]

Telugu version here

Italian version of Letter here (- Daniela Bezzi)

Italian version of Background Note here

*************

National Signatories

Arundhati Roy, Author and Activist, India

Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Center for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU, India

Sandeep Pandey, Social Activist, N.A.P.M., India

Mahashweta Devi, Social Activist and Writer, India

Manoranjan Mohanty, Durgabai Deshmukh Professor of Social Development, Council for Social Development, India

Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court Advocate, India

Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, India

Colin Gonzalves, Supreme Court Advocate, India

Arvind Kejriwal, Social Activist, India

Arundhati Dhuru, Activist, N.A.P.M., India

Swapna Banerjee-Guha, Department of Geography, University of Mumbai, India

Anand Patwardhan, Film Maker, India

Dipankar Bhattachararya, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, India

Bernard D’Mello, Associate Editor, Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), India

Sumit Sarkar, Retired Professor of History, Delhi University, India

Tanika Sarkar, Professor of History, J.N.U., India

Gautam Navlakha, Consulting Editor, Economic and Political Weekly, India

Madhu Bhaduri, Ex-ambassador

Sumanta Banerjee, Writer, India

Dr. Vandana Shiva, Philosopher, Writer, Environmental Activist, India

M.V. Ramana, Visiting Research Scholar, Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy; Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University, USA

Dipanjan Rai Chaudhari, Retired Professor, Presidency College, India

G. N. Saibaba, Assistant Professor, University of Delhi

Amit Bhattacharyya, Professor, Department of History. Jadavpur University, Kolkata

D.N. Jha, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Delhi, India

Paromita Vohra, Devi Pictures

Sunil Shanbag, Theater Director

Saroj Giri, Lecturer in Political Science, Delhi University, India

Sudeshna Banerjee, Department of History, Jadavpur University, India

Achin Chakraborty, Professor of Economics, Institute of Development Studies, Calcutta University Alipore, India

Anand Chakravarty, Retired Professor, Delhi University, India

Anjan Chakrabarti, Professor of Economics, Calcutta University, India

Subha Chakraborty Dasgupta, Professor, Jadavpur University, India

Uma Chakravarty, Retired Professor, Delhi University, India

Kunal Chattopadhyay, Professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, India

Amiya Dev, Emiritus Professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, India

Subhash Gatade, Writer and Social Activisit, India

Abhijit Guha, Vidyasagar University, India

Kaneez Fathima, Librarian and Activist, Hyderabad

Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, India

Gauri Lankesh, Editor, Lankesh Patrike, India

Pulin B. Nayak, Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, India

Imrana Qadeer, Retired Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, J.N.U., India

Neshant Quaiser, Associate Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University, Department of Sociology, India

Ramdas Rao, President, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Bangalore Unit, India

S. Jeevan Kumar, President, Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh, India

V.S.Krishna, State General Secretary, Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh, India

Shereen Ratnagar, Retired Professor, Center for Historical Studies, JNU, India

Rahul Varman, Professor, Department of Industrial and Management Engineering, IIT Kanpur, India

Padma Velaskar, Professor, Center for Studies in the Sociology of Education, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India

Hilal Ahmed, Associate Fellow, Center for the Studies of Development of Societies, India

Reetha Balsavar

Sriparna Bandopadhyay, India

Chinmoy Banerjee

Kaushik Banyopadhyay, Student, IIT KGP, India

Pranab Kanti Basu, Department of Economics and Politics, Vishwa Bharati University, India

Durga Bhat, PUCL, Mangalore, India

Suresh Bhat, PUCL, Mangalore, India

Arunkanti Biswas, Former Deputy Director, NEERI, India

Nisha Biswas, CGCRI, Kolkata, India

Harsh Bora, Student, Delhi Law Faculty, India

Kaushik Bose, Reader, Vidyasagar University, India

Shitansu Shekhar Chakraborty, Student, IIT Kharagpur, India

Rabin Chakraborty

Indira Chakravarthi, Public Health Researcher, India

Dipankar Chakrabarti, Aneek, India

Tapan Chakraborty, Indian Statistical Institute, India

Nandini Chandra, Member of Faculty, Delhi University, India

Navin Chandra, Visiting Senior Fellow, Institude of Human Development, India

Jagadish Chandra, New Socialist Alternative, CWI, India

Pratyush Chandra, Activist, Freelance Journalist, and Researcher, India

Pritha Chandra, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT-Delhi, India

