Massacre of Adivasis in Bastar : Operation Green Hunt Must Be Scrapped And Chidambaram Must Resign
On June 28 night, 17 people of adivasi villages of Bastar (Chhattisgarh) were killed in firing by CRPF, COBRA, and local police teams.
This horrific incident, and the State's response to it, has served to rip the mask off 'Operation Green Hunt', and expose it irrevocably as an open war on the people. Nothing exposes the 'Green Hunt' lie more than the changing official versions of the incident.
The day after the massacre, the Chhattisgarh Government hailed it as the 'biggest encounter of Naxals', claiming that '17 Naxals' had been killed. The Home Minister P Chidambaram too held a press conference to claim that the 'encounter' was a major 'success' in the operation against Maoists. The official version was that the security forces were heading for a different spot, following intelligence reports of a major Maoist meeting, when they were fired upon en route, and retaliated, resulting in the deaths.
Some journalists reported the villagers' version – that the security forces fired unprovoked on a village meeting, and that all those killed were villagers, including many children. This version was also corroborated by the Chhattisgarh's Congress leaders, and the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, KC Deo. The Chhattisgarh Government declared this to be a lie, and its leaders were seen on TV channels listing the names of the '17 Naxalites' who had been killed, and denying the presence of any villagers or children among the dead.
Subsequently, incontrovertible evidence emerged that 7 of those killed were children and teenagers. Then, the Chhattisgarh Government changed its tune, and said that the Maoists had used villagers and children as a 'human shield.' P Chidambaram had previously referred to one of the victims, 'Rahul' as an 'important Naxal'; it emerged that 'Rahul' was actually a 15-year-old schoolboy, who used to reside in the Government hostel near the CRPF camp, and was bright at mathematics. Chidambaram now said he was 'sorry' if any innocent citizens were killed.
However, both Chhattisgarh Government and the Home Ministry continued to claim that most of those killed were 'wanted Naxals'. It is clear from the investigative reports of journalists and civil liberties' groups, that there were no Maoist leaders amongst those killed. There were a few who had flimsy cases against them, of 'firing on police parties', and one who had escaped jail during the Dantewada jail break. But all these had been living in the village with their families openly, and their behavior in no way suggested they had anything to hide.
The Chhattisgarh Government and Home Ministry have given ever-changing versions of the number of 'Naxals' killed in the 'encounter' – ranging from '17' to 'five or six' to 'seven' to 'two'.
Finally, hard-pressed to prove any 'Nexal' records of those killed, the Chhattisgarh CM has declared that even those without criminal records cannot be said to be 'innocent' villagers. He argues that ordinary villagers, with neither Maoist uniforms nor weapons nor criminal records were 'Jan Militia' recruited by the Maoists. In other words, the 'Jan Militia' theory allows the State to brand all the 'jan' (people) as Maoists – without any proof whatsoever!
While the official versions, increasingly desperate to cover up the gory massacre, have shifted and changed and contradicted each other daily, the villagers' story has remained constant. They were holding a meeting related to their village sowing festival, when the security forces attacked. The firing went on for hours, killing unarmed and innocent villagers, including children. Several teenage girls were molested and beaten. And one young man who escaped the firing, was shot in the back the next morning as he tried to run towards the safety of his house – and when he did not die from the bullets, he was beaten to death with bricks.
These villagers had been forced to flee in 2005 when the Salwa Judum evacuated the villages. Only recently, they had returned and begun to pick up the threads of their life. The massacre has again proved that 'Operation Green Hunt' is a war on these adivasis for the evacuation of land in order to facilitate corporate loot.
In spite of the fact that the official versions have been mutually contradictory and changing according to convenience, and the villagers' version has been consistent, the State and Central Governments are shameless in their refusal to order a convincing and impartial judicial probe. The State Government has ordered a judicial probe by a sitting judge of the Chhattisgarh High Court. The experience of the Binayak Sen trial, however, is a reminder that a probe within Chhattisgarh carries a high likelihood of bias.
A high-level judicial probe, conducted by judges based outside of Chhattisgarh, is a mandatory first step in the direction of establishing the truth about this massacre. And the Home Minister responsible for shamelessly defending this heinous massacre of adivasis, and even branding a child as a 'wanted Naxal' in a willful attempt to silence questions about the encounter, must resign. And the infamous Green Hunt operation, which is a war on adivasis, must be scrapped without delay.
Fact-finding on the Kottaguda massacre
28 June 2012
(A three member team, consisting of JP Rao, Kopa Kunjam and Prof. Nandini Sundar of Delhi University visited Kottaguda, Sarkeguda and Lingagiri villages of Bastar on 3rd and 4th July 2012. We carry excerpts from their findings as well as a statement by villagers.)
