Release of Report challenging claims about ‘benefits’ of POSCO Project (Oct 20, 2010)

Mining Zone Peoples’ Solidarity Group
Report By International Group Challenging Government’s Claims About Purported Benefits of POSCO Project

Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 11 AM – 1 PM (lunch will be served)
Indian Women’s Press Corps, 5 Windsor Place, New Delhi

Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO)’s proposed project in Orissa is the largest foreign direct investment project in India to date. It comprises a steel processing plant and a captive port in Jagatsinghpur district, and iron ore mining in Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts. The MoU for the project was signed in June 2005. The government of Orissa has pulled out all stops to get the project going and appears to have the support of the center, but the project has been stalled because of strong resistance from the local residents, a resistance that the government has tried to bypass and crush in myriad ways. The resistance has survived into its sixth year.

Based upon new research into livelihood, governance and environmental issues in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur, Keonjhar, and Sundergarh districts, a US-based group of academics and professionals are poised to publish a startling new report that:

– challenges the purported benefits such as tax revenues and employment growth of the POSCO project,
– points to gross violations of the law by the State and Central governments, and
– raises troubling questions about the state of Democracy.

The report will be released at the press conference on Wednesday.


Girish Agrawal, California-based Lawyer and Civil Engineer, and one of the authors of the report
Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity
Professor Manoranjan Mohanty, Delhi Solidarity Group
Professor Amit Bhaduri

The Mining Zone People’s Solidarity Group is an international research group focused on India, with core interests in new economic policy. We have been following the development of several large projects in India. Between February and September 2010, MZPSG has investigated claims made by the Central and Orissa state governments, POSCO, and allegedly neutral research bodies such as NCAER about the benefits of the proposed POSCO integrated steel project and captive port in Orissa.

We need to protest and protest peacefully. But over what?

Gautam Navlakha, Sharmila Purkayastha & Asish Gupta

Any democratic response to end the war which has been initiated by the Indian State is welcome. However, there are a few questions in the light of write up for the planned peace march in Raipur on 5th May 2010.

1) Why is peace delinked from ‘causes like exploitative, iniquitous model of development etc’? More urgently, what is this peace about? Undoubtedly, war is undesirable, but to believe in peace marches without a thought to justice, is rank bad faith. Clearly, those who wish to march in Raipur (to where?) saying no to violence, cannot bear too much reality.

2) By saying no to violence, the participants and organizers have equated the two sides. It is one thing not to care for Maoist violence but to equate state violence with that of the Maoists is to willfully ignore the coercive nature of state power. The government has been cagey in telling the total paramilitary strength that has been deployed in the wake of Operation Green Hunt. Unofficially, it is known that no less than 67 battalions have been sent to 9 states, which means at least 67000 armed personnel. The elite COBRA force has been created to fight the Maoists. Besides, 20 more schools will be set up to train the paramilitary under the army. Why will a peace march not protest this heavy militarization in the name of countering Maoism?

3) Undoubtedly, there are many who do not agree with the Maoists. But they should have the courage to come out and criticize the Maoists for their ideology and actions. Why do they take this confused road which shows neither courage nor conviction?

4) The stated purpose of the march is to end the ‘heavy loss of life of poor people, especially of adivasis’ arising out of the crossfire between the state and the Maoists. If this is so, it is a very serious matter. Can some details be provided to understand this, particularly since the extensive reports in the Indian People’s Tribunal did not confirm this? By repeating the sandwich theory, the advocates of this peace march have created a theory which satisfies the middle class distaste for violence and patronizing belief in the passivity of the poor. Why is it so hard to understand that the poor may not wish to conform to the middle class dictates of passivity?

5) How does Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) manage and synthesize these confusions mentioned above? It would be instructive to recall that when the December padayatra in Dantewada was planned here in Delhi (sometime in early November), the purpose of the padayatra was to visit the different villages which had been emptied out over the last few years. The purpose of the padayatra was to understand how people were coping in the present condition of operation green hunt. How does VCA forget its own initiatives?

6) We need to protest and protest peacefully. But over what? We need to protest against Operation Green Hunt, against Operation Mine Hunt, against Operation Land Grab. It is only then that peace can be meaningful.

The Independent People’s Tribunal Reveals the Underbelly of Indian “Development”

Deepankar Basu, MRZine

Organized by a collective of civil society groups, social movements, progressive academics, social activists, and concerned citizens, the recently concluded Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab, and Operation Green Hunt in New Delhi offers a unique perspective into contemporary Indian reality.  While the national and international media talk profusely about the unprecedented growth of the Indian economy, as measured by growth of the gross domestic product, it shies away from looking at the underlying costs of that growth: increasing inequality, forced displacement and dispossession of the already vulnerable, growing social tensions, and a rapidly growing State terror.  The IPT, by giving space to different activist voices from the grassroots, offers a much-needed alternative perspective on the growth process, a view, in a sense, of the dark underbelly of current-day Indian "development."

Running for three days, from April 9 to April 11, the IPT heard accounts of diverse grassroots activists from the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, and Jharkhand, the theater of an insidious war — nicknamed Operation Green Hunt (OGH) — that the Indian State has launched against its own people.  Supplementing activist accounts and testimonies of witnesses with critical insights and advice of social scientists, journalists, legal experts, former government functionaries, and human rights activists, the people’s jury of the IPT made its opinion known through its interim observations and recommendations, the most urgent of which was to stop OGH and initiate a process of dialogue with the local population in the affected areas.1  Other recommendations included: immediately stopping all compulsory acquisition of agricultural or forest land and the forced displacement of the tribal people; making the details of all the memorandum of understanding (MOUs) signed for mining, mineral, and power projects known to the public; stop victimizing and harassing dissenters of the government’s policies; withdraw all paramilitary and police forces from schools and hospitals; constitute an Empowered Citizen’s Commission to investigate and recommend action against persons responsible for human rights violations of the tribal communities.2

Why has the Indian State launched OGH?  Why was the IPT organized?  Who participated in the deliberations of the IPT?  To address such questions, and therefore to understand the true import of the IPT, we need to step back a little and locate the ongoing war in the context of the political economy of contemporary India.

The Context

The announcement of the IPT and the interim observations of the people’s jury set out the context in clear-cut terms.  The neoliberal turn in the economic policies pursued by the Indian State since the mid 1980s has, in line with similar experiences in the rest of the world, spelt unmitigated disaster for the vast masses of the country.  While a small section of the population has increased its income, wealth, and social power at unimaginable speed and to preposterous levels, the majority of the population has continued to live in absolute poverty, marked by widespread hunger, malnutrition, and lack of access to even the most basic health and educational infrastructure necessary to guarantee a decent standard of living.

