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Our Republic must not kill its own children: Supreme Court

Posted by ajadhind on January 15, 2011

Notice to Centre, A.P. on encounter killing of Azad and journalist

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the Union and the Andhra Pradesh governments on two petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the alleged encounter killings of Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, spokesperson of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and journalist Hemchandra Pandey by the Andhra Pradesh police on the night of July 1 last year.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha issued the notice, returnable in six weeks, after hearing counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioners Swami Agnivesh and Pandey’s wife Bineeta Pandey.

Justice Alam orally observed: “Our Republic cannot bear the stain to kill its own children. We will issue notice. They will have to respond. We hope there will be good and convincing answer to the questions [raised in the petitions].”

The petitioners said the post mortem reports and fact-finding carried out by the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) clearly indicated that it was not a genuine encounter and that Azad and Pandey were killed in blatant violation of their rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

Azad was carrying a letter from Swami Agnivesh for peace talks when he was taken into custody along with Pandey. Then Swami Agnivesh sent a letter to Azad, suggesting three possible dates for starting a 72-hour suspension of armed resistance by the CPI (Maoist) and simultaneous cessation of action by the government forces. During that period, the government would invite Maoists for talks and initiate a mutual ceasefire agreement, the petitioners said.

However, on the intervening night of July 1-2, both Azad and Pandey were killed. According to the CPI (Maoist), Azad was scheduled to meet local contact Sahadev in Nagpur at 11 a.m. on July 1 and travel to the Dandakaranya forests for meeting senior Maoists to discuss Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s proposal and likely dates for a ceasefire.

But he never turned up for the meeting.

“The alleged encounter, if proved fake — as indicated by the CDRO report — is in blatant violation of Article 21.” The refusal to initiate an inquiry, despite questions raised about the veracity of a police investigation by human rights activists, organisations and sections of the media, and the disruption it caused to the peace process initiated by the Home Minister himself were “unreasonable and arbitrary” and raised serious questions about the bona fides of the Home Ministry, the petitioners said.

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Of luxury cars and lowly tractors

Posted by ajadhind on December 29, 2010

P. Sainath
Even as the media celebrate the Mercedes Benz deal in the Marathwada region as a sign of “rural resurgence,” the latest data show that 17,368 farmers killed themselves in the year of the “resurgence.”
When businessmen from Aurangabad in the backward Marathwada region bought 150 Mercedes Benz luxury cars worth Rs. 65 crore at one go in October, it grabbed media attention. The top public sector bank, State Bank of India, offered the buyers loans of over Rs. 40 crore. “This,” says Devidas Tulzapurkar, president of the Aurangabad district bank employees association, “at an interest rate of 7 per cent.” A top SBI official said the bank was “proud to be part of this deal,” and would “continue to scout for similar deals in the future.”
The value of the Mercedes deal equals the annual income of tens of thousands of rural Marathwada households. And countless farmers in Maharashtra struggle to get any loans from formal sources of credit. It took roughly a decade and tens of thousands of suicides before Indian farmers got loans at 7 per cent interest — many, in theory only. Prior to 2005, those who got any bank loans at all shelled out between 9 and 12 per cent. Several were forced to take non-agricultural loans at even higher rates of interest. Buy a Mercedes, pay 7 per cent interest. Buy a tractor, pay 12 per cent. The hallowed micro-finance institutions (MFIs) do worse. There, it’s smaller sums at interest rates of between 24 and 36 per cent or higher.
Starved of credit, peasants turned to moneylenders and other informal sources. Within 10 years from 1991, the number of Indian farm households in debt almost doubled from 26 per cent to 48.6 per cent. A crazy underestimate but an official number. Many policy-driven disasters hit farmers at the same time. Exploding input costs in the name of ‘market-based prices.’ Crashing prices for their commercial crops, often rigged by powerful traders and corporations. Slashing of investment in agriculture. A credit squeeze as banks moved away from farm loans to fuelling upper middle class lifestyles. Within the many factors driving over two lakh farmers to suicide in 13 years, indebtedness and the credit squeeze rank high. (And MFIs are now among the squeezers).
What remained of farm credit was hijacked. A devastating piece in The Hindu (Aug. 13) showed us how. Almost half the total “agricultural credit” in the State of Maharashtra in 2008 was disbursed not by rural banks but by urban and metro branches. Over 42 per cent of it in just Mumbai — stomping ground of large corporations rather than of small farmers.
Even as the media celebrate our greatest car deal ever as a sign of “rural resurgence,” the subject of many media stories, comes the latest data of the National Crime Records Bureau. These show a sharp increase in farm suicides in 2009 with at least 17,368 farmers killing themselves in the year of “rural resurgence.” That’s over 7 per cent higher than in 2008 and the worst numbers since 2004. This brings the total farm suicides since 1997 to 216,500. While all suicides have multiple causes, their strong concentration within regions and among cash crop farmers is an alarming and dismal trend.
The NCRB, a wing of the Union Home Ministry, has been tracking farm suicide data since 1995. However, researchers mostly use their data from 1997 onwards. This is because the 1995 and 1996 data are incomplete. The system was new in 1995 and some big States such as Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan sent in no numbers at all that year. (In 2009, the two together saw over 1,900 farm suicides). By 1997, all States were reporting and the data are more complete.
The NCRB data end at 2009 for now. But we can assume that 2010 has seen at least 16,000 farmers’ suicides. (After all, the yearly average for the last six years is 17,104). Add this 16,000 to the total 2,16,500. Also add the incomplete 1995 and 1996 numbers — that is 24,449 suicides. This brings the 1995-2010 total to 2,56,949. Reflect on this figure a moment.
It means over a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995. It means the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history has occurred in this country in the past 16 years. It means one-and-a-half million human beings, family members of those killing themselves, have been tormented by the tragedy. While millions more face the very problems that drove so many to suicide. It means farmers in thousands of villages have seen their neighbours take this incredibly sad way out. A way out that more and more will consider as despair grows and policies don’t change. It means the heartlessness of the Indian elite is impossible to imagine, leave alone measure.
Note that these numbers are gross underestimates to begin with. Several large groups of farmers are mostly excluded from local counts. Women, for instance. Social and other prejudice means that, most times, a woman farmer killing herself is counted as suicide — not as a farmer’s suicide. Because the land is rarely in a woman’s name.
Then there is the plain fraud that some governments resort to. Maharashtra being the classic example. The government here has lied so many times that it contradicts itself thrice within a week. In May this year, for instance, three ‘official’ estimates of farm suicides in the worst-hit Vidarbha region varied by 5,500 per cent. The lowest count being just six in four months (See “How to be an eligible suicide,” The Hindu, May 13, 2010).
The NCRB figure for Maharashtra as a whole in 2009 is 2,872 farmers’ suicides. So it remains the worst State for farm suicides for the tenth year running. The ‘decline’ of 930 that this figure represents would be joyous if true. But no State has worked harder to falsify reality. For 13 years, the State has seen a nearly unrelenting rise. Suddenly, there’s a drop of 436 and 930 in 2008 and 2009. How? For almost four years now, committees have functioned in Vidarbha’s crisis districts to dismiss most suicides as ‘non-genuine.’ What is truly frightening is the Maharashtra government’s notion that fixing the numbers fixes the problem.
Yet that problem is mounting. Perhaps the State most comparable to Maharashtra in terms of population is West Bengal. Though its population is less by a few million, it has more farmers. Both States have data for 15 years since 1995. Their farm suicide annual averages in three-five year periods starting then are revealing. Maharashtra’s annual average goes up in each period. From 1,963 in the five years ending with 1999 to 3,647 by 2004. And scaling 3,858 by 2009. West Bengal’s yearly average registers a gradual drop in each five-year period. From 1,454 in 1999 to 1,200 in 2004 to 1,014 by 2009. While it has more farmers, its farm suicide average for the past five years is less than a third of Maharashtra’s. The latter’s yearly average has almost doubled since 1999.
The share of the Big 5 ‘suicide belt’ States — Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — remains close to two-thirds of all farm suicides. Sadly 18 of 28 States reported higher farm suicide numbers in 2009. In some the rise was negligible. In others, not. Tamil Nadu showed the biggest increase of all States, going from 512 in 2008 to 1060 in 2009. Karnataka clocked in second with a rise of 545. And Andhra Pradesh saw the third biggest rise — 309 more than in 2008. A few though did see a decline of some consequence in their farm suicide annual average figures for the last six years. Three — Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal — saw their yearly average fall by over 350 in 2004-09 compared to the earlier seven years.
Things will get worse if existing policies on agriculture don’t change. Even States that have managed some decline across 13 years will be battered. Kerala, for instance, saw an annual average of 1,371 farm suicides between 1997 and 2003. From 2004-09, its annual average was 1016 — a drop of 355. Yet Kerala will suffer greatly in the near future. Its economy is the most globalised of any State. Most crops are cash crops. Any volatility in the global prices of coffee, pepper, tea, vanilla, cardamom or rubber will affect the State. Those prices are also hugely controlled at the global level by a few corporations.
Already bludgeoned by the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), Kerala now has to contend with the one we’ve gotten into with ASEAN. And an FTA with the European Union is also in the offing. Kerala will pay the price. Even prior to 2004, the dumping of the so-called “Sri Lankan pepper” (mostly pepper from other countries brought in through Sri Lanka) ravaged the State. Now, we’ve created institutional frameworks for such dumping. Economist Professor K. Nagaraj, author of the biggest study of farm suicides in India, says: “The latest data show us that the agrarian crisis has not relented, not gone away.” The policies driving it have also not gone away.

