As the Indian government is stepping up the military repression against the liberation movement of the adivasis (the native people and lowest castes) led by the Maoists (Naxalites), a broad defence front is in the making. It is supported by renowned personalities like Arundhati Roy and others. (See the open letter to PM Manmohan Singh and its list of endorsers. ) As Anti-imperialist Camp we do not only support and join the initiative but will actively engage in spreading it across the world. However is ready to co-operate is requested to contact us.
The Indian government has deployed 100,000 troops in addition to the existing paramilitary and police forces in parts of central India, including Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand, Maharashtra Lalgarh - Jungalmahal area of Bengal -- a vast area inhabited by mainly tribal people. Forces are being withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast to join battalions of CRPF commandos, the ITBP, the CoBRA and the BSF. There is also talk of bringing in the Rashtriya Rifles – a paramilitary force that is directly guided by the Indian Army created especially for counter-insurgency work known for its notoriety in Kashmir and Northeast in the past few decades, and the purchase of bomb trucks, bomb blankets, bomb baskets, and sophisticated new weaponry. The Air Force has already been deployed and a full-scale air operation is in the offing.
Prior to this military build up in these regions a sort of hysteria about the ‘deteriorating internal security environment due to Maoist threat’ is being created in an attempt to manufacture consent for this war on the Indian people. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh repeatedly stated that ‘left wing extremism’ was the gravest internal security threat. This raises a basic question - Why does the state need to go to war against its most deprived, impoverished and oppressed population, and inside its own territory?
Central and eastern parts of India are rich in mineral wealth that can be sold to the highest bidder. All that stands between politicians/ big money bags and this wealth is the tribal people and their refusal to consent to their designs. Addressing a conference of heads of different paramilitary, intelligence and police forces a month ago, Manmohan Singh stated that the mineral resources in the regions of tribal people remained untapped due to resistance, which affected the foreign investment. The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution grants tribals complete rights over their traditional land and forests and prohibits private companies from mining on their land. In the name of fighting the Maoists, the state wants to evacuate the entire area of the tribals and force them into the ‘relief camps’, so that the land and forests can easily be handed over to the multi-nationals. This is not new - the new economic policy, since 1991, has repeatedly attacked whatever little access the poor had to forests, land, rivers, common pastures, village tanks and other common property resources. In each case this was justified in the name of development, whether as Special Economic Zones (SEZs) or mining, industrial park. In each case it was the poor who lost their land and livelihood. For instance, in Niyamgiri, Orissa, home to several Dongria tribes, land has been handed over to multinational companies like Vedanta and in Jagatsinghpura to POSCO or in Kalinganagar to Tatas resulting in deprivation. The rulers have been displaying absolute disregard to the strong resistance of the people.
However, there are voices of dissent against oppression and dispossession. In recent years, people throughout the country with or without Naxalites including Maoists, are fighting to defend land and resources. So far, valiant resistance by the tribal and other deprived sections of people have prevented government-backed corporations from making inroads in the mineral rich central India. But desperate to gain control of valuable resources, the government, at the behest of big corporations, has now planned a full-scale war on people who are fighting a battle of survival. The stated objective of current offensive, ‘internal security’, is nothing but a smoke-screen to cover this loot.
The state has tried to crush all popular resistance, armed or not, in the past as well. It has ignored resistance. Without use of arms -- be it in Bhopal or the ‘Narmada Bachao’ movement. Various human rights activists who have spoken out against such policies have also been time and again targeted by the state. It has also brutally assaulted protesters in Singur/ Nandigram/ Lalgarh and Khammam. Like every counter insurgency operation since 1947 this war will also lead to death of huge number of people - many lives will be lost and many more will be rendered homeless. Once more a war will be fought in our name and against our own people.
The Home Minister Chidambaram after his visit to US stated that the objective of the military offensive in the tribal regions is to ‘conquer, hold, and develop’, borrowing a phrase from the US General’s statement on Afghanistan. This statement from the Home Minister shows the real intention this present war of Indian Government on its own citizens.
The state’s war on movements in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand and other adjacent regions also entails a further shrinking of already limited spaces for democratic dissent and articulation of pro-people development paradigms. In the guise of this war the state is planning to come down on all peoples’ struggles. Any organisation protesting against the policies of the state can be labelled as a threat to ‘internal security’. To understand the politics and economics of the current state offensive, we urge people to look beyond the current hype being built by the government and its pliable media.
We need to collectively raise our voice against this attempt of the government to hand over the people’s resources by brutally suppressing all political dissent.
We propose to take up the following demands in the light of the above mentioned background and come together as platform of people’s organisations and democratic individuals.
1. The military offensive against CPI (Maoist) and other revolutionary parties and organisations and including tribal people in the regions of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Gadchiroli and West Bengal should be immediately stopped.
2. No to use of Army and Air Force against the people. All military, paramilitary, Air Force, and special police forces should be withdrawn from these regions.
3. The people’s resistance, armed or unarmed, against the exploitation of natural resources should be taken into account politically. The hundreds of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) made for mining and other industrial projects in these regions should be immediately cancelled.
4. Demands and issues of the people in different regions should be settled through dialogue and not through military offensive.