Archive for the ‘Peace Talks’ Category

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Villagers Rehabilitated Through Apex Court Order Beaten By Security Forces

February 13, 2010

Sukdi, the mother of Pujari Motiram who was allegedly killed by a joint force of SPOs and the CRPF in 2006. She was rehabilitated in her village of Lingagiri in March 2009 along with all the villagers of Lingagiri who lived in abject poverty as landless labour in Cherla, Andhra Pradesh.

This Article Appears in The New Indian Express on the 14th of February, 2010.

The village of Lingagiri of Basaguda Block, Bijapur district was allegedly attacked by members of the COBRA on the 31st of January, 2010 during the panchayat elections held in the village. Six villagers were allegedly beaten for not voting. They duly filed their complaints in Basaguda police station and the Basaguda Police have registered a FIR. Yet there are reports that a few of the villagers have left their village again.

Tokay Ramaiya from Doleguda was the only candidate for Sarpanch in the village of Lingagiri and won by default. He lives in Bijapur town that is 57 kilometres away from Lingagiri. On the day of the polls, COBRA forces found a number of villagers at their homes around eleven in the morning and asked them to show their hands and their fingernails. None of them had voted and they were duly abused and beaten with sticks.

Interestingly, the thanedaar of Basaguda police station had told the villagers of Lingagiri that voting is completely optional and that the villagers needn’t vote if they didn’t want to. He told them that he is aware of their fear of incurring Maoist displeasure.

Earlier, in December 2006, the village was attacked by a joint force of SPOs and CRPF and four people were allegedly killed. Pujari Ramaaih (40), Pujari Motiram (45), Gantal Shridevi and Gantal Kanaiya (50) were killed in broad daylight. Gantal Shridevi was allegedly raped before she was killed, as was Gantal Chandni (name changed) who was allegedly raped but managed to survive. All the villagers left their village in 2006 after burying the bodies of the deceased.

Soyam Ramalu, who was beaten on polling day, was stabbed thrice by security forces in 2006 but managed to survive, being taken to the hospital at Cherla by bullock-cart through the jungle. Gantala Beby was pregnant during the day of the attack, and gave birth to a boy on the way to Cherla through the jungle. The boy was later to be named, ‘Aadavi Ramadoo’, – ‘boy born in the jungle.’

61 villagers of Lingagiri had submitted their testimonies to the National Human Rights Commission’s Enquiry Team at Cherla, Andhra Pradesh in June 2008 yet the NHRC recommended no further need for an investigation. Similar testimonies that detailed Maoists atrocities were accepted by the Enquiry Team that consisted of fifteen police officials. The NHRC eventually visited Lingagiri in 2008 and found all the houses burnt yet could not verify the killings since the village was abandoned.

Eventually, on the 20th of February, 2009, the village of Lingagiri was rehabilitated by social activists and NGOs armed with the Supreme Court recommendation ‘with reference to petitions regarding the Salwa Judum,’ filed before the Supreme Court by Nandini Sundar and others vs. State of Chhattisgarh, Writ Petition (civil) 250 of 2007.

Rights activist Kopa Kunjam who is now in jail was instrumental in the rehabilitation process of Lingagiri and a number of other villagers in Basaguda block, ensuring safe passage to villagers from both the Maoists and security forces.

Since his arrest in December of 2009, the villagers of Lingagiri have lived without any semblance of security from the Maoists or the security forces.

Soyam Ramalu of the village of Lingagiri was stabbed thrice by the security forces in December 2006, and beaten again by COBRA forces on the 31st of January, 2010.

The Fifth Schedule

“The Forest Rights Act gives a guarantee to every tribal for ownership of his land. However, to be given a title (patta) to this land, the tribal must be in possession of it and if not, then it goes to the state. So when villagers are taken at gun point and resettled in Salwa Judum camps, or forced to flee to other areas in fear; they lose possession of the land. Possession of the land then goes to the Government, who merely leases it to mining companies/MNCs.”

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…..And Justice For Anyone?

