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Report on New York & California protests against Operation Green Hunt

Posted by ajadhind on August 26, 2010

Sanhati, a forum for solidarity with peoples’ struggles in India, successfully organized a protest demonstration in front of the Indian Consulate in NYC on August 13 against Operation Green Hunt to coincide with India’s independence day on 15th August . The protest demonstration was endorsed by the Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia and was attended by individuals from Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas representing diverse South Asian and international organizations like SASI (South Asia Solidarity Initiative), ILPS (International League of Peoples Struggles), ISO (International Socialist Organisation), RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) USA, FRSO (Freedom Road Socialist Organization), WWP (Workers World Party) and others. A legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) was also present during the protest.

The demonstration continued from 11 am to 1pm and was marked by chanting of slogans, distributing pamphlets to passers-by, making speeches in support of peoples’ struggles in India, singing songs of resistance and finally submitting a signed petition registering a strong protest against the government’s military offensive in the regions populated by the indigeneous (adivasi) people. The text of the petition is appended below for reference.

Sanhati Collective


To: Consul General
Consulate General of India
3 East 64th Street
New York, NY 10065

Petition against Operation Green Hunt in India)

Dear Sir/Madam,
We, the undersigned, would like to register our strong protest against the Operation Green Hunt, the Government of India’s (GOI) deliberate move to escalate military intervention against the indigenous people in the forested regions of East-Central India. Such a military campaign already will endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of the poorest people living in those areas, resulting in massive displacement, destitution and human rights violation of ordinary citizens, especially the indigenous people.
We are acutely aware of the fact that the geographical terrain where the GOI’s military offensive is taking place, is very rich in natural resources like minerals, forest wealth and water, and has been the target of large scale appropriation by several Indian and foreign corporations. The desperate resistance of the local indigenous people against their displacement and dispossession has in many cases prevented the government-backed corporations from making inroads into these areas and has thankfully impeded the setting-up of ecologically disastrous industries. We fear that the government’s on-going military offensive is an attempt to crush such popular resistances in order to facilitate the entry and operation of these corporations and to pave the way for unbridled exploitation of the natural resources and the people of these regions.
We feel that it would deliver a crippling blow to Indian democracy if the government tries to subjugate its own people militarily without addressing their grievances. As has been witnessed in the case of numerous peoples’ struggle around the world, such military campaigns end up in enormous misery for the common people.
Therefore, we demand –
1) An immediate end to the Operation Green Hunt and withdrawal of all armed forces from these regions
2) The GOI should engage with the civil society mediated initiatives for negotiations with representatives of peoples’ movements in order to address the grievances of the common people.
3) All Memoranda of Understanding (MoU-s) signed with different corporations, for the extraction of natural resources from the vast areas of East-Central India, must be revealed and immediately cancelled.
4) All draconian laws like Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act, Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act should be immediately repealed. Ban on political organizations should be withdrawn and all political prisoners should be released.
5) All state-assisted vigilante groups like the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh and Harmad Bahini in West Bengal should be immediately disbanded and the concerned criminals associated with these organizations, including government officials, should be brought to book.

San Francisco, California:

On Friday, August 13, an  action of solidarity with the people in India and  Kashmir–a protest of the Indian government’s “Operation Green Hunt” and the repression of the resistance of Kashmiri people’s struggle–took place at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco.
It was endorsed by the Sanhati Collective, and participants included US and South Asian solidarity activists from the Bay Area and elsewhere. The demonstrators held signs with clear messages:
  • Stop Operation Green Hunt!
  • Stop the War on People in India!
  • Solidarity with the Resistance of Tribal People in India!
  • Support the Just Struggle of the Kashmiri people!
The protestors handed out information about Operation Green Hunt: an Indian government offensive of over 200,000 soldiers directed against the areas populated by tribal peoples in eastern and central India–and why it must be opposed by concerned people around the world.  A number of Indians coming to the Consulate for visas or other business had already  heard about Green Hunt and wanted more information.   This will be the first of many actions and educational events opposing Operation Green Hunt in the Bay Area.

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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.

Posted in ANDHRAPRADESH, Comrades | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Analysis of Classes in India: A Preliminary Note on the Industrial Bourgeoisie and Middle Class

Posted by ajadhind on December 3, 2009

 November 24, 2009

By Deepankar Basu, Sanhati.