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17,368 farm suicides in 2009

Posted by ajadhind on December 29, 2010

source – hindu

MUMBAI: At least 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farm suicides in six years, according to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This is an increase of 1,172 over the 2008 count of 16,196. It brings the total farm suicides since 1997 to 2,16,500. The share of the Big 5 States, or ‘suicide belt’ — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — in 2009 remained very high at 10,765, or around 62 per cent of the total, though falling nearly five percentage points from 2008. Maharashtra remained the worst State for farm suicides for the tenth successive year, reporting 2,872. Though that is a fall of 930, it is still 590 more than in Karnataka, second worst, which logged 2,282 farm suicides.
Economist K. Nagaraj, author of the biggest study on Indian farm suicides, says, “That these numbers are rising even as the farmer population shrinks, confirms the agrarian crisis is still burning.”
Maharashtra has logged 44,276 farm suicides since 1997, over a fifth of the total 2,16,500. Within the Big 5, Karnataka saw the highest increase of 545 in 2009. Andhra Pradesh recorded 2,414 farm suicides — 309 more than in 2008. Madhya Pradesh (1,395) and Chhattisgarh (1,802) saw smaller increases of 16 and 29. Outside the Big 5, Tamil Nadu doubled its tally with 1,060, against 512 in 2008. In all, 18 of 28 States reported higher farm suicide numbers in 2009. Some, like Jammu and Kashmir or Uttarakhand, saw a negligible rise. Rajasthan, Kerala and Jharkhand saw increases of 55, 76 and 93. Assam and West Bengal saw higher rises of 144 and 295. NCRB farm data now exist for 13 years. In the first seven, 1997-2003, there were 1,13,872 farm suicides, an average of 16,267 a year. In the next six years 1,02,628 farmers took their lives at an average of 17,105 a year. This means, on average, around 47 farmers — or almost one every 30 minutes — killed themselves each day between 2004 and 2009.
Lower their average
Among the major States, only a few including Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal avoided the sharp rise these six years and lowered their average by over 350 compared to the 1997-2003 period. In the same period, the annual average of farm suicides in the Big 5 States as a whole was more than 1,650 higher than it was in 1997-2003.

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58% in A.P say Naxalism is good.

Posted by ajadhind on September 28, 2010

Naxal land

A clear 58% majority of those polled in Maoist-dominant areas of AP, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa said Naxalism had actually been good for their area.
source – TOI
India’s biggest internal security threat, as the Prime Minister famously described it, may be worse than you thought. That’s because even in Andhra Pradesh, where the battle against the Maoists has apparently been won, it turns out that the government is losing the battle for the minds and hearts of the people.

It’s a debate that’s been raging within the Congress, and outside it. Should the government adopt a largely law-and-order attitude towards the Maoists and deal with them like criminals or should the focus be more on cutting the ground from under their feet through a development agenda that wins over the population of the affected areas?

An exclusive survey of the once Maoist-dominated districts of the Telengana region by IMRB, well-known market research organisation, for The Times of India has found that while attitudes towards the rebels are ambivalent, the condemnation of the government and its means of tackling the problem is quite clear.

The findings raise disturbing questions about whether focusing largely on the policing aspects of the problem may be a flawed strategy in the long run. They also throw up another poser: Has the battle in AP truly been won or can the Maoists stage a comeback in a few years?

Tied to this is the question of how the Maoists are viewed by the populace of these parts. Are they perceived essentially as a bloodthirsty, extortionist bunch or as rebels standing up for people’s rights?

TOI decided to do an opinion poll of the affected areas to find out. The problem, however, was that this was a region where pollsters found very difficult to enter. We finally decided to conduct the survey in those areas of Andhra Pradesh which were till not too long ago strongholds of the Naxalites but where their activities have been checked. The survey was conducted, therefore, in five districts of the Telengana region Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam. These districts were chosen not only because they were till recently severely Naxal-affected, but also because of their proximity to current hotbeds in Chattisgarh and Maharashtra.

