Nisan Sammelan 2010, Bhubaneswar: A Report


On the 21st of November, 2010, a meeting was organized in Bhubaneswar by the leading leftist cultural magazine in Oriya, Nisan. The meeting was supported by several other left, Lohiaite and Gandhian groups. It was held under the banner of Nisan Sammelan — 2010 with a discussion on “CULTURAL RESISTANCE: WAR ON PEOPLE IN CORPORATE INTEREST.” Twenty-six tribal organizations participated in the meeting with each of them discussing problems that they are facing in the ongoing struggles in their regions. Incidents of police atrocities, rape, false arrests were made public in the meeting. The police in their bid to stop the tribals from reaching Bhubaneswar harassed them at several railway stations. A group comprising of thirty members which was supposed to come from Kashipur was arrested.

The groups unanimously decried the attempts by the State and capitalists to displace or alienate them from their resources and they shared their experiences of struggle in front of a gathering of about 5000 people. The tribal organizations called for intensifying solidarity efforts and a close coordination among various organizations to confront the state which has instrumentalised itself as the blatant political wing of corporate capital, branding all struggles for popular self-determination as Maoist.

The invited speakers included writer-activist Arundhati Roy, revolutionary Telugu poet Varavara Rao, Oriya novelist and short story writer Bibhuti Pattnayak, veteran journalist Rabi Das, poet Kumar Hasan, poet Rajendra Panda, advocate and human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo and noted Gandhian Prafulla Samantara .

Arundhati Roy while arriving at the venue was greeted by about 7-10 ABVP cadres with black flags protesting against her visit. Tribals, with their lathis chased them away. It is noteworthy that all prominent local and national bourgeois newspapers have presented this local communal hooliganism against the Kashmiri struggle as a major incident.

Arundhati Roy

In her speech Arundhati Roy, after facing the ABVP cadres outside, talked about patriotism nurtured in the struggles of indigenous peoples led by the anti-hegemonic forces of various ideological hues. Varavara Rao too spoke about the relevance of tribal struggles and drew an analogy between such struggles and anti-US imperialist struggles of the oil rich regions of the Middle East. He said that the tribal struggles were results of oppression of the state which wanted to take away whatever means of livelihood they had. He asked not to analyse these struggles just on the basis of their formal contours, rather they must be understood in terms of what provokes them. He spoke about the relevance of revolutionary violence which he interpreted to be a tool to fight structural violence of the system.

Varavara Rao

The speakers revealed the truth of peoples’ struggles and their spirit against the state’s insistence to “massacre every revolt that makes sense.”

Protest Against Operation Green Hunt in New York, August 13 2010

Protest Against the Indian Government’s “Operation Green Hunt”

Where: At the Consulate in New York City (3 East 64th Street)

When: On August 13 at 11 a.m.

Contact: communications [at] sanhati [dot] com

NEW YORK CITY – Sanhati, and other organizations and individuals, are organizing a protest against the Indian government’s insidious war, named “Operation Green Hunt,” which has been unleashed on the inhabitants of the forested regions of East-Central India. The protest will approximately coincide with Indian Independence Day (August 15) to emphasize that the promises of independence have remain largely unfulfilled for a large section of the population, including the tribal peoples.

In its current phase, this war is concentrated primarily in the forested regions of East-Central India, stretching from the states of Chhattisgarh to Jharkhand and West Bengal. This region is home to significant amounts of natural resources.

Big corporations, both Indian and foreign, are plundering these natural resources for quick profits and plan to continue doing so while paying almost no attention to the enormous environmental and human costs inherent in their ventures. The state and central governments continue to welcome these big corporations with open arms by signing an unknown number of memoranda of understanding with them—whose details have been kept secret. A recent report by the Ministry of Rural Development, on the other hand, described these trends as one of the biggest land grabs since the time of Columbus.

Yet these forested areas house not only natural resources. This region is home to a large section of India’s roughly 100 million Adivasis (i.e., the tribal population). Using all means at their disposal, the Adivasis resisted the government’s efforts to forcibly drive them from their ancestral lands. Drawing on the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which is devoted to Adivasi rights and provisions for their protection, Adivasi activists challenged the government’s expropriations.

Instead of addressing the genuine grievances of the Adivasis, the Indian government has cracked down on their legitimate protests in violation of the letter and intent of the Indian Constitution. Peaceful resistance movements across this region have been met with police brutality and military might; this forced the arming of a section of the resistance movement. State-assisted vigilante groups like the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh and Harmad Bahini in West Bengal were a response of the state to the armed resistance of the Adivasis.

When that failed, Operation Green Hunt—a further escalation and militarization of the State’s response—emerged. Such militarization is facilitated by the Indian government’s military cooperation with the United States and Israel.

Sections of civil society have been urging the central government to stop Operation Green Hunt and begin negotiations with the diverse people’s organizations opposing the looting of natural resources. The response of the government to the idea of dialogue has in general not been encouraging in view of the plans of increased militarization, human rights abuses committed by the security forces, suppression of dissenting voices, and abductions and killings of the leaders of people’s organizations.

In this context, Adivasis in India, and all the people who are with them in this struggle for freedom from exploitation and oppression, need your support. Join us to protest against Operation Green Hunt and the increasing violence of the Indian State on democratic movements on August 13, 2010 at 11 a.m. in front of the Indian Consulate in New York City.

Oppose the biggest land grab since Columbus!

Oppose Operation Green Hunt!

Oppose the war on people!


Sanhati ( is a forum of activists, professionals, workers, academics and intellectuals that stand in solidarity with peoples’ struggles against corporate capital and for the upholding of democratic rights in India. The group strives to be an integral part of the international search for alternatives to the capitalist social order.