January 13, 2010

A Maoist 'Jan Adalat' statement attempting to justify the execution of an unarmed SPO.

‘Meltha’ means ‘justice’ in Koya language but it means nothing to the tribals of Dantewada and Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh

‘We know what we do here is wrong sometimes, but what am I supposed to do? Bharti ho gayi, aur duty karna parta hai.’ Says Prashant (name-changed) of the Chhattisgarh State Police from Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh. He has been in Dantewada district for more than 12 months now and like a majority of those he is serving with, he’s from a Scheduled Caste. The exceptions in his platoon belong to Other Backward Castes. The SPOs meanwhile, are mostly Muria tribals.

Prashant’s compatriots from the CGP, like him, have MA degrees or BSC degrees. They could not find any jobs back home and Bharti ho gayi. Now with a pay of Rs.10,000 a month, they’re put into the risk of indiscriminate Maoist IEDs and landmines, – their jan adalats or ‘People’s Courts’, and their ambushes, where the police are fired upon by the weapons of their long-fallen comrades, and bows and arrows.

Official sources state that around 125 security personnel were killed in the year 2009. Adding to it are the figures that 113 Maoists and 124 civilians were also killed. Out of the 125 security personnel killed, one of those killed was SPO Suresh from Dharmapuram village of Basaguda Block in May of 2009 – an event that was not reported in any national daily but was merely destined to be a part of the above-mentioned statistic.

He was abducted by the Maoists from Timapuram village in Basaguda Block during a ‘pudum’ (festival) and kept in detention for a few days. The police frequently combed the area to locate him but to no avail. His body was found a few days later near Basaguda police station. He was in his early 20s and was a father of one year old child.

The Maoists from the Jagargonda Area Committee left a ‘People’s Court’ or ‘Jan Adalat’ statement justifying their execution of SPO Suresh, claiming that he was present during the widespread arson and looting of the villages of Basaguda block, where over 2000 villagers had left their homes in 2006. They also claimed that he was involved in the killing of two villagers from Sarkinguda.

‘Any SPO or undercover officer that conspires against the people shall be given similar punishment.’ The Maoists had written on paper in red and left next to his body.

Of course, as the Maoist ‘judiciary’ and sense of justice is only accountable to itself, in the state of Chhattisgarh, the law is the police.

Kopa Kunjam, human rights activist shall be brought to court on the 20th of January, 2010. He has barely been a month in jail yet he is already a broken man. He has been allegedly hung upside down and beaten repeatedly in jail, and been openly told that he has been framed.

The very legal system that he tried to upheld has now condemned him – he had helped to file complaint after complaint to the National Human Rights Commission and the High Court, against the alleged atrocities of police and the Salwa Judum and all that he ever got out of it was imprisonment and torture.

It was even reported by the local press that one of the accused in the Konta rape case, was throwing eggs and mud at a visiting Medha Patkar from within a Salwa Judum demonstration allegedly orchestrated by the police, and according to some sources, from Delhi itself. There is a warrant for his arrest yet he’s absconding right in front of the police. The ‘Ruchikas’ of Dantewada, from Samsetti, Arlampalli and Bandarpadar have been cut-off from their lawyers, from activists and the press.

The Superintendent of the Police, Amresh Mishra frequently visits Kopa Kunjam in jail, and it has been confirmed that the police met him the day before he was arrested, had ‘requested’ him to leave the VCA, and become a police informer.

‘I have seen with my own eyes, what it is that you do,’ he had allegedly told his tempters. Now his three wives break into tears as they meet him in Dantewada jail. The NGO Vanvasi Chetna Ashram has all but ceased to exist. His NGO director and mentor Himanshu Kumar clandestinely left Dantewada, out of fear of arrest. So the Muria gets beaten in jail, the Brahmin escapes.

