- Category: South Asia Revolution
- Created on Thursday, 19 November 2009 10:00
- Written by Arundhati Roy
"Sri Lanka solution" threatened for Maoist-led uprising in India – Excerpts from Arundhati Roy 16 November 2009. A World to Win News Service. The Indian government is preparing "Operation Green Hunt", a counter-insurgency operation on an unprecedented scale. As many as a hundred thousand soldiers and other security forces are to be sent into the forested hills of eastern and central India to crush the rebellion of adivasi (tribal peoples) led by the Communist Party of India (Maoist). This is no short-term incursion: the authorities have announced that they plan to station massive numbers of troops in the tribal areas for years to come. Several commentators have warned of the danger that the Indian government plans to seek a "Sri Lanka solution", modelled on the recent protracted government offensive there. Massive ground forces and air assaults were used to defeat the Tamil Tigers, and then hundreds of thousands of the region’s civilian population were imprisoned in detention camps, where most still languish. Now what may be permanent military bases are being built in the Tamil heartland. The Indian government no doubt noted the implicit U.S. approval for that operation. At the U.S 's behest, the IMF granted the Sri Lankan government a huge financial package almost immediately after the massacre. Following are excerpts from an article by Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy that appeared in the October 31 issue of the Sri Lanka Guardian (srilankaguardian. org). The full article online gives much more detail for her arguments and a more all-around representation of her views. The November 2009 issue of People's March (peoplesmarch. googlepages. com, or bannedthought. net) has two recent statements by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and other material on this offensive. The low, flat-topped hills of south Orissa have been home to the Dongria Kondh [one of several tribal peoples in the region] long before there was a country called India or a state called Orissa. The hills watched over the Kondh. The Kondh watched over the hills and worshipped them as living deities. Now these hills have been sold for the bauxite they contain...
Perhaps the Kondh are supposed to be grateful that their Niyamgiri hill, home to their Niyam Raja, God of Universal Law, has been sold to a company with a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy that teaches the Ultimate Nature of Knowledge). It's one of the biggest mining corporations in the world and is owned by Anil Aggarwal, the Indian billionaire who lives in London in a mansion that once belonged to the Shah of Iran. Vedanta is only one of the many multinational corporations closing in on Orissa. If the flat-topped hills are destroyed, the forests that clothe them will be destroyed too. So will the rivers and streams that flow out of them and irrigate the plains below. So will the Dongria Kondh. So will the hundreds of thousands of tribal people who live in the forested heart of India, and whose homeland is similarly under attack... The government has announced Operation Green Hunt, a war purportedly against the "Maoist" rebels headquartered in the jungles of central India. Of course, the Maoists are by no means the only ones rebelling. There is a whole spectrum of struggles all over the country where people are engaged in rebellion – the landless, the Dalits [so-called "untouchables" ], the homeless, workers, peasants, weavers. They're pitted against a juggernaut of injustices, including policies that allow a wholesale corporate takeover of people's land and resources. However, it is the Maoists who the government has singled out as being the biggest threat. Two years ago, when things were nowhere near as bad as they are now, the prime minister described the Maoists as the "single-largest internal security threat" to the country. He revealed his government's real concern on 18 June 2009, when he told Parliament: "If left-wing extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected.".. . Right now in central India, the Maoists' guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa. They are people who, even after 60 years of India's so-called Independence, have not had access to education, healthcare or legal redress. They are people who have been mercilessly exploited for decades, consistently cheated by small businessmen and moneylenders, the women raped as a matter of right by police and forest department personnel. Their journey back to a semblance of dignity is due in large part to the Maoist cadre who have lived and worked and fought by their side for decades. It's not enough that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the notorious Naga Battalion have already wreaked havoc and committed unconscionable atrocities in remote forest villages. It's not enough that the government supports and arms the Salwa Judum, the "people's militia" that has killed and raped and burned its way through the forests of Dantewada leaving three hundred thousand people homeless, or on the run. Now the government is going to deploy the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and tens of thousands of paramilitary troops. It plans to set up a brigade headquarters in Bilaspur (which will displace nine villages) and an air base in Rajnandgaon (which