War on people in Manipur

Statement delivered by Malem Ningthouja,
on behalf of Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)
at the Convention Against War on People on 4 December 2009
in New Delhi.

Most of us are concerned about the escalating scale of war on people perpetrated by the state mercenaries in several parts of the present day Indian subcontinent. Under the aegis of the bourgeoning Indian capitalist rulers who are in control of the state and the media, war crimes are being perpetrated with impunity everywhere and wherever democratic movements towards durable peace, development and democracy become prominent. On this occasion of the Convention Against War on People I would like to draw your attention towards the prevailing war on people in Manipur.

Historical Background

(1) Present India is a post 1947 political invention under the vested capitalist initiative of the Indian ruling class by overriding the national interests of several ethnic and political communities. The principle of voluntary unionism has not been followed.

(2) The history of war on people may be traced as early as the year 1948 when several Mao Nagas of Senapati District and Hmar in the Tipaimukh regions who had asserted for local self-determination were suppressed and some were killed for their democratic aspiration by the then Manipur government under the instruction of the Indian rulers. In the valley there was a heavy repression upon the attempted communist revolution under the leadership of Comrade Irabot during 1948-1951. Since the early 1960s several Naga peasants have been facing the brunt of military occupation leading to physical assaults and restriction of free movement in search for sources of livelihood. From 1980 to 2004 Manipur as a whole was physically, economically and psychologically affected by military rampages under the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). There are still several other repressive and suppressive acts as well to curb democratic movements.

State of War since 1949

The present state of war on people in Manipur is illustrative in terms of its character manifested in the crisscrossing tactical and structural arrangements.

Tactical collusion:

(1) The Indian rulers (industrialists, compradors, and business establishments) have capitalist interests, dubbed as geo-strategic exigencies in Manipur. Manipur serves as a market, a source of raw materials and a military base for the expansion of Indian capitalism in Manipur and in other Southeast Asian regions.

(2) The bulk of Manipur’s upper class cutting across community affiliations has a class interest of retaining political power in its hands, for which its members at times clubbed together with various political, regional and communal interests in election campaigns and other sectarian assertions. They have emerged as the rulers of Manipur, supporting Indian rulers, so that the Indian state would serve their interest.

(3) The Indian rulers have found a reliable ally in Manipur’s upper class and have erected puppet governments in successive terms who in their turn mortgaged Manipur to capitalist enterprises and perpetuated a class order in the region. Communal and armed agents are being reproduced, if not recruited from amongst the Manipuri people to defend Indian capitalism and fight against the democratic forces. Several misguided youth lured by the prospect of private property or disillusioned by the relative weakness of revolutionary propaganda have either joined the rank and file of the imperialist mercenaries in waging war on the people or have became effective tools of carrying out communal politics.

Structural arrangement:

(1) Firstly, the armed forces (including the union paramilitary forces) are carrying out an unrestrained war on people with impunity under the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958.

(2) Secondly, the police forces (particularly the Manipur Police Commando) lured by money and the prospect for promotion are carrying out massive looting and fake encounters.

(3) Thirdly, the underpaid auxiliary forces recruited on contract basis such as the Village Volunteer Forces in hill districts and Special Police Officers or Village Defense Forces in the valley districts are the camp followers of the regular forces in carrying out widespread hunt for democratic activists.

(4) Fourthly, gangsters in the guise of revolutionaries who are operating either from inside the state jail or under the command of the security forces are carrying out rampant looting, killing and psychological propaganda to confuse the people between gangsters and democratic activists.

(5) Fifthly, communal warlords and conservative reactionaries are being sponsored to divide the people vertically along communal lines and to divert the focus of the democratic movement.

(6) Sixthly, several undercover secret agents, both regular and part time informers are operating as watchdogs upon democratic activities and to advance psychological warfare in order to misguide the oppressed and the exploited people, diverting them from the democratic movement towards personal interest and sectarianism.

(7) Seventhly, the war on people is being covered up through official jargons such as ‘war on terrorism,’ ‘counter insurgency,’ and ‘law and order problem’ and so on. A wrong picture about the democratic movement in Manipur is being presented and widely published across the Indian subcontinent and beyond by imperialist media.

What are the impacts of war on people?