 (Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst) In a previous paper [Basole and Basu (2009)] an attempt to begin an analysis of social classes in contemporary India organized around the idea of economic surplus was initiated, by revisiting the 1970s mode of production debate. The focus in Basole and Basu (2009) was on the rural classes and the unorganized industrial and service sector workers. In this paper, I extend that analysis by shifting attention to the classes that had been left out in Baole and Basu (2009): the industrial bourgeoisie and what might be called the middle class. Introduction In the Marxist tradition, the notion of class is intimately related to the idea of economic surplus. Thus, I would like to begin this paper with a few brief and introductory comments on the relationship between the two. Every society, if it is to reproduce itself over time, must organize social production in such a way that it manages to reproduce the material and non-material conditions of its existence. Production in excess of what is necessary to reproduce the material conditions of its existence is the production of what we can call economic surplus. Thus, a society produces economic surplus when it produces more than what is necessary to cover the costs of social production, i.e., when it produces more than is necessary to replace (or replenish) the labour and non-labour inputs used up in the production process. This allows us to divide the total labour time of society into two parts: necessary labour time, which corresponds to the labour time required to merely replace the labour and non-labour inputs to production; and, surplus labour time, which corresponds to the economic surplus. It is the economic surplus, moreover, that allows any society to grow and develop, to not only increase the scale, scope and sophistication of material production and encourage and facilitate technological change but also to increase the scale and depth of its non-material products. Every viable, growing society, therefore, must produce an economic surplus to sustain its material and non-material growth. Of course, reproduction of a society requires not only the continuous production of an economic surplus but also the reproduction of its social relations of production. While the problem of the reproduction of the social relations of production is an important one and deserves serious study, here I would like to draw attention to another, though related, issue: the relationship between economic surplus and class. What is class? Here I can do no better than give a fairly comprehensive definition of class by Lenin: “Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation in most cases fixed and formulated in law to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people, one of which can appropriate the labour of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy” (Lenin 1919 (1972), p.421). Thus, classes, as understood in the Marxist tradition, are defined by the appropriation of the surplus labour time of the group of direct producers by the group of non-producers (or exploiters). This appropriation is made possible by the differential location of the classes in the process of social production and the differential ownership of the means of production. The appropriation is guaranteed by the existing legal system enforced through the power of the State. But if classes are defined by the appropriation of surplus, then they can only come into existence when the productive capacity of society has progressed to the extent that it can produce a surplus over and above what is needed for bare subsistence. Thus, class-divided societies are made possible and materially supported by the existence of economic surplus, corresponding to the surplus labour time of direct producers. Being defined by the relationship between exploiters (those who appropriate the surplus) and exploited (those who produce the surplus), class-divided societies have often been studied with two-class models: master and slave, serf and lord, worker and capitalist. It is of course clear that two-class models arise as abstractions from the more complex class structures of real societies; the presence of groups which lie in the “middle” of, or straddle, both class locations, i.e., exploited and exploiters, needs to be taken into account to arrive at a more realistic class analysis of real societies. Before proceeding to take account of the “middle” in Indian society, it needs to be reiterated that even though two-class models are simplified representations of reality, they are useful for understanding the basic dynamics of the societies they refer to at a high level of abstraction. For instance, Marx’s analysis of the dynamics of capital accumulation presented in Capital, Volume 1 (Marx, 1992), where he works primarily in terms of two fundamental social classes – the proletariat and the capitalists – is extremely useful in understanding the long term tendencies of capitalist societies. With these preliminary comments in place, let me propose the following three-class typology as a first approximation to the class structure of contemporary India: the working classes, the ruling classes and the middle classes, the plural being used to draw attention towards the internal heterogeneity of each of these three classes. Three Fold Classification for India The working classes are the only productive classes in Indian society and are defined by the fact that they produce the economic surplus in the following specific sense: the income that accrues to this class, which is equal to the value of its labour-power, is lower than the value added by the use of that labour power during any period of time (say a year). Taking account of the internal heterogeneity of the working class in India, it can be broadly divided, with two important qualifications, into two large groups: (1) the unorganized workers (i.e., workers in the unorganized sector of the economy) as defined by the National Commission for Enterprise in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS), and (2) productive workers in the organized sector of the economy. The first qualification relates to the fact that the NCEUS defines the unorganized workers to include almost all of the agricultural sector; hence we must exclude the following two rural classes from the NCEUS definition of the unorganized workers: (a) rich farmers and landlords, and (b) middle peasants. The second qualification relates to a tiny portion of the workers in the organized sector whom we will include in the middle class and not in the surplus-producing working class, viz., the highly skilled workers, the professionals, the managers, and all the employees of the State sector. Thus, in India, the working class consists of: (1) the landless labourers, (2) the marginal and poor peasants, (3) the workers in the unorganized industrial and service sectors, and (4) a large part of the workers in the organized private sector. At the other pole of Indian society resides the dominant, or ruling, classes. These classes are defined by the fact that they not only appropriate the economic surplus (that has been produced by the working classes defined above) but also determine the direction and mode of its utilization. For historical and structural reasons, the ruling class combine in India has been, and still is, internally heterogeneous and consists of the following three elements: (1) the industrial bourgeoisie, (2) the rich farmers and landlords, and (3) the professionals (State-elite, i.e., the top-level managers of PSUs, the top-level officers of the bureaucracy, the police, the army and the judiciary, and the top-level managers and professionals in the private sector). The industrial bourgeoisie is the dominant element in the ruling class combine. Lying between these two poles, the productive and the non-productive poles, is what we might call the “middle class” which is defined by the following two characteristics: (1) this class is the recipient of a part of the economic surplus, i.e., the total compensation earned by the middle-class is higher than the value of its labour power (i.e., the cost of producing and reproducing the labour power); and (2) the middle class is crucial for the reproduction of the existing social relations in India which is what fetches it the extra income, i.e., the income above the value of its labour power, in the form of rent from the ruling classes. There are two main segments of the middle class: (a) the petty bourgeoisie, who largely own their means of production: middle peasants in agriculture, the merchants, the traders, and the owner-operators of small enterprises, and (b) the professionals: the technical experts, the managers, and the skilled workers in large-scale private enterprises, and the large majority of the employees of the State sector. Basole and Basu (2009), by revisiting the 1970s mode of production debate, attempted to begin an analysis of social classes in contemporary India organized around the idea of economic surplus. The focus in Basole and Basu (2009) was on the rural classes and the unorganized industrial and service sector workers. In this paper, I extend that analysis by shifting attention to the classes that had been left out in Baole and Basu (2009): the industrial bourgeoisie and what might be called the middle class. But before moving on to an analysis of the industrial bourgeoisie and the middle class, let me briefly summarize the findings of Basole and Basu (2009) about the rural classes and the unorganized workers. The main input into agricultural production is land and so the analysis of property and power in the agricultural sector has to carefully look at the ownership distribution of land. While the aggregate distribution of land ownership remains as skewed today as it was five decades ago, interesting and important patterns are visible within this unchanging aggregate picture. The share of land owned by large (10 ha or more) and medium (4 ha to 10 ha) landholding families has steadily declined over the last few decades from around 60% to 34%; the share owned by small (1 ha to 2 ha) and marginal (less than 1 ha) landholding families has increased from around 21% to 43%, while the share of semi-medium (2 ha to 4 ha) families has remained unchanged at around 20%. Going hand-in-hand with the decline in the share of land owned by large landowning families, is the steady decline of tenant cultivation and its gradual replacement by self cultivation in Indian agriculture. The share of operational holdings using tenant cultivation declined from about 24% in 1960-61 to about 10% in 2002-03. There are large geographical variations in the extent of tenancy, with the largest share of leased-in land as a share of total operated area occurring in Punjab and Haryana, two prominent examples of what Basole and Basu (2009) called large landholding states; Orissa has high prevalence of tenancy and is an example of a small landholding state. The proportion of area owned and the proportion of area operated by the different size-classes are almost equal; hence, there is no evidence of reverse tenancy on any substantial scale at the aggregate level, though this might hide reverse tenancy at state or regional levels. Disaggregating total incomes of rural households engaged in agriculture according to types of income showed that wage income has become the main source of income for a large majority of the population. For about 60% of the rural households in 2003, the major share of income came from wage work, supplemented by income coming from petty commodity production, both in the agricultural and non-agricultural sector. Another 20% of rural households drew equal shares of their total income from wage work and cultivation, both at about 40%. The natural corollary to this is that “effective landlessness” is large and has steadily increased over the past few decades. The share of effectively landless households in total rural households has increased from about 44% in 1960-61 to 60% in 2002-03. These, and other related, facts led Basole and Basu (2009) to conclude that: (a) the hold of semi-feudal landlords had declined significantly over the past few decades; thus, the primary element of the rural ruling class today seems to be the rich farmers; (b) there has been a significant growth of the rural proletariat, and (c) the prevalence of petty production, in agriculture, industry and services, remains undiminished; hence the petty bourgeoisie remains numerically and politically important; (d) the vast majority of the industrial proletariat is seen in India today as unorganized workers, who lack social security, work security and employment security (NCEUS, 2007). Let us now turn to a study of the industrial bourgeoisie and the middle classes. The Industrial Bourgeoisie The dominant element in the ruling class combine is the industrial bourgeoisie, which emerged and grew under the long shadow of British colonialism. Accumulating capital through merchant and trading activities related to the colonial economy, this class gradually diversified into industrial activities, beginning with the textile industry in an around colonial Bombay. Significant portions of the industrial bourgeoisie has been, and continues to be, organized along family lines, with the Tatas and the Birlas being the most prominent historical examples. Three characteristics of the Indian industrial bourgeoisie demand further analysis and comment: its attitude towards other elements, especially the semi-feudal landlords, of the ruling class combine; the evolution of its internal structure and its relationship with the State; and, its relationship with the center of the global capitalist system. The Indian bourgeoisie has, because of its historical origins, always had an ambivalent attitude to the whole gambit of semi-feudal interests in the economy. Even though it hesitantly supported the nationalist leadership of the Indian National Congress, it was never strong enough to push for its hegemony either in the nationalist movement or in the post-colonial State. It never fought a frontal battle with feudal interests, the biggest indicator of which is the half-hearted nature of land reforms in independent India. As a result, it could neither fashion an independent capitalist development path for the country based on the home market nor consistently democratize the polity. If the nationalist struggle for independence is, therefore, understood as the beginning of the bourgeois democratic revolution in India, then it largely remains unfinished even 60 years after political independence from British colonialism. Even though the Indian bourgeoisie has not initiated and led a broad-based capitalist