Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Farmers in Lalgarh Region Don't Have to Repay Crop Loans: Kishenji

Hindustan Times, Dec 17: Farmers in West Midnapore district of West Bengal may not have to repay their crop loans. The Maoists have announced a waiver. This is the first time the rebel group has announced such a decision.

"Several peasants who took crop loans over the last two years have suffered losses. So, we have decided that they don't have to pay back their loans," said Koteshwar Rao, alias Kishenji, member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). "Moreover, no agricultural cooperative, bank or private money lender will be allowed to charge more than two per cent interest on loans they advance to peasants this year," he added.

Cooperative and public sector banks usually charge 7 per cent interest on agri loans. Private moneylenders charge much more – between 3 per cent and 5 per cent a month. "If anybody, be it from public sector banks or private moneylender tries to squeeze money out of the farmers, he will be branded a people's enemy and tried in a people's court," Kishenji threatened. These "courts" usually hand out the death penalty to those who defy their writ.

"We will look into the matter and take action if anybody lodges a complaint," said Manoj Verma, superintendent of police, West Midnapore.

State Bank of India, United Bank, Allahabad Bank, UCO Bank and a few co-operative banks have branches in this district. No bank executive was willing to speak on the issue. They were also unwilling to share data of total loans or farmers who may be impacted. "More than 50 per cent of all loans in the district are advanced by private moneylenders, " several of them said on condition of anonymity.

Maoists wield considerable influence in 180 of India's 626 districts, where they have killed more than 300 security personnel this year.

Kishenji claimed that farmers have suffered losses and that "no one is in a position to repay the loans. Since the government did nothing, it was left to us to give relief".

In a related article, Kishenji announces that the CPI (Maoist) is expanding its organizing of farmers into South Bengal.

Maoists trying to cash in on potato farming crisis (Times of India, December 18, 2009)

KOLKATA: With security forces zeroing in on the Maoist core area in Jangalmahal comprising parts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, the ultras are busy spreading their network in neighbouring Hoogly and other parts of West Midnapore.

The target is to organise wage labourers and marginal farmers working in potato fields, whose lot did not improve despite spiralling potato prices. At a time when everyone is blaming the market or the futures trading, Maoists are reaching out to the deprived with an immediate solution, the people's court. Maoist activists are promising that they will drag the middlemen to the people's court, impose huge fines on the offenders and help the marginal farmers.

Small farmers could not get the best of a good harvest last year. They sold their produce at a much lower price to the middlemen as the crop was badly hit by wart disease.

"We have contacted the farmers in the potato producing areas of South Bengal and told them that CPI (Maoist) will extend their support to them," said Maoist leader Kishanji, who has been controlling the Maoist insurgency in Lalgarh.

The Maoist leader has also announced drawn up a charter of demands for rehabilitation of the poor farmers. "The government has to waive all agricultural loans that farmers took last year. At the same time the state has to arrange for interest-free loans," said Kishanji, who also supports other demands of the farmers subsidized rate of fertiliser and potato seeds.

Communist Party of India (Maoist) Supports Struggles for Telangana, Gorkhaland states

The central government recently announced that Telangana in Andhra Pradesh would become a new state, but it is beginning to backtrack. The Telangana area has a rich history of revolutionary struggle, going back to the early 1950s and up to the present. The CPI (Maoist) and its predecessor organization in Andhra Pradesh, the CPI M-L (Peoples War), have historically supported this demand, and is now supporting the demand for Gorkhaland in far northern West Bengal, where there is a large Nepali-speaking population.

Hyderabad is part of Telangana: Kishenji (Indian Express, December 14, 2009)

Maoist leader Kishenji has said Hyderabad is an integral part of the Telangana region and the city should be made the capital of the new state when it comes into being. Hyderabad is a part of Telangana and will stay so. There is no question of disassociating Hyderabad from Telangana.

Kishenji, who hails from the region, which has a substantial Naxal presence, said over phone from an undisclosed location on Saturday evening. Asked why there was so much controversy over Hyderabad, Kishenji said: It is because of some retired and serving bureaucrats who own huge chunks of land in the Greater Hyderabad region. Nearly 40,000 acres of land, a large portion of which have vineyards, are in the hands of some retired and present bureaucrats, Kishenji said.

The Maoist leader expressed support for the creation of Telangana and accused the Congress of depriving people of the region of their legitimate rights by backtracking from its move to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh.

Kishenji alleged the Congress does not want to create a separate state of Telangana and is therefore creating disturbances in the state. This is not the first time the Congress is going back on its word, the Maoist leader said, adding: It had denied the people of Vidarbha a separate state earlier.

Maoists Demand Autonomy for Three Bengal districts (Yahoo India, December 12, 2009)

A demand for autonomy for three tribal-dominated districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia in West Bengal was today made by a top Maoist leader, who also justified the Gorkhaland statehood issue. We demand autonomy for the three districts on the lines of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, Maoist leader Kishenji told PTI from an undisclosed location.

He alleged that the West Bengal government had denied the legitimate rights of the people of the districts. We demand autonomy to protect the language, culture and religious beliefs of tribals.

Asked if he meant statehood, he replied, the people of the three districts are not yet prepared for statehood. Queried if it was part of the demand for a greater Jharkhand, Kishenji said, That demand is no longer relevant.

The scenario has changed. Moreover the formation of Jharkhand has not solved any problem. Going forward with the greater Jharkhand demand will not solve the problem of tribals, he said.

Kisenji, however, supported the demand for Gorkhaland in Darjeeling stating that it was legitimate. It is the oldest demand for a separate state. They should be allowed a separate state to focus on their development as the state government has neglected the tea and tourism industry there, Kishenji claimed.

Bhumkal centenary

NAGPUR: The Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee and Maharashtra state committee of the Naxalites have jointly issued a pamphlet cautioning government of widespread tribal uprising marking the centenary of the tumultuous 'Mahan Bhumkal' movement that had rocked the British in 1910. The pamphlet talks of a mass upheaval in the hinterlands to be guided by their 'scientific approach', sends a threat that 2010 shall witness the revival of the preindependence revolution.

Shortly after the state government's announcements of series of initiatives to counter the rebels during the ongoing winter sessions, the Maoists have fallen back on familiar tactics of trying to persuade security forces not to fight. They have said the security personnel were members of the same deprived class for whom the struggle has been initiated.

The rebels have alleged that the plan of the top politicians like Congress
party chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union home minister P Chidambaram, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, Chhatisgarh chief minister Raman Singh and others to quell the tribal movement is nothing but a suppressive step against the deprived population that is fighting for justice. They called Prime Minister Singh 'Imperialistic America's faithful loyalist' who is shielding the 'exploiters' and branding Maoists a threat to the country.

They portray themselves as sympathetic towards jawans saying the forces' gruelling efforts in jungles and camps were
nothing but a struggle for livelihood. The latest actions of Naxalites is significant considering the Union government's plan to counter them has started to take shape.

The Naxal pamphlet asserted that they were engaged in a struggle to the tribals their rightful claims against the deprivation from the government.


