Adivasis, Mining and Monopoly Capital: Issue 18 of Update Booklet

May 4, 2010

Click here to read Update publication, Issue 18, on Operation Green Hunt [PDF, English, 79 pages] »

Contents

Introduction 1
Adivasis in Central and Eastern India 7
Adivasi People and Forests 11
Mad Rush for Mining and Adivasi People 18
Exploitation: Economic and Social 29
Saga of Displacement 35
Plunder, Resistance and Atrocities 40
Corporate Interests behind the Offensive 73
Concluding Remarks 76

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We present below the introduction and conclusion from this comprehensive booklet.

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Introduction

Dantewada is the southern-most district of Chhattisgarh. It has borders with Orissa in the east and Andhra Pradesh in the south. 62% of the district is covered with dense forests mostly inhabited by the adivasis, who are 79% of the population of the district. Dantewada produces most of the iron ores of the state. But, it is

“ among the top 10 most backward districts in the country. Only 22 per cent of households in Dantewada have access to electricity, though the district boasts of the presence of Essar Steel…. Literacy rate in Dantewada is as low as 30 per cent.” (Rich Lands Poor People, Is Sustainable Mining Possible? Centre for Science and Environment, 2008)

The profile of the districts like Bijapur, Bastar, Kanker—adjacent to Dantewada (better known as Bastar region of Chhattisgarh)—are almost same: i.e., rich in minerals; inhabited mostly by the adivasis; abysmally poor and underdeveloped also. These districts are now famous names—not for the Essars or Tatas. They are now famous for the biggest internal paramilitary onslaught in the history. Thousands of security personnel and elite police forces are now combing the jungles for Adivasis branding them naxals or maoists. Adivasis— many of those are hunters by nature—are now chased and being hunted indiscriminately both by the security forces and the butchers of Salwa Judum. Hundreds are either killed or maimed; women are raped; children are tortured mercilessly; fingers and tongue of a two-year old child are cut off; thousands of huts have been torched and razed to the ground; belongings looted; 644 villages are evacuated; more than 3.5 lakh adivasis have either been displaced or have fled to the nearest states! It is not a war zone of Iraq or Afghanistan. It is a poor region of Chhattisgarh— now a battlefield of the Indian paramilitary forces! The war perpetrated is called as ‘Operation Green Hunt’ (OGH). One can remember the region commonly named as KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) belt of Orissa ‘famous’ for high records of undernourishment, poverty and starvation deaths amongst the Adivasis. And,

“Around 90% people of this region still live in villages. Female literacy is only 24.72%. As per the 1997 census of BPL families, about 72% families are below poverty line live in this region….More specifically, 49 CD Blocks of KBK districts are regarded as “very backward” and 28 CD Blocks are considered as “backward”. Persistent crop failure, lack of access to the basic service and entitlements, starvation, malnutrition and migration are the leading manifestations in the region. (www.mail-archive.com/national-forum-of-india@yahoogroups.co.in/msg00103.html)

More than half of the population of the region are Adivasis. And, under the soil of the KBK and adjoining districts like Rayagada, lurk the rich reserves of bauxite—the mother-ore of Aluminium—largely used in the makings of aircraft and cars. Aluminium is called a “strategic metal” in modern warfare. Moreover, the imperialist countries like the USA have no bauxite. Deposits in Japan and Europe are depleting fast. Hence, the KBK region and adjacent districts have now become hot-famous, but not for ‘starvation deaths’ like before. It now ‘boasts’ of bauxite for which big multinationals and Indian monopoly houses are investing massively. Right at this moment this rich land is preparing for bloodbath in the hands of the security forces. This may be called as the Orissa chapter of ‘Operation Green Hunt’.

Possibly, no-one can forget the adivasi people languishing under severe condition of undernourishment, semi-starvation and ‘unknown’ diseases in the eastern part of Maharashtra bordering Chhattisgarh. The districts like Gadchiroli, Amravati, Yavatmal, Chandrapur and Bhandara of Vidharva region are largely adivasi-inhabited and few of which are also ‘infested’ with Naxalites “sneaking” from Chhattisgarh. OGH is also going on here fiercely with unprecedented “success”.

