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Maoist disruption of the non-violent Human Shields movement in Chhattisgarh

October 19, 2008

[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.

Aditya Nigam
Apoorvanand
Kavita Srivastava
Nivedita menon
Prabhash Joshi
Satya Sivaraman

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Aarti permalink*
    October 19, 2008 1:39 PM

    Thank you for posting this Aditya. What is very saddening is that it is precisely actions such as these that strengthen the hand of the state when it targets people like Binayak Sen and Ajay TG. And makes it even more difficult for groups like the VCA who must negotiate the arbitrariness of the state and the Maoists on a daily basis.

    It is in situations like these that we realise the true corruption of state power – when those who oppose it in its current form employ with brutality its perfected forms of rule. The diktats of the Maoists are no different from the of well-run autocracies, the military organisation of their cadres mirror the army, the complete lack of democracy.

  2. October 19, 2008 1:59 PM

    This response by AN, A, KS, NM, PJ, and SS is the kind of Left we have to encourage the public sphere to imagine.

    Thanks for the reminder about violence, left, and history. Positions such as these are most urgently required.

  3. October 19, 2008 10:05 PM

    You can go to the Supreme Court against the Salwa Judum, but who do you go to against the Maoists? Appeal to their conscience? Himanshu I believe also appealed to the Maoists to talk on this issue – but you can’t talk to them. You must merely listen. The silence of many on this development is telling.

  4. Aarti permalink*
    October 19, 2008 11:51 PM

    What Shivam points to is again what I was alluding to in my comment earlier. That it is things like this precisely that is used to beat over the head those who attempt to nuance the argument about state violence and coercion, namely “all those of you who keep talking about the state, finally there is accountability, rule of law, and court of appeal.” No matter how hollow these things actually are. So produce this horrendous binary of anarchy in the wilds of Dantewada to be controlled by the ever-increasing powers (such as the CPSA) of a totalitarian state, both of which are just horrific mirrors of each other.

    I really hope we see some strong statements emerging from the “third” left intellectuals in the next few days. Interestingly I have not heard a squeak about this in JNU. AISA holds all four central panel seats, and the university is heading for elections. Lets see how much moral fiber is displayed when it comes to condemning violence by intellectuals who are quick to react to everything else.

  5. October 20, 2008 5:13 PM

    Aarti,

    Yes, the state uses these kind of things to grant itself arbitrary powers, to curtail civil liberties. But that is not the only reason why we should oppose Maoist violence in the first place. (Apologies if I am misreading you.)

    best
    shivam

  6. Aarti permalink*
    October 21, 2008 11:49 AM

    Shivam,

    There are excellent reasons to oppose Maoist violence against villagers and civilians entirely on its own terms. I was only making the point, since we have also been having a parallel discussion here on Kafila on the arrest of Binayak Sen and the CPSA, that these acts of violence are really not very far apart, and sadly this it is often the case that movements and groups that begin fighting the state end up mirroring it. Far-left movements have been particularly vulnerable as the 20th cent testifies.

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  1. Maoist Violence in Lalgarh, West Bengal Must be Condemned « Kafila

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