by Reyaz-ul-Haq [Translated by Priyanka Srivastava, Sanhati]
A picture could very well be a tide turner. The one image that makes a nation sit up, shake itself off its torpor and ask itself, how much more of this repetitive official nonsense can we accept and justify in our quest to become a developed nation and overlook the rampant denial of due process and decency. A picture can be a conscience raiser, the final straw, the one blow that cuts up the fine line between what a civil society will accept and outright barbarism. Not too many people remember the name of Nguyen Ngoc Loan. But a lot of people remember this picture.
The man who took this picture, Eddie Adams, won a Pulitzer prize. It helped turn the tide of one war-The Vietnam War.
Trevor Selvam, Pictures that Turn a Generation, Armies that Lies (Countercurrents)An anti-people war has been launched in our own country and the descriptions provided in the following paragraphs are from our own country.
A year ago we were in Lalgarh where women were telling us how they experienced freedom for the first time in their lives. They said that their ancestors were living a life of slavery since British times and it is only recently that they could claim to have gained rights over their days and nights.
To them this independence was not simply a right to vote. Rather, this was a freedom to go to the jungles for defecating without getting assaulted by the policemen. This freedom allowed them to get their wood from the jungles without having to strip in the name of security inspection. Their nights had become more peaceful because the police and paramilitary no longer ransacked their houses and beat them in the name of conducting search operations. This freedom ensured that their cattle could graze freely and not get caught by the security forces. Moreover, they could get their just wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) or the employment provided by the Gram Panchayats. Now government employees would think twice before asking villagers to pay bribes. For instance, the applications for Indira Awas Scheme were processed efficiently and without bribes. The chappal (slippers) police (CPM’s Harmad Vahini in local parlance) and the British (Indian Paramilitary Forces) could not terrorize the villagers any more. They could freely access their forests now and rightfully use the ponds adjacent to their houses. Their womenfolk had become fearless and their boys safer. There was no fear of the men getting caught and killed indiscriminately by the forces. In short, the villagers could assert their rights over their lives and surroundings.
Mr Chidambaram, till 19th June of last year, this was PCAPA’s Lalgarh.
The images and news of this year present a sharp contrast to this…there is the picture of a young tribal woman who was hauled by the security forces like an animal. In Chhattisgarh where you are desperately trying to grab land and resources for your corporate bosses, women are routinely raped by the security forces and the police. The news from the area reveals that often these women are shamelessly presented as war booties.
Your police and army are correct. The brutalized women have indeed become symbols of victory. You and the system you represent could acquire no better trophies of your conquests. From northeast (Manorma Devi), Kashmir (Shopian) to Jahanabad, Lalgarh, Orissa, Bastar your system has left the same imprints of its victory everywhere.
In fact, you and your security forces seem to be proud of committing rapes because you have never issued any apologies or statements regretting these gory cases of brutalization. You want to establish ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’ in these regions by deploying your supposedly civilized, just, and democratic police and security forces. Probably your definition of civilization justifies these brutal methods of establishing peace and justice.
However, the contrasts are obvious. Before your forces invaded the region, the PCAPA had made considerable achievements in the villages of Lalgrah. It had done things, which the Indian state (with all its might and command over resources) had failed to achieve in the last sixty years. They (PCAPA) were distributing land to the landless; they were providing seeds and fertilizers to the villagers according to their needs. They had dug canals for irrigating the land. Through their activities, the PCAPA had articulated new definitions of administration and development. They were imparting new lessons in democracy to the Indian state. In their village committees, fifty percent positions were reserved for women and without the required number of women, no committees could be formed. In about 1200 villages such committees were successfully established. Moreover, PCAPA had its own women’s wing with crucial decision making power. The women active in the PCAPA successfully led an anti-liquor campaign. The consequent prohibition continued till 19th June. Similarly, PCAPA attempted to undo the harmful impact of Eucalyptus trees on land fertility. Your government had used World Bank funds to plant these trees without any consideration for its adverse affects on land fertility. PCAPA had also been fighting against the illegal and highly polluting sponge-iron factories, which had adversely impacted the agriculture and livestock of the region.
During those days, there were dozens of meetings in Lalgarh every evening. Equipped with their traditional weapons, tribal men and women, elders and younger people sat together and discussed their current activities and their future strategies. They indulged in politics but their politics was fundamentally different from the mainstream politics of false hopes and betrayals. Based on democratic principles, their politics displayed a commitment to deliver, to make plans and to execute them. Every village committee determined the needs of a particular village according to the needs of its most marginalized and impoverished sections. All decisions of digging canals, repairing dams, paving roads or irrigating farm lands were taken with a view to improve the conditions of the poorest of the poor.