Giving him company in Dantewada jail, are numerous adivasis from the interior areas who have no idea of their rights. For instance, there is Lachinder from Gangaloor village of Bijapur District, who has been in Dantewada jail for more than a month and a half, booked under section 436 (arson) of the IPC, and section 25 and 27 of the Arms Act. He’s also thirteen years old. His school card stating his age isn’t indicative enough of his age. A mentally-handicapped mother comes to court and looks at her 13 year old son and says he might be 60 years old, or 30 years old or 13 years old. He stays in jail, and not a juvenile home, a violation of the Juvenile Justice Act.

Meanwhile, a RTI application filed by concerned citizens had uncovered that 14.8 hectares of land from the village of Goomiyapal in Dantewada district is part of a land acquisition proposal with Tata Steel Limited. Six villagers from Goomiyapal were also allegedly gunned down by the police in December as alleged Maoists. No one in the local press reported the encounter even as the village is just four kilometers from the industrial town of Kirandool.

Similarly, Medha Patkar and activists had visited the village of Kuper on the 7th of January to investigate into the matter of four missing boys. The police had refused to lodge the FIRs and refused to inform the parents of the whereabouts of the missing boys. Disappearances and abductions are widespread in Dantewada, and the rule law continues to be a myth.

(This article has been written for The New Indian Express)

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Jan Sunwayi at Dantewada: shush now.

January 4, 2010

This article has been written for The New Indian Express.

Market day at Bijapur: the dichotomies and the many shades of greay.

JAN SUNWAYI AT DANTEWADA

Activists, social workers, ex-justices, ex-bureaucrats, policemen, journalists, intellectuals and citizens from all across India are descending into the jungles of Dantewada, Chhattisgarh for an independent public hearing held on the Salwa Judum, Operation Green Hunt and the Adivasi struggle for justice.

Home Minister Chidambaram had showed initial signs that he may also be present on the 7th of January public hearing, yet was advised by governor and former Director of the IB, E.S.L. Narsimhan  to reconsider his position. Meanwhile many observers claimed that he probably wouldn’t be expected for the very reasons the Jan Sunwayi was being organized.

For instance, in the summer of 2007, twelve-year-old Hungi Madkam, daughter of Kesha Madkam, disappeared after a workforce of the CRPF and SPOs had raided her village of Kottanendra at Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. The FIR on her disappearance was not registered at the local police station. A complaint was written to the National Human Rights Commission that would forward the complaint dated 22/09/2008, received from her brother Lakhmu Madkam to the Director General, CRPF on 25/10/2008.

The Director General recommends that the local police investigate into the matter. Instead, they threatened and beat up the petitioner Madkam Lakhmu and then claimed that he wasn’t co-operating with them in the investigation.

Case closed. A young girl who disappears ceases to exist.

Two years would pass and as is the story of the adivasis of Bastar, she is not where she belongs – for she is neither with her family, nor in her home, nor on her land. She was neither booked, nor taken to a juvenile home, nor a Salwa Judum camp. She simply vanished.

Her brother Lakhmu Madkam would probably want to have a word with Home Minister Chidambaram in the upcoming Jan Sunwayi.

‘Where is my sister?’ Of course, Mr. Chidambaram wouldn’t know, nor have any power to do anything about it. Nor would he know about Vanjam Deve’s 20 year old daughter Vanjam Jogi of the village of Arlampalli who was allegedly abducted by the Salwa Judum in January 2008. Nor would he even know about the whereabouts of 22 year old Kumari Baiko of the village of Dharmaguda who was abducted by SPOs in the summer of 2008. Nor would he know about the killing of her father Chinna Baiko at Errabore camp. This particular case was eventually taken to the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur by activists and family members of the victims.

The court has asked why it took eight months to register the first complaint against the police at the police station. As of now, the original petitioner of the complaint is hiding in fear of police/Salwa Judum reprisal. If he doesn’t resurface, the story would be eventually thrown out of the court.

Yet the pattern of hopelessness and threats to the lives of victims and their family members is widespread in the face of the complete lack of any semblance of a witness protection program.

