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Archive for September 13th, 2007

Naxal activities:An analysis

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007

Source: Front line

Naxal terror

VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN
in New Delhi and Ranchi

The naxalites’ tactic of supplementing armed struggle with mass agitations forces the government to rethink its strategy.

K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

The site of the landmine blast targeting former Chief Minister N. Janardhana Reddy and his wife, at Chitwedu village in Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh on, September 7.

“THIS is essentially to create a shock effect on the government and its agencies. More concrete and substantial political and organisational work of the Maoists is taking place at the grass roots in a number of States including Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa.” This is how a senior security specialist belonging to the Jharkhand police machinery responded when Frontline sought his view on the September 7 landmine attack on the convoy of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Min ister Janardhana Reddy. He said that this attack as well as the killing of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Member of Parliament Sunil Kumar Mahato on March 4 are part of the new “mobile warfare” strategy that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has evolved and implemented after its ‘unity congress’ held in January-February this year in the jungles running across the Jharkhand-Bihar border.

Security analysts are of the view that the naxalite group’s military tactic relies on “chosen mobile guerilla cadre”, who use advanced technology and gadgets to make sensational strikes at high-profile targets. “But the movement of this cadre is supported and facilitated by the contacts that the Maoists and their front organisations generate through the political, organisational and military interventions they make at the grass roots,” said the Jharkhand officer. He added: “Naxalites take advantage of the vacuum created by the inadequacy of administrative and political institutions, espouse local causes and take advantage of the disaffection and perceived injustice among the underprivileged and remote segments of the population.” Hence, he said, there is a general consensus in the security machineries of all naxalite-affected States that along with investigations into strikes such as the ones against Janardhana Reddy and Mahato, the larger, more concrete grass-roots activities of the Maoists need to be countered with greater vigour.

A comparison of the last two annual reports of the Ministry of Home Affairs (for the years 2005-06 and 2006-07) underscores this understanding of security specialists. The overall approaches of both the reports are similar as they deal with security issues such as raising more anti-naxalite units and India Reserve Battalions; strengthening intelligence gathering, inter-State cooperation and joint operations; keeping a constant watch on areas of current naxalite activity; and identifying areas where the Left extremist groups plan to spread violence and activity. Yet, there are significant differences between the two reports in terms of emphasis and focus.

One striking difference relates to the idea of evolving anti-naxalite civilian resistance groups. The 2005-06 report emphasised this and said that State governments “have been advised to encourage formation of Local Resistance Groups, Village Defence Committees and Nagrik Suraksha Samitis in naxal-affected areas”. The report also stated that “in the year 2005, Chattisgarh witnessed significant local resistance against the naxalites in some areas”. The 2006-07 report does not lay so much stress on developing civilian resistance.

By all indications, the mayhem in Chattisgarh created by the fight between Salwa Judum, a self-styled civil resistance group, and the naxalites has contributed to this shift (story on the Chhattisgarh situation, page 14). The only reference to civilian resistance in the 2006-07 report is as follows: “Stepped-up violence in Chhattisgarh is attributed mainly to greater offensive by naxalites to derail Salwa Judum, which is a voluntary and peaceful initiative by local people against naxalites in Dantewada district.” The reference, evidently, admits that the “significant local resistance” recorded in the earlier report has contributed to the aggravation of violence in the troubled State.

The major thrust of the 2006-07 report is on the formation of an Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) headed by an Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The IMG would focus almost entirely on the socio-economic issues that breed Left extremism. Its terms of reference include matters such as reviewing the implementation of various Centrally sponsored schemes and the programmes being undertaken particularly in the naxal-affected areas as well as monitoring the progress of land reforms in various States.

The IMG has also been instructed to “ensure that naxal-affected States take necessary steps to address tribal-related issues, facilitate meaningful implementation of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), formulate and implement a progressive and forward-looking Resettlement and Rehabilitation (RR) policy for displaced persons and tribals, to review progress of action taken for the developmental and security related infrastructure proposals under the Forest Conservation Act, and to closely review implementation of schemes like Backward Districts Initiative (BDI) and Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) specially approved for naxal-affected areas”.

Observers of naxalite politics and the government’s countermeasures, such as Lucknow-based political analyst Indra Bhushan Singh, point out that, in a sense, this shift in emphasis in the annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) indicates the flaws in the strategies followed so far by the governments at the Centre and in various States to take on the naxalite challenge. “It is clear that the militaristic and propaganda war unleashed by the Central government as well as various State governments against Left extremism, particularly its central political outfit, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has not produced favourable results,” the report says.

For nearly three years since the formation on October 7, 2004, of an Special Task Force consisting of a Special Secretary from the Centre, nodal officers of nine naxalite-affected States – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal – and representatives of the Intelligence Bureau ( I.B.) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the thrust was on improving coordination between various forces and agencies to conduct effective joint operations.

The experience of the past three years has shown that the results are, at best, patchy. This is an assessment shared by a number of senior police officials in States such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. “We make significant gains whenever a new security initiative is launched but soon the Maoists change their tactics and strategy to circumvent our initiative,” a senior police official in Ranchi told Frontline.

Figures put out by the Home Ministry corroborate this perspective. According to the Ministry, there were 1,509 incidents of naxalite violence in 2006 as against 1,608 incidents in 2005. This shows a marginal decline of 6.15 per cent in terms of incidents of violence. But casualties in 2006 were 678 as against 677 in 2005. Chhattisgarh alone accounted for 47.38 per cent of the total incidents and 57.22 per cent of the total casualties during 2006. This year, until June 2007, a total of 249 persons – 69 civilians, 113 security personnel, and 67 alleged naxalites – have been killed. The highest number of killings was reported from Chattisgarh (141), followed by Andhra Pradesh (39) and Jharkhand (29).

Incidents of violence and the number of casualties have come down in Andhra Pradesh. The State witnessed 535 incidents of violence and 208 killings in 2005. This came down to 183 incidents and 46 deaths in 2006. The State government has also won praise from the Centre for its surrender and rehabilitation policy for naxalites. However, security officials point out, seizures of huge consignments of rocket shells and rocket launchers in 2007 show that naxalite groups are in the process of regrouping. This is a matter of concern for the security agencies.

Another issue of concern for the security agencies is that a little over 45 per cent of the casualties in 2007 are their personnel. The killings of security staff have increased in Jharkhand and Orissa, too – to 24 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. One of the most shocking incidents was the mass killing of 55 security personnel in a single incident at Ranibodli in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.

If this is the situation in terms of violence, sources in the Union Home Ministry as well as in the governments of various naxalite-affected States point out that the CPI (Maoist) and fellow organisations, such as the Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (New Democracy) or CPIML(ND), have been able to break new ground, in terms of mass movements, and win popular support in States such as Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Jharkhand. This mobilisation is mainly based on their struggle against Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and the corporatisation of agricultural land.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government in West Bengal has consistently pointed out that naxalite groups had infiltrated the groups of villagers protesting against land acquisition for industrialisation in Nandigram and Singur. Leaders of the government have also said that this infiltration played a major role in making the villagers’ protest violent. Developments in States such as Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand clearly point towards the increasing leadership role played in anti-SEZ agitations by parties such as the CPI(Maoist) and CPIML(ND) and also its front organisations“““.

Change in tactics BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Janardhana Reddy and his wife, N. Rajyalakshmi, who is the Minister for Women and Child Welfare, at the Venkateswara temple in Tirumala, after surviving the landmine blast.

