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Maoists issue a statement, the media plays it down

April 12, 2010

The CPI (Maoist) has issued a statement after the killing of the CRPF men in Dantewada. You would imagine that the statement should be all over the media. If you Google you will find it here and there, and if you’ve been reading the papers I won’t blame you for missing it. It’s buried in the inside pages today, and only the Hindustan Times yesterday had put it on its front page. This is not surprising considering that after the CRPF killings the media has gone into war mode. It’s war out there, they’re saying again and again. Anchors are shouting, news-magazines are declaring war and calling the Indian state impotent and the top editors are saying it’s a turning point, ab bas bahut ho gaya, now let’s just shoot ‘em dead. What, no air strikes? get real guys.

When that is the over-all tone being set, a Maoist statement doesn’t fit in. The news editors’ official excuse is that the statement, faxed to newspapers in Kolkata, was signed by one Bikram whose designation in the party was not mentioned, may or may not have actually come from the CPI (Maoist). However it’s been two days and the Maoists have not denied it.

You may like or dislike the statement, agree with it or condemn it, but you can’t do any of that if the media downplays it. At Kafila there have been numerous responses on the Maoist issue and Operation Green Hunt. But if the media will suppress what one of the two parties has to say, how can there be meaningful engagement with the issue?

Apart from the HT story, the others don’t even tell you much about what’s in there. They want to focus on the war – Maoists say there will be bigger strikes – and not the other points in the statement. The Indian Express this morning had it on page 6. One page one they were obeying the Home Minister’s command of extolling the bravery of the CRPF.

I don’t have the full statement but here is what I can recreate from HT and some others:

1) On the CRPF attack:
HTThe Naxals offered to compensate the families of the jawans and policeman killed in Dantewada on Tuesday. “The wrong policies adopted by the government have caused these deaths. We do not want to kill them but are being forced to. We offer deep sympathy to families of the dead security personnel,” the release said. They also urged families of the paramilitary forces and policemen to bring their near and dear ones back home from the warfront.

This Time magazine story has something no one else has: the Maoists’s reasons for the CRPF attack: While admitting that it lost eight fighters in the three-hour long attack, the Maoist spokesman justified the massacre in a three-page faxed statement, saying:  “The CRPF battalion deployed in [in Chattisgarh] were killing innocent people, burning villages, raping women and displacing… people. We also wanted to take revenge of killing of our top leaders…”

2) On talks:
HT: The Maoists stated they had no reservation against talks if the government creates the conditions for it, but insisted the government should talk not only with them, but with all revolutionary and progressive forces [emphasis added]. According to The Times of India, there are pre-conditions for talks: ‘‘We are still open to talks. Lift the ban on our party and try to solve the problem on the talks table. Release the hundreds of innocent people who are dumped behind bars and slapped with false cases,’’ said the statement.

3) If not talks, more attacks:
HT: The statement issued by “Vikram” (whose designation is not mentioned) stated the Maoists will continue to carry out strikes on security forces as they did at Silda in West Bengal, Malkangiri in Orissa and Dantewara in Chhattisgarh. The latest operation will be called ‘Peace Hunt’, the statement read, also threatening attacks on government establishments and leaders of mainstream political parties such as the Congress, CPM and Trinamool Congress who support the anti-Naxalite operation. It also threatened to carry out strikes on roads and railways used for transporting security forces. Corrupt bureaucrats and government officials would be punished, it added.

This DNA story says the threat of more violence is about West Bengal in particular.

And now see the Press Distrust of India.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. scribina permalink
    April 12, 2010 9:41 PM

    since i only watch ndtv nowdays, i can say this press release was shown on a loop on on all ndtv bulletins by their person at their dantevada. not just reading it out, but zooming onto the sentences.

    how is that suppression of the press release?

  2. April 12, 2010 10:30 PM

    Dear Scribina, or whatever your name is in case that’s a pseudonym, I’m clearly talking of print coverage. I don’t watch any TV news to preserve my sanity. I’m unable to find anything on the NDTV site or it YouTube archive, in text or video, to that effect. I’d be grateful if you could point me to such a news report. Thanks

  3. Daniel Taghioff permalink
    April 13, 2010 10:03 AM

    If what Scribina says is true, that is interesting. Why would NDTV focus on this when the Newspapers nearly ignore it?

