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Archive for September 14th, 2007

CPI (MAOIST) Karnataka press release on transfer of power and local body elections

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

Download Kannada press release on transfer of power and local body elections


Posted in CPI (Maoist), Karnataka | 1 Comment »

Cover story on Naxalism –2007, Frontline magazine

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

Cover Story

Naxal activities:An analysis

New battle zones in India

Development project in Naxal area: a flawed concept

All parties pursue our agenda: Varava Rao

Andhra Pradesh: Down but not out

‘A question of rights, not development’

Salwa Judum strategy gone awry

Hinduonnet.com

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Cover story on Naxalism –2005, Frontline magazine

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

Source: FRONTLINE



THE NAXALITE CHALLENGE

VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN
in New Delhi

Left extremists have regrouped under the one-year-old Communist Party of India (Maoist) and expanded their area of operation. The state is planning a crackdown, but success may not come easily.

MUSTAFA QURAISHI/AP

At the memorial of extremists killed in police encounters, in the Nallamalla forest in Andhra Pradesh.

ON September 19, administrative heads and senior officials of 12 States, including Chief Ministers, Home Secretaries and Directors-General of Police, met in New Delhi under the auspices of the Union Home Ministry and decided to set up inter-State joint task forces to “facilitate coordinated and synergised anti-naxalite operations across State boundaries” and “strengthen intelligence networks” for this mission. Home Minister Shivraj Patil announced that “these forces would be made functional quickly”, in the context of the developing situation in various naxalite-affected States.

A number of politicians and security officials who attended the meeting rated the decision as historic, essentially because the “Union Home Ministry had for the first time accepted the need to raise a special joint task force that can operate across State borders to counter the naxalite threat”.

Even as the “historic”, albeit somewhat contentious, decision was being circulated and officials of the administration and security agencies were working out the details of its implementation, Home Departments of various States received reports about scores of naxalite conventions across large tracts of forest land, stretching from Andhra Pradesh in south India to Orissa and Bihar in the east. The professed objective of the conventions, which took place throughout the last week of September, was to observe the first anniversary of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The CPI (Maoist) was formed on September 21, 2004, with the merger of two prominent naxalite outfits, the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). The meetings, Home Ministry reports pointed out, were not confined to commemorating the formation of the party. They also considered plans to counter the proposed government offensive using the “military unit” of the organisation, the People’s Guerilla Army (PGA).

Catching up with a number of PGA cadre who attended the anniversary deep inside the Saranda forests of the Singhbhum region in Jharkhand, Frontline gathered that this was indeed the case. The PGA cadre said the celebrations “marked a resolve to continue with people’s war against the Indian state, uphold the gains made so far, especially by protecting guerilla zones, where the party, its police, administration and army controlled day-to-day life, and counter the new aggressions that the state would make”.

The pronouncements of the Home Minister and the assertions of the PGA left little doubt that the “climate of accommodation and dialogue” that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had sought to build up was over. In a sense, the new developments marked a significant dilution of the socio-economic-political approach, as opposed to a militaristic approach, promised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in tackling militancy-related issues.

The earlier intent of the Congress-led UPA manifested itself in the form of discussions between the naxalite leadership and the Andhra Pradesh government in October last year. This had marked a major shift from the approach adopted by several State governments, including the erstwhile Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Ministry in Andhra Pradesh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, which had branded naxalites as mere lumpen outlaws causing harm to local communities and their development. These governments and their political leaderships highlighted how some naxalite leaders had become multi-millionaires through extortion and other criminal activities. The Congress obviously perceived that lumpenisation was not the dominant feature of naxalites, or that this trend was not as widespread as it was made out to be.

The peace process in Andhra Pradesh did seem to make some progress before collapsing over two issues. One was the naxalite position that “the question of carrying arms and conducting armed struggle were non-negotiable”. This assertion was in response to the government suggestion that the situation would be more conducive to talks if the naxalites gave up armed struggle. The second was the inability and hesitation of the government to take up land reforms on the scale and in the manner suggested by the naxalites. The extremists had presented details of agricultural lands – including land on the outskirts of the State capital, Hyderabad, allegedly grabbed by industrial houses and influential persons, and demanded that the government distribute the 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) among the landless. The State government rejected this demand.



Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil (centre) with Chief Ministers of various States and Bihar Governor Buta Singh (fourth from right) at the meeting that discussed ways to counter naxalism.

The fact that naxalites were continuing with their armed struggle in States other than Andhra Pradesh (they engineered landmine blasts in eastern Uttar Pradesh killing 15 policemen) and the political pressures they placed on the Congress also contributed to the failure of the talks. It was in this context that Chhattisgarh raised the demand for inter-State joint security exercises. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh pointed out at the New Delhi meeting that his government had been stressing the need for a joint task force but the UPA government had consistently ignored the demand saying that the naxalite problem can and should be tackled by the affected States independently.

In spite of their ultimate failure, the talks were apparently motivated by good intentions on both sides. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress leader Digvijay Singh, whose tenure in power saw a number of naxalite operations, told Frontline in the context of the talks that no government committed to the welfare of the people could afford to ignore the growing influence of extremist political alternatives and their negative impact on mainstream polity. The leadership of the CPI (Maoist), including Ramakrishna, the head of the party delegation at the talks in Andhra Pradesh, had around the same time said that “it is wrong to classify naxalism as a problem, especially in the context of the faith and allegiance that lakhs and lakhs of oppressed and deprived people show towards us and our path” and added that his party was, in fact, more interested than any other party in peaceful solutions to the people’s socio-economic problems

At a practical level, the Andhra Pradesh government, through the talks, sought to get some relief from the violence perpetrated by naxalites against the state apparatus, while the CPI (Maoist) made apparent an urge to spread its ideological and organisational influence by aggressively advocating land reforms and getting them implemented in various States, starting with Andhra Pradesh.

It has been a rapid downhill trip after the collapse of the talks at the end of last year. Naxalite attacks on state machinery intensified through many of the affected regions. The CPI (Maoist) also complained that government atrocities had risen in various parts of the country affecting both its activists and its support base, which consist of “unarmed well-wishers”. Statements released by the party leadership alleged that 150 activists and supporters were killed by various security forces in the past one year.

