When the Wolf Masquerades as the Sheep

Kavita Krishnan

“I suffer from multiple handicaps… I'm a double Shudra…An allegation against a Shudra needn't be proved; it's the Shudra who must prove his innocence…”
Are those the words of the adivasis and dalits who are branded as 'Naxalites,' thrown in jail or summarily executed?
Wrong. Those are the words of Vishwaranjan, the DGP of Chhattisgarh.
In a recent article “A Khaki Shudra To Our New Brahmins” in Outlook magazine, February 22, 2010, Vishwaranjan has declared that as a “policeman and Hindi poet”, he is a Shudra (in contrast to English-speaking metropolitan intellectual critics of Operation Greenhunt), and that his article is an attempt to defend himself and his police force “despite the heavy odds”.
It is worth quoting at length from Vishwaranjan's piece:
“I'm aware that I suffer from multiple handicaps as I stand to defend myself and my police force for planning and executing 'Operation Green Hunt'. …in India's transformed caste system of today, a policeman is a Shudra, someone to be ridiculed, shouted at, spat upon. …I have expanded the Shudra label to include writers, poets, intellectuals, journalists and teachers from mofussil towns… those who essentially know and think in Hindi or other regional languages of India. And, by extension of that metaphor, who are the Brahmins? The Anglophile Indians are the Brahminsthose who write and think in English, those who teach in the colleges of Delhi and other big cities. …Therefore, as policeman and Hindi poet, I'm a double Shudra.
According to ancient Indian jurisprudence, as a Shudra, my evidence is of little value. A Shudra's cry is a cry in the wilderness. An allegation against a Shudra needn't be proved; it's the Shudra who must prove his innocence. Despite the heavy odds, I must still defend myself and my force.”
Let us interrupt Mr. Vishwaranjan's plaintive “cry in the wilderness” to ask certain inconvenient questions.
In Mr. Vishwaranjan's simple reworking of Indian caste system, there are just two protagonists - the 'shudra' policeman and the metropolitan English-speaking intellectual 'brahman.' Where, in this cast(e) of characters, is the adivasi man or woman of Chhattisgarh? His or her identity has vanished as - hey presto - Mr. Vishvaranjan performs the magic trick of recasting the might of the Indian State's repressive machinery in mould of martyrdom.
A police officer in Vishwaranjan's force, asked by a visiting writer for proof that people killed in an 'encounter' were actually 'naxalites,' answered (blithely unconscious of any irony)  “Why, of course they're Maoists, ma'am  they have malaria medicine and dettol from the outside.” Who is the “Shudra” here -  the adivasi summarily executed as 'naxalite' for possessing quinine or dettol - or the police force that fakes these encounters?!    
 Does the DGP of Chhattisgarh recall the case of the six adivasi women of Bastar who managed to file complaints (before a judicial magistrate) of rape against SPOs and Salwa Judum, in spite of intense intimidation and threats to them and their families? When the Supreme Court asked the Chhattisgarh Government about these rape complaints, the latter, (basing itself no doubt on 'evidence' provided by Mr Vishwaranjan's police force), told the Court that they had 'witnesses' to prove that the women were liars, coached by Naxalites to malign the government. And who, pray, were these witnesses? Well, the list of 'witnesses' overlapped heavily with the list of the very men accused of rape! The Chhattisgarh Government said that their police force established the “truth” simply by “questioning the accused who insisted they were innocent.” Adivasi women who dare to cry rape in the “wilderness” of Bastar are branded as liars  on the evidence of the members of Vishwaranjan's police force whom they accuse of rape! Who is the “Shudra” here who is by definition “guilty”, Mr. Vishwaranjan?   
Mr Vishwaranjan mentions Sodi Sambho. Sodi is an eyewitness to a massacre at Gompad village in October last year, when police shot three men, three women and a 12-year-old girl, cut off a two-year-old infant's fingers and chopped off an old woman's breasts. Mr. Vishwaranjan's force has made sure of the fact that the voice of Sodi  and the other 12 eyewitnesses who petitioned the Supreme Court in this case, remains a “cry in the wilderness.” The witnesses have been prevented from meeting lawyers or activists  and have been kept firmly in the custody of the very police force that stands accused of the massacre, to be reluctantly produced upon insistent demand by the Supreme Court (then, too in small doses - i.e six of the 13 witnesses) only once it is ensured that they have recanted from their indictment of the police!  
Latin American writer Eduardo Galeano writes of how “Peace and Justice” was the name of the paramilitary group that in 1997 shot forty-five peasants, nearly all of them women and children, in the back as they prayed in the town church in Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico. We can hear the echoes of “Peace and Justice” in the phrases “Salwa Judum” (Peace Hunt in the Gondi language) and “Green Hunt” for the Operation intended to facilitate grab of forest land by mining corporations! In a similar case of doublespeak, DGP Vishwaranjan appropriates the identity of 'shudra'  and thereby denies the adivasi people being repressed by his police force even the dignity of recognition as 'downtrodden.'