  4. Yogesh permalink
    April 13, 2010 3:33 PM

    I have not hesitation in confessing that the post has everything: a seething anger, a hurt pride and a pain, all enough to hold anyone- me too- in awe for good time. To begin with, even raising the question of “media downplaying” the naxal (historic) statement is an absurd enterprise. The statement has been given space in newspapers/news channels; so the complain of our friend is needless.
    I wonder if he wanted the news reports on wailing family members of the CRPF martyrs and the statement of naxal go together. If the answer is a gleeful yes, than I would term it as getting irrational to the point of “super-stupidity.”
    By not taking it prominently, I am sure the pride of naxal warriors and their trigger-happy fans has been immensely hurt. To be honest, the anger in the post is uncannily similar to that of a grumbling PRO who rattled off a statement thinking it to be a biggest development in the planet but it doesn’t get into newspaper.
    Such trashy statement that naxals deeply mourn CRPF men killings and being eager to pay compensations to bereaved family; might bolster the faith of the sympathizers in naxal, but for others it is not just painful but like an insult to our martyrs .

  5. April 13, 2010 10:00 PM

    Dear Yogesh,
    Thanks for your comment. The answers to your points are in the post!
    best
    shivam

  6. Bhochka permalink
    April 14, 2010 3:11 AM

    Yogesh: let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re right: that the CRPF men are in Chhattisgarh to spread peace and brotherly love, that they’re ‘our martyrs’ and only Maoist blood (i.e. dismembered adivasi children, beheaded adivasi men and raped adivasi women) will avenge the outrage; that Maoism is a cancer that must be rooted out. Even if all of this were true – especially if all of this were true – wouldn’t the duty of a half-way honest media be to educate its public on what the enemy is, what it actually stands for, to attempt a real understanding, if only to fight the maoists better? It’s patently clear that this is the last thing the media’s actually interested in – because then uncomfortable questions might be raised. About, for instance, what paramilitaries are doing in the forest in the first place, and whether they need to be there at all. And Shivam’s point was not that the media had blanked out the Maoist statement but that it had spun it in such a way that it now appears to be the opposite of what it was. He’s spot on.

    I find the idea that the CRPF men are ‘martyrs’ odious and loathsome – above all, an insult to them as human beings. Martyrs, by definition, die for something. If you want to mourn the death of 76 people, accept that they died for nothing. THAT is their tragedy. they’re sent into a desperate situation, by a government that couldn’t care less whether they died or lived, to kill people they have no enmity with. This is the ‘meaning’ of their ‘sacrifice’, which was needless. They didn’t need to die, because they didn’t need to be there. Once they were sent there, they were more or less condemned to death, a kind of living dead before they were actually, and inevitably, killed. Paramilitaries are not civilians, and in the war going on in the forests they have two and only two functions – to kill or to die. If you care about their lives then accept that the only way to protect those lives is to get them out of the forests – and preferably out of the CRPF altogether. Sorrow at their death is one thing – but this sort of moral outrage is completely hypocritical. You salute these men who the state forces to be less than human, whose job is to transform themselves into killing machines – you don’t have a word to say about a state that demands such ‘sacrifice’ of its citizens – but you’re ready to weep these crocodile tears when they do their job and take the consequences. They’re not ‘your’ martyrs, whatever else they might be – their deaths have nothing to do with you, or with anything other than the greed of mining and timber companies and the kleptocratic state that serves them so faithfully. They’re guinea pigs in our ‘war on terror’. Frankly, the only thing that can save them is a mutiny – something long overdue among ‘our’ men in uniform.