The three villages merge into each other and have been carved up in an arbitrary fashion between different panchayats (Korsaguda and Chipurbhatti panchayats). The field where the firing took place is an open area surrounded by houses, some of which are in Kottaguda and some of which fall in Rajpenta. The villagers had returned only in 2009 after Salwa Judum had burnt their village in 2005, and are still struggling to put their cattle together and rebuild all houses properly. The meeting on the 28th night was held to discuss how to help those without cattle and single women headed households, and also to plan the holding of the bija pondum (seed sowing festival). The three villages share a common earth shrine – which means they celebrate all their festivals together.
The villagers say that there were no Maoists present, and that the police were most likely injured in cross-firing. The absence of any Maoist leaders is supported by the fact that had there been a squad in the village, there would have been sentries posted in the direction of Basaguda thana.
Whatever the CRPF's claims, what is indisputable is that they knew they were in the middle of a village and yet did not use night flares or observe even the most basic precautions when firing. In all 17 persons have been killed, of which 7 are minors; 9 have been injured, and at least 5 women have been beaten/assaulted. One cow has died and one bull has been injured, and there are bullet marks on the houses. Two people were killed by Salwa Judum and security forces in 2005, and almost all the houses in all three villages were burnt.
What is shocking is not just the massacre itself but the cover up that followed with the CRPF and Home Minister claiming that they had shot top Naxal leaders, when they could clearly see that they had killed villagers including small children, since 16 of the bodies were sent back that night. The CRPF version also does not explain why one person was killed in the morning.
We met Mr. Kuruvanshi, the SDM appointed to investigate the incident. He seemed amused at our visit, and asked why the villagers were meeting at night. When asked, he also said he had no plans to visit the village, and if the villagers wished, they could come and see him. Subsequently, the villagers have been summoned to his office on the 9th of July.
We are enclosing a statement signed by family members of each of the deceased, three of the girls beaten/molested and other witnesses from the village.
JP Rao, Kopa Kunjam,
4th July 2012
Village Kottaguda, Thana Basaguda, Zilla Bijapur
Statement by families of victims
On 28th June 2012, we were having a meeting in Kottaguda of three villages – Rajpenta, Kottaguda and Sarkeguda – to discuss the upcoming seed sowing festival and also how to help those families without cattle and those households headed by widows. Since we were busy ploughing and repairing our houses during the day, we decided to have the meeting in the evening. We three villages share a common earth shrine.
The meeting started around 8 pm. Around 9-10 pm, the CRPF, SPOs and police came and surrounded us from all sides and started firing without warning. It lasted one hour. Sixteen people were shot and killed at night and also axed. Their bodies were taken away at night. The force camped in the grounds all night. Three girls who were taking shelter in a house at the edge of the meeting ground were pulled out, their hair pulled, beaten and assaulted and threatened with rape. 5 injured persons were also taken away at night. Madkam Shanti and Kaka Sarika were also beaten.
In the morning, Irpa Munna s/o Raju, age 27 approximately was killed when he came out of his house. When he did not fully die he was bludgeoned to death with bricks. His body was taken away in the morning along with two more injured.
Irpa Dinesh s/o Raju who has four small children was shown as a Naxalite commander, Somlu, from Korsaguda. His body was not returned to the village.
They also stole Rs. 2000 from Madkam Nagesh's house, Rs. 5000 from Irpa Raju's house and Rs. 30,000 from Irpa Narayan's house. They also took Madkam Dilip's mobile and Apka Meetu's cycle.
In the morning we all villagers went to the Basaguda thana but we were not allowed in; nor did any police come out. They had taken the injured and also arrested some 25 others. The bodies, except for Irpa Dinesh's, were returned on 29th evening and we cremated them the next day. Dinesh's body is buried in the PS.
Our villages have suffered terribly under Salwa Judum. All 30 houses were burnt in Kottaguda in 2005, 10 out of 12 houses were burnt in Rajpenta, and 27 out of 30 houses were burnt in Sarkeguda. Two people were killed by Salwa Judum and police. Korsa Bhima s/o Korsa Dora, age 15 was taken from Sarkeguda village in 2005 and killed in the thana. Madkam Balla, s/o Dula, age 35, was killed in Basaguda thana when he had gone to buy nails for house building. There has been no FIR and no compensation. We all ran away to Andhra Pradesh and returned in 2009.
We were just getting back to normal life when the CRPF attacked us again.