development, which could have improved the material conditions of the vast masses of the country, it has nonetheless managed to significantly widen and deepen the industrial structure of India. Starting with consumer goods industries like textiles, it has diversified into the production of basic capital and intermediate goods, and consumer durables. This has been largely possible because of the protection and patronage of the State, with which this class has had a complex relationship. On the one hand, it has resisted all attempts at disciplining by the State for larger development programmes (Chibber, 2006); on the other, it has utilized industrial, tax, credit, export and import policies of the State to further its own narrow class interests. At the time of political independence, the industrial structure in India was very concentrated at the top, with a few large monopoly business houses controlling large swathes of the market. Three trends have emerged, slowly at first, since then. The first trend has been the differentiation of the economy into an organized and an unorganized sector, roughly coterminous with large and small scale industries; policies of the Indian state helped in this differentiation. The second trend has been the relative growth and proliferation of the small scale sector, i.e., relative to the large-scale, organized sector. The third trend has been the slow but steady growth of a regional bourgeoisie, different from and often competing with the established large business houses. Thus, concentration and centralization of capital has proceeded in several branches of the organized sector; but this has also been accompanied by increased regional and sectoral competition and growth of the small scale sector. To get a sense of the evolution of the concentration of Indian capital at the very top let us look at some data. In 1971, total sales of the top 20 industrial houses in India accounted for about 61 percent of the net domestic product of the private organized sector; the corresponding figure for 1981 was 87 percent (Bardhan, 1998). To come to the situation in the early part of this century, note the continued dominance of what the business press regularly calls the “big four” of Indian business: the Tatas, the Birlas, the Ambanis and the Mittals. In key industries like energy, telecom, steel, automobiles, IT and retail, these four business houses either continue to dominate or are poised to do so in the near future. Another measure of the concentration of Indian capital at the top can be seen from the following: according to data from the ET 500, in 2008 the top 20 private companies accounted for about 40 percent of the sales, 47 percent of after-tax profits and 45 percent of market capitalization of the top 500 private companies. Though not strictly comparable with the earlier data for the 1970s and 1980s, the data about 2008, when situated in a historical setting, suggests the following: the monopoly power of Indian big capital increased continuously after political independence till the mid-1980s, and has seen a relative decline since the inception of the process of economic liberalization. While Indian capital continues to be highly concentrated at the top in many industries, we notice another trend too: regional capital has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two decades and has made serious forays into industries such as automobile ancillaries, capital goods, casting and forging, chemicals, construction, diamond and jewelery, entertainment and media, textiles and transportation and many others. The relationship of Indian capital to the center of the global capitalist system has been the focus of much debate and discussion within left circles in India with one prominent strand characterizing the big bourgeoisie as comprador and the Indian state as semi-colonial, both these characterization meant to convey the continuing hold of foreign capital on the Indian economy and polity, especially since the beginnings of the 1990s. Concrete evidence regarding the presence of foreign capital in the Indian economy and the continuous overseas expansion of Indian capital seem to suggest a more complicated story. Let us first look at the evidence on the presence of foreign capital in the Indian economy. In 1981-82, “only about 10 per cent of total value added in the factory of mining and manufacturing was accounted for by foreign firms.” (Bardhan, 1998); if only large firms are kept in the picture, foreign firms still account for only about 13 per cent of the value added. Of course, there were a small number of industries where foreign presence was substantial: industries producing cigarettes, soap and detergents, typewriters, electrodes, etc. To the extent that there was a rise of foreign collaboration during this time, “the overwhelming proportion of such agreements [did] not involve any foreign participation in equity capital.” (Bardhan, 1998). Similarly, there has been an increasing trend of outright purchase of technological imports thereby reducing the dependence of domestic capitalists on the foreign suppliers of technology. Of the top 25 industrial units in 1983, only 4 were foreign. The contemporary picture is tilted even more towards the domestic bourgeoisie. Of the top 500 companies in 2008, only 2 were foreign: Larsen & Tubro and Maruti-Suzuki; if we restrict ourselves to only private companies, then the corresponding figure is 3 out of the top 25: Larsen & Tubro, ITC and Maruti-Suzuki. If we look at the same issue at a more disaggregated level, there are only three major industries which has substantial foreign capital: capital goods (Larsen & Tubro), fast moving consumer goods (ITC and Hindustan Lever), and retail (Pantaloon retail). Other than these three, all the major industries are controlled by Indian capital: automobiles, banks, chemicals, construction, consumer durables, entertainment, fertilisers, finance, metals & mining, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, power, real estate, steel, textiles, transportation (ET 500, 2008). The overseas expansion of Indian capital in recent years has been commented on a lot, especially in the ecstatic business press in India. Some of the prominent examples that have been splashed across the national media are: Videocon’s acquisition of South Korea’s debt-burdened Daewoo Electronics; Tata’s acquisition of Corus; ONGC Videsh’s acquisition of Exxon Mobil’s stake in the Campos Basin Oil Fields in Brazil; Suzlon Energy’s acquisition of Belgium’s Hansen Transmissions International NV; Ranbaxy’s acquisition of Terapia, the largest independent generic drug company in Romania; Wipro’s acquisition of United States-based Quantech Global Services; and the largest acquisition of all, Reliance’s reported move to acquire controlling stake in LyondellBasell, the world’s third largest chemical company. Going beyond such anecdotal evidence from the business press, there is substantial evidence based on detailed research that major fractions of Indian capital, with active assistance from the State, has successfully entered the global scene. Researchers have pointed out that Indian investments abroad has moved through two stages. During the first stage of the 1970s and 1980s, the quantity of investments was small, and the destination was primarily in the developing world, shifting from Africa to Southeast Asia. During the second phase, starting roughly from the mid 1990s, there has been a dramatic quantitative increase of outward flow of capital, accompanied by a widening breadth and depth of industries where investment has been directed to; interestingly, in this phase, an increasing share of the investment have found destinations in the imperialist core: USA and Europe. (Pedersen, 2008). Thus, taking account of these recent trends, viz., growing concentration and centralization of capital in certain key sectors of the Indian economy, the rise and growth of the regional bourgeoisie, and the increasing overseas expansion, especially into the core of the global capitalist system, it seems that the characterization of the big bourgeoisie as “comprador” and the Indian state as semi-colonial needs to be seriously rethought. What this implies is not the absence of imperialism but a suggestion to carefully rethink how imperialism operates in the Indian context, i.e., to rethink how the Indian economy is articulated to the global capitalist system by imperialism. Two issues that might be helpful in this context, and needs to be explored further, are the following: (a) the role and effect of financial capital (i.e., flows of portfolio capital as opposed to direct foreign investment) on the Indian economy, and (b) the possible influence of imperialism operating through the channels of government policy rather through the channel direct investment, i.e., export of ideas replacing the primacy of the export of capital à la Lenin. Next, we look at the middle classes. The Middle Class What I have called the middle class, for lack of a better expression, is composed of two distinct segments in contemporary India, the petty bourgeoisie and the professionals (technical experts, managers, skilled workers scientific personnel and state sector employees). The first segment of this class owns its means of production and thus, does not produce, surplus value; the second segment, on the other hand, receives a small portion of the total surplus value due to their crucial position in the production process and their important role in the reproduction of the existing social relations. The petty bourgeoisie owns its means of production and, therefore, does not need, in the main, to sell its labour power for ensuring its livelihood. In the agricultural sector, the petty bourgeoisie refers to the middle peasants, i.e., families whose main source of income is cultivation and who mainly rely on family labour for organizing cultivation. In the industrial and service sectors, the petty bourgeoisie refers to owner-operators of small enterprises operated mainly with family labour and the small traders and merchants. There is internal differentiation within the petty bourgeoisie, with one section managing to produce surplus and accumulating capital while the other part lives perpetually in poverty, barely managing to reproduce themselves at a constant level of operation. The privileged position of the professionals in the production process can be better understood if we focus on two crucial dimensions of the production process: skill and expertise, and exercise of authority in the production process. The analysis of professionals in this paper draws heavily on the pioneering work of Marxist sociologist Erik Olin Wright (Wright, 1997). Let us consider authority first by looking a little more carefully at the production process. Capitalists not only hire labour in the market, but also dominates labour in the production process relating, for instance, to the pace, intensity and other dimensions of work; this aspect of power and control of capital by labour is crucial. As the scale and scope of production increases it becomes increasing difficult for capitalists to carry out this function; hence, they delegate this function to the class of managers and supervisors: managers and supervisors exercise the authority of capital over labour in the production process on behalf of capital. Thus, this dimension of delegated authority is one crucial dimension along which working people are differentiated, creating a contradictory class position: managers and supervisors can be seen as belonging both to the capitalist class and the working class. To the extent that they exercise the delegated authority of capital in the process of production, they act as capitalists; to the extent they are themselves controlled by capitalists, they resemble workers. There is, of course, a whole range of such contradictory class positions with lower level supervisors strongly resembling workers and top level managers, like corporate directors and CEOs, identifying completely with capital. How do capitalists, in turn, monitor and control the managers and supervisors? Thinking about this question gives us a way to explain the earnings differentials, compared to the working class, of managers and supervisors. For the smooth functioning of the production process and the continuous generation of surplus value, capital needs managers and supervisors to exercise the power and authority over workers in an effective manner. This cannot be ensured by surveillance and monitoring of managers, both because it is difficult to monitor managerial effort and because coercive methods hamper creative managerial intervention. The alternative is to pass off a part of the surplus value to the managers so as to build loyalty of the managers towards the organization, internalize the imperatives of capital and thereby do capital’s bidding effectively in the production process. This part of surplus that goes to the managers and supervisors, and explains the huge differentials in earning from the working class, can thus be understood as a “loyalty rent”that capital pays to maintain its power and control in the production process. Let us now turn to the other dimension: skill and expertise. Much like the class of managers and supervisors, workers who manage to acquire skills and expertise relevant to the production process attain a privileged position. There are two aspects of this privileged position. First, not only are skills always in short supply but there are systematic obstacles to the acquiring of these skills by members of the working class which often operates through the monopoly of the middle class on the educational system and training programs. This allows skilled and technical workers and the so-called experts to derive a “skill rent” from capital, which partly explains the wage differential vis-a-vis the working class and is an indicator of their privileged position. Second, technical and skilled work often cannot be effectively monitored; hence, capitalists generate optimal effort from skilled and technical workers by building up their loyalty to the organization, again through a part of the surplus being passed off as a “loyalty rent” to the skilled workers. Among what we have called professionals, there is a special category that deserves separate attention: state sector employees. There are two characteristics of this group that deserves mention. First, their income comes from the tax revenue of the State, and thus can be easily seen to be a part of economic surplus of society; their income is thus a deduction from the surplus, they do not produce surplus in the sense in which workers produce surplus value for the valorization of capital. But this also means