India: Heightened Repression against Opponents of Operation Green Hunt

26 April 2010. A World to Win News Service.

As part of Operation Green Hunt, the Indian government is trying to instil fear among Indians inside and outside the areas where they intend to clear out the Maoists. Progressive forces of a variety of political opinions who have expressed opposition to this operation face threats, intimidation and arrests. Among them is the well-known author and activist Arundhati Roy, who created a major stir with her article “Walking with the Comrades” published online at Dawn.com.

Launched late last year, Operation Green Hunt is an unprecedented military offensive against the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the masses hungry for radical change who make up the army they lead. This war is being waged in the jungles and forests that are home to the tribal peoples known as Adivasis in central and eastern India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal). For generations the Adivasis have had to fight to maintain use of this land, even though the Indian Constitution supposedly guarantees their rights to it. Laden with mineral resources, the land is coveted by national and international corporate exploiters.

In Dangs, Gujarat, several people have been arrested recently based on information from police in the state of Orissa. Among them was Avinash Kulkarni, a prominent follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and forest rights activist taken into custody 26 March. He was preparing for a People’s Tribunal, a long-standing method for the basic masses who have no recourse to the legal system to expose government crimes against them. Kulkarni has been charged with “waging war against the state”,  and organising and participating in “unlawful” assemblies of people in Dangs and Surat.

Associates say Kulkarni has been arrested to “create a possibility of dividing” the Adivasi Maha Sabha (AMS) that he leads, an alliance of 40 tribal rights organisations comprising some 30,000 tribal people, part of a robust movement in Gujarat’s tribal areas seeking the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. The police say that Kulkarni was involved in organising a Maoist rebellion in the south of Gujarat.

On the morning of 7 April, a contingent  of 25 police arrested activist Kirity Roy for “impersonating the judiciary”.  His “crimes” include trudging the interiors and borders of West Bengal, fact-finding and documenting extra-judicial killings, custodial death, rape, mysterious disappearances and police torture. Roy was elected a board member of Amnesty International and an NGO representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. In June 2008 he helped organize People’s Tribunals in nine states across India, as part of a National Project on Preventing Torture in India.

In Kolkata, 82 brave women and men told their stories to a local Tribunal. There was the family of Santosh Mondal. The police chased him for being a smuggler. To escape he dived into a lake. The family says the police went after him in a speedboat and the propeller blades killed him. There was Radha Rani Ari – gang-raped by parliamentary party goons in Nandigram village in 2007. She insists on justice, but no police station will register her complaint.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University administration in Delhi released a circular on 23 March stating unequivocally that seminars, public meetings, film or documentary screenings, and exhibitions would be allowed only if they do not “compromise national integration, harmony and security”. On 9 April, a cultural programme was organised by the JNU Forum Against War on People, a broad platform of students and organisations opposed to Operation Green Hunt. A right-wing student group attacked the programme and called for Operation Green Hunt to be implemented at the University. These reactionaries destroyed equipment and threw stones. Several injured progressive students had to be hospitalised.

Although the scheduled screening of the Costa-Gavras film Missing (about the U.S.-backed 1973 coup in Chile) could not take place, the rest of the programme did. During this attack, security guards stood by silently and observed. The administration excused this inaction, saying that the students against Operation Green Hunt had not obtained prior permission for their programme.

Controversy rages throughout India around Arundhati Roy’s stand with the Maoist and Advisais. Chattisgarh police are considering bringing charges against her in connection with some passages in her “Walking with the Comrades” that allegedly violate the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act of 2005. An individual legal complaint against her has already been lodged. It states that Arundhati’s essay “sought to not only ‘glorify’ the Maoists but also denigrate the country’s established system, including the judiciary.”

In a hostile interview with Roy 16 April on CNN-IBN, Sagarika Ghose baits her, demanding to know if Roy still upholds “the tone of sympathy” with the Maoist cause she expressed in her essay after a guerrilla ambush of an Operation Green Hunt military unit in Dantewada which led to the death of 76 government troops. Ghose asks why she is “the writer India loves to hate.”

She replies that it is the people who have a stake in the things she opposes in her writing who hate her, not the people who are the victims. While Roy carefully upholds her advocacy of non-violence, she also points out, “Hundreds of people who are not known have been picked up and jailed. There is a whole bandwidth of people’s movement from the non-violent ones outside the forests to the armed struggle inside the forests which have actually held off this corporate assault, which I have to say has not happened in anywhere else in the world.”

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