One may remember also the name of Amlasole, a hamlet of West Midnapur—once famed for starvation deaths in left-ruled West Bengal. This place is not far enough from Lalgarh where the age-old anguish and sufferings of the Adivasis at the hands of police, administration, contractors, businessmen, wood-mafia, and foresters erupted in November 2008. This place, also called as ‘Jangalmahal’ is another battlefield of the security forces of India. Indiscriminate torturing of the Adivasis, sudden combing of the villages and forests, vandalism during the search-operations, looting and razing of the houses, firing at the protest rallies, killing, beating coupled with arrests are the general norms of the Jangalmahal. This is the Bengal-version of OGH.

The security forces of India, comprising hundreds of thousands of paramilitary forces along with scores of police forces are now engaged in a full-blown war in the villages of terrains, hills and jungles of central and eastern India. The operation, named as “Operation Green Hunt” (or ‘OGH’) is the bigger than the biggest of any security operations unleashed in the interior of the country. The stated motive of the operation is to nab and flush out the ‘maoists’—called as “the gravest internal security threats” by the prime minister.

The paramilitary operations are teethed with the most sophisticated ammunitions, helicopters, unmanned drones used in the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, satellite-assisted surveillance system along with the most modern weaponries. The war was initiated in the month of July-August of 2009 in the southern districts of Chhattisgarh and in the districts of Maharashtra-Karnataka bordering Chhattisgarh. Within a few months, the operation is escalated across eight states of the eastern and central-eastern India including Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, and West Bengal.

After initiating the joint operations at the Jangalmahal of West Bengal in the month of June of 2009, G K Pillai, the Secretary to the Home Ministry admitted candidly that “Lalgarh” was the “Laboratory” of the Operation Green Hunt to be conducted in the states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand etc.

The government will go for Lalgarh-type operation in various states, especially in Chhattisgarh, to deal with one of the country’s biggest problems.

“Lalgarh is the laboratory for us and this will be reflected in what we are going to do in other Naxal-inf ested areas like Chhattisgarh…. (20.08.2009, http://www.zeenews.com/news556970.html)

The paramilitary offensive was escalated in full swing from the month of July-August of 2009 in several states like Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orissa, etc. Within few months it was converted into a full-scale war against the people of India, particularly against the adivasis. If any one closely follow the pattern of action of the security forces in this war, it will be revealed that the war-zones are concentrated in the adivasi inhabited regions.

But, with whom the war is fought with? What is the real motive behind this operation? It’s now an open secret that the real target of this operation is to clear the resistances made by the people (mainly Adivasis) on the path of the so-called industrialisation & development in the central and eastern states—particularly in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. The Adivasis (along with the non-adivasis in some places) have waged struggles against the plunder of the minerals and forest-products; against the destruction of the rivers, waterbodies, forests and environment; against the forcible occupation of the lands, jungles and waters from the hands of the Adivasis; and against their ouster (or displacement). In fact, in many places, the projects declared by the state governments in the above states have almost come to a halt due to these resistances waged by the Adivasis. The bigticket investments of the foreign mining and industrial companies like Arcelor-Mittal, Posco, Vedanta, Rio-Tinto, BHP Billiton, De Beurs and Indian monopolies like Tata, Birla, Jindal, Essars, etc are hit by several roadblocks in these states and many of them cannot even begin the initial operations of their projects. Though some of the MNCs and Indian corporates are ready to take ‘watch and see’ policy to make their projects materialised, many of them are restless and are exerting immense pressure on the governments at the centre and states to clear the obstacles. Arcelor-Mittal and Posco are among of those who are threatening to pull out from the race of investments. The foreign and corporate interests behind the OGH were apparent by the anxious statements of foreign and domestic business media and mouthpieces representing the interests of imperialist and monopoly capital. These representatives are making valiant ‘chest-beating’ gesture to eliminate the blockades before the projects.

Actually, these war-mongers are shouting that ‘he who are against the government, are actually the maoists’ or are ‘supporters’ of the maoists or are ‘sympathisers’. In fact, any form of protest and dissent against government policies is being branded and persecuted as ‘anti-national’ or against ‘national interests, and all forms of resistance are being termed as ‘naxalism’ or ‘maoism’. In the same breath, the adivasis who have made resistances in mineral-rich regions are branded as ‘maoists’. And thus the killings, torturing, looting, arson, gangrapes of the adivasi people with subsequent arbitrary arrests, slamping of the draconian acts like UAPA are justified by none other than a ‘democratic’ government!