that they are not dependent on capitalist profit making for their livelihood; this might have important implications in terms of class consciousness vis-a-vis capitalism. Second, following Wright (1997), the various institutions of the state can be broadly divided into two parts, the political superstructure and the decommodified state service sector. The political superstructure consists of all the institutions that work for the reproduction of the existing social relations: the police, the courts, the military, the legislature and other such institutions. The decommodified state service sector, on the other hand, produces use values, and not exchange values, directly beneficial to the people at large: health care, educational services, public infrastructure and utilities, public recreation and entertainment, etc. The rationale for separating the two sets of institutions is that the second, the decommodified state service sector, operates largely outside the logic of commodity production and capital accumulation. Production in this sector is not subordinated to the imperatives of profit maximization; hence, this sector can be viewed as part of the institutional set-up of a post-revolutionary State and hence would need to be preserved even when the current configuration of power is dismantled. The political consciousness and orientation of workers working in these two sectors of the State might be expected to be radically different, a point of particular relevance to radical mass movements. It goes without saying that there is a gradation of the middle classes, and the upper sections merge into the ruling class while the lower sections are very close to the working classes. The upper sections of the middle class share in the decision-making process relating to the use of the economic surplus (CEOs, top managers, and directors of corporate sector firms, etc.), have significant control over a large part of the productive resources of society in the form of public sector units (top managers of the PSUs) and have a monopoly over the use of the ideological and repressive apparatus of the State (top level bureaucrats, army officers, members of the judiciary). They seamlessly merge into the ruling class. Relative Population Shares, Income and Wealth: Initial Estimates What are the numerical strength of the three broad classes – the ruling class, the middle class and the working class – in Indian society today? Some very interesting recent research (Jaydev, et al., 2009; Vakulabharanam, et al., 2009) can throw some light on this important question. In their comparative study of the changing nature of inequality in India and China, Vakulabharanam, et al. (2009) use data from two rounds of the National Sample Survey (NSS) to provide a detailed picture of class structure in India. They use the National Classification of Occupation (NCO 3-digit, 1968 scheme) to divide households into various occupational categories, which can used to roughly compute relative shares of what I have defined as the ruling, middle and working classes. Using data from Table 2 in Vakulabharanam, et al. (2009), I get the rough picture presented in Table 1. Table 1: Class structure in India (Percentage share in population) 1993-94 2004-05 Ruling Class 11.89 11.71 Middle Class 24.26 21.08 Working Class 63.85 67.21 Though lot more work needs to be done to get a more accurate and refined picture, Table 1, nonetheless provides a rough estimate of the relative shares of the three social classes in contemporary India. Ruling classes, in Table 1, consist of the following: owners or managers of the formal and informal sector enterprises and the rich farmers; the middle class consists of the following: professionals and skilled workers in manufacturing and services, middle peasants, rural professionals and moneylenders; the working class is composed of the rest of the population: the unskilled workers in manufacturing and services, the small and marginal peasants and the landless labourers. An interesting, though expected, fact that emerges from Table 1 is the relative squeezing of the middle class and not their growth, as the mainstream media constantly suggests. Since the size of the ruling class has remained more or less constant over the decade, it must mean that sections of the middle class is getting pushed down into the working class. The picture presented in Table 1 is only an approximate picture; hence some caveats are in order. First, the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) consumption expenditure surveys, which is used by most researchers including Vakulabharanam, et al. (2009), do not give a correct picture of the members of the big bourgeoisie (the super rich in terms of wealth and income); they need to be oversampled if they are to be truly representative of their population weight in the sample. Second, some of the owners and managers that are currently part of the ruling class would actually need to be included in the middle class; this is because many of the owners would be owner-operators of small scale enterprises and some of the managers would occupy lower levels in the firms’ hierarchy; but this adjustment could not be carried out because of lack of more disaggregated data at the moment. That is why the sample share of the ruling class in Table 1 seems to be an overestimate of their true population share. Both these facts, moreover, suggest that the figure for the ruling class in Table 1 needs some serious modification. Third, some of the skilled workers that are currently part of the middle class in Table 1 should be actually included in th working class; again, this could not be done because of lack of more disaggregated data. This is the reason why, just like in the case of the ruling class, the sample share of the middle class in Table 1 is an overestimate. A more disaggregated analysis to arrive at a more accurate picture will be conducted in the future. My conjecture is that the disaggregated analysis will throw up a picture which will correspond closely to the distribution of households according to consumption expenditure that was reported in Table 1.2, NCEUS (2007): the ruling class would be roughly 4 percent of the population and their average consumption expenditure would be greater than 4 times the official poverty line, the middle class would be roughly the next 19 percent of the population with an average consumption expenditure between 2 and 4 times the poverty line, and the rest, about 77 percent, would be what I have called the working class and which corresponds to what the NCEUS called the poor and vulnerable section which, in 2004-05, spent less than Rs. 20 per day on consumption (Table 1.2, NCEUS, 2007). Of course, the consumption expenditure distribution that is deduced from the NSSO surveys do not provide an accurate idea about the true income and wealth of the big bourgeoisie and the top professionals in India. There are two sources that provide a much more accurate picture of the income and wealth of this class: income tax data that has been used to estimate top Indian incomes from 1922 to 2000 (Banerjee and Piketty, 2005) and the World Wealth Report and the Forbes list of the richest persons in the world (which now, quite understandably, has a separate list for India). To get an idea of the wealth of the big bourgeoisie, note that in 2009, India had 52 billionaires, which was close to twice the number in 2007; the wealthiest them of all, Mukesh Ambani, has a net worth of $ 32 billion (Times of India, Nov., 19, 2009). The combined net worth of the richest 100 Indians in 2009 was US$ 276 billion; their Chinese counterparts had a combined net worth of US$ 170 billion (Livemint, Nov., 20, 2009). To make the comparison fair recall that China’s GDP in 2008 was $ 7.992 trillion (PPP) while India’s GDP in 2008 was only $ 3.304 trillion (PPP): wealth is far more concentrated at the top in India than it is in China. Moving on to incomes of the richest Indian, Banerjee and Piketty (2005) present some very interesting facts. First, the top 1 per cent of the population accounted for about 12-13 per cent of total income in the 1950s; the share fell to 4-5 per cent in the early 1980s, and then picked up again to reach 9-10 per cent in the late 1990s; whatever the problems of the Nehruvian policy frameowrk, it did manage to redistribute income away from the rich. This U-shaped pattern, which is very similar to patterns observed in the USA too, can be an entry point into understanding the sharp policy change from the mid-1980s onwards in India: the big bourgeoisie pushed for the change in policy direction to reverse the trend of income distribution. While the top 1 per cent have more or less gained back their pre-Nehruvian era share, there are interesting patterns if we look more closely at the various sections within the rich: there has been a rapid divergence in the income shares accruing to what can be termed the super rich (the top 0.01 per cent), the moderately rich (the top 0.1 per cent) and the rich (the top 1 per cent). Conclusion Mao’s analysis of the class structure of Chinese society in the 1920s was extremely influential in the Chinese communist movement and facilitated the formulation of the strategy and tactics of the Chinese revolution. Given the widespread use of Mao’s basic framework of class analysis in Third World settings, it would be useful to contrast the results of the analysis presented in this paper with Mao’s characterization of classes in pre-revolutionary China (Mao, 1926). For Mao, the ruling class in pre-revolutionary China consisted of “the warlords, the bureaucrats, the comprador class, the big landlord class and the reactionary section of the intelligentsia attached to them.” In contemporary India, the ruling class consists of the big bourgeoisie, the rich farmers and the top sections of the professionals and bureaucrats; the crucial difference, to our mind, is the absence in contemporary India of what Mao called the comprador class (the class of merchants who acted as agents of foreign capital) and the big feudal landlords. The big bourgeoisie in India today seems to be less under the influence of foreign capital than their counterparts in pre-revolutionary China; similarly, the big feudal or semi-feudal landlords that held sway over the economy of rural China seem to have been largely replaced by the rich farmers as the key ruling class element in rural areas of contemporary India. Mao’s analysis had identified a tiny proletariat in China, which, according to him, would be the leading force in the revolution. In contemporary India, in sharp contrast to China, the proletariat is significantly larger, not only in absolute terms but also in relative terms, i.e., relative to the other social classes. This is the direct result of the wider and deeper industrial development following political independence in India compared to pre-revolutionary China. The proletariat consists, in contemporary India, of the vast majority of workers in the unorganized industrial and service sectors, part of the lower level workers in the organized sector and the effectively landless laborer families in the agricultural sector, and thus partially includes what Mao had called the semi-proletariat. In Mao’s analysis, the petty bourgeoisie was accorded “very close attention” both because of its size and because of its class character. He had concluded that this large and important group would be an ally of the revolutionary proletariat. In contemporary India too, the petty bourgeoisie – composed of the middle peasant and the owner-operators of small enterprises and small traders and merchants – is numerically very large and because of its objective economic position will play an important role in radical social change. What Mao did not stress and what seems to have become important in contemporary India is the place occupied by the second segment of what I have called the middle class: the professionals. With the growing complexity of social organization and social production, this group will become even more important, not only in the present social order but also in any radically different society that might arise in the future. In both the Russian and the Chinese revolutions, the post-revolutionary regime had to rely very heavily on this class to ensure functioning of the economy. According more attention to this segment of the middle class, therefore, seems warranted. REFERENCES Banerjee, A. and T. Piketty. 2005. “Top Indian Incomes, 1922-2000,” The World Bank Economic Review, 19(1), pp. 1-20. Bardhan, P. 1998. The Political Economy of Development in India (expanded edition with an epilogue on the Political Economy of Reforms in India). Oxford University Press: Delhi. Basole, A. and D. Basu. 2009. “Relations of Production and Modes of Surplus Extraction in India: An Aggregate Study.” Working Paper, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Available at: and Chibber, V. 2006. Locked in Place: State-Building and Late Industrialization in India. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ. ET 500: Jaydev, A., Motiram, S. and V. Vakulabhranam. 2009. “Patterns of Wealth Disparities in India during the Era of Liberalization,” in A Great Transformation? Understanding India’s Political Economy (forthcoming). Lenin, V. I. 1919. “A Great Beginning: Heroism of the Workers in the Rear.” Collected Works, Volume 29, pp. 409-434. 4th English edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972. Available at: Marx, K. 1992. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1. Penguin Classics. (first published in 1887). National Commission for Enterprise in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS), 2007. “Report on the Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganized Sector.” Government of India. Tse-tung, Mao. 1926. “Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society.” available online at: Pedersen, J. D. 2008. “The Second Wave of Indian Investments Abroad,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 38(4), pp. 613-637. Vakulabhranam, V., Zhong, W. and X. Jinjun. 2009. “Patterns of Wealth Disparities in India during the Era of Liberalization,” Working Paper, Graduate Economics Research Center, Nagoya University. World Wealth Report, 2009. Available at: Wright, E. O. 1997. Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. 2 Responses to “Analysis of Classes in India: A Preliminary Note on the Industrial Bourgeoisie and Middle Class” 1. Mike Harmon Says: November 24th, 2009 at 10:30 am Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days. 2. Buta Singh Says: November 25th, 2009 at 3:43 am Hi friend, Your analysis is interesting. I have just taken a glimpse and go through it thouroughly regard

