India: The largest “democracy”? — or, a brazen — but false — electoralism?

[As Maoists in India denounce India's claimed "democracy" as deceptive and fraudulent, the Indian state deploys nearly 150,000  troops, and moves hundreds of voting stations out of rebellious regions.  See the following two reports from the mainstream Indian press.  --  Frontlines ed.]

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Maoist posters calling for poll boycott found at bus stand

Business Standard, Tuesday, October 22,

Bottom of Form

Maoist posters calling for boycott of the upcoming Assembly polls were found pasted at a bus stand in the Kanker district in Chhattisgarh, where as many as 18 Maoist-affected constituencies will go to polls on November 11.

Three posters and two banners were found put up at the waiting hall of the bus stand under Pakhanjore police station limits last evening, a senior police official told PTI today.

Although, security personnel regularly visit villages to instill confidence in the people to vote, the rebels have appealed to villagers to kick both the BJP and Congress out of power, the police said, adding that a case has been registered in this connection.

Meanwhile, taking serious note of the Maoist threat, the Centre has sent additional 40,000 personnel of paramilitary forces to ensure peaceful polling, in addition to around 65,000 police personnel and 27,000 paramilitary troops already engaged in anti-Maoist operations in the state. Continue reading

India: It’s people’s right to boycott elections: Maoist leader

Sh

It's people's right to boycott elections: Maoist leader
CPI (Maoist) Dandakaranya special zonal committee secretary Ramanna speaks on the party’s stand on the Chhattisgarh assembly elections.
CPI (Maoist) Dandakaranya special zonal committee secretary Ramanna speaks on the party’s stand on the Chhattisgarh assembly elections and justifies the May 25 attack on Congress leaders that killed Mahendra Karma and V C Shukla among others.

Q: Why have you appealed for election boycott? A: As usual, we have appealed to people to boycott the elections because they are a farce. Elections only renew five-year tenures of loot and torture by the elected representative in the present system. Our target is to change this system from the root and establish a people-centric society and that is not possible through elections.

Q: Will the poll boycott be violent this time too? A: This does not depend on our saying anything. Like always, this time too, the government has deployed a huge a number of security forces in the name of conducting free and fair elections, which are already exploiting and torturing people. Attacks on villages in the name of search operations, arrests, beating up people, fake encounters are consistently on. It is important to resist such acts. Therefore, I can only say that when the government tries to defuse our poll-boycott movement through crackdown on the people, then there will certainly be a counter to it. Continue reading

“Bastar attack a punishment to Salwa Judum supporters”

[Here, a corporate media report on the discovery of Maoist banners about a recent armed conflict which eliminated the architect of the notoriously brutal anti-tribal Salwa Judum program (para-military violent squads organized and paid by the state).  The media, typically, expresses the police view, referring to the Maoists as "ultras," thereby indicating their support of the Salwa Judum. -- Frontlines ed.]

Zeenews.com, Friday, June 28, 2013

Gadchiroli: Maoists on Friday put up banners in remote parts of this district justifying the attack on the convoy of Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar area on May 25, in which 29 people were killed, as an act of punishment for “supporters of Salwa Judum”.


“How can punishing the supporters of Salwa Judum be an attack on the democratic values,” the ultras asked in the banners put up by Gadchiroli Divisional Committee of CPI (Maoists), at different places in Regdi, Kasansur, Ghot and other areas of the district.

“The death of Mahendra Karma and other Congress leaders is a punishment given by the people. It is a natural justice,” the banner further said.

Karma, who was the founder of Salwa Judum, the erstwhile anti-Naxalite movement, was killed in the brutal attack in Jiram valley of Darbha region in Bastar.

Former union minister VC Shukla, state Congress chief Nandkumar Patel, his son Dinesh and former legislator Uday Mudaliyar were also killed in the incident.