Notwithstanding these claims, naxalite attacks have been in greater focus throughout the past 10 months. Armed activists attacked security forces at several places during the Assembly elections in Bihar and Jharkhand in February. The Superintendent of Police of Munger district in Bihar was killed, and 38 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and State Special Forces personnel were killed in April-June in the Dandakaranya forests in Andhra Pradesh. One of the most intense operations during this period took place in Madhuban town in north Bihar, close to the Nepal border. In a synchronised attack, over 150 naxalites hit various instruments of the state – the police station, banks, district offices and the house of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Member of Parliament Sitaram Singh. Closer to the September 19 meet, naxalites gunned down 15 persons in Jharkhand and triggered a landmine blast near Bijapur in Chhattisgarh killing 24 policemen, including 22 from the CRPF.

In the context of these developments, the Centre naturally assessed that naxalites had increased their strike power and influence. According to the Home Ministry’s estimation, they have “9,300 hardcore underground cadre and they hold around 6,500 regular weapons besides a large number of unlicensed country-made arms”. The naxalite infrastructure includes sophisticated weapons such as Kalshanikov rifles and Claymore landmines, modern wireless equipment and electronic gadgets. It has also been assessed that the naxalites’ sphere of influence has spread in the past year and a half from 76 districts across nine States to 118 districts in 12 States.

The security forces involved in anti-naxalite operations are convinced, especially in the background of the Madhuban attack, which apparently involved Maoists from Nepal too, that the CPI (Maoist) is steadily building up a wider network involving associates in neighbouring countries. The Home Ministry is of the view that the wider strategic motive is that of carving out a Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ) or what is called a “Red Corridor of armed struggle” spreading from Nepal through Bihar up to the Dandakarnaya region of Andhra Pradesh.

Obviously, these perceptions have contributed in a big way to the Union government giving up its reluctance to have unified inter-State anti-naxalite operations. However, as of now, the modalities of coordinating and carrying out such operations have not been worked out. Naturally, there is some uncertainty about the impact on the ground too.

At the same time, the naxalite leadership is certain that the new plan of the government would not make much difference on the ground situation in the 12 States where the organisation has varying degrees of influence. A middle-level leader of the party, not actively involved in PGA operations, told Frontline that this assessment was based mainly on three factors.

One, the strike power of the party has increased considerably in the past year. Two, the socio-economic problems that have contributed to the steady growth of the party have only accentuated in vast parts of the country, especially in the rural, tribal and forest regions where naxalite influence is the most conspicuous. Three, in the background of the above-mentioned factors, the government’s intelligence gathering would not be effective. All this, the leader said, would make the planned operations a non-starter.

K. RAMESH BABU

Ramakrishna, People’s War leader.

This confidence is indeed a reflection of the current balance of power dominated by naxalites. But the history of this Left extremist movement since 1967 has shown that an element of cocksureness has repeatedly brought stinging reverses. In the early 1970s, the movement seemed to be reaching the peak of its influence with the creation of vast guerilla zones from West Bengal to Bihar to Uttar Pradesh to Andhra Pradesh. But the might of the state machinery was able to disrupt all these within a couple of years.

The PWG and the MCC did of course rebuild the movement, but the fact remains that the naxalites are facing opposition even from the common people in States such as Chhattisgarh and Bihar. The opposition has stemmed both from disagreement with their aggressive ideological positions and from the revulsion caused by the lumpenisation of some of the cadre. Given this background, the confidence about retaining the guerilla zones and support bases may not be entirely realistic. As some naxalite activists have pointed out, the task of retaining people’s support is a daunting one in all guerilla activities.

The larger view of the UPA government on the issue of extremism also emphasises the need to strengthen people’s support to mainstream polity through effective socio-economic interventions. The September 19 meeting, which had representatives of State governments run by political parties of divergent views, too had pointed out that a lasting solution to Left extremist politics cannot be achieved without addressing the socio-economic factors that contribute to its rise and growth. Some of the measures identified by the Home Ministry in this context include, “strengthening of administrative machinery to make it more responsive, transparent and sensitive to facilitate effective redressal of public grievances”, “development of an improved delivery mechanism aimed at accelerated integrated development” and “enhancing employment opportunities in naxalite-affected districts”, especially to the local and indigenous population. Specifically, the government has mooted plans to raise a special tribal battalion with 1,200 members from the naxalite-affected areas.

But proclamations such as this have not, by themselves, generated any great hope about a turnaround. Prakash Singh, former Director-General of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the author of the book The Naxalite Movement in India, says, on the strength of his close observation of the movement as well as the initiatives to counter it, that successive governments have talked about this multi-pronged approach – combining security offensives with socio-political initiatives – since the 1970s without any concrete result on the ground. “Unless the governments and their leaders show the commitment to effect land reforms, weed out corruption and provide a semblance of fair and just governance in the interests of the poor, naxalite ideology will continue to grow,” he told Frontline.

According to a former Home Ministry official associated with anti-naxalite operations in the 1970s and 1980s, the only State government that steadfastly advanced socio-economic initiatives to counter Left extremism was the Left Front government in West Bengal, the State where naxalism originated. “That government, right from its first stint in office, consistently used the administrative and legal machinery to protect the rights of the tiller as opposed to the (absentee) landlord, and thus brought about far-reaching changes in the rural socio-economic set-up,” he said. The results, he added, were there for all to see, in the form of the near-total collapse of naxalism in the State and the repeated return of the Left Front to power through the past two decades.

The appeal of the CPI (Maoist) evidently lies in the foibles of mainstream politics. Campaign material circulated by its activists in various parts of the country lampoons the mainstream as follows: “Maoists demand humanity for the poverty-stricken masses, not the dirty politicking of the mainstream. Maoists demand decent life for all, not just for the elite and their hangers-on that thrive on the mainstream. The vultures of the system demand that the Maoists give up not merely their guns, but their self-respect, humanity, sense of justice and the struggles for a decent existence. They want the Maoists to join the gutter mainstream.” The conditions that exist in vast parts of rural India impart a special appeal to this kind of language.

In theoretical terms, naxalites justify their actions as the political programme to overthrow the Indian state, comprising the big landlord-comprador, bureaucratic, bourgeoisie classes and the imperialism that backs them, through armed struggle and establish a people’s democratic state under the leadership of the proletariat. It states that the principal and immediate task of the present stage of the revolution is to arouse and organise people for agrarian revolutionary guerilla war in the countryside – specially in the remote countryside – and to build the people’s army and a rural base through guerilla warfare.

There are indications that the immediate manifestation of this theoretical projection would be in the form of struggles and strikes against the corporatisation of agricultural land. The specific demand for redistribution of land in Andhra Pradesh during the talks last year had this dimension. Jharkhand, where the National Democratic Alliance government is busy signing memorandums of understanding with industrial houses such as the Mittals, the Jindals and the Tatas for mining and related activities, could well become the next major naxalite target.