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Statement against Government of India’s planned military offensive in adivasi-populated regions: National and international signatories

Posted by ajadhind on November 14, 2009

Sanhati (, a collective of activists/academics who have been working in solidarity with peoples’ movements in India by providing information and analysis, took the initiative to bring together voices from around the world against the Government of India’s planned military offensive in Central India. A statement and a background note were drafted in consultation with Indian activists, and duly circulated for endorsement.
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister,
Government of India,
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi,
India-110 011.
We are deeply concerned by the Indian government’s plans for launching an unprecedented military offensive by army and paramilitary forces in the adivasi (indigeneous people)-populated regions of Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal states. The stated objective of the offensive is to “liberate” these areas from the influence of Maoist rebels. Such a military campaign will endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of the poorest people living in those areas, resulting in massive displacement, destitution and human rights violation of ordinary citizens. To hunt down the poorest of Indian citizens in the name of trying to curb the shadow of an insurgency is both counter-productive and vicious. The ongoing campaigns by paramilitary forces, buttressed by anti-rebel militias, organised and funded by government agencies, have already created a civil war like situation in some parts of Chattisgarh and West Bengal, with hundreds killed and thousands displaced. The proposed armed offensive will not only aggravate the poverty, hunger, humiliation and insecurity of the adivasi people, but also spread it over a larger region.
Grinding poverty and abysmal living conditions that has been the lot of India’s adivasi population has been complemented by increasing state violence since the neoliberal turn in the policy framework of the Indian state in the early 1990s. Whatever little access the poor had to forests, land, rivers, common pastures, village tanks and other common property resources has come under increasing attack by the Indian state in the guise of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other “development” projects related to mining, industrial development, Information Technology parks, etc. The geographical terrain, where the government’s military offensive is planned to be carried out, is very rich in natural resources like minerals, forest wealth and water, and has been the target of large scale appropriation by several corporations. The desperate resistance of the local indigenous people against their displacement and dispossession has in many cases prevented the government-backed corporations from making inroads into these areas. We fear that the government’s offensive is also an attempt to crush such popular resistances in order to facilitate the entry and operation of these corporations and to pave the way for unbridled exploitation of the natural resources and the people of these regions. It is the widening levels of disparity and the continuing problems of social deprivation and structural violence, and the state repression on the non-violent resistance of the poor and marginalized against their dispossession, which gives rise to social anger and unrest and takes the form of political violence by the poor. Instead of addressing the source of the problem, the Indian state has decided to launch a military offensive to deal with this problem: kill the poor and not the poverty, seems to be the implicit slogan of the Indian government.
We feel that it would deliver a crippling blow to Indian democracy if the government tries to subjugate its own people militarily without addressing their grievances. Even as the short-term military success of such a venture is very doubtful, enormous misery for the common people is not in doubt, as has been witnessed in the case of numerous insurgent movements in the world. We urge the Indian government to immediately withdraw the armed forces and stop all plans for carrying out such military operations that has the potential for triggering a civil war which will inflict widespread misery on the poorest and most vulnerable section of the Indian population and clear the way for the plundering of their resources by corporations. We call upon all democratic-minded people to join us in this appeal.
National Signatories
Arundhati Roy, Author and Activist, India
Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Center for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU, India
Sandeep Pandey, Social Activist, N.A.P.M., India
Manoranjan Mohanty, Durgabai Deshmukh Professor of Social Development, Council for Social Development, India
Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court Advocate, India
Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, India
Colin Gonzalves, Supreme Court Advocate, India
Arvind Kejriwal, Social Activist, India
Arundhati Dhuru, Activist, N.A.P.M., India
Swapna Banerjee-Guha, Department of Geography, University of Mumbai, India
Anand Patwardhan, Film Maker, India
Dipankar Bhattachararya, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, India
Bernard D’Mello, Associate Editor, Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), India
Sumit Sarkar, Retired Professor of History, Delhi University, India
Tanika Sarkar, Professor of History, J.N.U., India
Gautam Navlakha, Consulting Editor, Economic and Political Weekly, India
Madhu Bhaduri, Ex-ambassador
Sumanta Banerjee, Writer, India
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Philosopher, Writer, Environmental Activist, India
M.V. Ramana, Visiting Research Scholar, Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy; Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University, USA
Dipanjan Rai Chaudhari, Retired Professor, Presidency College, India
Amit Bhattacharyya, Professor, Department of History. Jadavpur University, Kolkata
D.N. Jha, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Delhi, India
Paromita Vohra, Devi Pictures
Sunil Shanbag, Theater Director
Saroj Giri, Lecturer in Political Science, Delhi University, India
Hilal Ahmed, Associate Fellow, Center for the Studies of Development of Societies, India
Reetha Balsavar
Sriparna Bandopadhyay, India
Sudeshna Banerjee, Department of History, Jadavpur University, India
Chinmoy Banerjee
Kaushik Banyopadhyay, Student, IIT KGP, India
Pranab Kanti Basu, Department of Economics and Politics, Vishwa Bharati University, India
Harsh Bora, Student, Delhi Law Faculty, India
Kaushik Bose, Reader, Vidyasagar University, India
Anjan Chakrabarti, Professor of Economics, Calcutta University, India
Shitansu Shekhar Chakraborty, Student, IIT Kharagpur, India
Achin Chakraborty, Professor of Economics, Institute of Development Studies, Calcutta University Alipore, India
Rabin Chakraborty
Anand Chakravarty, Retired Professor, Delhi University, India
Uma Chakravarty, Retired Professor, Delhi University, India
Indira Chakravarthi, Public Health Researcher, India
Nandini Chandra, Member of Faculty, Delhi University, India
Navin Chandra, Visiting Senior Fellow, Institude of Human Development, India
Jagadish Chandra, New Socialist Alternative, CWI, India
Pratyush Chandra, Activist, Freelance Journalist, and Researcher, India
Kunal Chattopadhyay, Professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, India
Debarshi Das, IIT Guwahati, India
Probal Dasgupta, Linguistic Research Unit, I.S.I., India
Subha Chakraborty Dasgupta, Professor, Jadavpur University, India
Surya Shankar Dash, Independent Filmmaker, India
Ashokankur Datta, Graduate Student, I.S.I. (Planning Unit), India
Amiya Dev, Emiritus Professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, India
Soumik Dutta
S. Dutta, Delhi Platform, India
Madhumita Dutta, Green Youth Movement, India, Based in Chennai
Durga Prasad Duvvuri, Independent Management Consultant, India
Ajit Eapen, Mumbai, India
Sampath G, Mumbai, India
Lena Ganesh
M.S. Ganesh
Subhash Gatade, Writer and Social Activisit, India
Pothik Ghosh, Editor, Radical Notes, India
Rajeev Godara, General Secretary, Sampooran Kranti Manch, Haryana (associated with Lok Rajniti Manch), India (Also an Advocatein Punjab and Haryana High Courts)
Abhijit Guha, Vidyasagar University, India
Jacob, South Asia Study Center
Manish Jain, Assistant Professor, Center for Studies of Sociology of Education, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
Shishir K. Jha, IIT Mumbai, India
Avinash K. Jha, Assistant Professor of Economics, Shri Ram College of Commerce, India
Bodhisattva Kar, Fellow in History, Center for Studies in Social Science, India
Harish Karnick, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Kanpur, India
Sumbul Jawed Khan, Biological Sciences and Bio. Eng. Department, IIT Kanpur, India
Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, India
Ravi Kumar, Editor of Radical Notes and Assistant Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University, India
Abhijit Kundu, Faculty, Sociology, University of Delhi
Gauri Lankesh, Editor, Lankesh Patrike, India
Soumik Majumder
Dishery Malakar
Julie Koppel Maldonado
Dr Nandini Manjrekar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Soma Marik
Satyabrata Mitra
Siddhartha Mitra
Tista Mitra, Journalist, India
Najeeb Mubarki, Assistant Editor, Editorial page, Economic Times, India
Dipankar Mukherjee, PDF, Delhi, India
Subhasis Mukhopadhyay, Frontier
Pulin B. Nayak, Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, India
Nalini Nayak, Reader in Economics, PGDAV College, Delhi University, India
Soheb ur Rahman Niazi, Student, Jamia Milia Islamia, India
Rahul Pandey
Jai Pushp, Activist, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, India
Imrana Qadeer, Retired Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, J.N.U., India
Neshant Quaiser, Associate Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University, Department of Sociology, India
Divya Rajagopal
Ramendra, Delhi Shramik Sangathan, India
Ramdas Rao, President, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Bangalore Unit, India
V. Nagendra Rao, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad, India
Shereen Ratnagar, Retired Professor, Center for Historical Studies, JNU, India
Sankar Ray, Columnist
Kirity Roy, MASUM and PACTI, India
Atanu Roy
Anindyo Roy
Dunu Roy, Social Activist, India
Sanjoy Kumar Saha, Reader, CSE department, Jadavpur University, India
Sandeep, Freelance Journalist
Dr. K. Saradamoni, Retired Academic
Madhu Sarin, Social Activist
Satyam, Rahul Foundation and Dayitvbodh, India
Jhuma Sen, Delhi
Samita Sen, Professor, Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, India
Santanu Sengupta, UDML College of Engineering, India
Ajay Kishor Shaw, Mumbai, India
Dr. Mira Shiva
Jagmohan Singh, Voices for Freedom Punjab, India
Sandeep Singh, Mumbai, India
Harindar Pal Singh Ishar, Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court, India
Preeti Sinha, Editor of Philhal, Patna, India
Oishik Sircar, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School, India
K. Sriram
Viviek Sundara, Mumbai, India
Saswati Swetlena, Programme Officer, Governance and Advocacy Unit, National Center for Advocacy Studies, India
Damayanti Talukdar, Kolkata
Divya Trivedi, The Hindu Business Line, India
Satyam Varma, Rahul Foundation
Rahul Varman, Professor, Department of Industrial and Management Engineering, IIT Kanpur, India
Padma Velaskar, Professor, Center for Studies in the Sociology of Education, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