Contact: communications [at] sanhati [dot] com


Background Note


India Shining, so claimed the BJP-led government. Today, the Congress-led regime might boast that it successfully increased annual economic growth from 5.6% to 8.3% in the last six years, while criticizing the previous BJP-led alliance.

Between the 5.6% and 8.3%, there lurk other stories. About three-quarters of India’s people live on less than Rs. 20 per day, while almost half of the women in India are still illiterate and about 80% of households do not have access to safe drinking water.

Between 1997 and 2006, there lurk other stories. Nearly 170,000 farmers committed suicide by drinking pesticide because they could not keep up with demands to repay their loans. In addition to the agrarian crisis, whatever little access the poor had to common property resources has come under increasing attack by the Indian government in the guise of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other “development” projects related to mining, industrial development, information technology parks, and so forth.

Immeasurable stories such as these are grafted onto the underbelly of neo-liberal economic “development” in India. A recent report, penned by the Indian Ministry of Rural Development, described these trends as the biggest land grab since Columbus. In truth, it wouldn’t be hard to keep citing official statistics revealing not only the shadows within the Shining India myth, but huge pockets of darkness. To be perfectly honest, none of this is new. If there is one image of India that has persisted in the Western media, it is the image of bone-thin, bare-bodied children with swollen bellies, scavenging for food-crumbs in trash-cans next to stray dogs and wild birds.

But something has changed in the last five years.

India, like many other parts of the world, has seen the emergence of a whole spectrum of mass movements challenging the global neo-liberal onslaught in many different ways. These movements are not attempts to “brainwash” the masses by English-spouting city-bred students or intellectuals with romantic dreams of social change. On the contrary, these movements are being led by the very people who have been persistently excluded from reaping the benefits of development and growth – in short, the people who live in the pockets of darkness within the so-called shining India.

The proverbial aam aadmi has spoken. The oppressed of India have shown an unwillingness to stay oppressed for eternity, despite the policy of the government to “kill the poor and not the poverty.” These struggles are primarily about defending their lands, rivers and homes from corrupt officials and swindlers. Moreover, these movements have demonstrated that not only has the government failed to deliver on the promises of the basic rights of the Indian constitution itself, the interests of the most economically disadvantageous people have seriously been compromised by its almost total and unconditional submission to the interests of corporations like Mittal, Vedanta, Tata, Essar, Salim, Jindal, and POSCO.

Instead of improving governance while addressing dissent and discontent in an inclusive way, as be-fitting any democratic government, the Indian government has unleashed severe state violence. The government of India has launched an insidious war nicknamed Operation Green Hunt. While the terror initiated by the government since 2009 is by no means unique in view of the history of the state repression across India (e.g., West Bengal, Orissa, Kashmir, the Northeasten states, Punjab, and Andhra Pradesh), Operation Green Hunt is unprecedented both for its array of military force and its media mobilization.

Since last year, more than 100,000 military and paramilitary troops have been sent into Adivasi (i.e., indigenous) areas. Moreover, it was recently announced that 36 battalions of Indian Reserve Forces will be added to the 105 already raised, along with 16,000 more “Special Police Officers” (civilians trained and armed by the government) bringing their total strength to 30,000. Through this new military campaign, which almost brings to mind histories of colonial occupation of land, the military “occupiers” are to gradually spread into one “sanitized” area after another.

Some additional relevant facts:

  • Twenty Warfare Training Schools are being built in India.
  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently spent $18 billion in the US to buy huge amounts of military supplies and munitions. This included state-of-the-art global positioning systems and night-vision-capable automatic rifles.
  • Drones are being purchased from Israel and the Israeli Mossad is training Indian police as snipers. The aim of the training is to enable assassination of the leaders of diverse mass movements. The recent murder of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) spokesperson Azad, who was also the party’s emissary for negotiations on a ceasefire, clearly reflects one aspect of the government’s modus operandi (i.e., targeted killings).
  • According to numerous reports, dozens of indigenous people are being killed each week in the Adivasi regions.
  • The Communist Party of India (Maoist) has been declared India’s “gravest internal security” threat and has been banned. Bans have also been imposed on other democratic organizations on the claim that they are frontal” organizations of CPI (Maoist) and the witch hunt against these civil rights activists continues unabated.
  • The last few months have seen the arrests of increasing numbers of media personnel, journalists, writers, and intellectuals who have shown the slightest sympathy to people’s struggles in the Adivasi heartland. The discussions within the ranks of the police forces in the state of Chattisgarh as to whether the Booker Prize winning writer Arundhati Roy is to be charged under an “anti-terrorism” law following the publication of her essay Walking With the Comrades is a case in point.
  • The state of Gujarat has joined Operation Green Hunt by alleging that “Maoists” are attempting to expand their networks into Gujarat and in particular the tribal regions of South Gujarat. Several activists have been arrested. This witch-hunt of the Gujarat police amounts to a systematic effort by the state government to suppress all manner of dissension and opposition.
  • Operation Green Hunt includes widespread incidents of rape committed by the security forces. Recently, about 50,000 women tried to march into Jhargram town in West Bengal to protest against these rapes (see photograph above). The marchers included school students in uniform, teachers, housewives and even many elderly women. Widespread rape is a progeny of Operation Green Hunt.
  • The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), one of a number of anti-democratic Acts, continues to give Indian troops immunity from civil legal action and promotes human rights violations. The Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights has aptly observed that this Act is a systematic tool of the Indian government that contributes to terrorizing and dehumanizing civilian populations. This Act also protects security personnel in Kashmir guilty of killing and torturing the people of the valley.

The Indian state, in other words, has declared war on its own people. It has declared war precisely on those sections of the population who have always been at the receiving ends of multiple forms of systemic and institutional oppression. Instead of addressing the genuine grievances of Adivasis facing forcible displacement and dispossession, the Indian government has cracked down on their legitimate protests in flagrant violation of the letter and intent of the Indian Constitution.