There is a view in a section of observers that the current multi-pronged initiative against naxalites is linked to the efforts to “ensure safe passage” to liberalisation and globalisation policies in large parts of rural India. If that is the case, the battle between naxalites and the state apparatus will acquire more intense proportions in the days to come.

http://www.flonnet.com

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`A multi-pronged approach is necessary’: Shivraj Patil.

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007


Interview with Union Minister for Home Shivraj Patil.

In the third week of September, the Union government convened the first meeting of the Standing Committee of Chief Ministers of States affected by naxalism. A new term, two-track response, was evolved to describe the measures needed to be taken with regard to areas under the growing influence of naxalism or Maoism. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil spoke to T.K. Rajalakshmi on the understanding within the government on this issue. Excerpts from the interview:

The recent meeting of Chief Ministers of some of the States affected by naxalism shows that there is an urgency and a willingness to deal with the problem differently. Some quarters have expressed a need to look at the issue holistically to relate it with the socio-economic plight of the people whose cause the naxalite groups claim to espouse. How does the Centre view this two-track response?

This problem has been there for some years and from the beginning we have been trying to solve it by adopting certain methods. We do not think it can be solved by adopting only one method. That is why from the beginning we have been saying that the issue should be treated as something that relates to economic development and social and political justice, and that the people who are involved in it must be persuaded to believe that guns are not going to help solve the problem. What will help is the understanding. But if some people are bent upon using only violent methods, the state is bound to protect innocent people’s property and lives. That was being done in the past and that is why we thought that once again we could meet and discuss these issues in greater detail to bring about better cooperation and coordination between the activities of the States. This is not a two-track approach but a multi-track approach – discussing issues, development of the economy, doing political and social justice – and if necessary as a last resort, doing one’s duty and controlling the violent activities of some people against innocent persons.

Given the regrouping of outfits such as the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre and the renewed activities of naxalites in certain States, what exactly does the Centre have in mind in terms of dealing with the situation? It also appears that there has been an escalation in the scale of activities of these groups. Is a ban one of the options?

We are not stopping at a ban. We are developing the economy as well. If regrouping is taking place, we shall have to put in all effort to see that violence is not allowed to continue. No, there has not been a manifold increase in the scale of activities. In some States, the activities have come down; the killings have also come down. In some States these have increased. If one takes the sum total of all the incidents and killings in the affected areas or the affected States, it will be noticed that they have actually come down. The killings may show an increase and that is because of the improved kind of explosives being used.

Dialogue is known to be the best political option, but as the Andhra Pradesh experience has shown, talks have not borne much result. The failure of the talks drew criticism from certain sections that the Andhra Pradesh government was going soft on these groups.

We are talking to people in Pakistan and other countries; should we not talk to our own people? Why should we treat talking to our own people as a soft approach? We are expected to persuade them, remove their grievances, and if necessary take action as per the law.

What is failure? If the killings have come down, it is not a failure. Why should we say that it has been a soft approach? It is a fair and just approach. If total success has not been achieved, to that extent one can say that we have not been as successful as we should have been. We have to remove the problems faced by people. We have to help them develop themselves, develop the areas where they live in, and give them amenities as are available in the advanced regions. We have to give them economic, political and social justice. We have to convince naxalites that by killing others they will not get anything, but by cooperating and by understanding the real situation, they will be able to get their grievances solved. That is the approach they should take.

Naxalites claim to enjoy considerable support among the poor. How would the Centre view their extremist actions, in comparison with other forms of extremism threatening the country?

If economic grievances are there and if someone is angry, we should understand that. If separatists are trying to be violent, we can come to the conclusion that either they have wrong conceptions about the situation prevailing in the country or that they have been instigated by some people across the border or that they have a narrow and parochial approach to problems.

So is it primarily an economic question?

It is not only economic. There is no one way; it has to be a multi-pronged approach to [address] their real grievances – economic and social justice and unemployment.


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The road from Naxalbari

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN

The naxalite movement, which began as a violent peasant response to oppression by landlords, has undergone severe conflicts and innumerable splits over ideological and political positions before the regrouping attempt.

THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

In Naxalbari, in May 1967.

“A peal of spring thunder has crashed over the land of India.”

– Editorial, People’s Daily,
July 5, 1967.

THE organ of the Communist Party of China (CPC) seemed to be consumed by a sense of euphoria as it used these words to describe the Naxalbari uprising in West Bengal in May 1967. It went on to add that the “revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party has done the absolutely correct thing” by adopting the revolutionary line advanced by Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which involved “relying on the peasants, establishing base area in the countryside, persisting in protracted armed struggle and using the countryside to encircle and finally capture the cities”.

The editorial concluded that “a single spark can start a prairie fire” and that “a great storm of revolutionary armed struggle will eventually sweep across the length and breadth of India”. This optimism, was obviously motivated by similar hopes expressed by the leadership of the Naxalbari uprising – Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal. Charu Mazumdar, the principal ideologue of the “first authentic Maoist phenomenon” in India, held that “there was an excellent revolutionary situation in the country with all the classical symptoms” and that organisations such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist), to which Mazumdar originally belonged, had “betrayed the cause of Indian revolution by choosing the path of parliamentarism and class collaboration”.

The merits and relevance of this political line may still be debatable but its organisational advancement was marked by anything but cohesion. Right from its early stages, the movement was characterised by severe internal differences and conflicts over ideological issues, tactical positions and, above all, personal egotism of the leaders. Such was the intensity of these internal squabbles that the movement split repeatedly, particularly during the first two decades of its existence. There was a time when as many as two dozen naxalite outfits were operating in the country, all claiming to be the real inheritors of the legacy of Naxalbari, and even indulging in annihilation of members of other groups branding them “class enemies”. To paraphrase the figurative expression that was used to describe the movement in its initial days, the “peal of spring thunder” had, in reality, turned out to be a babel of voices.

This streak was visible from the very first initiatives to give a concrete organisational shape to the Maoist political line. The movement, which began as a violent peasant resistance to landlords at Naxalbari village in May 1967 on the basis of the land-to-the-tiller slogan, had acquired a larger appeal in about two months on account of the open support it evinced from sections of the State units of the CPI(M) in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. These units had a formal meeting in November 1967, though the uprising itself had been crushed by August.

