Monday, June 29, 2009

India seethes with discontent

(Above, April 25, adivasis take their weapons to the streets of central Kolkata, the West Bengal capital. Around their necks they wear placards showing police atrocities in the Lalgarh district.)

India is a seething cauldron of people’s discontent.

Nowhere is this discontent stronger than in the adivasi areas, many of which are the strongholds of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) which has just been declared illegal by the "Left Front"

There are some 70 million adivasis in India (about 8 percent of the population). They are the traditional custodians of vast swathes of Indian territory. Like Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, they regard themselves as belonging to and responsible for the land. Their lifestyles, belief systems and cultural practices are based on the land. They are incredibly knowledgeable and skillful in their appreciation and use of tribal territory, much of which is forested or jungle.

Despite protection as Scheduled Tribes in the Indian Constitution, they suffer discrimination and poverty. Once self-governing tribes, they suffered under British colonialism through the zamindari system, according to which the British allocated adivasi lands to certain feudal lords of the Hindu upper castes for the purposes of rent and tax collection.

Right-wing Hindus often regard the adivasis with the same contempt as is shown to the dalits, or untouchables.

For a number of years, adivasi lands have been expropriated for special economic zones by the big Indian and multinational industrialists and manufacturers. Struggles around the defence of adivasi lands have provided the CPI (Maoist) with opportunities to create liberated zones through armed struggle, drawing on the great Naxalite traditions of the 1960s. Currently, such liberated zones exist in the Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

On June 15, for example, armed units of the CPI (Maoist) near Lalgarh led thousands of adivasis to attack and burn to the ground a number of police camps, and a newly constructed two-storey house belonging to an official of the revisionist CPI (Marxist) which leads the government of West Bengal. More than 300 police fled the area.

Police have been beating and raping adivasis since last November’s road mine blast directed at the convoy of the state’s Chief Minister. He had been complicit in the expropriation of land for a 5000 acre SEZ on behalf of the Jindal company, and was hated by the adivasis.

With the support of the Maoists, the adivasis established a Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). The committee has faced up to the challenges of poverty and backwardness around Lalgarh, building 20kms of road and repairing quite a few tube wells that supply villagers with water. It has started land distribution and created a health centre at Kataphari.

A tribute to the close integration of the Maoists with the local people was a stern warning from the West Bengal government on June 17 for the Maoists not to use “innocent villagers, especially women and children, of trouble-torn Lalgarh as human shields”.

The warning was issued by the Chief Secretary of West Bengal as the government sought to regroup police in the area so as to attack the liberated zone and crush the people’s movement.

But the PCAPA, according to the Hindustan Times, said the entire country will be in flames if the central forces entered Lalgarh.

"If the government deploys the central forces, then it will commit a blunder. The entire state, and even the country, will be in flames," said PCAPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato.
As the picture, abvove shows, specially trained anti-Maoist cobras (Combat Battalion for Resolute Action) have been deployed to the Lalgarh region and are imposing a reign of terror on the adivasi masses.

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