On 17th October, when people were celebrating Dussehra to mark the victory of Good over the Evil, the Democratic Front Against Operation Green Hunt, Punjab, held a massive Convention in Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall, Jalandhar on "War against the people & Role of Democratic Forces." It was addressed by noted pro-people thinker & Booker Award winner writer Arundhati Roy and Gandhian social activist Himanshu Kumar. Hundreds of people from all walks of life - University Professors, Research Scholars, Students, Artists, littérateur, cultural activists, press-persons, farmers, agricultural & industrial laborers, trade unionists, thinkers etc., participated from all across Punjab & Chandigarh. The Convention Hall having a seating capacity of 900 was overfilled & hundreds of people were left to hear the programme from outside the Convention Hall.
The Convention Hall was tastefully decorated with flex-hoardings having appropriate messages. The theme hoarding had the poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller - 'FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE COMMUNISTS', with a painting depicting peoples' struggle in the background. Two others were having poems by two noted peoples' poets of Punjab Sant Ram Udasi- MAGHDA RAHIN VE SURJA (Shine O Sun brightly) & Pash- ASIN LARANGE SATHI (Comrade! We will fight). There were quotations from Shaheed Bhagat Singh, 'HAWA MEIN RAHENGI MERE KHIALON KI BIJLIAN' (I may or may not live, but my ideas will remain galvanizing the air eternally)
The Convention was presided over by a presidium consisting of Dr. Parminder Singh (Professor Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar), Prof. A.K.Maleri (Ludhiana), Sh. Yash Pal (Retired Teacher and Editor VARG CHETNA), Prof. Ajmer Singh Aulakh (Noted pro-people Punjabi Dramatist), Com Gandharav Sen Kochhar & Sh. Naunihal Singh(both from Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee, formed to honor the martyrs of Gadar Movement).
Arundhati Roy opened her speech with the remark that the Indian state has been waging a war against its own people in many parts of the country such as North East, Kashmir, Punjab and many other places for the last 60 years using military and the police to ruthlessly suppress them. She paid rich compliments to the poor people and tribals living in the forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra, West Bengal & Maharashtra, who were fighting valiantly to save their lands, forests, water & mineral wealth from being plundered by the world's richest companies. Preaching non-violence to the tribals of Chhattisgarh is immoral. To those, who accuse the tribals of being violent, she asked: 'When people are forced to die of hunger, when they are uprooted after depriving them of their lands & livelihood, in the name of development, is it not violence?' Is it not ironic to advise those, who have empty stomachs and empty pockets, to follow the Gandhian tools of Hunger strike and boycott of foreign goods?
She said that to oppose operation Green Hunt, one need not go and fight in the jungles of Dantewada. Fighting against injustice at our own place is also an important contribution to this cause. Struggles against SEZ and the exploitative Commission Agent (ARHTIYA) system in Punjab are part of the fight against operation Green Hunt. She called upon the intellectuals and toiling sections of the masses to build a broad spectrum of resistance movements against the neo-liberal policies of the State and its onslaught on the peoples' movements in the form of armed operations such as Green Hunt.
Commenting on the ongoing events in the states under operation Green Hunt, she said that there is a strong link between development and genocide. There is genocide under the façade of development. When the people are uprooted from their lands, culture sources of livelihood, they are doomed to die. In India Crores of people suffer from the AIDS of malnutrition. Malnutrition not only leads its victim to death, but casts its agonizing shadow on the next generations also.
She said while the Naxals are fighting a protracted war against the capitalist system and big corporates, the Indian state was fighting war against its own people. She suggested having diverse methods of resistance in a wider struggle to challenge oppressive policies of the state.
She said the Green Hunt began in Punjab earlier than Chhattisgarh, with the advent of "Green Revolution". Green Hunt is infact the phenomenon to deprive the people of their land and the resources attached to it such as water, forests, mines etc. Green Revolution and the farmers' suicides in its aftermath is pointer to this. About 1,80,000 debt trapped farmers have committed suicides in the country. She deplored the Punjab Govt for having branded the 17 organization of farmers and agri-labourers as Naxalite front organizations. Those who raise their voice against injustice are branded as Naxalite. If the rulers continued to follow the policies of privatization & liberalization, then they shall have to deploy army in the whole country. In two decades of neo-liberal policies, the number of people below poverty line have increased manifold, while 100 people own 25 percent of national wealth.