To tap into the mood of the aam admi in these areas, the survey was restricted to the not so well off socio-economic categories, SEC B and SEC C and to men and women between the ages of 25 and 50. What we found has come as an eye-opener for us and should be worrying for everybody. The state may have won the battle of the guns, but the Maoists are clearly ahead in the perception game. This is particularly true in the districts of Warangal and Nizamabad as the accompanying charts show only too clearly.

The root cause of the disaffection is the overwhelming feeling of neglect of the areas by the government. About two-thirds expressed this view and in Warangal the figure was as high as 81%. That, you might say, is hardly alarming. Similar figures would probably be thrown up anywhere in India. True. But when two-thirds also say that the Maoists are right in choosing the methods they have to highlight the neglect, it is difficult to dismiss it as normal.

Perhaps the most revealing answers are in response to questions on whether the Maoists — still better known as Naxalites in this belt — were good or bad for the region and whether their defeat by the AP police has made matters better or worse.

Almost 60% said the Naxalites were good for the area and only 34% felt life had improved since they were beaten back. As for whether exploitation has increased after the Naxalite influence waned, 48% said it had against 38% who said it hadn’t, the rest offering no opinion.

Those answers are buttressed by the responses to three other questions. The first of these was on whether the characterization of the Naxals as extortionists and mafia was accurate. Two-thirds disagreed. An elaboration of this came in response to a slightly more open-ended question. Over half said the Naxalites worked for the good of the area, another one-third said they had the right intentions but the wrong means. Only 15% were willing to describe them as just goondas.

Equally importantly, 50% of the respondents felt the Naxalites had forced the government to focus on development work in the affected areas. What these responses show is just how negative the perception of the government is in these parts.

That the people here are not entirely comfortable with Naxalite methods is also quite clear. Even a question on what explained their strength in these parts showed that very few attributed it to popularity alone, a majority saying either that it was due to fear or that it was a combination of approval and fear. That despite this ambivalence there is a sympathetic view of the Naxals only betrays the people’s desperate search for any means to shake shaking up the state.

Given these findings it is hardly surprising that killings by Maoists are looked upon more leniently than those by the government and that the state’s claims about encounters are viewed with extreme suspicion.

The government may say, and with some justification, that the Maoists represent the biggest threat to India’s internal security, but what this poll shows is that the aam admi in these parts views government apathy as the biggest threat to his wellbeing.

The towns in which the poll was conducted were Kamareddy in Nizamabad district, Gudi Hathnoor in Adilabad, Sirsilla in Karimnagar, Mahbubabad in Warangal and Palwancha in Khammam. A total of 521 people were polled in these five towns, a statistically robust sample size

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Shoot And Shut Up

Posted by ajadhind on September 9, 2010

source – outlook

Slash And Burn Approach

The State is bearing down on dissent by killing even those who want to talk peace

“In the Azad case an FIR has been made out against a man who has been killed by the cops. It’s as if they are judge and jury.” Colin Gonsalves, Advocate, rights activist “Azad was deputed for the peace talks by the Maoists. The home minister’s refusal to recognise his killing shows the State’s intent.” Arundhati Roy, Writer, activist

“We are moving from constitutional democracy to one that is populist. It won’t be surprising if we soon move towards mob rule.” Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, Former chief justice of India “With Azad’s killing, it seems the State wants Operation Greenhunt to go on, keep blaming the Maoists and snuff out peace talks.” Kavita Srivastav, PUCL activist

A deafening silence from the government has greeted demands for an independent probe into the death of Chemkuri Azad Rajkumar after reports in Outlook and other media raised serious questions about the police encounter. The post-mortem indicated death by a shot fired at point-blank range. When Outlook took the post-mortem report to independent experts, not saying it was of Azad, they concurred with the earlier finding that the wounds and other signs indicated death from a shot fired from “less than 7.5 cm” away.

Azad’s death is not the death of just any Maoist leader. Some may say the state is well within its rights to kill the leader of an armed rebellion, but his death could well perpetuate a conflict without end.

“I don’t think people have fully grasped the true significance of the killing of Azad. There have been killings like this before in Andhra Pradesh. Fake encounter killings have a fixed format. They just change the name of the person killed. So why should it be any more or less significant in Azad’s case?” asks Arundhati Roy. The writer-activist, who has  spent considerable time with the Maoists, reporting on them, says Azad’s death indicates “the government desperately needs this war to clear the land and push ahead with what it wants to”.

“Azad,” says Arundhati, “was the man deputed by the Maoist party to represent them in the proposed peace talks. For the police to kill him in this way, and for the Union home minister to refuse to take cognisance of this extra-judicial killing, tells a great deal about the government’s real attitude towards the peace talks.” The hundreds of MoUs signed by the government with corporates “are waiting to be actualised. The government wants to escalate this war to sort out what it views as a problem. Peace talks would interfere with the momentum and be an unnecessary impediment”.

“We are moving away from a constitutional democracy to a populist democracy, and mob rule is just a step away,” says M.N. Venkatachaliah, former chief justice of India. A constitutional democracy, he says, works under institutional safeguards. It was under Venkatachaliah’s tenure as chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (nhrc) that guidelines on encounter deaths were spelt out and states were expected to follow them. As encounter deaths—more recently that of Azad—continue unabated at the hands of the State, Venkatachaliah is perturbed that the guidelines are not being followed at all. In fact, he says the attitude of the State can be summed up as follows: “Show me the man, and I will show you the law.”

But Union home secretary G.K. Pillai rejects any calls for an independent inquiry into Azad’s death (see following interview). While Pillai supports the state government’s version of the encounter, the state’s dgp, R.R. Girish Kumar, reiterates “whatever allegations made by Maoists or their frontal organisations are baseless”. The Maoists, he says, are taking some point in the post-mortem report and trying to blow it up in a disproportionate manner. “The allegations on the post-mortem report contents are not true,” he says.

But Kavita Srivastav, of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), feels otherwise. “This is called faking the encounter. And there has been no magisterial inquiry till date. With Azad’s killing it appears that the government wants to continue Operation Greenhunt, continue denouncing the Maoists and snuff out any chance of a peace process. The implications of his killing are sinister and dangerous.”

Kavita is clear that as a first step, “the Supreme Court should uphold the Andhra Pradesh High Court order of 2009, which states that every encounter killing must be investigated. That will have far-reaching implications on such killings. Having done that, the apex court should suo motu take note of such killings and order a judicial inquiry. Parliament must also legislate to check such killings by the state.” That may not happen in a hurry.