This correspondent gathered from State-level CPI(Maoist) activists in Jharkhand that this principal political organisation among the naxalite groups in the country has brought about two major changes in its contemporary political and military practice. These changes were essentially evolved during the party’s unity congress, held in January-February 2007 in the jungles bordering Jharkhand and Bihar, and have been put into practice skilfully over the last four months. At the military level, members of the Jharkhand Maoist group pointed out, the change has been from guerilla warfare to mobile warfare. This apparently involves extending the war zone to newer areas utilising the cadre from regions under guerilla control.

States such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are supposed to become the new fronts in this extended war. “This war tactic has been evolved essentially because greater destruction of enemy forces is central to consolidate the gains made so far and advance further,” said a State-level Maoist activist to Frontline.

At the political level, the interface for mass movements, too, is also becoming more and more broad-based. Analysts and observers of the struggles against the SEZs in Orissa have pointed out that in places such as Kalinga Nagar, the Maoist organisations have a big say in setting the agenda. Even in West Bengal, which has had a record of controlling naxalite activities for over three decades, the Maoist agitations against land acquisition for industrial projects and related issues are evoking greater mass appeal than ever before.

Such is the impact of these agitations that from Asansol to Bankura in West Bengal, the CPI(Maoist) and its front organisations have become the principal opposition to the CPI(M). These areas are adjoining Jharkhand. It is believed that the rank and file of all mainstream Opposition parties – the Trinamool Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress – are switching across to the front organisations of the CPI (Maoist) in significant numbers. CPI (Maoist) activists in Jharkhand told Frontline that this switch-over has been made possible by the skilful strategising by their party, which aims at attracting new sections of the population to the “Maoist path”.

In keeping with this broad-basing strategy, the name of the organisational mechanism of the CPI (Maoist) that guides and advances mass movements and front organisations has been changed from the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) to the People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI). The RDF was formed in May 2005, approximately six months after the merger of the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) to form the CPI (Maoist). Clearly, the party has made a re-evaluation of the political climate prevailing in the country and chosen to alter its path from “revolutionary democratic” activities and to press forward broad-based “people’s democratic” mass agitations. Activists of the CPI (Maoist) in Jharkhand made it clear to Frontline that this does not mean giving up the path of “armed struggles” but only supplementing it with “fiery mass agitations”.

Schemes on paper

The Maoists seem to be able to hold on militarily even in the face of greater coordination between security agencies and State governments and at the same time make significant gains in terms of mass propaganda initiatives. This state of play could well have contributed to the shift in emphasis in the Home Ministry’s annual report.

Indra Bhushan Singh is convinced that the Ministry’s shift is based on this consideration. While welcoming such modifications, he wondered whether putting socio-economic and development perspectives on paper alone would suffice to make a real difference on the ground. “Look up any document of the government on the naxalite issue and one can see that it is prefaced by pronouncements asserting that naxalism is not merely a law and order issue and has grave socio-economic dimensions. Repeating that constantly does help to advance awareness about the menace, but the government and its agencies can hope to produce tangible results only if schemes and projects really get implemented. There is little doubt that the progress card of the Central government as well as naxal-affected State governments on this count is far from satisfactory,” he pointed out.

AKHILESH KUMAR

At a Maoist training camp in the forest in Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) also reflects a similar opinion. A note on the naxalite conflict prepared by the ACHR in July this year pointed out that there has been “no dearth of development schemes in India but the implementation of such schemes perennially remained problematic and implementation of the schemes in the naxalite-affected areas almost came to virtual halt because of the increased conflict. An estimated Rs.6,500 crores meant for implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) were not spent during 2005-2006 and Rs.1,522.90 crores for development of the tribals could not be released by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to various State governments by the end of December 2006 because of the failure of the State governments to submit utilisation certificates under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act of 2004.”

Estimates by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) are that the Rs.1,680 crore provided to naxalite-affected States under the Backward District Initiative (BDI), too, is under-utilised (story on development, page 21).

The ACHR in March 2006 opined that the formation of a separate Ministry for the development of naxalite-affected areas should be considered as a way to bridge the gap between promises and performance. This suggestion has not been taken up seriously by any section of the government, but the political leadership, as well as the bureaucracy, has not been found wanting in setting up a number of government bodies and committees with the ostensible objective of addressing the situation in naxalite-affected regions.

Apart from the IMG, there is a high-level Coordination Committee headed by the Home Secretary, a Standing Committee of Chief Ministers of naxalite-affected States, and an Empowered Group of Ministers headed by the Home Minister and comprising select Union Ministers and Chief Ministers – all apparently analysing and finding solutions to the “naxal problem”. Some of these committees, such as the high-level Coordination Committee, have been functioning since 1998.

Can the new directives and initiatives of the government encapsulated in the latest MHA report do what many bodies in the government machinery failed to accomplish for nearly a decade? Now, that is, indeed, a moot question, the answer to which is certainly bound to have a long-term impact on the country’s security climate as well as on the political situation.

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New battle zones in India

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007


AMAN SETHI
in Bastar and Dantewada

Projects and policies unveiled in Chhattisgarh suggest a reorganisation of priorities to favour Big Business.

AKHILESH KUMAR

Tribal people who fled their villages fearing attacks on them in the fight between the naxalites and the Salwa Judum take refuge in a relief camp at Konta in Dantewada district.

FINALLY, it was a scrawl in the cryptic shorthand of a court stenographer that almost ruined Sudaram Nag’s monsoon crop. “Sudaram Nag, 50 yrs, Takraguda, Bastar. Section:107.116(b), 03-08-07,” it said, communicating to the 50-year-old rice farmer in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh that he was hereby summoned to present himself at the Magistrate’s Court on August 3, 2007, to show cause why proceedings should not be initiated against him for a breach of peace under Section 107.116 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Since early this year, more than 60 of Sudaram’s neighbours and other residents of the village have spent more time in the courts in Jagadalpur than in tending to their fields and harvests. Their crime: they protested against the rigging of gram sabha hearings initiated to acquire 2,161 hectares of fertile agricultural land for Tata Steel Limited’s greenfield steel plant in the district.

In an instance of truly Orwellian coincidence, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the Tata steel plant was signed on June 4, 2005, two days after the formal launch of the controversial Salwa Judum programme in the Bastar and Dantewada districts, and marked, in the eyes of many, the point of coalescence of the administration, industry and the security agencies. The State government also signed an MoU with the Essar group the same day.

Meanwhile, the Tata proposal had kicked off a controversy in Raipur, the State capital, with the issue being raised in the Assembly too. Soon after the deal was signed, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led State government refused to share the details, claiming that disclosure was specifically prohibited by a clause in the MoU. It refused to give copies of the MoU to members of the Opposition in the House. The Member of Parliament for the constituency encompassing Lohandiguda – the area earmarked for the project – went on record stating that he had no detailed information about the project.

Copies of the MoU were leaked over a period of months and by the time the documents became easily available a full-scale protest was under way in the 10 villages earmarked for the project.

While the provisions of the MoU, made available to Frontline, do not seem to have any clauses that are particularly exploitative in the context of a steel plant with a captive iron-ore mine; the protests have centred round acquisiti on of land for the plant.

The documents suggest that the plant will require approximately 2,161 hectares of land, close to 90 per cent of which (1,861 hectares) is Adivasi-owned agricultural land and will directly affect around 225 tribal families. The MoU contains no reference to rehabilitation, and residents of the area say that they had to invoke the Right to Information Act to receive a copy of Tata’s rehabilitation package.

“We are not against the project per se,” says H.R. Mandavi, Sarpanch of Takraguda. “However, we are firmly against the forcible acquisition for our land at paltry compensation rates.” According to Mandavi, th e protests began when the district administration and company officials ratcheted up the pressure on the people.

