COMMITTEE FOR THE ASSISTANCE OF TRIBALS
AFFECTED BY SALWA JUDUM (CATAS)
All India Mass Campaign
Against the Attack on the very Existence of Adivasis,
their Culture and Habitat, in the name of ‘Salwa Judum’
Stop the State Terror!
Lend Support to the Displaced Tribals!!
It is now over one year since the Government of India launched its massive onslaught against the tribals of Bastar in the name of Salwa Judum. Their only crime is that they have lent full support to the Naxalites who have now spent 25 years amongst them. It is now clear that the initial reports were a government spread lie that the Salwa Judum was a spontaneous uprising against the Maoists. Numerous visits of journalists, academics and even government officials have proven that it is nothing but a state sponsored terror campaign. It is estimated that till now over 250 have been mercilessly and brutally killed, about 100 women have been gang-raped (and many then killed), 3,000 houses have been burnt down in 700 villages and over 60,000 tribals have been forcibly displaced and re-settled in what are de-facto concentration camps. A whole populace has been uprooted from their habitat of which they were an organic part and re-settled in horrifying conditions on the roadside next to the police and para-military camps under the watchful eye of the Salwa Judum hoodlums.
Why Salwa Judum Now?
Even after the so-called independence the tribals of Bastar, as in other parts of the country, lived a marginalised existence in extreme poverty and backwardness looted by one and all. Their own village elders would fleece them, so would the forest officials, the traders, the police, and the entire bureaucratic apparatus. Tendu leaf contractors, paper mill contractors, and others would exploit their labour for a pittance. The tribal women were used by these contractors, traders, police, bureaucrats, etc at will and had to be at their beck and call. There was no education in the region, no medical health care, no development of agriculture and no means of livelihood. Even the meager amounts they earned through agriculture and sale of forest produce were robbed from them by the exploiters. It was worse than an animal-like existence. This continued during British rule and there was no change whatsoever after 1947.
It was in this scenario that the Naxalites entered their lives in 1980. They integrated deeply with the tribals; shared their woes; ate the same food that they shared with them; and taught them a life of self-respect. They showed them the reasons for their poverty and organised them to fight the exploitation of the landlords, forest officials, police, bureaucrats and traders. They organised them for a decent wage for tendu picking and cutting wood. They stopped the fleecing by traders by demanding a reasonable rate for forest produce and a proper rate for purchase of essential items like salt.
Over the years as the Naxalites gained in strength the tribals got a whiff of freedom for the first time ever. Not only did they end generations of exploitation they began to take control over their lives and habitat. The three slogans resounded in ever corner of Bastar: ‘Forest, Land, Water belong to the Adivasis’; ‘Land to the Tiller’; ‘All Power to the Kisan Organisation’. Having put an end to the exploitation their living standards began to improve; and the Naxalites also brought basic education and health care to the tribals. The government and landed interests sought to crush this new awakening many a time through mass repression but the tribals, led by the Maoists, successfully beat them back. Of course, many in the process heroically laid down their lives, including some top leaders. But the movement grew in depth and width spreading to newer and newer areas.
By the 1990s the exploiters had been chased away, the power was in the hands of the Kisan organisations and they asserted their new power through building up their agriculture, small irrigation projects and other developmental works and adjudicating justice through the people’s courts. All this development was done throughshramdan. By 2000 the tribals began building the rudimentary forms of their new people’s government in the form of the Revolutionary People’s Committees.
Then came the era of globalization and the post 9/11 scenario, a even more vicious offensive of imperialism on backward countries of the world. Our slavish rulers, no matter which party was in power, capitulated totally, implementing fully their policies of loot of our country. The new UPA government outdid the NDA and within just one year signed over Rs.3 lakh crores of MoUs to the international and comprador mining mafia. A month before the Salwa Judum was launched, in May 2005, the BJP Chief Minister of Chhathisgarh went on a trip to the USA and signed many a secret agreement, including one with the US power company, Texas Power Cooperation. In the very month the Salwa Judum was started, June 2005, a MoU was signed with the Tatas for iron ore mining in Dantewada (the focal point of the initial attack). Then in February and May 2006 the Mumbai-based US consulate made two trips to Chhathisgarh and even visited the Jungle Warfare military camp at Kanker. The Chhathisgarh government have signed MoUs worth Rs.60,000 crores with the mining mafia.
Bastar is extremely rich in mineral and forest wealth, including high grade iron ore, limestone, dolomite, diamonds, bauxite and a host of precious forest produce, besides the normal wood and tendu leaf. The imperialists and compradors have their eyes on this huge wealth and they know that this loot is impossible without crushing the Naxalites in the area. And this is the prime reason for the present vicious attack in the name of Salwa Judum. Its ruthlessness and brutality can be measured by the potential profit from this area.
