Halt paramilitary offensive in Chhattisgarh

(Statement issued by CPI(ML) Central Committee, 20 September 2009)

Halt ‘Operation Green Hunt’
War on the people
cannot bring peace to Bastar
Disbanding Salwa Judum and ensuring rights of adivasi people is the only road to peace

The paramilitary offensive launched in Bastar by CoBRA battalions along with State police is a matter of grave concern for all those who seek the return of peace in the region. The experience of counter-insurgency offensives in other parts of the country as well as that of the past few years in Chhattisgarh itself have clearly shown that paramilitary ‘cleansing operations’ never bring peace or end militancy. In effect, such operations have invariably spelt a war on the people, with mass scale violations of human rights, and have been quite ineffective in checking military actions by Maoists or insurgent groups.
The UPA Government, by sponsoring a militaristic offensive in Bastar and backing up the Chhattisgarh Government in the patronage of a private militia (the Salwa Judum), is not even heeding the recommendations of the Expert Committee appointed by the Planning Commission. In its report submitted in early 2008, this Committee had explicitly counselled against ineffective militaristic solutions, pointing instead to the need to address the “socio-economic malaise” caused by the State’s failure to ensure basic Constitutional entitlements to the poorest and most deprived of people.
In a highly irresponsible manner, the Home Ministry is accompanying its offensive with screaming ads displaying photographs claimed to be victims of ‘naxalites’ who, the ad claims are “nothing, but cold-blooded murderers.” Civilian killings by Maoists are indefensible. But killings of innocents by the State, in order to brand them as extremists in death, is surely a far more heinous offense. The Home Ministry is silent on the numerous ‘encounters’ in Bastar, where villagers have identified the victims as innocent adivasis rather than ‘dreaded naxalites’. The Ishrat Jehan case has emphasized that ‘encounters’ which are yet to proved genuine by a judicial enquiry are all too likely to be fake. Are fake encounters not cold-blooded murders? An estimated 2 lakh adivasi people of Bastar have been rendered homeless since the launch of the Salwa Judum offensive in 2005. There have been several charges of rape and loot against leaders of the Salwa Judum. What passes for the ‘counterinsurgency’ operation in Chhattisgarh is clearly nothing but a war on the people.
The only road to peace in Bastar, in this situation, can be for the State and central Governments to immediately put an end to the war on the people by private militia (Salwa Judum) and paramilitary; to ensure the return of the displaced adivasis to their villages; and guarantee of their rights to land, livelihood and life.

No More Ishrat Jehans: Subject every ‘encounter’ to rigorous enquiry
The magisterial enquiry headed by Justice Tamang has established that Gujarat police officers killed Ishrat Jehan, a 19-year-old college student, along with three other men in a fake encounter five years ago, and tried to pass them off as terrorists plotting to kill the Chief Minister. This is a damning indictment of the Gujarat Government.
The fake encounters of Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi, Ishrat Jehan and 3 others, appear to be elaborately planned – indicating a communal conspiracy to secure ideological support for the Modi Government by creating a bogey of Muslims as terrorists. Such an audacious conspiracy could hardly be possible without the collusion of the office of Chief Minister. A thoroughgoing and time-bound probe into the role of the entire Government machinery including the Chief Minister in this conspiracy is called for.
The Gujarat Government has, in the HC, raised objections to the Tamang Report on purely technical grounds. The Tamang Report itself painstakingly places the facts on record. Perhaps the most conclusive of these is the meticulous study of the nature of bullet wounds on the body and other forensic evidence – that indicates that the victims were killed at close quarters and not in an encounter.
The communal character of the Gujarat police under Modi, while disturbing, is hardly news. Perhaps of even greater concern is the fact that the Union Home Ministry under the UPA colluded with the Gujarat Government to suppress the facts and prevent any probe into the Ishrat Jehan ‘encounter.’ In an affidavit to the Gujarat HC, the Home Ministry had ruled out the need for any CBI probe or magisterial enquiry, endorsing the Gujarat Government’s claim that Ishrat and the 3 others were terrorists.
It is only the courage and persistence of Ishrat Jehan’s family which brought the truth to light. The episode strongly brings home the need to uphold the NHRC guideline and ensure a magisterial enquiry into every police ‘encounter’. After the revelations of the magisterial enquiry into the Ishrat Jehan case, the Home Ministry’s continuous refusal to order a magisterial probe into the Batla House encounter is even less sustainable.

Anniversary of Infamous Batla House ‘Encounter’

September 19 marked one year of the ‘encounter’ at Batla House – and also one year of the struggle for truth and justice sustained by teachers and students of the Jamia Millia Islamia.
On the eve of the anniversary, September 18, students and teachers of various Universities in Delhi and civil right activists participated in a torchlight procession called by the JTSA and AISA. The spirited procession, as it passed through the lanes scarred by the ‘encounter’ and its aftermath, proved that the Government has been unable to silence the voices demanding judicial enquiry into the ‘encounter’.