AISA Welcomes SFI-JNU's Decision to Oppose CPI(M) Stands on Pranab, TPC, Singur-Nandigram
The JNU unit of the Student's Federation of India (SFI) decided at a general body meeting held on the night of July 5th, to oppose CPI(M)'s support for UPA's Finance Minister in the upcoming presidential polls. The resolution passed on July 5 by SFI's JNU unit states that CPI(M)'s position is "unconvincing" and "not in the best interests of the left and democratic movement" (see http://sfijnuweb.wordpress.com/).
In a subsequent leaflet, the SFI-JNU also distanced itself from the stances of the CPI(M) on the murder of comrade TP Chandrasekharan, and also land acquisition and repression at Singur-Nandigram.
AISA welcomed the stand taken by the SFI-JNU. Earlier, AISA had also welcomed the resignation of the former SFI leader Prasenjit Bose from the CPI(M). AISA pointed out that "Left and democratic student opinion has time and again debated and overwhelmingly rejected SFI's support of CPI(M)'s indefensible decisions: whether it is the forcible land acquisition and state repression in Singur and Nandigram, CPI(M)'s support for UPA's anti-people legislations like the SEZ Act, or the CPI(M)'s dilly-dallying on the issue of the Indo-US nuke deal, or CPI(M)'s support for the draconian AFSPA. The SFI's JNU unit's refusal to defend CPI(M)'s support for Pranab Mukherjee, which is a welcome departure from its norm, is to be seen in this light."
AISA also observed, "Going by the CPI(M)'s track record of elimination of Comrade TP Chandrasekharan, expulsion of Prasenjit Bose, restraining of Abdur Rezzak Mollah from joining the March to Singur recently, and rejection and ridicule of VS Achuthanandan's solidarity with TP Chandrasekharan's party and family, and ignoring of the constructive criticism of intellectuals like Prabhat Patnaik and Ashok Mitra, it is clear that the CPI(M) has, time and again, responded with contempt for any inner-party struggle against right deviation. It remains to be seen whether the SFI as an all-India organisation, and the CPI(M) party, take heed of this realisation and ferment in its unit in a leading Left campus of this country."
Subsequently, the SFI All India leadership dissolved the SFI JNU Unit, and expelled four SFI leaders who are from JNU, from primary membership of SFI. The SFI-JNU have said that they will continue to function as SFI-JNU. Their statement says, "The decision to expel 4 SFI Delhi State Committee members from JNU because the SFI-JNU Unit has taken a collective decision on a political issue, smacks of an authoritarian, undemocratic and vindictive attitude. The All-India leadership seems to be under the misconception that by targeting a few individuals they will be able to browbeat the entire unit and divert attention from the relevant political issues... SFI-JNU Unit will carry forward the legacy of Study and Struggle and continue to function in the name of SFI-JNU and retain its adherence to the SFI Programme and Constitution. It is the All-India leadership of the SFI who have acted against the SFI Programme and Constitution. We appeal to SFI Units across the country, SFI State committees and SFI CEC members to register their protest against such violations and reverse the undemocratic decisions."
Explaining why SFI-JNU held a GBM to decide its stand on support for Pranab, the SFI-JNU leaflet said, "In the past few weeks the SFI came under severe attack from ultra-Left organizations like the AISA over this issue. Students were asking about SFI's position and we could not afford to remain silent."
The same leaflet observed that SFI in JNU had failed to win a single office bearer's post in 2007 and 2012 JNUSU elections, and that political reasons, "primarily those related to Singur-Nandigram and the general state of the Left movement in the country," were responsible for this. SFI-JNU held that "In a left leaning political campus like JNU, these developments have eroded the SFI's support base among the progressive and democratic minded students. The developments since 2007 have made the SFI vulnerable to attacks of 'double-speak'" by AISA which "gained at SFI's cost."
The SFI-JNU leaflet also held, "The interests of the SFI-JNU are intrinsically linked to these political issues. Neither can SFI-JNU defend unconvincing political decisions in public like support for Pranab Mukherjee in Presidential elections nor can it remain silent on acts like the recent murder of RMP leader TP Chandrasekharan in Kerala. Several CPI (M) functionaries have been arrested in the case so far, while investigations continue. The outrageous statement made by a CPI (M) leader M.M.Mani has only made matters worse. This has become a major political issue in Kerala as well as JNU. The SFI-JNU has taken a principled position on the issue and demanded action against the guilty irrespective of political affiliations. The all-India leadership of the SFI has not adopted any stand on these issues till date."
Thanks to AISA's intervention, political debate in a Left-leaning campus of JNU has sharply rejected any apologia for CPI(M)'s right-revisionist tendencies. This in turn has resulted in the realisation by the SFI-JNU comrades, that CPI(M)'s positions on a range of issues are indefensible among progressive and Left-minded sections of society.