Destruction of Adivasis Culture and Habitat
The Adivasis of Bastar have a deep relation with their habitat — the land, forests, rivers — in which they have existed for centuries. They have seen what ‘development’ the Bailladilla iron ore mine has brought them, where top grade iron ore is fully looted by the Japanese imperialists. Not one tribal was given a proper job; they work for rapacious contractors for 12 hours per day for a pittance; their women have been forcibly use by contractors and traders and hundreds pushed to prostitution — in this mining town life is a living hell for the tribals while the ‘outsiders’ have reaped crores. They know this will be their ‘development’ when the others too move in. The new proposed plants being private could be even more horrifying. So they have uncompromisingly been opposing all such ‘development’ as in the Nagarnar Steel Plant and have stopped attempts to set up mines in Raoghar and other places. Seeing this effective resistance the moneybags have pushed into service their mercenary forces to physically liquidate the tribals and the revolutionary movement of which they are a part.
The level of state brutality, whether by the Naga forces, the CRPF or the Salwa Judum hoodlums, is unbelievable. Heads are chopped off and planted on posts in the village to terrorise the populace. Women are gang-raped and then their stomachs ripped open and foetus thrown out and crushed. Youth are brutally tortured and then killed. Many are chopped to pieces even while alive. Entire villages are being burnt down, all their belongings looted and even their crops destroyed. Thereby they are being forced into the roadside camps under direct vigil of the police/paramilitary and control of the Salwa Judum hoodlums. Here their entire tribal existence is sought to be destroyed as they are being forcibly removed from their natural habitat.
Now over 50,000 have been forced into these hell holes. Tribals are told that “either you live in these camps or we will consider you a Maoist and kill you”. They use the Bush formula “either you are with us (here Salwa Judum) or we consider you an enemy (here Maoist)”.
The purpose of such settlements are, first, to separate the population from the influence of the Maoists and thereby make their attack on the Maoists easier; second, to clear the forests forcibly and hand it over to the imperialists and compradors.
All the camps are located next to the para-military/police camps which have been set up every 5 kms in the name of carpet security. They are ‘guarded’ (terrorized) by the Salwa Judum goons now converted into SPOs (Special Police Officers) on a salary of Rs.1,500 per month. These SPOs are a law to themselves, and regularly beat, torture, and kill people and rape the women. The camps have no hygiene, no medical facility and the people no source of income. They have to work like slaves on any work given by the mercenary forces and at a payment they decide. The health conditions of the children, old and women in these camps are particularly bad. All young women are regularly used by both the Salwa Judum goons and the para-military. If anyone is suspected to show sympathy to the Maoists they are cruelly tortured and even killed. Their bodies are thrown into the Indravati river and no record is kept.
Salwa Judum is a Gondi term meaning “cooperative (joint) hunting”. Here the hunters are the state forces and the victims are the tribals. They are to be hunted down until they surrender to the moneybags and go back to their earlier slavish existence and serve the mining mafia docilely. Meanwhile a whole populace is sought to be destroyed and an entire culture uprooted by the so-called forces of civilization.
Appeal to the People of our Country
Inspite of this terror the people of Bastar and the Maoists have been putting up a heroic resistance. They have been fighting back to maintain the gains achieved over the past two-and-a-half decades. So far, inspite of the inhuman terror they have been able to successfully beat back the mercenary forces and expose the real character of the Salwa Judum. The people of Bastar are confident they will win, as justice is on their side.
Today it is the tribals of Bastar, tomorrow it will be the people of Orissa, Jharkhand, AP, West Bengal, etc. and elsewhere where huge projects are planned. In the past decade over one lakh peasants have been forced to suicide. This is the official figure the actual toll will be far worse. What is at stake is the very future of this country and its people being pushed to the brink by the present imperialist/US-sponsored model of development. Tomorrow it will be you. Except for the top elite no one can escape the ill effects of the imperialist sponsored rapacious polices in our country.
And while crores are being pushed to destitution a handful of urban elite are allowed to mint crores and crores of rupees. There are two Indias: one comprising 90% of the oppressed masses living in hell-holes; the other of the malls and multiplexes living a luxurious life as an adjunct of the imperialist project. The first is the realIndia; the second a foreign/imperialist enclave. All must choose where they belong.
We Appeal to you to actively come out in support of the oppressed tribals of Bastar. We Appeal to you to strongly condemn the brutalities being perpetrated on these tribals in the name of Salwa Judum. We appeal to you to protest in whatever way possible against the genocide going on there. We appeal to you to help the tribals there in whatever way you can, whether it is through giving monetary support, medicine, clothing, or in any other small way. We Appeal to you to join the battle against the imperialist/US sponsored policies of development which is destroying our country and its people. We appeal to you to say a big NO to Salwa Judum type actions whether in Bastar or in any other part of the country.
Committee for the Assistance of Tribals Affected by Salwa Judum [CATAS]