Protests and Repression: Struggles Growing in the Forest Areas

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

The last few weeks have seen struggles over forest rights and forest control intensifying across the country. On the one hand there are larger and larger protests taking place, and on the other, the continued use of force by Central and State governments is combined with total silence and apathy on protecting people’s rights.

Campaign member organisations have planned a series of yatras and protests in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa in the coming weeks. The Jangal Jameen Jan Andolan has undertaken a yatra in Rajasthan, crossing Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswada, Sirohi, Pali and Pratapgarh districts between December 20 and 28th. On December 29th demonstrations will be held in all block headquarters that have been covered. The demands are for respect and recognition of community forest rights, a halt to illegal rejections and modifications of titles and respect for people’s democratic resource rights over their lands, forests and minerals. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people rallied and ten sat on hunger strike in Dahanu, Thane District, Maharashtra on December 7th and 8th against violations of people’s rights under the FRA; the hunger strike was called off after a written commitment from the SDO. A similar mass protest was held in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra on December 19th against the illegal imposition of conditions on titles for community forest rights. Yatras are also planned in western Maharashtra and Gujarat in January; on January 19th and January 26th mass demonstrations will be held in district headquarters in Chhattisgarh and Orissa respectively. These latter protests will also oppose the land acquisition bill and call for democratic control over resources.

Aside from these plans, other protests and mass struggles are underway. On December 15th, a “People’s Forest Rights Rally” was organised at Delhi by a coalition of organisations. In the POSCO area, more than 20 people were injured and one killed in an attack on December 14th by a contractor’s private goondas; unsurprisingly, on that day alone, the police were nowhere to be found. In Assam the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti is leading a mass struggle against the illegal and dangerous Lower Subansiri Dam project, in which huge numbers of people have joined; but on the night of December 25th the police arrested more than 200 people in a raid and are continuing their attacks. The KMSS has also been involved in struggles against the ongoing repression and violence around Kaziranga National Park, where forest guards regularly shoot those they accuse of being “poachers.” Brutality and violence continues to mark the situation in Chhattisgarh, where the extremely brutal torture of Soni Sori – and the indifferent response of even the Supreme Court to it – gives the lie to all the tales about respect for the “rule of law” and how it is being enforced by “security forces.” Chhattisgarh has also seen a string of recent illegal evictions from forest land. In north Bengal, an organised effort to take control of community forests is facing opposition and resistance from the Forest Department.

In addition, planning is underway for the declaration of new tiger reserves and relocation of people from them in violation of the law. Mass protests have begun in Kawal Sanctuary to resist the proposed illegal conversion of this sanctuary. In Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Sarang Dhabekar, a Steering Committee member of the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers was arrested and slapped with false cases because he had been involved in resistance to illegal relocation efforts.

The Campaign condemns this ever-increasing repression and the brutal use of force against those who are fighting for justice. Once again, we see all talk of “rule of law” and “democracy” being brushed aside in the hideous loot of natural resources by the ruling class of this country.

“The Ultimate Contradiction of the Revolution”

Pratyush Chandra

Published as Afterword in Ron Ridenour’s book “Sounds of Venezuela”, New Century Book House, Chennai, 2011. This article tries to address some questions that have been raised by many Tamil comrades regarding the foreign policy of the Venezuelan State, especially in the context of state repression against the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and the Venezuelan and other ALBA states’ support to the Sri Lankan government in international forums.

The narrative Ron Ridenour has woven here in these pages provides a glimpse of the Venezuelan reality, which exposes not only the significance of the Bolivarian revolutionary processes, but also their contradictions. Obviously, these contradictions are the source of much anxiety among the friends of the Bolivarian revolution throughout the globe. But is it not true that a revolution is as much about hope as it is about apprehensions and dangers? A revolution is always unsettling. You cannot ever pronounce the final judgement about the event called revolution. That is why what famous Marxist historian George Rudé said about the French Revolution is true for all revolutions—”the Revolution remains an ever-open field of enquiry.”(1)

I

Nothing remains settled in the revolutionary process—otherwise how can it be called a revolution? We need to understand that this process is constituted by conflicts among various ever-new possibilities that emerge at every moment therein. Ideological struggles are nothing but representations of these conflicts; expressed in political programmatic language, these possibilities constitute the various lines within the revolutionary movement. These conflicts are what determine the course of the revolution.

To be more specific, there is always an impulse internal to the revolutionary process that seeks to control or limit the pace and extent of the revolution—to make things settled. It can have a positive implication to the extent that it compels the revolutionaries to be conscious of the course of the revolution and to be vigilant enough to differentiate between the forces of reaction and revolution that are internally germinating. The ‘faces’ of these forces do not remain the same—what seems revolutionary at one moment might dawn as reactionary at another. The conservative impulse we are talking about lies somewhere in the interstices of the moments of movement and consolidation, trying to break the simultaneity of these moments. When it is able to break this simultaneity, it morphs into a Thermidorian form with the apparent task of consolidating the revolutionary achievements and protecting them from the enemies. This Thermidorian power externalises all problems of revolution—it tries to cleanse the revolution of these problems so thoroughly that what emerges out of this deadly bath is a revolution sans revolution—sanitised of all contradictions.

The formalisation or institutionalisation of the achievements cannot be avoided. However, this is what gives birth to a new status quo, which tries to guard itself against revolutionary impermanence. It is a conflict like this that could be understood as a two-line struggle—between the emerging headquarters and the forces of continuous revolution. This struggle is in fact the revolutionary truth which cannot be avoided. No moment in the revolutionary movement is devoid of the forces of conservation, which have the potentiality of turning into a full-scale centrism or even reaction depending on the balance of class forces.

With regard to the revolutionary processes in Venezuela, it has been regularly emphasized that “the ultimate contradiction of the (Bolivarian) revolution” is the struggle internal to Chavism—”between the ‘endogenous right’ and the masses who have been mobilised.” Chávez himself frequently describes the Venezuelan reality in Gramscian terms—”The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” However, as Gramsci said, in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear—which appear in Venezuela (alongside the continued existence of the old oligarchy, latifundistas, monopoly capitalists and US imperialism) in the form of the new ‘boli-bourgeoisie,’ the military-civil bureaucracy, and ‘the party functionaries and nomenklatura’ who seek to thwart the class and mass initiatives from below.(2) These are the material forces, which with their dispassionate mannerisms try to conserve a pragmatic and ‘realistic’ Bolivarian future against the erratic spontaneism of grass roots initiatives. These are the Bolivarian headquarters.

II

As is well-known, historically there has been a systematic erosion of productive sectors in Venezuela which are not allied to operations of the oil industry. Since 1998, there has been a consistent endeavour to rebuild these other sectors of production and infrastructure around them. In order to achieve this, many steps both backwards and forward have been taken. Many bureaucratic, intermediary and petty bourgeois interests have not just been tolerated but even encouraged and promoted to compete with old oligarchies and corporate interests. Incentives to ‘native bourgeoisie’ and petty bourgeoisie have been an interim strategy of the Bolivarian regime to fragment the corporate unity of capital, while helping in diversifying the Venezuelan economy. In fact, the imperative to create an ‘alternative social bloc’ against corporate hegemony has forced a vision under which “capitalist sectors whose business activity entered into an objective contradiction with transnational capital” are not considered unapproachable.(3)

However, the radical supporters of the Venezuelan transformation have cautioned that the pragmatic need to neutralise private capitalist interests in order to develop a broader bloc against immediate enemies, like transnational capital and imperialist interests, must not scuttle the anti-capitalist nature of the transformation. It has been shown how “‘incentives’ to private capitalists in order to increase productivity” fail generally because they tend to strengthen the historically nurtured rentierist character of Venezuela’s native bourgeoisie. For example, incentives in agriculture without having a fundamental structural transformation have cost the Chávez government heavily, both politically and economically, as “the big landowner (latifundist) recipients of the Government’s generous agricultural credits and grants are not investing in agricultural production, in raising cattle, purchasing new seeds, new machinery, and new dairy animals. They are transferring Government funding into real estate, Government bonds, banking and speculative investment funds or overseas.”(4) These latifundistas have successfully used to their own advantage the Bolivarian government’s urgency to ensure domestic food security and agricultural productivity amidst volatile international relations by bargaining protection from the upsurge of peasants and landless organisations demanding radical land reforms. However, there has been an increasing realisation within the Bolivarian circles about the futility of such compromises with the rentierist forces.

The emergence of the Bolivarians at the helm of the existing political economic institutions has, of course, intensified the internal class struggle leading to a tremendous crisis for the status quo. But there still exists a considerable space for the consolidation of powerful economic interests because these institutions were essentially built for this purpose. The most recent case of their successful manoeuvrings has been exposed by WikiLeaks, which narrates how a radical Chavista, “Eduardo Saman was replaced as commerce minister following pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to protect old patent legislation and their profits.”(5)

There is a massive danger of the containment of the revolutionary pace and agenda, if the revolutionary forces are not vigilant enough with regard to the activities of those social classes that are crowding the institutions of revolution for incentives and patronage. The new intermediate interests that have emerged close to the state structure, along with the old ones, have resisted every popular attack on private capital. They have attempted to thwart endeavours to institute workers’ control over economic activities. Even within the oil and other ‘monopolistic’ industries, these interests have not conceded any substantial move beyond nationalisation, as state monopoly allows them to use their own proximity to the state machinery for intermediary profiteering. There has been a consistent resistance to the attempts to institute co-management,(6) not just from the side of corporate interests, but also from economistic trade unionism (especially in the state-owned petroleum company, PDVSA), which cannot envisage a system of workers’ control that questions the institutional hierarchy and labour aristocracy.

As long as there is a popular movement which questions and subverts the norms and everydayness of the bourgeois state in Venezuela, with the resoluteness to build ‘a new state from below’ with the novel institutions of protagonistic democracy and communal councils, there is a hope for the Bolivarian Revolution. Or else, “it will lapse into a new variety of capitalism with populist characteristics.”(7) That is why there has been a growing need to envisage the alternative bloc and class alliances which are subservient to the exigencies of “an overall system of socialized production.”(8) The accommodation of capitalist interests in any form (state or private), even when they are in consonance with the immediate interests of the revolutionary transformation at a particular juncture, is fraught with risks of the reassertion of ‘the logic of capital,’ and “there will be a constant struggle to see who will defeat whom.”(9) It is this logic and its constitutive representatives, who try to consolidate their position through the so-called ‘endogenous right’ of the revolution.

III

The emergence of headquarters in a revolution is linked with the question of state, state power and hegemony. During a revolutionary period the state returns to its elements—it emerges as a naked instrument of suppression—of holding down adversaries. The proletarian dictatorship too will not allow its enemies to have a free play. Revolution is a period when class struggles begin to explode the barriers of the existing state order and point beyond them. On the one hand, there are “struggles for state power; on the other, the state itself is simultaneously forced to participate openly in them. There is not only a struggle against the state; the state itself is exposed as a weapon of class struggle, as one of the most important instruments for the maintenance of class rule.”(10)

The global division of labour and the US hegemony reduced the Venezuelan economy to mere accumulation of oil rents, thus making proximity to the state the only viable route to economic success. In such an economy, the statist tendencies are bound to be very strong and entrenched in every layer of society. To complicate the matter, revolutionaries in Venezuela found themselves at the helm of the bourgeois state by following its rules, not by any insurrection. In such a situation, reformist tendencies will definitely be stronger among the ranks of the Bolivarians, who find revolutionary measures futile and even adventurist. These tendencies did suffer a temporary setback during the attempted coup of 2002, but as time elapses the cautious self-critical forces begin to find safe-play, gradualism and tactical compromises essential to consolidate power and achievements and to pre-empt any such drastic attack by counter-revolutionaries in future.

The left Chavistas, on the other hand, stress on the task of smashing the bourgeois state from within while positing a new state from below based on co-management of social and economic life. Like the ‘endogenous right’ they understand the need to consolidate, but for them consolidation is not separate from the destruction of the existing state form. Like Russian revolutionaries, they emphasize the development and independence of the working classes and their organs of self-activity, because only in this way can the workers protect their state, while protecting themselves from it! The defeat of the 2002 coup also demonstrates the impact of the unleashing of popular energy and self-activity and what that could achieve. Moreover, unlike in Russia, the state in Venezuela remains a bourgeois parliamentary state, which is alienated from the everyday life of the revolutionary masses.