G. Vijay, Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Hyderabad, India
R.M. Vikas, IIT Kanpur, India
International Signatories
Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, M.I.T., USA
David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, The C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center, USA
Michael Lebowitz, Director, Program in Transformative Practice and Human Development, Centro Internacional Mirana, Venezuela
John Bellamy Foster, Editor of Monthly Review and Professor of Sociology,University of Oregon Eugene,USA
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor and Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University, USA
James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science, Yale University, USA
Michael Watts, Professor of Geography and Development Studies, University of California Berkeley, USA
Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, Departments of Anthropoogy and Political Science, Columbia University, USA
Mira Nair, Filmmaker, Mirabai Films, USA
Howard Zinn, Historian, Playwright, and Social Activisit, USA
Abha Sur, Women’s Studies, M.I.T., USA
Richard Peet, Professor of Geography, Clark University, USA
Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations, School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London, U.K
Massimo De Angelis, Professor of Political Economy, University of East London, UK
Gyanendra Pandey, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History, Emory University, USA
Brian Stross, Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas Austin, USA
J. Mohan Rao, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA
Vinay Lal, Professor of History & Asian American Studies, University of California Los Angeles, USA
James Crotty, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Haluk Gerger, Political Scientist, Activist, Political Prisoner, Turkey
Justin Podur, Journalist, Canada
Hari Kunzru, Novelist, U.K.
Louis Proyect, Columbia University
Biju Mathew, Associate Professor, Rider University, USA
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web
Nicholas De Genova, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Latino Studies, Columbia University, USA
Peter Custers, Academic researcher on militarisation, Netherlands
Radha D’Souza, School of Law, University of Westminster , UK
Gary Aboud, Secretary, Fisherman and Friends of the Sea, Trinidad and Tobago
Mysara Abu-Hashem, Ph.D. Student, American University, USA
Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Professor of English, Montclair University, USA
Nadim Asrar, Ph.D. student, University of Minnesota, USA
Margaret E Sheehan, Attorney at Law, USA
Arpita Banerjee, Lecturer, Whittemore School of Business and Economics, University of New Hampshire, USA
Deepankar Basu, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Sharmadip Basu, Syracuse University, USA
Joseph A Belisle
Kim Berry, Professor of Women’s Studies, Humboldt State University, USA
Varuni Bhatia, Assistant Professor, Religous Studies Program, N.Y.U., USA
Anindya Bhattacharya, Faculty, University of York, UK
Sourav Bhattacharya, University of Pittsburgh, USA
Peter J. Bloom, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California Santa Barbara, USA
Sister Maureen Catabian, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Philippines
Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor, Department of Communications, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Shefali Chandra, Professor of South Asian History, Washington University at St Louis, USA
Ipsita Chatterjee, Assistant Professor, University of Texas, Austin, USA
Piya Chatterjee, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California Riverside, USA
Angana Chatterji, Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, USA
Ruchi Chaturvedi, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Hunter College, City University of New York, USA
Chitrabhanu Chaudhuri, Ph.D. Student, Department of Mathematics, Northwestern University, USA
Len Cooper,Victorian Branch,Communication Workers Union Australia
Priti Gulati Cox, Artist, USA
Stan Cox, Senior Scientist, The Land Institute, USA
Linda Cullen, Canada
Huma Dar, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia, Canada
Koel Das, UCSB, USA
Atreyi Dasgupta, MD Anderson Cancer Center, USA
Grace de Haro, APDH Human Rights Organization, Argentina
Nandini Dhar, Ph.D. student, University of Texas Austin, U.S.A.
Martin Doornbos, Professor Emeritus, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, Netherlands
Emily Durham-Shapiro, Student, University of Minnesotta, USA
Arindam Dutta, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, MIT, USA
Anne Dwyer, University of Washington, USA
T. Robert Fetter, USA
Kade Finnoff, Doctoral Candidate, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Kaushik Ghosh, University of Texas, Austin, USA
Bishnupriya Ghosh, Professor of English, University of California Santa Barbara, USA
Vinay Gidwani, Professor of Geography, Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA
Wendy Glauser, MA candidate, Political Science. York University. Toronto, Canada
Ted Glick, Climate Crisis Coalition, Climate Crisis Coalition and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, USA
Inderpal Grewal, Yale University, USA
Shubhra Gururani, Associate Professor of Anthropology, York University, Canada
Anna L. Gust, University College London, UK
Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South
Arne Harns, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Social and Political Sciences, Free University of Berlin, Germany
Amrit Singh Heer, Graduate student, Social and Political Thought, York University, Canada
Helen Hintjens, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands
Robert A Hueckstedt, Professor, University of Virginia, USA
Zeba Imam, Ph.D. student, Texas A&M University, USA
Kajri Jain, University of Toronto, Canada
Dhruv Jain, Graduate student, York University, Canada
Mohamad Junaid, Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology, City University of New York, USA
Louis Kampf, Professor of Literature Emeritus, MIT, USA
Jyotsna Kapur, Associate Professor, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, USA
Emily Kawano, Director, Center for Popular Economics, USA
Nada Khader , Executive Director, WESPAC Foundation
Jesse Knutson, University of Chicago, USA
Peter Lackowski, Writer/Activist, USA
Maire Leadbeater (human rights activist Auckland New Zealand)
Joseph Levine, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
George Levinger, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
David W. Lewit, Alliance for Democracy, USA
Jinee Lokaneeta, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Drew University, USA
Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA
Sanjeev Mahajan
Sunaina Maira, Associate Professor, University of California Davis, USA
Panayiotis “Taki” Manolakos, Writer/Activist, USA
Carlos Marentes,, USA
Bill Martin, Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University, USA
Erika Marquez, New York, USA
Thomas Masterson, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, USA
Jim McCorry, Belfast, N. Ireland
Victor Menotti, Executive Director, International Forum on Globalization, USA
James Miehls, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Stephen Miesher, Associate Professor, University of California Santa Barbara, USA
Ali Mir, Professor, William Paterson University, USA
Raza Mir, Professor of Management, William Paterson University, USA
Katherine Miranda, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.
Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, Oakland Institute, USA
Roger Moody, Association for Progressive Communication, UK
Agrotosh Mookerji, Statistician and student, UK
Joshua Moufawad-Paul, Ph.D. student, York University, Canada
Sudipto Muhuri
Alan Muller, Executive Director, Green Delaware, USA
Sirisha Naidu, Assistant Professor of Economics, Wright State University, USA
Sakuntala Narsimhan
Sriram Natrajan, Independent Researcher, Thailand
Nandini Nayak, SOAS, University of London, UK
Anuradha Dingwaney Needham, Longman Professor of English, Oberlin College, USA
Ipsita Pal Bhaumik, NIH, USA
Shailja Patel, USA
Saswat Pattanayak, Editor, Radical Notes, USA
Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project
Kavita Philip, Associate Professor, University of California, Irvine, USA
Mike Alexander Pozo, Political Affairs Magazine
Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California Irvine, USA
Kaveri Rajaraman, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, USA
K. Ravi Raman, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Manchester, UK
Leena Ranade, AID India, USA
Nagesh Rao, Assistant Professor, The College of New Jersey, USA
Ravi Ravishankar, Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, USA
Chandan Reddy, Assistant Professor, University of Washington, USA
Bruce Rich, Attorney, USA
Dr. Andrew Robinson, UK
Rachel Rosen, International Workers of the World and OSSTF, USA
Seth Sandronsky, Journalist, USA
Amit Sarkar, Visiting Fellow, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID/NIH, USA
Bhaskar Sarkar, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California Santa Barbara, USA
Helen Scharber, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Anna Schultz, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, School of Music, University of Minnesota, USA
Svati Shah, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Shaheen Shasa, USA
Snehal Shinghavi, Assistant Professor, University of Texas, Austin, USA
Tyler Shipley, Department of Political Science, York University, Canada
Samira Shirdel, Community Advocate, Chaya: a Resource for South Asian Women, USA
Jon Short, Department of Communications Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada
Kuver Sinha, Texas A&M University, USA
Subir Sinha, SOAS, University of London, U.K
Julietta Singh, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA
Preethy Sivakumar, York University, Canada
Ajay Skaria, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota, USA
Stephen C Snyder
Nidhi Srinivas, Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management, The New School, USA
Chukka Srinivas
Poonam Srivastav, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Minnesota, USA
Priyanka Srivastava, Ph.D. candidate, University of Cincinnati, USA
Rachel Steiger-Meister, Graduate Student, Wright State University, USA
Raja Swamy, Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, USA
Usha Titikshu, Photojournalist, Nepal
Wendel Trio, Former Chair, European Alliance with Indigenous Peoples
Shivali Tukdeo, University of Illinois, USA
Sandeep Vaidya, India Support Group, Ireland
Rashmi Varma, University of Warwick, U.K
Nalini Visvanathan, Lecturer in Asian American Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA
Daphna Whitmore, Secretary, Workers’ Party, New Zealand
T. Wignesan, Editor, Asianists’ Asia, Centre de Recherches, CERPICO and CREA, France
Daphne Wysham, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies, USA