In 2009, India had 52 billionaires, about double the corresponding number in 2007.  The wealthiest Indian, Mukesh Ambani, has a net worth of $ 32 billion; the combined net worth of the richest 100 Indians in 2009 was US$ 276 billion.  On the other side of the social pyramid, about 77 per cent of Indians spent less than $2 (in PPP terms) on daily consumption expenditure in 2004-05 and roughly 80 per cent of Indian households did not have access to safe drinking water.

Not only has the neoliberal economic paradigm meant increasing disparities; it has also meant dispossession and pauperization for already vulnerable sections of the population, noted the interim observation of the people’s jury.  This is because a key component of the neoliberal paradigm in India has been the attempt to foster unprecedented levels of State-assisted resource grab by big Indian and foreign capital.  What a Ministry of Rural Development report itself termed the biggest resource grab since the time of Columbus, has gradually encompassed arable (often extremely fertile and multi-cropped) land, forest land, mineral resources, and water and has resulted in forcibly cutting off access of the poor and marginalized sections to virtually all forms of common property resources.  Coming on top of the five-decade-long "development disaster" of the Indian state, this forcible exclusion from access to common property resources has increased the economic vulnerability of the poor to unprecedented levels.

The current phase of this unprecedented resource grab has been concentrated primarily in the forested regions of Central India, stretching from Chhattisgarh all the way to Jharkhand and West Bengal, which house enormous amounts of mineral resources like iron ore and bauxite.  Big corporate houses with interests in mining, minerals, and power industries like Tata, Essar, Vedanta, POSCO, and others have lined up to appropriate these resources for quick economic gains, paying least attention to the enormous environmental and human costs inherent in their ventures.  The state governments have welcomed these corporate houses with open arms by signing unknown numbers of memorandum of understandings (MOUs) whose details have not been made public, despite repeated requests by activists and the local population.

But the forested regions of Central India house not only mineral resources corporate capital is desperately after; the region is also home to a large section of the roughly 100-million-strong indigenous population, referred to as adivasis, of the country.  To get at the resources, the tribal population needs to be moved, the area needs to be vacated; in Chattisgarh, according to some reports, 300,000 adivasis have already been forcibly displaced, some of whom have moved into the bordering state of Andhra Pradesh and while others have fled into the forests.  That is the source of the current conflict: the Indian State, acting clearly in the interests of corporate capital, have decided to forcibly drive out the local indigenous population from this region.

The adivasi population, quite naturally, have resisted this move of the State, using all possible means at their disposal.  Drawing on the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which is especially devoted to delineating adivasi rights and laying out special provisions for their protection and endogenous development, adivasi activists have attempted to challenge the government’s move.  They have even taken recourse to the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act of 1996 and the Forest Rights Act of 2006, legislations — earned through years of arduous struggle — that have attempted to give more substance to the original impulse of the Fifth Schedule.

Instead of addressing the genuine grievances of indigenous population facing forcible displacement and dispossession, the State has, in flagrant violation of the letter and intent of the Indian Constitution, cracked down on their legitimate protests.  Peaceful resistance movements across this region have been met with police brutality and the military might of the State, forcing, in turn, the arming of the resistance movement.  State-assisted vigilante groups like the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh and Harmad Bahini in West Bengal were the first response of the state to the armed resistance of the adivasis.  When that failed, Operation Green Hunt, a further escalation and militarization of the State’s response, took shape.  That, in brief, is the context in which the IPT was organized.

The Participants and the Discussion

Mindful of this ominous context and after hearing the testimonies of participants from various corners of the country, the distinguished people’s jury — comprising former justices H. Suresh and P. B. Sawant, scientist and former member of the National Security Council P. M. Bhargava, former UGC chairman Professor Yash Pal, former chairperson of the National Commission for Women Mohini V. Giri, and retired IPS officer Dr. K. S. Subramanian — recommended stopping OGH and the compulsory acquisition of agricultural or forested land, making details of all MOUs public, and rehabilitating all displaced adivasis.3

While the inaugural address was presented by noted environmental activist Vandana Shiva, the people’s jury was introduced by well-known advocate Prashant Bhushan.  The inaugural session also saw presentations by Mr. S. P. Shukla and Dr. B D Sharma, a retired civil servant and ex-chairman of the SC/ST Commission.  The latter, in particular, drew attention, based on years of ground-level activism in tribal areas across the country, to the utter and long-term failure of the Indian State to uphold the rights of indigenous people as a result of violations of provisions guaranteed by the Fifth Schedule, the PESA Act of 1996, and the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

The second part of the first day focused on the current situation in Chhattisgarh marked by atrocities of the police and Sulwa Judum SPOs (members of a brutal State-supported vigilante group), regular torture, killing, rape, interrogation, and illegal detention for being alleged Maoist supporters.  Speakers included lawyer and human rights activist Sudha Bharadwaj of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, human rights activist Goldy M. George, Gandhian acivist Himanshu Kumar (whose Ashram was demolished by the administration in Chhattisgarh), world-renowned doctor and activist Binayak Sen (who had been jailed for two years in Chhatisgarh without any charges), and democratic activist Harish Dhawan of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, and Lingaram, who had himself been tortured and forced to join the Salwa Judum.

The second day of the IPT saw presentations from Jharkhand and West Bengal.  Speakers on the Jharkhand session included: Dr. Alex Ekka, Prem Varma, James Topo, tribal rights activist Gladson Dungdung, Dr. Bani from the Azadi Bachao Andolan, Radha Krishna Munda from the Jharkhand Jungle Bacha Andolan.  Speakers at the West Bengal session included human rights activist Sujato Bhadra of the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, activist and academic Partho Sarathi Ray of Sanhati, and grassroots activists Montu Lal and Gajen Singh.

Running through all the days of the proceedings, there was also discussion about the attempts to silence every form of dissent, as part of the OGH, in urban areas, by clamping down especially on dissenting voices of urban activists who are opposing the neoliberal policies of the government.  Activist Abhijnan from West Bengal, Sujato Bhadra of the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, and Kavita Srivastava of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties spoke specifically about incidents of arrests, detentions, and human rights violations including denial of the right of activists to medical treatment while in custody (often under draconian laws).

