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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 30, July 17, 2010

Constricting Democratic Space through Terror

Thursday 22 July 2010, by Gladson Dungdung


In the midst of the hide-and-seek between the sun and the cloud, the environment at the Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand, was very tense on June 25, 2010. The reason was that the “Operation Green Hunt Virodhi Nagrik Manch” (Citizens Forum against Operation Green Hunt) had called a rally and mass meeting against the cold blooded murder, rape and torture of innocent villagers by the security forces in the ongoing so-called anti-Naxal operation codified as “Operation Green Hunt”. The Forum has been intervening on issues of police atrocity since the inception of the OGH. As a result, the police has declared it a Maoist organisation which is, of course, the outcome of Chidambaram’s theory of democracy that describes the struggle as one between ‘this side and that side’. Therefore, whoever questions Operation Green Hunt is considered a Maoist, a Maoist supporter or at least a sympathiser of the Maoists.

When the Senior Superintendent of Police (Ranchi), Pravin Kumar, came to know about the Forum’s rally and mass meeting, he started a special operation against the Forum. On June 18, the police caught Jitendra Singh Munda of Nuridih village of Tamar block, while he was returning from Ranchi to his village by bus carrying pamphlets of the Forum for distribution. The bus was also seized and the driver, assistant driver and conductor were taken into police custody. In the evening, the SSP held a press conference in the city with a smiling face, telling the media about how the police succeeded in arresting some Maoists. Jitendra Munda was asked to hold the pamphlets of the Forum for the media show. The SSP declared the Forum a Maoist organisation, its pamphlet as Maoist literature and also announced that he would not let the rally and mass meeting to take place on June 25 in Ranchi since it was an event of the Maoists.

THE Forum’s members were quite upset by the SSP’s baseless propaganda and action against the Forum. The senior members of the Forum rejected the SSP’s claim through the media. They also decided to meet the Adviser to the Governor, R.R. Prasad, and discuss the matter with him. On 22nd evening, when the weather was cool, a delegation comprising seven members entered the chamber of the Governor’s Adviser. He welcomed them with a smiling face and asked what he could do for the delegation. The convener of the Forum, Stan Swami, told him: “Your police has made us Maoists, therefore we are here.” “Please don’t tell this,” R.R. Prasad humbly replied. He immediately called the Director General of Police (DGP), Neyaz Ahmed, to his chamber. When the ritual of introduction was over, he questioned: “Is there really any problem with Operation Green Hunt?” Indeed, the question revealed how each and every person within the system is wearing the sunglasses made by P. Chidambaram & Co. Therefore, no one wants to see the pain, suffering and agony of the innocent villagers who are being humiliated, beaten, raped, tortured and murdered by the security forces.

However, when the delegation submitted to him some papers embodying facts and figures, including the case of cold blooded murder of Jasinta by the security forces, he patiently heard the delegation. The delegation members also told him how the police has been attempting to constrict the democratic space through terror. The security forces do not allow people’s protest against Operation Green Hunt, they support the corporate interests and also torture the villagers who oppose forcible land acquisition for the corporate sharks. The police is portraying the Forum as a Maoist organisation, its reading materials as Maoist literature and also threatening the bus owners who lent their buses for the rally. After hearing the plea, R.R. Prasad ordered a high level inquiry into the case of Jasinta and also gave the green signal for the rally and mass meeting. However, he refused to give a written permission and kicked the ball into the DGP’s court by saying that the DGP will look into the matter. He firmly said: “We are not waging war against our own people; therefore we have views different from the Central Government as far as the anti-Naxal operations are concerned.” Ironically, the scenario is completely different at the grassroots.

According to DGP Neyaz Ahmed, his police has been carrying out normal operations against the Maoists and he hates to call it “Operation Green Hunt”. “We cannot hunt the people, only animals are hunted,” he said. After hearing so many complaints about his gunmen, he was upset but assured the delegation that the rally and mass meeting would take place; but he put a condition: there should not be any violence. However, he said that he would confirm it only the next day. In the evening SSP Pravin Kumar called Stan Swami over the phone and asked him for a letter to get written permission. Finally, all the legal procedures were completed after running from pillar to post and the final green signal was given to the Forum for the rally and mass meeting.

In the morning of June 25, nearly 100 security personnel comprising the RAF, JAP and local police were present at the Jaipal Singh Stadium much before the arrival of the villagers. As the time for the rally approached, police vehicles started rushing to the venue where the security forces were already present. It was 12 o’clock noon, a young man entered the stadium with a camera in hand. He introduced himself as a crime reporter of a national news channel. We just laughed but he didn’t understand. We questioned him: “Do our rally and mass meeting come under the purview of your ‘crime reporting’?” He smiled and responded: “Only my boss knows because he has assigned me this job.” We were shocked to see the electronic media’s interest. They never come to cover our programmes without invitation. Of course, we had informed the print media about the event but not the electronic media. Perhaps, their bosses sent them to cover the event as it comes under the preview of ‘crime’ in their definition. Obviously, the media also considers us as Maoist supporters.