Foreseeing the disastrous impact that Operation Green Hunt will have on the common people in those regions, different sections of civil society have called for a dialog between the state and various sections of the resistance, including the CPI (Maoist) and different people’s organizations, involved in struggles in the Adivasi regions. Several attempts to make progress in these efforts failed, with different politicians, bureaucrats and security officers continuously attempting to scuttle negotiations.

A glimmer of hope had risen due to the civil society initiative represented by Swami Agnivesh, with the Union Home Minister and Azad, as spokesperson of CPI(Maoist), responding to him in a letter detailing the suitable conditions under which a dialog might begin. It is reported that Azad was on his way to consult other members of CPI (Maoist) in order to decide future steps for proceeding with this initiative when he was allegedly abducted and killed, thus throwing the possibility of negotiations into disarray. The murder of a spokesperson of a political organization, with which dialog is supposedly being planned at this crucial juncture, raises serious doubts regarding the government commitment to such a dialog.

In this situation, the activists in India need your presence support. Join us to protest against Operation Green Hunt and the increasing violence of the Indian State on democratic movements on August 13, 2010 at 11 a.m. in front of the Indian Consulate in New York City. We have chosen August 13, as this date roughly coincides with Indian Independence Day, when the country became a sovereign nation-state following its colonial occupation by Great Britain. We would, therefore, like to record our protest and remind the public that the promises of the Indian independence have not only remain unfulfilled, but the current Indian government has resorted to military repression to quell democratic dissent in a way uncannily similar to the erstwhile British “overlords.” We invite all in diaspora, the international community of media activists, human rights workers, academics and intellectuals and artists to join us.

Censor Board denies certificate to “Flames of the Snow”

New Delhi, June 22: Indian Censor Board has refused to certify ‘Flames of the Snow’, a documentary on Nepal, for public screening. The Board feels that the film ‘tells about Maoist movement in Nepal and justifies its ideology.’ It feels that ‘keeping in view the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country’, the permission of its public screening can not be given. Produced under the joint banner of ‘GRINSO’ and ‘Third World Media’, the 125 minute film has been produced by Anand Swaroop Verma, a senior journalist and expert on Nepalese affairs. He has also written the script for the film. The film has been directed by Ashish Srivastava.

Reacting to the decision of the Board, Mr. Verma said it is quite surprising as the film does not have any reference at all to the current Maoist movement in India. The film is only about the struggle of the people of Nepal against the despotic Monarchy and the anarchic reign of Ranas. With the formation of Nepal in the year 1770 by Prithvi Narayan Shah, the foundation was laid for Monarchy in Nepal which was finally given a burial in the year 2008 when Nepal was declared a Republic. Thus 238 years of Monarchy also included 105-year rule of Rana dynasty which is known as the black chapter in the history of Nepal.

Talking about the film, Mr. Verma further said that the film actually shows how in 1876 Lakhan Thapa, a young man from Gorkha district organized the peasants against the atrocities being unleashed by the rulers of Rana dynasty and was, later, put on gallows by these rulers. Even today, Lakhan Thapa is remembered as the first Nepali martyr. Exploring the movements led by ‘Praja Parishad’ and ‘Nepali Congress’ against the despotic system, the film focuses on the armed struggle carried on under the leadership of the Maoists for 10 years and unfolds the story of how the movement mobilized the Nepalese people by first attacking and dismantling the feudal system in the rural areas and subsequently taking the people’s movement to the urban areas bringing more urbanites into its fold.

The film begins with the establishment of monarchy in Nepal, further touching the developments like the elections for the constituent assembly, the emergence of Maoists as the largest party in the elections and finally ends by showing the decline and complete disappearance of Monarchy and Nepal being declared a Republic.

Taking note of the objections put forward by the Censor Board, it seems that the Board will never give its certification to any political film made on Nepal since no political film on Nepal can escape underlying the prominent role of Maoists. Maoist party was heading the government in Nepal till May 2009 and even today is the largest party in the Constituent Assembly and is the main opposition party. Moreover its president Pushp Kamal Dahal ‘Prachand’ as the Prime Minister of Nepal had visited India on the invitation of the Government of India.

Mr Verma is now submitting his film to Revising Committee of the Board.

Eva Golinger Misinterprets Solidarity: Support Tamils not Sri Lanka’s War Criminal Government

Ron Ridenour

Eva Golinger is known for her counter-intelligence analysis in the service of Venezuela’s peaceful revolution against the local oligarchy and the United States Empire. She is a noted author (“The Chavez Code: Cracking US intervention in Venezuela”). A dual citizen of the US and Venezuela, she is an attorney, and a personal friend of President Hugo Chavez, who dubbed her, La Novia de Venezuela (“the bride of Venezuela”). She is a frequent contributor to left-wing media around the world, and is the English editor of the Venezuela government newspaper, Correo del Orinoco.

Golinger is a name synonymous with solidarity and anti-imperialism. However, she recently inexplicably immersed herself into being a supporter for the most brutal, racist and genocidal government of Sri Lanka in a resoundingly irresponsible opinion piece printed in the Spanish daily version of Correo del Orinoco, May 15, and on May 21, published by the Caracas city government newspaper, Ciudad CCS. The piece was simply entitled, “Sri Lanka”. Printed in Spanish, I translate into English the major part of its content and analyze its errors with the goal of countering rumors she started, and in an effort to broaden support for a most maligned and oppressed ethnic group, the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

Golinger wrote that, in 2005, Sri Lankan “presidential elections occurred for the first time in nearly 30 years. Mahinda Rajapakse obtained victory with more than 58% of votes. He was reelected, January 2010 with more than 60%.”