The third and final day saw presentations on Orissa — with the main speakers being activist Praful Samantra, Abhay Sahu of the anti-POSCO movement, and Lingaraj Azad — and critical interventions by several eminent personalities including writer and activist Arundhati Roy, journalist Shoma Chaudhury, Bianca Jagger, Arun Aggarwal, civil rights activist Kavita Srivastava, and Advocate Shanti Bhushan.  The IPT ended with the presentation of the interim observations and recommendations of the people’s jury.

What Is the Message?

All the presentations, though differing in terms of details, drew attention to two closely related facts.  First, the current process of growth and "development" in India rests crucially on the forced displacement and dispossession of a sizable section of the indigenous population and peasantry; this process has key resemblance to what Marx had termed the primitive accumulation of capital.  Second, any and every resistance to this State-assisted displacement and dispossession is met with military force, again harking back to the brutalities of primitive accumulation in England.  Forced displacement, dislocation, and dispossession of the already vulnerable, systematic violations of their rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and an attack on any form of dissent which challenges the State’s policies are, thus, the festering wounds on the stinking underbelly of the current phase of Indian "development."  This is probably what the proceedings of the Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab, and Operation Green Hunt wanted to draw the attention of the world that is so enamored with Indian economic growth.

But will the government heed the advice of the IPT?  If past experience is anything to go by, the depressing answer is a resounding no.  People’s tribunals are regularly organized the world over to highlight important social, economic, and political issues that affect the lives of ordinary people.  India has also witnessed people’s tribunals in the past, the results of which have not only been totally ignored by the State but have even been used to harass their organizers.

Running for four days in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in September 2007, the Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank Group in Asia heard testimonies about the damage done by the policies of the World Bank across 26 sectors of social and economic development in India.4  A thirteen-member panel consisting of international jurists, renowned economists, prominent scientists, retired government officials, and social and religious leaders found the World Bank guilty of harming the environment and lowering the standard of living for most Indians.5  The findings of the people’s jury were released as a report on September 11, 2008, a year after the tribunal’s proceedings.  Did the government change course because of the recommendations of the jury?  My guess is as good as anybody else’s.

An even more outrageous case is the recent harassment and intimidation of human rights activists for highlighting the issue of custodial torture by the police.  Kirity Roy, Secretary of the Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) — a human rights organization in West Bengal — was arrested by the Kolkata police on 7 April 2010, and later released on bail, for organizing a People’s Tribunal on Torture on the June 9-10, 2008 in Kolkata.6  Instead of applauding the work of organizations like MASUM, who are doing public service by highlighting human rights violations of ordinary citizens, the move to arrest its activists and harass them in all possible ways tells a lot about the real intentions of the government.  While both Human Rights Watch7 and Amnesty International8 have demanded that the Indian government drop all charges against Kirity Roy and others involved in organizing the People’s Tribunal on Torture, it is doubtful that the government will heed this sage advice unless pressured by citizens’ campaigns.

Given the absolutely negative attitude of the government in dealing with dissent of any kind, it is doubtful that it will heed the advice of the jury at the Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab, and Operation Green Hunt and call off its war on the tribal people.  If this be so, then it must also take note of the warning that the IPT ended its interim observations with:

Even peaceful activists opposing these violent actions of the State against the tribals are being targeted by the State and victimized.  This has led to a total alienation of the people from the State as well as their loss of faith in the government and the security forces.  The Government — both at the Centre and in the States — must realize that its above-mentioned actions, combined with total apathy, could very well be sowing the seeds of a violent revolution demanding justice and rule of law that would engulf the entire country.  We should not forget the French, Russian and American history, leave aside our own.


1  "Independent Tribunal Wants Operation Green Hunt to Stop," Indian Express, 12 April 2010.

2  "’Stop Operation Green Hunt,’"The Hindu, 13 April 2010.

3  Announcements, daily press releases, and the text of the jury’s interim observations and recommendations can be found on alternative media forums like Sanhati and Radical Notes.

4  "Independent People’s Tribunal on World Bank Gets Underway in Delhi," Bank Information Center, 22 September 2007.

5  "Independent People’s Tribunal Report Charges World Bank," BanglaPraxis, 29 October 2009.

6  "Kolkata — Prominent Human Rights Activist Kirity Roy Arrested," Sanhati.

7 "India: End Harassment of West Bengal Activist," Human Rights Watch, 9 April 2010.

8  "India: Government of West Bengal Must Drop False Charges against Activists Campaigning against Torture," Amnesty International, 9 April 2010.


I would like to thank Partho Sarathi Ray and Pinaki Chaudhury for useful comments on an earlier version of this article.

Deepankar Basu is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Courtesy: MRZine

Interim Observations and Recommendations of the IPT Jury, 11th April 2010

Independent People’s Tribunal on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab and Operation Green Hunt: Interim Observations of the Jury, 11th April 2010

The jury heard the testimonies of a large number of witnesses over three days from the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa as well as some expert witnesses on land acquisition, mining and human rights violations of Operation Green Hunt. The immediate observations of the Jury are as follows:

Tribal communities represent a substantial and important proportion of Indian population and heritage. Not even ten countries in the world have more people than we have tribals in India. Not only are they crucial components of the country’s human biodiversity, which is greater than in the rest of the world put together, but they are also an important source of social, political and economic wisdom that would be currently relevant and can give India an edge. In addition, they understand the language of Nature better than anyone else, and have been the most successful custodian of our environment, including forests. There is also a great deal to learn from them in areas as diverse as art, culture, resource management, waste management, medicine and metallurgy. They have been also far more humane and committed to universally accepted values than our urban society.

It is clear that the country has been witnessing gross violation of the rights of the poor, particularly tribal rights, which have reached unprecedented levels since the new economic policies of the 90’s. The 5th Schedule rights of the tribals, in particular the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and the Forest Rights Act have been grossly violated. These violations have now gone to the extent where fully tribal villages have been declared to be non-tribal. The entire executive and judicial administration appear to have been totally apathetic to their plight.

The development model which has been adopted and which is sharply embodied in the new economic policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization, have led in recent years to a huge drive by the state to transfer resources, particularly land and forests which are critical for the livelihood and the survival of the tribal people, to corporations for exploitation of mineral resources, SEZs and other industries most of which have been enormously destructive to the environment. These industries have critically polluted water bodies, land, trees, plants, and have had a devastating impact on the health and livelihoods of the people. The consultation with the Gram Sabhas required by the PESA Act has been rendered a farce as has the process of Environment Impact Assessment of these industries. This has resulted in leaving the tribals in a state of acute malnutrition and hunger which has pushed them to the very brink of survival. It could well be the severest indictment of the State in the history of democracy anywhere, on account of the sheer number of people (tribals) affected and the diabolic nature of the atrocities committed on them by the State, especially the police, leave aside the enormous and irreversible damage to the environment. It is also a glaring example of corruption – financial, intellectual and moral – sponsored and/or abetted by the State, that characterizes today’s India, cutting across all party lines.

