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Interactive Discourse on Maoist Movement and the Role of the State: Chattisgarh Experience – A Report

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A One Day Interactive Discourse on “Maoist Movement and the Role of the State: Chattisgarh Experience” was held at the Manipur Press Club, Imphal on January 2, 2016. The lecture was delivered by Shri. Suvojit Bagchi, Bureau Chief, The Hindu, Kolkotta. The event was organised by the Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University, Canchipur in collaboration with the Columnist Forum, Manipur with Media Partner, the Imphal Times.
Prof. Rajendra Kshetri, Head, Department of Sociology, Manipur University was the moderator. Prof. Felix Padel, Visiting Professor, Centre for Northeast India Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Shri. K. Madhumangol, President Columnist Forum, Manipur were the panellists.
The presentation made by Shri. Suvojit Bagchi was broadly divided in two parts. The first part dealt with the rise and factors responsible for the rise of the CPI-M [Communist Party of India-Maoist] in south Chattisgarh, referred to as the Dandakarnya by the Maoists. And the second part focussed on various forms of State repressions. The presentation on the events of south Chattisgarh was narrated using visual photographs and a couple of video clippings.
Shri. Bagchi submitted that earlier Bastar Division (presently divided into seven districts) formed the south Chattisgarh. It is around 30–35,000 square km in size (almost the size of Kerala with one-tenth of Kerala’s population). The Maoists (earlier known as Peoples’ War Group) are largely concentrated in this region.
Regarding the rise of Maoist movement he submitted that tribal uprising in the region is around 300 years old, and thus, Maoist movement is just a dot and subsequent happening. Further, he stressed that Tribal uprising against the State is continuing in Central, West & East India. Thus, according to him, Maoists did not convert the Gond tribals of North India into a militant-tribe who protest for their rights against the State but rather the tribals adopted the Maoists & their policies. The Maoists at present fight for prevention of exploitation of the resources of the tribal people mainly forest produce. They attempt to regulate Tendu wage and price rate of forest produce, which are mainly dominated by the Marwari, Bengali, Gujrati, Sindhi, Panjabi and the Bihari in terms of business, while the tribals are the manual labourers. Therefore, control of the Cintalnarh Market in Sukma District is the key – or a central character in the prevailing conflict in south Chattisgarh. The Maoists have taken up these issues in the form of their political programmes.
Suvojit added that the third factor in the rise of Maoism is two important Central Acts of India, such as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. These two Acts empower the personnel who are in charge to protect wildlife and trees. However, these Acts are also instruments responsible for completely stripping Adivasis (the Tribals) of their right to collect wood & plants and to hunt /kill animals for survival. Interestingly, when these Acts were enacted in the name of preservation and conservation for the forests & wildlife, it was done without any planning – or without ever thinking how the people who survived on Forest for thousands of years would survive. So, for the Maoists, it is demand for their access and use of their resources without any inhibitions.
The other factor which helped them immensely is engaging women and children. While many hold that Tribal society is fair and upholds egalitarian ethos, Suvojit held that many of these societies are largely patriarchal and exploitative in terms of gender relations. He added, “My understanding is different: I felt while on one hand it was equal in terms of drinking or singing together it is as exploitative & unfair to women”. Thus, many women join the Maoists so as to escape from exploitation and oppression.
Another strong reason for Maoists to convince the Tribals of Bastar is that they need armed movement to protect their water, forest and land. He added that mining begins from meetings of the Gram Sabhas, where signatures of the land owners are forged and gives away lands to the mining companies. He adds, “The Maoists in every programme says this, in loudspeaker, that if they are not there Steel Companies will turn South into North”. Mining were undertaken in large-scale magnitude in the North since 1968. This leads to the consolidation programme of the Maoists. And the fact is that “If you let a Communist Party works in any area for a substantial period, it is nearly impossible to uproot as its ideology and party structure grows”. Maoist party has grown substantially in South Chattisgargh. The Maoists have integrated with the Gond society. And these are the cadres who have received education from universities and engineering colleges.
Party is the Heart of Maoism. Under Party there is the Mass Front, Janatana Sarkar and Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA). PLGA is the Head and Mass Front (for women, students, workers, etc.) and Janatana Sarkar are the two hands.
The second part of the presentation focussed on State’s plan to isolate the Maoists, and  how it has led to severe repression of the tribals. For a long time, the Indian State did not try to understand the problems of the tribals in the region or about Maoism. Mahendra Karma, a rural land lord and former CPI MLA, started the anti-Maoist movement from within the Kond community from the 1990s, known as Salwa Judum. In this process, Mahendra Karma with the help of moneyed community, the State at the Centre & State, armed the local Gond tribals to fight other set of Gond tribals initiating a fratricidal warfare. The other part of the war was to isolate the villagers & Maoists known as Jagargunda experience.
In this process hundreds are being killed and raped. He cited Nandini Sundar who had documented killing of more than 500 women and destruction of villages and filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India. Arming of the local community in a way destroyed the people and wiped off generations of people. However, the Judiciary of Chattisgarh and India punished those most brutally who had tried to question Salwa Judum, atrocities including the social activists and the journalists. Suvojit added, “The State has gone on a killing spree. Now if you raise your voice against this, many things can happen to you”.
He cited the example of Dr Binayak Sen who was jailed for raising questions about lack of Health Care and blatant Human Rights abuses; Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi were tortured for raising their voices against these injustices; journalist Santosh Yadav and another reporter arrested because they were reporting these cases; Social scientist Nadini Sundar was hunted because she was documenting these cases and approached the Supreme Court and ICRC was thrown out for providing emergency care.

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