Arundhati feels that Azad’s killing, along with the others who have been killed so far, is a cause for concern and needs to be challenged. “The way the peace talks are being approached by both sides is amateurish. It’s true that the talks held in Andhra were a debacle. But still, there were important lessons for both sides to be learnt from the debacle. It took more than a year just to finalise a committee of concerned citizens to initiate the talks. Each person on that committee had impeccable credentials and public standing. It wasn’t a question of arbitrarily suggesting names to the media (like the Maoists are doing), nor of arbitrarily selecting a person like Swami Agnivesh (like home minister P. Chidambaram did).”

She also says, “Finally, there are many other groups who have been raising the same issues as the Maoists are—but peacefully and within the ambit of the law. However, the government doesn’t seem to be even pretending to be interested in peace talks with them. That says something about the waging of an armed struggle.”

In Azad’s case, “two FIRs should have been registered by the police. In this case an FIR has been registered against the man who was killed by the police. It’s like the police are the judge and the jury and Azad is the accused person. It’s a travesty of law,” says Supreme Court lawyer and human rights activist Colin Gonsalves. He, too, draws attention to the Andhra Pradesh High Court order of 2009, which clearly stated that an FIR has to be registered in case of an encounter killing and this is the law of the country. But with the Supreme Court granting a stay on that judgement following an appeal by the Andhra Pradesh government and its police, encounter deaths continue to remain outside the pale of an independent inquiry. So, ironically, while it seems to be good in law to gun down a man in cold blood, it conveys the impression that it is  bad in law to order an independent inquiry into such executions.

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Azad killing was murder: Mamata

Posted by ajadhind on August 10, 2010

LALGARH: Trinamool Congress chief and railway minister Mamata Banerjee lived up to her reputation of being a maverick politician at a rally in Lalgarh, West Bengal, on Monday.

Putting herself at odds with her own government’s assessment that Naxalism is India’s biggest internal security threat, Mamata Banerjee on Monday questioned the killing of a Maoist leader and virtually offered them an olive branch. “Give me a date and time for the talks. Let this politics of murder and terror stop. If need be, the joint operations have to stop during the negotiations,” she said.

Referring to the encounter death of Maoist chief spokesman Cherukuri Rajkumar, popularly known as Azad, in Andhra Pradesh on July 2, Mamata described it as ‘khoon (murder)’. “Azad’s killing was not right. Swami Agnivesh has told me they want to talk again.”

Mamata clearly does not mind if her comments raise eyebrows in Delhi. She is ready to bear with the unease — as long as it serves to mobilize people against the ruling CPM in rural West Bengal.

Posted in ANDHRAPRADESH, Comrades, GREEN HUNT, IN NEWS, NAXALISM, WESTBENGAL | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

9 Telangana districts ‘backward’

Posted by ajadhind on August 10, 2010

source – hindu

Three in Rayalaseema and one in Coastal Andhra also listed by Centre

Thirteen districts of the State have been identified by the Central government for inclusion in the backward regions grant fund (BRGF) for the current financial year.

All the districts of Telangana, barring Hyderabad, and three Rayalaseema districts, except Kurnool, have been included the backward districts’ list by the Centre. Vizianagaram is the lone district from Coastal Andhra to figure in the list submitted by Union Minister of State for Rural Development Pradeep Jain Aditya in reply to a written question in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Medak, Mahabubnagar, Rangareddy, Nalgonda and Khammam in Telangana, Chittoor, Anantapur and Kadapa in Rayalaseema and Vizianagaram in Andhra regions would get Rs. 348.28 crore out of the Rs. 4,670.04 crore earmarked under the BRGF for the current financial year.

Interestingly, the Central government has included Karimnagar district, which has been recording high foodgrain production since the past few years surpassing East Godavari, in the backward regions list, while Srikakulam and Prakasam, perceived to be backward due to lower literacy levels, poor infrastructure and low rainfall do not find a place. The announcement assumes significance in the light of series of presentations being made before Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee on the backwardness of Telangana.

Supporters of separate statehood made several presentations to the panel arguing that the region had been ignored by successive governments in the development process and the latest announcement by the Centre bolsters their claim.

Ministers and elected representatives from other regions, however, claimed that Telangana had, in fact, witnessed more development than Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra in terms of health, education, agriculture and other sectors.

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Killing Azad: Silencing the Voice of Revolution

Posted by ajadhind on July 26, 2010

By

N Venugopal

In a deliberate attempt to suppress the most powerful and articulate voice of Indian revolutionary movement, the state has indulged in cold-blooded, brutal assassination of Cherukuri Rajkumar, popularly known as Azad, spokesperson of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), along with freelance journalist Hemchandra Pandey on July 2. Azad was supposed to meet a courier at Sitabardi in Nagpur , Maharashtra at 11 am on July 1, to go to Dandakaranya forest from there. The courier returned back to the forest after missing him at the appointed time and place. Thus Azad might have met Pandey before that and might have been picked up either before they reached the place or at the place before the courier reached there. Dead bodies of both of them were shown on a hillock in the forest between Jogapur and Sarkepalli villages in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, about 250 kms from Nagpur , with a story of an encounter that took place in the early hours of July 2. Since the “encounter” stories are very common and Azad is a very important functionary in the Maoist movement, this killing raises several questions that remain unanswered.

Andhra Pradesh is a state with about a dozen television news channels and one gets information flashes within minutes of happening. Around 9 in the morning on July 2 the channels started flashing that there was an “encounter” in which two Maoists were killed. Slowly the news developed to identify the dead bodies of two “top leaders” in the beginning and a “top leader” (“because there was one AK-47”) and his courier later. Within the next few hours it was speculated that the deceased were Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and Pulluri Prasada Rao alias Chandranna, secretary of North Telangana Special Zonal Committee. By afternoon Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee came online and told the channels that the second person might be Sahadev, an adivasi courier sent to fetch Azad, after an appointment in Nagpur . By the next day Usendi came again online and told that Sahadev returned back safely after not finding Azad at the rendezvous. Almost at the same time, friends of Hemchandra Pandey recognized the picture of his dead body that appeared in New Delhi edition of Telugu daily Eenadu and Pandey’s wife Babita announced that at a press conference in Delhi . Pandey was not identified for the first two days and passed off as a Maoist and once he was identified, police started denying that he was a journalist, implying that killing a Maoist cannot be an issue.

The official version of the incident goes like this: On the night of July 1 police got information that there was some movement of Maoists in Maharashtra – Andhra Pradesh border forests for the last 10-15 days and a combing party consisting of police from both the states went in search of them. Around 10.30 in the night the police party identified the Maoists and asked them to surrender, but the intransigent Maoists, numbering around 20, started firing at them. In order to defend themselves the police returned the fire and the exchange of fire continued till 2.30 in the morning. The police party could not search the area due to pitch darkness and came back next morning to find out two unidentified dead bodies, along with an AK-47, a 9 mm pistol, two kit bags and revolutionary literature.