IV

Among several valuable insights that Ron Ridenour’s text provides regarding the nature of contradictions that pervade the revolutionary transition in Venezuela, there is an important point on the Venezuelan state’s approach to the struggles of the Colombian guerrillas, the FARC. Ridenour hints at the vacillation in this approach. However, such anomalies are numerous, especially when it comes to international relations. Throughout the globe, post-1998 developments in Latin America have been watched very intently, with a lot of hope and expectation. The consistent defiance of US hegemony by the Chávez regime has been a source of inspiration for various progressive movements everywhere. At least with regard to its position on the American manoeuvrings globally, nobody can fault the Venezuelan state—it never wasted any time to decry the imperialist interventions anywhere in the world.

But this has led to a genuine rise of expectations for support from progressive Latin American regimes (if not materially, at least through statements) for local movements against their particular oppressive states, even when there is no direct western backing to these states. In recent years, with many states lining up to define their own ‘war against terrorism’ in order to crush local critical voices and movements against them, the stance of the Venezuelan and Cuban states has not been supportive of the oppressed. In fact, any official voice from the West critical of the local states has many a time provoked statements from the progressive Latin American regimes that are supportive of the southern states like Iran, Libya, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka even when these are highly oppressive. This has greatly frustrated the solidarity movements—some even going to the extent of calling the Latin American revolutionary processes ephemeral.

However, one must understand that the revolutionary process is not linear and smooth. It is not something homogeneous, and its targets are not just external. The intensification of revolution is the heightening of contradictions that constitute it. In fact, these constitutive contradictions internalise the so-called external elements—’alien’ class interests, the vestiges of old regimes, etc. Any attempt to avoid contradictions is a conservative attempt from the ‘endogenous right’ to homogenise the revolutionary voices behind the new institutions, alienating them from their organic roots in class struggle, thus giving birth to new bureaucracies—the agencies of the new order. It is the ‘endogeneity’ of this tendency that forces the revolutionary leadership to reassess the coordinates of the contradictions time and again. A fine discrimination of these coordinates in the revolutionary process gives an insight into the apparent anomalies. It was not for nothing that the 20th century revolutionaries time and again stressed the need to differentiate between the state (which even well into the first phase of communist society safeguards the bourgeois law) and the revolutionary masses. An understanding of this aspect is crucial in order to comprehend the problems and prospects of policy designs under a revolutionary regime, including its foreign policy and international relations.

It must be noted that revolutionary internationalism of the working class is an important weapon with which a revolution generalizes itself and resists its degeneration into nationalist statism by not allowing ‘revolutionary passion’ to die out. But it is not simply a subjective aspiration to generalize that gives birth to internationalism. Rather, it “is a necessity arising out of the fact that the capitalist class, which rules over the workers, does not limit its rule to one country.”(11) Thus, internationalism is a result of the class struggle going global—it is an endeavour to thwart the capitalist strategy of intensifying capitalist accumulation by segmenting the working class and its consciousness. It is in this regard that a revolution can be termed as international both at the levels of its causes and impact. It represents a crisis for the capitalist system.

Solidarity efforts in support of revolution beyond the immediate location of its occurrence, along with ‘indigenous’ revolutionaries’ support for movements beyond their location are crucial even for the survival of the revolution as a revolution. It can survive as such only by constantly asserting its international character, its inseparability from international class struggle. Otherwise, it will implode or be reduced to a mere regime change.

It is interesting to see how revolutionaries have time and again talked about the foreign policy of a revolution, not just that of the state. And this has been assessed by the revolution’s galvanising effect on the struggles of the working class and the oppressed in other locations. While criticizing the foreign policy of the Provisional Government (that emerged after the February Revolution of 1917) for conducting it with the capitalists, Lenin remarked:

Yet 1905 showed what the Russian revolution’s foreign policy should be like. It is an indisputable fact that October 17, 1905, was followed by mass unrest and barricade-building in the streets of Vienna and Prague. After 1905 came 1908 in Turkey, 1909 in Persia and 1910 in China. If, instead of compromising with the capitalists, you call on the truly revolutionary democrats, the working class, the oppressed, you will have as allies the oppressed classes instead of the oppressors, and the nationalities which are now being rent to pieces instead of the nationalities in which the oppressing classes now temporarily predominate.(12)

It is in this regard that many struggling peoples across the globe find the foreign policies of the progressive regimes in Latin America wanting. Especially, Cuba and Venezuela, the countries which are in the leadership of the anti-imperialist realignment in the post-Cold War era, have been criticized for not standing against the oppressive regimes of the Global South. They have been chastised for their frequent open support to these regimes, whenever they are attacked by the so-called international community.

The genuineness of these criticisms can hardly be questioned; however, they must go further and explain these stances in terms of their material foundation, rather than locating them in some sort of ideological and personality-oriented tendencies as many have done, who reduce the Chávez phenomenon to populist demagoguery and the Cuban regime to Stalinism. The existential anxiety of these regimes in the face of a strong imperialist unity against them is definitely one reason that must be considered. This makes them wary of any interventionist strategy on the part of the ‘international community’ against any regime. Further, the existentialist need to have an oppositional bloc in the international forums puts them in the company of strange allies.

However, we will have to make a fine distinction between the revolutionary process itself and the institutions, states and individuals that come up during this process. We cannot reduce the revolutions to their particular passing moments. We will have to recognize and accept that these revolutions are marked by intense internal contradictions, whose astute descriptions we find in Ridenour’s travelogue. The states in themselves have a conservative agenda, even when they are deeply embedded in the revolutionary process. They have the task to defend what has been achieved, and in mounting this defence they frequently fail to differentiate between the actual enemies of the revolution and the revolutionaries who are aware of the dilemma, of which Rosa Luxemburg talked about:

“Either the revolution must advance at a rapid, stormy, resolute tempo, break down all barriers with an iron hand and place its goals ever farther ahead, or it is quite soon thrown backward behind its feeble point of departure and suppressed by counter-revolution. To stand still, to mark time on one spot, to be contented with the first goal it happens to reach, is never possible in revolution.”(13)

Notes

1. George Rudé: Revolutionary Europe 1783-1815. Fontana/Collins, 1964.
2. Michael Lebowitz: The Spectre of Socialism for the 21st Century (2008). Available online at: http://links.org.au/node/503/1594%20.
3. Marta Harnecker: Rebuilding the Left. Monthly Review Press & Daanish, 2007, p. 35.
4. James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer: What’s Left in Latin America? Regime Change in New Times. Ashgate: 2009, pp. 192-3.
5. Tamara Pearson: “Venezuelans to Debate Patenting Laws after Revelation that Companies Conspired in Firing of Radical Minister,” http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6490 (September 15, 2011).
6. The system of co-management envisages social control against any competitive congealment of sectionalist interests over economic activities. Under this system the economic sectors are co-managed by workers with the community at large.
7. Michael Lebowitz: Build it Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century. Monthly Review Press & Daanish, 2006, p. 116.
8. Petras and Veltmeyer, op cit, p. 234
9. Marta Harnecker, op cit, p. 36.
10. Georg Lukacs: Lenin: A Study on the Unity of His Thought. Verso, 1970.
11. V.I. Lenin: Draft and Explanation of a Programme for the Social-Democratic Party (1895-96). Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 109.
12. V.I. Lenin: Speeches at First All Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (June-July 1917). Collected Works, Vol. 25.
13. Rosa Luxemburg: The Russian Revolution (1918). Available at http://www.marxists.org.

Cuba-ALBA lands are Tamils’ natural allies

Following is the text of Ron Ridenour’s talk in Chennai (November 12, 2011). Ron is in India for the launching of the Indian edition of his books “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka”, “Sounds of Venezuela”, and “Cuba: Revolution in Action”.

Greetings and appreciation to the Latin American Friendship Association of Chennai, India for inspiring me to become aware of the oppression of the Tamil people by the Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka, and for encouraging me to remind our comrade governments of Cuba and other ALBA country governments of their strong commitment to international solidarity to oppressed people everywhere.

Also I extend my appreciation to New Century Book House for publishing “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka”, “Sounds of Venezuela”, and “Cuba: Revolution in Action”. Thank you Amarantha for your translation of the Venezuela book; Dhanapal Kumar for your translation of the Cuba book; and Thiagu for your translation-in-progress of the Tamil Nation book.

I start from the premise that Martin Luther King expressed: “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”. In the country of my birth, The Devil’s Own Country, I experienced similar injustice committed against the native peoples and the black people as Tamils suffer, especially in Sri Lanka where they are subjugated to Shinalese chauvinism. I joined with millions of brothers and sisters of all colours to fight racism, to struggle for equal rights, for education and health care for all, even the basic right to vote.

Europeans invaded the Americans and stole the lands and wealth held by native peoples for thousands of years. They enslaved black Africans who they held as slaves and even after slavery ended they kept them as second-class citizens.

Black people developed various forms of struggle including civil disobedience, sit-ins, pickets, mass rallies, propaganda, and voting for equality where possible. Another form of struggle was the Black Panther Party’s armed self-defence when attacked by Ku Klux Klan and the ruling class’ police. Another form was the Gravey Movement that called for separation from the United States, demanding territory in the south. Very much like the Tamils after the 1976 Vattukottai resolution.

In the United States millions of blacks and whites fought this racist discrimination for over a century and eventually won most basic rights but not before millions were arrested, imprisoned for long times, and many murdered. Many thousands of black people were lynched, burned alive, mutilated, tortured to death until the 1980s.

Fidel Castro: “Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are out enemies…Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.” “To be internationalist is to settle our debt with humanity.”

Che Guevara from “Socialism and Man”: “The revolutionary is the ideological motor force of the revolution. If he forgets his proletarian internationalism, the revolution, which he heads will cease to be an inspiring force and he will sink into a comfortable lethargy, which imperialism, our irreconcilable enemy, will utilize well. Proletarian internationalism is a duty, but it is also a revolutionary necessity. So we educate our people.”

I believe that these principles apply to the Tamils of Sri Lanka. I believe Che would agree with your struggle for equality and when not possible to achieve within the Sri Lankan chauvinist context, he would understand your fight for your own nationhood.

I think this is also what Lenin meant in his 1916 thesis, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”:

“Victorious socialism must necessarily establish a full democracy and, consequently, not only introduce full equality of nations but also realize the right of the oppressed nations to self-determination, that is, the right to free political separation.”

I am hurt and deeply disappointed that the government of Cuba—where I have lived and worked side by side with the people and government for eight years—as well as the socialist-progressive governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American governments have not understood that those principles must apply to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. I got involved in solidarity with your people’s struggle because you have been so brutally treated, and because of these righteous principles expressed by Lenin, Fidel and Che. I have written critically about these governments siding with the Sinhalese governments of Sri Lanka while it denies the Tamil people those basic principles and rights, and commits genocide.

Perhaps Cuba+ have not understood the history of struggle that Tamils have undergone to win full equal rights before taking up arms. For 30 years you fought peacefully but you were met with brutal force, with pogroms/massacres of hundreds and thousands of people—even worse than that used against blacks in the US, and against Palestinians by Israelis. And, unfortunately, it was not only the governments that have done this against Tamils but also misguided Buddhist monks who betray the peaceful, coexistence values of Buddhism.

Your people’s organizations must meet and discuss these realities with the communist and socialist parties and with people’s grass roots and indigenous organizations in Latin America and elsewhere. You must explain to them your history, why you had to take up arms and fight for separation, for an independent nation. They have to hear of your suffering, of your struggles, why Tamil Eelam is a NECESSITY. You must remind them what they say about international solidarity, about what Lenin meant about political separation when the ruling powers will not grant a people their basic democratic and equal rights.

The progressive governments have won majority votes for new constitutions in Bolivia, in Ecuador, in Venezuela that grant equal rights to their indigenous peoples. In Bolivia, for instance, under the new constitution there are four official national languages, three of them are indigenous ones as well as Spanish. The same equalitarian development is happening in several progressive-pro socialist governments in Latin America. If these people could know you simply want these same rights, they would listen to you and stop backing Sri Lanka. But they have been misguided because when they hear the worst terrorist in the world—The United States of America government—raise a little finger of possible criticism that maybe the Sri Lanka government should investigate itself to find some official scapegoat for violating human rights, Cuba+ react against this hypocrisy. But they must know that in this case the Sri Lanka government is a terrible violator of human rights, and not just against the Tamils, but also against Muslims, the indigenous tribes, and it also exploits Sinhalese workers and the poor, and castes.