The Politics of

The HRD Ministry has recently ordered Universities to hike fees and levy user charges to mobilize their own funds – even to procure essentials like chemicals in labs and books in libraries. All in the name of ‘austerity measures’. Earlier this year, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh prescribed wage cuts for workers in times of recession.
For the Congress-led Government, the recession is a handy pretext to push through all the pet neoliberal policies. ‘Austerity’ in the Congress vocabulary is a word heralding moves to intensify the liberalization offensive. Privatisation measures, wage cuts and job cuts – all can be virtuously blamed on the fund crunch in times of global recession. And when people protest, the government can fall back on the plea of ‘austerity.’
No wonder, then that the Congress is dismayed at media revelations of the ostentatious flaunting of wealth by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his junior Shashi Tharoor, and at Tharoor’s indiscreet ‘cattle class’ tweet that revealed contempt for the aam aadmi. A red-faced Congress leadership then rushed into damage control mode, reprimanding their Ministers and competing to display conspicuous ‘austerity’ – wearing khadi, travelling by economy class flights and even by train.

Class Character behind the Aam Aadmi Façade

The Congress is aware that Krishna’s and Tharoor’s protestations that the 5-star bills were paid out of their own pockets rather than the government exchequer might not reduce the political cost of the episode. The fact that Ministers can afford 5-star comfort even as the Government has been preaching ‘austerity’ and prescribing wage-cuts for workers in times of acute drought, price rise and hunger, smacks of double standards, no matter which way you look at it. The Congress correctly recognised it as an instance of the aam aadmi mask having slipped, and hastened to position the mask in place once again: carefully crafted to display the correct expressions of sincerity and sacrifice.
Unfortunately for the Congress, the mask keeps slipping. Every day it is revealed how other Congress Ministers too are living it up like modern day maharajahs – demanding Italian tiles, Spanish marble, and even vaastu-aligned toilets – all at public cost!

Princes and Paupers…

The Government’s awkward and unconvincing attempts to cover up this revelation of its real class character with gestures of ‘austerity’ only serve to rub in the cosmetic and theatrical nature of such gestures.
Why should it be big news that Rahul Gandhi spends a night at a dalit’s house or makes a single journey by train? Precisely because such events are orchestrated exceptions. It’s like a Prince dressing up as a pauper for a day: an event calculated, not to democratize, but to project an eminently princely ‘love for the populace’.

Gifts and Giveaways for the Super-rich;

Peanuts for the Poor

Recall that a couple of years ago, the Prime Minister had suggested that CEOs avoid conspicuous consumption, saying that “Such vulgarity insults the poverty of the less privileged.” That is precisely the hypocritical sentiment reflected in the Congress’ conspicuous austerity now: pursuing policies that promote the rich and punish the poor is fine – as long as this attitude is not ‘vulgarly’ displayed in a manner that might provoke the poor!
The ‘austerity’ measures only serve to re-emphasise the fact that the Government’s priorities and policies are all tailored to serve the super-rich. The Union Budget’s ‘Statement of revenues foregone’ is revealing. It tells us that in 2008-09, Rs. 68,914 crore of revenue due from corporate taxation was “foregone” (due to special tax rates, exemptions, deductions, rebates, etc). And if we take a closer look at the corporate tax collected, we can see that bigger and more profitable companies get away with more exemptions while smaller companies pay more by way of corporate taxes. 67398 of the most profitable private companies, which had 44.60% of the share in total corporate profits, were taxed at an effective rate in the range of 0-20%, and therefore formed just 21.89% in the total tax payable. The smallest companies, those with profits less than Rs 10 Cr, had the largest effective tax rate.
It is also well known that indirect exemptions like concessions in excise and custom duties are also largely cornered by the corporate sector with little benefits being extended to actual consumers. Income foregone in 2007-08 on excise duty was Rs. 87,468 crore and on customs duty Rs. 1,53,593 crore. Even if we assume that 50% of these concessions are passed on to consumers, the total concession enjoyed by the corporate sector through direct tax exemptions and indirect duty cuts add up to more than Rs. 1.5 lakh crore. In other words, the corporate sector gets a concession of nearly Rs. 20 crore an hour – and this does not include the numerous tangible and intangible subsidies showered on the super-rich by way of cheap land, cheap power and so on and so forth.
Compare these enormous yearly handouts to the richest of the rich with the allocations for the poorest of the poor, struggling for survival: a mere Rs. 39,100 crore was allocated for the NREGS in the 2009-10 Budget. The priorities are clear: the neo-royalty of this country, who earn obscene salaries several thousands of times larger than the wages of the poorest Indians, are the ones whom our Government favours with huge gifts and giveaways. The poor are given mere peanuts – and on top of it all being made to shoulder the burden of recession in the shape of back-breaking prices, retrenchment and wage cuts.
The politics of ‘austerity’ and the true priorities of the callous and cruel Congress-led Governments must be challenged and exposed by militant mass movements of the poor.
Kavita Krishnan