    I’m not a supporter of the CPI (Maoist), and no doubt their statement of regret is an attempt to garner public sympathy. But well, why not? And do you ever see your beloved ‘democratic’ state issue similar statements when it organizes the murder and displacement of people on a scale the Maoists can’t even begin to imagine? (You need machine guns and fighter planes to be able to harness that kind of imagination.) Whatever their motives, the Maoists’ statement makes the honest admission that if this is a war, lives will be gratuitously taken, by either side. Sincere or hypocritical, at least there’s the public admission that the deaths they’ve engineered deserve mourning. You don’t have to support the Maoists to recognize that this is ethically miles removed from Chidambaram’s squalid pretence that Green Hunt is a ‘police action’, that paramilitaries can take over an area without killing and raping and burning, that this war can happen without unnecessary suffering. Will the Indian state express regret for a SINGLE life it takes or mutilates – to take literally the smallest example, will it ever apologize for the baby whose tongue the paramilitaries sliced off in Chhattisgarh last year? Or for the dissidents the West Bengal police are now routinely picking up and torturing and killing without a shred of evidence, and totally extra-constitutionally? Forget it, I’ve gone on too long and I apologize – such blustering jingoism is not worth a rejoinder.

    Shivam, thanks for the news, which I found intriguing and rather surprising, given the Maoists’ earlier stance that ‘violence is a non-issue’ and that ‘the enemies of the people’ must be eliminated. Rhetoric is real, after all, and this is the first indication that, even at a rhetorical level, the Maoists may be willing to reconsider their own celebrations of sacrifice and martyrdom (which are plentiful). What do you think this actually means?

    • April 15, 2010 12:08 AM

      Bhochka, I posted this because it is indeed intriguing, and I don’t know what to make of it. The CPI (Maoist) will have to tell us a little more about what they are thinking! What do you think?

  7. Shalini permalink
    April 14, 2010 5:42 AM

    First and foremost, Thanks Shivam for attempting to compile news agenda of different newspapers. This certainly is no mean task in itself. I would agree with you on the bias shown in the coverage of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ and Dantewada Conflict. Definitely these are hot cakes for the media so every one wants to cover them and yet not take the line different from what the Government has. In which case as you rightly mentioned the Statement from CPI(M) would go on inside pages and since nationalism has always been high on the news priority CRPF story makes it to the front page. One might agree/disagree on the content of the CPI(m) statement but that’s the secondary point, the main question remains- Is media following/promoting a certain line on the OGH by and large?

    We all remember how Barkha Dutt referred to Nandigram as an ‘experiment that went wrong’ in her show on NDTV and Karan Thapar tried his best to get something to the effect of favouring Maoists from Binayak Sen in his shown on IBN.

  8. Rajvinder permalink
    April 14, 2010 5:07 PM

    From The Telegraph frontpage(www.telegraphindia.com) April 12, 2010

    The Non-People of Dantewada
    Unlisted recruits, uncharted terrain

    SUJAN DUTTA

    Mukram, (Dantewada), April 11: Bloodstains by a tubewell and a body in the forest are little to go by to get a picture of “Comrade Rukmati”, identified by the Maoists as one of them killed in the attack in which 76 policemen were slain on April 6.

    “Comrade Rukmati”, a three-page leaflet from the Maoist leadership here says, was from Mukram, the village that abuts the killing fields of Tadmetla Tekri. She was a “section commander”.

    Mukram was also where the CRPF company and a head constable of Chhattisgarh police accompanying it had dinner on the night preceding the massacre and from where they set out before being ambushed.

    The other seven killed were, the Maoists say, Comrade Vagal, also a section commander, from Regadgatta. Regadgatta village is a little off the broken and bombed road from Dornapal, where National Highway 221 runs from Jagdalpur to Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh, to Chintalnaar, the market town here.

    Then there is “Comrade Vijjal”, identified as a “deputy section commander” from Palmra village, probably in Andhra Pradesh. “Comrade Engal”, also a “deputy section commander”, was from Kurigudem. “Comrade Raju” was from Kondapalli.

    Kondapalli is a village in Andhra Pradesh known for the wooden dolls its residents make but probably made more famous by the founder of the erstwhile Peoples’ War Group, Kondapalli Seetharamaiah. The Maoists’ leaflet did not say if it was the same Kondapalli.