Peaceful resistance movements of tribal communities against their forced displacement and the corporate grab of their resources is being sought to be violently crushed by the use of police and security forces and State and corporate funded and armed militias. The state violence has been accentuated by Operation Green Hunt in which a huge number of paramilitary forces are being used mostly on the tribals. The militarization of the State has reached a level where schools are occupied by security forces.

Even peaceful activists opposing these violent actions of the State against the tribals are being targeted by the State and victimized. This has led to a total alienation of the people from the State as well as their loss of faith in the government and the security forces. The Government – both at the Centre and in the States – must realize that it’s above-mentioned actions, combined with total apathy, could very well be sowing the seeds of a violent revolution demanding justice and rule of law that would engulf the entire country. We should not forget the French, Russian and American history, leave aside our own.


1. Stop Operation Green Hunt and start a dialogue with the local people.

2. Immediately stop all compulsary acquisition of agricultural or forest land and the forced displacement of the tribal people.

3. Declare the details of all MOUs, industrial and infrastructural projects proposed in these areas and freeze all MOUs and leases for non-agricultural use of such land, which the Home Minister has proposed.

4. Rehabilitate and reinstate the tribals forcibly displaced back to their land and forests.

5. Stop all environmentally destructive industries as well as those on land acquired without the consent of the Gram Sabhas in these areas.

6. Withdraw the paramilitary and police forces from schools and health centres which must be effectuated with adequate teachers and infrastructure.

7. Stop victimizing dissenters and those who question the actions of the State.

8. Replace the model of development which is exploitative, environmentally destructive, iniquitous and not suitable for the country by a completely different model which is participatory, gives importance to agriculture and the rural sector, and respects equity and the environment.

9. It must be ensured that all development, especially use of land and natural resources, is with the consent and participation of the Tribal communities as guaranteed by the Constitution. Credible Citizen’s Commissions must be constituted to monitor and ensure this.

10. Constitute an Empowered Citizen’s Commission to investigate and recommend action against persons responsible for human rights violations of the tribal communities. This Commission must also be empowered to ensure that tribals actually receive the benefit of whatever government schemes exist for them.

The Independent People’s Tribunal took place from 9th – 11th April, 2010, at the Constitution Club, New Delhi. This was organized by a collective of civil society groups, social movements, activists, academics and concerned citizens in the country. The people’s jury, comprising of Hon’ble Justice P. B. Sawant, Justice H. Suresh, Professor Yash Pal, Dr. V. Mohini Giri, Dr. P. M. Bhargava, and Dr. K.S. Subramanian heard testimonies from the affected people, social activists and experts from Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal.

For more information, please contact: Sherebanu 9953466107; Purnima 9711178868

Independent People’s Tribunal (Final Day)

The Independent People’s Tribunal concluded today with the jury comprising of Justice (Retd.) Sawant, Justice (Retd.) Suresh, Professor Yash Pal, Dr. P. M. Bhargava, Dr. Mohini Giri and Dr. K S Subramanian presenting an interim recommendation report to the public, Government and the media on the issues of on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab and Operation Green Hunt. The interim report was drafted by the jury members after three days of deliberations and hearings of depositions and testimonies from affected people and activists from the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa.

Presenting the recommendations of the jury before the media, public and Government, Justice (Retd.) Sawant said “There is a perception within the Goivernment and media that by organising meetings like the IPT, we, everyone present in this room are supporting the Maoists and the death of the 76 CRPF jawans. Let me clarify this position for once and for all: We are not supporting the Maoists. We do not support violence in any form, State or otherwise. We here are discussing problems of the tribals and the crisis that is pushing people to a brink of desperation and escalating the cycle of violence.” It is clear that the state had let the tribals and the poor of this land down. Instead of restoring their faith in the Constitution of India, its judiciay and its spirit, the Government asked for abjuring of violence. “Are these morals only to be remembered in such times, and to be forgotten when atrocities are committed by the state itself?” Dr. P M Bhargava noted that the civil society needs to stand resolute in resisting the current development paradigm and that the case of the BT Brinjal was a case in point for small victories of the people. “The patience of the masses is running out if some serious rethinking is not.” Dr. Mohini Giri lamented on the fact that the Government took no notice of People’s Tribunals like these and recommendations that emanated from it. She criticised the Government for their lack of understanding of the issues that were affecting people and implored them to do so immediately.

The interim report of the Jury states “gross violation of the rights of the poor, particularly tribal rights, which have reached unprecedented levels since the new economic policies of the 90’s. The 5th Schedule rights of the tribals, in particular the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and the Forest Rights Act have been grossly violated. These violations have now gone to the extent where fully tribal villages have been declared to be non-tribal. The entire executive and judicial administration appears to have been totally apathetic to their plight. It could well be the severest indictment of the State in the history of democracy anywhere, on account of the sheer number of people (tribals) affected and the diabolic nature of the atrocities committed on them by the State, especially the police, leave aside the enormous and irreversible damage to the environment. (Attached is the interim jury report).

The first session of the day took stock of the situation in Orissa with regards to industrial and mining projects, land acquisition and people’s resistance movements against such displacement, disposession. Addressed by activists Praveen Patel, Praful Samantra, Abhay Sahu and photographer Sanjit Das, the narratives pointed out to how corporate greed colluding with government officials was bleeding out the tribals. Praveen Patel presented a paper on the ‘Political Economy of Mining’ and pointed out that under the current policy, foreign companies were getting away with virtual robbery, taking huge profits, paying very little in taxes and in fact exacting a huge price from the poor (especially tribals) who are displaced and who suffer severe health and livelihood impacts from the rampant pollution.

The problematic exploitation of iron and bauxite ore was further highlighted in Praful Samantra’s talk. For example, the sites containing the most bauxite ore are located atop mountains and correspond to the sources of numerous streams. Mining the ores amounts to ruining the water supply for the adivasis living in the area, while leaving the company with zero liability. Protests are suppressed in a manner similar to that seen in other states: “…in the last year 14 people have been shot dead. In the last 6 months, villagers have been banned from leaving their areas, even to go to the hospital. In September 2009, 30 innocent villagers were put in jail and branded as Maoists. We went there and fought for them because they were innocent. The administration assured us that they would be released but they are still in jail now. Their families are starving now.”

