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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 11, March 6, 2010

Why We Oppose ‘Green Hunt’

Saturday 6 March 2010, by Ambrose Pinto

For the tribals and the poor, “Green Hunt” is nothing else but a united front of state and mining corporations to grab their land and rich natural resources by silencing the voices of those who fight for their homeland rights. The state, the tribals and the poor believe, is in nexus with the designs of the multinational and Transnational corporations. The Honourable Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, had said that sacred hills do not give people food to eat or clothes to wear. That is why he explains that the state has decided to modernise and industrialise the tribal belt to provide food, clothing and employment. The only question the tribals are raising is whether they have any say over the model of development that the state has decided to impose on them. Can the state along with the corporations decide what kind of development they should adopt in a democracy? What has happened to the tribal self-rule law?

Should we Modernise the Tribals?

They do not buy the arguments of the Minister or the state that they need to be modernised or industrialised. What does modernisation and industrialisation mean for them? It is a mechanism to dry their water bodies, to pollute their environment and poison their air. Their forests and fertile fields have provided them employment and livelihood and they have been able to establish an intimate relationship with nature. They may like the Minister and the hostile state to go and check out the biodiversity of the hills of tribal India and how the food and medicine from these forests have sustained human civilisation for thousands of years. It is not the tribals and their livelihoods that matter for the state but the desire to mortgage the country to the multinationals and transnationals that has made the tribals angry.

Operation Green Hunt

How do they understand “Operation Green Hunt”? They look at it as an abominable and dangerous device to pauperise them further and hence they are prepared to resist it at all costs. The state has made statements that “Operation Green Hunt” is against Maoists/Naxalites. But the tribals think since Maoists and Naxals are armed, they can defend themselves. It is they who are unable to protect themselves. Since they hail from the oppressed, exploited, deprived masses and they have nothing to gain but everything to lose, they are willing to align themselves with the extremists since they have no other alternatives for protection and to main-tain control over their resources. Militancy will exist as long as poverty and deprivation of the rural masses exist. Given the increasing poverty, they are an animated and motivated force who will lay down their life for their livelihoods. They are equally aware that the police and para-military forces are placed in their territory to help the Corporates grab their economic resources.

Green Hunt is Loot and Plunder of Tribal Resources

Green Hunt, therefore, is actually a hunt for the green forests, green fields and water sources, rivers and springs, where tribals live and do agricultural work as the only source of suste-nance. It is actually a hunt by industries for the rich minerals in tribal land, denying the tribals the right over their natural resources. It is a public robbery by the state. The state desires to turn these areas into waterless deserts and pollute the air, water, vegetation due to the national and international corporate houses who are exerting tremendous pressure on the Indian Government to open up the country’s natural resources for industrial exploitation. With state patronage, several corporations have looted the tribals and the poor already. There are examples of Enron responsible for the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Coke group in Kerala and several other MNCs who have polluted the environment and already robbed the tribals of their legitimate resources.

Green Hunt is a Head-hunt of

Tribal Leaders

Green Hunt is also a head-hunt for those young tribal leaders who are spearheading the People’s Resistance Movements against the displacement of the tribal people and alienation of their ancestral land with all its rich mineral resources. The state’s position that Green Hunt is actually a hunt for Maoists/Naxalites is simply not accepted by the tribals. The operation is a massive hunt for ordinary, rural, tribal people and their young leaders who are resisting the MNCs/TNCs. The heartland of India has been witnessing massive displacement of adivasis partly because of violence by the security forces deployed by the Central Government and vigilante groups such as ‘Salwa Judum’. In Chhattisgarh alone, over 2,00,000 adivasis in 644 villages have been displaced while this resource rich land is being sold off to mining corporations, both Indian and foreign. Accom-panying this displacement is an equally brutal violation of human rights, through perpetration of torture, rape and physical violence against the adivasis. Does the state expect the tribals to be silent in the midst of these brutalities? When the state takes away their right to live by denying them access to their land and resources, what other alternatives do they have?

Greater Good Argument

The Maoist/Naxal uprising may not be a spontaneous uprising of the indigenous peoples. But when attempts are made to totally exclude the tribals from their cultural and environmental life, there is bound to be total alienation. Why should the adivasis and Dalits give up their homelands, livelihoods and forest access “for the greater good” as defined by the state? The problem with the greater good argument is that resources and nature are always handed over to an elite model of development that has nothing to do with the Dalit or tribal way of life and civilisation. In the early days of economic liberalisation, they had to give up their homeland, livelihood and forest access for more water and land to people of the plains. At the second phase of the opening up of the economy, they are being asked to give up their homeland, livelihood and forest access for mining aluminum and other rich resources of the forests for companies like POSCO and Vedanta.

Repression is No Answer

If the state is honest, it should ask itself whether state repression can solve the issue. Can state violence be a solution for the tribal problems in a democracy? The answer is a clear no. It is unfortunate that India is increasingly becoming a repressive, armed state. The Salwa Judum is an example where a nation-state arms people against people encouraging civil war in its own territory to further the designs of its development model. The only group that the armed forces are protecting is the greedy mining companies. Through repression, the people being killed, murdered and repressed are the poor and the already impoverished. Instead of lifting them from their poverty, the state’s decision to wipe them out cannot be accepted as a solution in any humanitarian state.

Dialogue with All including the

Tribals is the Answer

For a dialogue the state may have to re-look on its development policy, the root cause for the present violence. In a democracy, people have to evolve their own model of development. The state cannot impose one from above. Such models have to be plural and include the culture and civilisations of communities. That would mean that no meaningful dialogue is possible without rejecting the present neo-liberal model of development and revoking the dubious licences that have been issued to loot and plunder the tribal resources. There is a need to include the alienated tribal communities in the whole process of dialogue. Maoists and Naxals are no represen-tatives of the tribals though they may be concerned of their wellbeing. Without the inclusion of tribal leaders, no meaningful outcome would emerge from dialogue. The Central Government has decided to pour in a lot of money in the regions. But such money invested in the area without any reference to the people of the region may prove to be counter-productive. There is another group that has encouraged violence in the area: the arms manufacturers. They would likely be against any kind of dialogue since they would have to close down their lucrative business. They need to be isolated. Some of them may be connected with the Salwa Judum. The promoters of this local weapons industry may include Ministers, bureaucrats and some respected corporations. It is equally important to keep out the Mahapatras and Misras and the likes who are seen as enemies of the people by the tribals. They have looted the tribal wealth for years and attacked tribal livelihoods. While violence can never be a solution, a genuine dialogue with those who are crushed by the present model of development with a desire to include them with their own model of development in building the nation will surely end the violence and a new era of development, as defined by the tribals, may bring peace and prosperity to the area.

A former Director of the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, Dr Ambrose Pinto SJ is currently the Principal of St Joseph’s College, Bangalore.

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