“Rajapakse, Buddhist leader, is supported by a coalition of leftist parties, among them the Communist Party. In May, 2009, Rajapaske finalized the civil war, defeating the armed organization, LTTE.

“The LTTE had close ties with the CIA, and Washington negotiated an accord with them for establishing a military base in the country, if they obtained power. Upon its defeat, the LTTE had established numerous organizations—fronts in different countries around the world, seeking to create `a government in exile´ and hoping to isolate the current government of Sri Lanka. Last week, representatives of one of its fronts, Canadian Hart, passed through Venezuela; it met with government functionaries seeking support in its intent to weaken the relationship between the two governments.

“Instead of relating to the illegitimate opposition in Sri Lanka, Venezuela should shake the hand of an ally that also suffers imperial aggressions.”

Golinger is factually incorrect

1. Mahinda Rajapakse is not the first president elected. In 1982, J.R. Jayawardane won the first presidential election with 52.9% of the vote. The United National Party (UNP)—a pro-western party of the comprador bourgeoisie—introduced a new constitution after its 1977 landslide victory. Before then, the office of prime minister was the highest, and Jayawardane won that post and the UNP took 80% of the parliamentary seats. In 1978, the new constitution renamed the country, “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”, but this had nothing to do with socialism. The economy then, as now, was a capitalist one with a neo-liberal orientation much like Chile after the 1973 coup d´etat.

According to the Government Department of Census and Statistics own figures (2006/2007), 82% of the rural population lives under the national poverty line while 65% of the urban population is not able to meet the minimum level of per capita daily calorie and protein intake recommended by the government Medical Research Institute. See official figures on the government website.

There can be nothing “democratic socialist” about discriminating against 15% of its population, the Tamil ethnic group, making them unequal by legally restricting their rights and privileges. Such has been the case since independence from Britain, in 1948. Even the U.S. Library of Congress studied Tamils as an “alienated” group. In 1988, it published, “Sri Lanka: a Country Study”:

”Moderate as well as militant Sri Lankan Tamils have regarded the policies of successive Sinhalese governments in Colombo with suspicion and resentment since at least the mid-1950s, when the `Sinhale Only´ language policy was adopted…”

2. Rajapakse won the fifth presidential elections and with the least majority of all presidents, 50.29%, not 58% as Golinger wrote. [Wikipedia ]

Rajapakse is the current leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), founded in 1951 to represent the Sinhalese bourgeoisie. In 1960 elections, Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranayake became the world’s first woman prime minister. The Moscow oriented Communist Party and the Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samja Party (LSSP) formed the “United Front” coalition with the SLFP, in 1970. Now with three minister posts, the “old left” betrayed the young. Many Sinhalese leftist youth became disillusioned with the “old left” and after the SLFP returned to government, they rebelled. The so-called “leftist” government, with the CP and LSSP, branded this upsurge a “Che Guevarist uprising” and crushed the rebellion by killing about 20,000 mainly rural Sinhala youth, in 1971. The next year, these “left” parties drafted the first republican constitution in which Sinhalese was codified as the only official language and Buddhism the only the official religion—Tamils are not Buddhists. This eroded whatever support the “old left” had among both leftist Sinhalese and all Tamils. Since then neither the CP nor the LSSP has managed to get a single seat in the parliament independently. They are always with the capitalist party, SLFP.

3. Rajapakse won the January 2010 elections with 57.88%, not 60%, over his former chief general, Sarath Fonsekla, in charge of liquidating the LTTE (Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam). Fonseka’s party, New Democratic Front, received 40.15% of the vote. In desperation, a few Tamils voted for General Fonseka knowing that he was the main army force in carrying out the president’s orders in liquidating the LTTE, and massacring tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. The one difference between the two war criminals was that Fonseka later promised that he would release the rest of the interned Tamils and return their possessions and land. Tamils are crushed for now and resort to seeking a bit of breathing space. (Wikipedia entry on United People’s Freedom Alliance).

The egomaniacal president was not satisfied with just defeating his former general in the ballot box, he had him arrested and beaten, on February 7, shortly after the elections, and charged him with plotting a coup, which General Fonseka denies. A purge of scores of top military officers has occurred; a dozen or more Sinhalese and Tamil Journlists have been arrested. In the four years of Rajapakse rule, at least 23 journalists critical of his regime have been murdered: See 1 and 2.

4. “The LTTE had close ties with the CIA, and Washington negotiated an accord with them for establishing a military base in the country…” That is an outrageous and unsubstantiated allegation. In my month-long research last autumn, I found nothing to indicate Golinger’s unsupported claim. Looking up in Google for “LTTE and CIA”, nothing exists. When searching for LTTE and CIA and LTTE ties to CIA without quotation marks, nothing exists that binds them. I looked up some 200 hits and only found reference to the Golinger claim, and this was cited by a most skeptical Patrick J. O´Donoghue, news editor for the English-language website, in a May 23 commentary. He said: “I couldn’t believe what I read in the Caracas CC blatt!” We have no way of knowing if the LTTE even met with the CIA, but in war most anything is possible. What we can know is that the US, and its CIA and Pentagon, have long supported the genocidal Sinhalese governments, and most certainly that of Rajapaske, and it placed the LTTE on its Foreign Terrorist Organization hit list in 1997. I will delve into this farther on.

5. Golinger’s claim that Canadian Hart is a front for the LTTE is denied by several solidarity groups in Canada who know that organization for its humanitarian work. See their perspective, “Venezuela: Eva Golinger’s misinformation endangers exiled Tamils’ fight for freedom”, at:

6. Golinger depicts the Sri Lankan capitalist and genocidal government as an “ally” of Venezuela, one that she recommends her revolutionary government to “shake the hand of an ally that also suffers imperial aggression.” This boggles the mind, or “beggars belief”, as O’Donoghue wrote. Instead of opposing the Yankee Empire, her position is allied with imperialist United States and its allies Zionist Israel, the United Kingdom and other former European colonialists, as well as the emerging superpower and worker-exploiter China. (See my pieces “ALBA Let Down Sri Lanka Tamils”, “Equal Rights or Self-Determination”, and “The Terrorists: International support for Sri Lanka racist discrimination”. See the entire five-part series at: Radical Notes). There is no shred of evidence that the United States aggresses against Sri Lanka governments, on the contrary.