(1) Politically, since the 15th October 1949 the political community of Manipur as a whole has not been able to exercise their right to political self determination (including the right of accession or secession).

(2) Structurally, bourgeois democracy in Manipur is governed by a puppet regime composed of Manipur’s upper class under the strict surveillance of a Governor instituted by the Indian state. At the grassroots the backbone of the government is provided by a bulk of the forces mentioned above.

(3) Economically, while Indian capitalism (a mixture of market expansion and finance imperialism) installed upon a semi-tribal cum agro-based backward economy has drained the wealth of the people and reduced Manipur to dependency, on imports for food and other consumer goods; displacement, marginalization and pauperization have increased because of the ‘development’ projects undertaken under the protection of security forces such as forcible construction of capitalist dams, power projects, offices and institutional buildings.

(4) Physically and psychologically, increasing militarization has created a reign of terror leading to insurmountable human rights violations and a long lasting psychological effect or war hysteria among the affected population.

(5) Constitutionally, the right to life and other democratic rights are being denied. The space for democratic assertion of civil, political and economic rights has been shrinking. There has been a heavy crackdown upon civil society organizations for exposing state terrorism. The number of persons convicted, tortured and jailed or killed for their democratic ideas and initiatives has been increasing. For fear of state repression and brutality several of the war affected persons are forced to submit to the class rule against their own democratic conscience.

(6) Finally, under the patronage of the Indian rulers, sectarianism and communalism continue to play a divisive role by addressing the fundamental question of democracy from sectarian and communal perspectives. As a result no unified democratic force under a common banner capable of overthrowing the class rule could be developed.

Fundamental question

(1) The war on people does not distinguish people along communal or regional lines and the war impact is being felt similarly by the affected people. No particular community or region is responsible for the rampant capitalist onslaught in the name of security and counter-terrorism.

(2) If the class rulers are united for common purpose there can be no reason why the organizations representing the oppressed and the exploited peoples should remain divided in their just struggle against the common enemy.

(3) We need to contextualize the war paradigms of the ruling class and accordingly carry out an all encompassing ideological propaganda and political assertion for a democratic society free from any form of suppression and exploitation. And the emancipated peoples should enjoy the right to either voluntary unionism or secession based on common consent to be drawn out of the objective material conditions.

Down with war on people
Long live democracy

Curfew in Ludhiana after migrant workers’ protest

Ludhiana which is considered to be the richest district of Punjab and a major industrial centre saw a curfew imposed on Friday (December 4) after militant protests by migrant labourers, and the subsequent police-instigated violence against them by a section of the local youth. The labourers were protesting against “inaction by the police in acting against gangs of motorcycle riders who rob them of their earnings during the first week of every month”.

Protests began Thursday night after police shooed away the workers when they went to “report another incident of looting”. They blocked Delhi-Ludhiana-Jalandhar highway. Violence began after daybreak when the callous police administration refused to act. In fact, as Indian Express reports further:

“Desperate to contain the rioting, police encouraged youth in Dhandari Kalan to combat the migrant protesters,most of whom live in Dhandhari Khurd village. As a result, what began as a clash between migrant labourers and police, quickly turned into a clash between Punjabi’s and migrants. Police claimed the locals came out on their own after protesters torched their vehicles but they did nothing to stop them. Instead the cops were seen encouraging the attackers, armed with swords, gandasas and baseball bats,and used them as shields to launch baton charges against the protesters.”

Subsequently, curfew was imposed in five worst affected parts of the city. In other areas too police flag marched “to discourage other migrant communities from joining the protests”. Further, the State administration has already requested “the Union Home Ministry…to send two battalions of paramilitary forces for deployment in Ludhiana.” Hence, the so-called “War on People” is not just limited to jungles and only for securing natural resources, but also to discipline “human resources”; after all, all these are needed to secure a 9% growth rate.

Narayanpatna: The Arrest of Tapan Mishra

Satyabrata

On the 29th of November, 2009, Tapan Mishra, a democratic political activist who was about to board his train to Narayanpatna from Parvatipuram railway station was arrested by police in civilian uniform. Throughout his life of 42 years Tapan Mishra has been linked to several left groups and has been part of popular dissent movements. He was once a member of AIDSO (All India Democratic Students Organisation), the student wing of the SUCI and the President of the Ravenshaw College Students’ Union. Later he joined the CPI(ML)(Liberation) and was an active participant in the then agrarian struggles and struggles of forest dwellers. Tapan Mishra was the councilor of Athamalic NAC and also contested the last Assembly elections from Athamalic: the later two facts show that he had no strategic ideological compatibility with the CPI(Maoist).

