Friday, May 26, 2006

the RED question

United States is offering help to fight the Maoists. Earlier, PM Manmohan Singh had described them as the biggest threat to India's security since Independence. To counter the Maoists in Chattisgarh, the State has formed a people's army : 'Salwa Judum'. They have also vacated several villages and shifted people to temporary "relief" camps. Many reports believe that ordinary people are used pawns or as shields by the State to fight the Maoists. One may certainely disagree with the methods used by the Maoists to deal with social issues and (lack of) government policies, but nevertheless these issues are the key to this conflict. By setting up groups like the Salwa Judum, the people are getting the stick(literally) from both the State and the Maoists!

A fact finding report on Salwa Judum is here. The main findings of which are:
1. The Salwa Judum is far from the spontaneous uprising of tribals against Maoists that it is claimed to be. It is an organized, state managed enterprise.
2. The Salwa Judum has led to the forcible displacement of people throughout Bhairamgarh, Geedam and Bijapur areas, under police and administrative supervision---approximately 15,000 people from 420 villages are living as refugees in temporary camps.
3. Villages that refuse to participate face repeated attacks by the combined forces of Salwa Judum, the district force and the paramilitary Naga battalion, which is stationed in the area
4. Once in camps, people have no choice but to support the Salwa Judum.
5. Collapse of civil administration in many parts of Dantewada District. Salwa Judum members man checkpoints on roads, search people's belongings and control the flow of transport. They enforce an economic blockade on villages that resist coming to camps. They also try to force civil officials to follow their dictat.
6. FIRs registering the looting, burning, beatings/torture by Salwa Judum mobs and the security forces are not recorded. Killings are not reported, and therefore hard to corroborate.
7. The Salwa Judum has strong support among certain sections of local society---comprising of some non-adivasi immigrant settlers from other parts of India, sarpanches and traditional leaders whose power has been threatened by the Maoists, powerful local politicians like Karma, and his network of supporters. Both the local Congress and the BJP are supporting the Salwa Judum together.
8. Militarisation: There is a heavy presence of the paramilitary like the CRPF and the Naga Battalion. In addition, people are being encouraged to carry arms. Village defence committees are being created, SPOs are being trained and armed, and the entire society is becoming more militaristic.
9. Although Chhattisgarh is claimed to be a tribal state, adivasi society and culture is being actively destroyed. People, for whom the earth of their village is sacred, are being forcibly removed from it, and the whole social fabric is being torn.

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