Along with their plans, the committees presented an estimate of cost to the higher committees, which in turn visited the concerned village, discussed the plans with villagers and reviewed the estimated budget. The funding for these plans came from small contributions collected from villagers themselves. The people of a concerned village and adjoining villages labored jointly to complete a project. The workers were paid their wages and machines were also paid for. This kind of development had nothing to do with your Sensex or embellished growth charts. The most sophisticated machines used here were tractors and yet the projects improved the lives of the people of this area.
The vacant and unused buildings were turned into hospitals. In a region where people had not even seen a doctor, they could now avail medical treatment, thanks to the efforts of the PCAPA. Have you ever heard the name of Alchiki Mr. Chidambaram? I am sure you have not. This is the language spoken by the inhabitants of Lalgarh. For the first time, this language had received some attention as some people had started serious research on it. There was a hope that this language and its speakers will not be relegated to oblivion.
However, all such efforts to improve the lives of people and to preserve their linguistic traditions were brutally suppressed by your forces last year, which arrived with the claimed intentions of ‘liberating’ Lalgarh from the Maoists. According to the inhabitants of this region, your forces have brought back the days of slavery. After the arrival of your police and paramilitary, schools have been turned into barracks while hospitals have become torture chambers. The brutality of your forces is evident in numerous instances. Impersonating journalists, it was your treacherous police that arrested popular leader Chatradhar Mahto. It was your same police that savagely murdered the popular tribal leader Lalmohan Tudu in front of his family members and later claimed that it was an ‘encounter’ death. Your government has imprisoned several aged and innocent tribal women claiming that they were dreaded terrorists. And you assert that you have a moral authority to conduct these ‘security’ operations!
Indeed, you have the moral right to abandon the impoverished millions of this country. Your system has seemingly gained the legitimacy to suppress the gloom of farmers’ suicide with the statistics of our ‘unprecedented’ economic growth. In a situation where millions of children die without medical treatment, this ethical right of yours encourages you to favor privatization and rising cost of health care in India.
Probably this is the unavoidable cost for perpetuating a constitutional democracy. The price for this must be paid by the most ‘unconstitutional’, ‘undemocratic’, and most ‘uncivilized’ sections of the population. These ‘barbaric’ people are frequently discussed in considerable details in your national and regional newspapers. After all, a ‘democracy’ has its own responsibilities.
However, Mr Chidambaram, have you ever felt accountable to the acutely malnourished bodies publicized in your media ads? They are the rightful citizens of this country. Aren’t you and your government responsible for their dismal conditions? How much money your government spent on these people when they were alive? Do you have any data on when was the last time these people renovated their dilapidated huts or how many times were they able to eat a full meal? How many times have the people of this region obtained any medical facilities during illness? Although these basics living amenities were denied to them, the government willingly spent lakhs of rupees advertising the dead bodies of these people. Our government truly has a high ethical character.
Your troops have raped tribal women, have treated them like animals and flaunted them as the symbols of their victory. We do not know what ethical principles justify such inhuman actions; probably you have gained the moral right for these acts as well.
Your moral and ethical principles are guided by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. They are articulated in the high corporate offices of Enron, Reliance, Vedanta, Jindal, and Tata. Their ethics of profit and plunder has defended inexcusable human tragedies such as Bhopal Gas accident and fraudulent corporate projects like Enron. To facilitate their plunder of natural resources these corporate houses and imperialist interests have created a new set of ethics, which endorses the extremely unjust and exploitative SEZs and MOUs. Their ethics justify brutal mass massacre and impose civil war on people.
Mr. Chidambaram, the millions who are being massacred and displaced in Chhattisgarh, Lalgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and, Orissa are not your people. Nor is this your country. You belong to those multinational corporations whose interests you have been championing shamelessly. This nation belongs to those who derive their sustenance from the bountiful land, rivers, and forests of this country. This country belongs to the people who think about its present (i.e., preserving its resources) and sustainable future, who oppose rape and atrocities, who have risen up against loot, land-grab, and displacement.
This country belongs to all those who dare to dream of a new world.
We know very well Mr. Chidambaram that you will never apologize for the atrocities committed at your behest. This brutal army represents the real face of your government.