Before leaving for Parvatipuram, he met several press people in Bhubaneshwar and had assured them that he would provide reliable information on what was going on in Narayanpatna. It is also worth noting that Tapan Mishra was a potential leader of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh of Narayanpatna having experience in agrarian and forest dwellers movements. He is also a sympathizer of the Narayanpatna movement and is closely associated with its leadership.

Today, most of the leadership of the Narayanpatna movement is under arrest or is underground. This has been due to the brutal repressive measures that the state government has taken in the region using the police. Nachika Linga, leader of the CMAS, is underground. The police have destroyed his house. Two leaders have earlier been killed in police firing. Anyone like Tapan Mishra who knows the significance of the Narayanpatna movement would be a spontaneous positive contribution to the movement: this, probably, the State knew better than anyone. Tapan has been projected by the police as a ‘hardcore Maoist’ who is in charge of training cadres in military offensive. His arrest has already been linked to the police’s finding of ammunition elsewhere. The police in Narayanpatna are part of the larger nexus of landlords and liquor mafia – it is evident from the way the truth has been distorted by them in general and in Tapan’s case in particular. But what about the government of Orissa (or to be more appropriate the whole bourgeois Assembly as there has been no voice from the opposition also)? The government of Orissa is part of a larger nexus the scope of whose explication is beyond the limitations of this report. Suffice to say that the rulers of Orissa are one of the most authoritarian anti-people lot that gives no space to democratic voice which it apprehends shall, in the long run, bring an end to the brutalities of its nexus. This is precisely the reason why Tapan is being silenced.

Video: Nov 13 Meeting in Delhi University

A public meeting organised by Campaign Against War on People in Delhi University on November 13 2009 to protest against the Indian State’s war on tribals of Central India.

Part I

Part II

Farmers’ organisations under attack in Punjab

NK Jeet,
President, Lok Morcha Punjab

The peasants’ organizations in Punjab have been in the forefront in the struggle against the anti-people new economic policies of globalization, liberalization and privatization. They have fought for remunerative prices for agricultural produce, its procurement by state agencies, writing off farm loans, and against arrests of farmers due to non-payment of farm loans advanced by Cooperative Societies, attachments and sales of their lands at the instances of Commission Agents and money lenders etc. They have also led glorious struggles against setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the state, forcible acquisition of agricultural land for setting up giant industrial complexes, power projects, multi-lane roads etc. and against unbundling and ultimate privatization of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). Faced with stiff resistance from the farmers’ organization, the Punjab Government was forced to abandon or curtail many projects. Irritated at this, the Akali-BJP Government in Punjab launched a massive offensive against the organizations of the farmers. A large number of leaders and activists of these organizations were implicated in false criminal cases. On September 8 2009, when Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan) held a massive demonstration at Chandigarh to oppose unbundling of the State Electricity Board, 4 FIRs were registered against all of its State Office-bearers. The leaders of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and Lok Morcha Punjab were also implicated in these cases. Hundreds of farmers were injured in the brutal lathicharge by the police. Their vehicles were badly damaged. As a result of the police brutalities, four persons lost their lives. The sacrifices of these farmers did not go in vain. Akali-BJP Govt was forced to postpone the unbundling/ corporatisation of the PSEB, till mid-December.

Now as the day of reckoning is reaching near, and the farmers’ organizations have started mobilizing the people against the privatization of the PSEB, the Akali-BJP Govt has launched another attack. On November 17 2009, President of BKU (Krantikari), Sh Surjit Singh Phul was arrested from the court premises when he had gone there to attend a hearing. The police would have kept him in illegal confinement and subjected to torture, but the democratic-minded advocates and farmer activists approached the Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) and apprised him of the illegal act of the police. The SDJM immediately called the SHO of the concerned police station. Fearing exposure, the police registered a case under Section 10, 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Mr. Surjit Singh, branded him a member of the CPI (Maoist), planning to illegally overthrow the Government through armed struggle. He was immediately arrested in this case. Next day the police obtained his custody for 8 days by producing him before the Magistrate at his residence after court hours, and he was immediately sent to the infamous Joint Investigation Centre, Amritsar, which is Punjab’s Guantanamo.

