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Bastar villagers protest against Tata steel plant

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 17, 2007

While Nandigram still simmers, there is another land-related dispute brewing in Bastar in Chhattisgarh where farmers are up in arms against a proposed steel plant by the Tatas.

The farmers in the tribal Bastar area in Chhattisgarh are fighting to hold on to their land. They say that the government is forcibly evicting them to make way for the 10,000 crore steel plant to be built by the Tatas.

Protests have reached a pitch where government officials and the police are running scared to visit the affected villages.

”They were about 300 in numbers, carrying lathis. They spoke against the Tatas. They accused us of disbursing compensation to the project affected people. They asked us why we were patrolling during night,” said Anant Ram Nag, an injured police constable.

A villager of Bastar said, ”They are threatening us. People are opposing the Tatas. We are not afraid. We will stay here and die here.”

Some villagers who work for government departments say they are being threatened with transfers or even dismissal if they don’t part with their land for the project.

The Tatas will need more than 4,000 acres of land in 10 villages in Bastar for its steel’s plant.

With the protests getting stronger, the Chhattisgarh government has been able to only acquire only a fourth of that so far.

GS Mishra, Collector, Bastar said, ”They are trying to create unrest and a law and order problem. Is it possible that the administration could threaten and force the people to accept compensation towards land acquisition”.

But ignoring the farmer protests could prove costly. Nandigram too started on a similar note.

http://www.ndtv.com

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In Bastar, Naxals rule roost

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 8, 2007

Apart from unleashing a reign of terror in Chhattisgarh, Naxalites are virtually running a parallel government there.

With 160-odd police stations in 11 districts currently affected by Naxal activities, the red army is not only upsetting the state’s socio-economic condition but also hitting political activities in their areas of influence. Senior officials in Bastar, one of the worst affected areas, told HT the situation is going from bad to worse with Maoists trying to dominate the local administration while getting more violent in their terror tactics.

“A report by a committee of senior officials in the late ’90s concluded that Naxalites were running a parallel administration in various parts of Bastar. Today, one will find the situation has gone worse,” a top bureaucrat said on condition of anonymity.

With the Naxals keeping a close watch on all comings and goings, no development has reached the interiors of districts like Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Koriya and Sarguja. Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekar has directed the local administrations to combat the menace with a combination of police action and development but that’s easier said than done, say many.

Bureaucrats and police are divided on how the problem should be tackled. Secretary, Public Works Department, M.K. Raut believes development can reach the Naxal-hit areas only after the ultras have been flushed out. “Why is the state police letting development take precedence over law and order… Maoists regularly hit development work to prevent the interior villages from being connected to the outside world. So unless total safety of department staff is ensured, how can we think of beginning the work,” he asks.

But Inspector General of Police, Bastar, R.K. Vij says that had the various government departments, particularly the PWD, delivered on their responsibility to ensure better roads and other infrastructure, the state wouldn’t have lost so many security personnel to Naxal violence.

Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh admits that the war against the Naxals will be a long one. But he adds: “There is no question of the state administration surrendering before the Naxalites when it is a national problem. In no case will their cowardly deeds be tolerated.”

With the Naxals unrelenting in their attacks, the state government recently asked senior police officials to get tough with them. Chief Secretary Shivraj Singh said: “The police have been asked to resort to tough measures.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com

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How India’s war on Naxalism is being lost????

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 1, 2007


BY PRAFUL BIDWAI

30 September 2007

IS India losing the fight against the violent Naxalite movement, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently described as “the greatest internal security threat”? That is indeed happening.

Since 2005, more people have been killed in Naxal-related violence than in Kashmir or the Northeast. Naxalism has spread to more than 150 of India’s 600 districts. Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are the worst-affected states. Since January 2006, Chhattisgarh has recorded over 500 deaths in Naxal-related violence.

Yet, Chhattisgarh demonstrates how Naxalism should not be fought-by unleashing repression against unarmed civilians and violating their liberties, and by instigating bandits who target Naxalites, even while perpetuating gruesome injustices, especially against the disadvantaged Adivasis (tribals) who form a majority in the worst-affected districts.


This conclusion was reinforced during my visit to Chhattisgarh last fortnight with Mukul Sharma, director of Amnesty International-India. We went there to express solidarity with Dr Binayak Sen, health activist, and general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties-Chhattisgarh, detained since May 14 under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004, and Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (PSA). Besides capital Raipur, we toured parts of Dhamtari district, where Sen’s organisation, Rupantar, has run a clinic for 10 years.


Upon talking to more than 20 people in villages, we failed to find any evidence that Sen incited the public to extremism. Sen has been doing exemplary voluntary work in the Gandhian mould in providing primary healthcare to people in an area where no medical personnel exist, often not even a chemist within a 30-kilometre distance. The public is forced to depend on quacks, and corrupt but apathetic, and usually missing, government employees.

Rupantar’s clinic in Bagrumnala village offers impressive services at nominal cost, including rapid testing for the deadly Falciparum strain of the malaria parasite, which has saved scores of lives. The clinic largely depends on “barefoot doctors”, who advise the public on nutrition and preventive medicine too. The clinic caters to villages in a 40 square-km radius. Its work is irreplaceable.