This meeting led to the formation of the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) in May 1968. One of the first decisions of the body was to adhere steadfastly to armed struggle and not participate in elections. But differences cropped up over how armed struggle should be advanced and this led to the exclusion of a section of activists from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, led respectively by T. Nagi Reddy and Kanhai Chatterjee.



Kondapalli Seetharamaiah.

Kanhai Chatterjee argued that armed struggle and annihilation of the class enemy should be carried out only after building up mass agitations, while predominant sections of the AICCCR rejected this. The AICCCR went ahead with the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in May 1969 and Chatterjee followed suit in October with the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). The CPI(M-L) held its first congress in 1970 in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Charu Mazumdar was formally elected its general secretary.

Both the CPI(M-L) and the MCC continued with their respective forms of armed struggle for the next two years. In the process, Mazumdar acquired a kind of cult status among naxalites. The negative aspect of the development of this personality cult revealed itself shortly when Mazumdar was arrested in Calcutta on July16, 1972. His death, less than a fortnight later, in the lock-up virtually led to the collapse of central authority in the CPI(M-L).

The history of the movement after Mazumdar’s death was marked by a number of splits brought about by personalised and narrow perceptions about the Maoist revolutionary line and attempts at course correction by some of the major groups. Even Kanu Sanyal, one of the founders of the movement, was not free from this trend. He gave up the path of “dedicated armed struggle” by 1977 and accepted parliamentary practice as one form of revolutionary activity.

One of the major initiatives at course correction was launched in 1974 by a group of CPI(M-L) activists who concentrated mainly in the then undivided State of Bihar. It included Jauhar (Subrata Dutt), Nagbhushan Patnaik and Vinod Mishra. This group renamed itself as CPI(M-L) Liberation in 1974, and in 1976, during the Emergency, it adopted a new line that called for the continuation of armed guerilla struggles along with efforts to form a broad anti-Congress democratic front, consisting even of non-communist parties. The group also suggested that pure military armed struggle should be limited and that there should be greater emphasis on mass peasant struggles to Indianise the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Thought.

During the next three years, this new line caused further splits with leaders, such as Kondapalli Seetharamaiah (Andhra Pradesh) and N. Prasad (Bihar) dissociating themselves from the activities of the party. Prasad formed the CPI(M-L) (Unity Organisation) and Seetharamaiah started the People’s War Group (PWG) in 1980. Seetharamaiah’s line also sought to restrict “annihilation of class enemies” but the PWG’s emphasis was on building up mass organisations, not on developing a broad democratic front.



Kanu Sanyal.

Since then, the principal polarisation in the naxalite movement has been between the two perceptions, advanced by Liberation and the PWG. Liberation branded PWG a group of “left adventurists” who invite state repression on hapless people, while the PWG castigated the Liberation group as one of the “revisionists” imitating the CPI(M). In theoretical terms, Liberation had “corrected the mistake of completely rejecting parliamentary politics” in 1982. The party still upholds the primacy of revolutionary peasant struggles. Even as this correction process continued, and the CPI(M-L) Liberation recorded its first electoral victory from Bihar in 1989, more naxalite factions such as the CPI(M-L) New Democracy, the CPI (ML) S.R. Bhaijee Group and the CPI(M-L) Unity Initiative were formed in that State.

In the meantime, the PWG continued with its dual line of armed struggle and building up mass organisations, focussing mainly on Andhra Pradesh, and building up a base in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. It has gained momentum steadily since the early 1990s, and after 1999 it launched such major strikes as killing Madhya Pradesh Transport Minister Likhiram Kavre in 1999, blasting the house of Telugu Desam Party leader G. Sudhakar Reddy in Andhra Pradesh in 2000, and attacking TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu in 2001. It has also been virtually dictating the election process in several constituencies in many States.

The PWG’s merger with the Bihar- and Jharkhand-based MCC last October, leading to the formation of the CPI(Maoist), has given it new teeth, impelling the Central and State governments to address the problem of growing Left extremism with greater attention. According to a former naxalite, the period after the late 1990s could well be considered the most cohesive phase of the “armed struggle” in spite of the persistence of disparate groups such as the CPI(M-L) Janashakti, the CPI(M-L) New Democracy and the CPI(M-L) Provisional Committee.

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Andra Pradesh: Government hits back

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

Government hits back

N. RAHUL

MUSTAFA QURAISHI/AP

Maoist rebels at a memorial for those killed in police encounters in the Nallamalla forest, south of Hyderabad.

THE ban imposed on the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and its seven front organisations in the wake of the August 15 killing of Congress Member of the Legislative Assembly C. Narsi Reddy and 10 others in Narayanpet has had no effect on the scale of naxalite activities in Andhra Pradesh. Yet, it has helped send out a clear signal to the Maoists and their sympathisers that the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy government will deal with them firmly.

Within days of the imposition of the ban, the police intensified anti-naxalite operations. They arrested former Maoist emissaries in the peace talks, Varavara Rao and G. Kalyan Rao, under provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Public Security Act, which was revived. The two obtained bail but continue to languish in jail as the government has reopened several old cases against them.

At the field level, nearly half of the 40 units of the crack commando forces – the Greyhounds – are being deployed to flush out extremists from their forest hideouts. Each unit has 20 to 25 commandos who are well trained in guerilla warfare. In addition, special parties of the district police have been combing the forests though without any success as their knowledge of the terrain is not as sound as that of the naxalites. Moreover, the inhospitable terrain across the border in Orissa and the Nallamala forests in Mahbubnagar, Kurnool, Prakasam and Guntur districts give the Maoists an edge. On the other hand, Maoist activity in north Telangana, once the hotbed of the movement, is on the wane.

The police say that the number of extremists has come down from 1,200 to 850 since the breakdown of the October 2004 peace talks. Maoists used the lull during the peace talks to recruit cadre but found the level of commitment of the recruits low. Meanwhile, the police strengthened their network of informants in the villages during the talks, a strategy that paid off.

The police have been able to eliminate several militants in a series of encounters since January. A number of youth deserted the CPI (Maoist) or surrendered to the police. Over 600 extremists gave themselves up while another 500 were arrested.

The CPI (Maoist) has six military platoons, 28 area committees, 66 local guerilla squads and 16 action teams. The six platoons, each with 25 men and women, are given the responsibility of taking up activities in Warangal-Khammam, Nalgonda, Guntur, Anantapur, East Godavari-Visakhapatnam and the Nallamala Forest Division.