On November 26 2009, Mr. Surjit Singh was to be produced before the SDJM Phul for further remand. The police with a view to hoodwink his lawyers, made elaborate security arrangements at Phul Courts. Riot-police commandoes in full battle gear were deployed not only in and around the court-premises, but also on all entrances of the town, and at important road-junctions leading to this town throughout the district. But it was merely a drama. In fact the police filed an application before the District and Sessions Judge Bathinda, expressing false and baseless apprehensions that people at Phul might take away Mr. Surjit Singh forcibly from the police, and obtained permission to produce him before the CJM at Bathinda. The real intention was to deprive Mr. Surjit Singh of any legal aid and exposure of the third degree methods adopted by the police. The police succeeded in obtaining his remand in its custody for another 8 days till December 3 2009.

As soon as this information reached his lawyers, who were camping at Phul Town, they immediately moved the court to obtain permission to meet Surjit Singh in police custody and for his interrogation only in the presence of his lawyers. The court allowed the lawyers to meet him on November 26 and 27, and informed the police about this order. But the police did not care about the Court’s order and sent him to Joint Interrogation Centre, Amritsar again without informing the Court. When the lawyers tried to contact the Investigating Officer to fix the venue of the meeting, he switched off his mobile phone.

On November 27, the lawyers filed another application before the CJM Bathinda, seeking initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the police officials, and fixing new time and date for meeting with Surjit Singh. Acting on this application, the court granted permission to the lawyers, to meet Mr Surjit Singh during his detention at Joint Interrogation Centre Amritsar, everyday from 5 to 6 PM from November 30 onwards.

Although the game-plan of the police has been foiled for the present, but its attack can be repulsed only by mobilizing masses against these anti-people, undemocratic, and repressive measures.

Orissa Bandh – a report

Satyabrata

A state-wide 12-hour bandh was observed on the 28th of November (Saturday) in Orissa to protest against the police firing on tribals and to condemn the killing of two Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) leaders in Narayanpatna. The protest demanded an immediate withdrawal of CRPF, Cobra and other paramilitary forces from the region and to grant compensation of 10 lakhs to the family of those dead. Several organizations, including, CPI(ML) (Liberation), CPI(ML) New Democracy, Orissa Forest Mazdoor Sangh, Malkanagiri Adivasi Sangh, CPI M-L, CMAS, Lok Sangram Manch, and many progressive activists took the initiative after the fact finding team on the Narayanpatna incident submitted its report.

On the 28th, several demonstrations were organised in the state, especially in Southern Orissa. There were protest rallies in Koraput. In Rayagada, several people organized by CPI(ML) (Liberation) were arrested for protesting and blocking a road. In Muniguda block, a road block was organized by Lok Sangram Manch. A huge protest demonstration was staged in Matili block of Malkanagiri. Here thousands of tribals came out on streets armed with their traditional weaponry. Four trains, including Rajdhani Express, were stranded at Bhubaneswar railway station for three hours due to the dawn-to-dusk protests.

In spite of state-wide protests, combing operations still continue in Narayanpatna and adjoining regions. Cobra battalions have been sent to adjoining Bandhugaon where activities of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh have throughout been peaceful. Media reports arrests of several ‘Naxals’. Police says ‘peace’ is being restored in the region and that people are no more sympathetic to the movement of CMAS. According to the police, several illiterate tribals have given in ‘writing’ that they won’t support the ‘Sangh activities’ any more. The government of Orissa has least regard for public opinion and the ‘opposition’ is also silent on this issue. They want to retain ‘order’ in the state of Orissa; but where order is injustice, disobedience will inevitably spring up to establish justice.