Everyone we talked to expressed gratitude towards Sen for empowering disadvantaged people, and his efforts to make them aware of their rights-for instance, to water and housing, besides healthcare. All of them see Sen as noble and selfless. No one spoke of even the remotest sign of his instigating people to extremism.


However, it’s not an aberration that Sen was detained under the nasty PSA, which criminalises even peaceful activity by declaring it “a danger or menace to public order… and tranquility”, because it might interfere with or “tends to interfere with the maintenance of public order…” and encourage “disobedience to established law…”

This extremely harsh preventive detention law makes nonsense of civil disobedience, a cornerstone of India’s Freedom Struggle. It should have no place in a democracy.

Yet, the state government has filed a 750-page charge sheet against Sen, including offences like sedition and “waging war against the state”!
There’s a purpose behind this-to intimidate all civil rights defenders through a horrible example. This is probably the first time in India that a civil liberties defender has been explicitly and exclusively targeted, and that too, from a politically unaffiliated organisation like the PUCL, which has defended people of all persuasions against state excesses.



Sen was victimised precisely because he formed a bridge between the human rights and other civil society movements, and empowered disadvantaged people. The state government, whose very existence is premised upon the rapacious exploitation of Adivasis and Chhattisgarh’s staggering natural wealth-and whose primary function is to subserve Big Business, forest contractors and traders, cannot tolerate such individuals.

If this sounds like an exaggeration, consider this:

One of India’s most creative trade unionists, Shankar Guha Niyogi, who ignited a mass social, cultural and economic awakening in Chhattisgarh, was assassinated at the behest of powerful, politically well-connected industrialists in 1991. Those who planned the murder roam scot-free.


Chhattisgarh has among India’s worst indices of wealth and income inequality. Its cities, including Raipur, are booming with ostentatious affluence and glittering shopping-malls.

At the other extreme are tribal districts like Dantewada, marked by starvation deaths and severe scarcity of health facilities and drinking water. The tribal literacy rate here is less than one-third the national average-30 per cent for men and 13 per cent for women. Of 1,220 villages, 214 lack primary schools.

Worse, 1,161 villages have no medical facility. Primary health centres exist in only 34 villages. The worst off is Bijapur, the district’s most violent tehsil, where Naxalites gunned down 55 policemen in March.
The difference in life-expectancy between Kerala and tribal Chhattisgarh is 18 years. They belong to different continents.


Chhattisgarh is extraordinarily rich in mineral wealth, including iron ore, bauxite, dolomite, quartzite, precious stones, gold and tin ore, besides limestone and coal. Its iron ore is among the world’s best. This wealth is voraciously extracted-without gains for local people.

The only railway line in the state’s largely tribal south runs straight to Visakhapatnam, carrying ore for export to Japan. Less than one-hundredth of the mineral’s value returns to the state.

Naxalism has thrived in Chhattisgarh as a response, albeit an irrational one, to this system of exploitation, dispossession and loot, along with the state’s complete collapse as a provider of public services and impartial guardian of the law.

Yet, to defend the system of exploitation, the state is waging war against its own people through the sponsorship of Salwa Judum (Peace Campaign), an extraordinarily predatory militia trained to kill Naxals.
Its violence has rendered homeless almost 100,000 people, who now live in appalling conditions in camps.

Salwa Judum represents an unholy nexus between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, buttressed by powerful economic interests.
Its atrocities ensure that the Naxalite problem will never be settled. Chhattisgarh is getting polarised between “Red” (Naxals) and “Saffron” (BJP).


If the Chhattisgarh government has proved bankrupt in dealing with Naxalism, the centre fares no better.

By relying solely on brute force to fight Naxalism, it’s inviting disaster.

Praful Bidwai is a veteran Indian journalist and commentator. He can be reached at praful@bol.net.in

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CPI-Maoist anniversary hits normal life in Bastar

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 21, 2007

Roads wore a deserted look and normal life came to a standstill in the forest stretches of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region Friday as the radical Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) observed its fourth foundation anniversary.

The CPI-Maoist was founded Sep 21 2004, with the merger of the Peoples’ War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).

The group runs parallel government in the interior areas of the mineral-rich Bastar, spread across about 40,000 sq km in southern Chhattisgarh, bordering Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

‘The anniversary celebrations were totally peaceful though transporters kept vehicles off the road and people in the forest areas remained indoors fearing violence,’ a police officer told IANS.

The weekly markets in tribal dominant areas were deserted Friday and the lone passenger train and a goods train plying on KK Line from Dantewada district’s Kirandul to Kothavalasa in Andhra Pradesh were suspended for the day.

The Bijapur, Dantewada, Bastar, Narayanpur and Kanker districts of Bastar region have been Maoist terror nerve centres for decades.

Violence in the region has escalated since June 2005 when locals launched the Salwa Judum civil movement against Maoists that has forced over 50,000 people to desert their villages and live in government-run relief camps.

http://www.indiaenews.com

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