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Gory details of Salwa Judum & the Mass Retaliation

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 25, 2007

Sharda

As the Dandakarnya revolutionary movement triumphantly completed its 25th year and as the Adivasi peasant masses started to steadily build their own organs of political power — though in a rudimentary form —the ruling classes, in their desperate bid to wipe out this movement root and branch, further intensified their campaign of brutal repression, drowning the masses in rivers of blood. As a last resort, the State is resorting to all the notorious stratagems of the fascist rule book — kill all, burn all, loot all; shatter the people’s lives by hitting at their economic lifelines; use violence against women; and finally forcibly evacuate people from their villages and shut them up in concentration camps.


This is precisely what is going on in the Dandakaranya area of Chhathisgarh State for the past eight months in the name of ‘Salwa Judum’.


The Start of the Escalation

Different Phases of Salwa Judum


This murderous Salwa Judum campaign was launched in June last in Kutru area of Dantewada District, under the name of Jan Jagran Abhiyan. Later it was extended to Bairamgarh, Nellanar, Gangaloor, Mirtoor, Bursoor, Indravati, Nagnar and Daula areas.


This campaign was initiated by the arch agent of the reactionary ruling classes, Mahendra Karma, the leader of the Congress(I) legislature Party of Chhathisgarh, with the full backing of the BJP government. At first he gathered the erstwhile local tyrants, landlords, sarpanches, Janpad presidents, the Panchayat Secretaries, the local leaders of the Congress and BJP and all other such elements whose interests were seriously hurt by the revolutionary movement, whose feudal sway over the people was put to an end by the movement. They were egged on to get the villages under their jurisdiction to surrender — that is, to completely disband all revolutionary mass organisations and organs of political power, to cut off all their links with the Maoists.


These erstwhile tyrants and looters were only too eager to take this up and they formed the backbone and leaders of this campaign.


At first they concentrated their efforts on some villagers which are situated in between the Indravati river and the NH 16 highway and where the revolutionary organisations do not exist. By offering material incentives and in some cases, by issuing death threats, they were able to mobilise a motley gathering, with which they started conducting Jan Jagran meetings.

Then they gathered lumpen elements in their service, armed them with axes, swords and in some cases firearms, provided by the police, and launched attacks, under the protection of the central paramilitary forces, on villages under Maoist influence.


But soon these Salwa goons found out to their horror that the revolutionary masses are in no mood to get enslaved once again and are ready to give a fight for defending their organisations and new power. The revolutionary masses of Talimendrion and Kotrapal villages, ably assisted by their village militia, not only repulsed an attack of these goons but also inflicted heavy casualties on them, even killing the more ruthless.


The State took these killings — which were purely in self-defence — as an opportunity and went on a vicious propaganda campaign distorting the facts by depicting those who attacked as innocents and those who retaliated in self-defence as Naxalite murderers. Soon, rumours were spread all throughout Dantewada District that the Naxalites are attacking villages killing people indiscriminately. The big media went along with this, while the local small media was gagged.


Moreover, the Jan Jagran campaign’s name was changed to ‘Salwa Judum’ — the gondi meaning of which is campaign for peace — that will supposedly bring peace to the area by combating the so-called murder spree.


Apart from this, the State started closing down village weekly markets while falsely propagating that it was the Naxals who were closing down the markets. Again using the two incidents of resistance the State began to establish the so-called relief camps with the proclaimed intention of providing relief and safety to the Naxalite victims.


As people’s resistance continued, the State started deploying more and more paramilitary forces. As a part of this a Naga armed police battalion was brought in. Known for their brutality, with its deployment the repression campaign almost took on the shape of a war of occupation.

Now, the Salwa goons, accompanied by contingents of the Naga police started launching direct attacks on villages which are known to be Maoist strongholds; the people of which stood defiantly without surrendering. These goons and the Naga police started killing people indiscriminately and burnt whole villages.


We give here an incident which stands as an example of their blood-thirstiness. On Sept.1st the Naga police and the Salwa goons attacked a village called Hariyal, in Mirtoor area, and simply lined up ten peasants and shot them all dead at point blank range.


Along with this the State began to put into place an informer and vigilante network, al a Kashmir, by establishing Gram Suraksha Samitis (Village Defence Squads) and turning some of the lumpen elements and surrendered degenerated Naxalites as special police officers. It imported military training to them and armed them with modern assault weapons. This was what happened during the first phase — June. July 2005.


