Operation Samadhan

Back from Bastar

Ehtamam Ul Haque

The History of Bastar is the history of struggles. Bastar put up stiff resistance to forces that wanted to exploit the land, life, natural resources and dignity of Bastariyas. The Bhumkal revolt of 1910 was one such resistance movement that shook the British Empire. Led by adivasi leader Gunda Dhur, people resisted the exploitation of forest and natural resources by the colonisers. From then till date the people of Bastar are fighting militantly against the militarisation of their land by the government which serves the interests of big corporates , both domestic and foreign, who are waiting to exploit the vast natural and human resources that are readily available.

Poonem Somli, a pregnant adivasi women from Silger, a small village inside the deep Dandakaranya forests falling in the border region of Bijapur-Sukma districts of Chhattisgarh, would have thought that her baby should not face the same what she has been facing for years. She might have thought that her baby should grow upon the same land as she. Somli was one among the thousands of adivasis of Bastar who rose against the illegal land acquisition for setting up of police camps to make true the ambitious project of the government to root out the menace of 'Left Wing Extremism' and bring 'development'.

Likewise, Uika Pandu, a minor, probably of age between 14-17 years also joined the protests against the setting up of police camp at Silger. Like Somli, Pandu also did not want to leave his land. He did not want to become an alien in his own place. On May 17th, 2021, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) opened fire on the people marching to the newly established camp at Silger killing three adivasis Kowasi Waga, Kursam Bhima and Uika Pandu. In the ensuing stampede, a pregnant adivasi women, Poonem Somli got severely injured and succumbed the next day.

On 13th of May, 2021, the CRPF set up a camp in Silger overnight. According to the PESA, consultation and approval of Gram Sabha is must for any such activity in the village. Leave consulting aside, the people of Silger were not even informed regarding the setting up of camp. Opposition to the police and paramilitary camps by the people of Bastar is not a new phenomenon. People took mass protests against militarisation in the yester years. In the name of Anti - Maoist operations, villages are raided daily. The paramilitary forces resort to fake encounters of adivasis brandishing them as 'Maoists', arson, rape, torches, illegal detention, arrests under draconian laws like the UA(P)A, NSA and the Public Security Act. Any dissent against this brute repression will be silenced in the name of 'National Security'. Organisations like the Salwa Judum, Agni, Tanta Mukti and other black gangs were given free hand to loot, rape, burn women, children and villages. The memory of Operation Green Hunt is not yet erased from the consciousness of the struggling masses of Central India.

Coming back to Silger, the protest sit- in is continuing for the last six months. Harsh weather conditions during the monsoon, severe state repression, detentions could not stand in front of the determined masses who got organised. Thousands of adivasis marched on 1st of November, 2021 marking the 23rd Foundation day of Chhattisgarh. Moolnivasi Bachao Manch, the people's organisation that is leading the protests in Silger demanded the immediate removal of camps from Bastar. Slogans like 'Hamari Maang Poora Karo', 'Nari Shakti Zindabad' echoed the jungles of Bastar. Rejecting the 'development model' which serves the multinational companies and their Indian friends that is being pushed by the Centre and State Government, the people demanded basic amenities like Proper Drinking Water, Health and Education.

To break the determined and organised masses protesting against the camp at Silger, the police were back with their years old tactic of declaring any people's resistance as 'Maoist Plot'. Fifty five adivasis returning back to their home on cycles were intercepted jointly by the elite commando force of CRPF, the CoBRA (the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) and Sukma district police. Eight of them were charged and were sent to jail under the Arms and Ammunition act while the others were later released. The Sukma district Superintendent of Police declared the arrested as 'Maoists'.

Thousands of adivasis are languishing in the jails without trial all over the country. According the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of every ten prisoners in India seven are awaiting trial. And for every three jail inmates one is either a Dalit or Adivasi. These statistics are actually based upon the reported cases. Whereas hundreds of them are illegally detained every day, tens of them get killed in false 'encounters'.

The Central Government led by the Brahmanical Hindutva Fascist RSS-BJP announced its new policy in 2017 called 'Operation Samadhan-Prahar’' to counter the threat of 'Left Wing Extremism'. It is of no doubt that this policy is a continuation of 'Operation Green Hunt' which gave absolute impunity to the Police and Paramilitary forces to genocide the adivasis in the name of Anti- Maoist Operations. Large scale militarisation is under way in Central and Eastern India under this new aggressive policy which wants to completely root out the Maoists and the Maoist Party.