    “Comrade Mangu” is from Rengam village, in Konta block, and “Comrade Ramal” is from Morpalli, a little distance into the forests from Chintalnaar, the market town where the CRPF company was based. It still has a camp full of the angry policemen who are raging at everything — from the quality of their Insas rifles (“that only maim and do not kill”), to the malaria that is taking a toll on them, to the denial of the existence of Operation Green Hunt (“are we then here for a picnic?”) and, mostly, at the Muria and Gond tribals in the villages around who they say are all Maoists.

    The last named in the Maoists’ list of martyrs is “Comrade Ratan” of Jhadka village.

    This is a strange list of non-people from non-villages that India will not count among its own during the census that the Centre has initiated. The Chhattisgarh administration has circulated a list of 108 villages in Dantewada’s Konta block where census volunteers will not venture into. Mukram, Regadgatta and Morpalli are on the list.

    In mounting the attack on April 6, however, it was from among these non-people that the Maoists recruited their soldiers. Rukmati of Mukram is the first named in the list of “martyrs” or “murderers”, depending on your point of view.

    Mukram today is desolate. The village has four hamlets — Pujari Para, Patel Para, Nadi Para and Boja Para. The first two are on the left of the road to Chintalnaar, on the same side where most of the bodies of the CRPF troopers were found. They are about 300 metres off the road.

    Walking through Mukram, in search of a soul in the afternoon, shouting “koi hain?” evokes only the lowing of the cows, hungry because they have probably not been fed for two days.

    The Pujari Para hamlet melds into the forest of sal, mahua and palm trees. Each of the 30 mudhouses and one brick hut here is bolted.

    There are two tubewells, one of which tells a tale. On the cemented basin under the tap are two fading bloodstains. Was a bleeding Rukmati brought here to have her wounds washed? Was it an injured policeman? Did the person survive?

    The other hamlets, too, are deserted. But in Muriapara of Chintalnaar, 3km from Mukram, one man says that over the years the tribals have built alternative shelters for themselves deeper in the forests among the hillocks. He’s never heard of Rukmati.

    “When the police move in, we move out,” he says simply. In 2005, he says, the Salwa Judum, the vigilante anti-Naxalite force, came to Mukram, torched a hut and took a boy and two girls to their camp in Jagurgunda.

    Saturday is market day in Chintalnaar. Chintalnaar has a mixed population, descendants of erstwhile Bengalis resettled in Dandakaranya, a few families from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

    On Saturdays, the owner of a sweet shop says, the tribals come from the surrounding villages — Kottaguda, Raiguda, Tomriguda, Tadmetla, Narsapuram, Bhattiguda, Revalipara, Mukram and Tomguda — to buy weekly provisions.

    Not one person turned up this Saturday, four days after the killings. “They are afraid the police are just waiting and will go after them,” a villager said.

    Indeed, the police are. In the CRPF camp, the men are mostly out of uniform, in vests and shorts, bathing, trying to call home in villages in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal over mobile phones that have shaky networks from the state-owned service provider. It is five years since electricity supply to Chintalnaar was cut.

    The men here are from the Alpha and Golf companies of the CRPF’s 62nd battalion. “We can’t go on like this. Sometimes I wish I come down with malaria or typhoid because then they will send me home,” one constable said.

    Another shouts “you send us here with such little in hand and then you media-wallahs report that it is our fault we are getting killed!” So what does he want? “The air force. Without the air force, we cannot go through an ambush party,” he shoots back.

    The soldiery of a non-people had suddenly become an army risen from parched red earth to craft India’s biggest insurgent strike.

    Mukram (Dantewada), April 11: On the way back to Mukram, the vehicle in which we are travelling is trapped in a camouflaged trench cut by the Maoists.

    Blessed are we that travel on roads here that are not mined with deadlier stuff. Three non-people emerged from the forest to help and pushed the vehicle out.

    Drunk on mahua at 4 in the afternoon, Mangdu Kunjam and his two friends said they were returning home after burning the body of Mangdu’s brother, Suklu Kunjam. They found the body in the forest after a two-day search near Tadmetla Tekri where 76 policemen were killed.

    And, no, they could not recall anyone by the name Rukmati, identified by the Maoists as one of their own killed in the attack. In any case, they were looking for Suklu.

    Suklu was missing since Wednesday morning, a day after the massacre. The police, they alleged, came and took him away. They do not know what happened afterwards.

