Posts Tagged ‘adivasi
The Trustees of The Gandhi Foundation, London.
Ilina and I appreciate deeply the solidarity and support extended by so many friends from the United Kingdom and across the world in the course of my trial and incarceration. We were looking forward to meeting at least a few of you in the course of our proposed visit to the United Kingdom in November.
The original citation of the Gandhi International Peace Award when it came, was a surprise, as I on my own had never claimed to be a representative of the tribal people of India. However, I had always proudly claimed the heritage of a vernacular and indigenous life-world that was egalitarian and sustainable, and since the awarding body was free to make its own ascription, I humbly accepted the responsibility being put on me. I was fully aware that there could be many views about my fitness to undertake such a task, but it never occurred to me that my ethnic identity, in that I was not ethnically a member of the tribal people of India, would stand in my way.
To my understanding, the ethnic indigenous people of the world have suffered terrible violence in the course of the development of the capitalist state, a violence that has been directed equally against all colonized people, the working class, and other subaltern sections. Efforts to build a new society must be made by all oppressed people together. To claim to take on board the politics of genetic ethnicity as a part of this effort is a form of racism, and racism never smelt sweeter merely because it was articulated from the platform of a subaltern identity.
What we are confronting throughout India today is widespread hunger, compounded by widespread displacement, to the extent that it constitutes a stable famine spread over large parts of the country and over large sections of its people. Access to appropriate health care remains a dream for all except a privileged minority. The penetration of global capital into resource rich ‘undeveloped’ regions, and the operation of industrial and mining interests in these areas have been responsible for this displacement and disenfranchisement of communities. State policies in countries like ours are aiding rather than curbing these processes. Urgent measures are needed to combat this hunger, stop this displacement and ensure equity, human rights, and social justice. However, voices of dissent are deliberately suppressed through outdated laws and juridical processes, and thousands of citizens languish in prison for opposition to these policies.
In the context of the award, the changed citation has only led to further contention and acrimony. Unfortunately, the process of nomination, the thinking behind the original citation and that behind the second, were never made public by the Gandhi Foundation. If the first citation was problematic, the second was even more so, as in this, the “Tribal People of India’ of the first citation did not find any mention at all. This was not a position in which I could afford to be complicit. The level of debate is now such that the paramount issues outlined above threaten to be replaced by a palimpsest of ethnic fundamentalism. Under the circumstances, the really important task of delineating and combating the tragedy being enacted before our eyes gets pushed to the background.
Accordingly, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that at the present juncture it will not be appropriate for me to receive this award. My thanks go to those who nominated and to those who selected me for this award. It was never my intention to give offence or show disrespect to any of the parties in this controversy. I greatly regret any inconvenience that the organisers may be put to as a result of my decision.
COURT SAYS PARAMILITARY APPROACH IS A PROBLEM NOT THE SOLUTION
ALL SIDES AGREE ON NEED FOR HIGH LEVEL MONITORING COMMITTEE – DIFFER ON ITS COMPOSITION
PRESS RELEASE ON HEARING OF SALWA JUDUM MATTER
7th January 2011
The Salwa Judum matter was heard in Court 9 of the Supreme Court today by Justice Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar. This time all the main parties to the court were present – the last few times, the Solicitor General had asked for adjournments. The petitioners were represented by Senior Counsel, Mr. Ashok Desai (who is arguing the case pro-bono), the Centre by the Solicitor General, Mr. Gopal Subramanium and the State of Chhattisgarh by Mr. Harish Salve and Mr. Manish Singhvi.
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On Jan 4, the day this issue of The Lancet went to press, Binayak Sen should have been celebrating his 61st birthday. Instead, found guilty of treason and sedition by a court in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, Sen is facing the bleak prospect of a life behind bars. It is an inhumane sentence for a committed humanitarian, whose life before his imprisonment was devoted to improving the health and welfare of some of the most marginalised and poverty-stricken people in India—the Adivasi. This work led to Sen becoming the first Indian recipient of the Jonathan Mann award for Global Health and Human Rights in 2008.