Dhiman Chatterjee, IIT Chennai, India

Aziz Choudry, Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University, Canada

Jaison C Cooper, Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam, Kerala, India

Debarshi Das, IIT Guwahati, India

Probal Dasgupta, Linguistic Research Unit, I.S.I., India

Sangeeta Dasgupta, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, India

Surya Shankar Dash, Independent Filmmaker, India

Ashokankur Datta, Graduate Student, I.S.I. (Planning Unit), India

Aniruddha Dutta, Gender Women’s and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota, USA

Soumik DuttaS. Dutta, Delhi Platform, India

Madhumita Dutta, Green Youth Movement, India, Chennai

Abhee Dutt-Mazumder, TASAM, India

Durga Prasad Duvvuri, Independent Management Consultant, India

Ajit Eapen, Mumbai, IndiaSampath G, Mumbai, India

Lena Ganesh

M.S. Ganesh

Anjan Ghosh, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, India

Aurnab Ghose, IISER Pune, India

Anandaroop Ghosh, India

Pothik Ghosh, Editor, Radical Notes, India

Rajeev Godara, General Secretary, Sampooran Kranti Manch, Haryana (associated with Lok Rajniti Manch), India

Siddhartha Gupta, Senior Medical Officer, Kolkata Port Trust, India

Jacob, South Asia Study Center

Manish Jain, Assistant Professor, Center for Studies of Sociology of Education, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India

Shishir K. Jha, IIT Mumbai, India

Avinash K. Jha, Assistant Professor of Economics, Shri Ram College of Commerce, India

Partha Joarder, Scientist, Bose Institute, Kolkata, India

Bodhisattva Kar, Fellow in History, Center for Studies in Social Science, India

Ravi Kant, Advocate, Supreme Court, Delhi, India

Harish Karnick, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Kanpur, India

Lateef Mohd Khan, General Secretary, Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee, India

Sumbul Jawed Khan, Biological Sciences and Bio. Eng. Department, IIT Kanpur, India

Reetika Khera, DSE, Delhi, India

Rajeesh Kollakkandi, indianvanguard.wordpress.com

Lenin Kumar, editor, Nisan, India

Ravi Kumar, Editor of Radical Notes and Assistant Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University, India

Abhijit Kundu, Faculty, Sociology, University of Delhi

P. Govindan kutty, Editor, People’s March, Ernakulam, Kerala

Shakuntala Mahanta, IIT Guwahati

Bodhisattwa Maity, India

Parthasarathi Majumdar, Senior Professor, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, India

Soumik Majumder

Dishery Malakar

Julie Koppel Maldonado

Udai Malhotra, Activist, India

Mallanagoudar.P.K., Journalist, Gauri Lankesh Kannada Weekly, Bangalore, India

Prabhat Mandal, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, India

Dr Nandini Manjrekar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Soma Marik

John Mathen, India

Satyabrata Mitra

Siddhartha Mitra

Najeeb Mubarki, Assistant Editor, Editorial page, Economic Times, India

Dipankar Mukherjee, PDF, Delhi, India

Subhasis Mukhopadhyay, Frontier

Soumya Mukhopadhyay, Market Researcher – Independent filmmaker, Kolkata

Sakuntala Narsimhan, Writer, India

Nalini Nayak, Reader in Economics, PGDAV College, Delhi University, India

Soheb ur Rahman Niazi, Student, Jamia Milia Islamia, India

Rahul Pandey, India

Dr. Swadhin Pattanayak, India

Jai Pushp, Activist, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, India

Divya Rajagopal

Ramendra, Delhi Shramik Sangathan, India

V. Nagendra Rao, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad, India

Sankar Ray, Columnist

Partho Sarathi Ray, IISER, Kolkata

Kirity Roy, MASUM and PACTI, India

Atanu Roy

Anindyo Roy

Dunu Roy, Social Activist, India

Anil Sadgopal, Education Activist and Former Professor of Education, Delhi University, India