    Suklu is a grandfather. Mangdu is the youngest of four brothers. Suklu was the eldest.

    If Mangdu and his two friends were not drunk in the daytime after the ritual of burning human flesh and bone over dried wood and twigs of lantana bush, they would have been hiding in the forests too like everyone else in this 130-house village on either side of the road that abuts the killing fields.

    Mangdu walks us through a patch of forest to the place where he said his brother’s body was found after a two-day search. He leads the way, probing the ground with a stick before taking each step. Where the body was found the brush had been flattened.

    When they found Suklu this morning amid the brush near Tadmetla Tekri, the hillock from where the policemen were ambushed, he was dead. Blood had oozed from his right ear. The skin on his hand was peeling and the corpse was swollen.

    So they took the body away and cremated it. They did not think about taking it to a hospital for a post-mortem or to a police station, or to the panchayat. A non-person was killed. There is no record that he was even alive. Why to record when and how he died?

    In Chinta Gufa, halfway to Dornapal where there is a plaque in memory of CRPF troops killed exactly a year back and a milestone that reads “Welcome to Heaven”, the sentry at the police station notes down the registration number of the car and matches it with the number that the guard had taken down in the morning.

    Two youths on a motorcycle follow us. In Dornapal, one of them identifies himself as Akhilesh Kumar Shukla. “I know everything about these bastards (Maoists) because I am from Chintalnaar,” he says. “But I was afraid to come up and talk to you and be seen by the CRPF.”

    Shukla is 28 years old, he says. He has a house in Chintalnaar where he was born. “I want a gun to shoot these people down. But I don’t want to be a ‘special police officer’, I want to be in the district force.”

    Special police officers are an auxiliary cadre hired by the police and many of them are former Salwa Judum activists. Graffiti reading “Salwa Judum Zindabad” abounds in Dornapal.

    Shukla claims he even knew who Rukmati was. “She is originally from Tadmetla but married a man in Mukram and moved there. She was also called Pooja and was about 18 or 19 years old and had gone to school. She left her husband when someone gave her a black automatic gun with perforations in its barrel and she became a Maoist,” he said.

    So Rukmati deserted her husband and became a Maoist simply because someone gifted her a carbine? Non-people throw up such improbably strange stories.

  9. arpanchaudhry permalink
    April 17, 2010 1:06 PM

    These Naxals deserve no mercy now. The should all be given brutal death.. And also .. you cant have it without 0% human rights violation too

  10. April 17, 2010 4:54 PM

    Dear Arundhati,

    I am a middle class IPL Addict, I am more keen to find out who actually is the muse of Shasi Tharoor, than to read some 32 page report on Maoists of Dantewada. I love my middle class rat race, and enjoy the fruits of technological innovations and economic liberalization. I am just an English speaking, average product of a capitalist society (flawed or otherwise). I have no idea about Mao Tse-Tung; or Charu Majumdar. I read Shobhaa De and listen to Burkha Dutt. I by-heart the statistics of Sachin Tendulkar; why should I bother about the cost of Tendu leaves? Strange names Dantewada, Red corridor, Lalgarh, Gandhchiroli, 65000 sq kms….who cares for these Geography lessons, or the ones in Anthropology? History? The maximum, I have ventured into this territory of social service is to wear a “ Save the Tiger” badge for half a day. But then someone said, Tiger’s are bloody man eaters and a menace to the society, atleast in Sunderbaan. I took out my badge; confused.

    Who are you Ms. Arundhati Roy? We don’t need your Rai!

    You write in English, I read in Hinglish. You write about class, caste, how can you pose such questions before me knowing fully well I cannot accept these allegations even if they are uncomfortable truth. What kind of foolhardiness is this – knowing well enough, I am part complicit, part apathetic, part ignorant, and full representative of the same class and caste system you are out to denounce. I speak, read and write in Hinglish!

    What right do you have to tell a story ….of Mao rebels;. … a Probable, figment of imagination of a fiction writer? You use your superb style to highlight facts. Facts, that I donot have time to check on and verify. So I’ll assume they are all wrong. Or divert the discussion away from the core, humane, facts. Some one told me that Mao rebels are not Adivasi’s. Why should I believe you? The 99.9 percentage you put is too high. It must be much lower, something to the tune of 90-95%.