Update at 2.45 p.m., 9 December, 2009
A 9 woman fact-finding team and their driver were assaulted in the Narayanpatna Police Station premises when they went to enquire into the conditions leading up to the police firing of 20 November, 2009, in Naryanpatna, Orissa. The 20 November, 2009, firing which left 2 adivasis dead and hundreds injured has triggered tensions in the area. The team which fled the police and other armed people in Orissa just concluded a press conference at Parvathipuram, Vijayanagaram District, Andhra Pradesh. The team was in Orissa after receiving disturbing reports of state-sponsored violence, rape, molestations and atrocities against adivasi villagers, and members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh. According to reliable reports, the CMAS, a peaceful, democratic movement fighting for the dignity and rights of adivasis, is being branded extremist by the State in a prelude to unleashing terror on the tribal inhabitants of the area. Prompting the State’s violence is the CMAS’ campaign for land rights and against the liquor-moneylender-mining lobby. Following the firing of 20 November, 2009, the conditions in Narayanpatna have been vitiated, with platoons of state police, CRPF and the dreaded Cobra battalions posted in the area. The routes to the area have been sealed off, and reports filtering out of the area from adivasis speak of atrocities against adivasis. This bears a striking resemblance to Home Minister P.Chidambaram’s Operation Greenhunt launched against indigenous people in Chattisgarh to evict them from their lands, and free up the areas for occupation by mining corporations like Tata and Essar.
Below is a narrative of the day’s happenings as told by Shweta Narayan and Madhumita Dutta over phone:
Even before our visit, we had alerted the District Collector on 8 December 2009, of our intent to visit and enquire into the situation. We had sought his assistance in facilitating a meeting with the adivasi leaders of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh imprisoned by the police in the wake of the 20 November, 2009, firings. We were particularly interested in meeting one woman leader who was allegedly raped in police custody. The Collector was told clearly about our intent to visit and our identities.
The team comprised:
1. Sudha Bhardwaj, Advocate, and PUCL-Chhattisgarh
2. Mamata Dash, NFFPFW, Delhi
3. Madhumita Dutta, The Other Media, Chennai
4. Shweta Narayan, The Other Media, Chennai
5. Rumita Kundu, Campaign Against Violence on Women, Bhubaneswar
6. Pramila, Muktigami Mahila Sanghatana, Bhubaneswar
7. Kusum Karnik, NFFPFW, Vidarbha, Maharashtra
8. Ramani, Progress Organisation of Women, Parvathipuram, Andhra Pradesh
9. Durga Jha, Chattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, Chhattisgarh
At 10 a.m., an All India Women’s Fact Finding Team consisting of 9 women reached Narayanpatna Police Station and requested to meet the Station In-charge.
We were told that the policeman was busy, and were asked to come in the evening. The person questioning us asked us for names and mobile phone numbers and names of organisations. We gave all of that. We noticed quite a number of uniformed policemen, and many people in plainclothes. None of the people in uniform (we assume they were policemen) had any name tags. We asked one of them who the people in plainclothes were, and were told that they were all policemen. We asked the man how many police were there in this area, and he said more than 2000 police. One striking thing is that none of the many people gathered there were adivasi.
About 20 adivasi men were huddled, squatting inside the police station premises. We asked the police man near us who they were, and were told that the adivasis were former activists of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, who had come to surrender. This has been happening for a few days now, and many newspapers are reporting this.
By this time, the crowd of so-called plainclothes police were getting restless. We heard people commenting saying: “Ab aa rahen hain. Jab hamarey gaon jal rahe the, tho kahaan the?” (When our farms were being burnt, where were you? Now they show up.)
Madhumita felt the situation was looking troublesome, and suggested we leave. As we were stepping out of the police station, our driver was cordoned off and was being questioned in a very hostile manner and being threatened. We heard someone saying that he is a regular to these parts, and they enquired as to his antecedents.
We somehow managed to extricate the driver. One of the policemen in plainclothes, who we saw inside the police station premises, was taking photographs, and he said “Maaro Inko.” (Beat these people up). That is when more than 200 people surged ahead. The driver was being slapped repeatedly. Madhu and 75-year old Kusum Karnik tried to intervene and that is when one man went for Madhu’s throat. Kusum was hurt too.
Rumita Kundu was verbally abused inside the police station. One man crudely said that all these women had come to sleep with the men there. Mamta Dash was hit on her back, and abused. One man attempted to strangle madhu. When she moved to save herself, her jaw was injured. All this happened inside the police station premises.
The driver was the one that was being assaulted most, and we did all we could to extricate him and board our vehicle. By this time, the vehicle was being broken. The rear windscreen was broken. With great difficulty, we fled the area driving towards Bandhugaon. We were followed by the plainclothesmen who claimed to be police on bikes. Somewhere between Bandhugaon Police Station and the village itself, we were stopped by two men in plainclothes. They said they were police, and they demanded to see the driver’s license. As he was enquiring, about 20 people gathered there. But nothing untoward happened here. We were scared nevertheless.
From there, we proceeded to Kottulpetta. Even before we got to this village, news seemed to have reached them about our visit. A road blockade had been organised, with a bullock cart blocking the road. There were no oxen. The people there, again all non-tribals, pulled out the driver and started assaulting him. They tried to pull down another male colleague of ours, Mr. Poru Chandra Sahu. and tried to beat them up. We intervened, and that’s when Kusum didi, the 75-year old activist, was hurt on her head. We were there for more than 15 minutes. More violence. More damage to the vehicle. More slaps for the driver. Our friends outside had been notified almost as soon as problems began, and phone calls must have been pouring into the Collector and SP’s office.
By this time, two bikes carrying one of the plainclothes “policemen” who had taken our names in Narayanpatna, and another plainclothes guy who was tall and burly, reached there and asked the youth to disperse.
We reached Bondapalli, the border village within Andhra Pradesh. Almost in no time, a jeep load of Andhra Pradesh police along with plainclothes youth (young boys) armed with rifles and bullets arrived on the scene. They demanded to know who we were. We were treated more like criminals than victims, and our vehicle was searched. Only after Madhu spoke to the SP of Vijayanagar, and the DGP were we allowed to go. The police who stopped us immediately changed the tune, and offered to help us with medical assistance etc.
Our experience with armed youth and police has left us clearly terrified, and convinced that the situation created by the police in Narayanpatna and this part of Orissa is extremely vitiated. We have the following concerns and demands which we conveyed to the media at a press conference in Parvathipuram, Vijayanagarm District, Andhra Pradesh.
When Medha Patkar, Binayak Sen, Abhay Sahoo called the Collector, Koraput, his first response was that he had no prior information about the team’s visit and no information of any such incident in the area. Later, he said he is rushing in a RDO to the spot. His last version, when the team was trying to flee the area after it was attacked for the third time in police presence, was that the team’s vehicle was found abandoned near Andhra Border and that there was no one in the vehicle. He stated the same to Binayak and Medha also. This was the time when some MPs had called the Collector and Governor and Medha had spoken to the Governor’s OSD. So we realised that either he was lying outrightly or he was being deliberately fed wrong information, in anticipation of another brutal attack, by the SP.
1. The scenario of terror that we witnessed, and were subject to shows the kind of tense situation prevailing in the Narayanpatna area post November 20, 2009’s police firings in Narayanpatna.
2. There is no access for people to get in and out of the villages in Narayanpatna, with all routes blocked by armed goons.
3. There is no way to get information about what is happening inside, and no means of verifying the very disturbing accounts we are getting about abuses, molestations and violence against adivasi people.
4. The number of plainclothesmen who claimed they were police, and the comfort with which people outside the Narayanpatna police station were interacting with the police, and reacting to one policeman’s instruction to beat us up, suggests that there may be some truth to reports that there is a Salwa Judum style Shanthi Samiti in this area as well. This may either be sponsored or working in close complicity with the police and state.
4. If the Fact Finding team of prominent women has been treated with such violence, it is clear that there is absolutely no room for dissent inside the villages.
5. All the people who attacked us were non-tribals.
1. The officers at the Police Station should be suspended to create an impartial stituation and enable the carrying out of investigations into the firing of 20 November, 2009, and the subsequent reports of atrocities against tribal people.
2. The SP Koraput should be suspended.
3. The Government should constitute a high-level independent investigation team and not depend on the police, who are clearly biased, and are using the language of terror and violence to suppress dissent.
For more information, contact:
Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj: 09926603877
Madhumita Dutta: 9444390240
Mamta Dash: 09868259836
All India Women’s Fact-Finding Team to Enquire into 20 November, 2009, Narayanpatna Police Firing, Orissa.

Orissa: Mining company’s scare tactics against human rights NGO

There have been repeated protests against Vedanta’s planned mine.
© Satyabady Naik
Metals giant Vedanta Resources’ Indian subsidiary has launched an unprecedented attack on Survival International, apparently to drive its researchers out of an area where the company is planning to mine.
The mining company has falsely accused Survival of ‘forcedly interacting’ with the Dongria Kondh tribe who live around the area earmarked for mining, and of causing ‘unrest.’ Vedanta has prompted a police investigation into Survival, with officers making a late night visit to a hotel where they believed Survival researchers were staying.
Survival researchers were in the Niyamgiri area of Orissa, east India, to talk with members of the Dongria Kondh community whose future is threatened by a proposed Vedanta mine on their sacred mountain.
Pavan Kaushik, Vedanta Group’s head of corporate communications, wrote to journalists alleging that ‘foreign NGOs including Survival International… are provoking innocent tribal’s to defame the government and the company’. In the letter, he attacked ‘foreigners’ for ‘freely moving in the region’ and alleged that they were circulating ‘false information’. The letter also invites journalists to contact the regional Superintendent of Police, who is named as available for interview.
In September the British government ruled that Vedanta had repeatedly failed to respect the human rights of the Dongria Kondh, demanding a change in the company’s behaviour. The government asked Survival to report back on what steps Vedanta had taken to implement these ‘essential’ changes before the end of the year.
Gordon Bennett, a London barrister who represented the Kalahari Bushmen in their historic win over the Botswana government, has been acting on behalf of the Dongria Kondh in their complaint over Vedanta’s behaviour, and accompanied the Survival researchers.
He said today, ‘We have not circulated any false information about Vedanta’s mining activities. All the information we have given the Dongria has been culled from Vedanta’s own mining plan, which it has never troubled to discuss with the Dongria itself. We have not ‘forcedly interacted’ with the Dongrias: on the contrary we have been warmly welcomed by all those we have been able to meet.
‘We have not provoked ‘innocent tribals’ to defame either the government or Vedanta. It is true to say however that feelings run high in Niyamgiri and that many Dongria regard Vedanta with suspicion and distrust. They believe that their way of life is under serious threat.
‘We have done nothing to create ‘misunderstanding’. It is Vedanta which has done this, both by its refusal to meet with us, and more importantly by its repeated failure either to consult the Dongria about its plans for their sacred hills, or to pay any regard to their views.’
He added, ‘If Vedanta has nothing to hide, it is difficult to understand why it has gone out of its way to obstruct our inquiries. Their press release is entirely without foundation.’
Survival researcher Dr. Jo Woodman is available for interview in India on +91 9953 409 060. For other media enquiries please contact Miriam Ross on +(44) (0)20 7687 8734 or mr