Take the case of Madkam Madvi (name changed) of Bhandarpadar, Konta block, who was allegedly gang-raped by SPOs at Konta police station in April of 2008. According to her testimony, she claims that she was taken to the police station by the Salwa Judum, robbed of some Rs. 25,000, then kept alone in a room. She was first raped by a SPO in an isolated room in the police station, then blindfolded and gang-raped over two days at the station by three more unidentified persons.

Eventually, she was set free and after further harassment she escaped to Andhra Pradesh. She had hoped to start over and had even married.

At this point, members of the Salwa Judum traced her down in Andhra Pradesh and the harassment continued. According to her husband, they had threatened him saying, ‘we were going to sell this girl and earn some money but now that you married her, we have suffered a loss that you shall now have to payback.’ They then stole Rs.3500, one cow, three goats and two chickens to ‘make up for their loss.’ After further threatening them, they went back to Chhattisgarh, ensuring that Madvi would sleep in a different room in a different village every night, living in constant fear.

Finally, through the Gandhian NGO Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, a complaint was written to the Superintendent of Police, Dantewada. There was no reply for months. The matter was then taken to the court as a private complaint. The case was shifted from Konta to the Dantewada sessions court on the 9th of March, 2009. Harassment began soon after. SPOs crossed the state border and searched her house on the 10th of April, 2009. And on the 2nd of December, 2009, Madvi’s father and a boy who shared her husband’s name were apprehended and taken to Chintur Police Station in Andhra Pradesh. There, the father was threatened and the boy was beaten. They were told to bring Madvi to Konta police station. At this point, she had gone into hiding, knowing that her next appearance at court was to be held on the 10th of December when she had to depose.

She would probably have a lot to say at the Jan Sunwayi as well, provided someone comes to listen.

And the stories would go on. No one in Dantewada has forgotten Ranibodli where 55 policemen were slaughtered. Those who survived the attack were protected by local tribals. That no one remembered.

No one has forgotten the forceful expulsion of villagers from 644 villages. No one has forgotten the issue of security from Maoist violence. No one has forgotten the attack on Errabore camp that was burnt down by the Maoists and 25 people, including a woman and her baby were killed. The Maoists claim that the majority of those killed were SPOs. And no one has forgotten that quite a few of the SPOs themselves are forced to join the service. The fact is, for the majority of the displaced the only option of employment and sustenance is the SPO service – Rs.2,100 a month. The villagers of Bastar have little choice in the face of the complete destruction of their agrarian way of  life – agriculture has all but stopped in the greater parts of Bijapur and Dantewada district.

Yet, disturbingly, a majority of the villagers were intimidated and threatened to become SPOs. And this continues even now.

Take the instance of Lingaram Kodopi, 24, from the village of Sameli, Kuakonda Block who was arrested on the 31st of August, 2009 and was being forced to join the SPO service. The rationale behind it is simple. Once Linga Kodopi is shown in close proximity to the police, the Maoists themselves might suspect him of being an ‘informer’, and thus he’d live in further fear of them. Once he’s an SPO, he can supply the security services a wealth of information of the ‘interior’ areas. Therefore he was allegedly kept in a toilet in the police station for over 40 days. First, Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra denies that he was in their custody, then eventually, they accept that they have an SPO by the name of Lingaram Kodopi.

Through activists, the family filed a Habeas Corpus petition in Bilaspur High Court, asking the police to present Lingaram Kodopi at Court. At Court, Linga told the judge that he did become an SPO but he would like to leave the service. The Court directed the police to release him, and he was released on the 7th of October, 2009.

On the way back home to his village, the police detained his older brother for petitioning the High Court and released him after two days. They also detained his father Joga Ram and had asked him to revoke the affidavit that was detailing custodial torture. He was released after a week.

Lingaram Kodopi, out of fear of further harassment, doesn’t live in Dantewada anymore.

Similarly, the police had also taken 17 villagers from Goomiyapal, Kutrem, Phirnaar, Hiroli and Darpa from Kuakonda block and kept them in forced confinement over a period of two weeks, forcing them to become SPOs.

Maybe they’d like to have a word with the Home Minister as well.