It has been widely reported in the press that the Indian government is planning an unprecedented military offensive against alleged Maoist rebels, using paramilitary and counter-insurgency forces, possibly the Indian Armed Forces and even the Indian Air Force. This military operation is going to be carried out in the forested and semi-forested rural areas of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand,West Bengal and Maharashtra, populated mainly by the tribal (indigenous) people of India. Reportedly, the offensive has been planned in consultation with US counter-insurgency agencies. To put the Indian government’s proposed military offensive in proper perspective one needs to understand the economic, social and political background to the conflict. In particular, there are three dimensions of the crisis that needs to be emphasized, because it is often overlooked: (a) the development failure of the post-colonial Indian state, (b) the continued existence and often exacerbation of the structural violence faced by the poor and marginalized, and (c) the full-scale assault on the meager resource base of the peasantry and the tribal (indigenous people) in the name of “development”. Let us look at each of these in turn, but before we do so it needs to be stressed that the facts we mention below are not novel; they are well-known if only conveniently forgotten. Most of these facts were pointed out by the April 2008 Report of the Expert Group of the Planning Commission of the Indian Government (headed by retired civil servant D. Bandopadhyay) to study “development challenges in extremist affected areas”.
The post-colonial Indian State, both in its earlier Nehruvian and the more recent neoliberal variant, has failed miserably to solve the basic problems of poverty, employment and income, housing, primary health care, education and inequality and social discrimination of the people of the country. The utter failure of the development strategy of the post-colonial State is the ground on which the current conflict arises. To recount some well known but oft-forgotten facts, recall that about 77 percent of the Indian population in 2004-05 had a per capita daily consumption expenditure of less than Rs. 20; that is less than 50 cents by the current nominal exchange rate between the rupee and the US dollar and about $2 in purchasing power parity terms. According to the 2001 Census, even 62 years after political independence, only about 42 percent of Indian households have access to electricity. About 80 percent of the households do not have access to safe drinking water; that is a staggering 800 million people lacking access to potable water.
What is the condition of the working people in the country? 93 percent of the workforce, the overwhelming majority of the working people in India, are what the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) called “informal workers”; these workers lack any employment security, work security and social security. About 58 percent of them work in the agricultural sector and the rest is engaged in manufacturing and services. Wages are very low and working conditions extremely onerous, leading to persistent and deep poverty, which has been increasing over the last decade and a half in absolute terms: the number of what the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) called the “poor and vulnerable” increased from 811 million in 1999-00 to 836 million in 2004-05. Since majority of the working people still work in the agricultural sector, the economic stagnation in agriculture is a major cause for the continued poverty of the vast majority of the people. Since the Indian state did not undertake land reforms in any meaningful sense, the distribution of land remains extremely skewed to this day. Close to 60 percent of rural households are effectively landless; and extreme economic vulnerability and despair among the small and marginal peasantry has resulted in the largest wave of suicides in history: between 1997 and 2007, 182,936 farmers committed suicide. This is the economic setting of the current conflict.
But in this sea of poverty and misery, there are two sections of the population that are much worse off than the rest: the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) population. On almost all indicators of social well being, the SCs and STs are worse off than the general population: poverty rates are higher, landlessness is higher, infant mortality rates are higher, levels of formal education are lower, and so on. To understand this differential in social and economic deprivation we need to look at the second aspect of the current crisis that we had alluded to: structural violence.
There are two dimensions of this structural violence: (a) oppression, humiliation and discrimination along the lines of caste and ethnicity and (b) regular harassment, violence and torture by arms of the State. For the SC and ST population, therefore, the violence of poverty, hunger and abysmal living conditions has been complemented and worsened by the structural violence that they encounter daily. It is the combination of the two, general poverty and the brutality and injustice of the age old caste system, kept alive by countless social practices despite numerous legislative measures by the Indian state, that makes this the most economically deprived and socially marginalized section of the Indian population. This social discrimination, humiliation and oppression is of course very faithfully reflected in the behavior of the police and other law-enforcing agencies of the State towards the poor SC and ST population, who are constantly harassed, beaten up and arrested on the slightest pretext. For this population, therefore, the State has not only totally neglected their economic and social development, it is an oppressor and exploiter. While the SC and ST population together account for close to a quarter of the Indian population, they are the overwhelming majority in the areas where the Indian government proposes to carry out its military offensive against alleged Maoist rebels. This, then, is the social background of the current conflict.
This brings us to the third dimension of the problem: unprecedented attack on the access of the marginalized and poor to common property resources. Compounding the persistent poverty and the continuing structural violence has been the State’s recent attempt to usurp the meager resource base of the poor and marginalized, a resource base that was so far largely outside the ambit of the market. The neoliberal turn in the policy framework of the Indian state since the mid 1980s has, therefore, only further worsened the problems of economic vulnerability and social deprivation. Whatever little access the poor had to forests, land, rivers, common pastures, village tanks and other common property resources to cushion their inevitable slide into poverty and immiserization has come under increasing attack by the Indian state in the guise of so-called development projects: Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other “development” projects related to mining, industrial development, Information Technology parks, etc. Despite numerous protests from people and warnings from academics, the Indian State has gone ahead with the establishment of 531 SEZs. The SEZs are areas of the country where labour and tax laws have been consciously weakened, if not totally abrogated by the State to “attract” foreign and domestic capital; SEZs, almost by definition, require a large and compact tract of land, and thus inevitably mean the loss of land, and thus livelihood, by the peasantry. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no serious, rigorous cost-benefit analysis of these projects to date; but this does not prevent the government from claiming that the benefits of these projects, in terms of employment generation and income growth, will far outweigh the costs of revenue loss from foregone taxes and lost livelihoods due to the assault on land.
The opposition to the acquisition of land for these SEZ and similar projects have another dimension to it. Dr. Walter Fernandes, who has studied the process of displacement in post-independence India in great detail, suggests that around 60 million people have faced displacement between 1947 and 2004; this process of displacement has involved about 25 million hectares of land, which includes 7 million hectares of forests and 6 million hectares of other common property resources. How many of these displaced people have been resettled? Only one in every three. Thus, there is every reason for people not tobelieve the government’s claims that those displaced from their land will be, in any meaningful sense, resettled. This is one of the most basic reasons for the opposition to displacement and dispossession.
But, how have the rich done during this period of unmitigated disaster for the poor? While the poor have seen their incomes and purchasing power tumble down precipitously in real terms, the rich have, by all accounts, prospered beyond their wildest dreams since the onset of the liberalization of the Indian economy. There is widespread evidence from recent research that the levels of income and wealth inequality in India has increased steadily and drastically since the mid 1980s. A rough overview of this growing inequality is found by juxtaposing two well known facts: (a) in 2004-05, 77 percent of the population spent less than Rs. 20 a day on consumption expenditure; and (b) according to the annual World Wealth Report released by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini in 2008, the millionaire population in India grew in 2007 by 22.6 per cent from the previous year, which is higher than in any other country in the world.
It is, thus, the development disaster of the Indian State, the widening levels of disparity and the continuing problems of social deprivation and structural violence when compounded by the all-out effort to restrict access to common property resources that, according to the Expert Group of the Planning Commission, give rise to social anger, desperation and unrest. In almost all cases the affected people try to ventilate their grievances using peaceful means of protest; they take our processions, they sit on demonstrations, they submit petitions. The response of the State is remarkably consistent in all these cases: it cracks down on the peaceful protestors, sends in armed goons to attack the people, slaps false charges against the leaders and arrests them and often also resorts to police firing and violence to terrorize the people. We only need to remember Singur, Nandigram, Kalinganagar and countless other instances where peaceful and democratic forms of protest were crushed by the state with ruthless force. It is, thus, the action of the State that blocks off all forms of democratic protest and forces the poor and dispossessed to take up arms to defend their rights, as has been pointed out by social activists like Arundhati Roy. The Indian government’s proposed military offensive will repeat that story all over again. Instead of addressing the source of the conflict, instead of addressing the genuine grievances of the marginalized people along the three dimensions that we have pointed to, the Indian state seems to have decided to opt for the extremely myopic option of launching a military offensive.
It is also worth remembering that the geographical terrain, where the government’s military offensive is planned, is very well-endowed with natural resources like minerals, forest wealth, biodiversity and water resources, and has of late been the target of systematic usurpation by several large, both Indian and foreign, corporations. So far, the resistance of the local indigenous people against their displacement and dispossession has prevented the government-backed corporates from exploiting the natural resources for their own profits and without regard to ecological and social concerns. We fear that the government’s offensive is also an attempt to crush such democratic and popular resistance against dispossession and impoverishment; the whole move seems to be geared towards facilitating the entry and operation of these large corporations and paving the way for unbridled exploitation of the natural resources and people of these regions.