From the outset the charges against Sen reeked of political motivation—a reaction to Sen’s tireless documentation of human rights abuse at the hands of the state. He was accused, on the flimsiest of evidence, of acting as a courier for the imprisoned Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal. The subsequent trial, spanning more than 3 years, was Kafkaesque. Its conclusion is a travesty.
Reaction to the ruling was swift, with the Indian press unanimous in their criticism of the court’s decision. Amnesty International described Sen as a prisoner of conscience, while a statement signed by over 80 prominent academics worldwide decried the sentence as savagery. The Lancet adds its voice to this chorus of condemnation.
In April, 2009, we called for the Indian Government to intervene in the case, and ensure that justice be done. An injustice can still be overturned by India’s supreme court. If it is not, the already profound damage done to India’s credentials as an upholder of human rights will be damaged for years to come. Where the state failed to provide for its poorest citizens, Sen stepped in to give them health care and to champion their rights. His reward: to be convicted under a section of the penal code first introduced by the British to quell political dissent, and later used to convict Mahatma Ghandi. On his conviction, Ghandi argued that the administration of the law had been “prostituted consciously or unconsciously for the benefit of the exploiter”. The conviction of Binayak Sen shows that, in parts of modern India, precious little has changed.
By systematically persecuting Dr Binayak Sen, a tireless champion of human rights and the rights of adivasis and workers, the Indian state is sending a strong message to civil society about the price of not toeing the line.
Raja bola raat hai,
mantri bola raat hai,
court bola raat hai,
ye subah subah ki baat hai!
(The king said it was night. The minister said it was night. The court said it was night. It was early morning!)
On 24 Dec 2010, the District Court in Raipur in Chhattisgarh state of central India sentenced Dr Binayak Sen to life imprisonment. Given the flimsy nature of the evidence, to most it came as a shock; to the Indian state seeking to silence dissenting human rights activists and social workers, it was shot in the arm.
Targeting Dr Binayak Sen, a well-known civil rights and public health activist, has wide implications for democracy and civil rights in India. Dr. Sen is the National Vice President of the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), one of the most respected civil liberties organizations in India founded by late Jaya Prakash Narayan during the 1975-77 internal Emergency, the worst era in the history of post-independence India. Dr Sen’s work in the area of public health is well known; in fact, he was a part of the group which set up the Mitanin rural health care system for Chhattisgarh twenty years ago when the state was still under formation. He is a man for whose bail, twenty two Nobel laureates had appealed. For whose release, the British House of Commons had issued a motion.
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The New Indian Express
DANTEWADA(CHHATTISGARH): The authorities call it Operation Green Hunt, going by the conventional wisdom that the Maoists being chased — in Chattisgarh in this case — fight from thick jungles. But many of the victims appear to have nothing to do with the insurgency.
Witness accounts, in one instance among others, show that security forces killed seven people in Goompad village of Konta Block in Dantewada district in the concerted action that began six weeks ago. Two more people were killed from the neighbouring Bandaarpar village the same day.
In Goompad, Madvi Yankaiya (age 50) was hacked to death with an axe, his brother Madvi Joga said. Madvi Bajaar (50), his wife Madvi Subhi
(45), their daughters Madvi Kanama (20) and Madvi Mooti, (8) were killed, as their home was closest to the approaching forces. Also killed were their neighbours, Soyam Subaiya (20) and Soyam Subhi (18). They had been married only for a year.
The Adivasis of Bastar have little or no use for the Roman calendar; so it is hard to calculate the date of the attack, or the exact age of the victims. But surviving witnesses put it around the first week of October — which was the time that Green Hunt commenced. The Dantewada SP said an encounter took place at Goompad on October 1. They produced no bodies of alleged Naxalites at the police station. It was claimed that the villagers carried away the bodies of the dead.
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Sign the below Petition issued by AID
Dear Mr. Chidambaram, Hon’ble Home Minister of India
cc. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
cc. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi
We the undersigned are alarmed at the Government’s adoption of a military solution to the conflict in the tribal belts of central India. Operation Green Hunt will exact a toll in terms of innocent human lives and a long-lasting hatred in the hearts and minds of those who survive. We strongly believe that what is being called the war against Maoists will result in a war against adivasis, even if that is not the intention, because military operations will directly impact all the adivasis in the geographical area.