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Propagating Peace: draft 1

December 3, 2009

I have written this on the presumption that the leaders of our country and the Naxalite parties are really sincere about the idea of peace. This is, of course, a big presumption. It is also a big presumption that a war motivated by economic means can find a peaceful resolution.

Yet I had to write this, barring my naiveté, my own desperation, to bring myself to entertain a foolish hope, and obviously, to help clarify my position as a journalist, and my motivations as a human being.

Questioning the idea of peace talks between the Government of India and the Maoists

We’re constantly talking about ‘addressing the socio-economic problem’ that feeds the Naxalite base yet no one is yet to tell me how to address it, and to whom, and when?

Answer: if anyone is aware of what happened at Andhra Pradesh in 2004, peace talks between the Government of India and the CPI (Maoist) Party, as of now would lead to nothing. The government isn’t going to turn the entire system upside-down nor are the revolutionary parties ever going to lay down their arms considering what it really took them to gain them. Neither party has anything to lose as of now, nor anything to gain from peace talks. The further the military operation continues, the further the base of the Naxalites shall grow and the further the GOI manages to destroy the sustainable livelihoods of agrarian societies that have existed for thousands of years without outside interference, the further they can justify industrial development.

(On another note: Mr.Chidambaram, why can’t we allow the agricultural sector to grow to feed out GDP? Don’t you think, considering that more than 70% of this country lives in rural India, we’d have a phenomenal rate of growth if they, the poor, and not corporations, were allowed profit?)

Now, let us get back to the topic of peace talks, which at this present moment, seems as improbable as hell freezing over.

A few days ago, I met Shankaran of the Committee of Concerned Citizens. In all my time being confronted with the tragedies of the Naxalite issue, somewhere within the room with that gentle old man, I could sense one of the graver tragedies of this whole mesh of violence and counter-violence. He holds himself morally accountable to the failures of the talks, for he was in a position to do something. Yet the talks fell apart. Clause 7 was a monster. Both parties blamed the other for the failure of the talks. Violence erupts. Bloodshed. Silence. And the violence spilled over to other states.

Irrespective of how the Centre views the Andhra model of dealing with the Maoists, one shouldn’t discount the obvious truth that there is relative peace in Andhra because all the violence shifted to other districts. Most of the higher-up Naxalites in those districts are from Andhra Pradesh. And now things are a lot more complicated. This isn’t just about the peace talks between the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Naxalites. Now, there’s the Salwa Judum, respective state governments, corporate interests, the Government of India and the international stage  – a spotlight for the Naxalites, for each and every one of those buses that they set alight in the last four years as a form of protest. And all of this, is for the poor, invisible, oppressed poor. This of course, is another big presumption.

Now, the issue has our attention. Now, we must talk. First, let us differentiate between ‘dialogue’ and ‘peace talks.’

Peace talks, as the Naxalites coming out of their hideouts to meet the GOI leaders, is an act of idiocy considering that the IB will be trailing every shadow and the reclusive Politburo members know that.

Peace talks are theatrical and we don’t need drama, we need an environment where dialogue is possible – where debate is possible – debate that is followed by sustainable action on the ground. We, firstly, obviously need a bilateral ceasefire. A cessation on the use of IEDs, the killing of so-called informants, and the targeting of off-duty policemen as a matter of sport. We need a cessation on the murder of SPOs, their families and members of the Salwa Judum. We need a cessation of fake encounters and combing operations that always seem to only further aggravate the general population who always believed that this war would never touch them. As I have said before, just because every fake encounter and burning of a village is not reported in the mainstream press, it doesn’t mean that it ceases to exist – it doesn’t mean that it fails to act as a stimulus to push grieving, desperate villagers over the edge.

This entire campaign against the free press and the ‘no access’ idea that the government is trying to impose onto brave and insane muckraking reporters and activists is also highly questionable. I think, this has to do with the idea of hubris more than credibility – as it is, the Indian government doesn’t have much credibility in the Red Corridor, and I don’t know why it’s trying to protect itself from the crimes it commits in the Dantewadas and Lalgarhs.