We must understand that Cuba, and so many governments and peoples, has been victimized by the United States false accusation that it commits “human rights abuse”. Cuba has been blockaded by the US since its victory in 1959. The US tried to overthrow the new revolution in April 1961. It brought the entire world to the brink of a nuclear war in October 1962. The US has sabotaged Cuba, murdered and handicapped thousands of its citizens; it even infiltrated bacteriological diseases in its livestock, its grains and sugar cane.

What has Cuba done to “deserve” this murderous aggression? It has done what Big Capital does not do, what imperialists will not do. It has introduced full and free education and health care. It has assured every citizen food and shelter. No one starves. 80% of its people own their own homes after paying the state simply what it actually costs to build them.

It has organized an excellent system of disaster management in which people and their animals are evacuated before hurricanes hit the island nation. And more often than not no one is killed, and their livestock is saved. That is not what happens in the United States especially in the areas where blacks and poor people live and are struck by natural disasters.

Cuba came to the aid of Angola when attacked by apartheid South Africa. Cuba, alongside with the new Venezuela, comes to the aid of tens of millions of people in scores of land around the world with their medical care, curing even blindness, and educating people to read and write, offering sports and technical assistance. Cuba has more doctors serving the international arena than is offered by all the governments in the United Nations. Cuba does not export war and torture, disease and starvation. It exports “human capital”.

Tamils in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka Tamil refugees here and in the Diaspora should not rely on the greatest terrorist in the world to help them. The Yankees offer no help without humiliating costs. We must be aware that since World War 11, the US has invaded/intervened militarily 160 times in 66 countries. We must understand that now with a black-faced puppet president of Big Capital, the imperialists are at war in seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia and now Uganda. They kill tens of millions; they torture hundreds of thousands; they starve hundreds of millions.

US’s staunch ally, Zionist Israel commits genocide against the Palestinian people. It offered Mossad intelligence, great amounts of weaponry, killer aircraft and even pilots to Sri Lanka, in order to murder the Tamils. After the end of the war, May 2009, Sri Lanka sent its military chief-of-staff, Donald Perera, to Israel as its ambassador, a reward for Zionist assistance. He told the largest Zionist daily, Yedioth Abornoth,: “I consider your country a partner in the war against terror,” thus coupling terrorism with the Palestinians’ struggle for their homeland and the Tamils’ simple right to exist in peace and equality.

Perera spoke proudly of having “a great relationship with your military industries and with Israel Aerospace industries.”

Perera spoke about the murder, on May 31, 2010, of nine Turkish solidarity activists bound for Gaza with survival supplies: “I can understand that Israel had to protect itself.”

Perhaps because of the complexity of geo-politics, the history of standing for sovereignty of the member nations of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), the leaders of Cuba and ALBA lands (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Latin America) cannot support the goal of a separate nation within Sri Lanka. But they could be convinced to chastise the Sri Lankan government for its atrocities against the Tamil people, and the other oppressed people under the chauvinist Sinhalese leadership. They could see within the context of their moral ideology that it is only right that Tamils must have equality and the basic right to exist without fear of murder and takeovers of their homes and lands. Your peoples’ organizations should remind these pro-Palestinian governments that it is only Israel that supports the US blockade against Cuba; that it is the US and Israel that lead the tiny opposition to Palestine’s right to be a member of the United Nations.

Regardless of whether Cuba has achieved socialism—it is a long process after all and there is so much destruction and subversion coming from the Yankee imperialists—the Cuban people and the government are still worthy of our love and support. They have conducted no wars or torture against any people and they have helped many millions. It is now time that they are approached by all your organizations and become convinced to come to the aid of their natural brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka—the oppressed Tamil people.

We have wandered over the deserts and the seas. We have been hungry and thirsty. We have been murdered and tortured. We are of the working class, of the castes; we are many races and nationalities. We share a common vision: freedom and equality; bread and water on the table; a shelter over our heads. We must fight together to live in peace and harmony.

We must unite around the world and struggle for an independent international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity against Sri Lanka government leaders.

We must call for a worldwide BOYCOTT of Sri Lanka.
CHE GUEVARA would be on our side today!

‘Eelam Tamil’: The Politics behind the Term

Karthick RM

“Words are never “only words”; they matter because they define the contours of what we can do.”Slavoj Zizek

In the discussions that have taken place on the Tamil national question in Sri Lanka, the concerned subjects have been referred to, even by well meaning comrades, as ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’. Whereas the subjects, if one should go by the term used by various Tamil activists, intellectuals and just common people who stand for the struggle for a Tamil homeland, refer to themselves as ‘Eelam Tamils’. What is in a name, as the bard asked ages ago? While the word ‘Eelam’ has been part of Tamil vocabulary for ages to denote the geographical entity which is called Sri Lanka today, the latter name became popular only a few decades back. All the same, today’s ‘Eelam’ has a completely different meaning and connotation from the ‘Eelam’ of the ancient period. Followers of national liberation movements across the world be it Palestine, Kurdistan or Chechnya, would know that the terms used to describe the people and the geographies they contest were not the same in the past as they are now. Of more value than the etymology of self-defining terms of oppressed nationalities is the deployment of such terms in their present resistance and thus, the contemporary usage of such terms is more political than anything else. Keeping this argument in mind, the article seeks to explain the politics of the term ‘Eelam Tamil’ and what it means to the Tamil resistance and its participants.

The sociologist Manuel Castells defines idenity as a people’s sense of meaning and experience. He argues that though identities may originate from dominant institutions, “they become identities only when and if social actors internalize them, and construct their meaning around this internalization.” From the day Sri Lanka achieved its independence, the recognized powers defining Tamil identity were primarily Colombo-centred Tamil elites, who were mostly bureaucrats in service of the Sri Lankan state. The institution they served and the Sinhala elites whom it primarily benefited championed a Sri Lankan nationalism that was essentially based on suspicion and/or hatred of the Tamil people. At its racist worst, Sri Lankan nationalism aimed at annihilation of the Tamil identity. At its liberal best, it aimed at assimilation. The post-independence Tamil elites found it easier to negotiate with the latter aspect, and like all elites disconnected from masses, had only their sectarian economic interests in mind. Despite the rather obvious structural racism that was being installed against the Tamil people, the Colombo Tamil believed that a liberal balancing act between two loyalties was possible. Accordingly, they sold out on popular classes. The best example of such betrayal was their unquestioning support to the Sirimavo-Sastri past of 1964 – the first major act of ethnic cleansing – by which over half a million upcountry Tamils, almost entirely belonging to the labouring classes, were stripped off their citizenship rights and shipped to India. Likewise, the process of colonization of Tamil territories and the phenomena of Sinhalization, where certain Tamil sections either owing to apprehension or seeking benefits ‘converted’ as Sinhalese, were also not challenged by these gentlemen.

For the Tamil popular classes the contradiction inherent in this identity project was becoming apparent even in the 50’s. Almost as if giving voice to this, V. Navaratnam, a theorist of Tamil nationalism and a doyen of the Federal party, wrote in 1957 in a short tract called ‘Ceylon in Crisis’ of the irreconcilable antagonism between the Tamil people and the unitary state. He was also highly contemptuous of the ‘Colombo Tamil intelligentsia’, a constant throughout his life – he would brand them as traitors later. While the Tamil people were unable to relate to the identity project of the pro-state Tamil elites, being unable to internalize it or relate it to their experiences, facing discrimination and violence at a day to day level from the very state they were called to be loyal to, they were still unable to come to terms with the terms of the radical nationalists. To use Sartrean terminology, the critical transition from seriality to a group-in-fusion was still incomplete. But not for long.

The Black activist Stokely Carmichael said that “We have to fight for the right to invent the terms which will allow us to define ourselves and to define our relations to society, and we have to fight that these terms will be accepted.” The 60’s and 70’s in Sri Lanka, periods that witnessed anti-Tamil violence, repressive laws, an escalation of colonization and institutional discrimination, were also periods where the Tamil political actors contesting the powers-that-be were fervently searching for the terms with which they would address themselves vis-à-vis the oppressor. Even as in 1972 Sri Lankan nationalists got a shot in their arm with the ethnocratic ‘republican’ constitution that effectively made Tamils third grade citizens, the political vocabulary of the Tamils was rife with an old word that got a new lease of life and meaning – Eelam. In 1973, S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, hailed later on as the father of the Eelam Tamil polity, pleaded for the recognition of a Eelam Tamil nationality as a distinct political entity with its right to self-determination. Three years later, the historical Vaddukkodai resolution that declared the necessity of the struggle for a “Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of Tamil Eelam” was passed under his aegis. After decades of attempted negotiations, reconciliations and compromises with the oppressors, the oppressed now had a paradigm, a terminology of self-definition of their identity. The Eelam Tamil discourse was set – and after 1976, one either recognized it or opposed it. It was then no coincidence that the birth of the most resolute defenders of the Eelam Tamil struggle, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), happened in the same year.

Identity formation was one thing – to wage an uncompromising political struggle to secure rights by/for the people who assert that identity is another. The assertion and struggle are interlinked and inseparable. Of the various organizations that emerged in the late 70’s, it was only the Tamil Tigers who were able to keep track of both. Rapidly winning support among the Tamil masses, they promoted an Eelam Tamil politico-cultural identity that was modern, secular while at the same time politically ‘intolerant’. An example of this ‘intolerance’ is a statement of theirs from the early 90’s that defines a traitor as “whoever accepts or supports the Sri Lanka unitary constitution, the Sinhala national anthem, the Sinhala national flag.” (The French Resistance was no less ‘intolerant’ of the Vichy regime collaborators who served Nazi Germany, sang the Deutschlandlied, saluted the Swastika.) Zizek argues that it is not enough that one finds new terms with which to define oneself outside of the oppressor’s tradition, one should go a step further and deprive the oppressor of the monopoly of defining tradition the way he wants it. The Tigers’ much criticized ‘intolerance’ towards renegades was then but a progressive negation of the discourses framed by the oppressors – not only was the Tamil subject required to denounce the oppressor’s polity, he was also required to denounce the oppressor’s political language and political symbols. In short, assimilation was to be made impossible.

Taking on from Chelvanayagam, V. Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE, argued for the rights of the Eelam Tamil nation to self determination by virtue of their possessing “a distinct language, culture and history with a clearly defined homeland and a consciousness of their ethnic identity.” Amilcar Cabral argues in ‘The Role of Culture in the Struggle for Independence’ that this type of a resistance against a militarily superior power is possible only because “the popular masses, who have preserved their culture and identity, maintain their sense of individual and collective dignity despite the torments, humiliations and depredations they must often suffer.” Such struggle, he says, “the organized political expression of culture”, is necessarily a test of identity and dignity. The struggle is not just aided by the progressive aspects of the culture of the subject people, it also injects newer progressive elements into cultural life, preventing asphyxiation at a time of crisis.

For the LTTE, this was imperative. For the first time in the modern history of the Eelam Tamils, there was organization with a leadership that emerged almost entirely from the popular classes with an exceptionally high percentage of women at decision making levels – in 2002, 5 out of the 12 member central committee were women (If one subscribes to Marx’s belief that the progressiveness of a movement can be gauged by the position that it gives women, then this fact alone should vindicate the Tigers). The philistinism of the comprador Tamil elites of Colombo, long considered the face of Tamil culture, would have to be challenged and so would decadent cultural relics among the natives. The very historical fact of the massive support among popular classes, peasantry, women and backward sections for the Tigers, and owing to their cadre base and leadership being derived from such sections, they had to look at Eelam Tamil identity and culture not just as agents of political change, but also to radically remould them to fit a project of a progressive Eelam Tamil nationalism. It was pointless to talk Tamil culture or identity in abstract – it had to be rooted in the concrete, in the socio-political context that the Eelam Tamils found themselves in. Thus, Capt. Vanathi, a LTTE leader and poet martyred in 1991, did not find the subject of her poetry in a hoary Tamil antiquity – she found her revolutionary Tamil woman in the battlefield confronting the enemy, a political agent heralding a new culture and identity.

Another phenomena, probably the core aspect of the Tigers’ Eelam Tamil project was the ‘Cult of the Hero’, a close equivalent of Robespierre’s ‘Cult of the Supreme Being’. But while the latter demanded a faith in a common secular god and the immortality of the human soul, the former required a faith in the martyrdom of fallen comrades and the immortality of the meaning of their sacrifices. The result was the creation of a secular festival – ‘Heroes Day’, held every year on the 27th of November, the day the first LTTE cadre fell in battle. Under the Tigers, the occasion drew more crowds than any religious festival of the Eelam Tamils – it still does among the diaspora – and the event not just fostered a sense of solidarity but also provided the Eelam Tamils a shared memory of opposition to persecution. Besides, the festival produced a horizondalizing effect on what was once a vertical society. The Tamils paid common homage to martyrs of different castes, subcastes, religions alike and their graves were rallying points of the Eelam Tamil culture that the Tigers hoped to create, transcending sectarian affiliations. The grave of the martyr was also symbolic of an uncompromising rejection of assimilation by the oppressor’s tradition. Thus, the annihilation strategy of the Sri Lankan state that found its highest expression in the Vanni massacre of May 2009 was accompanied by a systematic destruction of the martyrs’ graves. The message Sri Lanka wanted to give to the Eelam Tamils was this. Resistance to assimilation would meet this fate alone.