No news from Narayanpatna

Source: Radical Notes
“The fact is people have lost the fear of the law because they feel they can get away with anything. My job is to take hard police action against the Naxals. The fear of the law is to be ingrained in the people.”
This is how one of the leading police officers in Chhattisgarh defined his task. All of us understand what constitutes the mechanism of ingraining the fear so that it becomes part of the people’s collective unconscious for a long time to come. It has been practiced in Kashmir, in the Northeast, in Chhattisgarh among many other places, and now in Orissa.
The State has dealt with the Narayanpatna movement in Orissa too in a most brutal, yet tactful, manner so that the possibilities inherent in it are not realized, and its brutal suppression becomes a reminder lesson for others on what constitutes the legitimate within the evolving political economy in India.
As “a single spark can start a prairie fire”, the state apparatuses are not just busy beating the “spark” down, they are, in fact, trying to hide it or corrupt the vision of the beholders, so that the spark does not seem to be a spark. Even liberal fact finding teams are not allowed to enter the Narayanpatna block of Koraput. The bitter experience of the all-women fact finding team that consisted of prominent civil rights activists from all over India is only symbolic of how brutal the State can become when the question is of safeguarding the interests of capital and its agencies.
It would not be fallacious to say that the situation in Narayanpatna is a clear manifestation of the fascist conjuncture of capitalist development in India. We find a remarkable complementarity between the three wings of the Indian state and its coercive and consensual/ideological apparatuses in maintaining the rhyme and reason of political economic developments. The synergy among various levels of political and bureaucratic institutions and between the state’s repressive components (the local police, the cobra battalions, and civilian stormtroopers like salwa judum in Chhattisgarh) and the Fourth Estate of the hegemonic forces is unprecedented. Anybody who has attempted to organize press conferences in Raipur (the capital of Chhattisgarh) to highlight incidences of state repression is witness to mafia media men shouting at the organisers. All these form the fascio (a bundle of sticks or rods) by which the Indian state rules.
Today, we see entry into Narayanpatna virtually impossible. The police, local exploiters and the private militiamen whom the women’s fact finding team confronted on the 9th of December guard the very entrance of the area. To complement this, the local and to an extent the national media has been playing its role most sincerely projecting the movement as an expression of uncivilized violence, while remaining unabashedly antipathetic to the cause and scope of the movement. When fact finding teams have attempted to unravel the truth, what has happened is in front of our eyes. Hence, we have no news from inside Narayanpatna, except a few statements of the police present there – regarding how many are held or killed etc.
The height of brutality that must be going on in Narayanpatna can only be imagined from what treatment a women’s fact finding team received in the hands of ‘the armed bodies of men’ even after taking the requisite permission from the local authorities to enter the area. Abused and beaten came back a team of civil dignitaries with sincere intentions of finding the ‘neutral’ truth.
The media reports that Nachika Linga, leader of CMAS, who is now in the most wanted list of the government is under the shelter of the ‘Maoists’. It is necessary here to pontificate at the apathy of the media towards any move that has been taken in Bhubaneswar (the capital of Orissa) to empathise with the Narayanpatna movement. About 100 people from various organizations on the 10th of December silently demonstrated in the city’s Master Canteen Square against the issuing of the order to arrest Nachika Linga. This was something that could have been sublime to the media but what instead caught the media’s eyes is the probable alliance of Nachika with the ‘Maoists’. (However, if at all Nachika Linga is protected by the Maoists today, this is more a comment on India’s rule of law and those who see possibilities within it – it proves that the ‘democratic’ voices having faith in the present system are not able to protect people’s self-rule efforts).
Today, the State has militarized the democratic movement of the tribals and landless. To tackle the movement of the landless and the near-landless inside Narayanpatna, there is an already existing State sponsored militia. It is important to clarify that this is a well thought out strategy of the state, by which it demarcates the “limits of legitimation” for any popular collective action. And the state understands that the people have crossed those limits in Narayanpatna.
So war zones are being defined and the “national” media is fast becoming a “nationalist” media – a propaganda machinery to fight the influence of “aggressors”. However, this time, the aggression is from within – the “cattle class” which was bred to be slaughtered threatens the “nation” of the first class. The media in India today gives expressions to the anxieties of the first class, packaging its hallucinations as facts and news reports.

Indian media must wake up to violence committed by the state

The Asian Human Rights Commission says in a statement:
The existence of independent and strong media is a prerequisite for the working of a free and just society that governs itself by the rule of law. The role of media in establishing such a society is to act as the eyes and ears of the people, forming the collective conscience of the nation. After all what else does a democracy mean than letting its citizens make decisions that affect their lives? Independent media help the citizens in making informed choices by bringing news and perspectives to them. In short, free and impartial media is an important component to a democratic framework like its justice institutions.
The relative success of the democratic experiment in India in comparison to its neighbors owes considerable debt to its media. The robust resistance of the media to the declaration of emergency, one of the darkest hours in Indian democracy, is an example. It was the media that had the courage, augmented with exemplary resistance put up by all political and social forces, that openly opposed the dictatorial declaration of the emergency by the then prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
The Indian media did not spare even Jawaharlal Nehru, the first and perhaps the most loved prime minister of the country, when few of his cabinet colleagues were accused of corruption. It was the media that had courage to expose the gruesome events during the Gujarat state-led pogrom of innocent Muslims in that State. Bringing out the fascist nature of the rightwing Hindutva groups leading the carnage was perhaps the singular achievement of the media, leading to the erosion of support for the politics of hatred in India.
Viewed in this context, the recent developments in the Indian media are worrying to say the least. This is in spite of the contributions the media have made in exposing corruption, for instance, the shady arms deal during the National Democratic Alliance regime by the Tehelka, the petrol pump allotment scam during the same period by the Indian Express and the telecom allocation scam by the current United Progressive Alliance regime.
Similarly unambiguous is the media’s role in fighting against communalism, by continuously reacting against the witch hunt of the minorities by some political groups. Equally substantial is the role the media played in publishing the criminal and financial backgrounds of many candidates, who contested and eventually lost, in the recently held parliament elections. While the media has definitely held its ground and stood true to its prestigious past, on many current issues it has been regularly faltering.
Unfortunately, the media do not appear to be caring for its own record when it comes to the reporting of acts of terror committed by the state, while it comes down heavily on those committed by non-state actors. The media, both electronic and print versions, have been instrumental in enlightening the citizenry about the use of dastardly and mindless violence committed by non-state actors upon innocent civilian populations.
The argument put forward by the media to condemn the violence is plain and simple, that there are no issues in a democracy which cannot be sorted out by deliberations and peaceful means of protest, and that dissent can always be dealt with politically and democratically and violence, not sanctioned by the law, is intolerable in a democratic set up.
The media however appear to be swallowing its logic by failing to give equal seriousness against state-sponsored violence. Extrajudicial executions, torturing of suspects, murder of prisoners and under trials, and disappearances are quite rampant in India. These characters of a failing state require equal treatment or probably more attention than that is given to violence committed by non-state actors. Yet, the media do not give enough time and space to discuss these issues.
India has witnessed more than 1184 deaths in police custody according to the data published by the National Human Rights Commission. The data is concerning cases reported to the Commission between April 2001 and March 2009. Of these, 601 custodial deaths have taken place in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, all peaceful states with no insurgency or other armed militia operating within. Yet, this news appeared in an almost invisible corner in the print media as a single column news in the inside pages. The electronic media ignored the news all together.
Similar is the case of fake encounters. Instead of condemning it and demanding prosecutions the media have actually been instrumental in the glorifying the killers in uniform. ‘Encounter specialist and super cop’ are media inventions in their attempt in showering accolades upon murderer police officers for ’successful’ encounters. Some of these media heroes are now in jail or killed. For instance, the former Assistant Commissioner of Delhi Police, Mr. Rajbir Singh, was killed by a friend allegedly over disputes regarding his illegal investments, Mr. Daya Nayak of Maharashtra police, is in jail facing corruption charges and for his alleged nexus with the underworld. Mr. D.G. Banjara, Deputy Inspector General of Gujarat Police is in jail for his proven role in fake encounters. Even after the exposure of the real faces of these murderers in uniform, the media have singularly failed to get its act together barring a few exceptions.
After all, just how many times can one find such brazen acts of lawlessness like a live recording of the murder of two civilians by the police as it happened in Manipur? Just how many times the police, paramilitary forces and the army will let the media impartially cover their operations exposing their utter disregard for the rule of law as well as the constitution?
Any act of terror, violence, and extrajudicial executions is a crime against humanity. The question who did it is irrelevant.
No law or ideology can legitimise the killings of innocent civilians, unfortunately caught between the state and its opponents. Murder or other forms of violence by the non-state actors based on whatever justifications – religion, ethnicity or ideology – should be unambiguously condemned. So should be the case with extrajudicial and illegal killings and other forms of violence committed by the state.
For one fact, unlike the non-state actors, the state warrants even sterner criticism for torture, killings and disappearances of its citizens as it is the state’s duty to protect, promote and fulfil constitutional guarantees.
The state deserves a far stricter scrutiny as it derives the legitimacy to use force by being the custodian of the law, guaranteeing to use it only for the protection of the citizens and not for killing them.
The studied silence maintained by the media, in this context, is unfortunate. A single murder, unsanctioned by the law, committed by state agents should let the press hit the panic button. 1184, is an exception.
Yet the country’s media chose to observe blissful silence. This prevents the possibility of exposing the countless unreported ones, which the media could have exposed.
The Asian Human Rights Commission expects that this silence is not from complicity, and that the Indian media will wake up to its legacy of standing by the people and the truth that they have the right to know.
Indian media must wake up to violence committed by the state

Democracy and Ban cannot go together

By Amit Bhattacharyya, Professor of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
[Late November 2009]