However, newspaper readers in Andhra Pradesh are sick of this version that they have been reading the same sentences over and over again for the last forty years with changes in proper nouns alone. That nobody believed the version handed out by police and accepted Usendi’s statement was a commentary on the credibility of state machinery.

There are a number of reasons even usual believers in police stories could not trust this time round: Azad is known for his vigilant and alert attitude so much that police do not even have his recent photograph and content with a 30-year old picture of him. Given the importance of Azad as a member of politbureau and central committee, he would not be alone and would be protected by a well-guarded team if he were in forests. He could have been unarmed and single only if he were in an urban area. Newspersons who visited the site where dead bodies were shown also said that it was difficult terrain and would have been impossible for police coming out without a bruise, if it were a real exchange of fire. More over, there were no tell-tale signs of exchange of fire at the place except two bullets and the nearby villagers did not hear any sounds of gun fire, even as police claim that cross firing lasted for four hours.

The ruling class’ wrath against Rajkumar was so much that even his dead body was not allowed to be accorded due honour. Rajkumar’s mother, an ailing 75-year old Cherukuri Karuna, pleaded with the High Court to direct the government to bring the body from the remote Jogapur forest to Hyderabad , instead of a nearby hospital that does not have necessary equipment to protect the body from decomposition. She told the court that her age and health would not permit her to go all the way to Adilabad district and hence her request should be considered sympathetically. The court directed the police to postpone the post-mortem till the mother sees the dead body of her son, as if it was benevolently granting permission to a mother to see her son’s dead body. Even at the ill-equipped hospital at Mancherial, where hundreds of people gathered to pay their last respects to Azad, heavy police force was deployed and people were dispersed with lathicharge. Finally the police allowed mother and brothers only inside the hospital.

Azad is a very popular leader of the CPI (Maoist) and in his capacity as spokesperson of the central committee of the party he interacted with a number of media organisations, including EPW, as well as with important members of civil society during the lat couple of years. People who know Azad for a long time describe him as the personification of commitment, experience and expertise.

Cherukuri Rajkumar was born into a middle class family of Krishna district in May 1954. His father, an ex-service man, shifted to Hyderabad to run a small restaurant to raise a family of four sons and a daughter, Rajkumar being the second son. Rajkumar had his primary education in Hyderabad and secondary education at Sainik School , Korukonda in Vizianagaram district. He did his graduation in chemical engineering at Regional Engineering College (REC), Warangal and post graduation in marine engineering at Andhra University , Visakhapatnam . He was a brilliant student throughout and his mother remembers: “He suffered from eyesight problem when he was in class X and had to begin using contact lenses. Initially he could not adjust to the lenses and arranged a friend to read out the lessons to him. By just listening, he secured distinction in seven subjects that year.” Even when he was an activist, his teachers and friends say, he was a meritorious student as well as a prize winner in elocution and essay writing contests.

Srikakulam struggle broke out when Rajkumar was in high school and several of his family members were influenced by the struggle. His maternal grandfather’s family settled in Adilabad district and some of them were part of peasant struggles in that area along with Kondapalli Seetaramaiah, one of the founders of the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh. Rajkumar used to spend his summer vacation in that area and was influenced by the revolutionary environment around.

By the time he joined REC in 1972, it was a hot bed of revolutionary student movement, inspired by peasant movements in Warangal district, and being a very sensitive and sharp person, he became a part of that fervour. He was two years junior to and follower of Surapaneni Janardhan, a very effective radical student leader. Not only the impact of Janardhan, but also the peasant and working class movements in and around Warangal in the pre-Emergency days made a lasting impression on Rajkumar. Students of REC were in the forefront in forming Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union (RSU) at state level in October 1974 and Rajkumar was part of that group. While the RSU held its first conference in February 1975 in Hyderabad , it had to undergo severe repression within three months, with the imposition of Emergency. Several radical students went underground to avoid arrest as well as to organise peasants. Rajkumar was also arrested under the MISA and let off after a couple of months. Janardhan, along with three other student activists, were killed in a fake encounter in July 1975 in Giraipalli forest in Medak district.

Giraipalli killing, along with several other killings, created furore in post-Emergency period. Janardhan, like Rajan, another REC student from Calicut , became a symbol of democratic rights movement then. Jayaprakash Narayan set up a people’s fact finding committee under the leadership of V M Tarkunde to enquire the fake encounters in Andhra Pradesh. It was Rajkumar who helped Tarkunde Committee in gathering the necessary information and protecting the witnesses in Giraipalli forest and surrounding villages. Tarkunde Committee’s report led to the constitution of Justice V Bhargava Commission which held its enquiry during 1977-78. It was again Rajkumar who helped the defence team led by K G Kannabiran in arguing the case before the commission. K G Kannabiran fondly remembered the help and efficient assistance rendered by Rajkumar during those days, in his autobiography 24 Gantalu, published in 2009.

Radical Students Union was revived after Emergency and held its second conference in Warangal in February 1978 and Rajkumar, by that time doing his M Tech in Visakhapatnam , became its state president. It was at this conference, RSU gave the famous call of “Go to Villages” to students. These village campaigns of students brought out a sea change in the outlook of participating students as well as spreading the revolutionary message at the grassroots. The campaign was a prelude to Karminagar – Adilabad peasant struggles and in turn RSU gained strength through the peasant movement.  The ‘Go to Villages’ campaigns directly led to the formation of Radical Youth League in May 1978 and Raithucooli Sangham in 1980. During these historic years, Rajkumar was the president of RSU. He was re-elected twice at the third conference in Anantapur in February 1979 and fourth conference in Guntur in February 1981. However, by the time of Guntur conference he was being hunted by police and he could not even attend the public proceedings.

In the meanwhile, both as the president of RSU and as a student of M Tech at Andhra University he led a number of struggles in Visakhapatnam in particular and throughout the state in general. Struggle against private local transport system in Visakhapatnam , under his leadership, resulted in nationalisation of city buses. He was a powerful public speaker and addressed hundreds of meetings of students and others till 1981. All these activities made him a dangerous person in the eyes of state and he was implicated in a number of cases, beginning from his arrest under the MISA in 1975 till arrest in a case of exceeding permitted time of a public meeting in Narsapur and burning national flag in Visakhapatnam .

During the second half of 1980 itself he chose to become whole timer and began his underground life and there was no looking back. However, even working clandestinely he never lost touch with people and his activity spread far and wide. In August 1981, RSU organised an all India seminar on the nationality question in India in Madras . Rajkumar wrote an introductory pamphlet as well as a paper to be presented at the seminar on behalf of APRSU. This seminar connected various students’ organisations of different nationality struggles as well as radical democratic movements. As a follow up of the seminar, Revolutionary Students’ Organisations Co-ordination Committee (RSOCC) was formed and culminating four years of deliberations, All India Revolutionary Students’ Federation (AIRSF) held its first conference in Hyderabad in 1985. Rajkumar was one of the major forces that coordinated all these efforts.