Despite the different ways that supporters looked at the project of the Eelam Tamil identity and its protagonists, there was an agreement on certain fundamental points – recognition of Eelam Tamils as a unique national formation with inalienable rights to exercise their political and economic sovereignty, which includes their rights to oppose colonization of their lands and the concomitant mutilation of their cultural consciousness by means of assimilation. With the military crushing of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan state proclaimed the end of Eelam Tamil identity as such. Let alone recognition of nationality, Mahinda Rajapaksa declared that there are no minorities in the island and that all are Sri Lankans. This, of course, implies that the Eelam Tamil is beyond the frameworks of his definition. In this, he is complemented by both Sinhala and Tamil liberal intelligentsia.

While a Tamil using the word ‘us’ to refer to the Tamils as a community perturbs the liberal Sinhala, he nevertheless tolerates it. One can be anything as long as one is Sri Lankan. The Sri Lankan liberal views the Tamil as a minority whose rights must be protected, under his patronage of course. ‘They may be Tamils, but they are Sri Lankan citizens’, he argues while protesting against the abuses of the state. The elite liberal intellectuals of Colombo recognize a plethora of rights for the Tamils – citizen rights, human rights, women rights, children rights. All rights except that one right that the Eelam Tamil people fought for – right of a nation to self-determination.

It was pointed out before how the Colombo based Tamil elites pursued an identity project that was antithetical to the interests of the popular classes of Tamil Eelam. After the tragedy of Vanni, the farce of such intelligentsia became all too apparent. Take for instance, the Colombo based Centre for Policy Alternatives, an institute extensively funded by foreign capital, a hub of Tamil intellectuals following the collaborator Neelan Tiruchelvam’s line, opposes human rights violations while at the same time justifying the war on the LTTE. According to them, the Eelam Tamils deserve human rights accorded to a minority. The national question is blasphemy to them. Their demands for “non-violent conflict resolution and democratic governance” are nothing but cover language for their attempts to defend the economic interests of those privileged sections who defend the ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’ identity against the interests of the Eelam Tamil masses who would be stripped of their powers to resist assimilation at politico-ideological levels and are also left helpless to defend their national economy pillaged by colonization. The struggle of the Sri Lankan liberals, Sinhala or Tamil, is then at odds with the struggle of the Eelam Tamil people. Their struggle is for good governance. Our struggle is for self governance. This is the crux of Eelam Tamil identity politics – not a defence of abstract cultural rights or human rights, but a concrete assertion of political sovereignty.

But the limits of Sri Lankan liberal tolerance is tested when a Tamil questions the foundations of Sri Lankan nationalism, challenges the political economy of Sinhala colonization and refuses assimilation, that is, when a Tamil subscribes to Tamil Eelam – at this point, the lines are blurred between the Tamil liberal Saravanamuttu, Sinhala liberal Sanjana Hattatuwa and the racist Gothabaya whom they claim to oppose. All three are united in denouncing and denying the status and rights of the Eelam Tamils. No wonder that liberal and racist alike find the Tamil diaspora that adamantly refuses to be defined by them an eyesore (the ideological offensive that is being waged on diaspora requires a separate analysis in its own right). After all, only an Eelam Tamil nationalism has the power to negate the reactionary negation of Sinhala colonization, thereby ending privileges of local compradors as well. It would be naïve to expect the ruling class or their liberal apologists to recognize the same. The liberal Sinhala is only the human mask of a monstrous Sri Lankan nationalism and the Sri Lankan Tamil liberal is its make-up paint. The need to recognize and expose this is imperative for those who stand by the Tamils’ rights as a nationality and it is also imperative to deny the terms and definitions of those with the Sri Lankan establishment. For starters, the Eelam Tamils should be referred to as such, and not as ‘Sri Lankan Tamil.’ The political differences between the two terms are too much for them to mean one and the same.

To sum up, the Zizekian matrix of the Event can be used to explain the state of the Eelam Tamil politics while also drawing equations for the future.

(1) Fidelity – Vaddukkodai resolution of 1976, LTTE & secular-modernist Eelam Tamil nationalism
(2) Reactive re-integration – politics of ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’ identity, minority rights
(3) Outright denial of eventual status – Sri Lankan liberalism, assimilation
(4) Catastrophic total counter-attack – Sri Lankan fascism, annihilation Vanni style
(5) Total enforcing of the Event leading to an ‘obscure disaster’ – emergence of a Hamas-styled Tamil nationalism
(6) Renewal of secular-modernist Eelam Tamil nationalism

(2) (3) and (4) all contributed at different levels to weakening of (1). (2) and (3) also require a weakening of (4) as it weakens the moral legitimacy of their advocacy of ‘co-existence’, especially in the wake of various gross abuses coming to light in the international arena. All the same, (2) and (3) will not hesitate to rally behind (4) in case of an emergence of (5) or (6). In case (6) does not emerge, considering the continuing betrayal of the interests of the Tamil popular classes by protagonists of (2), the probability of (5) cannot be ruled out – as an example, we have seen the Hamas fill the vacuum in Palestine in the face of a weakening of a progressive movement and sell out by elites. In the long run, (5) may deliver freedom, but its ability to be egalitarian is a question. Hence our case for progressives to lend their support to (6) and for the subscribers of (6) to pick-up the thread of the uncompromising emancipatory political tradition of (1) and take it forward.

So, the question “What is in a name?” is not appropriate with regards to the Eelam Tamils. After all, a people do not wage a struggle for decades and sacrifice over 200000 lives for a rose to be named differently. Considering the Eelam Tamils’ political struggle now, the more apt Shakespearean question to be posed is “To be or not to be”!

Sri Lanka, Eelam Tamils and the Ethical Crime

Karthick RM

Sound, it can be said, is relative to the silence that precedes it. Deeper the silence, louder the noise. There was indeed relative silence in the world on the Sri Lankan war and the Eelam Tamils’ struggle, a silence that benefited a fascist state the most. The ‘Killing Fields’ video of Channel 4 came with a devastating bang and exposed to the world the horror that was Sri Lanka’s ‘war on terror’. While the news was already old for Tamil activists, something that many have been writing about for long, the powerful visuals of the 48 minute documentary created shock, especially among the ruling elites of Sri Lanka.

The Lankan government went on a hyperbole in its attempts to dismiss the video as false. The army spokesperson rubbished the video as ‘propaganda’. Der Fuhrer Rajapaksa, in an interview to his Indian Goebbels, an Indian journalist who was awarded the Sri Lanka Ratna and has remained loyal to the country that gave him that honour, remarked that the video was just a “film”. His brother Gothabaya, the defence secretary, was even more forthcoming – in his characteristic chivalrous manner that the Tamils are so familiar with, he wanted to know why one of interviewed war victims was not raped by the army men even when she was “a person so attractive”. Others in the Lankan defence were also more or less gender sensitive while commenting upon allegations of rape by the Lankan forces that the video has proved.

There were some comic gestures on the part of other Sinhala politicians as well. Chandrika Kumaratunga, for one, said that after watching the video one would be ashamed to call oneself Sinhalese. We laughed. When the Lankan Army overran Jaffna in 1995 under her rule, all the atrocities that we accuse them of today were committed then, maybe on a slightly lesser intensity. If the naked story of Vanni massacre is embodied in the face of Isaipriya today, the face of brutalities under Chandrika’s regime were depicted in the stories of Koneswary and Krishanty yesterday. Rajapaksa did not jump from the skies to commit these crimes. The wheels of genocide were set against the Tamils much farther back and Chandrika was as much a spoke in it as Rajapaksa. One thing is clear after the Channel 4 video now. No one can claim innocence over what happened in 2009. It is all a matter of taking sides.

But where is the Sinhala ‘civilian’ in this debate on genocide? The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with a Jaffna Tamil friend who was personally affected by the war about the supposed progress of ‘reconciliation’ between the communities of Sri Lanka that Rajapaksa and his PR men were boasting about.

“What do you see when you look at a Sinhala army man?” I asked her.
“A murderer and a rapist,” she said.
“Ok. What do you see when you look at a Sinhala civilian?”
“The employer of murderers and rapists.”

Further enquiries on ‘reconciliation’ were unnecessary. There are those who are largely ill-informed of the Sri Lankan situation who would lay the blame of the war on the Lankan leaders alone owing to their being “mere instruments of class rule and national oppression” and/or because they are “puppets of imperialism.” Such an argument only partially exposes Sinhala racism for it ignores the essence of fascism in Sri Lanka.

The tragedy in Mullivaikaal in 2009, the largest massacre in the history of the Tamils, was celebrated by huge numbers of Sinhala ‘civilians’ across the island country. Over 100000 Tamils were butchered in the last stages of the war and while we mourn it, remembering our loved ones, the Sinhalese participate in government celebrations. The condition in Sri Lanka bears likeness to that state of a society that Hannah Arendt so famously described as ‘the banality of evil.’ The genocide of the Tamils in their homelands was not executed by a ruling class and its military alone, it had the wilful consent of the taxpayers-citizens who stood by the state in all its violent measures. Sartre was more explicit in condemning the inactivity of the passive citizen in such societies, if one did not protest when the government that one voted for commits genocide, then one was “undoubtedly a torturer”. What else explains the absolute absence of any major anti-war demonstrations from the Sinhalese side while there have been massive outpourings of support for the jingoistic rallies celebrating victory over the Tamils? How do we account for the anti-war Socialist ideologue Siritunga Jeyasoorya receiving less than 0.36% of the total votes in the Presidential elections after the war while Rajapaksa, with his fascist diatribes, emerged with a thumping majority as a national hero? Fascism has its roots deep in Sinhala society and the ruling class alone cannot be blamed for it. The Sinhala today is in a unique position in history like never before. He is much like the German ‘civilian’ on the dawn of Nazism, and he will be remembered by the Tamils in the future the same way a Jew today would think of the German in 1938. If the regime he voted for is drunk with power, he is inebriated with a sense of permanence. He denies that anything is wrong with the regime he supports. Even if the truth, as naked as the executed Tamil civilians shown in the C4 video, is thrown in his face, he will still stare with adoration at his national emblem and rally behind calls for unity. He is the ethical criminal who gives the power to the war criminals in the state. Then, the fascist at the top is not an aberration, he is the rule, while the likes of Viraj Mendis and Jude Fernando who live in exile for supporting the Tamils are oddities – much like what Oskar Schindler was in Nazi Germany. My friend was not off the mark when she said that she saw in the Sinhala ‘civilian’ an employer of murderers and rapists.

There is another layer that seems supposedly ‘in between’ in the whole conflict. The liberal multiculturalist, the likes of those who run ‘groundviews’ and other such outfits that use sophisticated jargon like ‘post-conflict reconciliation’ ‘coexistence’ ‘citizen’s alternatives’ to cover what they really are – apologists of state oppression. They are indeed a spectacle – they endorse all identities provided it does not hurt the general identity of ‘Sri Lankan’, which for the Eelam Tamils means occupier of their lands. And like all multiculturalist hypocrites, their organizations and positions resolutely deny the existence of the unique Eelam Tamil identity, the identity of an oppressed people asserting which they sacrificed over 200000 lives, serving the purpose of no one but the oppressors and their ideology. Collaborating with them are a group of Tamil intellectuals, an elite, steeped in liberalism and groomed in NGO politics. There are those who deny that there was a genuine liberation struggle led by the Tigers. There are those who say that the war on the LTTE was justified, but the govt needs to give the ‘right reasons’ – as if any such reasoning would assuage the wounded sentiments of those asserted their rights to their homeland and were thus hunted. And of course, there are those who say that let bygones be bygones. Against this academic onslaught, where does the politics of the Tamil patriots stand?

