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

India: Counter-insurgency wars expand with drones and tech surveillance

[There’s no mention in this press report of the routine failures of drones and satellites in assessing and exaggerating the techonoligical prowess of these instruments, wherever they are being used (in many countries), with broad targeting of civilian non-combatants as the result.  As a result, this “news” report sounds more like a sales brochure from one of the US or Israeli drone suppliers. — Frontlines ed.]

————————————–

“First NTRO station activated in Maoist hotbed”

Press Trust of India, 31 October 2012

NEW DELHI, 31 OCT: The country’s specialised department for technological surveillance , National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) has set up its first base in a naxal hotbed in Chhattisgarh to monitor the movement of armed Maoist cadres and fly UAVs to help security forces to track them.

This key project has been operationalised with the establishment of five satellite-linked terminal stations at a designated location in the state by the NTRO with the help of paramilitary CRPF, the lead anti-naxal force with more than 75,000 troops deployed for such tasks.

Sources involved in the technical department of the base station said CRPF has now linked the operations of its ten Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with the new NTRO facility which will function round-the-clock. 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.]

——————————————-

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.

India: More on the state’s false “Maoist” labels on adivasis killed by security forces

Day after encounter, villagers say no Maoist among those killed

Ashutosh Bhardwaj | The Indian Express | Sarkeguda, Bijapur |  Sunday July 01 2012

The bodies of 20 who were killed by the Central Reserve Police Force in the dense jungles of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh on Friday.

On Saturday, over 40 hours after the “biggest encounter” involving security forces and Maoists in Chhattisgarh, bodies of 19 alleged “hardcore Maoists and Jan Militia members” lay outside their huts in the three villages of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta in Bijapur.

Villagers alleged no government official had spoken to them or visited their homes, and no autopsies had been carried out on the bodies.

Several bodies appeared to have been brutalised. This correspondent saw deep, hacking cuts, apparently made by axes, on some chests and foreheads. A senior CRPF officer rejected the possibility that the wounds might have been inflicted by security forces. “Our forces have never done such things and will never do this,” the officer said.

Bijapur superintendent of police Prashant Agarwal said, “Proper post mortem was conducted in Basaguda thana. A team of doctors visited the thana and a report will be prepared.”

Policemen at the thana — where the bodies were kept for about 12 hours before being handed to the families — were unable to say when the post mortem happened. No stitches or other tell-tale marks of an autopsy were visible on the bodies that this correspondent saw in the villages.

At Sarkeguda, the spot deep in the Dandakaranya jungles 520 km south of Raipur where the encounter happened, the stench was overpowering. A rotting pig lay nearby, a bullet in its jaw and two in the torso.

Late in the afternoon, one by one, the villagers began to cremate the bodies.

Yesterday, Home Minister P Chidambaram said three important Maoist leaders, Mahesh, Nagesh and Somulu, had been killed in the encounter.

There is no Mahesh in the official list of those killed. There are two Nageshes. Continue reading

Chhattisgarh, India: Villagers bury their dead as Maoists and CRPF forces trade charges

Aman Sethi | The Hindu

A tribal family grieves over the death of a victim of Friday’s police action against suspected Maoists at Sarkeguda in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. Photo: Aman Sethi

SARKEGUDA, 1 July 2012 — The air is thick with rhythmic wailing and smoke from funeral pyres on the barren fields of Sarkeguda, Kotteguda and Rajapetta in the Kotteguda panchayat of Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district.

“The funerals are being conducted one by one as there aren’t enough men to help out with so many bodies,” said Sangam Ravi, a resident. “Some have to be buried, but who will dig all the graves? Some bodies must be burnt, but then you need to collect the wood.”

A day after the Chhattisgarh police claimed to have killed 20 Maoists in an encounter in Bijapur, villagers have offered a sharply divergent description of the incident, claiming that the security forces fired at a peaceful gathering of villagers, killing 20 of them, including five children aged 12-15, and sexually assaulted at least four teenaged girls during the encounter.

“There were no Maoists present at the village that night,” said Madkam Ganpat of Rajpetta. “We had gathered to discuss the upcoming seed festival, which is held every year before sowing begins.” He said the meeting continued for several hours, when the participants were suddenly surrounded by a large contingent of the security forces.

Mourners surround a corpse at Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. On Friday morning, the Chhattisgarh police claimed they had killed 20 Maoists in an operation. Yet villagers insist that the victims were innocent tribals attending a village meeting. Photo: Aman Sethi

“The forces immediately opened fire, all of us tried to run away but many were shot in the legs, back and chest,” he said. Kaka Saraswati was among those killed in the ensuing confusion. “She was only 12 years old,” said her mother Kaka Sinakka.

Several of the bodies seen by this correspondent had bullet wounds in the torso and the neck. Sabka Mitu, 17, was killed when his throat was slit by a sharp object. Several bodies also had lacerations from what could have been a knife or an axe.

Mr. Ganpat’s account was corroborated by a number of villagers who insisted that no Maoists were present at the meeting, but none could explain how six policemen were injured. “The forces had encircled us,” said Mr. Ganpat. “Maybe, they accidently shot each other.”

The firing lasted several minutes, the villagers said, after which the forces radioed for a tractor that took away a number of bodies. “The force then camped in the village and dragged me into the fields,” Devi (name changed), a 14-year-old girl, said in an interview. “They threw me on the ground, beat me, kicked me, tore my clothes and kept threatening to rape me.” She said three other girls were similarly molested.

Continue reading

“Comrade Bees” swarm India paramilitary troops in Chhattisgarh

[An interesting, though sketchy, news report.  Other media reported that the injured troops “were out on ‘area domination patrol’, clearing mines.”  There was no explanation for the swarm of bee’s attack—-whether it was the result of skilled work by local beekeepers or others knowledgable in forest conditions, or if it resulted from reckless behavior of the troops themselves which disturbed the hives.  —  Frontlines ed.]
———————————————————-
By Salman Ravi,  BBC Hindi, Raipur, 7 May 2012
Indian troops on counter-insurgency operations against Maoist rebels

Operations against Maoist rebels have been stepped up recently

At least 19 Indian paramilitary troops were swarmed and badly stung by bees while on a counter-insurgency operation against Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh state.

The troops were clearing landmines in the dense forests of Narayanpur district when they were attacked.

Four of the soldiers were in “a real bad state” with serious swelling on their faces and hands, police said.

The men have been admitted to a local government hospital.

The paramilitary personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were deployed in the Farasgaon area of Bastar region.

The area contains dense forests and has been the scene of a bitter Maoist insurgency, police and local officials told the BBC.

Officials said that on Sunday afternoon a storm in the area is believed to have knocked a tree or a branch onto a bee hive while the paramilitary police were combing the area for landmines.

Insects and reptiles pose a major problem for the security forces deployed against the Maoists in the forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa.

According to rough estimates, malaria and insects kill as many security personnel as die in combat against Maoist rebels.

The Maoists are active in more than a third of India’s 600-odd districts. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described them as the biggest internal security challenge facing India.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of indigenous tribes people and the rural poor, who they say have been neglected by governments for decades.

India has deployed tens of thousands of federal paramilitary troops and policemen to fight the rebels.