The adivasis are very well aware of who they kill, and it’s easy for them to know that, as they are the ones who are being killed. But it’s not the adivasis who the government wants to hide the truth from – it’s the higher-upper-middle classes. The government doesn’t care a hoot about what the adivasis think of them. The adivasis are not one unit – they do not possess a political unity as other groups do. This disunity does not seriously threaten them. The starvation deaths of the Birhors do not affect the Baiga who are being displaced, or the Muria who are being hunted down or turned against one another, or the Dongria-Kondh who helplessly watch their Mountain God chewed up by mining companies.

The state pays little to no attention to them and I don’t remember a single time in the recent past, that it’s even seriously considered their grievances. Mr.Chidambaram’s upcoming public hearing in Dantewada is a positive step, but it is a redundant public relations stunt unless it is followed up with serious policy changes. And it must address the people who live further in the jungles. These are tribes that have existed for centuries without outside interference and they can very well exist for centuries without them, provided their symbiotic relationship to the jungle is kept intact. And that is the very thing they’d be coming to him for – their jal, jangal, jameen – their lives.

Along with another very certain thing – they’d want security, thus they’d want a cessation of combing operations – a military ceasefire.

And along with a military ceasefire, it is absolutely imperative that we have a ‘cultural’ ceasefire – where there is freedom to express your views without a witch-hunt, freedom to resist the state, to portray dissent, without being branded off as a ‘naxalite sympathizer’, (yet what is a Naxalite sympathizer really? It is quite contentious as it is and some clarity is required. And of this, we shall get to, as well). Yet coming back to a cultural ceasefire, we need a guarantee that not all resistance movements are branded off as ‘Maoist fronts’, simply so the state can justify violence onto them. No one gave the Maoists a monopoly over resistance movements but the Government and the media itself.

Now, we need a guarantee that grievances are addressed and calling for more troops becomes unnecessary. Let all the men who scream for blood drink their own.

Of course, the greater emphasis is on the Maoists themselves for an initiative for peace. To an extent, they are morally responsible for the well-being of the people they represent. They can’t possibly take them through a brutal war for political power. The adivasi way of life is already under threat and the poor bear the brunt of police action. How many fake encounters and how many arbitrary arrests have taken place, one will never know. The pervasive environment of fear and suspicion has driven all sides to commit atrocities and this isn’t benefiting anyone but those who thrive in war and benefit from it. This environment of fear has further been exacerbated by the ‘no access’ policies of the administration. Hopefully, the upcoming Satyagraha and Padhyatra in Dantewada would help to negate this fear and help to create an environment for peace.

One of the reasons I talk to the villagers, is for this reason – for an environment for dialogue, for understanding, for truth.  For applicable dialogue, you need reality – a stone to shatter any idea of a status quo that defends itself with nothing but brute force. For dialogue, you need to shatter the myths – every policeman is a monster, every Naxalite is a monster, and death and murder is the only solution – no, it is not, no, they are not, and no matter how much we’re trying to demonize one another, I can guarantee to you that peace is possible. And this is not a war between gun-toting Naxalites and policemen and neat little terms for innocent civilians such as ‘collateral damage’. Mothers don’t call their dead children collateral damage, and orphans will never grow up to think their parents were just collateral damage. We must shatter the myths of a public that believes war is for heroism and the protection of good over evil. Let the people know what war is – visceral and brutal beyond words, it exists beyond abstractions, beyond concepts of nations, ideologies and heroism.

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It shouldn’t be easy for the manufacture of consent to war in the country of Gandhi, even though it surprisingly is. It shouldn’t be easy for us to be complicit in the murder of peoples who did no wrong to anyone, even though it always has been. Let us leave our comfort zones and put ourselves on the front lines.

And this is why we need aggressive reporting. Why every drop of blood must be investigated. Why every voice must be heard.

