The Salwa Judum Syndrome

What has shown itself in opposition to slight upward social mobility in tribal communities otherwise stagnating in a situation of medieval backwardness in all respects, is the reactionary essence of Indian democracy. Now that Salwa Judum is a dirty word because of the Supreme Court’s intervention in stopping officially sponsored unofficial death squads in tribal Chattisgarh ‘plagued’ by Maoist insurgency, they are now trying to trap tribal youths by way of recruiting them as homeguards. This time it is not Central India, but deep south, more precisely Kerala where the traditional left is licking the wounds of their own creation—isolation from broad masses. Now Congress is doing their bit there and tribals are being asked not to cross the ‘red line’ if they face eviction and destitution.

The Kerala government’s plan to recruit tribal youths as homeguards to combat Maoists, particularly in forest and hilly areas where non-tribal combatants of government forces find it difficult to adjust with the hostile terrain, is in reality a notorious design a la Salwa Judum to pit tribals against tribals and create new killing fields. The Supreme Court’s judgement of July 2011 in the case of Nandini Sunder and others vs the Chattisgarh government, put the Centre as also the state government in the dock. A number of state governments that were trying to imitate the Chattisgarh experience to tackle their home turf were disappointed. In truth Salwa Judum was declared illegal and an extra-constitutional entity after nationwide stir against it by rights groups and the apex court’s clear-cut verdict that the centre should cease and desist from using any of its funds for recruitment of special police officers (SPOs) for engaging in any form of counter-insurgency operations against Maoists. Sadly enough, the all important ruling was for the state of Chattisgarh only. So the Kerala government has no problem to go ahead with their very version of Salwa Judum through the creation of ‘crack’ force of homeguards to be utilised as cannon fodders and divide the tribal people on antagonistic lines.

Tribals are under attack everywhere. In struggling for survival and dignity they have had to fight on many fronts ; they have come into conflict with all ruling and opposition parties. It is as brutal and unfair a burden as that borne by indigenous peoples all over the world—in Latin America, Africa as also even in Australia, not to speak of Asia where too many ethnic cauldrons are being activated all the time.

‘Development Projects’ are so designed that the first thing the authorities do is to evict tribals from their ancestral land, ruining their livelihoods forever while refusing to make adequate alternative arrangements for the project victims. Not that non-tribals are less affected but tribals bear the main brunt of globalised mayhem.
Tribal territories have been the prime target of official encroachment, rather forceful encroachment since the days of Nehru. In the early days tribals were politically so naive that they could hardly put any effective resistance against the state onslaught anywhere in the country. They were voiceless and their feeble protest movements here and there didn’t really reach the democratic and socially sensitive section of the society. Civil liberties and human rights movements were unheard of in those days. A detailed case study of old dams, big dams to be precise, may reveal how many thousands of poor and helpless tribals were forced to become destitutes at the point of gun rather silently. Nehru’s modern temples were actually built on the graves of tribals in the killing fields that will remain unknown to the future generations. The same tradition continues unabated. It gets frequent currency in the media today it is because the sheer scale of eviction and repression of tribals is frightening by any standards.

Whether the persons in power admit it or not violence is now a way of life for security managers. They cannot make quick buck without violence, they need violence to loot the exchequer. The security establishment never gets satisfied with ever increasing budgetary allocations they get every year. They want more and more. The very idea of keeping the danger of insurgency, religious or political, alive, is in the best interests of security bosses—bureaucrats, politicians and arms dealers.

While addressing the press the other day the National Security Advisor Mr Shivshankar Menon was in opinion that 1/7th of the defence budget that the Union Home Ministry received in 2012 was too inadequate to cope with the internal security threat they are facing from religious terrorists—jihadists—sponsored by Pakistan, dozens of small insurgent bands in the North-east, sometimes working in cross-purposes, thanks to government machinations and left-wing extremism, particularly in Central India. The fact is that the Union Home Ministry’s budget was a whopping Rs 55,448 crore in 2012 and all sate governments had their own policing budgets. Yet, they think it is not enough; in their parlance, India is the most ‘under policed’ state. It is already a police state as men in the street know it. In addition to existing security forces they have redesignated regular infantry units as Rashtriya Rifles to give extra teeth to the central paramilitary units.

India spends just 2 percent of GDP for science and research whereas the need is to increase it to 6 percent as Bharat Ratna awardee CNR Rao said recently. If there is any skewed priority in budgetary allocations, it is in the field of science and research, not police.

Maybe, all state governments, irrespective of their colour, are thinking in terms of Salwa Judum. Home Guards from tribal community are being required to do the dirty job of the vested interests in business and politics. Tribal youths are being recruited into regular police force to tackle ‘Maoist menace’ in Bengal’s jungle mahal. Again a policy of pitting tribals against tribals!

Surprisingly, Mr Menon’s national security agency, a bluechip wing of the Union Home Ministry, has so far failed to arrest the alleged Indian Mujaheedin operatives responsible for the blasts in Bodh Gaya on July 7 and in Patna on October 27. Having failed to make any major breakthrough in the terror tangle they finally announced a cash reward of rupees 10 lakh for information. This high-tech security agency is more like a white elephant. They can siphon huge sums without being accountable to any authority while enjoying the extra privilege to gobble up unaccounted money, all in the name of security danger.

The tragic episode in this anti-Maoist insurgency operation is that people have started to believe that the Maoist party is a party of tribals which it is not. It has a class outlook and a revolutionary agenda of four class-alliance.

Vol. 46, No. 21, Dec 1 - 7, 2013

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