US Supports Sri Lanka Genocide

The Indian Ocean is a vital waterway where half the world’s containerized cargo passes through. Its waters carry heavy traffic of petroleum products. Sri Lanka cooperation is vital to the US Empire’s global interests. A separated Tamil state would complicate cooperation requirements.

The United States of America has been arming and financing Sri Lanka for most of the civil war period. [ ] 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 United States government praised Rajapaksa for restarting the war already in July 2006, and officially ending the ceasefire in 2008. The US embassy in Colombo issued this statement: “The United States does not advocate that the Government of Sri Lanka negotiate with the LTTE…” (See

On May 26, 2002, the Colombo English-language Sunday Times wrote about a joint military pact between Sri Lanka and the U.S., a development taken soon after the CSA was signed.

“The Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement [ACSA]…will enable the United States to utilise 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.”

US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca was the key liaison person with the Sri Lankan government. [Rocca had been a CIA officer before joining the state department.] (See The ACSA agreement was not finally signed until Rajapaksa came to power. It was U.S. citizen Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Secretary Defense Minister, and brother to President Rajapaksa, who signed the agreement, on March 5, 2007. (Their younger brother, also a minister, is a US citizen as well.)

George W. Bush was especially glad for Sri Lanka’s state terrorism. In 2006, he encouraged the government to resume the civil war, which Bush financed with $2.9 million. The Pentagon provided counter-insurgency training, maritime radar, patrols of US warships and aircraft. This was a continuation of “Operation Balanced Style”, which uses U.S. Special Forces instructors since 1996.

At the end of Bush’s first term, the US was forced to cut back on aid given that it was bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. That, coupled with critical public opinion, organized by the Diaspora, of state terrorism and systematic discrimination of Tamils, prompted congress to make noises about abuses of human rights by not only LTTE but possibly by paramilitary forces linked to the S.L. government. Thousands of Tamils blocked highways in Canada, camped outside British parliament for months, some committed suicide in front of government offices, while Indian Tamils conducted paralyzing strikes. Nevertheless, in 2008, the U.S. granted $1.45 million in military financing and training to the Sri Lanka government out of a total of $7.4 million in total aid. The US made noises about a ‘humanitarian crisis’ when the Sri Lankan army was about to finish the war but it never took affirmative action to bring the war to an end nor to condemn the army or government.

Even after leading international observers, and some of the mass media, especially in the U.K. and France, began to expose S.L. government and the army’s systematic atrocities against Tamil civilians, and captured LTTE soldiers, the US continued to back up the Sri Lankan government, in contradiction to Eva Golinger. In mid-April, 2010, the U.S. and Sri Lankan military forces conducted military exercises in Eastern Seas (Trincomalee) for the first time in 25 years.

Said Lt Col Larry Smith, the US defense attache: “The joint exercise helped members from our two militaries to exchange best practices on how to address complex humanitarian challenges.”

He added: “The US and Sri Lanka have a long tradition of cooperation. We hope this partnership can be expanded.”

Documentary film-maker John Pilger compares Sri Lanka’s genocide to Israel

“The Sri Lankan government has learned an old lesson from, I suspect, a modern master: Israel. In order to conduct a slaughter, you ensure the pornography is unseen, illicit at best. You ban foreigners and their cameras from Tamil towns like Mulliavaikal, which was bombarded recently by the Sri Lankan army, and you lie that the 75 people killed in the hospital were blown up quite willfully by a Tamil suicide bomber.” “Distant Voices, Desperate Lives,” New Statesman, 13-5-09.

When the U.S. does not want to be seen on the frontlines in a war, it sends in surrogates and Israel is its main partner in this war crime. Israel was officially re-awarded diplomatic relations, in May 2000, after Sri Lanka had severed them in 1970, in protest at Israel’s continued illegal expansion into Palestinian territory. (

Nevertheless, Israel continued to operate inside S.L. out of a special interests office set up in the US embassy. Under the table, Sri Lanka’s successive regimes embraced Israel’s military advisors, a special commando unit in the police, and Mossad counter-intelligence agents—who sought to drive a wedge between Muslims and Tamils. Israel sent Sri Lanka16 of its supersonic Kfir fighter jets, some Dvora fast naval attack craft, and electronic and imagery surveillance equipment, plus advisors and technicians. Israel personnel took part in military attacks on Tamil units, and its pilots flew attack aircraft. Tigers shot down one Kfir. Just before the end of the war, Prime Minister Wickremanayake was in Israel to make bigger deals with Israeli arms supplies. (See 1 and 2)

Sri Lanka government war crimes

Golinger even ignores ample evidence of extreme war crimes committed by her choice for president, Mahinda Rajapakse, against the minority Tamils. They have a righteous claim for liberation because of being subject to systematic discrimination, oppression and genocide. (Ibid: “Equal Rights or Self-Determination”.) Sri Lanka’s first president, J.R.Jayewardene, expressed the essence of this genocide to the “Daily Telegraph”, on July 11, 1983. “Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.”

In May 2009, Rajapakse had all the civilians who survived his gun fire placed into concentration camps, which he called “welfare villages”, much like those the Yankees concocted in Vietnam. In violation of United Nations international rules, as many as from 280,000 to one-half million people were forced interned. Today, one year later, 100,000 remain. Only two million S.L. Tamils remain in the country. Nearly one million have fled in the past three decades.