Sanjoy Kumar Saha, Reader, CSE department, Jadavpur University, India

Sandeep, Freelance Journalist

Dr. K. Saradamoni, Retired Academic

Madhu Sarin, Social Activist

Saurobijay Sarkar, Indian Institute of Marxist Studies

Satyam, Rahul Foundation and Dayitvbodh, India

Samriddhi Shankar Ray, Concern, IISc Bangalore, India

Sujay Sarkar

Meera Sehgal, Department of Sociology, Carleton College, USA

Jhuma Sen, Delhi

Samita Sen, Professor, Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, India

Santanu Sengupta, UDML College of Engineering, India

Ajay Kishor Shaw, Mumbai, India

Dr. Mira Shiva

Sheo Mangal Siddhantankar, General Secretary, CPIML-New Proleterian, India

Jagmohan Singh, Voices for Freedom Punjab, India

Sandeep Singh, Mumbai, India

Harindar Pal Singh Ishar, Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court, India

Preeti Sinha, Editor of Philhal, Patna, India

Sirajuddeen K M, P A College of Engineering, Mangalore

Oishik Sircar, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School, India

Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, New Delhi, India

Yogesh Snehi, DAV College, Amritsar, India

Srinvasashala, Human Rights Organisation, Hyderabad, India

K. Sriram

Viviek Sundara, Mumbai, India

Saswati Swetlena, Programme Officer, Governance and Advocacy Unit, National Center for Advocacy Studies, India

Damayanti Talukdar, Kolkata

Divya Trivedi, The Hindu Business Line, India

Satyam Varma, Rahul Foundation

N Venugopal, Journalist, Hyderabad, India

G. Vijay, Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Hyderabad, India

R.M. Vikas, IIT Kanpur, India

Go to top

*************

International Signatories

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, M.I.T., USA

David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, The C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center, USA

Michael Lebowitz, Director, Program in Transformative Practice and Human Development, Centro Internacional Mirana, Venezuela

John Bellamy Foster, Editor of Monthly Review and Professor of Sociology,University of Oregon Eugene,USA

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor and Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University, USA

James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science, Yale University, USA

Michael Watts, Professor of Geography and Development Studies, University of California Berkeley, USA

Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, Departments of Anthropology and Political Science, Columbia University, USA

Mira Nair, Filmmaker, Mirabai Films, USA

Howard Zinn, Historian, Playwright, and Social Activisit, USA

Abha Sur, Women’s Studies, M.I.T., USA

Richard Peet, Professor of Geography, Clark University, USA

Richard Levins, John Rock Professor of Population Sciences, Harvard University, USA

Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations, School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London, U.K

Massimo De Angelis, Professor of Political Economy, University of East London, UK

Gyanendra Pandey, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History, Emory University, USA

Brian Stross, Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas Austin, USA

J. Mohan Rao, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA

Vinay Lal, Professor of History & Asian American Studies, University of California Los Angeles, USA

James Crotty, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Haluk Gerger, Political Scientist, Activist, Political Prisoner, Turkey

Justin Podur, Journalist, Canada

Hari Kunzru, Novelist, U.K.