Renewed naxalite violence and encounters since January have claimed about 300 lives. The dead included 62 political activists and 92 persons the extremists suspected to be informants. Thirty-one of them belonged to the Congress, 22 to the Telugu Desam Party, and three to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The naxalites suffered 122 casualties (which includes 74 Maoists and 22 Janashakti cadre) in 70 encounters. In Warangal district alone 42 extremists were killed in encounters. The killing of Karimnagar (West) district committee secretary, Ramesh, a district committee member, three commanders and five others in an encounter at Manala in Nizamabad district on March 7 dealt a big blow to the Maoists. Ten days later, in another encounter, the organisation lost its Warangal district committee secretary and a North Telangana special zonal committee member D.V.K. Swamy alias Yadanna and three others.

The Singareni Karmika Samkhya (SIKASA), a front organisation of the CPI (Maoist) in the coal belt, which was revived during the peace process, had two of its secretaries killed in encounters in Karimnagar and Adilabad districts.

The Maoists also lost public sympathy when they massacred eight villagers of Vempenta in Kurnool district on March 1. Intervening in a dispute between two sections in the village, they hacked to death members of the upper castes.

As part of their offensive, the police selectively leaked to the Maoist leadership letters written by Varavara Rao in which he had criticised G. Kalyan Rao, Revolutionary Writers’ Association (Virasam) president, and balladeer Gadar. Varavara Rao made amends by saying that he wrote them without verifying the facts.

The ban on the Maoists was not without political colour. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), a former constituent in the coalition government in the State, opposed the ban. Its president and Union Labour Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao called on Varavara Rao and Kalyan Rao who are lodged in the Chanchalguda jail in Hyderabad. Writers, poets and intellectuals have protested against the ban on Virasam, alleging that its members were being harassed, a claim that was countered by the police.

The killing of the MLA virtually put the seal on any chance of revival of the peace talks and also caused the emergence of `vigilante’ groups. At least three such groups, Narsi Cobras, Kakatiya Cobras and Nallamala Black Cobras, have issued threats to individual rights activists.

Narsi Cobras released a list of 35 targets, including Varavara Rao, Kalyan Rao and Gadar, to avenge the MLA’s death. Within a week of the release of the list, K. Kanakachari, a schoolteacher who figured in it, was hacked to death near Mahbubnagar town. Subsequently, the list grew in size with the inclusion of persons who attended the funeral of Kanakachari.

The police have denied any knowledge of the identity of the Cobras. But mass organisations allege that they are the creation of the police to use renegades against naxalite sympathisers.

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Orissa: In a state of fear

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

PRAFULLA DAS
in Bhubaneswar

IN Orissa’s rural interiors, virtually everyone is in a state of panic: industrialists, mine owners and traders fear the worst; local people return to their homesteads by sundown; elected representatives including Ministers, during their rare visits to the regions, avoid staying overnight even at the district headquarters. Although left-wing extremists have not launched any major attacks since the looting of a large cache of arms from the Koraput district armoury in February 2004, the security forces are on their toes.

The State police believe the Maoists would make inroads into new areas in the State following the ban enforced in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Orissa does not appear to be in a hurry to ban naxalite organisations although 15 of its 30 districts have already reported Maoist presence. A recent study on the naxalite problem has indicated that the Maoists will have 25 districts in their grip by 2007.

Orissa has no ready answers for the naxalite menace. While the police deal with it as a law and order problem, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik views it essentially as a socio-economic one. During the annual conference of District Collectors and Superintendents of Police in September, his message to the bureaucracy and the police was to reach out to the tribal people and redress their grievances. He has been talking of a multi-pronged approach to tackle the menace and the need to build roads to and improve irrigation facilities in tribal areas.

The Chief Minister is, however, finding it difficult to make any progress on these. Last year, Patnaik had announced the withdrawal of minor cases and the resolution of a large number of land disputes involving the tribal people. This has not been carried out by the administration. On the other hand, senior bureaucrats have avoided making trips to the backward districts as directed by the Chief Minister to review the progress in the work of their respective departments.

The District Collectors are no better. Barring occasional trips during VIP visits, they stay put at the district headquarters. The S.P.s’ visit different parts of the districts, but mostly after a naxalite attack.

Twenty-two per cent of Orissa’s population is tribal. The tribal-dominated districts of Rayagada, Gajapati, Koraput and Nawrangpur in the south and Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj in the north, which have mostly served as entry points for the Maoists, are backward. Thirty-three of the 147 Assembly seats and five of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the State are reserved for tribal candidates.

The situation is no better in the non-tribal constituencies in the naxalite-hit regions. An indifferent administration, non-implementation of development and welfare programmes and a lack of road connectivity and health care facilities give ample scope for Maoists to make inroads into these areas.

Backward areas that have witnessed industrial activity in recent months are also attracting the Maoists. Expressing concern over this trend, senior police officials have stressed the need for opening more police stations and strengthening the existing ones. Modernisation of the police force is under way with the acquisition of AK-47s, bullet-proof vests and night vision equipment.

Suchit Das, who took charge as the Director-General of Police recently, claims that the police were doing their best to check extremism. A special wing in the State police is working to gather intelligence on the activities of Maoists and exchanging information with other States for coordinated action.

“Two separate joint task forces were formed recently and the Orissa Police is working in close coordination with both sides,” Das told Frontline. The task forces comprise personnel from Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and a portion of Chhattisgarh in the south, and Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Orissa and Chhattisgarh in the north.

But finding a solution to the problem is not that easy. Tribal people are resisting developmental projects fearing loss of livelihood. “The government should not neglect the tribal people and the poor while promoting industrialisation,” said Dandapani Mohanty, president of Daman Pratirodh Manch, a pro-naxalite forum.

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Jharkhand: Tightening grip

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN
in Ranchi

RANJEET KUMAR

Cadre of the CPI(M-L) People’s War take a break from their vigil in a forest near Daltonganj in Jharkhand.

IN the second week of September, the Arjun Munda-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Jharkhand launched a special security initiative called Operation Black Thunder (OBT) to counter the naxalite activities in the State. The State police as well as the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which too was involved in the operations, had high expectations about the OBT. But before those hopes could materialise, the black-shirted People’s Guerilla Army (PGA) of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) struck at several targets in the State.

On September 12, PGA activists attacked Bheluaghati village of Giridih district and killed 17 residents who had apparently made bold to join the Shanti Sena (Peace Force), a civilian outfit raised to counter naxalite activities. The same day a police team, which had gone to investigate the Bheluaghati killings, was attacked near Sonadeni village. The PGA exploded bombs as the vehicles of the investigating team passed. The driver of one of the vehicles was killed and two others were injured.

