Saturday, November 14, 2009

Statement from national platform of adivasi and forest dwellers’ mass organisations (Campaign for Survival and Dignity) on Government offensive

A Pretext to Impose Brutal Repression: the Government’s “Offensive” Is
a Formula for Bloodshed and Injustice

The Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national platform of adivasi
and forest dwellers’ mass organisations (listed below) from ten
States, unequivocally condemns the reported plans for a military
“offensive” by the government in the country’s major forest and tribal
areas. This offensive, ostensibly targeted against the CPI (Maoist),
is a smoke screen for an assault against the people, especially
adivasis, aimed at suppressing all dissent, all resistance and
engineering the takeover of their resources. Certain facts make this

The government tells us that this offensive will make it possible for
the “state to function” in these areas and fill the “vacuum of

This is grossly misleading. The Indian state is very, very active in
these areas, often in its most brutal and violent form. A vivid
example is the illegal eviction of more than 3,00,000 families by the
Forest Departments a few years ago. Laws have been totally
disregarded; Constitutional protections for adivasi rights blatantly
ignored and their rights over water, forest and land (jal, jangal,
jamin) glaringly violated. Every month an increasing number of people
are jailed, beaten and killed by the police. If this is the picture of
what “absence” of the state means, people are terrified of what the
“presence” of the state will mean. It can only mean converting
brutalized governance into militarized rule, a total negation of

This is not a war over “development”. People’s struggles in India
today are over democracy and dignity

Meaningful development must contribute to strengthening the right of
all people to their resources and their production, and thereby to
control over their own destiny. For generations, adivasis have fought
for their Constitutional rights and entitlements. More recently, mass
democratic movements have fought for new laws and policies, such as
the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), the Forest
Rights Act, the right to work and the right to food, in addition to
earlier laws like the Minimum Wages Act, the Restoration of Alienated
Lands Acts, and land reform and moneylending laws. These laws make it
possible for people to fight for greater control over their lives,
their livelihoods, their lands and their forests. However these laws
are respected more in the breach; if the government wants
“development”, let it first stop the blatant disregard of its own
laws. Let people determine the path of their own development, in
accordance with their rights over their resources and the type of
infrastructure they desire. The Constitution itself requires this kind
of planning. The claim that “development” can be provided through
military force is both absurd and ridiculous.

This war is not about “national security”; it is about ‘securing’ the
interests of global and Indian capital and big business.

Any government worried about security would send its troops against
mining mafias, the forest mafias, violent vigilante groups like the
Salwa Judum and others. Rather than being curbed, these killers are in
fact supported by the police. Have the security forces ever been
deployed to defend the people struggling to protect themselves, their
forests, their livelihoods and their futures? The answer is no. The
notion of “security” being advanced by the government clearly has
nothing to do with the people. Rather, it is to enable big business to
engage in robbery and expropriation of resources, which they have
decided will be one of their main sources of accumulation. Hence,
mining, “infrastructure” , real estate, land grabbing, all aimed at
super-profits, are being projected as “development” needed by the
people. Huge amounts of international and government money are being
pumped into so-called “forestry projects” which displace people from
their lands and destroy biodiversity (even while they are trumpeted as
a strategy for climate change). The UPA is rushing into agreements
with the US and other imperial countries to throw open mining and land
to international exploitation. But where do the forests, land, water
and minerals lie? They are found in the forest and tribal areas, where
people – some organised under the CPI (Maoist), some organized under
democratic movements, some in spontaneous local struggles, some simply
fighting in whatever manner they can – are resisting the destruction
of their homes, resources and their lives. The “offensive against the
Maoists” is only a subterfuge to crush this citizens’ resistance and
to provide an excuse for more abuse of power, more brutality and more

The government knows perfectly well that it cannot destroy the CPI
(Maoist), or any people’s struggle, through military action.

How can the armed forces identify who is a “Maoist” and who is not?
The use of brute military force will result in the slaughter of
thousands of people in prolonged, bloody and brutal guerrilla warfare.
This has been the result of every “security offensive” in India’s
history from Kashmir to Nagaland. So why do this? And why now? Unless
the goal has nothing to do with “wiping out the Maoists” and
everything to do with having an excuse for the permanent presence of
lakhs of troops, arms and equipment in these areas. To protect and
serve whom?

Hence the need for fear mongering and hysteria about Maoist
“sympathisers” and their “infiltration” into “civil society.”

The government has a very long history of labeling any form of dissent
as “Naxalite” or “Maoist.” The Maoists’ politics are known; their
positions are public; the only secret aspect of their work is their
personal identities and military tactics. We who work in these areas
do not fear this bogey of “infiltration” in our groups by Maoists, for
the different stands taken by our organizations and theirs are clear,
and in some areas there are open disputes. This scaremongering is just
an excuse to justify a crackdown on all forms of dissent and
democratic protest in these areas, a crushing of all people’s
resistance, and the branding of any questioning, any demand for
justice, as “Maoist.”

In the final analysis, peace and justice will only come to India’s
workers, peasants, adivasis, dalits and other oppressed sections
through the mass democratic struggle of the people. A democratic
struggle requires democratic space. The conversion of a region into a
war zone, by anyone, is unacceptable. In the forest areas in
particular, there is now a need for a new peace, one that can only be
achieved through a genuine democratic dialogue between the political
forces involved. For this to happen, this horrific “offensive” must
first be called off. If the government really wishes to claim that it
is committed to protecting people and their rights, let its actions
comply with the requirements of law, justice and democracy.

Endorsing organisations

Bharat Jan Andolan
National Front for Tribal Self Rule
Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (Mah)
Adivasi Mahasabha (Guj)
Adivasi Jangal Janjeevan Andolan (D&NH)
Jangal Jameen Jan Andolan (Raj)
Madhya Pradesh Jangal Jeevan Adhikar Bachao Andolan
Jan Shakti Sanghatan (Chat)
Peoples Alliance for Livelihood Rights
Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha
Orissa Jan Sangharsh Morcha
Campaign for Survival & Dignity (Ori)
Orissa Jan Adhikar Morcha
Adivasi Aikya Vedike (AP)
Campaign for Survival and Dignity – TN
Bharat Jan Andolan (Jhar)

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