Louis Proyect, Columbia University

Biju Mathew, Associate Professor, Rider University, USA

Balmurli Natrajan, Campaign to Stop Funding Hate and South Asia Solidarity Initiative, USA

Hari Sharma, President, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy, Canada

Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web

Kim Berry, Professor of Women’s Studies, Humboldt State University, USA

Shefali Chandra, Professor of South Asian History, Washington University at St Louis, USA

Angana Chatterji, Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, USA

Paresh Chattopadhyay, Département de Sociologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

Stan Cox, Senior Scientist, The Land Institute, USA

Martin Doornbos, Professor Emeritus, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, Netherlands

Robert A Hueckstedt, Professor, University of Virginia, USA

Louis Kampf, Professor of Literature Emeritus, MIT, USA

Emily Kawano, Director, Center for Popular Economics, USA

Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA

Bill Martin, Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University, USA

Ali Mir, Professor, William Paterson University, USA

Anuradha Dingwaney Needham, Longman Professor of English, Oberlin College, USA

Kavita Philip, Associate Professor, University of California, Irvine, USA

Nicholas De Genova, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Latino Studies, Columbia University, USA

Peter Custers, Academic researcher on militarisation, Netherlands

Radha D’Souza, School of Law, University of Westminster , UK

Gary Aboud, Secretary, Fisherman and Friends of the Sea, Trinidad and Tobago

Mysara Abu-Hashem, Ph.D. Student, American University, USA

Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Professor of English, Montclair University, USA

Husna Haider Ali, People’s Resistance and Labour Party, Pakistan

Nadim Asrar, Ph.D. student, University of Minnesota, USA

Margaret E Sheehan, Attorney at Law, USA

Jude Baggo, Secretary General, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, Philippines

Arpita Banerjee, Lecturer, Whittemore School of Business and Economics, University of New Hampshire, USA

David Barsamian, Director, Alternative Radio, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Oyman Basaran, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Deepankar Basu, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Kasturi Basu, Rutgers University, USA

Sharmadip Basu, Syracuse University, USA

Joseph A Belisle

Daniela Bezzi, Journalist, Italy

Varuni Bhatia, Assistant Professor, Religous Studies Program, N.Y.U., USA

Anindya Bhattacharya, Faculty, University of York, UK

Sourav Bhattacharya, University of Pittsburgh, USA

Swati Birla, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Norma G. Biňas, Secretary-General, International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) Philippine Chapter

Peter J. Bloom, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California Santa Barbara, USA

Windel Bolinget, Secretary General, Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Phillipines

Rosalind Boyd, Centre for Developing-Area Studies, McGill University, Canada

Sister Maureen Catabian, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Philippines

Dominique Caouette, Département de Science Politique, Université de Montréal, France

Joan Carling, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), Thailand

Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor, Department of Communications, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Ipsita Chatterjee, Assistant Professor, University of Texas, Austin, USA

Piya Chatterjee, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California Riverside, USA

Ruchi Chaturvedi, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Hunter College, City University of New York, USA

Chitrabhanu Chaudhuri, Ph.D. Student, Department of Mathematics, Northwestern University, USA

Dan Clawson, Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

Len Cooper,Victorian Branch, Communication Workers Union, Australia

Priti Gulati Cox, Artist, USA

Linda Cullen, Canada

Huma Dar, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia, Canada

Koel Das, UCSB, USA

Atreyi Dasgupta, MD Anderson Cancer Center, USA

Temel Demirer, Author, Turkey

Grace de Haro, APDH Human Rights Organization, Argentina

Nandini Dhar, Ph.D. student, University of Texas Austin, U.S.A.

Emily Durham-Shapiro, Student, University of Minnesotta, USA

Arindam Dutta, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, MIT, USA

Anne Dwyer, University of Washington, US

AIlgin Erdem, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. USA

T. Robert Fetter, USA

James D. Findlay, California State University, Northridge, USA

Kade Finnoff, Doctoral Candidate, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Sara Flounders, Co-Director, International Action Center, New York, USA

Nora O. Gamolo, Peace and Collaborative Development Network, Philippines

Ricardo Lagunes Gasca, Human Rights Defender, Chiapas, Mexico

Kaushik Ghosh, University of Texas, Austin, USA

Bishnupriya Ghosh, Professor of English, University of California Santa Barbara, USA

Vinay Gidwani, Professor of Geography, Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA

Wendy Glauser, MA candidate, Political Science. York University. Toronto, Canada

Ted Glick, Climate Crisis Coalition, Climate Crisis Coalition and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, USA

