22 April, 2004
Naxal operations in Chhatishgarh have threatened the very basis of the governance in rural Chhatisgarh. Earlier one used to hear about secret combats in far away areas but today the Naxals are ambushing the police parties and taking over the villages. Chhatishgarh’s Hindutva government is busy with attracting more investment and subsidizing the ‘rambhakts’ for Kailash Mansarovar, an attempt to placate the Hindutva groups while deliberately raise high pitch against the Muslim appeasement. Those of us who are worried about this situation are not only opposed to such silly actions of the government but also the unnecessary subsidy that the government provides to the Muslims for Haj. There is no need for that as Muslim scholars have also spoken against the same.
The city of Raipur remains as chaotic as any other unplanned township and could easily be considered as a ‘mosquito’ capital of the country. In the activists circle things have become too secretive. That reflects the nature of Chhatishgarh today where every two person meeting has several people from the Intelligence Bureau and other agencies looking for some clue. Even journalists seems to be under the scanner of these agencies as one journalist friends from a National Magazine informed me how his background material was ‘researched’ by IB and how his editors were informed not to be ‘sympathetic’ to Naxals.
Journalist as IB suspects
Therefore, every journalist is a possible suspect in Chhatishgarh. While police may be tapping his phones, the activists keep away from them for the fear of being a possible intelligence agent. Some confided that a number of stingers are in the government payroll otherwise how could they be traveling in cars and enjoying a much better life, when ordinary mortals are fighting their battle for livelihood. In the seminar, a journalist friend was sitting and talking about Salwa Judam project of the government of Chhatishgarh. Everybody knows this paid project of the Chhatishgarh government is not working. The journalist wanted response from the NGOs but none of them came up to reply. In fact, every one assumed that the fellow was a sure IB agent. Poor fellow remained marginalized unless one evening he showed me his identity card and other details. Such is the condition of the journalists reporting from Chhatishgarh. In Raipur a Television journalist had the same narratives about government’s anti Naxal operations. “They do not want us to go report from the Naxal infected areas. They would like us to write what they believe is correct and would not like any news of police torture or harassment of the common men. Is it not important for the government to introspect its policies as why have people rebelled against it”, says the journalist. He is more worried now with a proposed legislation by the Chhatishgarh government which could curtail media’s right to criticize the government. Like POTA this ordinance is equally damaging and dangerous and creative people should oppose it.
Issue of Land Alienation of the tribals
Is Chhatishgarh’s government interested in introspection? While Ajit Jogi started inviting companies and sold even rivers to private cronies, the current government of the Bharatiya Janata Party did not leg behind in denying people right over resources. The tribal and Dalits of Chhatishgarh today are at the receiving end. when they speak up for their rights and ask for justice they are easily termed as Naxalites or their sympathizers. For the poor people it is double aged sword. In the village if they come out against the officials they are beaten and if they do not then the community may term them as anti Naxal. The repression from both the side is brutal.
The issue of Naxalism in Chhatishgarh and other parts of the country is being treated as an administrative problem. The government still thinks that by using heavy arm forces it can win over the people who it has cheated. K.P.S.Gill has become panacea for every thing that is ailing in Chhatishgarh. One has to see what he did in Punjab. Gill did not succeed in Punjab. It was people’s will to participate in democracy that has changed Punjab. Gills administrative faults are still remembered in Punjab with much contempt. It is the same Gill who has hijacked Indian Hockey Federation and does not want its growth. Where has he time for Hockey amidst his politics. So, Gill would authorize his police to go for a kill.
It is interesting to note that Chhatishgarh government is using Salwajudam project to bring Adivasis into its fold in their fight against the Naxals. Problem is that government’s bureaucracy is so corrupted that it will take years for them to make the people feel about their intention. With out speaking about people’s right over resources, without giving them a job security, the government wants to fight against the Naxal menace. If the government is interested why does not it recruit Adivasis and Dalits into its police force and its wider administrative machinery, which is filled with corrupted upper castes. But is it possible for a government who look the issue of Naxalism from the prism of an upper caste brahmanical mindset?
Big companies, local feudal lords, water companies, forest department, every body seems to have joined hand in Chhatishgarh to rob people of their wealth. Former Congress government sold river Sheonath to a private party denying fishermen and farmers right to cultivate their land and fish there, the current government is following the same path. Every body need development but can we call such development sensitive which does not take care of people’s need and uproot them from their homes with out being rehabilitated?