She said the Indian democracy has become shallow. Democracy doesn't mean mere periodic elections. Democratic rights of the people are being trampled under the foot. Indian Constitution has lost its meaning as the judiciary, media & Parliament have all been made to serve the corporates and monied people. Media is in the hands of corporates. Courts have gone beyond the reach of common man and have become a tool to endorse neo-liberal anti-people policies of the State.
There was a lively discussion on her speech and she answered most of the questions raised by the participants.
Noted Gandhian Himanshu Kumar, who had gone on a cycle-yatra of Rajasthan, Gujrat & Maharashtra, after addressing 16 conventions against Operation Green Hunt throughout Punjab on the invitation of the Democratic Front, shared his assessment of the situation prevailing in those states. He said the situation was explosive everywhere. There were many Dantewadas in the making due to anti-people policies of the rulers. He said in Gujrat, the Forest Rights Act envisages grant of land up to 10 acres on lease to tribals in the forest areas. But Modi Government has not granted even an inch of land to them. But the same Govt has gifted away 1,02,000 acres of land to 176 corporate houses. A functioning university has been closed to provide land to Tata's Nano plant. A hundred people of this country control 25 percent of its wealth. Our Prime Minister says the people are becoming violent. But the question is why after six decades of independence, there is violence. Are only the Naxalite responsible for this violence? In fact the development model, being implemented by the rulers is resulting in the poor becoming poorer and the rich becoming richer. Development has become synonymous with depriving the poor of their livelihood resources, such as land, water, forests, mineral wealth etc., to fill the coffers of the rich. It will definitely breed violence. Instead of following the principles of social justice and equity, we are following the law of jungle, where might is right. This situation has to be changed. Quoting Gandhi & Vinoba Bhave, he said that if injustice and inequity persists in the society, violence is inevitable, because the victims of injustice & inequity cannot be expected to take the things lying down; they will definitely revolt to change the system, to assert their rights. He said injustice must not be tolerated. It should be resisted at all costs. Non-violence should never become an excuse to run away from the fight against injustice.
Both the speakers were presented with the portraits of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, a poster with Pastor Niemoller's poem, and a set of three books- 'History of Gadar Party', 'History of Naujwan Bharat Sabha' & 'Dialogue with the Revolutionaries'. Mrs. Veena wife of Himanshu Kumar, who spent 18 years with him at Dantewada, serving the tribals was also honored.
After the convention Arundhati Roy held an interaction with Research Scholars & students from three universities of Punjab & prominent historians in the Gadar Museum Hall. She along with Himanshu Kumar & his family and Sanjay Kak, went around the museum evincing keen interest in the revolutionary history of Punjab, particularly the Gadar movement.
At the end of the convention the participants passed resolutions with raised hands demanding an end to Operation Green Hunt; withdrawl of military and para-military forces from the tribal areas; disbanding Salwa Judam & such other fascist organizations; recognizing the rights of tribals over their forests, lands, water and natural resources; stopping SEZ and uprooting of tribals in the name of development; roll-back neo-liberal policies of privatization, globalization & liberalization; repeal black laws such as Armed Forces Special Power Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act etc.; stop false encounters and implication of innocent people in false criminal cases; revoke the ban imposed on CPI Maoist and its front organizations; allow the pro-people press-persons and democratic organizations to visit tribal areas; hold judicial inquiry in the killing of Maoist leader 'Azad' in a fake encounter; stop the conspiracies to foist false cases on Arundhati Roy, Himanshu Kumar, Nisha Biswas, and other noted intellectuals; punish the murderers of peasant leader Sadhu Singh Takhtupura and Pirthipal Singh Alisher and the killers of peasants at Khanna Chamiara in Punjab; Stop implicating leaders & activists of mass organizations of farmers, agri-labourers, employees, unemployed youth in Punjab & other states in false criminal cases and torturing them; Close all the interrogation centers such as the one at Amritsar known as Joint Interrogation Center.
Build a broad spectrum of resistance movements!
Oppose neo-liberal policies and suppression of peoples’ movements through armed forces!