PTI

 

Chhattisgarh: Maoists Torch Road Construction Machines

Outlook India | Raipur | Jun 10, 2013
Maoists today torched two road construction machines and took away a tractor in the insurgency-hit Kanker district of Chhattisgarh.”Maoists torched a bulldozer and a JCB machine of the forest department, apart from taking away a tractor, engaged in road construction work in Mendra village,” Pakhanjore Sub-Divisional Officer of Police Anil Kumar Soni told PTI.

Maoists are observing Jan Pituri Week from June 5 to June 11 to commemorate their `martyrs’.

Vehicular traffic was thin at many places in south Bastar’s remote areas. People faced difficulty in reaching their destinations.

As the Railways have decided not to run the passenger train from Visakhapatnam to Kirandul beyond Jagdalpur fearing Naxal attacks during the week, passengers were forced to travel by bus from Jagdalpur to Kirandul.

Police said patrolling by paramilitary forces had been intensified in the Naxal-infested areas.

However, this time Maoists neither announced any relief for public transport system nor gave any call for bandh during the Jan Pituri week, contrary to their past practice.

Meanwhile, a Naxal was arrested from Mardapal police station area of Kodagaon district, police said. “Guddu Muriya, 25-year-old member of Usri Jan-militia, was arrested in Mulnar village on Sunday late night,” Additional Superintendent of Police Surjeet Atri said.

Maoist attacks are a counter violence of resistance against the state: Arundhati Roy

 

First Post, May 28, 2013

(First Post) Editors note: This interview was originally run in April 2010 by CNN-IBN. Given the context of the recent attack in Chhattisgarh on a Congress convoy, (First Post) has republished the interview as it resurfaces some interesting points of view. 

In that interview, Arundhati Roy says that the Maoists have no choice but to indulge in ‘counter-violence’. Here is Roy’s interview with CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghosh:

Arundhati Roy. AFP

Arundhati Roy. AFP

Sagarika Ghose: You wrote your article ‘Walking with the comrades’ in The Outlook before Dantewada happened. In the aftermath of the Dantewada (incident of 2010), do you still stand by the tone of sympathy that you had with the Maoist cause in that essay?

Arundhati Roy: Well, this is a odd way to frame before and after Dantewada happened, because actually you know this cycle of violence has been building on and on. This is not the first time that a large number of security personnel have been killed by the Maoists. I have written about it and the other attacks that took place between the years 2005-07. The way I look at is, people make it sound that, ‘oh, on this side are people, who are celebrating the killing of CRPF jawans, and that side of the people who are asking for the Maoists to be wiped out.’ This is not the case. I think that you got to look at the every death as a terrible tragedy in a system, in a war that’s been pushed on the people and that unfortunately is becoming a war of the rich against the poor. In which rich put forward the poorest of the poor to fight the poor. CRPF are terrible victims but they are not just victims of the Maoists. They are victims of a system of structural violence that is taking place, that sort to be drowned in this empty condemnation industry that goes on. This is entirely meaningless because most of the time people who condemn them have really no sympathy for them. They are just using them as pawns. Continue reading

India–”Peals of Spring Thunder”: Oppressive System cannot control the struggle against oppression

The Naxalite Attacks at Sukma
by BINOY KAMPMARK, writing in CounterPunch

naxal_attackThey have been considered one of India’s most pressing threats, and the recent attack by the Naxalites that ambushed a convoy of the Congress Party went that much further.  The ambush took place over the weekend in Sukma on the Maharashtra, Andra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh border. Reports suggest that there were as many as 200 Maoist rebels who inflicted heavy losses – 28 killed and 24 others wounded – before fleeing.

The attacks have shaken the establishment.  Among the dead were four state party leaders including Mahendra Karma of Chhattisgarh, and five police officers.  For BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, “This new aggressive strategy of the Naxalities is a real threat to the Constitution and the rule of law. It is a challenge to sovereignty” (Times of India, May 26).  Former police chief of Punjab state KPS Gill is pessimistic about the new surge – the government of the day did not “have the political will and bureaucratic and police set-up to prevent such attacks” (Dhaka Tribune, May 26).