The ‘groundviews’ from Vavuniya, Kilinochi and Jaffna, the views of the Tamil natives, are this – the average Sinhala colonizer views the Tamil as a defeated person, to be pitied or to be held in contempt, if not to be trampled upon. The average Tamil views the Sinhala as a sadist who turned the other way while his army committed genocide in his name, a torturer, if not a killer. If the Sinhala colonizer’s gaze makes of the Tamil an object, it is because it is backed by an occupying army. If the Tamil’s gaze shows despair, a precursor to rage, it is because the most committed defenders of her interests, the LTTE, have only recently been militarily defeated, a defeat that the occupier flaunts in her face as the end of her genuine political aspirations. The raw material required for explosion, resentment and shared memories of persecution and injustice is prevalent throughout the territory of Eelam. And this is the truth in united Sri Lanka, no matter what its apologists like Sarvananthan and Ahilan Kadirgamar might like to portray.

Let me deploy a parallel. In colonial Algeria, there were compradors who betrayed their fellow nationals, collaborating with the occupiers, for privileged positions in the bureaucracy. Among Algerians, there were men who fattened themselves with the crumbs that colonialism threw, with the blood money of their countrymen, and could even buy luxurious villas in the occupying power’s metropolis. And there were Algerian intellectuals who sought to be more French than the French themselves, who would justify a peaceful coexistence between oppressor and oppressed, violator and violated, with colourful jargons and sophisticated prose. Did the FLN wage the Algerian independence struggle for such men? Or did they wage it for those countless men and women who saw the brutal face of French occupation and chose to assert their rights and their identity, for the martyrs of Setif and Phillippeville? I leave it to the sensitive reader to make her/his conclusions and draw appropriate parallels with the Eelam struggle and its protagonists. All I can say is that the Eelam struggle was, is, and will be waged for those Tamils who assert their legitimate right to their homeland, to be different and to secede, at the risk of sounding sentimental, for the thousands of young Tamil men and women who chose to fight and die even when they had a choice to collaborate and live, and at the risk of sounding metaphysical, for the vindication of their faith that one day there will a land called Tamil Eelam that we can call home.

So, the Tamil liberal who infests the elite circles of Colombo 7, who speaks of ‘post-war reconciliation’ or ‘citizen activism’ without addressing the fundamental political demands of the Eelam Tamils is as guilty of ethical dishonesty as his intellectual bedfellow, the Sinhala liberal who, like all liberals of oppressor nations, primarily serves his nation’s interests only. The Eelam Nation is still facing war – as even a cursory glance of Gothabaya’s recent statements would indicate. The reality of war, as Sartre observed, is always Manichean and all discourses of ‘plural identities’ and ‘multiculturalism’ is nothing short of a farce. And the intellectuals who take refuge in such arguments are as guilty of crimes as the rapists and murderers and their employers.

The author is a freelance writer based in Chennai.

July 26: Cuba’s Revolution, Morality and Solidarity

Ron Ridenour

Fifty-eight years ago, on July 26, 1953, 160 Cuban rebels attacked Moncada Barracks near Santiago de Cuba. Had the rebels been able to take the fort with 1,000 troops—a good possibility—it would have started a revolution that might well have defeated the dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista within a short time.

Fidel leading the revolutionaries

Fidel, the leader

The main cause for failure was a missing vehicle with their heavy weaponry. Nevertheless they were able to cause three times the numbers of casualties that they suffered. Nearly one-half of the rebels were killed but most of them died under or following torture.

After being held for 76 days in isolation without access to reading material, Fidel Castro, the 26-year old leader, came into a courtroom filled with 100 soldiers. He gave a rousing defense of the need for revolution to topple the dictator and change the corrupt and brutal socio-economic system so that all could be fed, obtain education and health care, so that farmers could own land and all have a voice.

Fidel

Fidel leads the revolutionaries

In his five-hour speech, Fidel said,

“The right of rebellion against tyranny, Honorable Judges, has been recognized from the most ancient times to the present day by men of all creeds, ideas and doctrines.”

Instead of asking for acquittal, he demanded to be with his brother and sister rebels in prison. “Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me!”

Fidel Castro considers ethics and morality to be essential for revolutions. In My Life: Fidel Castro, the 2006 interview book with Ignacio Ramonet, Fidel speaks of these highest principles on numerous occasions. He asserts that “especially ethics” is what he learned most from the national liberation hero, José Martí.

After following liberated Cuba for half-a-century, having lived and worked there for eight years, I find that during its guerrilla struggle, from December 2, 1956 to January 1, 1959 the revolutionaries acted in a moral manner. Cuba’s revolutionary armed struggle was exceptional in this way. As Fidel told Ramonet, “We did not kill any prisoners”, “not even one blow” was dealt. That is “our principle”; “All revolutionary thought begins with a bit of ethics.”

Che in Congo

Che Guevara in Congo

I think that is also the key reason why so many millions of people the world over love and respect Che Guevara: his moral stance, his example as a just revolutionary leader. This from “Socialism and Man:”

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love…Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, the most sacred cause, and make it one and indivisible…one must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme dogmatism and cold scholasticism, into an isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.”

I agree with Fidel and Che. Revolutionaries must be ethical in vision and use morality in practice, both at home and in solidarity with the oppressed everywhere. As Fidel told Lee Lockwood in Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel:

“Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies…Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.”

I define ethics in this way: Life shall not be abused or destroyed by our conscious hand—without being attacked or oppressed beyond limits of toleration. A moral person, organization, political party or government acts in daily life and in the struggle for justice with that ethic in mind. These are my thoughts on morality:

1. We act so that no one person, race or ethnic group is either over or under another.

2. In combat against oppressors and invaders, we do not kill non-combatant civilians nor forcefully recruit them, or use them as hostages.

3. We struggle to create equality for all.

4. We abolish all profit-making based upon the exploitation of labor or the oppression of any person, group of people, class or caste. Instead, we build an economy based upon principles of justice and equality, one in which no one goes hungry, sharing equitably our resources and production.

5. We struggle to create a political system based upon participation where all have a voice in decision-making about vital matters with relation to local, national and international policies.

6. We struggle to eliminate alienation in each of us.

Ethics and Sri Lanka Tamils

True, solidarity activists have no choice. We must support a people under attack by aggressors wherever in the world. That is what I see as our task as anti-war activists concerning Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine…just as we did in the wars against Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia and the South Africans…

For us solidarity activists, and governments viewing themselves as progressive-socialist-communist-revolutionary, I believe our task must be to press for the very lives and rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka where governments have systematically oppressed and repressed them for half-a-century.

As a solidarity activist—who advocates the right to resist and the necessity to conduct armed struggle once peaceful means fail to change oppressive governments from terrorizing us—I denounce all perpetrators of terrorism, no matter the party or cause, and demand they change tactics to ones that are morally in accordance with our ideology embracing fellowship with justice and equality.

Tamil Rebels

Tamil Tigers

I find that most armed movements commit acts of atrocities, even acts of terror in the long course of warfare. This has sometimes been the case with the Colombian FARC and Palestinian PFLP, for instance. But I support them in their righteous struggle. They are up against much greater military and economic forces that practice state terror endemically. The ANC in South Africa’s war for liberation also committed horrendous acts of ‘terrorism’.

Most of the dozens of Tamil groups that took up arms, at one time or another, considered themselves Marxists, and many looked up to Che Guevara and Cuba’s revolution as an ideal. But they nearly all became terrorists in much of their actions. Hear what Che Guevara meant about the use of violence.

“There are always laggards who remain behind but our function is not to liquidate them, to crush them and force them to bow to an armed vanguard, but to educate them by leading them forward and getting them to follow us because of our example, or as Fidel called it ‘moral compulsion.’” (Speech “From somewhere in the world”)

This Sri Lanka Tamil ‘story’ is a tragedy especially for the Tamils; also for the world of humanity. Most people not directly involved, however, do not react because they don’t know what they can do. There are so many tragedies going on at the same time. Cynical brutality is constantly unleashed by major capitalist enterprises and their governments in the ‘first’ world, much of the former ‘second’ world as well as by national capitalists in the ‘third’ world. We live in what I call the Permanent War Age. Brutality—surveillance—suffering is the norm.

In those countries where there is little brutality, in comparison, and no aggressive war-making (I speak here of the governments of Cuba and other ALBA—Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America—countries) the leaders see the necessity of having political ties with some war criminal governments, such as Sri Lanka. I gather that this leads them to ignore their moral solidarity principles and abandon the oppressed Tamils.

On this July 26 day of celebration, I call upon the Cuban government, as well as all members of the ALBA alliance, to return to the moral principles expressed by Fidel and Che and do the right thing by the Tamil people. Call for an independent international investigation into the war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government, and use your moral clout, your revolutionary record to demand an end to the genocide against this people.

If morality does not become integral to our struggles, I’m afraid we are headed for a worldwide moral collapse, which is already underway due to the intrinsic immorality of capitalism and its imperialism; the foundering of contemporary socialism; and the rise of fascism throughout much of the world.

A Letter to ALBA countries

Amarantha for Latin American Friendship Association (Erode, Tamil Nadu)

Dear Comrades,

“Humanity is Homeland” said Jose Marti, poet, philosopher and Father of the Cuban Revolutionary war.

“The exploited, all over the world, are our compatriots; and exploiters all over the world our enemies… our country is really the whole world and all Revolutionaries of the world are our brothers” said Fidel Castro, Hero of the Cuban revolution who realized Marti’s dreams.

Cuban doctors are at work among less fortunate people in many parts of the world. Cuban medical teams are engaged in relief and rehabilitation work in various countries devastated by natural disasters. More than 26,000 students from across the world study medicine free of cost at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana promising to serve the poor and needy back home.

But why did the present leaders of Cuba hail Sri Lanka for killing Eelam Tamils? Why did they tow behind India in praising the Sri Lankan state at the UN Human Rights Council when tens of thousands of Eelam Tamils were killed in the gruesome war? Are Eelam Tamils excluded from the Internationalism unique to Cuba?

We at the Latin American Friendship Association consisting of Tamils of Tamil Nadu, India, were shocked and disheartened when the ALBA countries, at the insistence of Cuba, voted in favor of the Sri Lankan State at the UNHRC on 27 May, 2009. It is now time for Cuba and other Latin American countries to correct their stand about Eelam Tamils in the light of the UN Advisory Panel Report on Sri Lanka, released on 25 April, 2011.

Members of the U.N. Advisory Panel on Sri Lanka constituted by the Secretary General of U.N. Mr. Ban-ki-Moon, have confirmed the allegations of Tamils living across the world. The report confirms that more than 40,000 civilians were killed by heavy artillery and widespread shelling by Sri Lankan govt. forces; that there was systematic shelling on “No fire zones” including hospitals, schools, etc…. It strongly denies the Govt. of Sri Lanka’s claims of “Humanitarian…. Operation” with a policy of “zero civilian causalities” and indicates that a wide range of serious violations of International Humanitarian Laws and International Human Rights Laws were committed by the Govt. of Sri Lanka. Though it has been alleged that the LTTE had used civilians as human shields, recruited children in its cadre and stored weapons in civilian areas, the panel report accuses the Govt. of Sri Lanka of trampling on all International Humanitarian Laws. Therefore, the panel has called upon the UN Security council to “reconsider the resolution passed by the UNHRC on 27 May 2009 in light of the Panel Report”.

One may recall that the permanent People’s Tribunal, an international body independent of any state authority, after examining evidences and hearing eye-witnesses in Dublin in January 2010, concluded that the Sri Lankan government is guilty of War crimes and Crimes against Humanity and that the International community, particularly the U.K. and U.S.A., share responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process during 2002-2006. The tribunal comprised of renowned jurists, Nobel laureates including Rajinder Sachar, former chief justice of New Delhi High Court, Sulak Sivaraksa- a Buddhist Peace campaigner, writer, etc… This People’s Tribunal was set up by the continuous efforts of the Tamil Diaspora, Tamils in Tamil Nadu and some Sinhala democrats.

The Tribunal termed the civil war a “war without witnesses” because, the GoSL prevented entry of both National and International media into the war zone. In fact, some of the early victims were journalists who were murdered by unknown assassins. The atrocities carried out by the military relate particularly to civilians and there are evidences of cluster bombs being dropped by warplanes. Sexual abuse and rape of women by government troops was yet another atrocity repeated throughout the civil war by govt. military in destroyed villages and in the “welfare villages”. This led to tragedies such as abortions and suicide by victims unable to live with family shame and mental trauma. This policy of targeting also applied to Tamils living outside the conflict zone. Apart from mass deportations, selective terror campaigns were carried out by means of abductions, assassinations, arbitrary arrests, detention, sexual assault and torture.