Mr. Vishwaranjan's moving masquerade as subaltern “shudra” - an act of breathtaking gall and audacity - is about convincing as that of a wolf claiming he is actually a sheep.

Crooks, Conmen, & Counter-insurgents:
Padma Awards in the Time of Nuke Deal & Greenhunt

The recipients of the country's highest civilian honours  announced on Republic Day this year  included one NRI crook with several criminal cases pending against him, and one leader of a private militia in Kashmir notorious for torture and killings.
The Padma Bhushan to these two, while proving to be an embarrassment to the Government, is actually symbolic of the Indian State's priorities at this juncture. Both reflect on the character of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Sant Singh Chatwal is an NRI hotelier with several cases of fraud pending in courts, complaints of criminal intimidation with the NHRC and a CBI investigation which was hastily closed, against the advice of the top investigators. His son's wedding was attended by no less than Bill and Hillary Clinton and Manmohan Singh and Gurcharan Kaur.
What did he do to deserve the Padma award?
The Ministry of Home Affairs, defending the award in the face of questions about the aborted CBI enquiry, gave him a clean chit, and explained that he (Chatwal) had “been an active member of the NRI community in the US in securing support for the nuclear deal among members of the US Congress.”
Ghulam Mohammad Mir, another recipient of the Padma award, is notorious as Muma Kanna, surrendered militant who used to run a private counter-insurgent militia. His name was synonymous with brutal terror and torture in the service of the State terror, and he also stands accused of illegally occupying land and timber smuggling.
It is no accident that the UPA Government, in times of Nuke Deal and Greenhunt, should choose to reward a crook who is basically a 'fixer' for Indo-US relations in general, and a man associated with what, in other words, was a Kashmiri version of Salwa Judum  complete with torture, killings, land grab and smuggling. However, these awards also reveal the unsavoury underbelly  marked by fraudsters and torturers  of Indo-US relations and of counter-insurgency.


Congress Govt. Prepares for Commonwealth Games:
Barricading the Poor, Banning Beggars

Embarrassed by slums and poverty?  No problem  just hide the poor from view!
Towards the Commonwealth Games to be held later this year, the Congress Government in Delhi is busy trying to 'cleanse' Delhi of beggars, slums and anything else that might prove embarrassing eyesores in the eyes of an international audience.
Reportedly, the Government is planning to hide the slums behind strategically planted bamboo fences. It has also started cracking down on beggars  'mobile courts' are being set up to 'try' the poor on the streets, and anyone found 'guilty' of begging is incarcerated in 'shelters' (prisons by a sweeter name) or 'exported' to the supposed 'home state' of the 'offenders.'
The plan to screen the slums from public view in order to preserve a polite pretence that India's capital is “poverty-free” recalls to mind what Friedrich Engels observed in 1845 about the industrial city of Manchester:  
“And the finest part of the arrangement is this, that the members of this money aristocracy can take the shortest road through the middle of all the labouring districts to their places of business without ever seeing that they are in the midst of the grimy misery that lurks to the right and the left... the thoroughfares... out of the city are lined, on both sides, with an almost unbroken series of shops…(that) suffice to conceal from the eyes of the wealthy men and women of strong stomachs and weak nerves the misery and grime which form the complement of their wealth. … I have never seen so systematic a shutting out of the working-class from the thoroughfares, so tender a concealment of everything which might affront the eye and the nerves of the bourgeoisie, as in Manchester.” (Condition of the Working Class in England) 
Recently, the Delhi High Court, responding to a petition filed by the PUDR based on its fact-finding report on the condition of workers on Commonwealth Games sites (see Liberation August 2009), acknowledged that labour laws were being blatantly violated, leading to exploitation of Games workers and even death of many workers.     
The selfsame Government that is responsible for poverty is now indicting the poor for the crime of being poor! The poor are being to told now to return to their “home states”  but does anyone why they were forced to migrate in the first place?! Is it not because liberalization has denied them jobs; and because SEZs and big projects have evicted them from the land?

The poorest of the poor expend blood, sweat and severely under-paid and exploited toil to build a 'world-class' metropolis  and the Congress Government then proceeds to hide the selfsame poor and their slums from view. In Sheila Dixit's view, it is the poor who are the source of shame  but in fact, it is this attempt to insult the poor and workers in the name of Delhi's 'pride' that is shameful.