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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 14, March 27, 2010

On ‘Operation Green Hunt’, Maoist Violence, Government-Maoist Talks

Saturday 27 March 2010


The following are the statements of different organisations and individuals, representing the civil society, on ‘Operation Green Hunt’, Maoist violence and the proposed negotiations between the Union Government and CPI (Maoist). These are being presented here for the benefit of our readers.

‘Operation Green Hunt’—An Euphemism for Genocide of the Tribals

Of significance is the number of killings that has happened ever since the commencement of the ‘Operation Green Hunt’, say, from the third week of September (2009) under the gaze of the ‘Reality Show’-driven sensation-hungry media wherein more than 4000 CRPF and 600 anti-Naxal CoBRA commandos entered Dantewada’s Chintagufa area in Chhattisgarh. People resisted this intrusion by the government’s armed forces, and in the battles six soldiers, including two commanding officers, were killed.

To avenge the death of the armed forces, the troops ‘managed’ a massacre of adivasis while resorting to arson of their villages, in which at least nine villagers were murdered in cold blood and four villages got totally gutted leaving nothing behind. The government claimed that all those killed were Maoists, while the eye-witness accounts, local media reports and independent fact-finding visits have confirmed that it was yet another stage-managed genocide of adivasi villagers, who were picked up and killed. Starting from the incident of August 9, 2009 in Vechhapal under Bhairamgarh Police Station (Bijapur district) to the one near Kistaram (Dantewada district) on November 10, 2009, all have been fake-encounters. Seventy adivasis in total have been killed in these fake encounters in this period. It should be noted that not a single one among them was a Maoist!

The government’s claim of killing seven ‘Naxals’ in an encounter on November 10, 2009 near Kistaram is incorrect as the CPI (Maoist) issued a statement stating that none of their cadres died in the incident. It must be registered here that even if one of their cadres get killed, the CPI (Maoist) declares it openly apropos the normal conduct of the CPI (Maoist). On December 9, more than 500 paramilitary and policemen entered the area under Kistaram Police Station from the Cherla Dommaguda Police Station area in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. They reached Tetemadgu village through Dokpad and Kurigundam, and encircled it. From morning till evening of that day, the police burnt down houses, women were particularly targeted through sexual violence while the rest of the villagers got brutally tortured. They took away four persons from the village. Two more villagers from Dokpad, who came to visit their relatives in Tetemadgu, were also abducted in this manner. After spending the night in the forests, the police force reached Palodi village in the morning of December 10; they detained yet another adivasi while completely burning down the village. The police then took all the seven captives near Kistaram and riddled them with bullets. The government was quick to claim this to be an ‘encounter’ with the Maoists. The police took away a few more adivasi villagers with them. Till date they are untraceable.

Between November 7-9 hundreds of the CRPF, CoBRa, SPOs and police forces unleashed a reign of terror in the adivasi villages under Chintagufa Police Station. They attacked the villagers of Burkapal on November 7, Elma Gonda on November 8, Minpa on November 9, and forcibly abducted 24 persons. Their whereabouts or their fate is still unknown even after four months. Given the track record of the security personnel operating with impunity there is every reason to apprehend that the police has murdered many of them and disposed of the dead bodies.

At least seven adivasis were murdered by the paramilitary Salwa Judum forces in different villages under Kistaram Police Station between November 9 and 10, 2009. Of them six were abducted from Tetemadgu and Dogpadu villages on November 9 while the other was picked up the next day from Palodi village. As the recent Tehelka field investigation with eyewitness accounts confirms, the two villagers from Dogpadu—Madkam Budra and Vando Mangdu—were dragged from their villages and shot dead. Similarly, eight adivasi villagers were killed on a single day on January 9, 2010 to be branded later as ‘Maoists’. While four were murdered in Sarpanguda under Jegurgonda Police Station in Dantewada, the other four were killed in Farasgaon under Benur Police Station in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh.

The body count of the adivasis is mounting day by day with intensification of the ‘Operation Green Hunt’. According to the government’s own admission, 107 ‘Maoists’ have been killed during the joint operations under ‘Green Hunt’ till mid-January. As more and more information pour in from local reporters and facts collected by activists braving heavy repression and threat to their lives, there are reasons to believe that as much as four-fifths of them were unarmed and defenceless adivasi villagers who have been killed in cold blood in fake encounters.

‘Operation Green Hunt’ has replaced the Salwa Judum—one of the worst murderous campaigns on the adivasis—with much more brutality as is evident from what is unfolding in the poor tribal hamlets in this mineral rich forest tracts. If in Salwa Judum more than a thousand adivasis lost their lives in Dantewada and Bijapur districts alone, in the hands of the 4500 SPOs created by the government, the present onslaught reaching fascist proportions is adding to those statistics of the growing casualties of advasis. More than 700 villages were brunt down and close to three hundred thousand people were displaced form their homes in the worst days of Salwa Judum. In all the places where the ‘Operation Green Hunt’ is on, the police, paramilitary and SPOs are resorting to large scale arson, rape, torture, illegal detention, destruction of property, burning down of villages apart from regularly gunning down adivasis in so-called encounters claiming them as Maoists. The print media has reported that an additional two hundred thousand adivasis have left their homes and taken refuge in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in the last three months fearing atrocities during ‘Operation Green Hunt’. Moreover, the Chhattisgarh Government is planning to make strategic hamlets out of the displaced population forced to live in government-run camps, thereby permanently dispossessing them of their ancestral land.