There is an exponential increase in defence spending in India. In the current financial year 2021-22, the government has allocated a budget of whooping Rs 4,78,196 crore which is 13.73 per cent of the total central government expenditure. The United States - India bilateral agreements and trade deals regarding advanced weaponry including drones are a testimony of the fact that pace of militarisation has increased. The geographical spaces of Kashmir, Central India, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam is where the largest share of the budget is being allotted. This also corresponds to the fact that this is just to counter the various kinds of people's movements raging there.

Central and Eastern India is one of the biggest mineral rich regions in India. Coal, Iron, Manganese, Chromites, Bauxite, Mica, Limestone, Uranium are abundant. This abundance of natural resources has become a sham for the vast masses there as the profit hungry multinational corporations are waiting to exploit them fully. Land here is the major prerequisite for the mining operations to commence. For many years, both central and state governments in close collaboration with such big corporations are trying to push their agenda of neo-liberal development. But again, the question arises. 'Development' for whom? How does displacing the inhabitants from their own land can be called 'Development'?

Under the new policy of 'Operation Samadhan' to counter LWE, the central government has decided to establish multiple police camps called 'Forward Operational Bases' under the command of the CRPF. By 2022, the centre has planned to build 22 such camps in the 'Naxal affected states'. The states include Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana. Thirty one of such camps were already established in various parts of the country. In 2020 alone, eighteen of such camps were established. The majority of them are established in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha which is the mineral rich belt of the country. People's movements against mining activities here are no secret. This makes the picture more clear. In order to curtail the militant uprising of vast exploited and oppressed masses against the corporate powers and their lackeys the central government along with the various state governments decided to counter the people's movements militarily and give the land to big corporations. This reveals the subservient nature of the Indian ruling classes. On one hand the Prime Minister of this country talks about making India 'Self-reliant' whereas on the other hand keeps the doors open for the Imperial capital to penetrate and plunder cheap labour and natural resources.

It is not so surprising to know that the Indian Government is desperately trying to bomb its own people in order to pave the way clear for Multinationals to loot the resources of the country. On 19th of April, 2021, when Bastar was asleep, bombs were dropped on adivasi hamlets in between Botalanka and Palagudem villages of Bijapur District. At least 12 bombs were dropped using drones. Kamal Shukla, a senior journalist who was a member of the peace committee constituted by the Chhattisgarh Government to bring truce between the Government and the Maoists resigned condemning the drone attacks. Silger is not very far from the site of the bombings.

Some 250 kms from Silger there is Surjagarh, Etapalli Taluk in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. Surjagarh is the centre of protests against the Iron Ore mining. On 25th of October, 2021 thousands of adivasis marched to Etapalli to protest against the mining leases that were given to Lloyds Metals and Energy Limited (LMEL) at Surjagarh.The protests are led by the 'Surjagarh Paramparik Ilaka Gotul Samithi'. A witch hunt which followed resulted in arrests of various leaders of the movements including Zilla parishad members who were a part of it.

Not just Surjagarh, people's movements against the imperialist loot of resources arised in various parts of the country including at Hasdeo Arand region where forest clearances were given to commence the coal mining operations at Parsa Coal Block - II. The Parsa Coal block has been allotted to the Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL) and the mining is to be undertaken by the Adani group. This project will completely displace two villages, partially displace three villages and will also result in felling of one lakh trees covering an area approximately 841 hectares in the ecologically sensitive belt of North Chhattisgarh Forests.

It is the Adivasis, Dalits and other exploited and oppressed sections of our society who always bear the brunt of 'Development'. The idea of Neo-Liberal development is nothing but Displacement, Destruction and Destitution. The holy alliance between the Government and Mining Conglomerates should be recognised and fought against.

There are various instances where people's movements were suppressed with brute force. But, repression breeds resistance and this is the logic of historical development. Such people's movements uniting exploited and the oppressed sections of the society did not die down, instead they started emerging in various parts of the country like a prairie fire.


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Vol 54, No. 34, Feb 20 - 26, 2022