In Sri Lanka, the murder of the free press made it easier for the general public to accept denial. The voices of dissent were systematically shot down. Because there was no real free press, the issue of atrocities and war crimes became a question of tit-for-tat violence and idiotically-justified eye-for-an-eye counter-violence; along with whether atrocities were taking place, or not – when in reality, there shouldn’t have been any question about whether they were taking place or not, and their legitimacy should be questioned – yes, so we’re killing innocent people, is this the best that we can do in this situation? Do they deserve it? Or is there an alternative? Can we have dialogue?

Now, dialogue is unimportant with particular Islamic fundamentalist groups who only call for the entire destruction of people.  The question of dialogue is important in this case, because the Naxalites claim to be representing an oppressed people whose oppression cannot, under any circumstances, be disregarded. To an extent, this claim to representation is entirely justified, and is further inevitable, every time the security forces enter villagers and behave as naturally as they usually do – taking the psychology of a soldier, out of fear and hatred, atrocity is inevitable.

The Naxalites, meanwhile are not stupid enough to believe that there will be no collateral damage every time they fire on off-duty policemen or blow up anti-landmine vehicles with landmines. The villages adjacent to these attacks often bear the brunt of state repression. Yet what do we see? We see state repression – not the fact that the Naxalites helped to manifest a situation where the biggest losers are the innocent people who had nothing to do with what happened.

Someday, I shall meet revolutionaries who fight for the people but don’t expect the people to fight and die for them. Someday.

Propagating a peaceful environment: step 1

The first thing we need to do is to get the Arnab Goswamis of the media to shut up. If that bigoted idiot even uses ‘Maoists’ and ‘Taliban’ in the same sentence, I’m going to personally take him into the red corridor and leave him to the hospitality of the so-called Maoist sympathizers – villages of the Muria where there’d be no electricity, no healthcare, no ration, no nothing and everyday they live in fear of being raided by the security forces – of losing their loved ones, their homes, their lives. And let him be fed their rice even when they have none for themselves, and let him try to write them off as ‘collateral damage.’

Most people often race to judgments as a matter of closure. No one wants to sit out and sift through all the details. Details make mediocre minds uncomfortable. One simple conclusion is enough – the Naxalites are bad and we must kill them, or the state and the police are working for corporate interests and it must be stopped. The media, of course, has the most blame for this. It plays by the nouns and it dies by them. People go off screaming bloody murder on the ‘naxalite sympathizer’ and does anyone have any idea what a ‘naxalite sympathizer’ is?

Semantically speaking, a majority of the so-called intelligentsia and general public are ‘tribal sympathizers’ and 90% of the Naxalites are tribals, fighting for their land, fighting for their homes, fighting for their families, and most have little to no option in securing another choice – it is a matter of geography – they live in areas where the state has never entered – places where they have grown up their whole lives, or have their land. As the women of Tatemargu would say: ‘if you want to live here, you need to bear a few beatings.’

And what sympathies do these people have for the Naxalites? Do they send Hallmark cards to the Politburo members for Chairman Mao’s birthday? They mostly, wish for the Naxalites to leave them alone. And pray not, all of the higher-up Naxalites, are evil gun-toting madmen. The late Anuradha Gandhi, Kobad Gandhi’s wife, is still spoken of affectionately by the adivasis of Kutroo block – one of the bastions for the Salwa Judum. The same people would still go about to insult other members of the Dalam or the ‘higher-ups’ whose atrocities they remain witnesses of. Yet she remains closer to their hearts.

This, of course brings us to a question for the Naxalites that I can also ask the Indian government: do you have a free press and a judicial system where you can be held accountable for the crimes you commit on the adivasis?

Now this also brings us to the other breed of the ‘Naxalite sympathizer’. The lawyers and the activists and the social workers who have bled their souls dry, trying to make this democracy, a democracy. After failure, after failure, after failure, they sit down and watch all their efforts go in vain. A failing judicial system, a failing administration and peaceful protests that accomplish nothing as the people who they represent lose faith in them and their courts, and their means. If the government fails these people, what other option do they have? What purpose do you serve by arresting the Chhatradhar Mahatos of the country? What purpose do you serve by brutally repressing peaceful resistance movements? By murdering soldiers/social activists such as Colonel Pratap Save and Gangaram Kalundia who were one of your own, who stood up for the poor, the oppressed?