Abhay Sahu, a leader of the Anti-POSCO movement, spoke about the situation on ground. Local people have been protesting the proposed port project, to be built by POSCO which would ruin the lucrative beetle vine cultivation as well as destroy the livelihood of lakhs of fishermen. He testified on the intimidation tactics used by the State-company nexus to kill the protests: “On 29 November 2007, state and company goons set fire to a village in my area. They occupied all schools and building in the area. When people started fighting back, the police had to abandon their posts.”

Lingaraj Azad, a tribal rights activist, talked about the delicate balance of nature in Niyamgiri, Orissa where the Dhongria Kondh tribe has dwelled for centuries. The Niyamgiri hill is under threat from Vedanta Resources for its bauxite reserves. “We have abundant herbs and trees. In the hills, there are 8000-9000 people in 200 villages. These people know nature and nature knows them. Soil, earth, water, trees—these are regarded as God and prayed to. They have no material possessions except Nature and all of it. There is no concept of private property, it is all for common use”. The Niyamgiri mining project has been receiving international media attention after the human-rights violations at Vedanta mining sites were made public.

Ajit Bhattacharjea, a journalist, stressed that lands in tribal areas were community property and did not belong to the State. Handing these lands to corporates needed to stop. Banwari Lal Sharma appealed to the politicians: “We need to spread a message of peace and make these politicians understand that we are not their enemies but we are all friends. When they sell away the country they are selling away parts of themselves.”

The session after break saw several eminent personalities addressing the audience, including Arundhati Roy, Shoma Chaudhury, Bianca Jagger, Arun Aggarwal, Kavita Srivastava and Advocate Shanti Bhushan. Arun Aggarwal presented a well researched paper on the Economics of Mining. According to him, revenue from mining activities to the state accounted for a measly 1.4% of total profits while the rest was pocketed by the corporation. The politics of mining was so complicated and corrupt that the nexus could be tracked between the corporations, politicians and police. For him, the fact that the ultra left movement was situated in areas of mineral wealth concentration, mining activities and displacement of people was a point of great importance and not to be ignored. He recommended that all mining activity should be conducted by Government owned enterprises so that the profits could be distributed more equitably. Shanti Bhushan, in a surprise address, asked the civil society to not remain silent but condemn violent acts by Maoists. Accepting the fact that tribals had been exploited for years, he added that civil society’s silence on condemning the recent carnage was being perceived as their support of Maoist violence. “How can you accept an armed resistance and overthrow of the State with violence? What is the agenda of the Maoists? If they mean well, then why don’t they give up arms and participate in elections? Let it be all done in the open.” Shoma Chaudhury, Editor-Features, Tehelka spoke on the role of the media and accepted that the debates and discussions on television channels were resolutely and sadly binary. The discussions on these topics needed to be made more complex, because they required a combination of solutions. “Keeping out perspectives – whether the Government’s, Civil Society’s or the general public will only narrow down the discourse on these complex problems that we find ourselves in. This exclusion in itself is a very dangerous trend and needs to be arrested”. She added “There is no place for violence in a democracy. Agreed. However, did democracy exist in the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa? Democracy does not only mean election. The judiciary, police, forest officials and magistrates all represent India’s democratic structure and it is these very institutions that have failed the people.” Bianca Jagger, returning from a visit to Orissa, spoke about her experience with the Dongria Kondh tribe. She said that despite being a foreigner she related to the problem of India’s tribals. Her experience of having worked as a human rights activist in Latin and Central America shows that indigenous communities everywhere are being pressurised by the current development paradigm. Saying that there is a lot to be learnt from indigenous communities and their ecologically sustainable lifestyle, she added “I request the Government of India to retrospect into why there is an armed insurrection to begin with?”. Arundhati Roy began by asking a very poignant question “Does the government want war or peace?”. In the current context of anti-maoist operations and rampant industrial activity that was displacing people, she said “it seems to me that war is a synonym for creating an ideal investment climate.” According to her, in the 1970’s and 80’s, democracy was the single largest threat to imperialist, capitalist western nations, who overthrew democracies in Latin America. Now however war is being in Afghanistan and Iraq to install democracy and all its associated institutions. She questioned the nature of democracy, as it existed today, saying that “democracy and democratic institutions have been reduced to being vessels of Free Market Capitalism”.

For more information, please contact: Sherry 9953466107; Purnima 971178868

Independent People’s Tribunal (Day 2)

Social Scientists, Experts and Adivasi representatives depose before the Jury;
Testimonies on Land Grab and Government/Corporate Atrocities in Jharkhand and West Bengal

A poignant session (9.4.2010) on Chhattisgarh and the situation of adivasis was presented at the Independent Peoples Tribunal on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab and Operation Green Hunt on 9.4.2010. This was followed by a second session focusing on two other states (where the Operation Green Hunt has recently commenced) with presentations and depositions on 10.4.2010. Speakers from Jharkhand and Orissa testified on numerous violations of laws, relating to land acquisition, tribal protection, pollution, and other violations of the Indian Constitution by corporations and the state governments.

At the Jharkhand session, several eminent speakers, including academics and leaders of popular resistance movements spoke about the situation of displacement, resistance and the looming threat of Operation Green Hunt recently commenced in Jharkhand as well. Prem Verma, spoke about the strength of the movements that have powerful grassroots support and have been largely successful in their struggles to keep their land.

Dr. Alex Ekka, spoke on the umbilical relationship between tribals and their forests. He said: “Our worldview is cosmocentric. Every being has a place in this worldview, whether it is a rock, a bird, or a person. This is the worldview that will lead to a sustainable and peaceful life on what we adivasis call our Mother Earth.”

James Topo spoke emphatically on the pathetic state of education in tribal areas. The content of textbooks is completely irrelevant to the needs and context of adivasi children with the content-writers unable or unwilling to grasp that difference. The failure of education is exploited by officials; an example was given of a land acquisition officer giving a cheque to a tribal, assuring him that it was only a record of their conversation.

Gladson Dungdung, a tribal rights activist spoke on the atrocities on civilians in the name of Operation Green Hunt in Jharkhand since March 2010. Adivasis in the area are experiencing this operation in the form of harassment, detention, looting and beating. The result, as it is being manifested now, and only likely to grow, is that the village economy has ground to a complete halt, threatening the delicate balance of sustenance on which the adivasis survive. Fear has set it, villagers are unwilling to go into the forest to collect minor forest produce, rural markets are empty and all democratic space for protest has been closed to the adivasis. Migration out of the forest has commenced. Gladson Dungdung stated: “Operation Green Hunt is not for cleansing Maoists but for establishing corporate houses in the mineral corridor, which was labeled the Red corridor only after the State realized that corporations were not signing MoUs for certain areas where protest was likely. The adivasis will never give their land – we tell the steel corporations that we don’t want to eat steel, we want to eat foodgrains.”