Ozlem Goner, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Inderpal Grewal, Yale University, USA

Onur Gulbudak, Psychologist, Turkey

Shubhra Gururani, Associate Professor of Anthropology, York University, Canada

Anna L. Gust, University College London, UK

Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South

Arne Harns, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Social and Political Sciences, Free University of Berlin, Germany

Amrit Singh Heer, Graduate student, Social and Political Thought, York University, Canada

Azad  Hoshiarpuri, Indian Worker’s Association, Great Britian

Helen Hintjens, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands

Adrienne Carey Hurley, McGill University, Canada

Zeba Imam, Ph.D. student, Texas A&M University, USA

Kajri Jain, University of Toronto, Canada

Dhruv Jain, Graduate student, York University, Canada

Mohamad Junaid, Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology, City University of New York, USA

Jyotsna Kapur, Associate Professor, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, USA

Nada Khader , Executive Director, WESPAC Foundation

Sadia Khan, Classical Dancer and Educator, Karachi, Turkey

Jesse Knutson, University of Chicago, USA

David Kotz, Professor of Economics, UMass, Amherst, USA

Krishna MV, NIH, USAPeter Lackowski, Writer/Activist, USA

Thomas Lamarre, William Dawson Professor, East Asian Studies, McGill University, Canada

Maire Leadbeater (human rights activist Auckland New Zealand)

Joseph Levine, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

George Levinger, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

David W. Lewit, Alliance for Democracy, USA

Jinee Lokaneeta, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Drew University, USA

Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Sanjeev Mahajan

Sunaina Maira, Associate Professor, University of California Davis, USA

Panayiotis “Taki” Manolakos, Writer/Activist, USA

Red Maples for Teachers of English abroad in Korea (TEA-KOR)

Carlos Marentes, Farmworkers.org, USA

Erika Marquez, New York, USA

Thomas Masterson, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, USA

David Matsinhe, University of Alberta, Canada

Jim McCorry, Belfast, N. Ireland

Victor Menotti, Executive Director, International Forum on Globalization, USA

James Miehls, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Stephen Miesher, Associate Professor, University of California Santa Barbara, USA

Raza Mir, Professor of Management, William Paterson University, USA

Katherine Miranda, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.

Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, Oakland Institute, USA

Roger Moody, Association for Progressive Communication, UK

Agrotosh Mookerji, Statistician and student, UK

Joshua Moufawad-Paul, Ph.D. student, York University, Canada

Sudipto Muhuri, Researcher, Germany

Yasser Munif, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. USA

Alan Muller, Executive Director, Green Delaware, USA

Jed Murr, University of Washington, USA

Doug Norberg, Videographer, San Francisco, USA

Sirisha Naidu, Assistant Professor of Economics, Wright State University, USA

Sriram Natrajan, Independent Researcher, Thailand

Nandini Nayak, SOAS, University of London, UK

Sibel Ozbudun, Academician/Author, Turkey

Ipsita Pal Bhaumik, NIH, USA

Harsh Kumar Punja, Teacher, Rome, Italy

Moreno Pasquinelli, Spokesman of Antimperialist Camp

Shailja Patel, USA

Saswat Pattanayak, Editor, Radical Notes, USA

Ranjit Paul, Retired Professor of Physics, North Bengal University, India

Sukla Paul, Retired Reader in Physics, North Bengal University, India

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project

Frank Peters, Associate Chair, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta, Canada

Bhanu Poudyal, Contemporary Marxism Study Group, USA

Ahmed Pouri, Coordinator of refugees organisation PRIME, (Participating Refugees In Multicultural Europe )

Mike Alexander Pozo, Political Affairs Magazine

Ashok Prasad, Dept of Chemical Engg, Colorado State University, USA

David Pugh, writer, San Francisco, USA

Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California Irvine, USA

Kaveri Rajaraman, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, USA

K. Ravi Raman, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Manchester, UK

Smita Ramnarain, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Leena Ranade, AID India, USA