In Maharashtra, ‘Operation Green Hunt’ was launched in the second week of October from the Gadchiroli district, in which 10,000 troops took part. M17 helicopters of the Air Force gave surveillance and logistical support. Eighteen bases have been established by the paramilitary forces from where they are launching combing operations and extermination campaigns. Large scale repression of people are reported from in the eastern districts of the State, where the police and anti-Naxal forces like the C-60 have a long history of committing atrocities and terror on the adivasi people in the name of curbing Maoism/Naxalism. In March 2009, policemen from the C-60 force gangraped a 13-year-old girl in the Pavarvel village in Dhanora tehsil. In the Kosimi village of the same tehsil, policemen from Gyarapatti Police Station raped and killed Mynaben, a 52-year-old adivasi villager in May last year. In the latest assault on the people, the paramilitary forces are given a licence to kill and torture by the government.

In Jharkhand too, the initial rhetoric of peace talks and negotiations by the newly-elected, Chief Minister Shibu Soren has now taken a u-turn for support to the ‘Operation Green Hunt’. The government has stepped up the mobilisation of its armed forces by bringing in CRPF battalions from Assam and Tripura. The unleashing of state terror on the people of Jharkhand is not new, particularly on those sections who have resisted the state-sponsored corporate attack on jai-jangal-jameen. In fact, the police and paramilitary forces along with the vigilante gangs propped up by them like the Nagarik Suraksha Samiti, Tritiya Prastuti Committee, Sunlight Sena etc. have long been a byname for repression, torture, rape and murder. Like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Jharkhand too has recently raised a special ‘anti-Naxal’ force called the Jharkhand Jaguars in order to crush any voice of dissent against the govern-ment’s policy of destruction in the name of development. Anyone and everyone who dares to stand up against the attack on the lives and livelihood of the oppressed, is branded as a Maoist or a Maoist sympathiser, and persecuted. Various people’s movements against the displace-ment of adivasis, civil rights organisations etc. are facing state repression for a long time in Jharkhand, the scale and brutality of which is going to go up during the fascist extermination campaign of ‘Operation Green Hunt’. We can already see the inevitable fallouts of this war on people as exemplified by the murder of Rajendra Yadav who was picked up on the night of December 31, 2009 by the Jharkhand Police, tortured in the name of interrogation, and killed in custody. Similarly in Orissa there are several cases of rape, arson and killing reported from Narayanpatna ever since the commencement of the operation. In fact the President of the Chaasi Adivasi Muliya Sangha was shot dead while in a demonstration before the police and the paramilitary.

[Excerpts from press note circulated before the international and national media at a press conference organised at the Foreign Correspondents Club, New Delhi on March 5, 2010]

Appeal for Talks with Broader Section of People’s Struggles in the Forest and Mineral Belt

In the light of the recent demands raised by sections of the intelligentsia urging the govern-ment to heed the CPI (Maoist)’s “offer of talks”, we insist that “civil society” should rather put pressure on the government to initiate talks with representatives of all struggling popular and adivasi organisations. The CPI (Maoist) cannot be treated as the sole spokesperson of all the people in the forest and mineral belt, convenient though this may be for the state and for that party. Does the government believe that violent insurgents are the only deserving interlocutors?

There is a common pattern to the emergence of Maoist violence in many areas. First, a non-violent mass organisation like the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) in West Bengal or Chaasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) in Orissa arises in response to marginali-sation, displacement or violence against tribals by the police and paramilitaries. Then the Maoists step in, attempting to take over the movement and giving it a violent turn. The state responds with even more violence, which is directed not only against the Maoists but also against unaffiliated adivasis. At this point, some adivasis join the Maoists in self-defence, their leaders like Chhatradhar Mahato, Lalmohan Tudu, Singanna are branded Maoists or Maoist sympathisers and arrested, killed or terrorised by the state. Clearly, Maoist violence in these cases obtains legitimacy because of the unbridled use of force by security forces and violations of the fundamental rights of the local people. On the other hand, the unilateral and doctrinal use of the language of warfare by one armed group obscures the political agency of the ordinary people who have had no say in this declaration. It also tramples on the human rights of the often desperately poor people who are obliged to seek a livelihood in organisations of the state. Furthermore, it is not clear that the CPI (Maoist) actually shares the rejection of this kind of “development” by the people of the area, or whether it only wants to wrest control of this process from the Indian state.