Dr. Bani of the Azadi Bachao Andolan spoke of the many hurdles faced in the successful struggle to stop the huge NTPC thermal power plant, which would have ruined thousands of acres of prime agricultural land. Most members of the Andolan have at least 10 false cases booked and pending against them. He spoke of the farce that is the public hearing for approval of projects. Hearings scheduled say, for 6th April at a distance of 20 km from the site of construction (in violation of the law) get secretively held on the 5th April, 11pm, to dissuade people from attending and participating (sited from a real 2009 incident).

Dr Bani also mentioned demonstrated alternatives to power production (touted as a mode of development) for example, where the government wants to buy land with mineral resources worth 40-60 crore/acre for a pittance from farmers, ABA have instead started small power plants, fully owned by the villagers, which utilize the local coal resources to power 50-60 households and all revenues would be split evenly between the villagers. He stressed on importance of development that was locally imagined and with locals benefitting and deciding on operations and economics.

Radha Krishna Munda of the Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan spoke of ground realities in the implementation (or lack thereof) of the Forest Rights Act in Jharkhand. Additionally he talked of the harassment that adivasis and popular movements are facing. “An atmosphere of suspicion and intimidation has been created” he said – instead of implementing the Forest Rights Act, the nexus of police, civil administration and Forest Department is actively conniving with corporations to illegally give away adivasi land.

The West Bengal session saw a re-presentation of protests and peoples movements consistently dubbed Maoist in the past, Lalgarh being an example. Local activists and leaders of peoples’ movements are being branded as Maoists, a common thread that was also seen in the testimonies from Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Sujato Bhadro talked about the grave situation in Lalgarh, where a day after the Chief Ministers convoy was blown up, the police attacked villages 40 km away and mistreated the villagers. A village woman’s eyes were brutally gorged in the attack, another miscarried her baby. Currently, joint forces in the “affected areas” run amok, in violation of Constitution of India and international norms to which India is a signatory. People are being abducted, not produced in 24 hours and night raids are being conducted. In an unprecedented move, the entire area of Lalgarh has been governed under Section 144 of the CRPC since 17th June 2009.

Anup Mandal, a marathon runner at the national level, spoke of being beaten by the police despite protesting about his lack of any Maoist connection and had to be recognised and rescued by a journalist after considerable damage. He was confined to bed for 4 months, putting an end to his dreams of competing at the international level. He said: “I want the SP to be held responsible; as it was due to him that my life was ruined.”

Montu Lal and Gajen Singh, activists, also testified on atrocities in Lalgarh. Government has set aside funds for Joint Forces and for the Harmat Vahini but there is no funding for the poor. People have evacuated the villages and the paramilitary forces have taken measures that seem to be designed to take vengeance on people – such as polluting village wells and forcibly recruit people for petty work. “It feels like these are actions of a foreign occupying force”.

The Independent People’s Tribunal will continue from 9th – 11th April, 2010, at the Constitution Club, New Delhi. This is organized by a collective of civil society groups, social movements, activists, academics and concerned citizens in the country.

For more information, please contact: Sherry 9953466107; Purnima 971178868

Independent People’s Tribunal (Day 1)

Press Release: 9th April, 2010

9th – 11th April, 2010, Constitution Club, New Delhi

Stop structural violence against adivasis

Stop destructive development and restore the faith of the adivasis in the Indian Constitution

The Independent People’s Tribunal on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab and Operation Green Hunt, organized by Citizen’s against Forced Displacement and War on People, kicked-off today to a packed hall, consisting of students, academics, activists and the media. The Independent People’s Tribunal is being held in New Delhi, Constitution Club.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, well-renowned environmental activist presented the inaugural address and spoke about the “urgent need to develop democratic spaces”, such as the IPT. She said “the complex issues related land acquisition, mining and exploitation of the tribals as well as mechanisms of state suppression need to be discussed in a open manner by concerned individuals and intellectuals without the threat of arrest”. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, continuing in a similar vein, referred to the mining mafia that was bleeding the nation of its resources. According to him “rampant mining is displacing adivasis from their lands and leading to the ecological ruin of India’s forest land”. He questioned the logic of undertaking such activity ‘in public interest’ when 80% of the profits were pocketed by private companies, while people were left dispossessed and left to suffer health hazards. Mr. Bhushan then introduce the People’s Jury comprising of Hon’ble (Retd) Justice P. B. Sawant, Justice (Retd) H. Suresh, Dr. V. Mohini Giri, Professor Yash Pal, Dr. P. M. Bhargava and retired IPS officer Dr. K. S. Subramanian. (Jury Bios are attached at the end of the press note). The first session was also addressed by Mr. S P Shukla who spoke about the deep injustice being met out to the tribals and the unfair polarisation of the debate in the media and the state. He said that violence by the Maoists was representative of years of injustice suffered by the poor in these lands and that use of excessive force, clamping down on democratic spaces by arrests and detention of activists like Binayak Sen would only exacerbate the situation. He strongly recommended that the State should engage in widening the discussion on the issue if it wanted to solve it. Dr. B D Sharma, a retired civil servant and ex-chairman of the SC/ST Commission, Bastar spoke about the continuous denial of rights of the tribals by the state – in the form of violations of the Vth Schedule of the Constitution, Panchayati (Extension) to Schedule Areas, Forests Rights Act.

Day 1 of the Independent People’s Tribunal focussed on the current situation in Chhattisgarh. Sudha Bhardwaj, lawyer and labour rights activist, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha deposed on the intricate nexus between the State and Corporations in expropriating the land for industrial and mining purpose. She deposed on the ground situation in Chhattisgarh where in gross violation of the PESA Act, gram sabhas were being manipulated to take decisions on land use and sale, against collective community decision-making process. According to Sudha the scale of corruption was enormous. The district officials were facilitating the transfer of tribal land, flouting all legal and procedural conduct. She recommended that there should be strict enforcement of the Forest Rights Act and procedures of granting environmental clearances. In all cases, corporate acquisition of tribal land was to be stopped to restore the faith of the tribals in the State. Goldy M George, rights activist in Chhattisgarh also reiterated the corporate land grab and pointed out to the number of secret MOUs that were being signed, without adequate public consultation. Activists in these areas were being targeted by insidious campaigns by the State and corporates. The politics of alienation of the tribals was part of a larger strategy to use the politics of genocide in the game of Power. Harish Dhawan, human rights activist, Peoples Union for Democratic Rights spoke about the terror unleshed by the Salwa Judum and its role in the current operations.

