Maoist disruption of the non-violent Human Shields movement in Chhattisgarh
[We are posting below a statement issued by some of us on the Maoist threats and intimidation in Chhattisgarh and its most recent manifestation in relation to the human shields programme of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram. It is a distressing but undeniable fact that, by and large, the civil liberties and democratic rights movement has fought shy of condemning Maoist violence. This is a matter of deep concern as the absolutely undefensible, nihilistic violence perpetrated by the Maoists violates all tenets of the great revolutions of the twentieth century that they themselves swear by. Despite their subsequent degeneration (after coming to power), neither the Chinese revolution nor the Vietnamese (the Russian, of course happened without a single shot being fired) made a cult of violence. Never, in any case, did they use violence against defenseless civilians. In fact, revolutionaries have been known to court defeat and annihilation, rather than kill ordinary people - whenever they were presented with the choice between the two. The perverse cult that targets ordinary, unarmed civilians simply in order to have its way can only be seen as, to say the least, a kind of Left-wing Fascism. - AN]
We, the undersigned, are distressed to learn that a peaceful movement in the conflict-ridden Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh to help villagers return to their land has been disrupted by the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The villagers had been displaced earlier by the state-sponsored Salwa Judum campaign that began in 2005 and has resulted in horrific violence against ordinary villagers in the area.
According to reports we have received from Shri Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA), the main organiser of the movement, their human shield volunteers in Nendra village have been forced to leave the place on 15 October 2008.
“Yesterday night Maoists again threatened our Human Sheild volunteers that if volunteers do not leave Nendra by 15th October 2008 then Maoists will kill all Nendra villagers. After this we decided to retreat and today our Human Shield is leaving the village and coming back. Their is no Non-violent Human shield now for Nendra people” says a letter from Shri Himanshu Kumar.
In the 3 years after the start of Salwa Judum, more than 700 villages in South Bastar have been affected by the conflict between the government-backed Salwa Judum and the Maoists and an estimated 47,000 people are currently living in roadside camps. The whereabouts of the rest of the people, over 3 lakhs in number, is not exactly known but many are believed to have taken shelter in neighbouring States. The Chhattisgarh administration claims that no one lives in these villages, and they have stopped providing support for education, health and PDS.
Since July 2008 the VCA volunteers have offered to act as non-violent ‘human shields’ to protect villagers of Nendra, who want to restart their lives in the area again. Initially a VCA Human Shield Team stayed there and facilitated return of 18 Nendra families residing in forests of Andhra Pradesh. Gradually tribals of Nendra began to venture into the local weekly markets escorted by members of the Human Shield Team. Encouraged by the market visits of tribals from Nendra, other families hiding further in the forests beyond Nendra also began to venture out to the markets and now tribals of around 15 villages are accessing Errabore, Konta, Dornapal and Injaram weekly markets.
VCA also started a two-week long Dosti Yatra on 21st September to extend a hand of friendship and assure tribals that the time has come for them to come forward and return to their villages.
We wish to state emphatically that this move by the Maoists to prevent the return of displaced villagers in Nendra and adjoining villages is anti –people and undemocratic. No political purpose would be served by forcing these hapless people to live for a long time in brutalized conditions.
It is also condemnable that the Maoists do not want and do not allow any social or political process which is not conducted according to their diktat. We express our solidarity with the Human Shield volunteers of VCA and the villagers and demand that the Maoists refrain from threats of violence and allow their return to Nendra to continue the resettlement process.