Convention Against War on People, Dec 4 2009

INVITATION

Convention Against War On People
Venue: Speaker’s Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi
Date: 4 December 2009 (Friday) Time: 10 am—7 pm

Friends,

As you read this invite, Indian state’s ongoing war on people that began on the 1st of November, will already complete several weeks. The body-count of the adivasis –the prime victims of the Indian government’s ‘hunt’– also started to mount. As per the sporadic news from the Ground Zero trickles in through the media, the casualty is escalating by each passing day, as grow the number of burnt villages, persons displaced, injured or arrested. We hear of battalions of CRPF, COBRA, C-60, Grey Hounds, ITBP, Anti-Naxal Task Force and a whole assortment of armed paramilitary and police forces stepping up their operation in Dandakaranya and adjoining regions, backed by air force helicopters and US intelligence satellites, commanded by army top brass. As reports are pouring in already thousands of adivasis have been displaced from their homes as the ruthless state repressive machine has let loose a reign of terror in these areas. The renewed offensive by the joint forces in Lalgarh too has left hundreds of protesting adivasis homeless. There is every possibility that the number of dead and injured people, along with the displaced and destroyed villages will only mount in the coming weeks, if the Indian government does not call for an immediate halt to this all-encompassing military offensive. As has been the case with nationality movements in Kashmir and the North East, the Indian state’s endeavour to find a ‘military solution’ through war will only endanger the lives and livelihood of lakhs of citizens.

Indian government has been preparing for this massive military operation for months, lining up nearly one lakh troops and arming them with sophisticated weapons, mobilising the air force for aerial strikes and involving the Indian army not only for training and logistical purposes, but for operational command and even active combat if required. There are also reports of US intelligence and security officials ‘advising’ the Indian government in conducting this war. As reported by the media, the entire forested regions of central and eastern India have been divided into seven Operating Areas, which the government wants to ‘clear’ within the next five years of all resistance, including that of the Maoists and other Naxalite organisations. An outlay of Rs.7300 crores has already been earmarked for this war.

None is in illusion as to the objectives of this war against the people. This war is being fought by the Indian government at the behest of the corporates and for their benefit, targeting the life and livelihood of the adivasis. The worldwide imperialist economy presently faces its most severe crisis after 1929. The military-industrial complex, which includes multinational and Indian big business interests, is looking for wars that have the potential to artificially generate the much-needed demand for their products in a crisis-ridden market. Moreover, both domestic and foreign corporations desperately want to lay their hands on the minerals worth billions of dollars deposited in the vast forest regions of central and eastern India. Once accessed, this can guarantee the corporations super-profits for several decades. Hundreds of agreements and MoUs that allow free plunder of people’s resources have already been concluded by mining corporations with the central and state governments. The corporations easily cleared all the legal hurdles between themselves and the natural resources. The only barrier that now stands between them and their prize is people’s resistance, whether unarmed or armed. From Nandigram to Niyamgiri, Lalgarh to Dandakaranya, Koraput to Kalinganagar, Dadri to Narayanpatna, people have refused to be mere victims of state-sponsored policies of Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation (LPG) in the name of ‘development’. After trying all forceful measures from police repression to Salwa Judum which have failed to deter the people’s movements, the Indian government is now waging war not only against the Naxalite and Maoist movements which have been termed as the ‘biggest internal security threat’, but against all people’s movements that challenge its policies. By doing so, it not only is trying to bulldoze all kinds of dissenting voices and democratic rights, but is also aiming to exterminate the aspirations of the exploited and oppressed people for a better society, a life with dignity.

Forum Against war on People invites you to this All-India Convention which is an effort to examine the ongoing war on people in all its dimensions. More importantly, it seeks to become a strong voice of resistance against this war. We urge you to participate in the Convention and make it an occasion to collectively demand that the Indian government must immediately and unconditionally stop this war, waged in our name against our own people.

Inaugural Address: Prof. Randhir Singh (Retd. Political Science, DU)

Speakers

Justice AS Bains

BD Sharma

Vara Vara Rao (Revolutionary Poet)

PA Sebastian (CPDR, Maharashtra)

Prof. Jagmohan (AFDR, Punjab)

Arundhati Roy (Writer)

Bullu Bahan, (Chhattisgarh)

Madhuri (MP)

Prof. Amit Bhattacharyya

Ajit Bhuyan (Editor, Asomiya Pratidin)

Prashant Bhushan

Shashi Bhushan Pathak (PUCL Jharkhand)

Bernard D’Mello (Deputy Editor, EPW)

Lachit Bordoloi (MASS, Assam)