Nagesh Rao, Assistant Professor, The College of New Jersey, USA

Ravi Ravishankar, Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, USA

Chandan Reddy, Assistant Professor, University of Washington, USA

Bruce Rich, Attorney, USA

Dr. Andrew Robinson, UK

Mandy Rohr, Social Activist, Germany

Rose, on behalf of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA

Rachel Rosen, International Workers of the World and OSSTF, USA

Eric B. Ross, Professor of International Development Studies, The George Washington University, USA

Seth Sandronsky, Journalist, USA

Amit Sarkar, Visiting Fellow, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID/NIH, USA

Bhaskar Sarkar, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California Santa Barbara, USA

Erik Schnabel, San Franciscio, USA

Helen Scharber, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Anna Schultz, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, School of Music, University of Minnesota, USA

Svati Shah, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Abi Sharma, President – Progressive Nepali Forum in Americas (PNEFA), USA

Shaheen Shasa, USA

Sam Shell, Kasama Project, USA

Snehal Shinghavi, Assistant Professor, University of Texas, Austin, USA

Tyler Shipley, Department of Political Science, York University, Canada

Samira Shirdel, Community Advocate, Chaya: a Resource for South Asian Women, USA

Jon Short, Department of Communications Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

Karin Astrid Siegmann, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands

Kuver Sinha, Texas A&M University, USA

Subir Sinha, SOAS, University of London, U.K

Julietta Singh, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA

Preethy Sivakumar, York University, Canada

Yannis Skalidakis, Ph.D., School of Political Sciences at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Ajay Skaria, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota, USA

Stephen C Snyder

Nidhi Srinivas, Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management, The New School, USA

Chukka Srinivas

Poonam Srivastav, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Minnesota, USA

Priyanka Srivastava, Ph.D. candidate, University of Cincinnati, USA

Rachel Steiger-Meister, Graduate Student, Wright State University, USA

Makere Stewart-Harawira, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta, Canada

Raja Swamy, Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, USA

Usha Titikshu, Photojournalist, Nepal

Wendel Trio, Former Chair, European Alliance with Indigenous Peoples

Shivali Tukdeo, University of Illinois, USA

Sandeep Vaidya, India Support Group, Ireland

Chris Vance, York University, Canada

Rashmi Varma, University of Warwick, U.K

Ramaa Vasudevan, Dept of Economics, Colorado State University, USA

Nalini Visvanathan, Lecturer in Asian American Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA

Robert Weil, University of California, Santa Cruz Assistant Professor/Lecturer (retired) and social activist

David Welsh, San Francisco (California) Labor Council, USA

Daphna Whitmore, Secretary, Workers’ Party, New Zealand

T. Wignesan, Editor, Asianists’ Asia, Centre de Recherches, CERPICO and CREA, France

Michael Williss, Research Officer, Australian Education Union, Australia

Ferd Wulkan, Massachusetts Society of Professors, University of Massachusetts,  Amherst, USA

Daphne Wysham, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies, USA

Go to top

*************

BACKGROUND NOTE

It has been widely reported in the press that the Indian government is planning an unprecedented military offensive against alleged Maoist rebels, using paramilitary and counter-insurgency forces, possibly the Indian Armed Forces and even the Indian Air Force. This military operation is going to be carried out in the forested and semi-forested rural areas of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand,West Bengal and Maharashtra, populated mainly by the tribal (indigenous) people of India. Reportedly, the offensive has been planned in consultation with US counter-insurgency agencies. To put the Indian government’s proposed military offensive in proper perspective one needs to understand the economic, social and political background to the conflict. In particular, there are three dimensions of the crisis that needs to be emphasized, because it is often overlooked: (a) the development failure of the post-colonial Indian state, (b) the continued existence and often exacerbation of the structural violence faced by the poor and marginalized, and (c) the full-scale assault on the meager resource base of the peasantry and the tribal (indigenous people) in the name of “development”. Let us look at each of these in turn, but before we do so it needs to be stressed that the facts we mention below are not novel; they are well-known if only conveniently forgotten. Most of these facts were pointed out by the April 2008 Report of the Expert Group of the Planning Commission of the Indian Government (headed by retired civil servant D. Bandopadhyay) to study “development challenges in extremist affected areas”.