The second phase of this murderous campaign began in August 2005. Since the Salwa campaign was not able to extend beyond a score of village even after two months, Mahendra Karma and his henchmen launched a scheme called the ‘Jan Jagran Padyatra’ to launch attacks and force surrenders of villages standing defiantly.


Like in a war of occupation, the entire area has been divided into sectors and sub-sectors and new police outposts and camps, manned by the CRPF and the Naga police were set up in many villages for providing ‘carpet security’ to the marauding Salwa goons. Then, more ferocious mopping up operations were launched under such names as ‘Operation Green-hunt’ Operation Rakshak, etc.


The latest phase started with the doling out of material benefits like money, horses, bullocks, etc. to some of those who surrendered with much fan fare and propaganda, with the aim of luring the people of defiant villages to surrender.


The Economic Blockade


Another weapon the State is using against the revolutionary masses of Dandakaranya is hitting heard at their economic life lines. In an attempt to starve the revolutionary masses to surrender the State at first closed down all local weekly markets and then stopped supplying essential commodities, like rice, to the ration shops. As it is well known, the weekly markets are the sole economic life line for the Adivasi peasants, as it is in these markets that they sell their produce and purchase all their daily needs. Closing them down amounts to nothing but to cut off their life line and starve their families to death. So the State’s intention is very clear — either surrender or starve to death.


The Loot & Destruction


Apart from this, the Salwa goons, Naga police and central paramilitary forces, have, during the past eight months attacked more than 70 villages, which did not surrender to them, and burnt more than 1,300 houses. Theses goons — both the uniformed and non-uniformed — either looted or destroyed thousands of quintals of food grains, pulses and hundreds of pigs, goats, chicken, etc. They destroyed even household utensils and backyard vegetable plots of the peasants. They axed to the ground banana, papaya plants and trees like tamarind, mango, jackfruit, etc. The total cost of this loot and destruction comes to around Rs.4 crores. And this does not include the long-term loss the peasants will have to incur due to the axing down of such trees as Tamarind, mango, etc. The enormity of the loss incurred by the advivasi peasants can be gauged from the fact that they are living in one of the most backward areas in the country, where more than 95% of the families live well below the poverty line. The total damage would be to the tune of Rs.15 – Rs.20 crores. This was up to the end of last year; till today the rampage continues.


What is even worse, the police forces and Salwa goons are not even allowing the people to reap their harvest. They are continually raiding the fields firing indiscriminately on farmers who are reaping harvests, and are beating and torturing them, so as to drive them away and let the crop wither away.


Violence & Atrocities against Women


The Indian reactionary State has for long been consistently using violence and atrocities against women as one of the important weapons against defiant mass movements. Various such incidents of violence against women by the State security forces in J & K, Manipur, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, etc, which came to light in the recent past, illustrate the fact that the State has given a free hand to its security forces to commit any atrocity of their choice against women. The same weapon is being used in Dandakarnya with much more savagery during the ongoing ‘Salwa Judum’ suppression campaign.


Right from the inception of the revolutionary movement in Dandakarnya, Adivasi women were actively participating in all the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist struggles in large numbers. As soon as the revolutionary movement started taking roots in that area, about two decades back, these fighting women started organising themselves into a militant women’s organisation, the Adivasi Krantikari Mahila Sanghatan (KAMS). Apart from participating in the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist struggle, these brave women started taking up struggles against patriarchy and male domination. They fought and won the battle for equal wages for equal work. They started opposing their traditional marriage system, and began insisting on marrying some one of their own free choice. One of the most degrading customs that the traditional feudal gond tribal society imposed on its women was that she should not wear any blouse or upper garment and keep her chest bare once she is married. So, one of the first movements the KAMS took up was this issue and after a hard struggle the married Adivasi women started wearing blouses.


Struggles like these naturally aroused the ire of the tribal and clan chiefs. That is why women, and particularly the activists of the KAMS, are becoming the special targets of the Salwa goons. That is why in many of the cases of violence against women, they are taking out their wrath on the breasts of the women victims.


We report below some of the most heinous instances of violence and atrocities committed against women by the Salwa goons and the Naga police forces. These incidents will make any civilized person hang their head in shame with revulsion. The Salwa goons and paramilitary forces, particularly the Naga police, brutally murdered 12 adivasi women after gang-raping them and gang-raped 40 more women.