How the Naxalites have been treated has varied.  In 1967, when the movement first made its presence felt in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari, the Home Minister Y. B. Chavan treated the matter as a case of “lawlessness” in action.  The mistake was classic but fatal.  During the 1970s, the state authorities moved in on the movement hoping to crush it with repressive enthusiasm.  As usual with such measures, the quotient of extra-judicial killings and corrupt practices accompanied the operations.  Legislation was passed to enable various state authorities to take measures – the attempt, for example, by the N.T. Rama Rao government to free up arms licensing in Andra Pradesh in 1983 for individuals to protect themselves against the Naxals. Continue reading

Indian state attacking villages, homes, schools and organizing centers in Chhattisgarh

[Note:  The "Janatana Sarkars" are collective forms of political and economic organization of the adivasis (India's indigenous peoples) who have organized themselves under the leadership of the Maoists. -- Frontlines ed.]

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Preliminary Report on the Fact Finding In Bijapur District, Chhattisgarh

Democratic Students’ Union, University of Delhi
(Released in a Press Conference at Women’s Press Corps on 15 March 2013)

In the three weeks from mid-January till the first week of February, several villages in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh experienced the terror of the armed forces of the Indian state. The CRPF, Chhattisgarh state police, erstwhile SPO’s of the Salwa Judum along with various coercive arms of the state orchestrated a systematic targeting of villages, burnt down hundreds of homes, ostensibly in random, further, burnt down the schools built by the people, picked up villagers, young and old, and physically tortured them while their homes burned to the ground. The affected villages are Pidia, Tomnaka, Singham, Lingham, Komati, Tomudum, and Kondapadu, and in each of these between eight and thirty homes were burnt down by the armed forces. In the village of Dodi-Tumnar, a school with hostel facility for about a hundred children, both girls and boys, run by the Janatana Sarkar was looted and then burnt down by the invading forces in the last week of January. Two battalions of about 1000 CRPF personnel each, besides Koya commandos and SPO’s arrived at the village school at 9 am on that day. They systematically proceeded to destroy the school after firing into the air twice. Even as the students and the schoolmaster fled into the forest, the armed forces caught an old man on his way to the field and chopped off his hand with his own sickle. Following this, the forces looted the storeroom and the kitchen of the school, poisoned the water well, and destroyed the roof, walls, and furniture of the school before finally burning it to the ground. They then marched to the nearby village of Pidia. This village, that houses approximately 265 homes, witnessed first hand the ruthlessness with which the armed force burn down the homes and livelihood of those who stand up for their right to life and liberty. Close to thirty homes were burnt down in one part of this village alone. The charred remains of the homes, cattle sheds, storerooms, utensils can be seen littered with empty bottles of beer and other brands of alcohol. It is clear that this planned attack is part of the routine of military life that participates in wanton destruction and celebrates the impunity they enjoy.

The burial of slain villagers

The burial of slain villagers

By burning schools and homes, looting sources of livelihood, and physically torturing hundreds of adivasis, the state attempted to legitimize the violence in the name of ‘development’. This methodical burning of homes and schools reveals the carnival of violence practiced by the forces to intimidate, brutalize and squash the spirit of those living in these parts without any concern for consequences. The villagers were forced to remain in the forest for three days as the force camped in the village as well as the hills surrounding the village. A few young men were picked up by the armed force and brutally beaten. Most of the men were released while one still remains in jail. They looted the means of livelihood and sustenance in the village. Before leaving, they burnt the leftover rations and supplies of the villagers that they had looted. Traces of the violence faced by the village can be seen in the charred remains of homes, shelters, and broken utensils and fences. Here, it is the Janatana Sarkar to whom the villagers turn to in times like these. The Janatana Sarkar provided medicines and food to the affected villagers. It is now also helping them rebuild the burnt homes. Even as the bare frames of the homes are being rebuilt pillar by pillar and brick by brick, the spirit of resistance is visible for all to see. Continue reading

Forced labor in India — 37 bonded laborers rescued from Joura in Morena dist

The Times of India,  February 24, 2013

BHOPAL: The Morena district administration with the help on an NGO rescued 37 bonded labourers including women and children from a brick kiln in Joura tehsil.Sources in the district administration said, of these 21 labourers hail from Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh while other 16 are from Janjgir-Champa district of Chhattisgarh.