On September 24, State Rural Development Minister Enos Ekka escaped a bid on his life when the PGA triggered a landmine, near Kolibira Ghati. His escort vehicle was blown up. In the third week of September, a 10-member team of the CPI (Maoist) led by Ramashankar, considered to be a member of the party think tank, visited an associate who was admitted to a prestigious hospital in Ranchi.

These occurrences, which took place within the span of a fortnight and that too during the very period the government sought to launch a security offensive, highlight the strike power of the naxalites. By any yardstick, Jharkhand should rate high among the States that are under naxalite influence. There have been 12 major incidents of PGA violence this year in which 50 personnel of various security forces were killed and 57 weapons looted.

Director-General of Police (DGP) Vishnu Dayal Ram told Frontline that the naxalite attacks had come down this year compared to pervious years. In 2001, there were 355 naxalite-related incidents resulting in the death of 200 people, including 53 policemen; 2002 witnessed 353 incidents and the death of 157 people; in 2003 there were 342 incidents and 117 casualties; and 2004 saw 379 incidents and 169 deaths.

It is not merely the power to strike at will that the CPI (Maoist) possesses. The outfit carries out operations in almost all 22 districts of the State. In 15 districts, large areas have been converted into guerilla zones where the PGA and the specially raised police, judiciary and administration of the CPI (Maoist) run a parallel administration.

Developmental activities are part of the tasks of the administrative wing while the police wing maintains law and order. The judicial wing conducts Jan Adalats (people’s courts) and settles disputes and cases. The PGA is entrusted with the twin tasks of protecting guerilla zones and attacking the instruments of the state. Levy is collected from small and big institutions in the region under the control of naxalites. This money is used to run the administration and for the upkeep of the police wing and the PGA.

According to informal estimates, nearly 1,200 of the 4,564 panchayats in the State are under the influence of naxalites. The CPI (Maoist) virtually dictates the election process in over 30 per cent of the Assembly constituencies, particularly in Palamu, Giridih, Chatra, Koderma, Gumla, Lohardaga and Garhwa districts. The fate of some constituencies even in Ranchi is decided by them. There is no question of any candidate winning in Bhawanathpur, Bishrampur, Chatra, Latehar, Simraga, Panki and Chattarpur without the tacit approval of the naxalites. According to the assessment of the Home Departments of the Centre and the State, naxalites have carved out new areas of influence in the districts of East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharaswan (in which falls Arjun Munda’s constituency).

According to middle-level activists of the organisation, it is not political issues that dictate their support to candidates but other considerations such as money or a service. “The monetary consideration,” said a long-standing observer of the movement in the State, “is a kind of fees for getting the permission to function and campaign in their area of control.”

The State government is planning some new initiatives in the context of the new Central moves for a unified offensive against naxalites. These include the raising of five more battalions of the Indian Reserve Force (IRF) in the State. The State already has two battalions of the IRF, including a women’s wing. Proposals have also been approved for the recruitment of about 5,000 youth from naxalite-prone districts for the new battalions. As part of the new initiative, the security forces would acquire new electronic surveillance systems.

In keeping with the two-pronged strategy, which includes taking up socio-economic development projects along with launching the security offensive, the forces are also organising medical camps, distributing blankets and utensils in some places, and conducting recreational activities to boost the morale of village residents. It remains to be seen how far these initiatives will help, especially in the context of widespread underdevelopment and corruption in the State giving a fillip to extremist activities.


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A `guerilla zone’ in Maharashtra

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

Guerilla zone

DIONNE BUNSHA
in Gadchiroli

DIONNE BUNSHA

In a Madia Gond village in Gadchiroli.

PRABHAKAR Tekavade and Pandu Alam, were classmates and friends at the Lok Biradari residential school near Bhamragad in Gadchiroli district, the heart of the naxalite-affected region in Maharashtra. After completing school education, Pandu joined the police force and went on to become a commando in the C60 squad, which carried out anti-naxalite operations. Prabhakar joined a naxalite group and adopted the alias Juru. He rose to become a commander in a dalam (armed squad).

On one of the rare occasions when Juru emerged from his forest hideout to attend a wedding in Jandia village, Pandu showed up with his force. The police shot dead Juru. It was given out that he was killed in a police encounter. Some months later, when Pandu was on his way to search a naxalite hideout, he was killed in a mine explosion. The two were only 35 years old when they died in 1997.

In the jungles and 120-odd naxalite-affected villages of eastern Gadchiroli, it is the Adivasis who pay the price for extremist violence. “Whether a policeman or a naxalite, it is the Adivasi who is caught in the crossfire. The bosses are never Adivasis. They are safe in their offices or hideouts,” said Suku, a resident of Bhamragad.

Police records show that the more than 80 per cent of those killed on both sides are Adivasis, says Shirish Jain, Superintendent of Police, Gadchiroli.

Ultra-Left revolutionaries operate in the western and southern parts of this resource-rich jungle at the tip of eastern Maharashtra, bordering Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. These forests are home to the impoverished Madia Gond tribe. Deprivation is so acute among the Adivasis that the infant mortality rate here is one of the highest in India. Poverty, exploitation, jungle cover and the proximity to naxalite-infested neighbouring States have made Gadchiroli a hotbed of extremist operations. According to the police, naxalite violence in this area is escalating every year. This year saw the highest number of incidents.

Naxalities came from the adjoining Andhra Pradesh and the undivided Madhya Pradesh in 1980 to “liberate the people” from “state repression”. Fifteen dalams work in Maharashtra. The Communist Part of India (Maoist) has around 250 full-time members and 3,000-odd local supporters, the police say.

Many tribal people accused of being informers are killed by naxalites or harassed by the police. In 2000, extremists visited a village one night and dragged Masa and his brother Beka out of their hut. They tied them with a rope to two other villagers, Kesa and Katiya, and flogged all the four of them in the village square. They were accused of being police informers. The extremists slit the throats of Beka and Kesa. Masa and Katiya were spared. “They thrashed me till I became unconscious and my whole body had swelled. Luckily, I was taken to the hospital soon, so I survived. After killing my brother and Kesa, they sang some revolutionary songs and left,” says Masa. “The police arrived only at 1 p.m. the next day.” After Beka’s death, his two sons stopped going to school and started tilling his farm.