On August 15th — ironically on the very same day the ruling classes claim the country became independent — the Salwa goons, marching under the protective arm of the Naga police and other paramilitary forces, attacked a village called Karremarka situated on the NH 16 highway. They, at first, butchered the president of the local peasant organisation, DAKMS, comrade Tama Ramu, with axes. Later they caught the president of the local KAMS, comrade Madri Sarita, and gang-raped her. She started bleeding professedly and lost consciousness. Those inhuman goons then dragged her all the way to Bairamgarh police station. Not relenting even then, those goons kept raping that helpless, bleeding and semi-conscious woman for more than a week. Then when she was on the verge of death, they shifted her to a jail foisting false cases on her. The Salwa goons also gang-raped another member of the KAMS of the same village and left her in the forest after she lost consciousness.


On Sept.1st these Salwa goons caught hold of three women of Kondam village, Badri, Somli and Muni, gang-raped them and then removed all their clothes by force and marched these three bleeding and naked women to the Mirtoor police station and sent them to jail on false charges.

In another ghastly incident, the Naga police and Salwa goons surrounded the house of a peasant named Kotlal in Dorum village. At that time his wife, Somri, was feeding her children. The Salwa goons axed both the husband and wife in front of their panic stricken children. Later, in another gruesome incident, those goons surrounded a house in which a committee member of KAMS, comrade Korsa Santa, was taking shelter. They caught hold of her, axed her breasts, stabbed swords into her vagina and then through her dead body.


In a nearby village called Neelam, the police and Salwa goons caught hold of a pregnant woman who was draining water from a spring well outside her village, gang-raped her and mercilessly left the poor bleeding unconscious woman in the forest.


The Salwa goons and police forces captured three activists of the KAMS of Jarangla village, during their combing operations. They gang-raped them and then shifted them to a so-called relief camp and went on raping them for a long time.


On Oct 5th a batch of 120 Salwa goons and Naga police attacked Morkahelli village of Bairamgarh block and surrounded a house in which a pregnant woman was cooking food. Without any provocation they shot her dead. When her three panic stricken children started crying, these inhuman goons also shot dead the elder girl child.


On Oct 7th the Salwa goons and Naga police raided Pedakarma village in Bijapur block. The local militia gave them stiff resistance for more than an hour. But, finally the goons were able to capture two committee members of the KAMS, comrades Modium Sukki and Kurram Lakki, who were on sentry duty for the militia. The Salwa goons tortured them inhumanly, gang-raped them and finally murdered them in a most savage way by cutting off their breasts and axing their chests. They then threw their bodies in the deep forests. But the villagers found their bodies after two days of search and cremated their bodies with full revolutionary honours.


As mentioned earlier, Kotrapal village was one of the first villages not only to repulse the attacks of the Salwa goons but also to inflict heavy casualties on them. Irked by this, the Salwa goons attacked that village time and again. Finally they were able to capture six women. They gang-raped them and brutally tortured them after shifting them to a police station. The accounts of brutality could go on and on; suffice it to say that rape and humiliation of women has been one of the important weapons of the State to terrorise the local populace into submission during the ongoing campaign.


Relief Camps or Concentration Camps


One of the policies used by every reactionary ruler in history is to “drain the pond to catch the fish”. That is to forcefully evacuate the masses from their villages and resettle them in camps near their strongholds so that the masses are completely cut off from their revolutionary leadership. The Indian State is following the same stratagem during its present Salwa Judum offensive in Dandakarnaya.


The State began spreading a distorted version of the retaliatory attacks at Kotrapal and Tudimendri villages to create an atmosphere of fear that the Naxalites are attacking villages indiscriminately. Then it evacuated people from villages situated on NH 16 and shifted them to schools, ashrams, and government buildings in Bijapur, Kutro, Nimed, Bairamgarh, etc. These camps are under 24 hours surveillance. Those inside these camps are being utilised for forced labour for laying roads from Kutru to Vedire and from Bairamgarh to Patrir. They are being used for the widening of roads and cutting the forests on both sides and also in the construction of government buildings and repairs to police stations. In addition they have to cut and fetch fire wood for the police. For all this labour all they get is a mere measure of rice. Moreover, the Salwa goons are picking up and raping women at these camps. They are not allowing anyone to leave the camp, by issuing threats that they will kill anyone who dares to leave.


