While the country focusses on Kashmir, another region remains fraught with trouble: Naxalism-affected Chhattisgarh.
On the occasion of the Vishwa Adivasi Diwas (World Tribal Day) on Friday, the Maoist cadre in Chhattisgarh asked the tribals to observe it as a ‘day of struggle to protect the rights and identity of tribals’.
The dreaded Darbha division of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in the Maoist-hotbed Bastar issued a two-page note stating that the rights, identity and existence of the tribal community were under threat. “The 10 crore adivasis (tribals) in this country are not Hindus, but due to Hindu fascist and Brahminical forces, the identity, existence and rights of tribals are under severe threat. Therefore, this day should be observed as a struggle against this threat,” said Sainath, secretary, Darbha division committee, CPI (Maoist) in the note, accessed by Firstpost.
The Darbha division committee is the one that had been instrumental in causing several major Maoist attacks, including the attack on a Congress convoy at Jhirum Ghati in May 2013 that killed 32 people, including some top Congress leaders of Chhattisgarh.
Amid celebration of Vishwa Adivasi Diwas across Chhattisgarh, the note comes as a warning, as the ultra-Left cadre has appealed to the tribals to stage an aggressive struggle against “exploitation of tribals, violation of their rights and an attempt to annihilate the existence and identity of tribal population by the government”.
What is World Tribal Day?
Every year, 9 August is celebrated as the international day of the world’s indigenous people or World Tribal Day. This day is observed to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population like adivasis in India, besides protection of the environment.
The date recognises the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982.
What Naxals mean by Vishwa Adivasi Diwas?
The Naxals in Bastar, who project themselves as the messiah of the tribal community living in Dandakaranya forests of Bastar in south Chhattisgarh, protecting them from state oppression, have claimed that the World Tribal Day should be observed as a ‘Day of Struggle’ (Sangharsh Diwas) to protect rights of the tribals.
“We need to unite and struggle against the state and government’s anti-tribal policies. The ruling government and administration that blatantly violates the proposals set by the United Nations (UN) for the tribals. We have no right to celebrate this day,” stated Sainath in the note.
Giving a clarion call for struggle, the note has asked the tribal community:
• To unite and stage agitation against anti-tribal policies.
• Struggle to protect Jal, Jungle, Zameen (Water, Forest, Land), identity, existence and rights of tribals.
• Pressurise government for the growth of tribal language and culture.
• Demand withdrawal of police and paramilitary forces from scheduled areas (region inhabited by tribals).
• To strongly oppose and resist the Supreme Court’s order to evict tribals from their ancestral land.
• Struggle to protect hills which are the symbol of identity, faith and belief of tribes.
• To oppose the policy of handing over of public mineral resources to private companies and corporates.
• To demand the annulment of agreements signed by the government with multinational companies.
• To demand that the forceful conversion of tribals on pretext of ‘ghar wapsi’ be stopped.
• To demand that killing of tribals under the garb of encounters be stopped.
Bone of contention between the State and tribals
In 1965-66, the state-owned National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) initiated mining of iron ore in Bailadila, which resulted in displacement of tribal population from 10 villages. For decades, the tribals raised their voice against the displacement, as they were not rehabilitated. This became a bone of contention between the state and tribals. The Naxals supported the tribals in their struggle and over the years, the Maoist cadre used it as their ‘war against the state’. Much blood has flown down Dankini and Shankini rivers and Dandakaranya forest due to encounters between the State and Maoists. The innocent tribal population had to pay a price as they got caught in the cross-fire.
The contamination of groundwater due to red oxide and effluents in the adjoining villages of Bailadila has been a major grievance of the tribal community. For years, the consecutive state governments failed to redress the issue. It gave Maoists an opportunity to win over the tribals, as the latter lost trust on administration.
“The red water (red oxide) has contaminated Dankini, Shankini, Talperu and Malinger rivers, which are the source of drinking water for dozens of tribal villages. Crops have got damaged and fertile land turned into barren land. This has caused immense damage to bio-diversity,” the CPI (Maoist) note mentioned.
The note also raised a red-flag against the proposal of mining in the No 13 deposit on Bailadila hills. “Deposit No 13 on Balaidila hills is revered by the tribals. It has been given to Adani group on 25-year lease for mining. The government has been suppressing the voice of tribals by using force and oppression. We all need to struggle and agitate to prevent it from mining,” the note said.
Over the years, the tribals and rights activists have raised their voice against these issues. “The villages adjoining Bailadila mines still face the problem of effluents and ‘red water’ (due to red oxide), and agricultural fields have turned into barren land. This has been going on for years. Even cattle cannot consume water in those villages,” tribal rights activist Soni Sori had told Firstpost.
In the past, the social activists have questioned the utilisation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund in Bastar. It has been alleged that funds were used for infrastructure development and not to address the issues bothering the population for decades.
The CPI (Maoist) note dated as 24 August, but released on Friday has also mentioned “mob lynching, Hindu fundamentalism, atrocities on Dalits and adivasis” and leasing of tribal land and forests to corporate and private players by the government in other parts of the country.
What does the Maoist note mean by ‘struggle’?
The Maoists note has urged tribals to initiate struggle, which would be supported by the ultras. “We are by your side,” the note reads. However, it’s not clear from the note what kind of struggle the Darbha division committee has talked about.
The Left Wing Extremism (LWE) ideology believes only in armed struggle. The experts on LWE and security forces are of the view that by the word ‘struggle’, the Maoists want armed insurgency against the state.
“In the past too, the Maoists have issued similar letters and posters appealing the tribals to ‘struggle’. Under its garb, they trigger blasts and kill innocent people and security force personnel. Their objective is to establish their dominance in tribal villages and have their rule of law,” an official of the Anti-Naxal operations unit of Chhattisgarh Police told Firstpost on the condition of anonymity.
Updated Date: Aug 11, 2019 00:24:51 IST