We stand against violence of all forms, structural and physical, from all sides, whether it is from Maoists, the State, corporate powers or independent citizens and groups, or dispossession, loss of livelihoods and endemic malnutrition. Instead of a paradigm of meaningful and participatory development, India’s recent decades of growth has exacerbated disparities in society. Surely, your government realizes that such uneven development will only intensify the cycle of violence without any promise of real or lasting benefits for the poorest. There is ample evidence around the world, and in history to suggest that uneven development and state sponsored violence leads to a breakdown of democracy – to failed States and “puppet governments.” In Chhattisgarh too, the State- backed Salwa Judum has only added fuel to the ongoing conflict.
We strongly urge you to hold talks with civil society groups that work very closely with the people to understand ground realities better. These groups can provide valuable advice for long lasting peace and justice in the region and should not be dismissed or penalized as “Maoist sympathizers”.
Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA), a Gandhian organization has been working in southern Chhattisgarh for the last two decades on issues of health, education and empowerment of the adivasis. Led by Mr. Himanshu Kumar, VCA has courageously worked for the rehabilitation of villagers made refugees on their own lands by the atrocities of Salwa Judum and by the cyclical violence resulting from it. We urge you to hold talks with Mr. Himanshu Kumar to understand and adopt this alternate paradigm of development.
In the interest of innocent tribal families living in the forests who will surely come in harm’s way through the planned Operation Green Hunt, we demand that:
1. The government retract military operations in Central India with immediate effect.
2. Hold meaningful conversations with adivasi representatives and development workers such as Mr. Himanshu Kumar.
3. Disband Salwa Judum with immediate effect and end covert militarization through arming of civilians as Special Police Officers.
4. Support rehabilitation of refugees and ensure responsible governance so people can return to their homes, pursue their livelihoods and democratically participate in the development process.
5. Initiate action against government functionaries who have perpetrated or promoted extrajudicial violence.
Aruna Roy, a political and social activist, gave up her career in the Indian Administrative Service in 1975 to devote her time to social work and social reform. She has focused her energies on Rajasthan, where she helped establish the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan in 1990, a grass roots peoples organization that works for the empowerment of workers and peasants. In 2000, Ms. Roy won the Ramon Magsaysay award for community leadership and for her role in empowering Indian villagers to claim what is rightfully theirs by upholding and exercising the people’s right to information. As Maoist violence continues unabated in the country, Ms. Roy spoke exclusively to Jyoti Malhotra for the Wall Street Journal. Excerpts from the interview.
WSJ: In recent weeks, India’s Maoists rebels have unleashed a reign of terror across the countryside, especially in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, murdering people and damaging public property. As someone who has worked as an activist for many decades in rural India, what is the reason for this sudden violence?
AR: It is now widely accepted that development has not reached people in Chhattisgarh and other parts of the country. The Adivasis, or tribals who live here, are delinked from other parts of the country socially, culturally and politically, they are really like an island. Since Independence, most government officials have treated these areas as punishment postings. Few have wanted to live and work there and those who have gone have not treated the tribals as their equals. It’s been a sort of sahib-servant relationship. Several activists and those in the development sector did work there, but always came under surveillance like Binayak Sen. With Sen, as you know, he was arrested and put behind bars and accused of sympathizing with the Maoists. An important group which reached the tribal areas were the Christian missionaries who set up schools there, followed by Hindu right-wing groups who decided that the tribals must be “saved” from the Christians. These religious tensions usually ended in violence. In the meantime, the tribal belt, which is really the mineral belt of India, became the focus of interest of multinational companies…
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The demolition of Gandhian Himanshu Kumar’s 17-year-old Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Dantewada on May 17 shocked everyone acquainted with its work in the backward tribal area of Chhattisgarh. Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey, who led an all-India fact-finding team to Dantewada, tells Jyoti Punwani what his team found:
Why was the Vanvasi Ashram demolished?