This is the horrifying plight of the so-called relief camps. About 14,000 people are already in such camps. The State has a plan to re-locate 400 villages (1200 to 1500 hamlets) in the Bastar region. There are already 8,000 forces in Bastar and they plan to add another 2000. They also have a plan to recruit 4,000 local lumpens and give them the post of Special Police Officer (SPO) and give them weapons. They also plan to form so-called Gram Suraksha Samitis in every village.


People Stand Firmly


The revolutionary masses of Dandakarnya are standing bravely, courageously facing one of the worst campaigns of murder and mayhem. They have the firm determination to safeguard all that which they achieved through the revolutionary struggle.


During the first three months of the Salwa Judum campaign the people stayed put in the villages, while their village militia maintained a day and night vigil. As soon as the marauding Salwa goons were sighted the militia would give a signal and people retreated into the forest.


But after that, some of the degenerated elements turned into informers and SPOs, and they started leading the Salwa goons and police, bypassing militia sentry posts through unguarded paths. Due to this the people vacated the villages and erected temporary shelters in the forest. At day break the militia first goes and patrols the village and only when it gives a all-clear signal, the people return to their villages and fields to attend to their work. The militia guards them during their work. By nightfall the people return to their shelter in the forests.


Not only the militia, the people themselves are taking every care to protect the secrecy of their shelter. They are taking care not to leave their footprints while coming or going away from the shelters. Moreover, they killed all their much-loved dogs and even their cocks, to avoid detection. Every nursing mother has been instructed to immediately attend to their babies as soon as it starts crying.


The people have to withstand unbearable hardships in these temporary camps. During the rainy season these temporary shelters could not provide any protection from the torrential rain. The pregnant women, the sick and the aged suffered the worst. But the people have cheerfully faced these hardships.


When the time came for reaping the harvest, the people got protection and assistance from the PLGA forces of the Maoists. These forces not only provided protection but also participated in cutting and storing the harvest. What is more it has been the PLGA that has been in the forefront of hitting back the enemy forces of the State.


Not cowed down by the massive enemy forces, the PLGA have been fighting back through guerrilla warfare. Last month itself there were a series of actions reported in the media. On Feb 6th nine jawans of the notorious Naga forces were killed and another nine seriously injured in a landmine blast in the Kottacheur area. According to the Economic Times (Feb 7th) “Elsewhere in the State, the ultras hurling explosives and firing shots, attacked the Arra police post killing two security personnel and wounding eight, and blew up a communication tower in Jashpur district (bordering Jharkhand). The Maoists, numbering 150, took away a huge quantity of arms and ammunition, Chhathisgarh Director General Of Police said in Raipur. He said the Maoists also blasted a communication tower in the area before fleeing, cutting off communication links with Jashpur.”


On Feb.10th eight CISF jawans were killed and nine injured when PLGA guerrillas attacked an explosives depot of the National Mineral Development Corporation in Dantewada district of Chhathisgarh. The Naxalites took away a large catche of explosive materials and weapons from the depot located at Hiroli near Kirandul. The news report said that about 400 were involved in the attack and were able to take away large quantities of Ammonium Nitrate, a high grade explosive, among other things. Besides, the press reported they took away 14 SLRs, one 9-mm pistol, two wireless sets and several rounds of ammunition.


No matter what the level of the repression the ruthless forces of the State are bound to be defeated. The enemy forces represent a microscopic section of the population while the Naxalites stand with the huge masses of the poor. Their struggle is for a just cause, so it is bound to triumph. In the battle there may be ups and downs, but victory is assured. By attacking the entire populace it is proven yet again that they enjoy no support of the masses, who are firmly with the Maoists even under these extreme conditions. Besides they will push the entire masses to be direct participants in the people’s war as they will be left with no other alternative. Even with a total black out in the media they cannot hide the blood-thirsty nature of the Salwa Judum. Thousands and lakhs throughout the country and world are bound to react to the extreme brutalities being perpetuated there. This will further turn more sections of the people against the government forces. There is urgent need for all progressives and democrats in India and abroad to come out in condemnation of the brutalities being perpetuated in Chhathisgarh and support the ongoing people’s war in India.

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