On May 27, 2006, representatives from the 10 villages, organised under the banner of the Prastavit Tata Steel Punarvasi Samiti, presented the district administration with a charter of 13 demands that set the rates of compensation at Rs.5 lakh an acre for unirrigated land and Rs.10 lakh an acre for irrigated land.

They also insisted on a permanent job for at least one member of each nuclear family; a transparent examination and rectification of the district’s land records; and the provision of free high-quality primary and secondary education for all children from the affected families.

The administration responded after two months. On July 20, 2006, the Bastar administration imposed ban orders under Section 144 of the CrPC, threw a security cordon around the area and convened a gram sabha meeting of the tribal panchayat comprising the villages of Takraguda, Kumli, Dhuragaon, Chindgaon, Bhadeparoda and Dabpal.

At the meeting, the District Collector and officials from the Tatas were said to have appealed to the people to give their “consent” to the project. Ban orders were imposed once more on August 3, 2006, when gram sabhas were organised in Belar and Sirisguda villages.

Through the year, the area saw skirmishes between residents and the police, which invariably culminated in cases being foisted on anti-displacement agitation leaders and their detention for short periods of time. Relations between the residents and the administration hit a nadir on February 24, 2007, when residents of Takraguda, Kumli, Dhuragaon, Chindgaon, Bhadeparoda and Dabpal held a gram sabha meeting independent of the District Collector and recorded in the minutes of the meeting their refusal to hand over “any land at any cost”.

For the next three days, the administration imposed a virtual martial law in the area and residents claimed that hundreds of policemen were posted in the six villages. In this period cases of rape and molestation were reported. A complaint filed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) from residents of the area has testimonies of victims, each one holding policemen responsible for these horrifying acts. The NHRC’s report is yet to be made public.

The administration’s resorting to such tactics could perhaps be explained by the fact that panchayats in Bastar, a designated tribal area, are governed by the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA). The PESA gives tribal panchayats a fair degree of control over their land and requires that all activity involving minor minerals and development projects have the expressed consent of the panchayat. For major development works and major minerals, however, the terrain is uncertain.

State officials that Frontline spoke to said the PESA required that the gram panchayat merely needed to be “consulted” for major projects. Residents, however, refer to legal precedents that state that tribal land cannot be acquired without the express permission of gram sabhas. Since the incident in February, matters have reached an unstable status quo and Sudaram and his neighbours have to still visit the court every other month to mark their presenc e.

The Tata plant in Lohandiguda is not the only site of conflict. A hundred kilometres to the south, in the Dhurli and Bhansi villages in Dantewada district, a similar battle is being played out between the administration and people protesting against land acquisition for the proposed steel plant of the Essar group.

There are, at present, few reliable sources of information on how many people have been displaced in Chhattisgarh over the past few years. The Salwa Judum itself may have been responsible for the displacement of more than 50,000 people from their homes to government-run “camps”. Rumours, bolstered by a stray paragraph in a Collector’s memo in Dantewada, suggest that these makeshift camps may be converted into permanent colonies, making land acquisition across the State much easier.

While that is still to happen, naxal violence and State legislation to counter it have created a situation where all space for opposition has been stifled. “Legal instruments like the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, have been systematically used by the State government to silence all voices of dissent,” says Ilina Sen, a human rights activist and Professor of Women’s Studies at Mahamata Gandhi University in Wardha.

Her husband, Binayak Sen, a paediatrician and a human rights activist, has been detained since May under the provisions of this Act on the charges of being a covert naxal courier. Ilina Sen believes that the reasons for his arrest and subsequent detention lie in the fact that he had spoken out against the excesses of the Salwa Judum and the State government’s land-acquisition practices.

Activists say that Binayak Sen is not the only one who has been persecuted for speaking his mind. A number of members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and cadre of parties such as the Communist Party of India (CPI) spoke of how anyone criticising the State government or its policies was branded a naxal and threatened with arrest. Advocate Inder Deo Nag’s is one such case.

“With the Salwa Judum being extended to all districts, Special Police Officers are organising themselves into paramilitary forces,” says Nag, an Adivasi and worker’s rights lawyer based in Sarguja district in North Chhattisgarh. Nag has been fighting for the rights of displaced families and workers at Hindalco, a flagship company of the Aditya Birla Group.

He said that when Hindalco set up its opencast bauxite mine in Sarguja in 1996, the company and the Madhya Pradesh government arrived at an agreement that promised permanent employment to the 100-odd families displaced by the mine. However, to date only three persons have been offered permanent employment; the rest have been forced to find daily-wage employment with subcontractors at the mine. People who opposed the exploitative practices of contractors found their employment terminated immediately and those who persisted were threatened with violence.

Nag said he himself was attacked several times and illegally detained by people who he believed were goons working for the contractors. The most recent incident was on March 24, 2007, when he was kidnapped at gunpoint by one Dheeraj Jaiswal, who happens to be a Special Police Officer under the Salwa Judum programme, and warned against interfering in the “company’s affairs”.

Nag said that by arming anyone ready to join the Salwa Judum, the State government had actually created vigilante groups that hired themselves out to the highest bidder.

Targeting sezs

A review of naxal attacks in Chhattisgarh over the last few months suggests that the extremist group is also striking out against the industrialisation drive in the State. A series of statements released in March by the central committee of the CPI (Maoist) called upon the “oppressed masses” to “turn every Special Economic Zone (SEZ) into a battle zone”.

On May 16, the 40th anniversary of the Naxalbari uprising, a statement released by the CPI(ML) New Democracy demanded the abandonment of the SEZ Act, 2005, on the grounds that it diverted fertile agricultural lands to large multinational firms. Besides issuing statements the naxals have, in recent months, targeted the mining industry for attacks.

On June 2, they destroyed three high-tension transmission towers in the Bastar district, resulting in an 11-day power blackout that, according to industry insiders, crippled mining activity and movement of iron ore in the Bailadila mines. On June 11, naxals attacked the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) complex in Dantewada and burnt over 100 metres of conveyor belts hampering operations for 10 days.

The summer of attacks culminated in a largely successful economic blockade on June 26 and 27 in Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand, orchestrated to protest against the economic policies of the governments at the Centre and in the States.

Chhattisgarh today perhaps presents a microcosm of the choices that the Indian state shall increasingly have to make. While the economy’s growing thirst for minerals and fuels will push mining companies deeper and into lush, ecologically sensitive tribal-owned land, the lack of rehabilitation policies and state insensitivity to those affected by mines can only lead to impoverishment, alienation and, ultimately, violence.

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Development project in Naxal area: a flawed concept

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007


V. VENKATESAN
in New Delhi

The Government of India’s efforts to accelerate development in naxal-affected districts seem to have fallen flat.


IN 2003, when the Government of India identified 55 districts affected by left-wing extremism (naxalism) across nine States to address the issue of backwardness, its decision stemmed from the realisation that people were drawn into naxalism and forced to take up arms in order to meet their socio-economic needs. These districts are in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

The objective was to accelerate the development process in these districts and ultimately prevent people from joining the naxalites. The pursuit of this goal warranted a certain degree of commitment on the part of the States concerned. But has the effort succeeded?

Even as the scheme progressed, it revealed an in-built flaw. While the identification of the districts affected by extremism was carried out by the Ministry of Home Affairs in terms of the number of violent incidents, these districts were clubbed with the Backward Districts Initiative (BDI) under the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY) being run by the Planning Commission. The RSVY has three components: the BDI, a Special Plan for Bihar and a Special Plan for the KBK region of Orissa (the undivided districts of Koraput, Bolangir and Kalahandi, which have now been divided into eight districts). Its objective was to address the problems of low agricultural productivity and unemployment and to fill critical gaps in physical and social infrastructure. Under the BDI scheme, programmes and policies were to be initiated jointly by the Centre and the States to remove barriers to growth, accelerate development and improve the quality of life of people.

