[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.]
Preliminary Report on the Fact Finding In Bijapur District, Chhattisgarh
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.
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.
The Indian state orchestrates these operations in states like Chhattisgarh in the name of ‘developing’ the area. These are also done as measures to counter the rise of revolutionary forces that have organized the people to stand united against such forms of oppression. These people practice policies that give primacy to the development of the people living here. Here, development does not mean filling the coffers of the state. In these policies for development, the people are the primary concern. When state sponsored forces attack the people, their homes, their schools, and their livelihood, they are attacking their right to life. This right to life that should be most fundamental and universal for all within this apparently democratic country is being denied to those who have remained historically deprived and marginalized in the fringe of the concern of the state. Today, these people are paying the price for resisting the injustice inflicted on them by being forced to live without any assurance of the most basic rights this country accords to its citizens, losing all means of livelihood, and most crucially, in blood.
In the name of developing the country the Indian state officially launched a massive operation of plunder of natural resources in 2009 by displacing thousands of communities living in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Bihar, West Bengal and Karnataka. This ‘operation’, ironically called Operation Green Hunt by the corporate run media, undertaken by the current Central Government, expropriates the wealth of the country that rightfully belongs to the people for the benefit of imperialist forces. This wealth, in the form of resources of land, water and forests, is sold to exploitative multinational companies and comprador bourgeoisie. In turn, the resistance of the people has been termed an ‘internal security threat’ by the current Prime Minister who expresses his loyalty to the model of ‘development’ that feeds these corporate sharks. The revolutionary forces along with the people in these parts strive to fight this war waged by the Indian state against its own people. In keeping with the spirit of resistance against injustice, the people have consistently stood up against the machinations of the Indian state even as it signs hundreds of MOU’s that sell-out land, mineral and forest resources of the country. The price paid for these corporate deals is the blood of those who stand up for their right to life, livelihood and liberty against the oppressive Indian state. This resistance by the people represents an alternative model for people’s development, which aims at collectivization of resources in opposition to the Indian state’s model of corporate development. It is this revolutionary change that the Indian state aims to crush by calling it ‘terrorism’ and ‘internal security threat’.
The state sponsored ‘cleansing’ programme like the armed vigilante gangs of the Salwa Judum began their operations in 2005. The state officially declared its programme a ‘hunt’ in 2009. This hunt, since its inception, resulted in large-scale violence on people. There is a need to recognize the overlap between the official ‘hunt’ and the ‘cleansing’ done by these state funded vigilante groups that are nurtured and endorsed by the state to split the people from within as they stand up against the anti-people policies of the state by asserting their right to land, livelihood and resources. Even as the media projects this ‘operation’ as part of the effort to wipe out the ‘Naxal infestation’, the very form that this resistance takes militates against this projection. The resistance has roots among the people who have faced the worst atrocities at the hands of this semi-colonial Indian state. These are not mere victims of displacement, deprivation and destruction. These forms of resistance have historically taken root among people who recognize the violence inflicted on them by forces that expropriate land and resources to feed the bottomless pit of capitalist greed.
The armed forces use the government school buildings in the area as camps in the name of fighting Maoists. These schools become the centres from which the armed forces operate in the area. It creates conditions where access to education is rendered near impossible for those living in these parts. This has affected the basic right of education for the entire adivasi community and specifically the children in the region. Further, in regions where these governmental institutions do not exist and are built by the people themselves, the armed forces attack such schools, shelters, irrigation tanks, wells, and basic amenities of those living in these densely forested areas. These are wanton actions of destruction. This is not merely a question of ‘law and order’ or state control. By attacking homes, means of livelihood, and schools, the armed forces of the state inflict not merely physical violence that has become the norm in the region, but this is part of systemic violence of deprivation, displacement and destruction. This exposes the ‘development’ rhetoric of the state as an open farce.
The armed forces continue to commit such atrocities with impunity to displace the people living in the area to fulfill the State’s agenda of ‘development’ as seen in the hundreds of MOU’s signed with corporate houses, agencies, and MNCs. This clears the path to exploit the resource-rich land, water, minerals and forests. This onslaught of violence and exploitation of the people and their resources by the state machinery in the name of development and fighting revolutionary forces exposes the nexus between the state, coercive forces and the corporations that aim to exploit the land and its resources. The casualty of this ‘development model’ has been the adivasi community as they are denied the most basic rights of education, livelihood and liberty. This form of state repression on the people has been visible over the course of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ and visible in the anti-people policies adopted by the state. We must recognize the atrocities committed by the state, expose this nexus of imperialist exploitation and stand by the people who have organized themselves against the state as it attempts to displace them.
These people have resolved to fight back by developing schools, shelters, tanks, wells, and such amenities. These are everyday forms of resistance that the state aims to break, by burning down homes and schools and torturing some physically while inflicting collective violence on the lives of people. The collective development of people adopted by those fighting back the ‘model of development’ of the state provides the revolutionary alternative to the imperialist and feudal designs of corporations and the comprador bourgeoisie. As the state commits such atrocities against the people everyday and normalizes its forms of violence, the people have militantly resisted. As the state speaks the imperialist language of ‘freedom’ and ‘development’ on one hand and participates in wanton destruction of life, livelihood and liberty on another, it depends on our silence and implied consent. We need to break this silence and stand up against the injustice inflicted on the hundreds. We need to stand together with the struggling masses; the thousands of displaced and deprived people who have resolved to fight back. Today and everyday hence, we must condemn the atrocities committed by the armed forces of the state on the adivasis of Chhattisgarh and elsewhere; expose the nexus between the state, feudal landed interests and corporate houses in these resource rich areas; recognize that this war on people is being fought by those who recognize their right to jal, jangal, jameen and against the Indian state in its effort to displace people to expropriate their land, livelihood and resources for its imperialist designs.
DSU Fact Finding Team: Ayantika Das, J. K. Vidhya, Sourabh Kumar, Sushil Kumar.
Democratic Students’ Union (DSU)