So severe is the barbarism that the apex court, which has given permission to many of the projects of the corporate houses, now slammed the government:

The Supreme Court on Monday severely criticised the Union Government for the recent killings of tribals in Dantewada allegedly by security forces in the name of fighting Naxals.

“Should everything ordered in the name of operations? Is there no concern for human or Fundamental Rights? We want to know why such incidents took place and how the security forces conducted themselves,” a two-member bench of Justices B Sudershan Reddy and SS Nijjar observed.

“If someone is fighting or sympathising with Naxals so what? First you say that operations are conducted against Naxals, then Naxal sympathisers and then sympathisers of such sympathisers. What is all this?” the court asked while hearing a petition on killing of over 10 tribals in Chhattisgarh. (22.10.2010, http://ibnlive.in.com/news/antinaxal-operation-hasto-be-just-sc-tells-govt/110536-3.html?from=tn)

No one does know where will this offensive culminate. But few things might be certain. The offensive will certainly kill and maim thousands of adivasis; will uproot millions of them; will crush the livelihoods and dwelling places of thousands more; and will devastate thousands of acres of pristine forests, hills, rivers, waterbodies, ecology etc.

Voices of protests aganist the murderous operations have been developing. Rallies, conventions, protest-meetings have been held in several cities of the countries. Eminent personalities of different walks of life have raised the voices of protest against the operation. Moreover these personalities alongwith many organisations protested the heinous acts of the administration to brand all these protests as ‘maoists’. Several adivasi organisations in Orissa and Jharkhand have vent their voices of protest also. We are hoping that these voices will be louder in coming days creating enough pressures on the governments. But, it is required to develop stronger mass-movements in all the cities, particularly in the affected states.

We have to grasp some deeper points behind the smokescreen of current onslaught. In fact, this imperialist-dictated, monopoly-led state operation demands a closer scrutiny from different angles:

1. It is the first time that the struggles and voices of the Adivasi people of India (particularly in the central and eastern parts) are being heard so loudly that barring the hangers-on of ruling classes of India, no-one can turn a blind eye to it. The present situation have forced many of the activists to count the potential of the adivasi people in the resistance struggles as well as in the coming democratic revolution in the country. And, the situation has inspired us to enquire the crude realities under which the adivasis are forced to live.

2. Closer examination of the designs behind the current murderous operation agsinst the adivasis—indiscrminately branding them as ‘maoists’; examinations of the motive of the imperialist and monopoly companies—mining and industrial— behind the offensive.

Concluding Remarks

The adivasi movement developed in the central and eastern parts of the country has thrown several questions to be probed and answered. In fact, barring a few minority, overwhelming majority of the progressive democratic section of the Indian people have little knowledge and idea about the life & struggle of the adivasis. Since ‘independence’, the adivasis have fought many times against the so-called development and forest projects which mercilessly ousted them without minimum rehabilitation. Since the 1990s, with the advent of the liberalisation of the economy, the attacks of the ruling classes in collaboration with the imperialist forces have accentuated. During the last decade the onslaughts on the adivasi lands & livelihoods have been magnified many times. Protesting adivasis were massacred, dislocated and thrown at the feet of the modern capitalism with utmost violence.

It is argued many times that this course of ‘development’ is ‘flawed’ and must be ‘corrected’. It is argued also that capitalism of ‘western’ features have been violently imposed on the ‘pristine’ life of the adivasis. It is advocated that there could be another course of the ‘development’ preserving the age-old sacred practices, customs and culture of the adivasis. It may be called as an ‘alternative’ course of development, etc. Moreover, it is strongly argued that the ‘old classical’ path/model of ‘democratic revolution’ is also a ‘western’ concept’ and hence, untenable in the Indian context. In the mosaic of ‘eastern’ or Indian condition new path/model must be evolved and would be practised, etc. Update has no ready-made answers to these questions/ideas. We are presenting here some of our thoughts in the current context of the adivasi struggle developed over a large part of the country. These thought may be useful in finding answers to the above-mentioned questions.