In the recent days, two important developments took place in the national scene—both of which have far-reaching implications. One, of course, is the battle for Lalgarh. The second—that has some bearing on the Lalgarh movement also--is the banning of the CPI (Maoist) after it was tagged to the long list of what the central government described as ‘terrorist organizations’. It implies that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008 (UAPA) would henceforth be applied to the members of the Maoist party or people sympathetic to their cause.
The Maoist party was banned on an all-India level with a ‘terror’ tag on 22 June 2009 and, henceforth, it came under the purview of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amended) Act of 2008. And Gour Chakrabarty, the person who had been officiating openly as the political spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist) for quite some time, was picked up on 24 June 2009 from a local TV channel in the midst of a discussion on the Lalgarh situation. He was booked under the UAPA—the first instance of such arrests since the ban was imposed (TOI, 23- 24 June 2009). On our part, we would like to state a few words about the political implications of this ban, and why it should be opposed by all democratic-minded citizens of the country.
First, by banning the CPI (Maoist), both the central and state governments have clearly admitted the fact that the Maoists are a formidable enemy to reckon with. This is a fact which they cannot deny.
Second, by banning them, they have done a very important thing which they can never acknowledge in public. That is, they have also admitted their own failure to combat them politically. The Naxalite/Maoist movement is the longest surviving revolutionary movement in the history of our country, having a history of more than four decades since 1967. Decades of brutal suppression through state terror, despite major setbacks, only increased their strength. They had raised certain fundamental questions on socio-economic condition, poverty of the people, hunger, malnutrition, death, negative impact of the Western model of development on our society and economy, plunder of the country’s resources by foreign MNCs [Multi-National Corporations] and the need for introducing a truly self-reliant, pro-people development model in our country. Many of these issues are being raised by social scientists, writers, political persons, intellectuals, retired and in-service bureaucrats over time.
Even when Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh described the Maoist movement as ‘the greatest single threat to the internal security of the country since independence’ in April 2006, he, apart from stating other things, also talked of ‘walking on two legs’. Here the irony is that the Indian prime minister borrowed this phrase from no person other than Mao Tse-tung to deal with the Indian Maoists, although Mao used it to mean a totally different thing in a totally different historical context. Mao used it at the time of socialist construction. What he meant by ‘walking on two legs’ is to rely on both traditional and modern technology, to develop both the interior and the coastal areas, to develop both town and country and other things. While talking about the need to root out the Maoist ‘virus’ (he used this word later), he also admitted the fact that this movement was the outcome of socio-economic deprivation.
Nobody can wish the Maoists away, as their movement—even if the method they adopt from time to time one might or might not accept—is the outcome of centuries of oppression, exploitation, humiliation and state-sponsored brutality. The reality is that the successive central and state governments had never cared to address these fundamental issues, never cared to fulfill their own fundamental obligations to the people. So by treating it solely as a ‘law and order problem’, it has only betrayed its utter inability to combat them on the political and socio-economic planes. By banning the Maoist party, both the central and the WB state governments, in fact, have admitted their own defeat in the face of this formidable enemy.
Third, the invocation of this draconian law, like other similar laws now in operation in other parts of the country, tramples down fundamental rights of the people that the Constitution of this very country professes to uphold. The provisions of the UAPA are so draconian as to make a mockery of democracy.
Why are these acts draconian? We would like to state some of the salient features. First, according to the UAPA, anyone can be kept in police or jail custody for 180 days without any trial. Second, during this period, the detained person can be brought to the police station for questioning for as many times as the police officials think necessary. Third, it is next to impossible to get release on bail under this act. Fourth, as in the draconian TADA [Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act] and POTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act], the accused would have to prove his or her innocence, rather than the accuser/police proving his/her guilt in the court of law. Fifth, all the citizens are liable to supply information about the movements of ‘suspects’, i,e, to act as police informers, failing which they themselves would be booked.
Sixth, in the eyes of the State, all persons are suspected terrorists. Seventh, at all times of day and night, the police under some senior official of the secretariat level, are empowered to search houses of citizens for information and even arrest them. Eighth, by this act, any article, documentary film, report, essay could be suppressed and artists, writers, and even media persons can be arrested on the charge of ‘intend to aid terrorism’. Ninth, the prisoners would be tried in camera, the names of the witnesses would not be made public and this special court would be under the control of administrative authority. In short, this act is a new addition to the long list of draconian laws that trample down the fundamental rights of the people with impunity and brush aside all legal safeguards for the arrested and, the most important of all, make a mockery of the Indian Constitution in this ‘land of the largest democracy’.
Fourth, History has proved time and again that such invocation of draconian laws and unrestricted terror thereby let loose on the people in the name of containing that ‘enemy’ would have an opposite effect. During the days of colonial rule in India, many revolutionary periodicals/pamphlets/books were banned by the British government. But were the colonial ruling classes able to contain the spread of revolutionary ideology by so doing? This is simply because there was a social demand for such literature among the people, as these writings addressed certain issues which were burning issues and affected the vital lifelines of the people. When the state imposes a ban [on] something, puts restrictions on the reading of literature of people’s own choice, gags freedom of expression, the people, particularly the young generation, get more attracted to them. They would want to know why. Moreover, by banning a political party, the state also denies the right of reading the literature of that party. Thus the freedom to read and form one’s opinion is denied to the citizens. This, again, is a clear infringement on democratic rights.
Fifth, as to the ‘terror’ tag, I would like to quote a few words from a letter written by K.G. Kannabiran, the eminent civil rights lawyer, presently All-India President of the PUCL and President of the Andhra chapter of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) to the Prime Minister of India. While opposing the ban, he remarked: “Maoist intervention or for that matter any political intervention on account of the failure of successive governments to perform their fundamental obligations could not be considered an act of terrorism and justify invocation of draconian laws”(, dt. 25 June 2009).
Democracy and ban can never go together. The democratic people and the democratic press should raise their voices against this draconian law, demand its withdrawal and the simultaneous unconditional release of Gour Chakraborty, the Lalgarh people’s leader Chhatradhar Mahato, Prasun Chatterjee and Raja Sarkhel—both members of the Gana Pratirodh Mancha, Swapan Dasgupta, the editor of Bangla People’s March and all other political prisoners arrested since the promulgation of and under this draconian act.