For the next 25 years, he worked in different areas like Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Dandakaranya, giving theoretical, political and organisational inputs to struggles in all these places. He guided party units and committees in all these states as well as South-western Regional Bureau. He is known to have acquired fluency in at least six languages during this time. It is learnt that he used different names at different points of time for the sake of camouflage or depending on the nature of the job. He was known as Uday, Madhu, Janardhan, Prakash, and Gangadhar at different points of time. Though he was part of a collective decision-making body of the party, his personal contribution in terms of vision, expertise in several fields and a sharp insight into different developing themes helped the movement quite a bit. He was a voracious reader and a prolific writer. Given the nature of his clandestine activity he wrote under different pseudonyms, and more often credited his writings to collective, but one could easily identify his style in numerous writings in Voice of the Vanguard, People’s March, People’s Truth, Maoist Information Bulletin, etc. His hand could be identified in various documents of the party also. It is reported that he began thinking of international activity and solidarity about 15 years ago, demonstrating that he looked much ahead. There is an unconfirmed report that he participated in an international conclave of Maoist parties held in Brazil a few years ago. It is also reported that he was instrumental in setting up Co-ordination Committee of Maoist Parties in South Asia (CCOMPOSA) and addressed its meetings several times.

A couple of instances of his theoretical, political and organisational guidance and coordination are worth mentioning:

When K Balagopal raised some fundamental questions on the relevance of Marxism as an instrument of social transformation, even as accepting it as an efficient tool of analysis, in 1993, a number of revolutionary sympathisers felt disillusioned and a theoretical rebuttal was expected from the party. It was Rajkumar who wrote a critical essay in 1995 and another in 2001 answering all the philosophical questions of Balagopal. Despite being so critical on the questions of perspective, Azad paid rich tributes to Balagopal after the latter’s demise. The condolence statement stands as a model in recording both positive and negative aspects – respecting the significance of Balagopal’s contributions to people’s movements as well as mentioning post-modernist tendencies in him.

Consistently exploring the importance of the nationality question in India , he was again instrumental in holding an international seminar on nationality question, under the auspices of All India People’s Resistance Forum (AIPRF) in February 1996. Participated by scholars like William Hinton, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Luis Jalandoni, Raymond Lotta, Jalil Andrabi, Manoranjan Mohanty, this seminar had more than 30 papers on various nationality movements in India and across the globe. The seminar led to the formation of the Committee for Co-ordination of Nationalities and Democratic Movements (CCNDM), an important milestone in the expansion of revolutionary people’s movement in the country.

In 2002, the government of Andhra Pradesh accepted the proposal of some well-meaning intellectuals and Committee of Concerned Citizens (CCC) to hold talks with the then CPI (ML) Peoples War to bring about peace. It was Rajkumar who guided the efforts of peace negotiations on the part of the revolutionary party and he wrote a number of statements, gave interviews to newspapers clarifying the party’s position. The talks could not go ahead at that time, except a preliminary round between the emissaries proposed by the party and the government representatives.

Rajkumar was also part of the collective that guided Mumbai Resistance 2004, an event organised parallel to World Social Forum, which attracted quite a few revolutionary organisations from various countries towards the people’s movements in India under the leadership of the CPI (ML) Peoples War.

Again in 2004, in Andhra Pradesh the Congress party made an election promise to hold talks with the revolutionary parties and came to power. This time round the talks moved a little forward till the first round of negotiations between the representatives of CPI (Maoist) and CPI (ML) Janasakthi on one hand and the representatives of the government on the other. Beginning in May 2004 when Congress acquired power till January 2005, when the party withdrew from the process after gross violations of cease-fire agreement and spate of encounters on the part of the government, it was again Rajkumar who guided and prepared a lot of statements and documents for the talks. In fact, the party was so well prepared for the effort that it wrote the agenda, it prepared background papers on the three issues that were discussed and it circulated a number of documents and met with different sections of people to share the party’s point of view, while the government, with its mammoth machinery and all resources at its disposal, could not even prepare a single sheet of information throughout and the government representative did not do any home work.

Then again beginning with 2007 when the Prime Minister described the Maoist movement as the biggest internal threat, Rajkumar consistently exposed the real intentions of mining mafia behind the onslaught, including Operation Greenhunt. Through various writings and interviews in several media, he elaborated the party’s positions on various issues including the peace process. Indeed, a number of statements given by him, an 18-page interview along with audio sent to press in October 2009, his 12,262-word interview given to the Hindu in April 2010 and his letter of May 31, 2010 in response to Home Minister P Chidambaram’s letter of May 10 to Swami Agnivesh are crystal clear expositions of what the CPI (Maoist) thinks and does right now.

Azad’s killing is an integral part of the Operation Greenhunt and by killing him the government wanted to scuttle the voice of resistance and revolution. The Operation Greenhunt is a mission of the Indian ruling classes to surrender rich resources of Indian people to MNCs and their Indian junior partners. Rajkumar was also a great resource of Indian people and the ruling classes have eliminated this resource since he was a powerful expression among those obstructing the outright plunder of people’s natural resources.

nvenugopal61@ gmail.com

N Venugopal is Editor, Veekshanam, Telugu monthly journal of political economy and society.

Posted in ANDHRAPRADESH, Comrades, GREEN HUNT, MADHYAPRADESH, NAXALISM, ORISSA | Leave a Comment »

Azad’s assassination: An insight into the Indian state’s response to peoples’ resistance

Posted by ajadhind on July 26, 2010

by Gautam Navlakha, sanhati

The assassination of Cherukuri Raj Kumar a.k.a Azad on July 1-2, 2010 killed a senior leader of the CPI (Maoist) and scuttled a peace process thus virtually destroying the hopes of millions of Indians who wanted the government offensive against the Maoists to be halted. In this sense it was a double killing.