The second part of the session focused on narratives by tribals, from the state of Chhattisgarh. The general narratives were different in details but similar in the pattern – atrocities by the police and Sulwa Judum SPOs; torture, interrogation and illegal detention for being an alleged ‘naxal’ supporter. Lingaram who was tortured and forced to join the Judum spoke about how the Gram Panchayats were mute to the cause of the tribals, and in fact, detrimental to their existence. He questioned the enormous amount of money spent since independence on the ‘welfare plans’ for the tribals and the lack of any progress in this regard. Lamenting on the lack of education and health services, he said that tribals needed development on their terms and not of the kind that was being enforced upon them from all quarters. Himanshu Kumar, Gandhian activist, spoke about the advisory, legal and rehabilitation support provided by the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram to the tribals and the consequent attempts by the state to squash the same by terrorizing villagers. Dr. Binayak Sen, offered a different perspective on structural violence that is embedded in the treatment meted out to the tribals. According to him, statistics on malnutrition revealed a severe hunger crisis and are emblematic of the neglect that these regions had been subjected to for long. He derided the state for using the development rhetoric when masses were dying of hunger and malaria.

The Independent People’s Tribunal will continue from 9th – 11th April, 2010, at the Constitution Club, New Delhi. This is organized by a collective of civil society groups, social movements, activists, academics and concerned citizens in the country.

For more information, please contact: Sherbanu (9953466107); Purnima 9711178868

Independent People’s Tribunal

Land Acquisition, Resource Grab and Operation Green Hunt
9-11 April 2010, Speaker’s Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi

Central India is home to the Adivasis and Dalits, India’s first people. It is also home to the richest concentration of natural resources in the country. Today, as powerful Indian and global corporations race each other to gain control of the land, water, forest and mineral wealth of the region, this natural wealth has become a curse to these indigenous but marginalised communities. What comes between corporate greed and natural resources are the tribals asserting their customary rights, right to life and livelihood, as well as their constitutional rights over the same natural resources. Corrupt corporations, joining hands with corrupt states, are helping destroy India’s vibrant natural heritage and mineral wealth. Human rights abuses by police, paramilitary forces and state-sponsored militia are spreading in the name of Operation Green Hunt, which seems to make it a war against the very citizens it promises to protect. A virtual information blockade prevents information from coming out of states like Chhattisgarh which are bearing the brunt of Operation Green Hunt. Our country needs to know the truth about such a massive war against our own people. That is why an Independent People’s Tribunal, consisting of eminent jury members, has been called to hear testimonies from affected people, deliberate and submit a report on the matter to the public.

The heartlands of India are the lungs of the country as they are part of a vital ecosystem comprising of the water cycle and the forests that produce oxygen. They also comprise of the rich agricultural lands. For centuries, the indigenous communities have fought against the greed of the forest and timber mafia in order to conserve these forests and the rich mineral wealth within them.

However, with the opening up of the global market, the pressure on the State to hand over most of these areas to global corporations for mining and other ‘industrial’ purposes has increased. Private companies, both domestic and foreign— Arcelor Mittal, Jindal, Essar, Posco, Tata, and Vedanta, to name but a few – are taking advantage of the opportunity thus presented. This worldview of ‘Development and Globalisation’ has also become the mantra that is threatening people’s rights to land, resources and livelihood. The Adivasis are being forced out of their own homes and villages, where their communities have lived for thousands of years. This violation of the democratic and constitutional rights of indigenous communities has led to the present situation of conflicts.

The vicious systemic violence is being taken to a new level by using military and paramilitary forces through Operation Green Hunt. The UPA government’s last election victory has emboldened Home Minister P. Chidambaram to arm-twist state governments into participating in Operation Green Hunt. Independent sources acknowledge that more than 100,000 paramilitary/police personnel armed to the teeth have been mobilized against the poorest of the poor. Air force, helicopter gunships, military trainers, special forces units etc. are on the roll in several Indian states since November 2009. With even independent journalists being barred from entering conflict zones, only government versions of violence and military operations are being released to the media and the public. While the state justification for Operation Green Hunt is an attack on the Maoists, it is evident that the brunt of this war and hunt will be borne by the Adivasis.

Citizens and civil rights groups who have voiced concerns against Operation Green Hunt are being labelled as ‘Naxal sympathizers’ and are being arrested. Journalists are being blocked from entering the impacted areas to investigate these brutalities. Unless stopped, this is likely to lead to an unending cycle of violence which could lead to genocide of the Adivasis and a civil war-like situation in many parts of the country.

It is in this context that an Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) on these issues is being organised by several individuals and groups, inviting a panel of eminent jurists, administrative service personnel, social scientists and writers. The people’s jury will hear testimonies from the affected people, social activists and experts working in these areas. The authorities would also be invited to participate and present their viewpoint. The tribunal will conduct its hearings on the 9th, 10th and 11th of April 2010 at the Constitution Club, New Delhi.

Why IPT?

The Independent or Indian People’s Tribunal (IPT) has, through earlier hearings, gained acceptance in the country as a means for civil society groups to present an issue of immense public concern before an impartial and eminent group of jury members, whose report on the subject would be useful in educating and informing the people and mobilizing public opinion.

The present IPT focuses on a vital issue that could spell life or death for 80 million indigenous people of our country. The IPT will focus on the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, which are bearing the brunt of Operation Green Hunt. In particular, it will examine human rights abuses, forcible acquisition of Adivasi land as well as the looting of land, water, forest and mineral wealth in these areas.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Every individual needs to stand up to defend our common natural heritage as well as the constitutional rights of our indigenous people.

As Martin Niemöller said:

“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

When the government puts corporate interests ahead of constitutional law, suppresses free speech and victimizes those who it is meant to protect, every single citizen’s freedom is at risk.
Speak now.

Organised by: Citizens against Forced Displacements and War on People
Endorsed by: ……………………………….…………………………………………

Campaign Secretariat
6/6, Jangpura B, New Delhi

Sherebanu Frosh: +91-9953466107
Abhishek Jani: +91-9899111320
K. Madhuresh: +91-9818905316.