The BDI component was to cover 100 districts. The identification of backward districts within a State was made on the basis of an index of backwardness comprising three parameters with equal weightage: (i) value of output per agricultural worker; (ii) agriculture wage rate; and (iii) percentage of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe population of the districts.

Thirty-two of the 55 districts identified to have been affected by extremism did not satisfy the above criteria of backwardness. It showed that in terms of ranking, these naxal-affected districts would not strictly qualify to be labelled as backward districts. Still, these districts were brought under the BDI in the hope that State intervention would help them overcome major bottlenecks in development, and make a dent in poverty in a time-bound manner.

This was a basic flaw as the development paradigm (rather than the rights paradigm) has been found to be unsuitable to formulate an effective response to naxalism. At the end of three years, major bottlenecks in development remained unresolved in these districts, and the States concerned appeared less than enthusiastic in tackling poverty within a specific time frame. The sense of urgency was not visible on the ground, thus defeating the very objective of this mission approach to development.

Nevertheless, the implementation of the scheme needs to be closely examined as it throws light on the lack of seriousness of the stakeholders in realising its objectives. A sum of Rs.15 crore a year was to be provided to each of these districts for three years. That is, a total of Rs.45 crore for a district. The scheme envisaged release of funds by the Centre to the State governments on a 100 per cent grant basis, in suitable instalments linked with the satisfactory progress of the three-year Master Plan and nested Annual Action Plans to be prepared by district administrations and panchayati raj institutions.

The scheme also required the State governments to release the funds received under the programme, within 15 days of receipt, to a separate head created for the purpose under the District Rural Development Agency. Failure to do so would lead to forfeiture of subsequent instalments and the funds released earlier would be treated as a loan, according to the scheme’s guidelines laid down by the Planning Commission. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Planning Commission and the State government governs the implementation of the scheme.

The financial assistance provided to the districts under the scheme may be insignificant, but it could well be considered as a test case to see whether the development paradigm could help tackle naxalism. An interim review by the Planning Commission in 2005 revealed that there were many defaulting States. Expenditure by the States/districts on the earmarked schemes was found to be not up to the mark. The 2005-06 period was the last year of the scheme when the entire balance amount of Rs.3,000 crore would have been released to the States. Yet, the Planning Commission noted with dismay on November 21, 2005, in an internal note, that the States had so far been indifferent – they had not made requests for further release of funds after exhausting the earlier instalments.

The table compiled by the Planning Commission on the release of funds to the States and the cumulative expenditure reported by the State governments as on October 5, 2005, for the first two years revealed the extent of indifference. It showed that even as the Government of India was keen that regional imbalances should be removed, the State governments were not serious enough and approached the issue in a routine way. The implementation of the schemes was slow and, as a result, the release of further instalments to the States was delayed.

The latest table on the release of funds to States for RSVY, as carried in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj’s website, shows some improvement in the cumulative expenditure reported by the State governments at the end of the fourth year (2006-07), but there is still a huge amount to be released to the States under the scheme. This has not yet been released because of the poor utilisation of the funds released earlier.

It is easy to infer that the States probably found it difficult to utilise the funds in the naxal-affected districts because of a security threat from the naxalites if they went ahead with implementation of the development programmes. But statistics suggest the contrary. In Chhattisgarh, most of the naxalite-affected districts have reported better utilisation of funds compared with other districts. In Bastar – a naxalite-affected district – the entire Rs.45 crore has been released by the Centre, with the State government reporting a cumulative expenditure of Rs.27.26 crore. In Dantewada, another affected district, the Centre has released the entire Rs.45 crore, with the cumulative expenditure in the district showing Rs.30.37 crore. Kanker district is another success story: here the cumulative expenditure shows Rs.35.62 crore out of the sanctioned Rs.45 crore.

These figures may be compared with other districts in the State receiving funds under the RSVY. In Bilaspur district, only Rs.37.50 crore has been released, while the cumulative expenditure out of this sanctioned amount stands at Rs.27.07 crore.

It is instructive to further compare the figures for Chhattisgarh with those of Andhra Pradesh. Chittoor and Vizianagaram – both non-naxalite districts in Andhra Pradesh – reported cumulative expenditure of just Rs.12.06 crore and Rs.7.50 crore respectively. Similar examples abound in other States.

With the underutilisation of funds by the States, the scheme has been continued through 2006-07 and beyond, until the earmarked amount is fully released to each district. These districts would then shift to the newly-launched Backward Regions Grant Fund’s (BRGF) standard mode of funding. The BRGF scheme covers 250 districts and is to be administered by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

The Ministry of Home Affairs’ annual report for 2006-07 reveals that financial assistance of Rs.2,475 crore was provided to the naxal-affected States under the scheme to fill in critical gaps in physical and social infrastructure. Only a final appraisal by the Planning Commission could reveal how this money has been spent and whether it had any impact on the causes of naxalism.

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/stories/20070921501702100.htm

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All parties pursue our agenda: Varava Rao

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007


N. RAHUL

Interview with Varavara Rao, member of Revolutionary Writers’ Association.

P.V. Sivakumar

Varavara Rao raises anti-government slogans after being taken into custody on August 19, 2005.

Varavara Rao has been the face of the Marxist-Leninist movement and the revolutionary writers in Andhra Pradesh for nearly four decades. He has served several terms in jail in his political career beginning with the tribal struggle that took root in the State in Srikakulam following the Naxalbari movement. He was an emissary of the Maoists in the peace talks with the State government in 2004. In this interview, he spoke on naxalite activity in Andhra Pradesh. Excerpts:

What has led the Maoists to operate from outside Andhra Pradesh?

The State has resorted to repression against them just as it had always done in the past when a movement gained in strength. The breakdown of peace talks and the re-imposition of the ban on the CPI(Maoist) on August 17, 2005, led to the cadre looking for alternative operational zones in Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The party has made the thick forests of the two States and Jharkhand its base to carry on its activities.

Why, in your view, did the government tread the path of repression after choosing to negotiate with the naxalites?

The repression started in the previous Telugu Desam regime and has been continued by the Congress government in pursuance of World Bank conditions. The police launched a crackdown on Maoists on January 6, 2005, when it became clear that there was no meeting ground between the State government and the outfit. Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was interested in going ahead with the second round of talks, slated for November 16, 2004, with the CPI (Maoist) and the CPI-ML (Janashakti), but senior police officers advised him against it. He had even acknowledged that the talks were a good sign as they would help a section of the extremists join the mainstream.

Why did the talks fail?

Mainly, the government wanted naxalites to lay down arms while carrying on their political programmes and their propagating ideology. They [the naxalites] rejected this. Following a series of encounters, in which 10 naxalites were killed in a week, the CPI (Maoist) and CPI-ML (Janashakti) announced on January 16 [2005] that they were pulling out of the peace process, which was initiated following a ceasefire that both sides had agreed upon six months earlier.

The hostilities between the government and the naxalites touched a peak with the killing of Congress MLA C. Narsi Reddy at Narayanpet in Mahbubnagar district on August 15 [2005] at an Independence Day programme. The government clamped a ban on the Maoists on August 17 and two days later arrested me and my colleague G. Kalyan Rao. We were picked up because we were members of the Revolutionary Writers’ Association, which was also banned as a frontal organisation of the Maoists.

We were in jail until April 2006, though the ban on the association was relaxed within three months of its imposition. Our release was delayed because the government had, in the meantime, booked six cases against us.

What have been the successes, if any, of the talks?