The tribunal insists that the charges of genocide require further investigation, whereas the U.N. Panel on Sri Lanka restricts itself to allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.N. fails to view the conflict in Sri Lanka as an ethnic issue as it does not recognize the Tamils’ struggle for statehood or the Tamils as a nationality with a genuine need to protect itself from extermination. Sri Lanka’s war crimes are only a part of ethnic cleansing of Tamils over the last 60 years.

The Sinhala rulers on assuming power from the British in 1948 began the systematic oppression of Tamils in all aspects of life.

(1) One million Tamils were excluded from citizenship and rendered stateless by the citizenship Act 18 of 1948. Act 48 of 1949 denied the right to vote enjoyed by the Tamils until then.
(2) Tamil homelands in the North and East were deliberately colonized by Sinhalese with state funds, but were excluded from all development projects.
(3) The Sinhala Only Act of 1958 and Standardization Act of the same year deprived Tamils of higher education, employment opportunities, professional opportunities and all public office thereby consolidating the racial discrimination.
(4) Thousands of Tamils were killed in racial violence let loose by the Sinhala rulers in 1956, 1958, 1974, 1976, and 1977 against innocent Tamils. There was widespread looting, arson, rape, torture, burning people alive, destroying property and centers of cultural importance – all planned and executed by racist Sinhala Governments.
(5) The state sponsored violence against Tamils in August 1977 forced more than 50,000 Tamils to migrate to northern part of Eelam and to several other countries including India.
(6) Burning of Jaffna Library in 1981 and the massacre of Tamils detained in Welikkede Prison determined armed struggle as the only course available for the Tamils for their liberation.

Is Sri Lanka an anti-imperialist state? :

Sri Lanka, which calls itself as a ‘Socialist Democratic Republic’, was the first country in South Asia to open itself for globalization in 1976, and amended its economic policy accordingly. Recently, the Sri Lanka Govt. has evacuated poor people from neighborhoods around Colombo to offer lands for multi-national companies.

Active military collobaration between the ‘anti-imperialist’ Sri Lanka and United States has been going on for more than two decades. The United States of America has been arming and financing Sri Lanka for most of the civil war period. [http://cdi.org/PDFs/CSBillCharts.pdf] From at least the 1990s, the US has provided military training, financing, logistic supplies and weapons sales worth millions annually. A Voice of America installation was set up in the northwestern part of the country.

The Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA ) was signed soon after Rajapaksa assumed power. It was U.S. citizen Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Defense Minister, and brother to President Rajapaksa, who signed the agreement, March 5, 2007. Their younger brother, also a minister, is a US citizen too.) . ACSA will enable the United States to utilize Sri Lanka’s ports, airports and air space. As a prelude to the signing of the agreement scheduled for July, this year, United States Naval ships have been calling at the Colombo Port for bunkering as well as to enable sailors to go on shore leave.

In return for the facilities offered, Sri Lanka is to receive military assistance from the United States including increased training facilities and equipment. The training, which will encompass joint exercises with United States Armed Forces, will focus on counter terrorism and related activity. The agreement will be worked out on the basis of the use of Sri Lanka’s ports, airports, and air space to be considered hire-charges that will be converted for military hardware.
(http://colombopage.com/archive_07/March5132506JV.html)

Today, lands in the war-torn North and Eastern parts of the Island are shared among Indian and Chinese corporate companies.

Sri Lanka is not a secular state as the constitution itself states that Buddhism is the foremost religion in the Island though there are people belonging to various other religions.

“War on Terror” is a slogan borrowed by Sri Lanka from the U.S. to justify the genocidal war on Tamils, using sophisticated weapons of mass destruction supplied by the U.S., Israel, Japan, Italy, China and India.

Truth and the UNHRC Resolution dated 27 May 2009; The Current Situation:

The U.N. Panel Report of 25 April 2011 is more than enough evidence to conclude that the UNHRC Resolution of 27 May 2009 is far removed from truth. The magnitude of physical torture, psychological torture, disease, starvation and abuse of the Tamils survivors has few precedents in history. It will be several generations before the Tamils recover from the horror of this war. As with any war, women have borne the brunt – there are about 89,000 war widows in Eelam. Tamil women have been molested, sexually harassed and raped as part of the genocidal program so that they never return to normal life. The Sri Lankan army has taken upon itself the duty of not letting any humanitarian aid reach the Tamil survivors. Deprived of food, water, medicine, medical services and other basic necessities, Tamils have been subject to several epidemics in the camps, leading to steady rise in death toll. There were an estimated three hundred thousand Tamils in these modern day “concentration camps” immediately after the war. The number has been dwindling by the day and two years after the war, though the govt. of Sri Lanka claims to have “let free” and “rehabilitated” Tamils, there is no evidence of resettlement; there is no information as to where these people were “resettled”. A state of emergency is still in vogue and the fear-gripped, psychologically tortured people in camps are still under the wrath of the Sri Lankan Army.

We would like to call upon the ALBA countries and other radical governments of Latin America to reflect upon the situation prevailing in south Asia. Countries that became independent after the Second World War including India (1947), Pakistan (1947) and Sri Lanka (1948) were under British rule for centuries. The British ruled these countries inhabited by several Nationalities speaking different languages under a single administrative unit for their own convenience. When these colonies became independent, people of different Nationalities were forced to remain under one state without recognition as separate Nationalities having separate homelands. This improper decolonization led to fighting by different Nationalities for the retrieval of their right to self-rule.

Just as the Tamils in Sri Lanka fighting for Eelam, their traditional homeland, there are other genuine Nationality struggles going on in Kashmir and the North Eastern states in India. Tamils and Punjabis are the potential Nationalities likely to rise in struggle sooner or later. With these realities in its backyard, the Indian government chose to assist the Sri Lanka Govt. in its war against the Liberation of Tamil Eelam. India let Sri Lanka use its satellites for surveillance, supplied sophisticated equipment including radars, technical assistance and billions of rupees in aid for the war against Eelam Tamils. India is well aware that a liberated Eelam state would not tolerate the dominance of the Indian state and its sway over Trincomalee, the strategically located natural port in Eelam territory. Liberation of Eelam could prove to be more than just precedence for Tamils in Tamil Nadu and other Nationalities in the Indian State. India has conveyed its message that it is capable of “nipping trouble in the bud” by deliberately taking part in the ethnic cleansing of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

In the light of the above, we urge the radical governments of Latin America to demand that:
a) The UNHRC Resolution dated 27 May 2009 be removed from the UN records.
b) The struggle of Eelam Tamils is accepted as a liberation struggle for the retrieval of their Homelands.
c) The Sri Lankan govt. under Mahinda Rajapakse is investigated for genocidal crimes in the international court of justice.
d) The planned Sinhala colonization and the land-grab by multinational corporations in Eelam be stopped immediately
e) International media and International Human Rights activists are allowed entry into Sri Lankan territory to gain access to the truth which has not happened even two years after the end of the war
f) Rehabilitation and resettlement happen under the supervision of the UN Peacekeeping Force
g) These countries join hands with Eelam Tamil support groups across the world in demanding that the Eelam Tamils languishing in camps under horrific conditions be let free to return to their homes and all humanitarian assistance rendered to restore normalcy in their lives.

We believe that the blossoming of Socialism in the Twenty First Century and its endurance will not be complete without the liberation of oppressed Nationalities of South Asia. The Eelam Tamils have paid their dues for such liberation dearly and this would no doubt go down in history as the impotence of the left and radical forces.

Imperialism has been successful in spreading the myth that ‘Communism is dead’ and ‘There Is No Alternative'(TINA) to capitalism. If we, as committed anti-imperialists fail to extend our solidarity for the democratic aspirations of the peoples, it will only become a historic blunder of joining hands with imperialism to bury the ideology of communism. And we would like to remind here the saying of the great Internationalist Che Guevera:

“The revolutionary [is] the ideological motor force of the revolution…if he forgets his proletarian internationalism, the revolution which he leads will cease to be an inspiring force and he will sink into a comfortable lethargy, which imperialism, our irreconcilable enemy, will utilize well. Proletarian internationalism is a duty, but it is also a revolutionary necessity. So we educate our people.”

The U.N. Panel Report on Sri Lanka released on April 25, 2011 gives us an opportunity to recognize the just struggle of Eelam Tamils for their self determination and to restore the dignity of International Humanitarian Laws. Cuba and the other Latin American countries should now voice their support for Eelam Tamils and demonstrate their true International spirit handed down to them by Comrade Ernesto Che Guevera.

We look forward to your cooperation in making this effort a success. A line in reply would go a long way in forging our belief in Freedom.

Two Years after the Eelam War: The Flames of Liberation Continue to Expose the Oppressors and their Apologists!

Democratic Students Union (DSU)

Two years back, on 18 May 2009 the Sri Lankan army claimed to have killed Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of LTTE, along with hundreds of his comrades. The next day in the Sri Lankan parliament a jubilant Rajapakse declared victory in the Eelam War IV. This was the day, two years back, when the Eelam Tamils lost their hard-fought freedom at the hands of the fascist and expansionist Sri Lanka. This week the Tamils in Eelam and outside remember the heroic sacrifice of the sons and daughters of Eelam who laid down their lives fighting the armed forces of the chauvinist Sri Lankan ruling classes. Braving threats, intimidation and harassment from the Sri Lankan armed forces and intelligence, the people of Eelam paid homage to those who have fallen in the decades-long struggle for national liberation. They reiterated that it is the people of Tamil Eelam alone who have the mandate to chose their destiny, denouncing and warning against any ‘negotiated settlement’ of the issue which compromises with the historical realities. The people have stated that any secret deal or confidential talk with the Sri Lankan state by those who claim to represent the Eelam Tamils will not be acceptable. The ‘solution’ only lies in the recognition of the historical reality of Tamil Eelam, i.e., its right to exist as a free and independent national state.

The injustice, oppression and discrimination of the Eelam Tamils by the Sinhala chauvinist ruling classes of Sri Lanka has a long history that goes back many centuries. The genocidal murder of Tamils in the first five months of 2009 in the last phase of the war was one of the most extensive and brutal phases of this national oppression. In the last days of the war alone, more than 40,000 Tamils – including combatants and non-combatants – were slaughtered by the marauding Sri Lankan army and air force. As the ‘international community’ watched in silence, cluster bombs and chemical weapons were unleashed on the entire population. Houses, schools, hospitals, ambulances, civilian shelters, and even No Fire Zones were bombed with impunity. By the time the war was declared over, almost the entire Tamil population of the north and east was uprooted, their lives and property was destroyed, and were forcefully confined in concentration camps which the Sri Lankan state calls ‘refugee camps’. Even conservative estimates put the number of displaced people to be above 3.5 lakhs. A large part of them are still not allowed to return to their villages, most of which have been ravaged and ruined beyond recognition. Eelam has been transformed into a mammoth prison-house by the occupation army of the Sri Lankan state. Here any form of dissent and articulation of political demand is strictly prohibited. The aim is to enslave the entire nation, and to kill the very hope of a free homeland. By forcing them into utter misery, the Sri Lankan state expects the Eelam Tamils to give up their aspiration for liberation, to abandon their dream of Eelam as a mere illusion, and to accept the present condition as their immutable fate.

Living under the shadow of fascist repression, experiencing the terror unleashed by the Sri Lankan state, and deeply aware of the historic oppression of their nation, it is the Eelam Tamils more than anyone else who seek the punishment of the perpetrators – the Sri Lankan ruling classes and its mercenary army. They deserve the severest of reprisal and punishment for their crimes. The question however is, what should they be punished for? For ‘crimes against humanity’, ‘war crimes’, ‘international crimes’, ‘violation of human rights’, flouting the rules of ‘Geneva Convention’, etc.? Or, for trying to wipe out a whole nation fighting for their inalienable right to self determination and national liberation? Here lies the difference between the perspective of the peoples’ movements and that of the International Human Rights industry/NGOs promoted by the imperialist camp. It is in the name of humanism, humanitarian intervention, and the so-called crimes against humanity that imperialism and its faithful lackeys such as the comprador ruling classes of Sri Lanka commit national oppression. Not for nothing that the Sri Lankan state called its war on Eelam a ‘humanitarian war to liberate the people of the Northern Province’. This is how the warmongers sell their wars, and the international weapons industry, its wares. This is the language in which the ‘internationally recognised bodies’ like the United Nations (UN), NATO and the European Union wages war on peoples’ movements and organisations. No wonder the imperialist countries and their ‘recognised legal bodies’ like UN spends millions of dollars every year to promote the discourse of ‘human rights’ or ‘crimes against humanity’ by funding thousands of human rights organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations. In the ‘conflict zones’ they protect the interest of the forces of oppression by accusing and persecuting the oppressed people, their leaders and their organisations, who dare to rise up against imperialism and its lackeys, while silently or vocally approving the acts of the oppressors. In the name of ‘conflict resolution’, they seek to take away the oppressed peoples’ right to fight back.

