Thursday, December 03, 2009

The People vs The State

Geetisha Dasgupta

The Salva Judum (meaning the Peace Hunt) was constituted in Chattisgarh to make way for peaceful acquisition of the natural resources by the bodies that pull the purse strings. The organization is a state sponsored and supported movement arming the civilians to keep the Naxalites at bay. They kept a tab on public reaction while villages together were turned upside down and ultimately razed to the ground. The Salva Judum is supplied with fire arms by the central police forces.

The Salva Judum was actually led by Mahendra Karma, elected on a Congress ticket, and the leader of the Opposition and had all out support of the BJP to ratify all he did. The organization was peopled by the Murias, a cadre which supported the Maoists earlier. Pulling the purse strings, there were people belonging to the contractor and miner communities who lend their support now to this group, waiting to see the success of their business plans. For example, the first financiers of the Salva Judum were Tata Steel and Essar who vouched for ‘peace’ as it may be interpreted against the business context. All these and much more have been revealed in a passage from a report published in 2009 by the Land Reforms Committee in set up by the UPA-1. The report reckons that the Salva Judum was principally set up to bring back ‘peace’ in the area: a peace by virtue of which all development business could be carried out without any humdrum.

What followed subsequently was an all out war between ideological brothers: the Salva Judum soon came to fight bitterly with the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The first strife was seen against and in the Muria village. The result was that, “640 villages as per official statistics were laid bare, burnt to the ground and emptied with the force of the gun and the blessings of the state. 350,000 tribals, half the total population of Dantewada district are displaced, their womenfolk raped, their daughters killed, and their youth maimed. Those who could not escape into the jungle were herded together into refugee camps run and managed by the Salva Judum.” Many others stay hidden in the forests or have moved out into nearby tribal habitats of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh etc. this is an open war now and would dig really deep holes on the landscape of this tribal tract.

Both Tata Steel and Essar Steel are now tightening their nets for the final bid to occupy these 640 deserted villages for mining and other allied business activities. Each of them wanted 7 villages originally and believed that these villages sat on the richest variety of iron ore available in India. Hindrance was created by the residents who put up slogans like “…don’t mess with the Murias…” or “…the Murias do not fear death…” These villages are otherwise available to the highest bidder.

A big question that emerges is one of violence and counter violence in which the state certainly appears somewhere and even takes a position definitively. A more difficult question however would be whether the state strikes first or merely retaliates!

For further information, please see Land Reforms Committee Report 2009 & http://www.telegraphindia.com/1091120/jsp/opinion/story_11750719.jsp

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