Even the U.S.’s choice for secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, was displeased with these camps when he made a brief visit to one shortly after the war’s end.

“I have traveled around the world and visited similar places, but this is by far the most appalling scenes I have seen…I sympathize fully with all of the displaced persons.”

Several internationally respected organizations concerned about war crimes, and a few mass media journalists, have conducted interviews with IDPs, taken or viewed photographs, videos, satellite images—taken surreptitiously during the war—and have read electronic communications and documents from many sources. Some observers have been able to visit a camp or two.

On May 17, one of those organizations, the International Crisis Group, released its report, “War Crimes in Sri Lanka”. I cite from it:

“The Sri Lanka security forces and the LTTE repeatedly violated international humanitarian law during the last five months of their 30-year civil war…from January 2009 to the government’s declaration of victory in May [violations worsened]. Evidence gathered by the International Crisis Group suggests that these months saw tens of thousands of Tamil civilian men, women, children and elderly killed, countless more wounded, and hundreds of thousands deprived of adequate food and medical care, resulting in more deaths.

“This evidence also provides reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lanka security forces committed war crimes with top government and military leaders potentially responsible.”

Here is a revealing example of this evidence.

On August 25, 2009, Channel 4 News (UK) broadcast raw footage, one minute long, showing S.L. government soldiers casually executing eight bound and blindfolded, naked Tamil men, believed to be LTTE combatants. This is a war crime according to all international agreements. Rajapakse’s government denied the authenticity of the photos, apparently taken by a S.L. soldier and provided to Channel 4 through the exiled group of Sinhalese and Tamil journalists, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. But internationally renowned forensic experts have validated its authenticity. (See 1, 2 and 3)

In a recent Channel 4 News broadcast by Jonathan Miller, two eyewitnesses spoke of systematic murder of all LTTE fighters caught or surrendered. One witness is a senior army commander: “Definitely, the order would have been to kill everybody and finish them off.” A frontline S.L. soldier told Miller: “Yes, our commander ordered us to kill everyone. We killed everyone.”

Even the head general in charge of defeating the LTTE, General Fonseka, spoke of having orders from the Defense Secretary to kill leaders without taking prisoners—“all LTTE leaders must be killed”.

Returning to the International Crisis Group war crimes report:

“Starting in late January [2009], the government and security forces encouraged hundreds of thousands of civilians to move into ever smaller government-declared No Fire Zones (NFZs) and then subjected them to repeated and increasingly intense artillery and mortar barrages and other fire. This continued through May despite the government and security forces knowing the size and location of the civilian population and scale of civilian casualties.

“The security forces shelled hospitals and makeshift medical centres—many overflowing with the wounded and sick—on multiple occasions even though they knew of their precise locations and functions. During these incidents, medical staff, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and others continually informed the government and security forces of the shelling, yet they continued to strike medical facilities through May…”

Among the charges that must be investigated, wrote ICG, is “the recruitment of children by the LTTE and the execution by the security forces of those who had laid down their arms and were trying to surrender.”

Shortly after this report, Amnesty International released its report of torture in 111 countries. Among those A.I. condemns for the “politicization of justice” is Sri Lanka’s government. It also criticizes the UN “for its failure to intervene…By the end of the year, despite further evidence of war crimes and other abuses, no-one had been brought to justice,” A:I:’s Secretary General Claudio Cordone said. “One would be hard pressed to imagine a more complete failure to hold to account those who abuse human rights.” (See 1, 2 and 3)

Some leaders of ALBA countries may be under the impression that when westerners (A.I., ICG, Channel 4) protest about human rights abuse that this reflects the double speak language of white imperialism, or NGO imperialists. This is sometimes the case. But it is definitely not so with Sri Lanka. None of the western governments on the HRC wished to condemn Sri Lanka. They only condemned the LTTE and simply asked Sri Lanka to look into its own behavior during the war.

Do not take my word or those of A.I and ICG for this assessment alone but look at the conclusions drawn by internationally renowned figures with impeccable solidarity credentials, such as Francois Houtart, who, among other positions, is an honorary professor at the University of Havana. He chaired an 11-judge panel looking into war crimes charges against Sri Lanka’s government and army—the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka (PPT), held in Dublin in January. Among the many supporters of the panel and their conclusions is the senior advisor to President Daniel Ortega, Miguel D´Escoto. Ironically, Nicaragua is one of the ALBA countries that praised the Sri Lanka government and voted for their resolution at the HRC. The PPT’s conclusions approximate those allegations made by the above mentioned organizations: Sri Lanka committed “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. These conclusions are found on pages 14-15 of the 50-page verdict.

On the Qualifications of the Facts

“Summing up the facts established before this Tribunal by reports from NGOs, victims’ testimony, eye-witnesses accounts, expert testimony and journalistic reports, we are able to distinguish three different kinds of human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan Government from 2002 (the beginning of the CFA) to the present:

• Forced “disappearances” of targeted individuals from the Tamil population;
• Crimes committed in the re-starting of the war (2006-2009), particularly during the last months of the war:
• Bombing civilian objectives like hospitals, schools and other non-military targets;
• Bombing government-proclaimed ‘safety zones’ or ‘no fire zones’;
• Withholding of food, water, and health facilities in war zones;
• Use of heavy weaponry, banned weapons and air-raids;
• Using food and medicine as a weapon of war;
• The mistreatment, torture and execution of captured or surrendered LTTE combatants, officials and supporters;
• Torture;
• Rape and sexual violence against women;
• Deportations and forcible transfer of individuals and families;
• Desecrating the dead;
• Human rights violations in the IDP camps during and after the end of the war:
• Shooting of Tamil citizens and LTTE supporters;
• Forced disappearances;
• Rape;
• Malnutrition; and
• Lack of medical supplies”
(See 1 and 2).