Dominance of non-tribals
Chhattishgarh is predominantly an Adivasis-Dalit state and yet the irony is it is being run by the non-Adivasis. While the Hindutva party is here to put its casteist agenda, the old horses of the country’s original brahmanical party remain the same. One also has to see that it is not the chief minister or Ministers who rules the state. Chhatishgarh at the moment is completely in the grips of Sikhs, Sindhis and Jains. Barring a few families of them who have been compensated land due to partition; a majority of them have mischievously taken land meant for tribals by inducing the officials and using money and muscle power. This money and muscle power is creating a great unrest in Chhatishgarh and its villages. If that is none taken care of earlier, the situation may go out of hand.
A local Muslim who was taking me in his auto informed how his brother who had completed his BA did not get the government job despite bribing the local officials.
The Dalits and tribals are living a life of misery. In the absence of any radical Dalit movement, the situation here remain grim because of the growth of new power Sadhus and Babas. That Satnamis, the largest Dalit community has been cleverly embedded into the brahmanical Hinduism is one of the biggest tragedies of Chhatishgarh. It also happen when Ambedkar was made icon of certain communities and parties. Miracle Gods are happening in Chhatishgarh and more and more Dalits and Adviais are becoming victim of superstition and blind faith.
No body knows his flight since he is not Jessica Lal but a marginal Dalit
Jessica Lal and Mehar were no ordinary women. They came from upper strata of society. Definitely, we have sympathies with their families and those committed crime must be brought to book. But have not we seen this over dose of injustice to them in the media? Why do we not feel the same pain and anguish when a landless Dalit is hacked to death. Why our media do not write reams of pages on the conditions of Dalits and violence against them. Why the electronic channels keep mum over the violence against the Dalits and tribals. Perhaps they do not even know where are other people who face same problems. Yes, Ramesh Kumar’s case is much more threatening than Jessica Lal and Mehar since he lost his father and brother in front of his eyes. Because Ramesh, survived in that battle of brutal sword power added with the help of state machinery. Today, Ramesh is a threatened person despite police protection. Ramesh Kumar 27 face one of the serious threat to his life. Today, a police guard is round the corner protecting him. Ramesh, a Satnami by caste and small farmer lost his father and brother last year on September 10 th, when a group of migrant Sikhs and Jaats of Punjab and Haryana lynched both of them. The reason for the killing was clear. Ramesh’s father Kartik Ram owned some land in village Bhurki under thana Bemtara in district Durg. Ram Chander Jaat of Haryana along with other friends of Haryana and Punjab had been on a buying spree in the area. They had settled in this area some years ago and were threatening people to sale their land to them. This has become a well-known factor in Chhatishgarh and other mineral rich states that the powerful farmers and business community is coming and alluring people for small money. Kartik Ram 56, and his elder son Puneet Ram, 31 were obstacles in the plot being hatched by Ramchandar. ‘ Why should I sale my land to people from outside. I lived on this land and earn my livelihood from it. Where should I go once I sale it to these oppressors’, said Kartik Ram to his sons. They went to police station and lodged a complaint against the immigrants. The oppressors themselves are expert in crookedness of the paper work, which our corrupt officials flaunt to exploit the poor masses. The Thana incharge of this area was another Haryanavi Shyam Sunder Sharma. One can understand the interest of one upper caste to save the skin of his Haryana brothers. Sharma started threatening the poor Dalits under the pretext that they had theft the tractor light of the Haryana farmers. He kept them waiting in the police station. Poor people spoke to area MLA Chetan Singh Verma against the harassment..
At around 4 pm, Sharma send them to Bhurki which was about 8 kilometer from the police station. All the three father and the sons came back to their home. Kartik and Puneet went to take a bath at the village pond. Ramesh was also there when the Haryana people came in tractors along with guns, swords and rifles. Ramesh ran to save himself. He was attacked by Sword. He survived. He father could not run. His brother was killed by Ajay Jaat with the sword. His father was hit by Ramchander. They cut his hands and slit his throat. Ramesh was on the run. He was crying. His mother Kamala Bai also came in between to save her husband. He went to Avneeesh Rathore, a local Congress Party Member who provided all assistance. By that time the village crowd had gathered in the area and started pelting stones. Today Ramesh is the only witness along with her mother and wife. He face severe threat to his life. The policemen on his security leave him in between. Like the police station in charge, he also seems to curse him. His wife is pregnant at the moment. The Farmhouse owners have threatened him with dire consequences. They are threatening him not to speak in the court when the case comes for hearing in May. Let us see how the administrators of Chhatishgarh act in this matter. We shall have an eye over this case.