SDM Joura Prabhat Ranjan Upadhya told TOI, “16 labourers were rescued on February 21 and the remaining 21 were rescued on Saturday. The owners of the kiln Mahavir Tyagi and Rinku Tyagi have been booked under relevant labour laws”. Continue reading

India: Maoist rebels attack Indian air force helicopter

 ASSOCIATED PRESS
 NEW DELHI, Jan 18: Police say suspected Maoist rebels have fired on an Indian Air Force helicopter, injuring one wireless operator on board while the aircraft was trying to evacuate wounded policemen from the Maoist stronghold.
Indian Air Force Helicopter

Indian Air Force Helicopter

The helicopter was forced to land in Teliwara area in eastern Chhattisgarh state on Friday, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Pranay Sahay, a paramilitary force officer, says the helicopter was trying to evacuate two state policemen wounded in fighting with Maoist rebels in the area.

The rebels have been fighting the central government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for tenant farmers and the poor. About 2,000 people — including police, militants and civilians — have been killed in the past few years.

Published on 2013-01-18 21:12:51

India: Bhilai Steel Plant to ‘fund barracks’ for paramilitary forces to access iron ore

RAIPUR, November 7, 2012

by Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

CPI-Maoist have formed several committees to oppose the project

Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), one of the main steel-producing units of Steel Authority of India (SAIL), ‘will fund construction of barracks’ for paramilitary forces to ensure security for the coming mining project at Raoghat in Kanker, central Chhatisgarh. The construction has been initiated, both Union Home Ministry and SAIL sources confirmed.

The BSP needs iron ore from the Raoghat mines, about 175 km south of Bhilai, as its existing nearby mines are fast depleting. The banned CPI-Maoist, which has a strong presence in Raoghat, has opposed the mining project.

The BSP is accessing iron ore from various captive mines in and around Dalli-Rajhara, 85 km south of Bhilai, for a few decades. However, those mines are depleting, according to SAIL officials.

The BSP needs to access iron ore from Raoghat, a hilly forested patch another 95 km south of Dalli-Rajhara. The BSP and Dalli-Rajhara are connected by rail to transport iron ore, unlike Bhilai and Raoghat. SAIL is keen to have a rail road to Raoghat from Dalli-Rajhara. However, strong Maoist presence and land acquisition issues are postponing the project, resulting in cost escalation.

In the recent meetings between Home Ministry officials and SAIL, it has been decided that four battalions, with more than 4,000 personnel, of elite paramilitary forces will be deployed to guard the railway construction site between Dalli-Rajhara and Raoghat. The Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force will provide two battalions each. The BSP will ‘fund barracks’ of the paramilitary forces along the 95-km track. Continue reading

Tribal weapons ban in Indian state of Chhattisgarh

[This article, though phrased as if tribal arms usage by revolutionary fighters has been newly discovered by state (and media) forces, actually confirms the long term preponderance of adivasis -- tribal people -- in the Maoist "Peoples Guerilla Liberation Army" and in the much larger people's militias which have been rapidly growing in thousands of adivasi villages, according to recent reports. -- Frontlines ed.]
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14 August 2012 -By Salman Ravi, BBC News, Raipur -Tribal or indigenous people in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh are to be banned from carrying traditional weapons such as sickles, axes and bows and arrows, police say.