will displace seven). Obviously, these decisions were taken a while ago. War has been in the offing for a while. And now the helicopters of the Indian air force have been given the right to fire in "self-defence" , the very right that the government denies its poorest citizens... What kind of war is Operation Green Hunt going to be? Not much news comes out of the forests. Lalgarh in West Bengal has been cordoned off. Those who try to go in are being beaten and arrested. And called Maoists of course. In Dantewada, the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, a Gandhian ashram run by Himanshu Kumar, was bulldozed in a few hours. It was the last neutral outpost before the war zone begins, a place where journalists, activists, researchers and fact-finding teams could stay while they worked in the area... The "Sri Lanka Solution" could very well be on the cards. It's not for nothing that the Indian government blocked a European move in the UN asking for an international probe into war crimes committed by the government of Sri Lanka in its recent offensive against the Tamil Tigers... Last week, civil liberties groups from all over the country organised a series of meetings in Delhi to discuss what could be done to turn the tide and stop the war. These are the people who the Union [All-India] home minister recently accused of creating an "intellectual climate" that was conducive to "terrorism". If that charge was meant to frighten people, to cow them down, it had the opposite effect. The speakers represented a range of opinion from the liberal to the radical Left. Though none of those who spoke would describe themselves as Maoist, few were opposed in principle to the idea that people have a right to defend themselves against State violence. Many were uncomfortable about Maoist violence, about the "people's courts" that delivered summary justice, about the authoritarianism that was bound to permeate an armed struggle and marginalise those who did not have arms. But even as they expressed their discomfort, they knew that people's courts only existed because India's courts are out of the reach of ordinary people and that the armed struggle that has broken out in the heartland is not the first, but the very last option of a desperate people pushed to the very brink of existence. The speakers were aware of the dangers of trying to extract a simple morality out of individual incidents of heinous violence, in a situation that had already begun to look very much like war. People who had come from the war zones, from Lalgarh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, described the police repression, the arrests, the torture, the killing, the corruption, and the fact that in places like Orissa, they seemed to take orders directly from the officials who worked for the mining companies. People described the dubious, malign role being played by certain NGOs funded by aid agencies wholly devoted to furthering corporate prospects. Again and again they spoke of how in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh activists as well as ordinary people – anyone who was seen to be a dissenter – were being branded Maoists and imprisoned. They said that this, more than anything else, was pushing people to take up arms and join the Maoists. They asked how a government that professed its inability to resettle even a fraction of the fifty million people who had been displaced by "development" projects was suddenly able to identify 140,000 hectares of prime land to give to industrialists for more than 300 Special Economic Zones, India's onshore tax havens for the rich. They asked what brand of justice the Supreme Court was practising when it refused to review the meaning of "public purpose" in the Land Acquisition Act even when it knew that the government was forcibly acquiring land in the name of "public purpose" to give to private corporations. They asked why when the government says that "the Writ of the State must run", it seems to only mean that police stations must be put in place. Not schools or clinics or housing, or clean water, or a fair price for forest produce, or even being left alone and free from the fear of the police – anything that would make people's lives a little easier. They asked why the "Writ of the State" could never be taken to mean justice... The forest once known as the Dandakaranya, which stretches from West Bengal through Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, is home to millions of India's tribal people. The media has taken to calling it the Red corridor or the Maoist corridor. It could just as accurately be called the MoUist corridor. Scores of corporations, from relatively unknown ones to the biggest mining companies and steel manufacturers in the world, are in the fray to appropriate adivasi homelands – the Mittals, Jindals, Tata, Essar, Posco, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and, of course, Vedanta. There's an MoU [Memorandum of Understanding – an agreement between government and corporate investors] on every mountain, river and forest glade: social and environmental engineering on an unimaginable scale. And most of this is secret. Somehow I don't think that the plans that are afoot to destroy one of the world's most pristine forests and ecosystems, as well as the people who live in it, will be discussed at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.. . - end item.