Dantewada Padayatra not allowed by Chattisgarh government

Campaign against Sexual Violence and State Repression
Press Release: Women activists not allowed to enter Dantewada
On 12-13 December, 2009, about 120 people from numerous women’s and democratic organisations representing 10 states participated in the Campaign against Sexual Violence and State Repression meeting held at Raipur, Chhattisgarh. On 13th evening a representative group of 39 members set out from Raipur to Dantewada to extend support and solidarity to the adivasi women who had filed complaints before the NHRC and also filed private complaints of rape and sexual assault and are pursuing these valiantly.
The groups set out in 4 vehicles at around 10 p.m. The team was stopped at Charama Police Station, Kanker, at around 12.30 p.m. by D.S.P. Neg and his juniors; personal details were recorded while the drivers were whisked away separately inside the thana. Team members were forbidden to accompany the drivers and threats of `goli mar denge’ were repeatedly called out to us. Under the guise of interrogation the drivers were threatened with grave danger if they proceeded with us. Police confiscated one of our vehicles and forbid one driver from driving on allegations of improper documentation. The police finally allowed 3 vehicles to proceed to Makdi tola, the next junction, to procure a replacement vehicle for further journey. This entire episode lasted for about 2 hours.
After a twenty minute journey, the team was again stopped at Makdi on the grounds that the documents acceptable at Charama were now improper. Meanwhile our drivers succumbed to fear of further police action and refused to drive us further; we had also been followed by police in plain clothes. Around 3 a.m. the team somehow managed to board two buses going to Jagdalpur. These two buses were again stopped for passenger identification- first at Keshkal and then at Farusgaon; individual details noted were again noted each time and the halts were prolonged.
After a drive of 2 hours, the 2 buses were again stopped at Kondagaon police station; personal details were noted yet again. The passengers and driver were informed by policeman Awdhesh Jha that the buses would be allowed to proceed on condition that they offloaded the 39 passengers who had boarded at Makdi. Around 6 a.m., we were forced to disembark and wait at Kondagaon police station for the S.P. Khan M. Khan. DSP Vishwaranjan, when contacted by one of our team members, claimed lack of knowledge of our detention and promised to respond after finding the reason. Not only did he not call back but he did not take our further calls. S.P Khan, after he finally arrived at about 8 a.m., claimed that we’d been offloaded for our own protection. He also informed us that 4-5000 people were blocking the roads at Korenar and Dantewada in anticipation of our arrival. On further probing he claimed that we were free to leave and he would facilitate our travel to Dantewada with private vehicles.
We decided, however, to take public transport to Jagdalpur from the Kondagaon bus stand, primarily to consult with SP at Jagdalpur to assess the situation before further travel. Not surprisingly, the bus drivers at this bus-stand refused to take us; they claimed that they had been warned by the police. By this time the atmosphere was getting increasingly intimidating and oppressive as lots of motorcycles with youth cruised in front of us. Two trucks full of armed security personnel unloaded in front of us.
By this time many of our members had begun the process of contacting friends across the country and media both from Kondagaon and from Jagdalpur began arriving at the Kondagaon bus-stand. The team now began interacting with members of the public and press. We answered their queries and experienced no hostility; some of the local press narrated that the police were all-powerful in each locality and were instrumental in the suppression of free speech.
Given that we were unable to proceed to Jagdalpur, at around 10.30 we decided to return to Raipur by bus. This time though, our bus was met at Kanker bus stand by 10-15 men who initially blocked the entrance with placards, shouted anti-naxal slogans to intimidate us, and our co-passengers. As the bus left the bus-stand it was brought to a halt in the middle of the market; we again had men at the windows shouting at us. A man claiming to be a Haribhoomi journalist deflated a tyre; while it was being replaced two men boarded and shot us on camera at close quarters. We proceeded towards Raipur at about 11.45 a.m.
What we witnessed today has convinced us that all the reports of rampant violence, especially against women and their families could well be true. The state appears to be trying to hide the heinous crimes committed in this region by not letting independent teams enter the region and by the way it has tried to curb people’s efforts to reach there. It is disturbing to imagine what would be the situation inside the zone for women and for people’s movements and organisations.
The recent situation in Narayanpatna in bordering Orissa has also been similar where a fact-finding team of 10 women from across the country investigating allegations of molestation were bullied, intimated and roughed-up; their vehicle’s glass was broken and the driver was rounded up by the police at the behest of local liquor mafia, landlords and mining companies.
We hold the state responsible for our diminishing democratic spaces and demand an independent inquiry into this matter.
We further demand that people’s organisations have free and safe entry into these militarized areas for independent inquiry.
The Campaign is not deterred by the state’s efforts to subsume and threaten democratic rights groups and activists reporting state atrocities against women with the label of “naxalite” and “naxalite-supporters” and “undertaking anti-government activities”. Unquestioned, the state’s use of sexual violence as a method of repression would remain uncovered and increase. If justice is to be served, we – individuals, organisations and various sectors of civil society including the media- should join hands in protesting against state repression.
Women against Sexual violence and State Repression as currently represented by: AIPWA, AISA (Delhi), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, Chhatisgarh Mukti Morcha (Chhatisgarh), CAVOW, Dalit Stree Shakti (Andhra Pradesh), HRLN (Madhya Pradesh), Human Rights Alert (Manipur), IRMA (Manipur), IWID, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (Madhya Pradesh), Kashipur Solidarity (Delhi), Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch (Madhya Pradesh), Nari Mukti Sanstha (Delhi), Navsarjan (Gujarat), NBA (Madhya Pradesh), Pratidhwani (Delhi), PUCL (Karnataka), Saheli (Delhi), Sahmet (Madhya Pradesh), Samajwadi Jan Parishad (Madhya Pradesh), Sangini (Madhya Pradesh), Vanangana (Uttar Pradesh), Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha, Women’s Right Resource Center (Madhya Pradesh), Yuva Samvaad (Madhya Pradesh), Stree Adhikar Sanghatan (Uttar Pradesh), and individuals.
PUCL-Chattisgarh Statement
December 14, 2009
Dear Friends,
By this time it is clear that Dr. Raman Singh’s Government in Chhattisgarh is out-and-out to stop the DANTEWARA PADYATRA which was to begin today led by a widely recognized and well-respected Gandhian worker, Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram. Hundreds of Rights Activists, students, teachers, academics and lawyers were planning to join the Padyatra with the main objective of restoring a sense of confidence amongst the tribals who are living in acute fear due to continuous onslaught of the security forces and salwa-judum.
The Fascist methods adopted by the district administration in Bastar, Dantewara, Bijapur and Kanker in Chhattisgarh to harass and illegally detain the peaceful padyatris have the tacit approval of the Fascist Regime of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) Government led by Dr. Raman Singh. It is also clear that under the patronage of BJP Government, the RSS cadres are controlling and directing the fascist agenda in these districts, especially through Salwa-Judum. The State Police/Administration is playing a second fiddle to the RSS and Salwa-Judum, whose crimes against citizens and human rights violations have been systematically recorded and exposed by various fact-finding reports of human rights and social organizations across the country.
It is a matter of concern that the Governor of Chhattisgarh, Sri E S L Narsimhan is sitting as a silent spectator to the blatant violation of Constitutional Rights of these citizens who had declared to document the atrocities that the tribals have been subjected to including the situation of hunger, food insecurity, lack of health and educational facilities and other forms of deprivation faced due to the ongoing displacement and war in the region. His silence on the issue is all the more serious because an All-India Fact-Finding Team investigating the Demolition of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, Dantewara had met the Governor, Sri E S L Narsimhan after their return from the region on June 1, 2009, and submitted a Memorandum. The Team consisted of Sumit Chakravarti, Editor, Mainstream, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Winner, Com Janak Lal Thakur, President, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Adv. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, human rights lawyer, Mumbai, Adv Harsh Dobhal, Editor, Combat Law, New Delhi, and Vijendra, Joint-Secretary, PUCL-CG. The Report had clearly concluded that:
The Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) was implementing various government schemes in the area including the Mitanin Health programme, watershed development, water and sanitation programme in villages and Salwa Judum camps and Himanshu Kumar was also on various government committees including the district legal aid committee. It is inexplicable why an ashram run by him should have been demolished. The VCA was engaged in the important task of resettling internally displaced persons in their original villages, which no government agency had undertaken in spite of the Supreme Court’s instruction to the Chhattisgarh Government.
(Excerpts from the Memorandum submitted to the Governor, Chhattisgarh, by the Fact-Finding Team )
Hundreds of Padyatris have been harassed and detained throughout their journey from Raipur to Dantewara, and many of them have been illegally detained at Kondagaon police station in Bastar, while their vehicles have been seized and drivers threatened. It is a matter of yet another concern for peace-loving and democratic citizens and organizations that the Director General of Police (DGP) Sri Vishwaranjan is heading the state police administration which is systematically carrying out this Fascist attack on the padyatris, whose credibility is well-established through their lives and work.
Padyatris include Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Megsaysay Award Winner from UP, Madhuri of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, MP, Beena of Navsarjan, Gujarat, Zulekha Jabeen, Bhartiya Muslim Women̢۪s Organisation, Raipur, Vijay, Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Kolkata, Leena Ganesh, Research Scholar, Mumbai, Rinchin of MP Mahila Manch, Bhopal, Bhan Sahu, Jurmil Morcha, Ambagarh-chawki, Meera, Mahila Mukti Morcha, Arti Choksi, PUCL-Bangalore,
The pattern of illegal and un-constitutional attack on Padyatris reminds one of the similar attacks in November-December 1992 that were carried out on the Bharat Jan Andolan, led by yet another Gandhian stalwart Dr. B D Sharma, who was not only a highly respected IAS officer but the Chairman of Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe Commission of Indian Government Dr. Sharma and BJA along with many social organizations were then opposing the setting up of a Steel Factory in Nagarnar in Bastar.
The State Government is really worried that the Padyatra would strengthen the resolve of the tribals to resist large-scale displacement and State repression being caused by the various foreign and big-business investments in projects being carried out in the name of development.
On behalf of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Chhattisgarh, we appeal to you to kindly send a fax, e-mail or phone the authorities with the following demands that:
1. Padyatra be permitted to take its own peaceful course without illegal and un-constitutional disruptions being created by the Salwa Judum and State/District Administration/Police;
2. Padyatris illegally detained and physically assaulted should be immediately released, FIRs be registered, investigation be conducted by an independent government agency against the Salwa Judum and government officials responsible for the criminal intimidation and actions;
3. State Government should take all necessary steps to provide full security and healthy environment for the Padyatris to carry out their peaceful programme;
4. District Administrative/Police officers with criminal records and un-constitutional conduct should be immediately withdrawn from the area, and subsequent to the independent enquiry, action be taken against the guilty officials;
5. The State Government should conduct independent investigations by creditable officials/agency into the false and fabricated cases filed against the social and human rights workers, especially Kopa Kunjam of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, and withdraw the cases;
6. The physical intimidation and attack on human rights lawyers and activists like Adv Alban Toppo should immediately stop, and FIR be registered against police officials of Beejapur Police Station, responsible for committing such crimes;
7. The State Government/District Administration must implement the NHRC recommendations and subsequent order of the Supreme Court of India in filing FIRs against the accused of committing crimes.
The authorities to be addressed with these demands are:
1. Dr. Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, E-mail:,Phone: 0771-2221000/ 2221001/2331001
2. Sri ESL Narasimhan, Governor of Chattisgarh,, Phone: 0771-2331101
PUCL-CG in coordination with various people’s organizations, human rights activists, and intelligentsia is planning a protest demonstration at the capital city of Raipur, and also make a representation to the Governor and the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. We shall keep you informed about the developments, and seek your solidarity and support in fighting against the gross violation of human and constitutional rights by the Chhattisgarh Government with the tacit approval of the Government of India.
Yours sincerely,
Rajendra K Sail
President (Mobile: 098268-04519)
Dec 14th, 2009
A Padayatra planned by Himanshu Kumar of the Vanavasi Chetna Ashram was due to start today from Nendra village in Dantewada district. The objective of the padyatra was to resotre peace and create an atmosphere where justice can be ensured by instilling confidence among the people to stop migrating from the area in the face of atrocities being committed on them by security forces, SPOs and anti-constitutional forces like Salwa Judum. The local administration has taken several steps to prevent the Padayatra. Roads leading to Nendra have been blocked by felling trees and VCA workers are being prevented from leaving their homes by the government backed armed Salwa Judum and its latest incarnation Danteshwari Swabhiman Manch goons. A group of 40 women activists from all over the country on their way to Danteawada from Raipur last night were stopped, their vehicles were seized and the women themselves were detained by the Police first in Charama and then in Kondagaon. They were subsequently released but were told that a mob of 4000 with the objective of confronting them was waiting for them enroute to Dantewada. The police threatened the local bus operators not to take the women to Dantewada.
Even the journalists are being threatened not to go to Himanshu’s Ashram.
Meanwhile the Home Minister Shri Chidambram has expressed his willingness to visit Dantewada and listen to the grievances of tribals in an informal public hearing to be organized by Vanvasi Chetna Ashram on 7th January, 2010. We appeal to all NAPM members and supporters and other friends to come here for the public hearing on 6-7 January.
For more information contact Himanshu Kumar at 09425260031.
Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People’s Movements
Contact Mobile Number (of Amit Basole) 09559374152
Dear Friends,
Himanshuji and other friends of Dantewada have brought to our notice the latest attacks of the Chhattisgarh Police and the State Government on the VCA. Many of us are aware that on the 10th of December, ‘09 on Human Rights Day, Kopa, a VCA tribal activist, and Alban who is also a tribal and a human rights lawyer from HRLN, were both picked up, illegally detained and badly beaten. Alban was released next day but Kopa was arrested on charges of being involved in the murder of Punam Honga who was abducted by Maoists on June 2nd and later his body was found in a mutilated condition.
Kopa being charged for the murder of Punam Honga is absolutely rubbish. This arrest is part of the same series of arrests as was of Binayak in 2007, Ajay TG in 2008, Sukhanth in July, 2009 and now before the end of the year Kopa. The point is only one. If you disagree with the Chhattisgarh Government and try putting across another point of view then you will be removed from the scene. This is Chhattisgarh. And the Government of India ? It will watch in silence.
Kopa and the his work with the VCA
It is also very important to know that Kopa has spent more than 13 years of his life with the VCA. He is a brilliant singer and orator. Before joining VCA, he was with the Gayatri mission where he motivated people through his songs to stop drinking alcohol. It was his singer’s voice which got him a job in VCA where he not only continued to spread his anti liquor message, but now he also started organising kala jathas. On foot he and other workers started mobilising people to demand entitlements related to their Right to Food and Health and saving and reclaiming their Natural Resources. A very effective worker, he was responsible for putting together more than 750 community workers on these issues and more than forty main trainers in the district of Dantewada and Bijapur which is the work area of the VCA.
Kopa became uncomfortable for the administration and police since 2008. He took the courageous step of initiating the resettlement and rehabilitation work as per Supreme Court order of all those villagers who had left their villages due to the atrocities of the Salwa Judum and SPOs. He was the Rehabilitation coordinator of VCA. It was not just this work, he also exposed the Matwara massacre of 18th March, 2008 where three tribals were brutally killed and their bodies mutilated in a salwa judum camp. Kopa helped the families initiate legal proceedings in the High Court. He also got the widows of the three to file a complaint in the police station, which never got converted to an FIR.
He also exposed the Singaram massacre of 2009, where four girls were raped and murdered. Fifteen men were also murdered in this episode. Kopa got the families to initiate legal proceedings in the High Court and also got them to file complaints in the local police station. In 2009, he also exposed and took cudgels with the district administration regarding corruption in NREGA, including non-payment of wages to tribals. He was constantly fighting for people’s rights to get their share of PDS from ration shops, the only agency of the Government existing in the villages. Otherwise it is only the police and security forces.