There was a detailed discussion on 1.02 crore acres of surplus land in the State [to be distributed to the poor]. The land was divided into 35 categories. The CPI (Maoist) occupied five lakh acres, including two lakh acres in the plains. Now, the identified land is in everybody’s list, including the Chief Minister’s and the Left parties’. The CPI (Maoist) demanded distribution of three acres of land to each landless family and the setting up of a land commission with retired bureaucrat K.R. Venugopal as its chairman.

How strong is the naxalite movement in the State now?

The CPI (Maoist) planned a mass militant programme but could not succeed. It succeeded to a certain extent in the Andhra-Orissa Border area. Moreover, all political parties are now pursing the agenda fixed by the naxalites, at least for vote bank politics. It is a great victory for the naxal movement.

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Andhra Pradesh: Down but not out

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007


N. RAHUL
in Hyderabad

The police crackdown on naxalites has brought down their number in Andhra Pradesh but not their ability to strike.

K. SRINIVAS REDDY

THE MAOISTS ADMIT that the party has become weak militarily in the Nallamala forest, spread over four districts. A file picture.

NAXALITES in Andhra Pradesh are down but not out. The police offensive in 2005 following the failure of the peace talks in late 2004 has diminished their number considerably but not their capacity to strike. They demonstrated this on September 7 when the Maoists attacked the convoy of former Chief Minister Nedurmalli Janardhana Reddy and his wife, N. Rajyalakshmi, who is the State Minister for Women Development and Child Welfare, in Nellore. Janardhana Reddy was high on the Maoists’ hit list ever since he set the police after the erstwhile People’s War leaders when he was Chief Minister from December 1990 to October 1992.

The naxals triggered a landmine near Vidyanaga, about 55 km from Nellore, when the couple were on their way to Tirupati where Reddy was to receive an honorary doctorate from Sri Venkateswara University. The explosive device, planted under a culvert on the road, was triggered a few seconds after their car passed the spot. While they escaped narrowly, three people in a car behind theirs were killed and several others were injured.

The police claim that the number of naxalites who carry weapons is about 400 now as against 1,100 in 2004 when the Congress government initiated the peace process. The number was a couple of hundred more during the previous Telugu Desam regime.

The attack on Janardhana Reddy is an indication that the naxals are trying to recover lost ground after the failed peace talks. A document gathered by the police recently after a meeting of the highest body of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) says, “We began to suffer losses soon after the breakdown of talks in 2004. Fortification of all police stations, multilayered in many cases, in all our areas of armed struggle is making it difficult to inflict serious losses on our enemy. We did not adopt the correct tactics to counter the enemy offensive in time. We suffered the heaviest losses in Andhra Pradesh part [meaning Rayalaseema, the extensive Nallamala forest and south Telangana] during the enemy’s action plan since November 2005. This led to a gradual decline of the movement, finally resulting in a temporary setback in the State as a whole.”

The document blamed the leadership in charge of all the zones of the State for the failure of the Maoist movement. The Maoist organisational structure for the State has three zones: AP State committee area, North Telangana Special Zone and Andhra-Orissa Border (AOB). Each enjoys the status of an independent State committee.

The Intelligence Bureau of the Union Home Ministry concurred with the Maoists’ view that they had been pushed back in the State. One of its reports said naxalite violence declined drastically in 2006. “The number of incidents declined by over 65 per cent and the killings by 78 per cent. The violent activities by other Naxalite groups also registered a sharp decline,” it says.

Contrary to the claims of the security agencies, the Maoists said that though the party had become weak militarily in the Nallamala forest, spread over four districts, the AP State committee area and North Telangana, their overall presence in the State had improved. In fact, cadre recruitment was on in North Telangana, particularly Warangal and Karimnagar, they said.

P.V. SIVAKUMAR

OCTOBER 2004: NAXALITE leaders Ramakrishna and Sudhakar with the Andhra Pradesh government delegation led by Home Minister K. Jana Reddy, on the first day of peace talks in Hyderabad.

The cadre was intact in the AOB. Varavara Rao, one of the three representatives of the Maoists (then People’s War) in the peace talks, admitted to setbacks in Andhra Pradesh, but said their overall strength had grown as they had expanded their activities to16 States. The cadre’s morale was high particularly after the attacks on police camps in Chhattisgarh and the blockades organised in June against Special Economic Zones in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar, he said.

The party withdrew its armed squads in the forest areas for tactical reasons, and its activities were now run by mass organisations whose influence on the people was huge, he said. The party had shifted its military programme from one of carrying out guerrilla warfare to that of mass attacks with the participation of thousands of militia, Varavara Rao added.

The period from July 2004 to January 2005 could be likened to a “golden era” in the recent history of the Maoist movement, comparable only to the “liberal era” during the chief ministership of M. Channa Reddy in the late 1980s. The extremists procured arms and recruited cadre in a big way. They were also accused of amassing wealth from extortions. After the peace talks from October 14 to 18, 2004, a view emerged that the naxalites wanted a second round of negotiations to consolidate their position, but the police restrained the government.

The talks turned the tide against the naxalites as the police were subsequently able to penetrate their most secret hideouts, especially those in the Nallamala forest. Considered impregnable in the past two decades because of its hostile and unbelievably long terrain, the forest has hardly any naxalite activity now. A 100-member naxalite team led by Ramakrishna had emerged and retreated into the Nallamala forest when they participated in the talks.

In 2004, the year of the talks, naxal violence was minimal. About 130 people were killed in the months preceding the peace process. In comparison, 326 people were killed in 2003, 374 in 2005, 191 in 2006 and 55 until September 2 in 2007. Aided by a network of informants, the police cracked down on the extremists in 2006. Maoist sympathisers concede that the informant network and covert operations using renegade naxalites indeed helped the police eliminate several extremists.

Surrendered naxalites helped police flush out extremists. They even provided the stage for the police to finish their job at Gadidagandla near Manthani in Karimnagar and Manala in Nizamabad, said Varavara Rao. Fourteen extremists, including a district committee secretary, two district committee members and three squad leaders, were poisoned by the renegades before the arrival of the Greyhounds, the anti-naxalite police force, he alleged.

The Maoists see no difference between the Telugu Desam and the Congress government. They said 2,000 party cadre were killed in the nine-and-a-half-year rule of the TDP and 250 died during the three years of the Congress government. Among the top cadre killed since the breakdown of talks were two central committee and six state committee members. Rao alleged that one of the central committee members, Wadkapur Chandramouli, and his wife, Vijayalaxmi, were picked up in Jamshedpur and killed in a fake encounter in Visakhapatnam in December last year.

The police admitted that four districts in the State – Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam and East Godavari – and four in Orissa – Malkangiri, Koraput, Raigada and Gajapati – were still problem areas from the standpoint of naxalite activity.

The AOB area is now led by Modem Balakrishna, who was released from jail a decade ago on the basis of a court order that caused ripples in police circles. He upstaged Sudhakar, one of three top Maoist leaders, to participate in peace talks in his capacity as the AOB secretary. Not surprisingly, the combing operations of the police are focussed in the AOB areas.

Recently, a Greyhounds party was alleged to have raped 11 tribal women at Vakapalli village in Visakhapatnam district during a search operation. The incident hit the headlines as the High Court and the State Human Rights Commission took up the case.