The post-colonial Indian State, both in its earlier Nehruvian and the more recent neoliberal variant, has failed miserably to solve the basic problems of poverty, employment and income, housing, primary health care, education and inequality and social discrimination of the people of the country. The utter failure of the development strategy of the post-colonial State is the ground on which the current conflict arises. To recount some well known but oft-forgotten facts, recall that about 77 percent of the Indian population in 2004-05 had a per capita daily consumption expenditure of less than Rs. 20; that is less than 50 cents by the current nominal exchange rate between the rupee and the US dollar and about $2 in purchasing power parity terms. According to the 2001 Census, even 62 years after political independence, only about 42 percent of Indian households have access to electricity. About 80 percent of the households do not have access to safe drinking water; that is a staggering 800 million people lacking access to potable water.

What is the condition of the working people in the country? 93 percent of the workforce, the overwhelming majority of the working people in India, are what the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) called “informal workers”; these workers lack any employment security, work security and social security. About 58 percent of them work in the agricultural sector and the rest is engaged in manufacturing and services. Wages are very low and working conditions extremely onerous, leading to persistent and deep poverty, which has been increasing over the last decade and a half in absolute terms: the number of what the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) called the “poor and vulnerable” increased from 811 million in 1999-00 to 836 million in 2004-05. Since majority of the working people still work in the agricultural sector, the economic stagnation in agriculture is a major cause for the continued poverty of the vast majority of the people. Since the Indian state did not undertake land reforms in any meaningful sense, the distribution of land remains extremely skewed to this day. Close to 60 percent of rural households are effectively landless; and extreme economic vulnerability and despair among the small and marginal peasantry has resulted in the largest wave of suicides in history: between 1997 and 2007, 182,936 farmers committed suicide. This is the economic setting of the current conflict.

But in this sea of poverty and misery, there are two sections of the population that are much worse off than the rest: the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) population. On almost all indicators of social well being, the SCs and STs are worse off than the general population: poverty rates are higher, landlessness is higher, infant mortality rates are higher, levels of formal education are lower, and so on. To understand this differential in social and economic deprivation we need to look at the second aspect of the current crisis that we had alluded to: structural violence.

There are two dimensions of this structural violence: (a) oppression, humiliation and discrimination along the lines of caste and ethnicity and (b) regular harassment, violence and torture by arms of the State. For the SC and ST population, therefore, the violence of poverty, hunger and abysmal living conditions has been complemented and worsened by the structural violence that they encounter daily. It is the combination of the two, general poverty and the brutality and injustice of the age old caste system, kept alive by countless social practices despite numerous legislative measures by the Indian state, that makes this the most economically deprived and socially marginalized section of the Indian population. This social discrimination, humiliation and oppression is of course very faithfully reflected in the behavior of the police and other law-enforcing agencies of the State towards the poor SC and ST population, who are constantly harassed, beaten up and arrested on the slightest pretext. For this population, therefore, the State has not only totally neglected their economic and social development, it is an oppressor and exploiter. While the SC and ST population together account for close to a quarter of the Indian population, they are the overwhelming majority in the areas where the Indian government proposes to carry out its military offensive against alleged Maoist rebels. This, then, is the social background of the current conflict.