The abduction of Nagesh Jhadi and Punam Honga, the 2nd June incident
Please recall that on the 2nd of June when Nagesh Jhadi and Kopa were returning from the Basaguda camp in Dantewada, their motorbike was stopped and Nagesh Jhadi the Panchayat secretary of Mallepalli was picked up by the Maoists. Kopa ran around chasing the abductors in the forest. He was unaware that Punam Honga (former Sarpanch), who was traveling in a mini truck, had been picked up later by the Maoists. Kopa decided to lodge a complaint about the abduction of Nagesh soon after, but then he was harassed by the SPOs and detained at the police station. So the next day Himanshuji went and brought Kopa out and they both decided to make their own enquiries about Nagesh’s abduction in the forest areas. But they were then led into a trap at Lingagiri by the SPOs, from where they managed to escape and drove hundred kilometres through forest areas and got out into the Bhadrachalam side of the forest where with the support of the late Sh. Balgopal of HRF, Himanshu addressed a press conference on the whole episode ( please see attachement- Himanshu’s statement from Bhadrachalam). We also know that Kopa had nothing to do with either the abduction of Nagesh Jhadi (he was released later) or the abduction and killing of Punam Honga, even then he had said that his life was in danger as he was being targeted for his work in exposing the Matwada and Singaram massacres and in trying to ensure justice to the families of those killed. In August, ‘09 too Kopa was picked up and beaten up by the SPOs. See attachment of his interview published in Hari Bhoomi saying that his life was in danger.
On 20th October, ‘09 Kopa, while addressing the meeting of the Citizen’s Initiative for Peace at Constitution Club in New Delhi, said that his life was in danger and that he would be arrested for his work.

Why the Arrest of Kopa now? IS Himanshu going to be the next one?
The arrest of Kopa has been made just five days before the padyatra that was to be undertaken under the leadership of Himanshu. The timing of the arrest completely gives away the Government’s motives. It is clear the Government does not want the padyatra to happen. They do not want the misdemeanours of the police, CRPFand other security forces to be exposed which the yatra will do as it will bring into the eyes of the public stories of people from areas where nobody has gone till now.
They also want to put the fear in the tribals of Dantewada that their fate may be the same as Kopa and Sukhnath if they connect with VCA. It is clearly an effort of trying to destroy the VCA completely. They felt that after the demolition, the VCA would shut up. But the VCA reorganised itself in Dantewada, the district headquarters. So the next attack was the arrest of Sukhnath on 30th July, ‘09, who they arrested under CSPSA on flimsy charges. The police thought that now the activists would lie low, but they were proved wrong. Nothing seemed to abate the resolve of the VCA in its endeavour to ensure justice to the people, so when the operation Green Hunt began in the forest areas of Dantewada, Himanshuji and his workers took the message all over the country. They facilitated the entry of groups and journalists to these areas who came for fact finding. They traveled thousands of miles to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai and spoke to thousands to people and built a public opinion on stopping the ongoing war and potential genocide. They provided evidence of police and SPO atrocities by bringing the victims of these attacks to the fore. Media covered all this. Under the pressure of the public opinion thus generated, even the Home Minister P Chidambaram had to meet Himanshu and agreed to come to Dantewada if a public hearing got organised. To top it all, the Supreme Court also issued notices when a case got filed there on the basis of the testimonies of the victims of the police operation.
This development and the announcement of the Padyatra, Satyagraha and Jan Sunwai was the last straw. Hence Kopa was picked up on false charges of committing murder and supporting Naxalites.
And now the next person on the radar of the police and the SPOS is Himanshu. A rally of Salwa Judum and SPOs, taken out on the 10th of December had as its main slogans ‘Himanshu ko maro”, ‘Himanshu bhagao, Bastar bachao’, ‘VCA ke karyakarta bhagao, Dantewada Bachao’ and “maro salon ko”.
Himanshuji informed me on the 12th morning that between 11th and 12th, the Thana Incharge of Dantewada sent police 6 times and also came himself investigating yet another false story that a jeep had left Himanshu’s house in the evening at 6 pm on the 11th and some of the persons in the jeep had tried to abduct one SPO who was on the road. The Thana incharge claimed that the SPO escaped under the pretext of wanting to urinate. On charges of attempt to abduction, this investigation is being carried out.
The latest incident of the Collector of Dantewada getting the Danteshwari Sarwajanik Dharmashala to return the money that VCA had deposited for booking rooms during the Satyagraha period, clearly shows that the State will not allow any other voice to express itself.
So friends, there is a clear cut war in Chhattisgarh. Whoever speaks out against this will be cleared from the scene.
This is a wake up call for all of us.
Come support the Padyatra, Satyagrah and the Jan Sunwai!!! See the attached announcement for details.
You can send volunteers, blankets, food and money and, of course, above all come to Dantewada!! You can send your Cheques or Demand Drafts to Vanvasi Chetna Ashram payable at Dantewada. ( see details below.)
Please circulate this message to others.
With regards
Kavita Srivastava
(PUCL, National Secretaty)
1. Name and address of the bank : State Bank of India
Dantewada (C.G.)
2. Bank A/C No. : 10753239968
3. Bank A/C Name : Vanvasi Chetna Ashram
4. Branch Code No. : 0545
5. IFS Code : SBIN0000545
6. MICR : 494002006