After a few minutes, another police vehicle stopped in front of us. A police officer started questioning us one by one. The questions were—who are you? What do you do? Where do you come from? He questioned and wrote something in his diary. Indeed, it was very clear that the police knew nothing about us though the media had published several reports regarding our work, which shows how intelligent our intelligence agencies are. Though we were told that the security forces were there for our protection, that was not the case. All of them had come with prejudice in their mind and heart that the Maoists have called the rally and mass meeting. They had taken for granted that we are all Maoists or at least their supporters.

AMIDST all this, we got phone calls from two senior members of the Forum—Xavier Soy and Ramesh Dey who are based at Kuchai and Kharsawan respectively in Saraikela-Kharsawan district. Both of them described how the police terrorised them in a bid to suppress the democratic rights of the people of Saraikela-Kharsawan district. The Superintendent of Police of Saraikela-Kharsawan, Abhishek, threatened both of them several times for raising questions against ‘Operation Green Hunt’. On June 24, SP Abhishek called Xavier Soy over the phone and told him to abstain from the rally and mass meeting. He also threatened him with life imprisonment if he didn’t obey his order. On the next day, when Xavier Soy was almost ready to depart for Ranchi, a police vehicle carrying 20 police personnel reached his home at Shiyadih village in Kuchai block at 7:30 in the morning. He was stunned to see them.

The officer in charge of the Kuchai Police Station, A.K. Thakur, told him not to take any villager to Ranchi. When Xavier Soy started speaking against the violation of democratic rights of the villagers, the officer in charge threatened him by saying: “If you don’t listen to me, you will be stopped at Arki, Tamar or Bundu Police Stations and sent to jail.” A bus that was standing at Xavier’s courtyard was taken to the police station. The police stopped nine buses (three at Khilari, six buses at Siadih) which were bringing about 600 villagers for the rally and mass meeting from Saraikela-Kharswan district. The police also captured two buses bringing people for the meeting from West Singhbhum district. They were detained by the police in Tebo Ghat for five hours. As a result, they could not participate in the rally and mass meeting in Ranchi, which is a clear violation of the constitutional rights of the people. The paramilitary forces and local police were deployed across the State to prevent people from participating in the rally and mass meeting. The Jharkhand Police wanted to show that they have mass support for Operation Green Hunt and only a few people are opposing it.

Finally, about 400 villagers turned out for the rally, which was small in number as 5000 people were expected for the event. However, the number, even if small, did not discourage the people. They turned up to challenge the unjust rule of the mighty guns. It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon, the villagers started walking to the city. “Stop killing innocent villagers in the name of cleansing the Maoists”, “Withdraw Operation Green Hunt” and “Protect our human rights” were the main slogans raised by them.

It had already started to drizzle. I saw an old Adivasi woman walking with the support of a stick and raising slogans with the enthusiasm of a young woman. She smiled and said: “I’m sure, I was born in 1933 and I’m walking for justice.” Her name is Hiramani Lakra. She is 77 years old, lives with her family in a village called Sidrol, which falls under Khijri block in Ranchi district. She walked nearly five kilometres in the city shouting slogans and raising her hand against injustice. She also heard the speakers patiently at the mass meeting. At the end, when Stan Swami asked a question: “Shall we go ahead with the fight or end here?” She was the first to raise her hand in support of the fight for justice which, of course, will continue till the humiliation, rape and torture by the security forces come to a halt.

We live in the largest democratic country in the universe and also applaud ourselves for it. But unfortunately, the Indian state has been constricting the democratic space of the villagers, especially the Adivasis, Dalits, poor, women and children. Our honourble parliamentarians do not only table the policies, programmes and budget but they also table money in the Indian Parliament and nobody is punished for defaming our largest democracy. Now the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) has become a haven for the corporate houses. We have more than 100 billionaires in the Upper House including Mallya, Ambani and Kedi. In these circumstances, if we have to protect our democracy, we must under-stand why the 77-year-old Adivasi woman, Hiramani, walked in the city for justice; she was born before the existence of the Indian state but is not satisfied by the last 63 years of Indian rule.

The most relevant questions are :does Indian democracy have space for the voices of dissent? Is the word “no” meaningless in Indian democracy? Or the “no” of the marginalised people meaningless in Indian democracy? Of course, without “no” democracy is meaningless but do the people of ruling classes understand it and respect the dissenting voices? We must understand that we all are equal as the citizens of India irrespective of our race, caste, sex, religion and so on. Therefore, the Indian state should hear the dissenting voices instead of terrorising democrats and constricting the democratic space with the power of guns.


Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer from Jharkhand. He can be contacted at

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