Naxalites are reportedly using traditional weapons of locals living on edge of Abujmadh forest

They say that the move is necessary because of increasing attacks on police and civilians by Maoist insurgents with tribal weapons in public places.

The move has drawn criticism from tribal bodies and political parties.

They argue that it curtails the rights of tribal people.

Maoists are active in more than a third of India’s 600-odd districts. They say they are fighting for the rights of poor peasants and labourers.

Chhattisgarh is one of the Indian states worst affected by Maoist violence.

Rebels in its Narayanpur district have established a “liberated zone” over an area of 4,000 sq km (2,485 sq miles).

Boards, written in Hindi and local dialects, have been erected by police throughout the state warning of “legal action” if anyone is found to be carrying traditional weapons in public places, especially in markets. Continue reading

The Times of India: “Maoists run parallel govt in Andhra-Orissa border areas”

[An interesting report from the India bourgeois newspaper, The Time of India, on recent developments in the Andhra-Orissa Border region -- (as yet unconfirmed by other sources). -- Frontlines ed.]

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Siva G, The Times of India (Hyderabad), TNN, August 8, 2012
VISAKHAPATNAM: In what could alarm the state police, Maoists are setting up parallel governments ‘janata sarkars’ in the interior pockets of Andhra-Orissa Border (AOB), buoyed by the success of a similar exercise in the Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh.

The Gumma area committee in the neighbouring district of Malkangiri in Odisha set up a janata sarkar in the interior villages of AOB on Sunday when the rebels distributed rice to 800 tribal families. The rice was reportedly collected from contractors and businessmen. They assured the tribals that they would construct cement concrete roads to the interior villages and appoint teachers to the schools with their own funds. They also assured the tribals that medical facilities in PHCs (public health centre) would be provided by them very soon.

Gumma area committee secretary Rukdhar, top leader Golla Ravi alias Madhav alias Sridhar along with five other key leaders were present at the rice distribution programme, sources said. The tribal welfare programmes would be implemented regularly, Maoist leader Rukdhar said. He said that education was a basic necessity to develop the tribal areas and stated that he would appoint doctors to provide necessary medicines to the tribals, who are susceptible to malaria and other water-borne diseases. “All these facilities are provided by us in the forests of Dantewada, Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattigarh,” he told the gathering.

Sources said the Maoists are set to take their sarkar concept deep into the tribal hamlets and mandals in the interior Agency areas on both sides of AOB. Senior police officials said the Maoists’ ploy to implement the pro-poor schemes was to win the hearts of the tribals. The Maoists had lost several cadres and sympathizers, besides militia members in arrests, surrenders and encounters in recent times. “They cannot risk more damage to the party and hence are wooing the tribals by distributing rice and other essential commodities,” a senior police official involved in anti-naxal operations told TOI. Continue reading

India: Intellectuals protest government killings of adivasis

Chhattisgarh killings: RDF demands cases against PC, Central forces

Eminent educationist Chukka Ramaiah speaking at a round table conference on police forces massacre of tribals in Chhattisgarh state held by Revolutionary Democratic Front in Hyderabad on Monday. RDF president Varavara Rao and Prof Haragopal also seen.

Hyderabad, 10 July 2012: Intellectuals, revolutionary and civil society organisations on Monday condemned the cold-blooded massacre of 8 Adivasis and their children in Chhattisgarh on June 28 and demanded that cases against Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and the commanders of Central forces be filed under SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities act.

Participating in round table conference, organized by Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), Professor G Haragopal alleged that Chidambaram was the brain behind the killing of innocent tribals by deploying central forces in the forest under the guise of attack on Maoists in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.

He saw a conspiracy behind that attack. The conspiracy is to exploit rich mines and natural resources by displacing tribals from their forests, he said. Haragopal said, time has come to fight against Imperialism and state sponsored violence tooth and nail.

He said it was unfortunate that some national media organisations created an impression that the country’s growth rate will not reach two digits if the mines and resources in the forest areas were not utilized properly in the coming days.

