[Marxism] India: Bastar, the Real Divide behind the Impending Dirty War

Politicus E. epoliticus at gmail.com
Sun Sep 20 12:25:33 MDT 2009

The following article was published in Radical Notes
(radicalnotes.com) on 28 August 2009.  I have included an excerpt, and
a link to the entire article at the end of this message.  My
motivation in sending this article is to provide the comrades with
political context to supplement the petition that I sent yesterday.


Gautam Navlakha and Asish Gupta

After two months of persistence Bastar Sambhag Kisan Sangharsh Samiti
(BSKSS) could hold its first rally cum public meeting on June 1, 2009
in Jagdalpur to protest displacement of adivasi peasants from their
land and forest as well as construction of Bodh Ghat Dam,
privatization of mines and river water resources. As the only two
'outsiders' we looked on as streams of people at the height of summer
month walked raising slogans and their fist. They gathered at College
Campus and then from Dharampura the rally made its way to Indira
Priyadarshini Stadium. Their short but wiry bodies in terms of age and
gender may have been different but the steps they took, many barefoot,
were determined and firm. After the rally as people made their way
into the Stadium some were seen leaving in a different direction.
These were people who had arrived the night before had to travel long
distances to return home and anxious to do so before dusk fell. But
those who remained behind for the public meeting sat under the shade
provided by canopies rented by the organizers. They sat down to
listen. Slogans had been shouted now was the time to hear what their
own people had to say.

Organisers claimed 20-25 thousand adivasi peasants came for the rally
at Jagdalpur on June 1. There were certainly more than 15 thousand
people in the rally, local scribes affirmed, maybe even more. But no
one was doing a headcount so it remains a guesstimate. Numbers apart
the turnout was nevertheless impressive given that the administration
had given the permission just the day before, after more than two
months of  prevarication, on morning of Sunday 31st May.  For so many
to come at such short notice from four of the five districts
(Narayanpur, Bastar, Dantewada, and Bijapur), which comprise Bastar
division, was no mean achievement. Lohandiguda peasants walked all the
way as did those who came from Abuj Madh across the river Indrawati.
Others walked and then took bus to reach Jagdalpur.  They came because
their very existence is under threat. Many could not make it,
especially those from Kanker district, which boasts of the infamous
Jungle Warfare School, which trains soldiers to become more proficient
at fighting their own people. According to the organizers transporters
were told by people in the administration in Kanker not to provide
buses. There was no way to cross check this claim but there were
people from four districts.

Those who came did not come to listen to some potentate or leader from
Raipur or Delhi. The BSKSS did not pay them money to entice them
there. They came to lodge their protest and listen to their own who
addressed the gathering in their individual capacity, keeping their
party and other affiliations aside. Many had been until the other day
at loggerhead. Thus entire spectrum of politics belonging to the right
and left including sadhus/mendicants addressed the gathering. Some
spoke in Gondi and others in Hindi. But the message was more or less
the same. All voiced their opposition to government's development
policy, and were determined to fight in the common cause of saving
Bastar from an administration which was backing the capitalist
profiteers and marauders, not our words but this is how the speakers
described them.

The supposedly 'national' media was of course unaware of the rally and
meeting since their "sources" either did not inform them nor was this
a sensational incident (euphemism for landmine blast/jail break...)
to vent their outrage where Bastar is concerned. The local media of
Bastar alone reported the event. And they covered it truthfully. But,
the administration remained alert, which is to say fearful, till the
very end with huge deployment of security forces. Jagdalpur edition of
Navbharat newspaper (2 June, 2009) reported that the administration
and local industrialists were taken aback by the large turnout because
permission had given just the day before the rally and yet people were
mobilized in such large number. They also pointedly referred to the
fact that this was the first time ever that such a large rally cum
meeting was organized entirely by local people.  Haribhumi, another
local newspaper, wrote the next day that peasants who came paid for
their own travel and that the administration was caught unaware by the
rather well organized event. Local edition of Dainik Bhaskar (June 2,
2009) added that throughout the rally and public meeting the officials
remained busy monitoring what was happening.

Be that as it may. In their memorandum, addressed to the Governor of
Chhattisgarh, the organizers list various proposed projects, including
that of Tata, Jindal, Essar and Mittal for which MoUs have been
signed. They point out how the Tata Steel project (for which,
coincidentally, the MoU was signed a day before the formal launch of
Salwa Judum in June 2005) has through 'stealth and use of force' got
peasants to part with their land and then forged compensation paid to
the peasants. They wrote that they were in possession of at least 100
such cases of forged compensation. The memorandum mentions that Bodh
Ghat Dam not only 'poses environmental threat but submergence of
thousands acres of forest land', which in turn also means loss of
minor forest produce for the adivasis. They go on to refer to
privatization of mines in Chargaon, Ravghat, Kuvve, Budhiari, Madh,
Amdai, Metta among others, which will 'benefit private companies not
the people of Bastar'. Finally they refer to the fall in water level
in parts of Bastar region due to the Essar pipeline  meant to
transport fragmented  iron ore from Dantewada to Vishkhapatnam.(1) All
this means, according to them, loss of livelihood  and destitution for
an already impoverished peasantry. They instead asked  administration
to help promote agriculture, provide power, construct ponds, check
dams, small dams, lift irrigation, build anicuts, promote forest based
 cottage industry   and small industries as an alternate model of



The full article is available at http://bit.ly/1lZOIh.

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