Dr. N Venuh (NPMHR)

Sudhir Patnaik (Lok Pakhya, Orissa)

Prof N K Bhattacharya (Jan Hastakshep)

Malem Ningthouja (CPDM, Manipur)

Harish Dhawan (PUDR)

Shamsher Singh Bisht (Uttarakhand Lok Vahini)

Lateef Mohd. Khan (Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee)

Gautam Navlakha

Kavita Krishnan (CPI-ML [Liberation])

Sheomangal Siddhantkar (CPI-ML [New Proletarian])

SS Mahal (CPI-ML [New Democracy])

SAR Geelani (CRPP)

GN Saibaba

Prof. Jagmohan Singh (Voices for Freedom)

Santosh Mahapatra (Orissa)

Arjun Prasad Singh (PDFI)

Dr. Animesh Das (IFTU)

Raminder Singh (NBS)

Alok (KYS)

PUCL

JNU Forum Against War on People

DU Campaign Against War on People     Correspondence, Campaign Against War on People, Committee Against Violence On Women (CAVOW), Naga Students Union Delhi (NSUD), Navjawan Bharat Sabha (NBS), KRALOS, Krantikari Yuva Sanghathan (KYS), Manipur Students Association Delhi (MSAD), PDSU, PUCL, MKP, Campaign for Peace & Democracy Manipur (CPDM), DSU, CRPP, DGMF, People’s Front (PF), Mazdoor Ekta Manch (MEM), Left Democratic Teacher’s Front (LDTF), RDF, PDFI, CPI (ML) (Liberation), CPI (ML) (New Proletarian), Kashipur Solidarity Forum, Nari Mukti Sangh (NMS), Mehnatkash Majdoor Morcha (MMM), B D Sharma, Arundhati Roy, Tripta Wahi, Vijay Singh, Neshat Quaiser, Laltu and others

Video: Anger against Narayanpatna Killings

Courtesy: Samadrusti

The Great Resource Grab Continues: People fight for law, Government throws it to the winds

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

On November 20th, the police opened fire on an unarmed protest rally in Narayanpatna, Orissa, by the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and killed three people. The Campaign condemns these murders – for that is what they are – in the strongest possible terms. Meanwhile, adivasi groups organised demonstrations across Andhra Pradesh yesterday against the State government’s illegal move to record community forest management rights and powers in the name of Joint Forest Management committees – which function as proxies of the Forest Department. In Andhra Pradesh or in Orissa, the irony is the same: it is the people who are fighting for the law, and the government that is using all the force possible to break it. In Delhi we find the Prime Minister and the Home Minister talking of the “rule of law” all the time, but for the government it seems that the “rule of law” is just another word for the rule of brute force.

The Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha is an adivasi movement that came to attention earlier this year when it mobilised to take back adivasi lands. The lands had been illegally taken over by non-tribals, in violation of the Orissa Land Reforms Act and the Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property Regulation. Though the government insists, as usual, on calling the Sangha a “Maoist front” and a “Maoist overground organisation”, the Sangha’s leaders have always been very clear that they are not linked to the CPI(Maoist) and have publicly stated their differences with the Maoists. They have organised people in a mass movement for adivasi land rights. This movement, of course, is intolerable for the government and for powerful interests; so, as usual, those fighting for people’s rights are labelled Maoists and, on this pretext, killing, beatings and torture all are considered justifiable.

On the 20th, the adivasis gathered to protest harassment of women and children, including beatings, that had taken place during so-called “combing operations” in the preceding days. According to fact finding reports, they were not carrying even their traditional bows and arrows. The police opened fire within half an hour of the protest reaching the police station. An estimated 60 people have been injured (no injuries to police have been reported) and those injured are not receiving medical treatment. The police are still engaged in combing operations and have arrested a number of other adivasis. There is no report of any action being taken against those responsible for the killings.

In Andhra Pradesh, meanwhile, a quieter attack on democracy is underway. The Forest Rights Act recognises the right and power of forest dwellers to protect, conserve and manage their “community forest resources”. This was the biggest step forward in this law, and it is the one part that the government appears most keen not to respect. In AP, the Forest Department has found a new trick to get around these provisions – it has persuaded the State government to confer community management rights under the Act on Joint Forest Management committees, which have forest guards as their secretaries / joint account holders and are effectively controlled by the Department. This is completely illegal and amounts to robbing people’s resources through the back door. But, once again, we find deafening silence or active support from the Central government for these illegal activities, and reportedly AP has even been cited as a ‘model’ by Central officials for this action.