Any talk of ‘humanity’ and ‘humanism’ in a world divided into oppressor and oppressed classes, or oppressor and oppressed nations, is nothing but a sham. It is not in the name of ‘humanism’ that oppressed nations demand the right to self-determination. It is not in the name of ‘human rights’ that oppressed people seek liberation. The right of every oppressed nation to self determination including secession from the oppressor nation is a political right. It is a genuine collective right of a nation or a people, which even the UN was forced to recognise under pressure from the tidal wave of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist liberation struggles in the twentieth century. It is this inalienable political and collective right that the Eelam Tamils and their organisation Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought for almost four decades without compromise. In the path of liberation they unflinchingly suffered, but have not surrendered. Even today, after undergoing such extreme forms of repression and near extinction, they have not given up the aspiration for liberation. Therefore, when some sections who claim to represent the Eelam Tamils or to be in solidarity with them talk of ‘war crimes’, ‘crimes against humanity’ or ‘human rights violations’ in Sri Lanka without even acknowledging the right of a separate, sovereign and independent Tamil Eelam, stands accused of not only betraying this heroic struggle, but also of colluding with imperialism and its trusted executioners, the Sri Lankan and Indian ruling classes. They would do well to pay heed to the students of Jaffna University, who while remembering the martyrs of Eelam War this week, warned that it is the Eelam people alone that have the right to decide upon their destiny, and not those who compromise with the peoples’ aspirations in the name of tactics.

The Sri Lankan ruling classes responsible for centuries of oppression of the Tamil national minority must be punished so that the people of Eelam can win their freedom. But this punishment can only be in the form of overthrowing the repressive rule of the Sri Lankan state and through the liberation of Eelam, not by ‘demanding punishment’ for this or that member of the ruling classes. Let us not forget that the Rajapaksas –Mahinda, Basil, Gotabaya, or Sarath Fonseka etc. are mere instruments of class rule and national oppression – they are the puppets of imperialism. To howl for the punishment of such puppets without opposing Eelam’s continued occupation by the Sri Lankan state and its plunder by the imperialists is nothing but to legitimize this oppression and to backstab the Eelam liberation movement. Only the wolves in sheep’s skin are capable of such opportunism. The struggling people everywhere – including the Eelam Tamils – have seen too many of these chameleons to be fooled by their pretensions.

Who then will punish the ruling classes of Sri Lanka and bring them to justice, after all? Will it be United Nations, International Criminal Court, United States of America, India, the Sri Lankan state itself? Or the oppressed people of Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka? Anyone who trusts the collective strength of oppressed people and believes in their unwavering determination to struggle against injustice knows the answer. However, those who are in the payroll of imperialism or benefits from oppression and status-quo, call upon the people to repose faith in their masters to ‘deliver justice’. This is the characteristic role of the imperialist-funded human rights industry and the NGO racket. What is the track record of imperialist agencies like the United Nations or the International Criminal Court (ICC) in ‘punishing’ despotic and authoritarian rulers complicit in mass murders? The worldwide operations of ICC, for example, are run by a consortium of international NGOs called ‘Coalition for the International Criminal Court’ which has over 2,500 NGO members in 150 different countries, most of which are directly funded by the imperialists. No surprise that ICC has prosecuted ruling-class members of six countries for ‘crimes against humanity’, all of which are from African countries. The latest target against whom ICC prosecution has begun is Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, his gravest crime being the opposition to imperialist intervention and the US-led war. As per the official rhetoric, however, he is to be tried for ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’! On the other hand, the biggest criminals in the world – George Bush Junior and Senior, Barack Obama, Tony Blair etc. are roaming free, some even managing to get Nobel ‘Peace Prizes’! Therefore, at a meeting of 30 African ICC member states in June 2009, several African countries called on African ICC members to withdraw from the Court in protest against the Court’s targeting of only Africa. The Commissioner of African Union, Ramtane Lamamra, said that the Prosecutor of the ICC was applying “a double standard in pursuing cases against some leaders while ignoring others”. Knowing all this, can anyone be so naïve to be ignorant of the politics of ‘war crimes’, ‘crimes against humanity’, and the ‘justice’ system of “internationally recognised legal bodies”?

Is the real character and purpose of the UN any different? History proves that this ‘recognised legal body’ too has been a ‘powerful tool’ and a ‘strategic weapon’ in the hands of the imperialist powers and their surrogate regimes the world over. Just five years after its establishment, the UN –brainchild of US president Roosevelt – fought in favour of South Korea against Peoples’ Republic of Korea and revolutionary China under Mao in the Korean War (1950-53). From its inception till now the UN and its legal wing, the so-called International Court of Justice, has worked untiringly for establishing the New World Order under US imperialism. Its role during the ‘Cold War’ and thereafter needs no elaboration. In light of this dark history, to welcome the UN to be the arbiter of ‘international crime’ and ‘world peace’ is to invite imperialist intervention, to strengthen the forces of oppression and to deny any possibility of justice. Has the Libyan ‘rebels’ who invited UN bombardment in the name of ‘ousting Gaddafi’ and ‘liberating’ Libya opened doors for peace, justice and democracy? The people of Libya know that they are the lackeys of imperialism, no matter how much they try to convince the world about the ‘strategic’ need of using the UN-led war in Libya. For the Libyan people, the so-called rebels are nothing but imperialist collaborators and traitors.

The recent UN Expert Panel’s report on Sri Lanka exposes its real character to those who care to see. The so-called ‘major limitations’ of the UN report are nothing but the very basis of the report. Like any other imperialist agent, it does not recognise the right of Eelam Tamils for a separate and free homeland, instead offering a humiliating ‘common homeland’. It falsely accuses LTTE and its leadership, the force spearheading the decades-old liberation struggle, of using Eelam Tamils as ‘human shields’ and of even ‘point blank shooting of civilians’! In fact, while the UN Expert Panel finds five allegations of ‘potential serious violations’ against the Sri Lankan state ‘credible’, it held the LTTE guilty of six such ‘potential serious violations’, including the killing of its own people for whose defense and liberation it heroically fought for three decades! By accepting, welcoming and propagating the UN and its report, one tacitly accepts that the leaders and cadres of LTTE were also criminals, an opinion which is alien to the people of Tamil Eelam. The oppressed people of Tamil Eelam will never accept such a conclusion against the very organisation which they built and sustained with their blood and sweat. Nor would the LTTE or its leadership would accept such a verdict, no matter how much the report is ‘critical’ of the Sri Lankan genocidal state.

Sri Lanka’s ruling classes too have rejected the report, but for entirely different reasons. They know very well that the report and the threat of ‘prosecution’ in international courts will be used as a tool by the Western imperialist countries to wrest economic benefits, and hence is this rejection. Apart from outright imperialists, only those turncoats who see opportunities in the decimation of LTTE and the plight of the Tamils in Eelam can talk of ‘using the report as a strategic weapon’ in favour of Eelam Tamil and their political aspiration, after slyly declaring that “considering that the Lankan government claims that all the leaders of the Eelam movement have been eliminated, it can be presumed that the report shall apply only to those in state machinery who were responsible for war crimes”! We must thank them for exonerating the martyred sons and daughters of Eelam from being prosecuted for ‘war crimes’! But we have no right to anticipate whether the oppressed people of Tamil Eelam will be so merciful and benevolent as to exonerate the renegades for their crime of betraying the ongoing Eelam liberation struggle at one of its most critical junctures. Long live the struggle for free and independent Tamil Eelam!

The “Liberation” of Bamboo – The Caveats

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

The recent victory of village Mendha (Lekha) in securing control over its bamboo deserves celebration. For the first time, after a struggle of decades by forest dwellers across the country, a village has regained control over its forest and over a key livelihood resource. For the first time – despite intense, illegal resistance by the Forest Department till the very last minute – it has been acknowledged that the forest bureaucracy has no God-given right to extract and destroy the livelihood resources of forest dwellers while harassing and repressing them.

But it is also necessary to remember that this is a very limited and partial victory. Claims that “bamboo has been liberated” are greatly exaggerated. This is because in several ways, Mendha is no ordinary village. If this is not to remain merely an eyewash, it is necessary to look more closely at what has actually happened.

First, Mendha is one of the handful of villages in the country whose rights to conserve, protect and manage its community forest resource (CFR) have actually been recognised and recorded by the authorities. In the vast majority of villages these rights have not been recognised at all; and in the few hundred where this has happened, as in Andhra Pradesh, the right has mostly been illegally handed over to the Forest Department-controlled Joint Forest Management committee rather than to the village. In other cases, even if the JFM committee’s name has not been mentioned in the community title, rights only on the area allocated for JFM by the forest department have been recognized (instead over forests falling within their customary boundaries) and the titles made conditional to continuing control of the forest department. As we said in our statement on the Environment Ministry letter on bamboo, the Environment Ministry has now consciously tried to limit ownership and control over minor forest produce to only these handful of villages whose CFR rights have been ‘officially’ recognized. In all other villages, Forest Department control will continue, in violation of the law.

Second, through their earlier struggles, Mendha village’s gram sabha had already wrested control over its community forest from the Joint Forest Management committee in the village. In most cases, the struggle between actual community control and these committees – which, as explained in this link, are actually Forest Department proxies – is still continuing. In its letter on bamboo, also as said in our earlier statement, the Ministry is not only preventing democratic gram sabha control over community forests – it is trying to strengthen JFM committees and blocking the legal recognition of community rights. Had the Ministry’s policy been implemented in Mendha, April 27th would simply not have happened.

The MoEF has a history of saying one thing and doing the opposite in forest management. If bamboo is not to become one more example of this, the Ministry has to be pressurised to abandon its illegal positions and recognise rights over minor forest produce (as well as community forest resource rights) in all villages, dismantle the systems of Forest Department autocracy, and shift to democratic management. In the absence of these measures, April 27th will be remembered as a day when the state gave in to one village’s historic struggle – while betraying thousands of others.

A Report from ground zero: Preliminary report of the DSU fact-finding visit to Narayanpatna

Democratic Students’ Union (DSU)

A team of students from DU, JNU and IGNOU belonging to the Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) visited Narayanpatna Block in the Koraput district of Odisha from 11 April to 16 April 2011. The objective of the visit was to study the ground situation at present in the region where a militant mass struggle is going on for the last few years, and according to the media reports, has faced extreme forms of state repression. The aim was also to study the socio-economic aspects of the social life of Narayanpatna region, and to look into the factors that have contributed to the emergence of this important peasant struggle in contemporary South Asia.

Narayanpatna is inhabited by sixteen tribal communities including Kui, Parija, Jorka, Matia, Doria and others, of whom the Kuis are numerically predominant. The adivasis, who constitute more than 90 percent of around 45,000 people of Narayanpatna block, are interspersed with Dalit communities such as Mali, Dombo, Forga, Paiko, Rilli, etc. Dominant castes such as the Sundis and Brahmins are numerically small but are powerful and influential. Though the incursion of non-adivasis has a long history going back to the establishment of the Narayanpatna Raj centuries back, the Sundis have entered the district after they were driven away from Coastal Andhra during the Srikakulam armed struggle in the 1960s. The Sundis as well as a small section of Dalits from the Dombo and Rilli castes too have made money by exploiting the adivasis and selling them liquor. The non-adivasis are around 5000 in number, and the ruling elite of Narayanpatna belong to this group. It was also clear to us that the identities such as that of landlord, liquor trader, money-lender and politician are not separate or mutually exclusive, but usually coexist in the members of the dominant classes of the region.