Buried Evidence: Report on Indian Army Crimes in Kashmir

BURIED EVIDENCE: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves in Indian-administered Kashmir
International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) announces the release of its report at a press conference on Wednesday, December 02, 2009, in Srinagar, Kashmir.
BURIED EVIDENCE documents 2,700 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves, containing 2,943+ bodies, across 55 villages in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts of Kashmir, based on applied research conducted between November 2006-November 2009.
The graveyards investigated by IPTK entomb bodies of those murdered in encounter and fake encounter killings between 1990-2009. These graves include bodies of extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions, as well as massacres committed by the Indian military and paramilitary forces. Of these graves, 2,373 (87.9 percent) were unnamed. Of these graves, 154 contained two bodies each and 23 contained more than two cadavers. Within these 23 graves, the number of bodies ranged from 3 to 17.
A mass grave may be identified as containing more than one, and usually unidentified, human cadaver. Scholars refer to mass graves as resulting from crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide. If the intent of a mass grave is to execute death with impunity, with intent to kill more than one, and to forge an unremitting representation of death, then, to that extent, the graves in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara are part of a collective burial by India’s military and paramilitary, creating a landscape of “mass burial.”
Post-death, the bodies of the victims were routinely handled by military and paramilitary personnel, including the local police. The bodies were then brought to the “secret graveyards” primarily by personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. The graves were constructed by local gravediggers and caretakers, buried individually when possible, and specifically not en mass, in keeping with Islamic religious sensibilities.
The graves, with few exceptions, hold bodies of men. Violence against civilian men has expanded spaces for enacting violence against women. Women have been forced to disproportionately assume the task of caregiving to disintegrated families and undertake the work of seeking justice following disappearances and deaths. These graveyards have been placed next to fields, schools, and homes, largely on community land, and their affect on the local community is daunting.
The Indian Armed Forces and the Jammu and Kashmir Police routinely claim the dead buried in unknown and unmarked graves to be “foreign militants/terrorists.” They claim that the dead were unidentified foreign or Kashmiri militants killed while infiltrating across the border areas into Kashmir or travelling from Kashmir into Pakistan to seek arms training. Official state discourse conflates cross-border militancy with present nonviolent struggles by local Kashmiri groups for political and territorial self-determination, portraying local resistance as “terrorist” activity.
Exhumation and identification have not occurred in sizeable cases. Where they have been undertaken, in various instances, “encounter” killings across Kashmir have, in fact, been authenticated as “fake encounter” killings. In instances where, post-burial, bodies have been identified, two methods have been used prevalently. These are 1. Exhumation; and 2. Identification through the use of photographs.
The report also examines 50 alleged “encounter” killings by Indian security forces in numerous districts in Kashmir. Of these persons, 39 were of Muslim descent; 4 were of Hindu descent; 7 were not determined. Of these cases, 49 were labelled militants/foreign insurgents by security forces and one body that was drowned. Of these, following investigations, 47 were found killed in fake encounters and one was identifiable as a local militant.
IPTK has been able to study only partial areas within 3 of 10 districts in Kashmir, and our findings and very preliminary evidence point to the severity of existing conditions. If independent investigations were to be undertaken in all 10 districts, it is reasonable to assume that the 8,000+ enforced disappearances since 1989 would correlate with the number of bodies in unknown, unmarked, and mass graves.
The methodical and planned use of killing and violence in Indian-administered Kashmir constitutes crimes against humanity in the context of an ongoing conflict. The Indian state’s governance of Indian-administered Kashmir requires the use of discipline and death as techniques of social control. Discipline is affected through military presence, surveillance, punishment, and fear. Death is disbursed through “extrajudicial” means and those authorized by law. These techniques of rule are used to kill, and create fear of not just death but of murder.
Mass and intensified extrajudicial killings have been part of a sustained and widespread offensive by the military and paramilitary institutions of the Indian state against civilians of Jammu and Kashmir. IPTK asks that the evidence put forward in this report be examined, verified, and reframed as relevant by credible, independent, and international bodies, and that international institutions ask that the Government of India comply with such investigations.
We note that the international community and institutions have not examined the supposition of crimes against humanity in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. We note that the United Nations and its member states have remained ineffective in containing and halting the adverse consequences of the Indians state’s militarization in Kashmir.
We ask that evidence from unknown, unmarked, and mass graves in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir be used to seek justice, through the sentencing of criminals and other judicial and social processes. As well, the existence of these graves, and how they came to be, may be understood as indicative of the effects and issue of militarization, and the issues pertaining to militarization itself must be addressed seriously and expeditiously.
The violences of militarization in Indian-administered Kashmir, between 1989-2009, have resulted in 70,000+ deaths, including through extrajudicial or “fake encounter” executions, custodial brutality, and other means. In the enduring conflict, 6, 67,000 military and paramilitary personnel continue to act with impunity to regulate movement, law, and order across Kashmir. The Indian state itself, through its legal, political, and military actions, has demonstrated the existence of a state of continuing conflict within Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
BURIED EVIDENCE is authored by Angana P. Chatterji, Parvez Imroz, Gautam Navlakha, Zahir-Ud-Din, Mihir Desai, and Khurram Parvez.
Dr. Angana P. Chatterji is Convener IPTK and Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies. Advocate Parvez Imroz is Convener IPTK and Founder, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. Gautam Navlakha is Convener IPTK and Editorial Consultant, Economic and Political Weekly.
Zahir-Ud-Din is Convener IPTK and Vice-President, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. Mihir Desai is Legal Counsel IPTK and Lawyer, Mumbai High Court and Supreme Court of India. Khurram Parvez is Liaison IPTK and Programme Coordinator, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.
Report, photographs, video clips available at: Queries may be directed to: kparvez@kashmirprocess. org

Call to stop an anti-Maoist witch hunt in Orissa

Posted by Rajeesh on December 7, 2009

Source: Radical Notes Posted by Satyabrata December 4, 2009 at 10:27 pm in India, Orissa, State Terrorism
On the 3rd of December, 2009 there was a general closure of all shops and offices in Athagarh to protest against the arrest of Tapan Mishra. On the 4th of December, a public meeting was organized in Lower PMG Square, Bhubaneshwar by several left groups like CPI(ML)(Liberation), CPI(ML)New Democracy, CPI M-L, Gandhians of Lok Shakti Abijan, Lohia-socialists of Samajbadi Jan Parishad and liberals of Athamalic Sachetan Nagarik Mancha. Human rights activists like Biswapriya and other progressive individuals together with the above groups comprised about 200 protesters. Among the speakers were Com. Jayadev, Com. Sivaram, Com. Bhala Chandra, Prafulla Samantara and Lingaraj. Beginning from the communists and Gandhians to Lohia-socialists and liberals, all of them united in their struggle against the ongoing McCarthyist repression in Orissa in the name of hunting down the Maoists. People who had come from different regions of Orissa reported similar arrests of tribal and dalit leaders in their areas. The protesters unanimously raised their voices against the crushing down of democratic movements in general and that at Narayanpatna. The apathy of the media towards the democratic movements was also discussed.
With already five days past the arrest of Tapan Mishra and with no response from the government after protests against his arrest, a four member delegation, consisting of Saraju Singh Samanta, Pratap Nayak, Mahendra Parida and Pramila Behera submitted a memorandum to the Governor of Orissa which included an unconditional release of Tapan Mishra among other demands.
With the government having turned a deaf ear towards the voices of dissent and using its fully armed machinery to crush them down, it is only creating a passion for destruction, of its own destruction, in the sphere of radical democratic politics and as Bakunin would say, “the passion for destruction is a creative passion too.”

Dantewada Padyatra, Satyagraha and Jan Sunwai

For the People’s Right to say NO to displacement and Tribal Genocide

And to demand the right to live with justice and peace

Dear Friends,

You are aware that the Tribals of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh State are continuously facing large-scale displacement from their homes, fields and forests a well as a genocide in the last five years. The first aggressive onslaught was by the State sponsored vigilante group called the Salwa Judum. Simultaneously, an anti-democratic draconian law called the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 was brought in to silence all dissent. In the last four years it has been systematically used against human rights defenders, journalists, film-makers, lawyers, intellectuals and ordinary citizens whenever they have the State has felt the need to silence people.

The latest move has been an escalated offensive by the State called the Operation Green Hunt in the tribal heartland of Dantewada. Paramilitary troops along with the state armed police deployed in very large numbers by the Central and the state governments have been carrying out military operations against the tribals in the name of curbing Maoists and retrieve territories from them.

In order to build public opinion and to support the tribal people in their demand to stop this displacement and genocide and to reclaim their right to life with justice and peace, several community based and people’s organisations, trade unions and human rights groups from Chhattisgarh and outside are planning a series of activities in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.

This letter is being sent to you so as to ensure your presence and participation between 14 December 2009 and 7 January 2010 at Dantewada and express your solidarity and raise your voice in support of the tribals. The list of events and dates are as follows:

1. Padyatra: 14 December to 26 December 2009

The first phase of this three week campaign consists of a padyatra from Nendra village to Dantewada town via Lingagiri. This padyatra will be led by Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram and other tribal leaders of this region and will pass through more than 17 villages.. A group of approximately 40 students, journalists, academics and activists from different parts of the country will also join the padyatra. The main objective of the padyatra is to restore a sense of confidence amongst the tribals who are living in acute fear due to the continuous onslaught of the security forces. The padyatris will also document the atrocities that the tribals have been subjected to including the situation of hunger, food insecurity, lack of health and educational facilities and other forms of deprivation faced due to the ongoing displacement and war in the region.

2. Dantewada Satyagrah: 25 December 2009 to 5 January 2010

Tribal people from all over Dantewada and other regions of Chhattisgarh will launch a Satyagrah on 25 December 2009 which will have the support of tribals from Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh among other states. We are hoping that large groups of people from these states and from all networks, unions and organisations working on diverse people’s issues will respond to this call and join in the Satyagrah for atleast a few days. The objective of the satyagrah is to bring together concerned people from all over the country to demand in one voice an end to displacement of people and to the war that is underway in this region.