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War Against Naxals In Chhatishgarh: Will Brahmanical Alternative Work

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007


By V.B.Rawat

22 April, 2004
Countercurrents.org

Naxal operations in Chhatishgarh have threatened the very basis of the governance in rural Chhatisgarh. Earlier one used to hear about secret combats in far away areas but today the Naxals are ambushing the police parties and taking over the villages. Chhatishgarh’s Hindutva government is busy with attracting more investment and subsidizing the ‘rambhakts’ for Kailash Mansarovar, an attempt to placate the Hindutva groups while deliberately raise high pitch against the Muslim appeasement. Those of us who are worried about this situation are not only opposed to such silly actions of the government but also the unnecessary subsidy that the government provides to the Muslims for Haj. There is no need for that as Muslim scholars have also spoken against the same.

The city of Raipur remains as chaotic as any other unplanned township and could easily be considered as a ‘mosquito’ capital of the country. In the activists circle things have become too secretive. That reflects the nature of Chhatishgarh today where every two person meeting has several people from the Intelligence Bureau and other agencies looking for some clue. Even journalists seems to be under the scanner of these agencies as one journalist friends from a National Magazine informed me how his background material was ‘researched’ by IB and how his editors were informed not to be ‘sympathetic’ to Naxals.

Journalist as IB suspects

Therefore, every journalist is a possible suspect in Chhatishgarh. While police may be tapping his phones, the activists keep away from them for the fear of being a possible intelligence agent. Some confided that a number of stingers are in the government payroll otherwise how could they be traveling in cars and enjoying a much better life, when ordinary mortals are fighting their battle for livelihood. In the seminar, a journalist friend was sitting and talking about Salwa Judam project of the government of Chhatishgarh. Everybody knows this paid project of the Chhatishgarh government is not working. The journalist wanted response from the NGOs but none of them came up to reply. In fact, every one assumed that the fellow was a sure IB agent. Poor fellow remained marginalized unless one evening he showed me his identity card and other details. Such is the condition of the journalists reporting from Chhatishgarh. In Raipur a Television journalist had the same narratives about government’s anti Naxal operations. “They do not want us to go report from the Naxal infected areas. They would like us to write what they believe is correct and would not like any news of police torture or harassment of the common men. Is it not important for the government to introspect its policies as why have people rebelled against it”, says the journalist. He is more worried now with a proposed legislation by the Chhatishgarh government which could curtail media’s right to criticize the government. Like POTA this ordinance is equally damaging and dangerous and creative people should oppose it.

Issue of Land Alienation of the tribals

Is Chhatishgarh’s government interested in introspection? While Ajit Jogi started inviting companies and sold even rivers to private cronies, the current government of the Bharatiya Janata Party did not leg behind in denying people right over resources. The tribal and Dalits of Chhatishgarh today are at the receiving end. when they speak up for their rights and ask for justice they are easily termed as Naxalites or their sympathizers. For the poor people it is double aged sword. In the village if they come out against the officials they are beaten and if they do not then the community may term them as anti Naxal. The repression from both the side is brutal.

The issue of Naxalism in Chhatishgarh and other parts of the country is being treated as an administrative problem. The government still thinks that by using heavy arm forces it can win over the people who it has cheated. K.P.S.Gill has become panacea for every thing that is ailing in Chhatishgarh. One has to see what he did in Punjab. Gill did not succeed in Punjab. It was people’s will to participate in democracy that has changed Punjab. Gills administrative faults are still remembered in Punjab with much contempt. It is the same Gill who has hijacked Indian Hockey Federation and does not want its growth. Where has he time for Hockey amidst his politics. So, Gill would authorize his police to go for a kill.

It is interesting to note that Chhatishgarh government is using Salwajudam project to bring Adivasis into its fold in their fight against the Naxals. Problem is that government’s bureaucracy is so corrupted that it will take years for them to make the people feel about their intention. With out speaking about people’s right over resources, without giving them a job security, the government wants to fight against the Naxal menace. If the government is interested why does not it recruit Adivasis and Dalits into its police force and its wider administrative machinery, which is filled with corrupted upper castes. But is it possible for a government who look the issue of Naxalism from the prism of an upper caste brahmanical mindset?

Big companies, local feudal lords, water companies, forest department, every body seems to have joined hand in Chhatishgarh to rob people of their wealth. Former Congress government sold river Sheonath to a private party denying fishermen and farmers right to cultivate their land and fish there, the current government is following the same path. Every body need development but can we call such development sensitive which does not take care of people’s need and uproot them from their homes with out being rehabilitated?

Dominance of non-tribals

Chhattishgarh is predominantly an Adivasis-Dalit state and yet the irony is it is being run by the non-Adivasis. While the Hindutva party is here to put its casteist agenda, the old horses of the country’s original brahmanical party remain the same. One also has to see that it is not the chief minister or Ministers who rules the state. Chhatishgarh at the moment is completely in the grips of Sikhs, Sindhis and Jains. Barring a few families of them who have been compensated land due to partition; a majority of them have mischievously taken land meant for tribals by inducing the officials and using money and muscle power. This money and muscle power is creating a great unrest in Chhatishgarh and its villages. If that is none taken care of earlier, the situation may go out of hand.

A local Muslim who was taking me in his auto informed how his brother who had completed his BA did not get the government job despite bribing the local officials.

The Dalits and tribals are living a life of misery. In the absence of any radical Dalit movement, the situation here remain grim because of the growth of new power Sadhus and Babas. That Satnamis, the largest Dalit community has been cleverly embedded into the brahmanical Hinduism is one of the biggest tragedies of Chhatishgarh. It also happen when Ambedkar was made icon of certain communities and parties. Miracle Gods are happening in Chhatishgarh and more and more Dalits and Adviais are becoming victim of superstition and blind faith.

No body knows his flight since he is not Jessica Lal but a marginal Dalit

Jessica Lal and Mehar were no ordinary women. They came from upper strata of society. Definitely, we have sympathies with their families and those committed crime must be brought to book. But have not we seen this over dose of injustice to them in the media? Why do we not feel the same pain and anguish when a landless Dalit is hacked to death. Why our media do not write reams of pages on the conditions of Dalits and violence against them. Why the electronic channels keep mum over the violence against the Dalits and tribals. Perhaps they do not even know where are other people who face same problems. Yes, Ramesh Kumar’s case is much more threatening than Jessica Lal and Mehar since he lost his father and brother in front of his eyes. Because Ramesh, survived in that battle of brutal sword power added with the help of state machinery. Today, Ramesh is a threatened person despite police protection. Ramesh Kumar 27 face one of the serious threat to his life. Today, a police guard is round the corner protecting him. Ramesh, a Satnami by caste and small farmer lost his father and brother last year on September 10 th, when a group of migrant Sikhs and Jaats of Punjab and Haryana lynched both of them. The reason for the killing was clear. Ramesh’s father Kartik Ram owned some land in village Bhurki under thana Bemtara in district Durg. Ram Chander Jaat of Haryana along with other friends of Haryana and Punjab had been on a buying spree in the area. They had settled in this area some years ago and were threatening people to sale their land to them. This has become a well-known factor in Chhatishgarh and other mineral rich states that the powerful farmers and business community is coming and alluring people for small money. Kartik Ram 56, and his elder son Puneet Ram, 31 were obstacles in the plot being hatched by Ramchandar. ‘ Why should I sale my land to people from outside. I lived on this land and earn my livelihood from it. Where should I go once I sale it to these oppressors’, said Kartik Ram to his sons. They went to police station and lodged a complaint against the immigrants. The oppressors themselves are expert in crookedness of the paper work, which our corrupt officials flaunt to exploit the poor masses. The Thana incharge of this area was another Haryanavi Shyam Sunder Sharma. One can understand the interest of one upper caste to save the skin of his Haryana brothers. Sharma started threatening the poor Dalits under the pretext that they had theft the tractor light of the Haryana farmers. He kept them waiting in the police station. Poor people spoke to area MLA Chetan Singh Verma against the harassment..