Thus the struggle of the people for control over their resources and their livelihoods continues. The question that the government has to answer is very simple: does it actually believe in the rule of law? Or does it believe in crushing all those who fight for the very laws that it has passed?

Narayanpatna: An Interview with Gananath Patra

Satyabrata

On the 20th of November three adivasis, including a leader of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), were gunned down near the police station of Narayanpatna. The CMAS has been struggling for the redistribution of land among tribals in the region. Nachika Linga and Gananath Patra have been spearheading the movement since its inception. The police alleges the CMAS of conducting violence. According to the police, hundreds of adivasis had come to loot the police station; the police had to fire in retaliation and hence the incident. Later, a section of media claimed that the government has issued a shoot-at-sight order against Nachika Linga. Kumudini Behera, another leader of the CMAS, is already under arrest. The following is a telephonic interview with Com. Gananath Patra.

Satyabrata: The media is projecting that hundreds of members of CMAS had organized themselves around the police station in order to loot weaponry. How much truth does this statement of the police carry?

Gananath Patra: It is ridiculous that the police is even able to say such things. Firstly, there were only hundred and fifty adivasis who had come to the police station. There was a genuine reason for that. The previous night, in the name of hunting down the Maoists, innocent adivasis were beaten, looted and women were molested in Kumbhari panchayat. They had only come to seek an explanation. They were naturally agitated because of what they had to face the night before but they had no intentions of looting the police station, they were unarmed; they came without even their traditional weaponry. Moreover, if they had intentions of looting the police station, they could have easily conspired that in the night. Why would they, in broad daylight, come to the police station unarmed!

Satyabrata: Curfew has been declared in the region with the enforcement of Section 144 of the IPC. Cobra battalions have reached the region. The situation is being militaristically dealt with by the government. Why so?

Gananath Patra: Due to the pressure of our movement, several landlords and liquor merchants ran away from the area, and they have organised themselves in adjoining Laxmipur in the name of a Shanti (Peace) Committee under the patronage of the BJD, the ruling party of Orissa. The State has its class character and this move only explicates it. The State is against the movement of the adivasis for their rights because their rights mean loss to the landed propertied classes which are the class base of the ruling party in that region.

Satyabrata: The state has militarized itself. What will its effect be on the movement?

Gananath Patra: We know very well that behind the military intervention of the State is its intention to militarize our movement in order to find a plea to brutally subjugate it. We know their intentions and we are careful about any move we shall be taking. The movement must continue.

Satyabrata: The CMAS is being projected as the frontal organization of the Maoists. Is that true?

Gananath Patra: You mean the CPI(Maoist). No. we have considerable differences with the CPI(Maoist) line, though they are our sympathizers and critics. I believe in Marxism-Leninism- Mao Tse-tung Thought, which has considerable differences with the Maoism of the CPI(Maoist). Our method of occupying and cultivating land is mass line task and has nothing in common with the CPI(Maoist).

Satyabrata: Why are you being projected as Maoists then?

Gananath Patra: We pose a danger to the status quo the ruling class wants to maintain and hence it wants us to be branded as Maoists. Then the matter becomes simple; pick up anyone who is against this status quo, brand him a Maoist and rob him of his movemental potentiality by either putting him behind bars or by gunning him down. History has been spectator to this strategy of several States at several conjunctures in the past. The state has banned the CPI(Maoist) to facilitate this purpose.

Satyabrata: Your message to the people who will be going through this interview.

Gananath Patra: The movement at Narayanpatna is the struggle of the indigenous adivasis against the exploiters. Time will show, if things go our way, we will be able to produce agricultural products in a quantity many times more than that produced under exploitation, and the produce will go to the producers. We don’t need any Green Revolution. Of course, the State is trying its best to subjugate the movement, but, this is our struggle – the struggle of indigenous adivasis against our exploiters. The State and the media have joined hands in projecting it as a terrorist movement and CMAS as a terrorist outfit. Let us join hands to prove them wrong.