Dalit denied Justice in the Law University
Abhishek Priya Anand is a bright Dalit scholar who passed his Masters in Chemistry from Andhra Pradesh by 68%. He joined the combined course of the National Law University three years back on his own merit. He opted for a course of M.phil/Ph.D/LLM which was a four years course. According to structure, he should have been provided M.Phil degree in the very first year but that did not happen. His M.Phil was prolonged for one year and finally he got his worksheet for M.Phil after two and a half year. There has been no notification issued in writing to him as why has his case being delayed. Even when Abhishek wanted to enroll for the Ph.D, the University has shown no interest in dealing with him. When he enrolled for this comprehensive integrated course, he never realized that he would face a severe threat to his career. He was supposed to get teaching assignment from the second year but was denied the same. The students from other castes are clearly favored. He got his stipend of Rs 5,000/- for just two months only and that too in the second year only. Most of the other student received it for over 5-6 months. None of them have been informed as why the stipend was not given. In the third year, Abhishek was supposed to get Rs 10,000/- per month to pursue his Ph.D. According to documents made available to us, a three member committee formed to look into the matter had come to unanimous conclusion that Abhishek be enrolled for the Ph.D programme. The Vice Chancellor of the University Dr M.K.Shrivastava has not only not taken any interest in the case but also seems to have a prejudiced mind. After three years of staying at a place, the Vice Chancellor ordered Abhishek be thrown out of the University Hostel. Abhishek was told that since there is no faculty for his specific case, he couldn’t be enrolled in the University as a Ph.D student. It is amusing that a University which officially offer courses in certain categories deny the same to one bright student and that too from a Dalit community which remain marginalized, not due non availability of merit or meritorious students, but with deep rooted prejudices in our system. It was easy for the Vice Chancellor to ask the student to go back but where would the student go. Abhiskeh has written to every one in the University including the Vice Chancellor and other State authorities but so far nothing has happened. It is imaginable that a student cannot go too far fearing a backlash from higher authorities who are out to destroy his career.
(We have submitted a memorandum to NHRC regarding Abhishek)
Chhatishgarh came into being to fulfill the aspiration of the tribals. Today, tribal remain more marginalized than any other community. The land is being occupied by not only the private companies and forest-department but also by the outsiders who are flourishing at the cost of the locals. The government may look more into the Naxal problem by bringing more funds for the home ministry but in the absence of a proactive reform particularly on land and forest management, government would be betraying to its own self. By throwing tribal away from their own area and denying them dignity, the government cannot expect anything. The corrupt and contemptuous officials have to go. Cases if like of Kartik and Abhishek Anand are not isolated. This is a trend in Chhatishgarh. One does not what is the domicile policy of Chhatishgarh. Has the government ever taken people into confidence on the issues such as land, water and forests?
If the government wants to tackle the Naxal threat it has to introspect on its own position. It cannot deny tribals and Dalit their legitimate right over their resources. If the state apparatus continue to become more brahmanical by giving huge, palatial land to the corrupt Babas while the marginalized languish of hunger and malnutrition, nothing will move. You cannot win a war against violence by pretending to look it with administrative viewpoint. Let the Dalit and tribals have more fare representation in police, administration and policymaking. The day government does its work sincerely the problem will automatically disappear. If things were so great let them ponder why the tribal remain landless in its own land and why people have to buy water in Chhattisgarh. It is equally important to find out as why Chhattisgarh which used to supply electricity to other state, today, is reeling under sever electricity cut. One is sure; tribals and Dalits are not the reason of this mess of Chhattisgarh. The mess in Chhattisgarh is created by the corrupt upper caste beaurocracy with active blessings of political leadership and it need to come clean. It cannot win a war against Naxals by scuttling the criticism or voices of dissent by putting innocent people into jails in the names of fighting naxal violence. It will have to show results by winning people’s heart and giving a positive programme in the villages.