PUCL, November 2005
16 November 2005 Appeal from the Chhattisgarh Lok Swatantrya Sangathan (PUCL)
Suppression of human rights in Chhattisgarh by the state
-- By Dr Binayak Sen, General Secretary, Chhattisgarh Lok Swatantrya Sangathan (PUCL), and National Vice President, PUCL.
[Dear Friends, The author of the report below is my elder brother, who is a paediatrician and human rights activist with the People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Raipur, the capital of the state of Chhattisgarh in east central India. The purpose of this e-mail is to solicit your support in spreading the message here as widely as possible among any of your friends who may be in a position to publicize the violations of ordinary life (never mind civil liberties) that are being inflicted on people in my country by their own government.
If you do a Google on "Salwa Jurum", you are likely to find nothing. This means that there is probably no mention in the Indian media online of the state terrorism that masquerades as a popular anti-Maoist campaign. This is a dangerous situation, not only because the state is apparently at war against its own people, but also because the media are failing to highlight what is happening in the name of anti-terrorism . This perpetuates the illusion that the Maoists are a bunch of marauding anarchists who deserve to be put down with the full force of the state.
Indian democracy is sufficiently vibrant to ensure that we have enough laws to protect the ordinary citizen from the abuse of power by state functionaries and others. But without a sufficiently vigilant press and media that hold the state to account for its failure to obey its own laws, these statutory protections may as well not exist.
The world is just beginning to find out what the complicity and silence of the "free embedded media‰ has led to in Iraq. A similar pervasive media silence is suppressing the widespread distress in the villages and slums of India. Internationally, the corporate media like to project India as the latest economic powerhouse in Asia. The report below is yet another inadequately publicized account of what is happening to the people who are paying the price of this so-called progress.
While the Indian state now seeks the US and Israel as partners in the war on terror, its methods at home have always displayed an uncanny similarity to the methods of these two global paragons of democracy and civilization that have so horrified the world. When virtually the only position that is represented in the media on the issue of Maoism (which was regarded as a spent force by the end of the 70's) is that of the state, the state acts with impunity. As in Iraq, so in India.
In friendship, Gautam Sen]
Appeal from the Chhattisgarh Lok Swatantrya Sangathan (PUCL) regarding ongoing suppression of human rights in Chhattisgarh by the state power.
Chattisgarh Lok Swatantrya Sangathan (PUCL) (A-26 Surya Apartments, Katora Talab, Raipur, C.G. 492001. Ph. (0771-2422875) e mail- firstname.lastname@example.org
PUCL Chhattisgarh would like to appeal to all human rights organizations in the country as well as to intellectuals and all democratic forces in the matter of the deterioration of the human rights situation in the state of Chhattisgarh. The situation is fast reaching an explosive point and we request your support and urgent response to this appeal .
In the recent past, the people of Chhattisgarh have faced a continuous onslaught on their human rights through displacement in the wake of several Œdevelopment' projects like dams, factories and express highways, and through the blatant loot of natural resources like forests, minerals, land, water and natural resources. Thermal Power Plants and Sponge Iron factories have destroyed the once pristine environment, and peoples' legitimate protests about such invasive policies have been brutally suppressed. Workers are forced to work in subhuman conditions in the many older and new industries of the region like the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Bharat Aluminium Corpn (BALCO), and Jindal Steel and Power (JSP).In all these industries, there is widespread prevalence of the contractual system, and deaths and injuries in industrial accidents are extremely common.
Land Mafiosi and industrial concerns violate the rights of indigenous communities; ordinary people are victims of malnutrition, police excesses, and shrinking life and livelihood opportunities. In the forest areas, people are also routinely subjected to harrasment, questioning and torture by the CRPF and state police in the name of anti Naxalite operations, and the DK Basu protocol with regard to the norms for arrest and questioning is violated every day.
PUCL Chhattisgarh has been in communication with some of you on many of these issues in the past, and will continue to keep you posted about the situation in Chhattisgarh in the future as well. The objective of the present communication is to acquaint you with the extremely serious situation arising out of the 'mass awakening' campaign being carried out in the Bastar region under the banner of the 'SALWA JURUM',a supposedly spontaneous peoples' uprising against Naxalite violence, and to seek your support in carrying out an investigation about the real nature of this so called peace campaign .
The Salwa Juroom campaign has been underway in Chhattisgarh for the last several months. It has been described as a spontaneous peoples' uprising against Naxalite Violence, and it enjoys the joint patronage of the state government, the state unit of the BJP, the leader of the opposition in the State Assembly, sections of the Congress party, the State Police and the Central Reserve Polkice Force (CRPF). It is officially described as a non-violent peace campaign to put an end to the problem of Naxalism in the state, and is currently being carried out in the Bijapur and Bhairamgarh areas of Dantewara (South Bastar) District. There is talk of extending the campaign to other areas. However, the information and reports coming out of Bastar in recent weeks, raise several concerns about the nature of this campaign and its implications for human rights. We would like to share these concerns with you.
Many of the observations outlined above are in direct contradiction to the proclaimed peaceful, spontaneous and voluntary nature of the Salwa Juroom. It is our perception that the Salwa Juroom 'campaign' needs to be seen in the context of the overall situation of the tribal areas of the state, notably Bastar, including North and South Bastar, Raigarh and Surguja. Many of these areas are extremely rich in mineral and forest wealth, at the same time as the people living in these areas are poor, malnourished, and exploited. One of the stated priorities of the present state of Chhattisgarh is the exploitation of these resources for industrial development and for export.
In the last few years, a sum of over Rs 60 thousand crores (USD 13.3 billion) has been invested for the development of mining and transportation in these areas. In Bastar alone, MOUs for an investment of Rs 17 thousand crores (USD 3.8 billion) have been signed this summer for the proposed Tata and Essar Steel Plants. Many of these development projects are achievable only at the cost of the destruction of tribal livelihood systems and as such tribal resistance is only to be anticipated. As such, the establishment of an 'enabling' environment for these investments, devoid of any resistance, seems also to have become the priority of the government .The deployment of police and other armed personnel in these areas should be interpreted in this perspective. The fact is that for the ordinary person, these forces become major agents of repression, as many earlier reports of Chhattisgarh PUCL have highlighted.