Singhitarai Project: NEAA creates history

Rahul Choudhary

When the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) has dismissed all the cases (except one in the Polavaram dam case in 2007) filed before it in past 13 years, one cannot expect anything when you approach it but another dismissal. The NEAA is the sole statutory body to challenge the environmental clearances granted to the projects like mining, thermal power plant, hydroelectric projects etc. The authority is composed of a retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, one vice chairperson and three technical members. Interestingly for last eight years, there is no chairperson in the Authority and no vice chairperson for last six years, and the so-called technical members are all retired bureaucrats. Now there is only one member in the Authority who is deciding the Appeals against the grant of environmental clearances.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) granted environmental clearance on August 17 2009 to the 1200MW Thermal Power Plant near village Singhitarai, District Janjgir-Champa, Chhattisgarh by M/s Athena Chhattisgarh Power Pvt. Ltd. The project was approved by the MoEF even after the process of public hearing was incomplete. At the time of public hearing, the presiding officer came to declare that the hearing is cancelled. Interesting part is that the Presiding officer said that the project proponent has not informed the public about the project in proper manner, and hence the public hearing is cancelled. But when minutes was prepared, it was recorded that the public hearing is cancelled due to the law and order problem because 400-500 people entered the public hearing place and started shouting slogan for cancelling the public hearing. As per the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, the expert committee recommending environment clearance has to do detailed scrutiny of outcome of public hearing. But in this case the Athena Power Ltd. manipulated the public hearing proceedings and must have influenced the expert committee as the owner of company is late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s family.

The granting of environmental clearance was challenged by Villagers of Singhitarai before the NEAA. The main issue of challenge was incomplete process of public hearing. Now the NEAA has only one member and is hearing all the cases. Taking the precedent of the NEAA, when case came up for hearing there was no expectation of relief even after such a blatant violation of the EIA Notification. After watching video recording of the public hearing, the member of the NEAA was convinced that the minutes of the public hearing is different from what has happened during the public hearing and the process of public hearing was incomplete.

In a surprise move, first time in the history of the NEAA, the member stayed the Thermal Power project. This sudden spur of prudence has left many bewildered and guessing, but this stay of the project on the reason of incomplete public participation process will have impact on conducting future public hearings. In the whole process of Environmental Clearances, the Public Hearing is the only stage where the affected person can participate in the decision making process.

Campaign against War on People

The Indian government intends to deploy 100,000 troops – ostensibly against Maoist insurgents – in 7 states in central and eastern India, including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, a vast area inhabited by tribal groups. Forces withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir (e.g. Rashtriya Rifles) and the Northeast are joining battalions of CRPF commandos, the ITBP, the CoBRA and the BSF, equipped with bomb trucks, bomb blankets, bomb baskets, and sophisticated new weaponry. Six IAF Mi-17 helicopters will provide air support to these ground forces, in which the IAF’s own special force, the Garuds, will participate. The actual strength of the intended targets of this massive action – the Maoist cadre – is believed to be no more than 20,000. Besides the dangers of any state offensive against any section of the people, the scale of the offensive suggests that the state is unable to distinguish the millions of tribals in this area from the Maoists, and has chosen the quick solution of war on the entire region. Several groups which are not Maoist – like the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Dantewada – have been clubbed with them and are being targeted. The basic question is, why is the state planning war against its most deprived, oppressed and impoverished populations?

Central India is rich in mineral wealth that is already being auctioned: Till September 2009, Rs 6,69,388 crore of investment had been pledged toward industry in the troubled areas—14 per cent of the total pledged investments in the country. All that stands between politicians/ big money bags and this wealth is the tribal people and their refusal to consent to their designs. Even constituent bodies of Indian state machinery acknowledge the gross failure of state in the tribal areas of the country in no uncertain terms. The Planning Commission Report on Social Discontent and Extremism, has clearly identified equity and justice issues relating to land, forced displacement and evictions, extreme poverty and social oppression, livelihood, malgovernance and police brutality as widespread in the region. The Approach Paper for the 11th Plan states:

Our practices regarding rehabilitation of those displaced from their land because of development projects are seriously deficient and are responsible for a growing perception of exclusion and marginalisation. The costs of displacement borne by our tribal population have been unduly high, and compensation has been tardy and inadequate, leading to serious unrest in many tribal regions. This discontent is likely to grow exponentially if the benefits from enforced land acquisition are seen accruing to private interests, or even to the state, at the cost of those displaced.

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution grants tribals complete rights over their traditional land and forests and prohibits private companies from mining on their land. In spite of all this, in the name of fighting the Maoists the state – in blatant violation of Constitutional rights and against the recommendations of its own committees – is all set to evacuate the entire area of the tribals and ghettoise them by forcing them into ‘relief camps’, to allow free rein to big business. Instead of addressing the basic rights and needs of the tribals, the impatience of the state/big business in the face of the stiff resistance from them, is leading it to a full-scale war on people who are already fighting an everyday battle for livelihood and survival.

In the past as well the state has tried to crush all popular resistance, armed or not. It has repeatedly ignored and/or suppressed non-violent resistance, be it in Bhopal gas-victims or the ‘Narmada Bachao’ Andolan. Various human rights activists who have spoken out against its policies have also been targeted through draconian instruments like the Chhatisgarh Special Public Safety Act, 2005. It has also brutally assaulted protesters in Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh and Khammam and conducted military offensives in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh that have been seriously questioned. Now, along with an increasingly uncritical, elitist and complicit media, it is set on drumming up war hysteria to legitimise its own extra-Constitutional programs. The fact that it has either rejected or dismissed offers of talks and mediations – while hypocritically calling for them – indicates the extent to which it is invested in this war. The Central Government’s military offensive further dilutes the federal character of Indian democracy as it covertly shifts the maintenance of law and order off the state onto the centre list.

This war on the people also entails a further shrinking of already limited spaces for democratic dissent and articulation of pro people development paradigms. It opens the way for the state to act with force against any form of dissent or struggle. Any individual or organization protesting against the policies of the state can be labelled as a threat to ‘internal security’. To understand the politics and economics of the current state offensive, we urge people to look beyond the current hype being built by the government and pliable sections of the media. This indicates the emergence of a dangerous consensus towards a police state that will render the people and resources pliable to the demands of global capitalism and authoritarianism.

We call upon all progressive forces – students, teachers and workers – to resist the latest plan of the Indian government. Stop state violence against people.

Join our demand for a peaceful, egalitarian and secular society.,
Ph: 9899523722, 9910455993, 9718259201, 9818728298