Peace can be possible only through nonviolent means and democratic development
The fascist rule of BJP in Chhattisgarh has witnessed the systematic suppression of civil and democratic rights in the state with the rulers resorting to violence and repression as the only means of dealing with violence. Two days ago in Dantewada, a group of activists representing various peoples’ movements belonging to NAPM, PUCL, etc. were confronted by a mob brought in from Kasauli Relief Camp by an organization called Ma Danteshwari Swabhiman Manch which is essentially a new version of Salwa Judum. Kopa Kunjam was not allowed to meet the activists, cameras of media persons from outside were snatched and they were then themselves slapped with charges of stealing the camera of local journalists and most importantly Shodi Shambo is not being allowed to travel to Delhi for important surgery at St. Steven’s Hospital. These are some examples of violations of basic rights of people guaranteed under the Constitution.
The State Government has blatantly violated all democratic values and made a mockery of the law of the land. Labeling activists of Gandhian-Socialist leanings as Naxal sympathizers is a blatant attempt to cover up the human rights violations of the State security forces and allow the State to act in a high handed manner.
We believe that the current State strategy of countering Naxal violence with more violence has led to a disastrous spiral in the growth of violence, the price of which is borne primarily by adivasis. Another aspect of the State’s strategy is to displace adivasis from their villages, divest them of their rights over natural resources, only to make way for privatization and corporatization of their resources.
Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, who was implementing the government’s own socio-development programs and welfare schemes, is being harassed for questioning this mindless violence and for the far-reaching awareness he has raised against the state security apparatus’ human rights violations. This type of vicious intimidation is a mockery of basic civil rights. Vanvasi Chetna Ashram’s 17 years of work is primarily constructive in nature, and it is the responsibility of the Chhattisgarh Government to create a conducive atmosphere for him to continue his work in Bastar and facilitate the same, so that the displaced adivasis are rehabilitated and their lives can return back to normalcy.
We want to state clearly that we are neither Naxal sympathizers, nor do we support any of their acts of violence. The maligning of our character and the false accusations against us are simply distractions from the real issues. We do endorse the issues and concerns raised by Naxalites even though we do not support their means.
We demand that the provisions of Fifth Schedule be implemented in Chhattisgarh, the long-time adivasis’ dream of the right of self rule is actualized as per PESA Act, 1996, and the adivasis held up in the Government camps are allowed to return to their villages, their rights over natural resources restored, they receive a fair share of the benefits of development with full protection of their civil rights and finally they should have a participatory role in the process of development with the State Government as the guarantor and facilitator of the same.
We strongly assert a need for the State to initiate dialogue with those in armed struggle in Chhattisgarh and other states. There is already an appeal issued by a number of eminent persons of the country to both the State government and the various struggle groups.
We all are willing to join as peaceful peoples’ movements and witnesses. However, the major move has to be by the State announcing their willingness and both the sides responding by declaring a moratorium on violence, even if temporarily.
Meanwhile we also expect an alliance of the people organizations belonging to the third category from within Chhattisgarh to take the lead and not only involve the adivasis and majority of the peace-loving people of the state, but also the concerned citizens across the country in a dialogue and debate on peaceful, equitable and just development in the region. We all will follow their advice and also do whatever possible from wherever we are .
Janak Lal Thakur, Former MLA and Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha,
Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People’s Movements, NAPM,
Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People’s Movements,
Kavita Srivastav, People’s Union for Civil Liberties,
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Committee for Release of Binayak Sen Mumbai,
Retd. Major-General Sudhir Vombatkare, Mysore, NAPM Karnataka
Kusum Karnik, Adivasi Ekjut Sanghatana
Gabrielle Dietrich , Penn Urimai Iyakkam (Tamil Nadu),
Priyanka Borpujari, Mumbai,
Satyendra Bordoloi, Mumbai
Suresh Kumar, Hyderabad, AID-India
Sherebanu Frosh, Delhi Forum,
Gangesh, NAPM – UP
Vijendra, National Centre for Advocacy Studies and PUCL, Raipur
Abu Bakr, Lucknow,
Srinivasan, Tamil Nadu,
Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal ,
Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM Delhi and Delhi Solidarity Group and others. Madhumita Dutta, The Other Media
Hazra Bi, Archana, Chennai ,
Piyush Manush, Transport Workers Union, Salem