Thursday, 3 December 2009

Wake up, stand up!

The Oxford English dictionary defines "genocide" as the deliberate killing of a very large number of people from a particular ethnic group or nation. The word "genocide" is derived from the combination of Greek "genos" which means "race", and Latin "-cida" or "-cidium" which means "to kill".

If one has to check the open-access encyclopedia Google for a more global and inclusive definition of genocide, it throws up a fairly credible result, from the United Nations (UN) Convention:

"In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

On April 12, 2009, Chhattisgarh police claimed that three Naxalites were killed in an encounter. © Javed Iqbal

From the world of etymology and the world of virtual reality, let's return back to a world closer home where "genocide" can be best explained, with real examples. Where life is traded for land, where life is traded for the benefit of the larger good, where life is traded for a chicken, where life is traded by those who take up the pledge to safeguard the dignity and liberty of individuals -- these are the examples of genocide.

In 2005, the Chhattisgarh government set up a vigilante group called Salwa Judum, which was meant to be a people's uprising to restore peace against Naxal violence. Turns out, the Salwa Judum was launched to dislodge the tribals from their home of centuries, for corporate land grab, which was being aided by the state government -- an irony that in a democracy, the state relegates its own people! But no, we are not talking about being anti-corporate here. At least, not yet.

Salwa Judum soon presented a macabre sight -- 3.5 lakh poeple had to flee from 700 villages as they saw their loved ones being burnt, raped, murdered, mutilated -- all in the name of restoring peace against Naxals. Those who couldn't flee, about 50,000 of them, were dragged to Salwa Judum camps by the state's forces. If you chance upon visiting the camps through some "rural India tour" programme, check out the camps for the girls -- and don't ask why so many young girls are pregnant.

With the villages now empty, I need not explain who took over them -- barricading the farmlands of the terrified people in hiding, with barbed wires and strict notifications against trespass. Where would the people run? Deeper into the jungles, where there was an armed revolution which originated to fight off the social injustice. And we cry of peace in the cities, because we have everything in place. Think for once: would you be at peace of injustice was being meted out to you?

Salwa Judum was meant to curb Naxalism; the practical joke is that Naxalism grew by 22-fold since 2005; incidents of violence grew 30 times. Now the government that was elected by a "fair" franchise in Chhattisgarh, wants to be a strict father to its people.

So Salwa Judum didn't break your backs? Then here is Operation Greenhunt, where we will have our premium security forces gunning you down from the air, if you are found to be Naxal. We don't care if you are an 80-year-old woman and can't walk, or you have a two-year-old grandchild. We will chop your breasts and kill you nevertheless, we will chop your grandchild's fingers nevertheless. We have done this in Gachanpalli and Gompada -- you are a Naxal, after all!

One of the youths killed by the cops on April 12, 2009, was 19-year-old Channu Mandavi who was from Hiroli village and was to join the National Mineral Development Corporation. © Javed Iqbal

Let's not get into the details of what will happen next. If you think you shudder at the thought of what could happen, and you feel impotent at not being able to do anything, here is your chance. Below is the detail of what you can do in your capacity -- visit the place, open up your eyes to a reality which you are shielded away from conveniently by 90 news channels and newspapers that love to talk about the tiff between Tiger Woods and his bikini model wife. Go, spread the word of how power corrupts, how power causes impotency.


Say NO to displacement and Tribal Genocide
Demand the right to live with justice and peace
Raipur / Dantewada
December 1, 2009

Dear Friends,
You are aware that the tribals of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh State are continuously facing large-scale displacement from their homes, fields and forests a well as a genocide in the last five years. The first aggressive onslaught was by the state sponsored vigilante group called the Salwa Judum. In the last five months, the people of this region are victims of a war called the Operation Green Hunt. Paramilitary troops along with the state armed police deployed in very large numbers by the Central and the state governments are carrying out operations against the tribals in the name of curbing Maoists and reclaiming territories from them.
In order to build public opinion and to support the tribal people in their demand to stop this displacement and genocide and to reclaim their right to live with justice and peace, several community based and people's organisations, union and human rights groups from Chhattisgarh and outside are planning a series of activities in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.
This letter is being sent to you so that you can block the dates between December 14, 2009 and January 7, 2010, and come to Dantewada in support of tribal people. The list of events and dates are as follows:

PADYATRA: December 14 to December 26
A padyatra from Nendra village to Dantewada town via Lingagiri is being organised that will pass through more than 17 villages. This padyatra will be led by Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram and this group of approximately 40 persons will mainly consist of students, journalists and activists from all over the country. The main objective is to restore a sense of confidence amongst the tribals who are living in acute fear due to the onslaught of the security forces. The padyatris will also document the atrocities that the tribals have been subjected to including the situation of hunger, food insecurity, lack of health and educational facilities and other forms of deprivation faced due to the ongoing displacement and war in the region.

DANTEWADA SATYAGRAH: December 25 to January 5

Tribal people from all over Dantewada and other regions of Chhattisgarh will launch a Satyagrah on 25 December 2009 which will have the upport of tribals from Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, among other states. We are hoping that large groups of people from these states and from all National Networks, unions and organisations working on diverse people's issues will respond to this call and join in the Satyagrah for some of these days. The objective of the satyagrah is to bring together concerned people from all over the country to demand in one voice an end to displacement of people and to the war that is underway in this region.
A Raipur assistance group set up for the Satyagrah will be headed by Shri Rajendra Sail of the PUCL to help people coming to join the Satyagrah from the North, East and West India as well as from other parts of Chhattigarh.

Raipur is situated on the Mumbai-Kolkata route and is well connected by train from most parts of the country. Dantewada is situated 400 kms from Raipur and direct buses are available between the two towns through the day and night that take about 12 hours each way.
People coming from the South can take train or bus from Vishakhapatnam or bus from Hyderabad. The distance is 500 kms. from Hyderabad via Bhadrachalam and takes about 16 hours.
JAN SUNWAI: January 6-7 (the date may be advanced or postponed by a day)
The Satyagrah will culminate with a Jan Sunwai where tribal residents of this region will share their experiences of the Salwa Judum, Operation Green Hunt and their struggle for justice. This Jan Sunwai will be witnessed by a panel of ex-justices, senior activists from various people's movements, ex-bureaucrats and policemen, journalists and intellectuals including those from among the tribals.
This letter is a request to you and your group/organisation to begin preparation for your participation in the series of events given above. A more detailed invitation shall be sent to you soon. For more details please contact at the phone numbers provided below.
We are:
Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, People's Union for Civil Liberties (Chhattisgarh), Chhattisgarh Visthapan Virodhi Manch, Chhattigarh Mukti Morcha, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha – Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Human Rights Law Network (Chhattisgarh), National Alliance of People's Movements, Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan, Chhattisgarh Bal Shramik Sangathan, Gram Sabha Parishad, Tribal Welfare Society, and others (endorsments by other organisations are awaited)

Himanshu Kumar: 09425260031
Rajendra Sail: 09826804519
Sudha Bhardwaj: 09926603877
Vijendra: 09406049737