A Raipur Support Group coordinated by Chhattisgarh Unit of PUCL has been set up for the Satyagrah. This group will provide assistance to the people coming from the Northern, Eastern and Western regions India as well as from other parts of Chhattisgarh. Raipur is situated on the Mumbai-Kolkata route and is well connected by train from most parts of the country. Dantewada is situated 400 kms from Raipur and direct buses are available between the two towns through the day and night that take about 12 hours each way

People coming from the South can take trains or buses from Vishakhapatnam or bus it down from Hyderabad. The distance between Hyderabad to Dantewada via Bhadrachalam is 500 kms and takes about 16 hours.

3. Jan Sunwai: 6-7 January 2010 (the date may be advanced or postponed by a day)

The Satyagrah will culminate with a Jan Sunwai where tribal residents of this region will share their experiences of the Salwa Judum, Operation Green Hunt and their struggle for justice. This Jan Sunwai will be witnessed by a panel of ex-justices, senior activists from various people’s movements, ex-bureaucrats and policemen, journalists and intellectuals including those from among the tribals.

This letter is a request to you and your group/organisation to begin preparing for your participation in the series of events given above. A more detailed invitation shall be sent to you soon. For more details please contact at the phone numbers provided below.

We are:

Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Chhattisgarh), Chhattisgarh Visthapan Virodhi Manch, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha - Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Human Rights Law Network (Chhattisgarh), National Alliance of People’s Movements, Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan, Chhattisgarh Bal Shramik Sangathan, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)-Chhattisgarh, Gram Sabha Parishad, Tribal Welfare Society, and others

Contact Persons:

Himanshu Kumar (Vanvasi Chetna Ashram) : 09425260031;
Rajendra Sail, (PUCL-Chhattisgarh): 09826804519;
Sudha Bhardwaj (Chhattisgarh Vistahpan Virodhi Samiti and CMM-MKS): 09926603877;
Vijendra (PUCL-Chhattisgarh) : 09406049737;
Gautam Bandhopadyay (Nadi Ghati Morcha): 9826171304;
Mithilesh 09407641487 VCA Dantewada
Veena Bhalla 09424270922 VCA Dantewada

Raipur / Dantewada, 1 December 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009


On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived to the American continent. Bourgeois historians conclude this was the demonstration of the circumference of the terrestrial globe and the discovery of a “new world.” But the truth is he was lost and a new era of massacres started. Natives of the West Coast estimate the killing of 250 millions Natives by the European settlers in North America. Other sources estimated the Native population in South America in 1492 about 50 millions: after 150 years of European colonization only 8 millions natives were still alive.
From North to South, Native poeple were killed under slavery, victims of rape and starved. Children, elders, men, women, were victims of the first bacteriological wars. Settlers of the United States received a reward for each Native scalp. In Canada, Native children were kidnapped and forced to live in the horror of the residential schools. Canadian bourgeoisie prohibited the Native children to speak their language. We are still searching the bodies of some children who disappeared in those sinister institutions.
Today, Native women are disappearing and are victims of rape, but authorities do not seriously investigate those crimes. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics revealed that 19% of all prisoners in Federal jails are Aboriginals; despite the fact they are only 3% of the Canadian population.. Natives are struggling for the recognition of their aboriginal rights still under the uncertain decision of the Canadian jurisdictions. But Canadian imperialism is certain on one thing for sure; their statistics stated the Native people are in the front line of extreme poverty.
The methodic elimination of Native people is an undeniable fact. This genocide started under the feudal period; and today, under capitalism, this genocide isn’t found his end. News from Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and British Columbia (among others) regularly report attacks on Native people. The capitalist states want to chase away the First Nations from their territories in order to secure the exploitation of natural resources to the profit of multinationals.
Since 1492, Native rebellions have found their path. Despite the unequal balance of power, Natives have always found a way to beat off the expansionist wars; the courage of Native warriors have given them the strength to stay alive. But the main reason of the struggle doesn’t have found a solution. The First Nations are not able yet to administrate their land, the waterways and the airspace of their territories, which are a necessary condition to their full sovereignty.
In those Canadian colonies, a New Democratic power must replace the old one. To attain their sovereignty they must reach the status of Nation-state. The Canadian government established the Indian Act to ensure the colonial status of the First Nations. Via the monopole of the Council Bands, Native administrators are ruling the economy and the political and social life of the First Nations in the interest of Canadian capitalists. Those bureaucratic capitalists are an obstacle to the self-determination of the Native people.
Others only insist on the folkloric character of the national liberation struggle of the aboriginal people. They refuse to acknowledge the communist science under the pretext that communism is a culture imported from Europe. Those apparatchiks want to keep the Native people in the ignorance in order to prevent the emergence of a new form of power. This new form of power would certainly have the strength to defend their culture and their territories—that is their full sovereignty—by laws and a well-organized army.
Some anarchists also rebuff the logical conclusion of recognizing Natives’ right to self-determination—that is the possibility for the First Nations to establish an independent national state. For them, this option must be opposed because “all states are oppressive by nature.” By thus denying Natives’ right to political separation, those people are supporting in fact the actual power of the imperialist Canadian state.
Guevarist theories are no better for the First Nations. We must learn from history. The “foco” never helped any nation to break off the chains of oppression. We must acknowledge the First Nations real situation; many of them are facing two big imperialist countries, Canada and the United States.
We must not deny either that Canadian imperialism has been shook by Native rebellions. The war of extermination against the First Nations has found a resistance but it is not over yet. Figures are clear, Native people are in the front line of extreme poverty; this situation will only change if met by a strong and powerful movement, that is a protracted people’s war for national liberation and New Democracy.
The current world economic crisis is far from over. Unemployment rates are the highest since the Second World War. Governments and bankers are planning new ways to “stimulate the economy.” The Canadian state is spending 40 billion dollars (2,5% of the Gross Domestic Product) to help preserve the system. Canadian capitalists and their governments want to go back to the “good old days” when the system was working well for them, but somebody will have to pay the bill. And according to them, it is clearly not the rich who should pay, but the proletarians and the oppressed.
They are explaining that their lost of profits and the huge budget deficit will force them to cut the social programs. They are promising highest fees for public services. Regarding the First Nations, they recently announced the opening of the Northern Projects Management Office (NPMO) and are changing mining jurisdictions around the country. They are asking cooperation from the Native “communities” because they want to secure the huge profits they are making by occupying the aboriginal territories. Meanwhile, mine workers are dying. Mining companies’ criminal negligence is destroying the land and nothing has changed for the First Nations.
Capitalist system is in bankruptcy. The bourgeoisie is asking us to make sacrifices for their benefit and their lackeys are claiming clemency for the oppressor. They’re dividing us with lies. Their tactics is to divide and conquer; ours must be to unite. “Solidarity is our weapon” must become our slogan; we must unite and fight the oppression and the exploitation. Certainly, the struggle will be a long walk and we have many rivers to cross along the revolutionary path. But the sun will shine for all victims of the capitalist system under the banner of the protracted people’s war.
Proletarians and Oppressed Peoples of the World, Unite Against Imperialist Aggression!
Lucho Rojas


Asian Age, London edition,
Delhi Dec. 6th 2009:
Throwing a direct challenge to both the Centre and the West Bengal government, the Maoists for the first time openly organised the foundation day of their military unit, People's Liberation Guerrilla Army, at Jangalmahal in West Midnapore district on December 2. Armed PLGA members cordoned off the entire area to counter any attack from the security forces. The event, attended by locals from 50 adjacent villages, was addressed by two top Maoist leaders on the run who are operating in the region: Kishenji, alias Kotreswar Rao, a CPI(Maoist) politburo and central committee member; and Rakesh, who heads the outfit's West Bengal-Jharkhand- Orissa border regional committee. This has come as a major embarrassment to West Bengal's Left Front government. Red-faced senior police officials have demanded explanations from the police stations in the area, including that at Lalgarh, over their failure to raid the gathering. Sources said that scared local police personnel, who were aware that the Naxals were meeting in the vicinity, had refused to venture anywhere near them. It is learnt that a sea of red flags could be witnessed at Jangalmahal and neighbouring villages with Maoist cadres singing revolutionary songs. That the Maoists are rapidly gaining control of areas in West Midnapore became evident with the oufit openly announcing both the date and the venue of the celebration in some of their pamphlets. Kishenji, addressing the gathering, said: "The PLGA soldiers from now onwards will protect farmers in Lalgarh and Jangalmahal. " His statement, later circulated by the Maoists to local villagers, said: "Our soldiers, with their arms and ammunition, will be on the paddy fields to protect poor tribals.... This step is being taken as the government has refused to accept our proposal and suspend all operations against us." The Maoists claimed they had urged the West Bengal government as well as the joint forces to suspend operations against Maoists for at least a fortnight since this was harvesting time. "Since the joint forces and the state administration refused to accept our demand and continued with their operations, which was preventing farmers from harvesting, armed PLGA members will now be provided to protect poor farmers and to counter the joint forces," the Maoists declared at the foundation day celebrations. The state administration is, meanwhile, finding it hard to explain why the police failed to act on information. A senior home department official, however, put the onus entirely on the state's Marxist government, saying the state's police had been "completely politicised. " He added that the "attitude of state police personnel in Naxal-dominated areas in Bengal was more (that) of party cadres than policemen." There were several such instances of the police "simply refusing to move" despite specific information about Maoists gatherings


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