The counter-insurgency operations mounted by the Central Government in these areas has led to unprecedented bloodshed, massacres of civilian populations and rampant violations of constitutional rights in the area. The Central Government insists on treating the affected areas as a “war zone”, and has shown little inclination towards tackling the huge backlog of tribal oppression that has created fertile ground for such violence. It is also true that whenever the government has conceded space, the conditions for this have been created by mass movements, not by the military actions of the CPI (Maoist). For example, the decision by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to put on hold the agreements with Vedanta and Posco in Orissa due to their non-compliance with legal require-ments for obtaining the consent of local adivasis, comes in the wake of sustained joint struggle by a range of political groupings.

We therefore urge all democratic sections to put pressure on the government to ensure that:

(1) regardless of whether talks with the Maoists materialise, talks should immediately be initiated with those adivasis who are losing their land; and with representatives of the various mass-based organisations/mass movements, if necessary by securing their release from prison;

(2) round-the-clock security from attacks by both Maoists and state-sponsored groups and security personnel be provided to these representatives and their families, as well as to witnesses in cases like the Gompad massacre and their families;

(3) The grievances voiced by these represen-tatives be treated with the utmost seriousness and addressed as soon as possible.

Maoist violence flourishes in the fetid atmosphere provided by the destruction of the rule of law and rampant human rights abuses by the state. If the rule of law is ensured in the forest belt and all democratic rights of the adivasis to freedom of association and freedom of expression, including the right of dissent to current “development” policies, are respected, and this dissent taken into account by the government, the Maoists will lose credibility and their deliberate use of violent methods, often designed to invite collateral damage, will lose any basis for flourishing in these areas. n

[Statement issued by Aditya Nigam, Dilip Simeon, Jairus Banaji, Nivedita Menon, Rohini Hensman, Satya Sivaraman, Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar on March 4, 2010]

Government Should Respond to CPI (Maoist) Offer Immediately in the Interests of Citizens

The Citizens Initiative for Peace welcomes the statement from the CPI (Maoist) offering ceasefire for 72 days as soon as the Central and State Governments halt their armed operations.

We recall that Home Minister Mr Chidambaram had said that the government would be willing to talk if the Maoists abjured violence for 72 hours. We had earlier welcomed that statement.

From this development it appears that both sides have accepted the necessity for talks. This opportunity should not be missed. Armed opera-tions by Government and Maoists should cease immediately, so that dialogue can begin. n

[Statement issued on behalf of Citizens Initiative for Peace by Manoranjan Mohanty, K.B. Saxena, Sumit Chakravartty, Nandini Sundar, Ujjwal Singh, Shalini Gera on February 23, 2010]

Government Should Respond to Maoist Offer

We welcome the announcement by the CPI (Maoist) to observe a ceasefire and enter into talks with the Government of India. Given the government’s expressed willingness to engage in talks, we hope that this offer will be reciprocated. This necessarily requires a halt to all para-military armed offensive operations (commonly known as ‘Operation Green Hunt’) immediately. It is also imperative that there should be complete cessation of all hostilities by both sides during the currency of the talks.

We are of the view that the Central Govern-ment, and not the State governments, should be the authority to conduct talks as the problem covers various States.

Additionally, the Central Government should ensure that, while the talks are being held, all MOUs, if entered into, should be frozen and not implemented; no compulsory acquisition of tribal lands and habitats be undertaken; and tribals should not be displaced. This is because the Central Government is bound under law to strictly comply with the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution that, among others, safeguards manifold rights of the tribals including their ownership over land and resources.

We further urge that during the period of the ceasefire and the course of talks, independent teams of observers and human rights groups should not be prevented, by either side, from going to the affected areas. n

[Statement issued on behalf of Concerned Citizens by Justice Rajindar Sachar, Randhir Singh, B.D. Sharma, Arundhati Roy, Amit Bhaduri, Manoranjan Mohanty, Prashant Bhushan, Sumit Chakravartty, G.N. Saibaba, S.A.R. Geelani, Madhu Bhaduri, Karen Gabriel, P.K. Vijayan, Saroj Giri, Rona Wilson, Anirban Kar on February 23, 2010]

We Welcome Reports of Government-Maoist Talks

We welcome the reports that the Government of India and CPI (Maoist) are agreeable to the idea of talks. In the present situation talks are the only way to come to a resolution of any problem, however difficult it may be.

We reiterate that the talks should be unconditional, and that they should be held at the Central level. We propose the following steps to expedite the dialogue:

1. Security forces should not move forward and should cease all operations.

2. Maoists should cease all operations.

3. The ceasefire should take place immediately.

4. In order to enable villagers to resume their normal life the security forces must withdraw from schools, dispensaries and other civilian buildings, as recommended by the NHRC. The Maoists must also give a commitment that government institutions like schools, ration shops etc. will be allowed to function.

We hope and trust that both sides will carry on the talks with an aim to finding solutions to the concrete problems faced by the people of the affected regions. Any disagreement in the first round should not lead to the breakdown of talks. There should be a series of talks to arrive at mutually agreed solutions.

[Statement issued on behalf of Citizens Initiative for Peace by Justice Rajindar Sachar, Manoranjan Mohanty, Himanshu Kumar, Kuldip Nayar, Meher Engineer, Nandini Sundar on November 16, 2009]

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