We have to understand the internal dynamics of the capitalist path of development undertaken in our country. In this era of imperialism, the capitalism in India (and in many ‘eastern’/ developing/underdeveloped countries is bound to be dependant upon the imperialist/finance capital. There is no alternative course seen since the transformation of capitalism into the age of imperialism. During this era, the dependant capitalism in our
country, tied with thousands of threads to the imperialist capital have compelled to preserve (and they preserve willingly) the old remnants of feudal mode of oppression and exploitation over society.

Present onslaughts of ‘development’ & ‘industrialisation’ undertaken by the ruling classes of India are nothing but a continuation of these policies or path. Obeying the internal dynamics of capitalism, the finance capital is intruding into the unexplored parts of the globe, into the ‘pristine’ land of forests & hills of India, predominantly inhabited by the ‘pristine’ adivasis, laden with mineral resources—battering the obstacles with fiercest violence. The capitalism has done this in Latin America. Capitalism are doing this in Africa now. They cannot but leave these resources of the earth to be unexplored and non-exploited. This is the vary nature of capitalism to be understood and realised. There is no other course of development under the present state-machineries run by the present ruling clique of big bougeoisie and landlords preserving many of the old remnants of feudal mode of production and relations. If anyone think about any alternative path of development preserving the present rule of the bourgeoisie and landlord is nothing but utopians who reject the internal dynamics of capitalism whether of ‘western’ or ‘eastern’. Hence, the primary aspect of the ‘Indian’ path development is the question of state power. Until the present state-structure and corresponding power over it remains intact, there would be no talk or no idea of ‘alternative development’. The relation of the adivasis with the forest may be natural and spontaneous, but certainly it is remnant of a type of backward production relation. The communal ownership that the adivasis enjoy over forest and land is not only retrogressive with respect to the development of the productive forces, but is also a stagnating obstruction in its path. Also due to the massive backwardness of the productive forces, hunger, fasting, malnutrition, ill-health have become part and parcel of adivasis’ life. Thus the result of their effort to maintain their communal life has been pathetic. On one hand, due to the massive dependence on nature’s ‘piety’, they are forced to bear through a type of inhuman existence throughout the years; they are deprived of the amenities of advanced livelihood, housing, food education- health, etc. On the other hand, due to this overdependence, once they are alienated from their communal ownership or right over water-land-forest, they are very quickly reduced to absolutely helpless mass of people without any shelter. This tearing away of their traditional rights or forced eviction pushes them under the fierce marauding boots of the capitalist society— where they are more than often forced to work as the lowest tiers of unskilled workers, as porters or in other lowly jobs. Thus in every way they are deprived of the opportunity for self-development; kept far away from being recognized as an equal human being. The prime cause behind this is the system of exploitation thrust upon them and the backwardness in which they are caught up.

What is the nature of these feudal mode of production and relations operating within the adivasi people? Firstly, the forest department of the government itself has imposed a feudal (‘zamindari’) system upon the adivasis by expropriating the rights of the forest from them. Under the present state-structure ruled by the present ruling classes, no legislation or act could hand over the rights over the forest to the adivasis people. Hence, the struggle for reclamation of the forest land from the clutches of the forest department and officials is in fact interwined with any (future) struggle of the adivasis against the feudal system. Secondly, the large sections of the adivasis are cultivators also. They have no rights over the land which they cultivate. Like the scores of Indian peasants, the adivasis are languishing under the feudal exploitations of the absentee landlords cornering large tracts of agricultural lands. Moreover, the adivasis are exploited by numerous intermediaries, moneylenders, contractors, traders, babus, etc. In this respect, the struggle to uproot the old feudal system and mode of production are common to both of the numerous landless peasants and landless adivasis. Hence, the struggle of the adivasis to vanquish the old system is nothing but in common to both working class and landless & poor peasants of India. Hence, it is the bounden duty of the true democratic forces to align their activities in such a way that the unity of the exploited masses of the people is forged. This can be accomplished only with the arousal of the vast sections of the workers, peasants, adivasis along with all the oppressed people into conscious political activities. It must be remembered also that this task of democratic revolution only be carried forward by the people themselves, but not by the isolated armed actions of some people. Any other path other than this, particularly the path of retaining the ‘pristine’ relationship of the adivasis with blind forces of nature could not help the adivasis to liberate themselves from the ‘developmental onslaughts’ of the ruling classes as well as old feudal bondage and exploitations. Hence, while opposing and resisting the present military offensive against the adivasis, while opposing and resisting the plunder of the mineral resources by the multinationals and Indian monopoly houses; while opposing the harassment, any confinement and arbitrary arrests of the struggling adivasis and protesting people; while demanding the repeal of the UAPA and other black Acts at the state-level; while opposing the present path of ‘development’ & ‘industrialisation’ undertaken by the ruling classes; we have to focus on the truth that the present exploitative feudal system reigning over the adivasis must be uprooted by the united revolutionary democratic forces of the working class, landless & poor peasants, adivasis, and other oppressed people.

