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‘India follows Sri Lanka in waging civil war’

[TamilNet, Thursday, 8 October 2009 08:36 No Comment]

India, in consultation with US counter-insurgency forces, is planning an unprecedented military offensive against ultra-Marxist rebels that is going to hit mainly the Adivasi (indigenous) peoples of India in the states of Andra Predesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra, warns a protest document drafted by Arundhati Roy and a group of progressive intellectuals. India plans to deploy its paramilitary forces, anti-rebel militias organized and funded by government agencies and possibly Indian Armed Forces including the Air Force in this war, the stated objective of which is to ‘liberate’ areas under the influence of Maoist rebels, but the real aim is to exploit land and resources of the deprived people, the document points out.

In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of India, the group of eminent persons said, “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.”

“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 government’s offensive is an attempt to crush 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, the letter pointed out.

“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,” accuses the letter, adding that “it would deliver a crippling blow to Indian democracy if the government tries to subjugate its own people militarily without addressing their grievances.”

Alleging that the government responses have already created civil war like situation in parts of Chhattisgargh and West Bengal, the group of intellectuals asked the government to immediately withdraw military operations as it has the “potential for triggering a civil war.”

In a separate background note, the document emphasized three dimensions of the crisis: (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 meagre resource base of the peasantry and the tribal (indigenous people) in the name of "development".

The document brought out some of the statistics of development failure:

80 percent of households have no access to safe drinking water. 77 percent spend less than 20 rupees a day. Only 42 percent houses have electricity. 93 percent of the work force (58 percent in agricultural sector) is of informal workers, lacking any employment security, work security and social security. Close to 60 percent of rural households are effectively landless. Between 1997 and 2007, 182,936 farmers committed suicide.

"Poor and vulnerable" increased from 811 million in 1999-00 to 836 million in 2004-05.

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.

Further analysis culled out from the document:

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.

There are two dimensions of structural violence against them: (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.

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.

Third comes the unprecedented attack on the access of the marginalized and poor to common property resources.

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.

Despite numerous protests from people and warnings from academics, the Indian State has gone ahead with the establishment of 531 Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

They require a large and compact tract of land, and thus inevitably mean the loss of land, and thus livelihood, by the peasantry.

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 to believe 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.

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.

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, the document said.

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