    If and when Indian Airforce, airstrikes will happen, they will discriminate between non adivasi maos, and adivasi maos and even further between children, women and adults, between those who are with armed rebellion and those who are just rebellious by nature. We have superior technology to make this possible, it is called Ethnic sensing lie detector missiles (ESLD-Missiles). We are on war (who cares against whom, whether they have WMD or not); I have little time to discern and decide, whose side I am. I guess, I’ll just go with the mass opinion. Isn’t this simply democracy?

    What is your loci standi to open a debate of such huge proportion? Oh boy, was I not smug enough, idolizing P. Chidambaram and you tell us that he has links to Vedanta; the great Socially responsible mining company out to displace adivasis from their land. Why can’t he have some casual links; when every other politicians have business ties. This is the path to growth, at least for my section of the society.

    Don’t you understand that modern capitalists are a different breed, they will give fair prices; give away their wealth (Did Ambanis, Bilas, Tatas not give away majority of their wealth to charity; or was it Bill Gates) and the tendu leaves saga will not be repeated. People are dying smoking Tendu leaves, is it not our social responsibility to get to those people who produce these types of bad habits, for sake of modern society. Or just get to those people for sake of modernity; what right they have to live in jungles, anti modern by choice; pick up arms, when there is such a smooth running judiciary and honest police and Just government system in our democracy which is caste and class free. Are you not worried that a handful of them (60 million?), exposes us to the muse of some film maker like Danny Boyle; who will come and make a film, that may go on to win Oscars. What will he call it “Gandhi get your Gun” or “Dancing with fools” or “Hurt the Fockers”. “Walk in the clouds” or “ Original Sin” Whatever it would be, it would be a shame again. Have you forgotten, how uncomfortable we felt when Slumdog millionaire was told to the whole world. What image will this portray before the world….India Shining, the next super power? Definitely not.

    Have a heart! At least, let’s bask in the light of a lie, a little longer!
    Did Vedanta not open some hospitals and are a socially responsible organization. Of course, it is a different matter that as per our current Chattisgarh law, there is a shoot at sight order; so an ailing patient cannot go to this hospital; unless he or she somehow dodges the Bullets NTR style, becomes invisible – Mr. India style, appears in the hospital, fill out the paperwork to prove that they are not Maos, only a mere poor Adivasi and had supported the state sponsored Salwa Julum, in taking up arms against his/her own brother. For these people who cannot register their complaints with the Police, nor can get basic medical help; I suggest they should come en-mass to Delhi and Stage a Satyagrah, so that their voices can be heard. Of course they need to avoid the local police, SPOs and now CRPF etc. with shoot at sight orders, in doing so.

    The various committee and commissions reports on Adivasi problems were never tabled in Parliament., Verier Elwin Committee report; Dhebar committee etc… Why not talk about Satyagrah?

    You, Arundhati are pained by death of innocent and poor, whosoever that is. Whether it is the CRPF jawan (who are nothing but poor pawns in the hands of political perpetrators of pervert war against it’s own citizens gone astray) and of Mao’s / tribals; then let me question you – Who’s life is more value able? Innocent of course. Other than the people who will die and died in the past as collateral damage; who else from these two sides is more innocent….is there a gradation, can we go down in history to find this? Can we prove it in some court? Which court is more legitimate; the Junta Adalat or our courts….These are some of the questions you cannot answer and I have no time to even think about. What is more constitutional, policymaker’s sanctioned war; or war without the lawmaker’s sanctions?

  11. anna t. permalink
    April 17, 2010 8:07 PM

    shivam, though you’re right in pointing out that often the media or at least what we deem ‘mainstream media’ fail to report all aspects of a story but to paint it as one great conspiracy against the maoist movement seems a tad overstretched. yes, i have to agree with yogesh that the maoist’s narratives have also been given space in the media.
    secondly, there seems to be an uncritical reading and acceptance of the maoist narrative…just because it is against the popular narrative of the state does not mean its always correct…we are not dealing with binaries here.

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