The same media projected Gujarat Chief minister Narendra Modi as Prime Minister candidate, though he killed many people in his state while the Maoists, were projected as ‘ traitors ‘ , he bemoaned. Continue reading

India: Protests of government’s June 28 massacre of adivasis continue to grow

[As a revolutionary democratic activist has noted, The 28 June Adivasi Massacre is the biggest ever single incident in which the largest number of adivaisis have been killed since 1947. The massacre is indicative of scale of atrocities that are presently going on in the tribal regions.” It is essential that international attention and protest is brought to this atrocity by the Indian government—but, unfortunately, many “progressives” and “leftists” continue to turn a blind eye to such realities.  Here we post (1) a report from an all-India fact finding team; (2) a report from investigators; and (3) statements from families of villagers killed.  We have heard that local and countrywide protests are underway, involving a wide spectrum of political forces. – Frontlines ed.]

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Report from Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations

An all-India fact-finding team of rights activists belonging to the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) visited the area in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh where 17 adivasis died as a result of firing by CRPF forces on the night of June 28, 2012. The team visited the villages of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta and elicited information about the events. The following is a brief report of the team. A more detailed report will follow in due course. The team visited the villages of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta on July 6 and 7 and elicited information about the events.

All three villages are small settlements located close to each other and in the jurisdiction of the Basaguda police station which is located about a km. away. There is a CRPF camp at about three km from the three villages. While Sarkeguda with 25 households and Rajpenta (12 households) are in Korsagudem panchayat, Kottaguda with 30 households is in Cheepurupatti panchayat. Most residents of the three villages belong to the Dorla Koya tribe.

About 60 adivasis of these three villages assembled from around 8 pm on June 28 in an open area between Sarkeguda and Kottaguda. Such meetings where decisions have to be taken collectively are usually held during the night since adivasis are busy with work most of the day. As the sowing season was upcoming, the meeting was held to discuss several issues related to farming including fixing the date for the traditional seed sowing festival known as bija pondum- (this was to have taken place a few weeks earlier but was delayed because the pujari who conducts the ritual had died), distribution of land for tilling, lending help to those families who were without cattle, deciding the amount of rent for using the new tractor they had brought and how to raise fish. Arrears of Rs 10,000 due to the adivasis since two years for tendu leaf collection were paid only recently and they also wanted to discuss what use to put it to. It was a fairly cloudy night and visibility was poor. All those in the gathering were adivasi residents of the three villages and unarmed.

While the meeting was going on, a large contingent of CRPF personnel and CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, a specialised anti-naxalite guerilla unit of the CRPF) commandos numbering well over a hundred, cordoned off the area. According to the villagers, at about 10 pm there was gunfire without any warning. The first burst was from towards the west and it hit three adivasis who died instantly. This was quickly followed by firing from three other directions. Terrified villagers began screaming and running. Most ran towards their respective villages. Some tried to hide in a hay-storing enclosure. Those who were fleeing for their lives were also fired upon. The firing continued for about 30 minutes after which, as if to survey the dead, the CRPF forces fired two flare guns that lit up the area. The forces stayed on in the area.

It was clear to the fact-finding team that a peaceful gathering of adivasis, none of whom carried any firearms, was surrounded by the CRPF and without any warning fired upon indiscriminately. As a result of this firing, 16 adivasis died — 15 that night and Irpa Suresh (15) in Bijapur hospital the next day. Six of the dead were minors, including a 12 year old girl Kaka Saraswati, daughter of K Rama. She was hit while fleeing towards her house in Kottaguda. Of the other five minors, two — Kaka Rahul (16) and Madkam Ramvilas (16) — were studying in class 10 at a school in Basaguda. Both stayed at a hostel in Basaguda and had come home during the summer vacations.

It was plain slaughter that night near Sarkeguda.