At around 4 pm, Sharma send them to Bhurki which was about 8 kilometer from the police station. All the three father and the sons came back to their home. Kartik and Puneet went to take a bath at the village pond. Ramesh was also there when the Haryana people came in tractors along with guns, swords and rifles. Ramesh ran to save himself. He was attacked by Sword. He survived. He father could not run. His brother was killed by Ajay Jaat with the sword. His father was hit by Ramchander. They cut his hands and slit his throat. Ramesh was on the run. He was crying. His mother Kamala Bai also came in between to save her husband. He went to Avneeesh Rathore, a local Congress Party Member who provided all assistance. By that time the village crowd had gathered in the area and started pelting stones. Today Ramesh is the only witness along with her mother and wife. He face severe threat to his life. The policemen on his security leave him in between. Like the police station in charge, he also seems to curse him. His wife is pregnant at the moment. The Farmhouse owners have threatened him with dire consequences. They are threatening him not to speak in the court when the case comes for hearing in May. Let us see how the administrators of Chhatishgarh act in this matter. We shall have an eye over this case.

Dalit denied Justice in the Law University

Abhishek Priya Anand is a bright Dalit scholar who passed his Masters in Chemistry from Andhra Pradesh by 68%. He joined the combined course of the National Law University three years back on his own merit. He opted for a course of M.phil/Ph.D/LLM which was a four years course. According to structure, he should have been provided M.Phil degree in the very first year but that did not happen. His M.Phil was prolonged for one year and finally he got his worksheet for M.Phil after two and a half year. There has been no notification issued in writing to him as why has his case being delayed. Even when Abhishek wanted to enroll for the Ph.D, the University has shown no interest in dealing with him. When he enrolled for this comprehensive integrated course, he never realized that he would face a severe threat to his career. He was supposed to get teaching assignment from the second year but was denied the same. The students from other castes are clearly favored. He got his stipend of Rs 5,000/- for just two months only and that too in the second year only. Most of the other student received it for over 5-6 months. None of them have been informed as why the stipend was not given. In the third year, Abhishek was supposed to get Rs 10,000/- per month to pursue his Ph.D. According to documents made available to us, a three member committee formed to look into the matter had come to unanimous conclusion that Abhishek be enrolled for the Ph.D programme. The Vice Chancellor of the University Dr M.K.Shrivastava has not only not taken any interest in the case but also seems to have a prejudiced mind. After three years of staying at a place, the Vice Chancellor ordered Abhishek be thrown out of the University Hostel. Abhishek was told that since there is no faculty for his specific case, he couldn’t be enrolled in the University as a Ph.D student. It is amusing that a University which officially offer courses in certain categories deny the same to one bright student and that too from a Dalit community which remain marginalized, not due non availability of merit or meritorious students, but with deep rooted prejudices in our system. It was easy for the Vice Chancellor to ask the student to go back but where would the student go. Abhiskeh has written to every one in the University including the Vice Chancellor and other State authorities but so far nothing has happened. It is imaginable that a student cannot go too far fearing a backlash from higher authorities who are out to destroy his career.

(We have submitted a memorandum to NHRC regarding Abhishek)

Conclusion

Chhatishgarh came into being to fulfill the aspiration of the tribals. Today, tribal remain more marginalized than any other community. The land is being occupied by not only the private companies and forest-department but also by the outsiders who are flourishing at the cost of the locals. The government may look more into the Naxal problem by bringing more funds for the home ministry but in the absence of a proactive reform particularly on land and forest management, government would be betraying to its own self. By throwing tribal away from their own area and denying them dignity, the government cannot expect anything. The corrupt and contemptuous officials have to go. Cases if like of Kartik and Abhishek Anand are not isolated. This is a trend in Chhatishgarh. One does not what is the domicile policy of Chhatishgarh. Has the government ever taken people into confidence on the issues such as land, water and forests?

If the government wants to tackle the Naxal threat it has to introspect on its own position. It cannot deny tribals and Dalit their legitimate right over their resources. If the state apparatus continue to become more brahmanical by giving huge, palatial land to the corrupt Babas while the marginalized languish of hunger and malnutrition, nothing will move. You cannot win a war against violence by pretending to look it with administrative viewpoint. Let the Dalit and tribals have more fare representation in police, administration and policymaking. The day government does its work sincerely the problem will automatically disappear. If things were so great let them ponder why the tribal remain landless in its own land and why people have to buy water in Chhattisgarh. It is equally important to find out as why Chhattisgarh which used to supply electricity to other state, today, is reeling under sever electricity cut. One is sure; tribals and Dalits are not the reason of this mess of Chhattisgarh. The mess in Chhattisgarh is created by the corrupt upper caste beaurocracy with active blessings of political leadership and it need to come clean. It cannot win a war against Naxals by scuttling the criticism or voices of dissent by putting innocent people into jails in the names of fighting naxal violence. It will have to show results by winning people’s heart and giving a positive programme in the villages.

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‘A question of rights, not development’

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007

V. VENKATESAN

Interview with D. Bandopadhyay, Chairman of the Expert Group on Development Issues to deal with Causes of Discontent, Unrest and Extremism.



D. Bandopadhyay, Executive Chairman, Council for Social Development, New Delhi.

IT may be a coincidence, but the signals are far-reaching. After having witnessed for three years the State governments’ indifference to utilising Central funds meant for socio-economic programmes in the naxal-affected districts, the Planning Commission appears to have developed doubts about the efficacy of the New Delhi-driven development approach to tackling the Maoist challenge. On May 29, 2006, the Commission appointed a 16-member Expert Group on “Development Issues to Deal with Causes of Discontent, Unrest and Extremism”. The Expert Group, chaired by D. Bandopadhyay, Executive Chairman, Council for Social Development, New Delhi, has prepared a report. Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline:

As the Chairman of the Expert Group, could you outline its terms of reference?

As specified by the Planning Commission while setting up this Group last year, we had to identify specifically the processes and causes contributing to continued tensions and alienation in areas of unrest and discontent, such as widespread displacement, forest issues, insecure tenancies and other forms of exploitation like usury, land alienation and imperfect market conditions, and suggest specific steps to reduce the tensions and causes of discontent. Our task was to identify the causes of persistent and abysmally low social and human development indicators and suggest steps to bring these on a par with the rest of the country in a time-bound manner. Our effort has been to examine and suggest an appropriate strategy to ensure peace and life with dignity and to resolve conflicts in areas of chronic unrest.

Naxalism is a common name. What used to be called naxalism has now become Maoism. Naxals have all come into the open. Their party, CPI (ML), is now fighting elections. The People’s War Group in Andhra Pradesh and MCC of Bihar have merged to form the Maoist group. Naxalism is a misnomer now.

Should the government meet the Maoist threat with the force at its command or view it as a socio-economic problem?

There are two aspects to the issue. One is the seizure of power through armed force. You ignore that. They are a small band of committed political militants. But how are they operating? According to the government’s own admission, there are today roughly 150 to 165 districts, spread over 12 to 14 States and challenging the jurisdiction of 550 police stations.

The naxal movement started in 1967 under the jurisdiction of one police station in West Bengal. For 40 years, the state’s response has been basically to treat it as a “law and order problem” and counter it with superior state violence. Thirty per cent of the Indian land mass, the Home Ministry says, is naxal-infested. How has the militancy survived over the past 40 years against the stupendous state power called the Indian state?

