A Release to the Press
Today, on 21st May, Forum against War on People successfully conducted a public meeting to register strong protest against the army encroachment in Abujhmad, Bastar. The speakers included eminent political activists, writers, civil rights activists, trade union activists and media persons. All the speakers in unison registered their strongest protest against the latest move by the Indian state to build the country’s biggest army base in Abujhmad, Bastar. Although it is being called a ‘army training camp’ people are in no illusion that it is a calculated step by the Indian state to move in the army in this already militarized zone of central India. The real intension of the Indian government is clear to everyone with its repeated attempts to use both official armed forces like police and paramilitary as well as unofficial vigilante gangs like Salwa judum and others, to forcefully evict the people of this region and crush their resistance movements. The state wants to hand over these mineral rich regions to the MNCs. All their efforts so far have failed to crush the resistance of the people and hence they have called in the army now. Writer Arundhati Roy expressed similar opinion. “the deployment of the army came after the jan jagran abhiyan, salwa judum and the operation greenhunt, all of which failed…so now they have called in the army” she added, “this democracy is a democracy of the elite. In India the elite has become the state. The rest of the people do not form a part of this group and are seen as liable to be disposed of.” Retired IAS officer B.D. Sharma, who has long experience of working in Chhattisgarh said, “The formation of the army camp flouts even the government laws and decisions of not to encroach upon tribal lands. The army camp will not be an isolated structure, but will lead to a range of paraphernalia connected with it, and outsiders will throng the region and the Madias, the original inhabitants of the land will perish. The Governor of Chhttisgarh in his discretion has the power to say that any law shall not apply to the tribal areas. I wish to see that this assembly demands that the Governor is reminded of his responsibility and duty”. A. B. Bardhan, general secretary of CPI asked, “Who is making preparations, giving training to the army, readying the army and air force? Air force is not a ‘sitting duck’. This is one of the most dangerous ventures, even if the excused is of in ‘self defense’. This army encroachment is a calculated move. I may not agree with the Maoists. But I say this openly, that in the training camp the state wants to oust the Maoists from Bastar and destroy their mass base. Hundreds of kilometers will be destroyed”. Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, in his solidarity message stated that the army has clearly noted that the problems in central India is a socio-economic one and it is not good for the army to get involved in internal political ‘squabbles’. He said that the chief of the air staff has warned against co-lateral damage and its consequences and their clear disagreement in army deployment. Eminent economist Amit Bhaduri held this operation is intrinsic to the current economic policies that the state is pursuing. “It is not only about direct capture of resources, but it is also to make this country hospitable to corporate industrialization.” Sumit Chakravarti, the Editor of Mainstream demanded that other Left and democratic forces to be vocal against this operation. The speakers also criticized the way the army is being coerced and their opinions controlled, to enter into this region despite their open disagreement. Aparna from CPI ML (New Democracy), writer Madan Kashyap, Justice Rajinder Sachar, Pankaj Bisht, Girija Pathak from CPI ML (Liberation) and others have also addressed the public meeting.
At the end the meeting resolved:
This meeting organized by the Forum Against War on People in New Delhi on 21st May 2010 demands that the Union Government immediately withdraw its decision to sanction the setting up of an army camp in Bastar. This 600 square kilometer camp in the heart of the country will result in the total decimation of the Abujhmadi adivasis who inhabit the area. In addition, it is clear that this is a step to further the interests of the MNCs and corporates who are out to seize the resource rich land, especially in lieu of the Supreme Court stopping the Salwa Judum and other formations from fulfilling this role. Moreover, this will allow the use of the army against the resistance being offered by the tribals and the entire resistance movement.
The fact that all this is being done while still maintaining that the army will not be used against the people exposes the government’s double-speak. The Manmohan Singh Government is coercing the army to fight in this region to safeguard the corporate interests. The army too had in the recent past publicly declined to embark on this war against their own people. The rank and file of the army after all are drawn from the villages of India and this will pit them against their own brothers and sisters.
This meeting unequivocally condemns the fact that the government is willing to even annihilate the Abujhmadi adivasis in its service to the MNCs and the corporates for the loot of India’s resources.
The meeting also demands that:
1.The war against the people must be stopped immediately;
2.All MOUs with various MNCs and corporates be made public and scrapped forthwith;
3.All central forces be withdrawn at the earliest.
21 May 2011
SAR Geelani G N Saibaba and Mrigank on behalf of the Forum