I urge ALBA members of the Human Rights Council—Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua—along with their brothers and sisters in Venezuela to recognize an error made when they promulgated Sri Lanka’s own resolution laid before the HRC and adopted by the majority, on May 27, 2009 –Resolution S-11/1, “assistance to Sri Lanka in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

The self-serving resolution only condemned the LTTE for acts of terror while praising the Sri Lankan government and supporting, naturally, its right to sovereignty. These ALBA countries, along with most members of the Non-Aligned Movement on the Council, let the entire Tamil people down, especially the Internally Displaced Persons. My assessment is shared by the people’s tribunal in paragraph 5.5:

“The Tribunal stresses the responsibility of the Member States of the United Nations that have not complied with their moral obligation to seek justice for the violations of human rights committed during the last period of war. After repeated pleas, and in spite of the appalling conditions experienced by Tamils, the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council failed to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate those responsible for the atrocities committed due to political pressure exerted by certain Members.”

The PPT came to the opposite conclusion that Golinger does on all accounts. The US is not an actor of “aggression” against Sri Lanka’s government rather it is the case of one war criminal supporting another. The tribunal “highlights the conduct of the European Union in undermining the CFA of 2002. In spite of being aware of the detrimental consequences to a peace process in the making, the EU decided – under pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom – to list the TRM (Tamil Resistance Movement, which included the LTTE) as a terrorist organization in 2006. This decision allowed the Sri Lankan Government to breach the ceasefire agreement and re-start military operations leading to the massive violations listed above. It also points to the full responsibility of those governments, led by the United States, that are conducting the so-called “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) in providing political endorsement of the conduct of the Sri Lankan Government and armed forces in a war that is primarily targeted against the Tamil people.”

As solidarity activists, we advocate the right to resist and the necessity to conduct armed struggle once peaceful means fail to induce oppressive governments to engage in a process aimed at justice and equality—such is the case in Sri Lanka with the Tamil people, just as surely as it is in Palestine.

I find that most armed movements commit acts of atrocities, even acts of terror. The struggle for liberation in Cuba was an exception to the rule. Fortunately, it lasted just over two years. The armed struggle for liberation from Sinhala oppression against another indigenous group lasted for quarter of a century and, at the end, the LTTE clearly did resort to acts of desperation and terror. Other brave and righteous groups fighting for liberation, for equality and justice, such as Colombia’s FARC and Palestine’s PFLP, have also committed acts of terror. The ANC in South Africa was brutal in its struggle for liberation.

I wonder how I would act in such circumstances!

True solidarity activists have no choice. We must support the Tamil people. Today, they are in disarray. Various tendencies are in formation. But dialogue with them all is what solidarity forces must engage in around the world. One tendency is the new Provisional Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), which just formerly constituted itself in Philadelphia. Their coordinator, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, is a resident of the United States and an attorney. In February, he filed a suit in the US Supreme Court that would negate parts of the U.S. Patriotic Act and allow people to provide “material support or resources” to armed groups fighting for their liberation. Tamil Eelam advocates in the US have associated with the civil rights organization, Humanitarian Law Project, and along with supporters of the crushed LTTE and the PKK (Kurdish rebels in Turkey) are seeking to legitimize the rights of oppressed minorities to fight for liberation, if necessary with arms when peaceful means are impossible. See TGTE’s website.

My main motivation for siding with people who fight against oppression and for liberation is a matter of basic solidarity morality, and an understanding of this necessity for the suffering people. The basic reason why so many millions of people have respected and loved Che Guevara is because of this moral stance. To back any corrupt, capitalist, genocidal government—albeit in the name of support for “sovereignty”—is not consistent with Che’s and our collective moral stance.

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

Gautam Navlakha, Sharmila Purkayastha & Asish Gupta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deepankar Basu, MRZine

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

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

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

The Context

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Participants and the Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is the Message?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Courtesy: MRZine

A Generalised State of Exception and the Maoists in India

Pothik Ghosh
A shorter version of the article appeared in The Hindustan Times (April 8 2010)

Appearances, as the cliché goes, are often deceptive. The annihilation of 73 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, by combatants of the Maoist People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army has, however, given a new twist to that cliché. The incident, thanks to the phenomenology constructed for it by an ever-increasing number of breathlessly sensationalist television news channels, has become as overwhelming as its visual effect. But before ‘liberal’ middle India allows itself to be overwhelmed by the appearance of the incident and gives in to a sense of outrage served to it by its bad conscience – the tragedy-hungry, bloodthirsty and shrill mass media – it would do well to take a step back from the popular representations of the “massacre” and ponder hard on what lies beyond the vanishing point of those ‘galling images’.

Before the more vocal, patriotic and humane sections of this liberal citizenry begin shouting at the top of their voices that the law of the land, the sovereignty of its state and, therefore, the very idea of democratic India is facing its gravest adversary ever, they would do well to remember how the rule of the law (nomos) is envisaged in modern jurisprudence. Constitutive of a modern and democratic legal regime is its undemocratic exception, something that it bares when the socio-political order it is meant to maintain and enable runs into an existential crisis. This appearance of the undemocratic exception, from the depths of the democratic law where it lies carefully concealed, onto the surface of legal legitimacy entails the suspension of the democratic aspects of the ‘normal’ law. That the Indian Constitution has provisions for the declaration of internal emergency – something the nation actually experienced once as a matter of political and legal fact in the ’70s – under certain conditions shows how the democratic law of a democratic state can suspend itself to legitimately institute its undemocratic exception.