Over the last few years, the poor and landless peasants of Narayanpatna, Bandhugaon, Simliguda, etc. have organised themselves under the banner of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), and fought back their tormentors the Sundi-Sahukar-Sarkar nexus. Even though CMAS was working in the region for more than fifteen years, it was only in the last three to four years that its anti-liquor movement took a decisive turn. It reached a flashpoint in January 2009 when the rural masses of Narayanpatna not only drove away the liquor traders from their villages, but mobilized themselves in thousands to pursue them to their stronghold, the towns. Four thousand people went to Narayanpatna town and destroyed liquor factories and wine shops, including shops selling foreign liquor. By late 2010, only two liquor shops were running in the entire region, and that too in the block headquarters of Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon where state’s armed forces are stationed. In January 2011 more than 3000 CMAS members destroyed the shop in Bandhugaon town as well. In villages like Baliaput, Mahua trees from which cheap liquor was produced were destroyed under a political programme of CMAS and BAMS (Biplabi Adivasi Mahila Sangha), and today not a single Mahua tree is to be seen in Narayanpatna’s villages. The prohibition in the sale and consumption of liquor was almost total by 2009. The mass upsurge led to the fleeing of landlords and liquor traders from the region, leading to the collapse of this parasitic trade. The villagers narrated how Jairam Pangi, the incumbent BJD MP from Koraput, tried to dissuade the people from the anti-liquor agitation by claiming that it was a part of adivasi culture, custom and worship, to which the people retorted that the very instrument which destroyed their lives cannot be a part of their devotion and sacrifice that is conducted for their common wellbeing.

The success in the anti-liquor movement encouraged the masses to intensify the land struggle. The CMAS led the reclamation of agricultural land from the landlords and sahukars which were tricked out of the adivasis. Within months, we are told, more than 3000 acres of such land were recaptured and distributed among the villages. As a reaction to the growing tide of mass struggle, ‘Shanti Committee’ was formed by the landlords and liquor traders with the active support of the state administration on 4 May 2009. After the successful culmination of the anti-liquor struggle and the intensification of the land struggle by 2009, and particularly after the NALCO raid by the Maoists in April that year, the state repression on the people and their movement was also scaled up. One such incident of state repression was the murder of Wadeka Singana and Nachika Andru at Narayanpatna police station on 20 November 2009, followed by wanton attacks, raids and combing operation in the region, establishing a reign of state terror. Entire village populations are often forced to take shelter in the forests and hills as fugitives. The government has now virtually imposed a seize of Narayanpatna by deploying more than 5000 paramilitary troops including BSF, IRB, CRPF, and hundreds of Special Operations Group commandos, Odisha police personnel and Shanti Committee vigilante forces and closing off all the important entry and exit points to and from Narayanpatna. Rather than addressing the demands of the people, it is mobilising more and more troops to crush the movement.

In the six days of our visit from 11 to 16 April 2011, we interacted with the residents of above twenty villages spread out in the adjacent blocks of Narayanpatna, Bandhugaon, Simliguda, Lakhmipur and Potangi, and visited about twelve of them. Our first stop was Dimtiguda village in the Alamanda panchayat of Bandhugaon block. We passed through the village Jangri Walsa in Kabribari panchayat, where we met the family of Kondahara Kasi who was arrested in 2010 for allegedly being a Maoist. The plea of his wife to meet him in prison has been repeatedly turned down. 14 persons associated with CMAS are presently in jail from this village alone. The next village we visited was Silpalmanda where we were told that Ratnal Madhava was arrested in March 2011 by the Bandhugaon police and a false kidnap case was slapped on him. Village Karaka Itiki under Borgi panchayat was the first village we visited in Narayanpatna, where we heard stories of atrocities committed in the region by landlords, liquor traders, the police and now the Shanti Committee. There we came to know from the villagers that eight out of the thirty houses in Masarimunda village were burnt down by the CRPF in January 2011 after an encounter with the Maoists in the vicinity of the locality. Just a month before this, CRPF personnel destroyed houses in Goloknima village as well after another battle with the Maoists, and looted Rs.8000 from the villagers.

The team could also talk to villagers from Jangri Walsa village. Madan Merika, Poala Malati, Polla Bhima and Seena Mandangi described the attacks from ‘Shanti Committee’ and Bandhugaon CMAS under the leadership of Kedruka Arjun of CPI ML (Kanu Sanyal) party in 2009. They attacked their village in thousands wearing police uniforms and with firearms on the suspicion that the villagers have started to align themselves with the CMAS Narayanpatna Area Committee under its president Nachika Linga. Nariga Poala, Aashu Pirika, Bhima Kedraka, Kasi Kondagari, Muga Poala, Penta Kondagari, Acchanna Poala and Enkanna Poala of this village, many of whom are teenagers, were arrested by the police later that year for allegedly being Maoists, and kept in prison for almost 1½ years, and only recently were they released on bail. K. Suhabsh and K Raman of Keshbhadra village of Bandhugaon block testified to the atrocities committed by the police, the Shanti Committee as well as by the CPIML (Kanu Sanyal) led by Arjun.

In Upar Itiki village we were told that the people have collectively undertaken developmental works under the leadership of CMAS, and rejected the government schemes. Though the pace of the land struggle has been reduced of late due to the intense state repression, the villagers have continued to undertake developmental works with their own initiative. They have completed 7 big irrigation projects in the last two years, and three are under construction as one we witnessed at Boriput village. The Block Development Officer (BDO) tried to distribute money to the villagers for these works, but was refused by the people. In February and March this year the CMAS gave a call to stop all governmental projects in Narayanpatna in protest against the continued atrocities by the state’s forces including arrests, torture, forcible detention, etc. and demanding a halt to Operation Green Hunt and withdrawal of armed forces. As a result of the call, all projects such as NREGA, PDS, Indira Avash Yojana came to a halt in the entire region for two months. The influence of NGOs, which was rampant till the CMAS movement became popular, has also considerably waned, with very little presence now in Narayanpatna block.

The land reclaimed by the CMAS in Manjariguda village under Borgi panchayat was shown to us, where the villagers have collectively cultivated 14 acres of irrigated land. We are told that in this village individual plots have not been distributed to the landless peasants so far, but will be done in the near future. Subbarao Somu, Sitala and Kanta from Langalbera village who belong to the Dombo Dalit caste, testified that poor people from both adivasi and dalit communities have benefitted from the peoples’ struggle against liquor and for land. He said that dalits inhabit two of the nine panchayats of Narayanpatna – Borgi and Langalbera panchayats. They said that there was no truth in the misinformation campaign that the struggle has harmed the dalits, and that there has been an exodus of dalits from villages in the wake of the movement. Somu said that around 50 families from only two villages of Gumandi and Podaradar have fled after the land struggle started. He said that most of them were involved in the liquor trade and were working against the interests of the adivasis. Dinabandhu and Simadri from Borgi village informed that the six landless Dalit families in their village have received 3 acres of land in March 2011 from CMAS, and have irrigated the land by putting community labour. Simadri said, “Those among Dalits who have garnered wealth and become politicians tried to instigate a contradiction between adivasis and dalits, but the poor have no contradiction. The poor dalits of entire Narayanpatna supports CMAS are in the struggle.” Gumpa Vidika, a dalit worker who is presently the spokesperson of CMAS and is hiding from the state in fear of arrest, also talked of the class unity between the adivasis and dalits forged by this struggle in spite of the repeated attempts to pit one against the other.

We were informed that 171 villagers connected to the CMAS have been arrested so far, out of the 637 adivasi political prisoners jailed in entire Orissa. We heard narrations of recent attacks by the paramilitary and police forces deployed in the region on the villages. The police entered Dakapara village on the night of 4 April 2011and beat up villagers including Sirka Sika and Sirka Rupaya whom we spoke to. They looted Rs.5000 and Rs.2500 respectively from the two villagers. On a previous occasion, the government’s forces attacked Sirka Bina’s house on 1 January 2011, detained him and forcibly took him to the police camp, tortured for many hours and released him the next day. His wife’s gold ornaments were also taken away by them. The team members interviewed Sonai Hikoka of Dumsili village whose husband Sitanna Hakoka was taken away by policemen from Lakhimpur police station in November 2010 along with two others. While Kaila Taring and Sodanna Himbreka, the other two villagers have been released by police, there is no trace of Sitanna as yet. The police denied that they arrested him. She filed a Habeas Corpus application in the Odisha High Court, but her plea has been rejected recently by the court reposing full trust on the police’s affidavit. Sonai says that her crops, grain, and cattle were looted by the goons of Shanti Committee when she went out to attend the court hearings. We visited Baliaput village where we saw the dilapidated houses of Nachika Linga and Nachika Andru which were burnt and destroyed by Shanti Committee goons. We met Nachika Taman who spent more than a year in jail for allegedly being a Maoist, and were released in bail just a week ago, while Nachika Sanjeeva of his village is still languishing in Koraput jail. In addition, two of the undertrials were killed by the police through third-degree torture, and later it claimed that they have committed suicide! Other prisoners are being subjected to regular beating and harassment, and many have sustained grievous injuries at the hands of the police and paramilitary forces. And these are only a few instances which were brought to us by the villagers of the region during our six days’ of interaction.

The team interviewed Nachika Linga, the president of CMAS Narayanpatna Area Committee, and the ‘most wanted’ person for the police at present. He informed us that the movement has moved beyond the narrow limits of fighting for economic demands, and have held the present political system to be responsible for the marginalization of adivasis and the poor peasantry. We were told that the election boycott call given by the Sangha during the assembly elections in 2009 was highly successful in Narayanpatna, with very few votes being cast. He also informed us that CMAS has been able to form its organisation in every village of Narayanpatna block, and is spreading its base to the adjoining blocks as well. Linga told that in spite of severe repression, the people have been able to defend the gains of the movement by resolutely depending on their collective strength, by fortifying self-defence mechanism through the formation of Ghenua Bahini, the mass militia of CMAS, and by educating the people in political struggle. We also talked to the president and secretary of BAMS, who told us about the overwhelming response of the women of the region to the anti-liquor struggle waged by CMAS, which enthused them to form a separate women’s organisation. BAMS have fought against the patriarchal relations and customs within the adivasis such as the two-wives system, and have achieved considerable success in their endeavor.

The presence and role of the Maoists in Narayanpatna have also come under discussion in the media in the past, and this was one of the aspects we wished to investigate. From our interaction with the political activists of the region, we learnt that the Maoist movement started in Koraput from 2003, and soon garnered support from the poor peasantry of the district. We are told that the movement has grown to the extent of giving shape to embryonic forms of peoples’ power to take place of the exploitative state power by forming Revolutionary Peoples’ Committees (RPCs) covering two panchayat areas of Narayanpatna block. The RPCs are presently concentrating their energies in three heads: self-defence, agricultural development, and health & education. The Maoist party seemed to have roots among the working masses, and have so far been successful in withstanding the armed assault of the state. The state, alarmed by the spread of the movement, has sought to use brute force, and thereby further isolating itself from the people.

The Narayanpatna struggle, we came to realise, is one of the most important but least known movements of our times, and the corporate media as well as the statist academia has played their roles in presenting it in a distorted form. We appeal to the media, academics and the people at large to visit Narayanpatna and expose the crimes committed by the Indian state on its people, fighting for their inalienable right to land, livelihood and dignity. The fact-finding team wishes to bring out its experiences in Narayanpatna in a detailed report in the coming days, so as to act as a corrective to such media misinformation, to give voice to the peoples’ concerns and bring out the reality which the Indian state so desparately wishes to hide.

The DSU Fact-finding team reiterates its solidarity with the peoples’ movement of Narayanpatna, and makes the following demands to the Indian government:

1. All the 171 prisoners associated with the Narayanpatna struggle must be released unconditionally and immediately. The state must ensure that the illegal arrests, torture and killings of people in custody must be stopped in Narayanpatna.
2. Cases against the office-bearers, activists, members and sympathizers of CMAS, BAMS and other mass organisations must be withdrawn, and these organisations must be allowed to work freely without fear of attack or persecution. The ‘Most Wanted’ warrant on Nachika Linga by the police must be withdrawn, and he be allowed to perform his duties as the president of CMAS freely, without any fear of intimidation and arrest.
3. The personnel of the state’s armed forces who are responsible for the loss of lives and property of the people of Narayanpatna must be punished, and the people who suffered their atrocities must be compensated by the government.
4. The paramilitary and police camps in Narayanpatna must be withdrawn immediately.
5. The vigilante organisation called Shanti Committee must be disbanded, and their members be punished for their crimes.
6. The land reclaimed by the adivasi people of Narayanpatna under the leadership of CMAS must be recognized by the government.
7. The rights of the adivasis over their land, water, and forests and minerals must be ensured, and they must be provided with the basic necessities such as healthcare, education, drinking water, etc.
8. Journalists, intellectuals, academics, activists and all those who are interested to visit Narayanpatna and interact with the people must not be prevented from doing so by the government, and it must ensure their free movement to and from any part of Narayanpatna and Koraput.

Members of the DSU Fact-finding Team:

Kuldeep, DU,
Kundan, IGNOU,
Manabhanjan, JNU
Ritupan, JNU
Sourabh, DU