2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Adivasis, Mining and Monopoly Capital: Issue 18 of Update Booklet”

  1. Uwe Ahrens Says:
    May 5th, 2010 at 12:50

    The landgrabbing in India nowadays is only the same thing, that is going on since the start of colonia- lism, and it is more severe under neo-colonialism. The USA have fallen back economically behind the EU-block and so they get even more aggressive. In the way of ‘globalization’ which is very much a harmonising name for what is really going on world-wide, the international supermonopolies tend to tear down any national borders in their struggle of competition. Through the rise of China as an imperialist superpower competing mainly with the US, this situaation is becoming even more tense.
    The way of the people all over the world to the steadily growing danger of an unfolding imperia- list big war, against the devastating ecological worldwide catastropy, that is getting nearer and nearer to undermining the possibilites of mankind to servive, can only be to coordinate their com-
    mon struggle with the goal of a socialist future, where humans are more valuable than money, where production is made for use and not for profit.
    The profit-greed of the monopolies never ends. Only the resistance of the people will be able to stop it. For this every nation in the world needs a truly revolutionary party, that adopts the tea-ching of class-struggle all over the world and cobines and applies it to the concrete reali- ties of the own country. The necessities for this become ever more clear true the gruesome teaching of the Indian monopoly bourgeoisie and the big firms gehind it. So the Adivasis are drawn into class struggle against their own will, only because they defend their natural right to live and are in the way of the monopolies. They deser- ve the support of all peace-loving, progressive people all over the world. Their bold resistance should remind everybody, that we humans ourselves are only natural beings and cannot survive within a world, that offences the laws of nature that much, that the coming generations have many ma- chines a.s.f., but no woods left over, no sweet water, no paddy fields, no amenities.
    But it shows also, that an isolated resistance will not be successful. The danger by the rapa- cious monopolies comes up, that if they will be finally toppled by the united people of the world, it still might be very difficult, to build up genuine socialism.
    In Germany in the last month the resistance against using nucelar energy unfolded and their was a historic human chain of 240 km against the further usage of this energy with the demand to use natural energy like sun, wind and water ener- gy.
    With the best regards and wish you all the success, that you’r striving for. U.Ahrens

  2. Shankar Says:
    May 6th, 2010 at 07:58

    While agreeing with much of the broad analysis, I have one comment: the claim that communal ownership is a “feudal” relation appears to be unsustainable unless the term “feudal” is stretched beyond all recognition, and in particular the linear consequence drawn that these relations of production are responsible for the “backwardness” of adivasi communities does not tally with the facts. The best example can be seen by looking at those sections of the Northeast – the Naga-inhabitated State of Nagaland and hill areas of Manipur, Mizoram, most of Arunachal Pradesh – where prolonged struggle by the people has resulted in the reproduction and preservation of systems of communal ownership more extensive than anywhere in India and, indeed, in most of the world. Land, water, cultivated lands, forests, etc. are under communal control in these areas. And these also happen to have by far the best social indicators of any tribal region and, indeed, better than most of the rest of India (Mizoram is the state with the highest literacy rate, for instance); notwithstanding that most of them have been zones of armed conflict for far longer than central India, facing the full might of the Indian military and air force. As such, the otherwise sophisticated argument being made here falls into a trap of reductionism in its analysis of production relations in adivasi areas.

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