The first and most important thing we must, therefore, grasp is the conditions that lead to the institution of the exception as the norm imply a situation in which usual (‘normal’) forms of mass democratic politics, including electoral politics, cannot be allowed to have an unbridled run without imperiling the system of representative democracy that purportedly make such forms of politics possible and necessary in the first place. The emergence of the exception as the law ensures precisely that by either entirely precluding or significantly eliding rights that allow and/or enable such forms of democratic politics. In such circumstances, electoral politics ceases to be an effective vehicle in carrying forth the voice of the toiling masses and the underclass that are embodied in various identities of either religious/ linguistic/ regional/ gender minorities or socio-occupational marginals.

That, needless to say, compels such social groups, which encounter the law of the Indian state not as an embodiment of democracy but in the form of its undemocratic exception, to look to other not-so legitimate means of politics to express their disaffection and disenfranchisement. That has precisely been the case in large swathes of eastern and central India leading to the emergence of the Maoist path of armed struggle as the only possible form of politics for the agrarian-tribal working masses to articulate their utter lack of agency and their progressive immiseration. It would not, as a matter of fact, be an exaggeration to say the state has enforced an undeclared internal emergency in those areas. It is this that the liberal India must bear in mind before spewing, as is its wont, venom on the Maoists and their social base for not adopting the constitutionally-ordained way of elections and non-violent mass politics to articulate their discontent and having unleashed, instead, an armed campaign that seeks to jeopardise the sovereignty of the democratic Indian state. Our legalist democrats must understand that the state the Maoists challenge is not the state of democratic law but, to borrow Italian legal theorist Giorgio Agamben’s concept, the “generalised state of exception”.

Clearly, the Maoist-dominated areas of eastern and central India, of which Dantewada is a key nerve centre, are in a state of war that, in both the apparent military sense and the structural political-economic one, has been thrust upon the underclass and working strata of the local tribal population on behalf of global capital – of which Indian capital is a significant and powerful part – by the Indian state. This modern capitalist state consists not merely of multiple levels of governmental agency but devolves into the local elite, many of whom belong to the same tribal population from which the Maoists also derive their social base. That, one believes, should take care of the claim that the Maoists comprise an external force that has sowed the seeds of fratricidal conflicts within idyllic tribal communities. The capitalist Indian state, as the example above shows, is as much internal to such stratified tribal communities as the Maoists.

In that context, it might be useful to wonder how such conditions, which necessitate the suspension of democratic law and the institution of its undemocratic exception as an ethico-legal norm, get created in the life of a democratic state. For, only by seeking to answer that question would we arrive at a better understanding of how the political economy of capital, especially in areas under Maoist control, determines the military aspect of the conflict.

The undemocratic exception of the law is the established norm at the moment of the founding of the law of the liberal-democratic state and the capitalist socio-economic formation that such law is meant to facilitate, conserve and reinforce. It is this historical moment of founding of capitalism, when existing instruments of pre-capitalist feudal coercion were deployed to alienate a section of pre-capitalist producers such as peasants and artisans from their means of production, that Marx termed primitive accumulation of capital. This process was meant to be a double-whammy: resources in the form of capital were accumulated even as the dispossessed sections became the workforce that would labour in accordance with the demands, determinations and caprices of capital. The law of the liberal-democratic capitalist state, which allows competition and contention, could not have been the norm in the founding of capitalism and its state as such competition would have meant a direct challenge to the emergence and existence of capitalism as a system. That was precisely the reason why the undemocratic exception was the norm in the founding of capital. And it is this undemocratic exception that returns as the law, even as the ‘normal’ democratic law is suspended, to enable capital to indulge in primitive accumulation as and when that is required of it.

That has precisely been the case in those areas of Maoist influence. Primitive accumulation of capital, as Marx explicated it, is not a one-time historical affair. It recurs with cyclical constancy in and through various moments of stabilised and established capitalism, when those moments run into a crisis of overaccumulation, enabling capital to reconstitute and refound itself to tide over such crises. In such situations, primitive accumulation of capital kicks in, as does the undemocratic exception, to enable the crisis-ridden system to reconstitute itself. Overaccumulation is a moment in the development of capitalism when the value of accumulated capital falls. This spells a considerable weakening of the hegemony of the hierarchised configuration of capitalist class power.

The only way in which capitalism can beat this crisis is by investing in and expanding into relatively less capitalised zones. In a sense, this expansion is akin to the historical founding of capitalism. Thus primitive accumulation of capital must be seen not as the conception of a historical event but as a logico-historical conceptualisation, as indeed it is in Marx’s own theorisation That is precisely what has been happening in ‘Maoist country’ where the executive arms of capital have, through coercive means, been trying to enable capital to beat its current crisis of overaccumulation – of which the international financial crisis is the most visible symptom – by expanding into those areas and occupying them by dispossessing the populations of those less commodified areas of their community-held commons (such as mineral resources, forest produce and land), and even their autonomous means of expression and life, in order to be able to invest.

It is this attempt by capital to reconstitute itself into a stable system once again that has led to the suspension of the democratic laws and invocation of and amendments to constitutional-legal clauses that institute the coercive exception as the legal norm in those areas. The ongoing Maoist insurgency is no more than a response to this generalised state of exception and the political economy it is seeking to rescue and reconstitute.

A Discussion on Operation Greenhunt, Class Struggle and the Spirit of Generalisation


Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, April 05, 2010, 9:30 pm

Video: Rally against War on People (17th December, 2009)

On 17th December a rally was held in New Delhi (from Ramlila Ground to Parliament Street) to protest the state’s ongoing offensive against the people of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashra. People from many states joined the rally. For more information…

Videos: Convention against War on People (4 December, 2009)

On 4th December, a convention of organizations and campaigns from all over India was held in New Delhi, to protest the state’s ongoing offensive on the tribal people. For more information… CLICK

Randhir Singh inaugurates the Convention (part 1)

Randhir Singh (part 2)

Gautam Navlakha (part 1)

Gautam Navlakha (part 2)

Alok (Krantikari Yuva Sangathan)