Himanshu had become an irritant for the Chhattisgarh government. He was doing a lot of development work, which is really the job of the government. In fact, the SP himself told us that they used to take Himanshu’s help on various occasions. But the ashram was also providing legal aid to the adivasis oppressed by Salwa Judum. In the last two years, Himanshu has filed 500 FIRs on their behalf. His most recent activity was to help resettle in their original villages, those adivasis who had been forcibly displaced by Salwa Judum.
From Tehelka Cover Story “Binayak & The Tragedy Beyond”
Activist Himanshu Kumar could not be swayed by the State’s wrath. SHOMA CHAUDHURY speaks to this Gandhian
|Unbent Himanshu kumar, daughters Alisha and Haripriya, wife Veena and father Prakash kumar|
You have two daughters. Does that not make you feel vulnerable?
My father was part of the freedom movement. My uncle was a senior colleague of Nehru’s. I knew men like the scientist Dayanidhi Patnaik, who came back with a PhD from America but gave up everything to join Vinobha Bhave’s Bhoomidan movement. I didn’t even notice when their values were stamped on me. From them, I came to believe that the material world is immaterial. Why should I compromise for my girls? What would I achieve? Two more girls — among lakhs of others — would be brought up to lead a cloistered life. Veena could have pulled me back, but she has never done that. She herself was terrified of wearing bangles and synthetic clothes and being trapped in a marriage that would shut her behind closed doors. She was a social worker before she married me.
What is at the heart of the State’s neglect and abuse of tribals?
I don’t think either the State or the police see them as human. How many officials have even bothered to learn their language? One day a CRPF officer was complaining to me about them. He said, “Oh, these ULFA-Nagas-adivasis — whatever they’re called…” That’s how faceless they were to him. There is such an arrogance in the way the State approaches them. They will not consult them, not communicate with them.
|We are not picking up the gun but are
asking for justice within the system.
Why does that rouse the State’s ire?
P Chidambaram has said he will militarily destroy the Naxals, then bring development in the region.
He can do that. He can kill thousands of his own countrymen attempting that. He has greater might, he is a superior race. And as one Naxal leader said in an interview to TEHELKA, “We do not control all areas. Why don’t they bring development to places we don’t control?”
The Campaign for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen, Bangalore welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court to grant bail to Dr Sen. Dr. Sen’s incarceration had become a symbol of brutal state force, especially after a sustained national and international campaign for his release that involved a wide spectrum of human rights activists, health workers, doctors, trade union workers, grass root movements, NGOs, and other civil society members. Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice Deepak Verma after a very brief hearing on 25th May, 2009, granted bail on production of a personal bond after senior Advocate Shanti Bhushan had appeared before the Court on behalf of Dr. Sen. Dr Sen was arrested by the Chhattisgarh government on May 14th 2007 on charges of abetting Naxalites. Amongst the laws that he was detained under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, enacted by the Raman Sigh government in 2005. Dr Sen was one of the first of more than 43 people who have been detained under this Act.
Dr Sen’s arrest was a result of his tireless work as a member of the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh in exposing the state government’s human rights abuses, especially violations by the state-sponsored vigilante force Salwa Judum. He was one of the few voices of dissent in state that clamps down on democratic rights in the name of fighting Naxalism. A recent example was the Chhattisgarh government’s demolition of the 17 year-old Vanvasi Chethana Ashram (VCA) in Dantewada run by Gandhian Himanshu Kumar. Though the VCA was contesting an eviction notice filed by the local administration alleging that it was occupying revenue forest land, on May 15th, 2009, 250-300 members of the District Force (DF), Special Police Officers (SPO), and Chhattisgarh police, razed the ashram to the ground. Himanshu Kumar was been instrumental in exposing the fake encounter of 12 adivasis from the Singara Salwa Judum relief camp on March 30th 2009. He was also been working towards the rehabilitation of some of the thousands displaced by the Salwa Judum. Journalists and students who were present during this demolition were intimidated and severely beaten up by the police. Two of those who were beaten were students from the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bangalore.