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The Sankrail episode: The story of the arrested women

Posted by ajadhind on November 2, 2009

Posted by indianvanguard2010 on October 28, 2009

Subharani Baskey in tears outside Midnapore Central Jail. She said she had gone out to see what was happening when police picked her up. (Samir Mondal)

By Partho Sarathi Ray. Oct 27 2009, Sanhati

On 20th October, 2009, Maoists attacked a police station in Sankrail, West Midnapur, West Bengal, taking the O.C. Atindranath Dutta as a prisoner, and demanding the release of fourteen women from police custody. This was a media sensation – the debate centered around whether this defined a hostage situation in India’s heartland, whether this was a repeat of Kandahar, and whether the action is an example of violent turf expansion by the Maoists. Subsequently, the women were released and so was the O.C., who has become somewhat of a media celebrity and, much to the wrath of the Government, not condemnded the Maoists.

What is being hidden under all the media blitz is the story of the fourteen women whose release from police custody was ensured by the Maoists.

These women had all been arrested from in an around Teshabandh village on 3rd September after the 2rd September “encounter” between the combined forces and “Maoists” near Madhupur (there is a previous report on this in Sanhati). The PSBJC had claimed that the encounter was really a firing by the combined forces on a rally of adivasis protesting against the rape of a woman. It had also condemned the arrests of these women from Teshabandh, who were subsequently charged with waging war against the state, as being arrests of innocent people.

A Lalgarh woman who was released on bail in exchange for OC Atindranath Dutta’s freedom weeps on the shoulders of another outside Midnapore Central Jail.

Today their stand has been vindicated. The public prosecutor didn’t oppose their bail plea at the Midnapore court, although the charges against them, which include rioting with deadly weapons, attempt to murder, waging war against the state, raising funds to wage war against the state, sedition and carrying illegal arms, are all non-bailable ones. This is an effective withdrawal of charges.

Now, the media has access to the stories of the women and people know who these “dangerous” people are, whom the Maoists were so intent on getting released from police custody.

One of them is Subharani Baskey, a grandmother of 55-60 (this correspondent knows her personally – she once treated him to a “nona“, a fruit very similar to the custard-apple, just saltier, from her tree). What she has told to the media now is that she was at her home when she heard a commotion outside as the police were arresting the village women. When she went out to enquire, she was arrested for “waging war against the state” and dragged to the Kantapahari police camp.

You can hear the real story from these women, Padmamoni, a mother of two children, Pratima Patra, Sumi Mandi and the others, about what happened that day. When the police had raided their village, alleging that the “Maoists” had taken shelter there, they had stopped whatever chores they were doing and come out and surrounded the police, not letting them enter the village. They were not protecting Maoists, they were protecting themselves, as according to what Pratima Patra has said, the police entering the village means they would go door-to-door, beating up people indiscriminately, breaking furniture and looting household goods.

The Lalgarh women released from jail walk to a bus stop in Midnapore town. Picture by Samir Mondal

Even women from surrounding villages, such as Sumi Mandi, joined them when the news about the raid spread, as is the standard practice in Lalgarh. All these women were arrested, beaten up brutally and taken to the Kantapahari police station where there were charged with the above-mentioned crimes. On the way back to Kantapahari, the police also arrested Ramdulal Mandi, who was walking towards Kantapahari bazar, and charged him with the same crimes. He was also released yesterday. This constant arrests and charging with false cases is the daily reality which Chidambaram- Buddhadeb has imposed in Lalgarh, and now wants to impose on the rest of the adivasi-populated region.

The other thing that we should understand about the reality in Lalgarh is that the adivasis think that the Maoists are their last resort, when everything else fails to protect them from exploitation and oppression, the Maoists are there. This is repeated by hundreds of adivasis when you talk to them, who express their confidence on the “bon-er party“, the “party of the jungles”. This confidence has now been reinforced by this action of the Maoists, where they have ensured the release of these innocent women, rather than their own party cadre, in exchange of the captured O.C.

Moreover, the action of the state which has consistently refused to release these women, and other innocent people who have been arrested in Lalgarh over the past four months, inspite of peaceful protests and demonstrations by the PSBJC and the civil society in Kolkata, but has bowed to the armed might of the Maoists, will further reinforce the idea that it is only a certain language that the state understands, and takes heed of.


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