We were encouraged by the news reports that the Union Home Minister had written to Swami Agnivesh on May 11, 2010 to explore the possibility of a 72 hour ceasefire to pave the way for talks between the Maoists and the Indian State and the letter sent by Cherukuri Rajkumar a.k.a Azad, on 31st May, 2010 reiterated that Maoist party was serious about talks. In particular, unlike in the past, party’s response was unambiguously positive. Azad wrote that “to ensure the establishment of peace there should be ceasefire or cessation of hostilities by both sides simultaneously instead of asking one side to abjure violence … lift the ban on the party and mass organizations so as to facilitate them to take up open forms of struggle …. initiate measures to release Party leaders as a prelude to the release of political prisoners …. and …. stop all its efforts to escalate the war including the measures of calling back all the para military forces deployed in the war zones.” Indeed even in his interview given to The Hindu (April 14,2010) he had stated in response to the question whether by engaging in talks the Maoists wanted “to buy time” or is it a “re-evaluation of political strategy” he had been candid. He had said that “it does not need much of a common sense to understand that both sides will utilize a situation of ceasefire to strengthen their respective sides.” But he pointed out that “talks will give some respite to the people who are oppressed and suppressed under the fascist jackboots of the Indian state and state-sponsored terrorist organizations…”. In the same interview he also reminded that it was the “imposition of the ban that had led the Party and the mass organizations to take up arms in the first place…….What shook the rulers at that time (in 1978) and compelled them to declare Jagtyala and Sircila taluks in Karimnagar district of North Telengana as disturbed areas in 1978 was not the armed struggle of the Maoists (which had suffered a complete setback …by 1972) but the powerful (movement against) anti-feudal order in the countryside….” In short the manner in which the party responded this time further inspired hopes in the possibility of ending the war.

Granted that hope generated about prospects of talk had weak foundation. No political party in government power has ever shown willingness to engage in sincere dialogue with the revolutionary left. This should caution us against raising our hope. The 2004-05 peace talks between the Maoists and the Andhra Pradesh government ended because fake encounters continued to be carried out by the AP police and so did Maoists retaliation. Thus even before substantive issues could be taken up talks got sabotaged and AP police crackdown ensued which dealt a severe setback to Maoists in AP. However, we also know that sooner or later both sides have to talk.

The assassination of Azad on July 1-2 has made the already difficult task bleak.

It is evident from facts available in the public domain that Cherukuri Raj Kumar a.k.a Azad and Hem Pande were unarmed when they travelled to Nagpur where Azad was to meet a courier between 11.30-1.30 pm of July 1, 2010. They left on June 30th from somewhere in north India and were disappeared most likely on the morning of 1st July either before the train reached Nagpur or on reaching Nagpur. It appears that he was on his way, among other reasons, to meet other senior leaders of CPI (Maoist) to decide on the date from which 72 hour ceasefire was to commence. Swami Agnivesh had communicated to him on June 26 that “Maoists should set a date for abjuring violence for 72 hours. In my letter I had suggested three dates: July 10, 15 and 20. Before he could respond, the police killed him.” (The Sunday Times, 18 July, 2010).

It is alleged that Azad was killed because the Maoists did not cease their ambushes causing fatalities which demoralized security force personnel, such as the June 29 ambush in Narayanpur district of Bastar in which 29 CRPF jawans lost their lives. While ceasefire had not commenced and both sides were engaged in attacking each other it is one thing for such attacks and counter-attacks to continue. However, the greyhound which kidnapped Azad and then killed him were aware of his identity (but not of his companion) and therefore knew that he was engaged in talks with the government. They could have either allowed him to travel or else to arrest him and his companion. The fact that they chose to do neither meant that they had sanction to liquidate him. And therefore, it is likely that the AP greyhound knew that by doing so they would be scuttling the incipient peace process.

After this it would be difficult for Maoists to heed the demand for cessation of hostilities if a leader engaged in these backchannel contacts can be eliminated. Because it sends a message that no one is safe at the hands of trigger happy security forces. On the other hand it imperils the efforts of all those who wanted to end this war from escalating. From circumstantial evidence it is clear that warmongers have won this round. The July 14th 2010 meeting of the chief ministers of Naxalite-affected states makes it clear that the Indian government post-Azad assassination is going ahead with escalating its war efforts. For instance it was announced at the meeting that 36 battallions of India Reserve force will be added to the 105 already raised along with 16,000 more Special police officers (SPOs – civilians trained and armed by the government to combat Maoists) bringing their strength to 30,000. However, this falls short of the numbers touted by no less than Union Home Secretary who told Economic Times (April 19th, 2010) that “our (armed) police requirement today is roughly three and half lakhs short….we want to reach the UN average and to get to it I need another five lakh policemen. So we need to recruit eight lakh over next five years…” or 175,000 jawans annually.

Also in order to prepare the way for army deployment four unified commands are being setup headed by the chief secretary and with a retired major general as an advisor. Indeed the army chief, two days after the meeting of the CMs, told his senior officers to be “mentally prepared to step into the fight against Naxalism….It might be in six months or in a year or two but if we have to maintain our relevance as a tool of the state, we will have to undertake things that the nation wants us to.” (Indian Express 17 July 2010).

This may persuade some to question the political strategy of the Maoists and blame them for widening the war. This would be a grossly erroneous exercise. To essentialise the issue of Maoist violence is the way in which class society dehumanizes struggles and movements. If the bottomline is that reproduction of social inequality is unacceptable then those who believe in step-by-step process, and others in leap or qualitative jump, from one stage to another, must accept that there will remain a divide and yet both are also symbiotically linked to each other. Those who decry armed struggle claim that popular movements can make existing institutions responsive to people’s needs.

The point is such efforts were being made even when Maoists had not emerged as the biggest threat to the Indian ruling classes and have not ceased because of Maoist rebellion. Except such efforts have actually gained more leverage thanks to the Maoist movement emerging strong. This becomes even more remarkable because in 2004-05 when Maoists were dealt a blow in Andhra Pradesh and more or less wiped out with mere presence in a single district followed by Salwa Judum type repression in Chattisgarh. No one believed that they would emerge stronger this time around. Well they did. So much so that almost all the contemporary social welfare legislations, be it NREGA, Forest Act, enforcement of PESA, proposal to make joint forest management committees managed by the gram sabha…and the Planning Commission’s “Special Problems of Tribal Development” have all been inspired or advocated by referring to the need to wean away the poorest among the poor from the Maoists/ Naxalites? Consider that the Prime Minister had drawn attention to the need to withdraw lakhs of cases filed against the tribals for petty crimes, since 1980, lest such persecution of tribals drive them to join Maoists/Naxalites. The union law minister had opined that “(t)here is a feeling among the common citizens, especially the poor, women, the elderly and the weaker sections, that the legal and judicial process is far removed from them.” He added that common man’s disenchantment was manifesting itself in “new form of violence and strife – civil unrest, armed peasant and tribal movement, Naxalite and Maoist rebellion.” (HT 25/10/2009). One can go on and on….

Thus even peaceful or non-violent movements owe their credibility or their relative effectiveness to the Maoists armed resistance. Then why should anyone decry Maoists for their armed resistance or want them to stop the war when resistance itself derives succor from this? It is important, I believe, to keep exploring possibilities of peace which can enable the Maoists to work openly and launch mass struggles because they have captured the imagination of the poorest among the poor.