This brings us to the third dimension of the problem: unprecedented attack on the access of the marginalized and poor to common property resources. Compounding the persistent poverty and the continuing structural violence has been the State’s recent attempt to usurp the meager resource base of the poor and marginalized, a resource base that was so far largely outside the ambit of the market. The neoliberal turn in the policy framework of the Indian state since the mid 1980s has, therefore, only further worsened the problems of economic vulnerability and social deprivation. Whatever little access the poor had to forests, land, rivers, common pastures, village tanks and other common property resources to cushion their inevitable slide into poverty and immiserization has come under increasing attack by the Indian state in the guise of so-called development projects: Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other “development” projects related to mining, industrial development, Information Technology parks, etc. Despite numerous protests from people and warnings from academics, the Indian State has gone ahead with the establishment of 531 SEZs. The SEZs are areas of the country where labour and tax laws have been consciously weakened, if not totally abrogated by the State to “attract” foreign and domestic capital; SEZs, almost by definition, require a large and compact tract of land, and thus inevitably mean the loss of land, and thus livelihood, by the peasantry. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no serious, rigorous cost-benefit analysis of these projects to date; but this does not prevent the government from claiming that the benefits of these projects, in terms of employment generation and income growth, will far outweigh the costs of revenue loss from foregone taxes and lost livelihoods due to the assault on land.

The opposition to the acquisition of land for these SEZ and similar projects have another dimension to it. Dr. Walter Fernandes, who has studied the process of displacement in post-independence India in great detail, suggests that around 60 million people have faced displacement between 1947 and 2004; this process of displacement has involved about 25 million hectares of land, which includes 7 million hectares of forests and 6 million hectares of other common property resources. How many of these displaced people have been resettled? Only one in every three. Thus, there is every reason for people not tobelieve the government’s claims that those displaced from their land will be, in any meaningful sense, resettled. This is one of the most basic reasons for the opposition to displacement and dispossession.

But, how have the rich done during this period of unmitigated disaster for the poor? While the poor have seen their incomes and purchasing power tumble down precipitously in real terms, the rich have, by all accounts, prospered beyond their wildest dreams since the onset of the liberalization of the Indian economy. There is widespread evidence from recent research that the levels of income and wealth inequality in India has increased steadily and drastically since the mid 1980s. A rough overview of this growing inequality is found by juxtaposing two well known facts: (a) in 2004-05, 77 percent of the population spent less than Rs. 20 a day on consumption expenditure; and (b) according to the annual World Wealth Report released by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini in 2008, the millionaire population in India grew in 2007 by 22.6 per cent from the previous year, which is higher than in any other country in the world.

It is, thus, the development disaster of the Indian State, the widening levels of disparity and the continuing problems of social deprivation and structural violence when compounded by the all-out effort to restrict access to common property resources that, according to the Expert Group of the Planning Commission, give rise to social anger, desperation and unrest. In almost all cases the affected people try to ventilate their grievances using peaceful means of protest; they take our processions, they sit on demonstrations, they submit petitions. The response of the State is remarkably consistent in all these cases: it cracks down on the peaceful protestors, sends in armed goons to attack the people, slaps false charges against the leaders and arrests them and often also resorts to police firing and violence to terrorize the people. We only need to remember Singur, Nandigram, Kalinganagar and countless other instances where peaceful and democratic forms of protest were crushed by the state with ruthless force. It is, thus, the action of the State that blocks off all forms of democratic protest and forces the poor and dispossessed to take up arms to defend their rights, as has been pointed out by social activists like Arundhati Roy. The Indian government’s proposed military offensive will repeat that story all over again. Instead of addressing the source of the conflict, instead of addressing the genuine grievances of the marginalized people along the three dimensions that we have pointed to, the Indian state seems to have decided to opt for the extremely myopic option of launching a military offensive.

It is also worth remembering that the geographical terrain, where the government’s military offensive is planned, is very well-endowed with natural resources like minerals, forest wealth, biodiversity and water resources, and has of late been the target of systematic usurpation by several large, both Indian and foreign, corporations. So far, the resistance of the local indigenous people against their displacement and dispossession has prevented the government-backed corporates from exploiting the natural resources for their own profits and without regard to ecological and social concerns. We fear that the government’s offensive is also an attempt to crush such democratic and popular resistance against dispossession and impoverishment; the whole move seems to be geared towards facilitating the entry and operation of these large corporations and paving the way for unbridled exploitation of the natural resources and people of these regions.

Go to top

Comments Off