On the other hand, several innocent residents have been jailed on the suspicion of being supporters, and some have even been charged under repressive anti-terrorist laws. Bande was jailed for one year. “The police found my father’s old hunting gun in my house and arrested me. After I was freed, I struggled for the next few years fighting the case in court. Finally, I was acquitted,” he says. People fear the naxalites more, says Bande. “The police will put you in jail, but the naxalites will kill you without any explanation.”

WHAT makes the people join the naxalite movement? Initially, most of the rebels came from Andhra Pradesh. They recruited young locals like Sudha (who has surrendered), who were taken up by the romantic band of people who visited their village, chatted with them, sang songs and gave eloquent speeches against the exploiters – the Forest Department, the police, the government, the contractors…

Harassment by the police pushes many naxalite sympathisers underground. “Once there is even a minor case against you, the police arrest you every time there is a violent incident. Many Adivasis have had to sell their land or cattle to pay for the court cases against them. When they run out of money, they join the naxalites or they go underground to escape police harassment,” says Bande.

The naxalites explain that they exist only because of local support. Every night, the activists rely on village residents to feed them. They camp in tents on the outskirts of the villages. “There is a people’s war going on and the vast majority of the Adivasis are supporting the war and participating in it. The movement could not have survived and expanded without the local people’s participation,” says Narmada, a member of the Maharashtra State committee of the CPI (Maoist), in an e-mail interview with Frontline.

Are the local people really supportive or are they terrorised? Can you refuse food to a visitor who arrives at your doorstep with a gun? “Everyone in the district feeds them, but that doesn’t mean they support them,” says Bande. “If you refuse, they will get angry and attack the local police station, and run away. And the villagers would have to suffer the consequences, face police arrests.”

Despite the constant fear, Adivasis do agree that naxalites have forced contractors to give them higher wages for tendu leaves collected and bamboo cut. The contractors are also a major source of revenue for the naxalites. The naxalites demand one day’s wages of all workers for the party fund. They call it tax. Even the Ballarpur paper factory in the region has reportedly been forced to pay huge amounts to the extremists every year. When it comes to money, they have no problem dealing with “class enemies”.

The villagers say that the naxalites have also reduced the harassment by forest officials and the level of corruption. “Earlier, forest officials would demand money if we cut wood to build our homes. They would keep harassing us saying we were farming forest land illegally. After the naxalites punished them, the harassment has reduced considerably,” says Suku, a panchayat samiti leader who was once reportedly beaten by extremists on the grounds of corruption. (He denies that the incident happened.)

A downside of the naxalites’ presence is that development is virtually non-existent in the area. Industries or businesses are deterred by the violence and extortion. Government funds meant for rural and tribal welfare remain unutilised and/or reach the wrong hands every year. Doctors, teachers and government officials are scared to enter the villages. Government employees view a transfer to Gadchiroli district as a punishment.

In fact, a 40 sq km area on the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border is considered a `liberated zone’ where even the police do not venture. There are around 25 villages in this zone. Here, naxalites hold military training camps and even run an arms factory and a printing press, the police say.

“I agree there has been sheer neglect of the Abujmad region,” says Shirish Jain. “We can’t do anything in the Chhattisgarh part of the border. We are trying to have more police outposts, but there are many practical problems and governmental delays.” He says that the police are trying to reach out to the people though meetings, peace rallies and surrender schemes. “Policemen go to the villages to find out the problems. Then we inform other government agencies and ask them to work there,” he says.

Around 232 villages have signed up for the Gaon Bandh (village ban) scheme, which gives Rs.2 lakh for development if a village agrees to impose a ban on naxalites. However, this seems to be more on paper. Many villages signed up to please the police, but they succumbed to threats from the rebels. ” Anyway, we did not get anything from the government after signing up,” said the sarpanch of a village that agreed to the scheme. However, Shirish Jain claims that resistance to the naxalites is increasing. In Bholepalli village, people got together and stopped the extremists from killing a police constable in April, he says.

The names of some persons have been changed to protect their identities.

`I am 27, my life is destroyed’

I WAS around 12 years old when the naxalites started coming to our village. During the meetings [they had with the village residents], they used to say young boys and girls should come forward so that we can bring about the rule of poor people.

They had guns but I was not scared because they were so free with us, like our own brothers and sisters. They used to ask us about our troubles, the problems in the village, our thoughts, feelings… . They used to even settle small disputes in the village.

My parents died when we were young. I have a younger brother and sister. We used to live with our uncle, who worked with them and later, joined them. One day, the commander told my uncle, “We are taking this girl with us.”

I was 12 years old. I don’t even remember why I went with them, I was so young, uneducated. They taught me everyday for two hours in the morning. They made us listen to the radio, talk about politics, world history. I didn’t feel any desire to do anything for my country or my people. Many from our village joined them, so I thought that I should also go. We used to visit the villages all day, until the evening, and return to the jungle in the night to sleep in tents. We used to plan eight days ahead which villages to go to.

Just like the police, the naxalites undergo a tough military training. I was in three winter camps. They teach us how to use a gun, how to open it, fit it, what to do if the enemy comes. They also used to sing songs and tell us what is happening in the world. Even when I was in the village, I had learned to throw bombs and shoot. It’s not difficult.

I joined the dalam [armed squad] straightaway. I was commander for three years. I was ill, so they demoted me to area committee. For six months, I was platoon commander. Then I went to a military camp, where they teach you rolling, jumping. There, I got very ill. My stomach started hurting a lot. Six months later, I had to be operated for ulcers. So I left the platoon.

I was married in the dalam to Naresh. I left him after three years. He didn’t tell me his surname but after we got married, someone told me that he was a distant relative. I didn’t like that so I left him.

During the 14 years that I was in the party, I went back home only twice, that too for one or two hours.

I faced 11 encounters. If the police fired, we would return the fire. I didn’t know whether anyone was killed or not. I have seen my comrades cut others’ necks if they were informers. I didn’t kill, but those with me did. When I saw that, I felt it was not right.

I didn’t like it in the jungle. I thought: “How long will I keep roaming?” I wanted to go home. The police force had become stronger, so firings had increased. Sometimes you didn’t get food. I tried to leave, but I had gone very far in Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh. My health worsened there, so I asked them to transfer me to Maharashtra. But they kept refusing and told me, “Don’t go. You are so senior, you know the jungle, and you know the language.”

They sent me to a platoon, which came to Maharashtra, so I took my chance and ran. I got up at 4 a.m. and escaped to my village. When I reached the village, I thought that I would rest for two or three days and then surrender to the police. But my uncle called the police the same day.