Moreover, while violence will continue to play a role, as long as State pursues militaristic approach, violence also has its limits. These limits are set by politics. It is one thing to resist but another to promote alternative politics. While displacement, land grab by and for mining and mineral based conglomerates, forest rights, welfare needs have received spotlight, alternative to the present order of things is somehow missing. Why is it that ten thousand suicides by farmers evokes less revulsion than a criminal act committed by the Maoists? Consider that received wisdom which regards prospects of agriculture playing a role in the growth process to be negligible, particularly, from the viewpoint of employment generation and as driver of economic growth. What does the revolutionary left, in particular the Maoists, have to offer to reverse the decline of agriculture, which accounts for livelihood needs of 60% of the rural workforce? Do we not need the alternative and not just a critique of this received wisdom. Will land reform/distribution invigorate production and generate employment? On the other hand if manufacturing is the key sector to bring about equitable development is it to be an unbridled growth or be planned? Wherein should investments go? What should be the mineral policy? Should we, for instance, halt mining of bauxite? Why must it be the case? Do we need poverty reduction so that state can play benevolent role? Or is there an alternate vision for removal of poverty and empowering the people? How is it that decade long military suppression in NE and J&K does not encourage us to ponder the nature of our State which can year in and year out crush movements which demand right of self-determination, an eminently democratic and peaceful approach? Is the Indian state anti-Muslim, pro-Hindu, racist….or a repressive state which presents itself as one or the other depending on which section of people it is engaged in crushing and therefore demonizing. The point is that for left to be credible it must go beyond surface manifestation of wrong and address the underlying causes and processes which account for skewed and unequal and stunted growth. Regrettably, parliamentary left despite 58 years of open politics and despite holding government power at provincial level, has not offered an alternate vision. Yes they have some achievement but these are hardly of the kind which inspires anyone to claim that they present a different vision of politics. While their failure does not cancel out open politics what it does is reminds us of where we fail and what we lack.

Now Indian State propagates that Naxalites are irredeemably bent upon waging a war against the Indian State and short of suppressing them there is no other option. Of course Maoists want to seize power. That is a perfectly legitimate objective. In the last four decades several Naxalite parties gave up this path to pursue non-violent parliamentary or extra parliamentary struggle. Their experience hardly inspires confidence that the Indian state has become amenable to people’s concerns now that some of these left wing rebels gave up arms. Appeal and prospect of non-violence has been undermined, by the state itself. Lest we forget be it NREGA, the forest bill or the decision to enforce Panchayat Extension to Schedule Areas, which was passed in 1996 but not implemented and so many other such issues figure on the agenda thanks to the fear that were this not done the poorest among the poor will continue to turn to Maoists.

The point is that so long as State monopolises means of violence they will remain enabled to subject people to a life of indignity and enslavement. Freedoms and liberties would remain prerogative of the middle classes to enjoy. Working people are vulnerable; no sooner they appear to have succeeded in mobilizing people and begin to question the inequalities and inadequacies of the system they become target of State’s oppressive ways. Therefore, it would be a recipe for disaster to surrender the right to offer armed resistance until such time that the State outlaws war against the people. Indeed unless people get armed one cannot neutralize the great advantage the ruling classes enjoy over means of violence, which is primarily employed against the masses.

India, for all its verbosity about non-violence, is one of the most heavily armed state both in terms of accumulation of destructive power of its arsenal as well as size of its military force, which gets force multiplied by draconian laws, and thus enables the ruling classes to practice ‘slow genocide’. Consider that 45% of children below 6 years suffer from malnutrition, malnourishment and stunted growth, or that by playing around with calorie intake, bringing it down from 2400 to 1800 or even less to 1500, one can statistically reduce the number of people living below poverty line and thus reduce Food Security entitlement for hundreds of millions of Indians! This exposes our own people to a slow death. To then argue that violence has no role to play is quite wrong. It is as good telling people to wait patiently for the fruit to fall into their lap. This may be touching display of fortitude and of religious faith, but for the fact those at the receiving end may be getting desperate after 63 years of practicing it. Ironically, whereas India dropped to 134th position in global human development index we moved up the ladder, to occupy ninth position, in military spending and 12th largest economy! Take another example whereas 126,700 High Networth Individuals (billionaires and multi-millionaires) in India own one third of gross national income of the country, 645 million Indians suffer pangs of poverty and deprivation!

Despite being weak and with patchy urban presence it is clear that Maoists enjoy legitimacy in the eyes of the poorest of the poor. Thus were the ban on the party removed they could emerge as a fulcrum around which resistance could become vigorous. Indian rulers do not want this to happen. By assassinating Azad security apparatus has thus killed a senior leader of the Maoist party, scuttled peace process and throttled the possibility of Maoists coming overground anytime in near future.

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Bullets. Bodies. Land. Corporations.

Posted by ajadhind on July 26, 2010

KUNAL MAJUMDER IN SRIKAKULAM, ANDHRA PRADESH, tehelka

A big firm zeroes in on farm land for a thermal plant, and the villagers resist because it’s all they have

THIS IS what happens when land, wetland at that, becomes the heart of battle, in this case the seaside village of Sompeta, 120 km from Srikakulam town. The Hyderabad-based Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC) picks 1,100 acres of wetland here to build a thermal plant. The villagers object. On 14 July, they come to protest. Facing them are 200 NCC workers with blue ribbons and wielding lathis. Around 200 police personnel wait with batons, shields and helmets. The slogans begin: “Go back NCC”. Curses rent the air. The police respond with a lathicharge, and the blue ribbons join them. The villagers retreat, and return after two hours. Men and women, young and old, with bamboo sticks and tree branches. Teargas shells are fired, which are useless in the water-filled fields. The villagers surround the police and come charging, destroying tents, tearing banners and thrashing the constables who cannot run. In their rage, the villagers snatch at media cameras and pounce on reporters. Then, suddenly, there is gunfire. Sub-Inspectors aim their service revolvers at the villagers. Joga Rao, a 40-year-old farmer, falls, shot by Sub-Inspector K Ashoke Kumar. The villagers around Rao start yelling for help. A cameraperson from TV9, Anil Kumar, tries to put Rao on his motorcycle. Just then, someone hits Kumar on his head. Another villager, G Krishnamurthy, 54, is also shot. Later, at the mandal hospital, where the injured are being treated, a man suspected of being a police mole is beaten up. The crowd now starts targeting the media, whom they accuse of siding with the NCC. The madness continues into the night — an NCC office is burnt, and local politicians are attacked. The next day comes the news: environmental clearance to the NCC plant has been withdrawn.

Posted in ANDHRAPRADESH, IN NEWS, peoplesmarch | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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