According to the villagers, those who did not die from the bullet wounds were killed by the police with axes they picked up from the village itself. Several eyewitnesses from outside the village, including mediapersons who saw the bodies before they were cremated, referred to some of them as having been brutalised with deep hacking cuts on the chests and foreheads.

The 17th victim of this senseless butchery was Irpa Ramesh, husband of I Lachmi and father of three children. After the firing began, he ran and made it to the safety of his house and stepped out at dawn at about 5 am to survey the area. He was fired upon immediately and though he was hit, managed to get back inside his house. The CRPF men followed him in and clobbered him to death with a brick in front of his family members. According to Ramesh’s father Irpa Raju, the CRPF men also stole Rs 5,000 from their house. The same night the police also stole Rs 30,000 from Irpa Narayana’s house in Rajpenta as well as Rs 2,000 from the house of Madkam Nagesh. Continue reading

India: Corporate Mining project faces people’s resistance to deforestation and displacement

Aman Sharma   |   India Today  |   New Delhi, July 3, 2012

Bhilai Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh faces shutdown due to lack of iron ore as Maoists oppose mining

The writ of Maoists runs in most districts of Chhattisgarh. (Photo: Yogesh Kumar)

The Centre is worried that one of the country’s biggest steel plants, the 53-year-old Bhilai Steel Plant inChhattisgarh, will have to be closed down in the next three years as it runs out of iron ore supplies.

A high-level meeting was held at the Union Home Hinistry on Monday, attended by home secretary R.K. Singh, steel secretary DRS Chaudhary and Chhattisgarh‘s chief secretary and director-general of police after reports that Naxals are bitterly opposing mining in a new area called Rowghat for the Bhilai Steel Plant as well as the construction of a railway line to transport the iron ore from Rowghat to the plant.
The new railway line will pass through Maoist zones.

Mining the new reserves is crucial as the existing iron ore reserves at Dalli Rajhara area, which keep the steel plant running now, will be exhausted by 2015. The new mining project involves deforestation in an area of over 2,030 hectares in Kanker and Narayanpur districts, both Naxal hotbeds. Further, the proposed 235-km railway line will run through Abujmad, also a red zone.Rowghat is estimated to have 510 million tonnes of iron ore reserves, sufficient to keep the plant running for decades.

The Chhattisgarh government has said it has no security force to spare for the project. At Monday’s meeting, it was decided that an exclusive force will be created drawing personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and the Chhattisgarh Armed Police for the purpose.

Till then, two battalions from the CRPF and the BSF will guard the mining area and the railway line, for which all necessary forest and environmental clearances have been given.

At present, only four CRPF and BSF companies are posted in the area and, hence, are in no position to provide foolproof security to workers engaged in the deforestation of the mine area. The Home Ministry wants the state police to provide a matching force but the Chhattisgarh Police are non-committal.

The Bhilai Steel Plant is India’s first and primary producer of steel rails and the sole supplier of the country’s longest rail tracks, which measure 260 metres. It is a flagship unit of the Steel Authority of India and its largest and most profitable facility.

To keep the plant running, the Steel Ministry identified Rowghat for fresh iron ore mining. For the purpose, no village will be displaced. Only the area will be deforested and a new railway line constructed.

But Naxals are objecting to the plan to mine the area as well as the new railway line, which will pass through Maoist zones such as Balod, Kanker, Narayanpur, Kondangaon and Jagdalpur districts. The home secretary, in Monday’s meeting, asked the Chhattisgarh government and the steel ministry to make the tribal people aware of the benefits of the project.

The Chhattisgarh Police are of the view that as the mine area and the railway line are close to Abujmad, it will invite violent reaction from the Maoists as well as local tribals. Sources said the project was destined to run into rough weather as no amount of security can protect every inch of the proposed railway line, which is going to be the lifeline of the steel plant – the plant literally drives the economy of the region. The home ministry has suggested that both the projects – deforestation and the railway line – should be taken up simultaneously.