‘Fine then, you don’t want to deal with us through the courts and peaceful protests, you can go deal with those fellas.’

Of course, a majority of the people who have those moments of weakness go back to sleep and wake up in the morning to continue in their absurd existences, their spirits unbroken, their throbbing hearts still yearning for the days where justice shall be something definable, something graspable. Of course, the world shall never change, we’d all keep fighting all our days, today, this government, tomorrow another. It’s the means to struggle that change, the ends remain the same – a distant dream.

Violent insurrection itself, is an absurd means. The only difference between the peaceful protest – the rock held in a fist and violent insurrection, is catharsis. Violence is catharsis. It is Fanon’s Wretched Earth. And if someone crosses over the line, they’re entering a world where the idea of justice will get far more convoluted, especially if you manage to keep your conscience. For the revolutionary with a conscience, the justification of murder can only be justified by the utopian dream. Yet what happens if there is no utopian dream? What happens to the justification of murder when the utopian dream gets more distant by the day, and all one is left with, is a compulsion to continue the violence, to continue the pursuit of the dream, justifying murder after murder after murder, for that is the only way out of the trap?

Today we have the Law, a bruised, battered abstract that is flouted and abused and left a toothless abstraction, and I see, some of them, chose the gun as a means for justice. Tomorrow, if they smash it all to bits, what shall I be doing? I shall still be documenting their crimes, I shall still be taking them to court. The struggle shall go on. Just the means shall change.

And right now, the guns need to be holstered, for they can be. You can fight your war with policy changes, with dialogue, by shifting back to a development-centric model that actually considers the grievances of the poor – a drought, a failing crop, encroaching corporations, land rights. To the poor, those are the ends – not the annihilation of the Maoists, nor the bringing down of the semi-bourgeoisie, semi-imperialist Government and all that yahoo.

The poor don’t want iron ore mines, nor do they want a market democracy. They want their land, they want their livelihoods, they want their environment. They want their handpumps and their roads. They want healthcare. And most importantly, they want their security and that can only be guaranteed by all warring parties yet someone has to take the initiative and declare unilateral ceasefire if the other does not.

War against your own people is an act of genocidal seppuku. Eventually, we shall reach a point where too many people shall be killed and there’d be no more turning back (if we haven’t reached that point already), and I shudder to know that there shall be a time, where the truth shall be, that violence is justified. And I know I am not just being a peacenik here.

During one of my visits to Bijapur in Chhattisgarh in January of this year, I met an experienced inspector who told me something very interesting. His superior, the Superintendent of Police had asked him what he’d need to deal with the Naxalites. He replied that even if he had ten battalions, he still wouldn’t have managed to do anything about the Naxalites. He was aware that there is no military solution to this insurgency and there never has been. The world is wrought with insurgencies today. And everywhere, where there is an insurgency, there’s a cruel repressive state machinery at place. This is the cause-effect-cause problem of our age. Terror breeds terror breeds terror. Action breeds reaction breeds reaction. Ad infinitum.

Unless there is dialogue. Unless there is restraint. Unless there can be an environment created that is capable of peace. This environment is impossible as the killings continue, and there are obviously two parties culpable. Rage and vengeance knows no dialogue, no words, no hopes – there’s an unfathomable darkness in that jungle that knows no politics, no human rights, no chairman Mao, no Chidambaram, no neo-liberalism: it knows nothing but sheer terror – death, the machine, hidden from the world, where people die and continue to die.

Of course, I met another policeman during that same period who told me something else, he said, ‘f— your human rights, and we can fix this whole problem.’

I think we know who among the two policemen, is having the last laugh now. Tomorrow, I shall f— my human rights and not call back. After all, who in this country is really being accountable for their actions?