My uncle left the party before me. I heard them say that our house will be burned because my uncle went back. I felt that it was best to leave. What was the point of staying after they had harmed my family and destroyed my home? After that, my seniors started to be suspicious of me. How could I tell them to save him [my uncle]? They would not listen. I was small, didn’t have any say in decisions.

I surrendered in May 2005. I can’t go back home. I knew that I would have to go to jail or stay with the police. There was no other way. Even there, I would have eventually died by a bullet. Luckily, the police have pardoned my jail sentence. I am living with my uncle and his family. He now works for the police. If I go back to my village, they will come to get me. The rest of my family is still in the village. They are still in danger.

Now, my life is destroyed. I wasted 14 years. Coming back half-way through my life and starting again is difficult. If I had stayed at home and got married, it would have been better. Now at 27 years, I have to start a new life again.

As told to Dionne Bunsha

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Chhattisgarh: Resisting the rebels

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 14, 2007

Resisting the rebels

ANNIE ZAIDI
in Dantewada

AKHILESH KUMAR

With bows and arrows at a relief camp in Bangapal in Dantewada.

ARMED with little more than bows and arrows that his tribesmen have for long carried, Phooldar is determined to take on the might of the naxalites of Chhattisgarh. Why? “They killed my tribesmen,” he says.

Phooldar, who is not yet 18, is accompanied by Munna, 12, and Ramlal, who appears to be still younger. Ramlal holds an AK-47, but does not know how to use the trigger. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel accompanying him and other boys who have joined the “Salva Jodum” (All Together) movement provide the training.

Salva Jodum is the new buzzword in Bastar and Dantewada districts. It signifies the tribal people’s willingness to counter the naxalites. The police, the administration and the politicians are all hoping that Salva Jodum will do what they themselves could not: break the backbone of the local naxalite movement.

Chhattisgarh’s tribal people have, like the proverbial worm, turned. And their turning is suddenly visible. On the highway, makeshift checkpoints have been set up, with a rope stretched taut across the road. Arrows are trained upon suspicious commuters who do not slow down. Buses are stopped and checked. Truckloads of armed youngsters move from village to village to conduct public meetings.

Once a village decides to join the Salva Jodum, the men accompany the police and spread the word. Pledges are taken to defeat the `naxaliye’. Pamphlets in bold red are nailed to the trees, exactly as the naxalite literature and warnings used to be found. Members of sangham, a local unit of administration in naxalite-controlled areas, are either surrendering voluntarily, or are hunted down and handed over to the police. The tribal people have also stopped holding their weekly bazaar in an attempt to stop the naxalites’ daana-paani (food supplies).

The call for a public campaign against the atrocities committed by naxalites is believed to have been initiated by a little-known schoolmaster from Kutru, who got his students to stand up and declare a joint struggle. (Nobody, however, seems to remember his full name or know where he may be found.)

In any case, the backlash was immediate. At a meeting at Talmendra, attended by more than 10,000 people, naxalites allegedly opened fire and killed hundreds of people.

However, that did not stop the people from banding together and holding public meetings. Soon politicians, chief among them being Opposition leader Mahendra Karma, jumped into the fray. Bijapur and Behramgarh were declared pilot blocks for the Salva Jodum. The government has sanctioned Rs.30 crores for development projects in these blocks.

One of the first official Salva Jodum rallies was at Attabeli (Kutru) on June 8. Police records show that at least 11,000 people gathered there to pledge support. Over 50 such meetings have been held already.

The only public detractor of the movement is former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi. He claims that the tribal people will receive no protection once the politicians leave. “Tribal people are being crushed on all sides – by the police, the naxalites and Salva Jodum activists. Strangely, those leading the movement are careful not to hold rallies in their own constituencies. One of our legislators, Kawasi Lakhma, showed me a list of those who joined Salva Jodum rallies in his constituency. Not a single man is alive today,” Ajit Jogi said.

AKILESH KUMAR

Winning the confidence of Adivasis, a naxalite cadre.

The naxalite movement here is different in that it appears to have provided little benefit to the tribal people. Bastar has a predominantly tribal population.

According to Raghuram, a surrendered sangham member, no good has accrued to his village, Nileshnar, during the three decades since the first naxalite came from Andhra Pradesh. “We were forced to become sangham members. We gave them food and drink, though we had so little for ourselves. For 25 years, they have been here. Earlier they would sweet-talk us, promising to stop exploitation of Adivasis; they said they would form the government. They made fools of us. They harass us, after the police ask questions; they even take away our young girls. Then, they began to kill. They claim to hold jan adalats before doling out punishments or execution orders, but I never saw one.”

The story is corroborated by others. About 50 men camping in Dantewada admit to being surrendered sangham members. One of the primary reasons why they felt the need to resist was that their livelihoods were threatened. Naxalite leaders prevented them from collecting tendu leaves when they could not agree on the rates with contractors.

The surrendered men also claim that it was mostly fellow-Chhattisgarhis who harassed them. Raghuram explained: “The Telugu ones were the ones with guns and in black uniforms. They would only pass orders and hold meetings. It was the locals, who wear lungis and speak our language, who caused the most damage. The CRPF and the police force recruited our boys but their parents were beaten up and the boys were dragged back and beaten. The naxalites also demand chanda [tax]. If you are poor, you give two bags of rice. If you have money, you give ten rupees.”

Raghuram and 118 other men from seven villages are currently camping at Bangapal in Dantewada, an all-male relief camp set up by the government to cater to people who are forced to leave their homes for fear of retaliatory strikes.

Somaru, an elder of Kodali village, says he moved to the camp because he was threatened by the “naxaliye”. “The women and children are still at home. We’ve been here since July. In the village, the women gather in one spot to sleep. They’re managing the farms, somehow.”

This has been the most serious implication of the Salva Jodum. Even Chief Minister Raman Singh admits that 7,000-10,000 people were displaced and will need rehabilitation urgently if they refuse to return to their villages. The government is supplying food and sheds or tents for the displaced. But the supplies are not always regular. For instance, the Jungla camp had not received food for two days. Kamli, an old woman of Mulunpara, told Frontline: “No farming is done in the village since the women have also left. We are feeding the children, and making do without food.” They have been told that a food-for-work programme will be initiated but are afraid to complain to the administration. “What if they stop giving us food?”

In the meantime, the Salva Jodum is going to test the State’s commitment to deal with the naxalite movement. It is also a turning point for the naxalites, since this is the first time that their stronghold is witnessing a rebellion from their own support base

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