It is not a question of development, but of rights, which have been denied. Development is peanuts. Forget it. If you look at Central India, you have the largest mining projects, very big dams, very big industrial projects; these are the areas predominantly inhabited by the Scheduled Tribes. There is no official figure estimating the number of displaced people due to coercive acquisition of land for development purposes. Scholars’ estimates vary. One scholar, Walter Fernandes, has estimated that between 1951 and 2005, roughly 5.5 crores of the Indian population have been so displaced. Of these, only 28 to 30 per cent has been properly resettled and rehabilitated. In the case of tribal people, it is estimated that only 18 to 20 per cent of them have been properly rehabilitated. Thus, a vast number of displaced, homeless, landless, jobless tribal people are roaming about as flotsam and jetsam of our development process.

What specific reforms would the Group suggest to tackle the growing Maoist threat?

According to the terms of reference, we will suggest measures to upgrade the levels of governance and strengthen public service delivery in areas where the Maoists are strong, through suitable administrative and institutional reform and mechanisms for prompt redress of grievances.

We are also expected to suggest measures for ensuring time-bound achievement of livelihood security, health and nutrition security, food security, etc. and also suggest changes in Central and State legislation impeding the achievement of these objectives. Specifically, we will suggest measures to strengthen the implementation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) and the functioning of Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule and other areas to ensure empowerment of the communities.

The experience with the Backward Districts Initiative under the RSVY scheme is that the States are little interested in utilising the funds earmarked for development of naxal-affected districts. What is the reason for this?

This raises a basic question about the class character of the state. Branding does not change your character. There is no cap on finances. Yet, the States, whichever parties may be in power, are uninterested in utilising the funds for developing the infrastructure in the naxal-affected areas. It is a demand-driven thing. The more you want, the more the Centre will give. The States are not interested in looking at that segment of the population, which, according to them, are not part of the mainstream.

The Maoist crisis is like the proverbial fish in water. If water is taken as a metaphor for disgruntled peasantry and the fish for militants, so long as the peasants are disaffected and discontented, fish will move freely in that territory. If you can win over the peasantry to your side, fish will die for lack of oxygen. This is what West Bengal did within two years of the naxal uprising in 1967. Through massive programmes of wresting or sealing surplus lands within two and a half years, one million acres of land could be redistributed to the landless. What West Bengal achieved following that naxal uprising, other States failed to do.

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/stories/20070921501802200.htm

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Chhattisgarh activists up against Salwa Judum atrocities

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007



THE OTHER INDIA

Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi September 06, 2007



Salwa Judum, the private militia which was armed and maintained by the Chhattisgarh government, is finally finding some serious opposition.
While two cases of public interest litigation are already there in the Supreme Court, a collective of activists from various organisations called the Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh have now decided to take the matter of Salwa Judum and their reported atrocities against tribals to President Pratibha Patil and to Congress President Sonia Gandhi this week.
The movement is also getting together MPs to organise a visit by a Parliamentary team to Chhattisgarh to assess the facts. They are also activating tribal MPs on the issue of Salwa Judum.
Villagers are living in fear and hiding in villages and forests in Dantewada and Bijapur districts though the national media is strangely silent about the almost daily catastrophe the tribals are going through, says Vani Xaxa an activist of the Campaign for Peace and Justice and Chhattisgarh.
Manish Kunjam an ex-MLA of the CPI from Dantewada and historian Ramchandra Guha and scholar Nandini Sundar also an activist in the Campaign have already filed between them two public interest litigation against the state government for suspending human rights in tribal areas and for withdrawing and disarming the Salwa Judum.

http://business-standard.com/common/storypage_c.php?leftnm=10&autono=297075

“The court has asked the government for a response. That is our only hope now,” says Sundar. Former chief minister Ajit Jogi says the only solution is the end of the Salwa Judum.
But he doesn’t know how this can be done. He is a member of the Congress Working Committee of a party which is heading the UPA coalition at the Centre. He says he is helpless and he did try to speak to the Home Minister to stop the Salwa Judum but failed to get much success.
Former Dantewada Collector BD Sharma says the governor himself has powers under the Fifth Schedule to change any laws or intervene in tribal areas when he sees the safety of the people endangered. But since independence, not a single governor has used these powers.
Sharma wants a Parliamentary delegation to visit Dantewada. He says Jogi is not so helpless. He can raise the issue in Parliament and not budge till a delegation is sent to Chhattisgarh.
“What is stopping him?” he asks. While there is a silence on the situation in Chhattisgarh, a convention organised by Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh had a huge response in Delhi this week. The campaign is ready with an action plan on Chhattisgarh and against Salwa Judum forces.
The tribal leaders from Dantewada, including former Salwa Judum members, a ward panchayat member and a former MLA have set up base in Delhi to chalk out a plan with these activists.
Says Lingoo Markam, a ward panchayat member from Dantewada now operating from Delhi, “There is finally hope. I have got used to seeing all cases of killings go unpunished. It is as if anyone can kill and get away. Not a single complaint I tried filing on killings and rape by Salwa Judum ever got registered in the police stations. It is a total violation of democratic rights. I doubt if these exist at all.

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Police take children from WB’s Naxal belt sight-seeing

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007


KOLKATA: Not bullets or sophisticated weapons but co-operation will be the new mantra of the West Bengal police to combat Maoists in the districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Puruliya, where the naxal guerilla enjoy a stronghold.

The police authorities in these three districts have undertaken a full-fledged interaction drive with locals with the aim of taking them into confidence, said inspector general (law & order) of West Bengal police, Raj Kanojia.

In a chat with DNA, Kanojia said there are basically two aims behind this interaction drive by the police. “Firstly, we want to separate the locals from the Maoists and this we will do so by proving that we are their better friends.

“Secondly, once we have won the locals’ confidence, we hope to secure information from them about Maoist movement in these three districts. I am sure that such an initiative will reap rich dividends,” he said.

Talking about the drive, Kanojia said, “We selected around 200 children from the area, accompanied them and brought them to Kolkata for a pleasure trip. They were taken sight-seeing around the city and to places that they had heard about and wanted to see. It was a pleasure for both the children as well as the police personnel accompanying them.”

Police authorities have also begun to run primary schools in West Midnapore, Bankura and Puruliya, that has become an instant hit with the locals and which according to Kanojia has helped strengthen their ties with them.

He also pointed out that sport has become yet another medium of interaction between locals and district police.
“We are organising regular tournaments, where both local and district
police personnel participate,” he said.

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Security up in Dharmapuri district

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 13, 2007

Wednesday September 12 2007 10:42 IST

M Sankararamanujam

DHARMAPURI: To prevent any untoward incidents on account of former naxal leader Balan’s 27th death anniversary on September 12, the police have tightened security in Dharmapuri district.

The former naxalite R Balan of Naickenkottai village in Dharmapuri was killed in an encounter at Seriyampatti in Palacode taluk on September 12, 1980.

Followers of Balan and the People’s War Group (PWG) activists erected a statue after his death in Naickenkottai village, where every year naxalites and their supporters observe his anniversary by hoisting the naxal flag.

Activists also circulate handbills bearing messages against the police and the government on this day.

At present, naxal supporters are opposing the nuclear deal with the United States of America using posters to spread the word across the district.

These posters bear messages condemning the Left’s support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government and demanding that the ban on Maoists be lifted.

Police in the Dharmapuri district see chances for trouble as the nuclear deal is a burning issue at present and now with Balan’s death anniversary, there may be added fervour to naxalites’ activities. Police stations at Marandahalli, Panchappalli, Palacode, Karimangalam, Pennagaram, Eriyur, Hogenakkal, Mathikonpalayam and Adhiyamankottai have been deployed with additional forces.

According to sources, the police are also watching all naxal supporters keenly and have appealed to the villagers to inform the nearest police station or the striking forces on patrol about any untoward incidents.

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