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<nettime> Arundhati Roy: The Heart of India is under Attack
Patrice Riemens on Wed, 4 Nov 2009 22:11:07 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Arundhati Roy: The Heart of India is under Attack

It would look like as if, yet again, the deeds of the Indian State and its 
corporate elite would escape international scrutiny. We could help 
Arundhati Roy in hr effort to change that.
Cheers from the Philippines, patrizio & Diiiinooos! 

Arundhati Roy
The heart of India is under attack

>From The Guardian (UK), Friday, October 30, 2009. 
original at: 
(this is the full version, the shortened one appeared in the Guardian 
newspaper last Saturday)

To justify enforcing a corporate land grab, the state needs an enemy – 
and it has chosen the Maoists

The low, flat-topped hills of south Orissa have been home to the Dongria 
Kondh long before there was a country called India or a state called 
Orissa. The hills watched over the Kondh. The Kondh watched over the hills 
and worshipped them as living deities. Now these hills have been sold for 
the bauxite they contain. For the Kondh it's as though god had been sold. 
They ask how much god would go for if the god were Ram or Allah or Jesus 

Perhaps the Kondh are supposed to be grateful that their Niyamgiri hill, 
home to their Niyam Raja, God of Universal Law, has been sold to a company 
with a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy that teaches the 
Ultimate Nature of Knowledge). It's one of the biggest mining corporations 
in the world and is owned by Anil Agarwal, the Indian billionaire who 
lives in London in a mansion that once belonged to the Shah of Iran. 
Vedanta is only one of the many multinational corporations closing in on 

If the flat-topped hills are destroyed, the forests that clothe them will 
be destroyed, too. So will the rivers and streams that flow out of them 
and irrigate the plains below. So will the Dongria Kondh. So will the 
hundreds of thousands of tribal people who live in the forested heart of 
India, and whose homeland is similarly under attack.

In our smoky, crowded cities, some people say, "So what? Someone has to 
pay the price of progress." Some even say, "Let's face it, these are 
people whose time has come. Look at any developed country – Europe, the 
US, Australia – they all have a 'past'." Indeed they do. So why 
shouldn't "we"?

In keeping with this line of thought, the government has announced 
Operation Green Hunt, a war purportedly against the "Maoist" rebels 
headquartered in the jungles of central India. Of course, the Maoists are 
by no means the only ones rebelling. There is a whole spectrum of 
struggles all over the country that people are engaged in–the landless, 
the Dalits, the homeless, workers, peasants, weavers. They're pitted 
against a juggernaut of injustices, including policies that allow a 
wholesale corporate takeover of people's land and resources. However, it 
is the Maoists that the government has singled out as being the biggest 

Two years ago, when things were nowhere near as bad as they are now, the 
prime minister described the Maoists as the "single largest internal 
security threat" to the country. This will probably go down as the most 
popular and often repeated thing he ever said. For some reason, the 
comment he made on 6 January, 2009, at a meeting of state chief ministers, 
when he described the Maoists as having only "modest capabilities", 
doesn't seem to have had the same raw appeal. He revealed his government's 
real concern on 18 June, 2009, when he told parliament: "If left-wing 
extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of 
minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected."

Who are the Maoists? They are members of the banned Communist party of 
India (Maoist) – CPI (Maoist) – one of the several descendants of the 
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), which led the 1969 Naxalite 
uprising and was subsequently liquidated by the Indian government. The 
Maoists believe that the innate, structural inequality of Indian society 
can only be redressed by the violent overthrow of the Indian state. In its 
earlier avatars as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in Jharkhand and 
Bihar, and the People's War Group (PWG) in Andhra Pradesh, the Maoists had 
tremendous popular support. (When the ban on them was briefly lifted in 
2004, 1.5 million people attended their rally in Warangal.)

But eventually their intercession in Andhra Pradesh ended badly. They left 
a violent legacy that turned some of their staunchest supporters into 
harsh critics. After a paroxysm of killing and counter-killing by the 
Andhra police as well as the Maoists, the PWG was decimated. Those who 
managed to survive fled Andhra Pradesh into neighbouring Chhattisgarh. 
There, deep in the heart of the forest, they joined colleagues who had 
already been working there for decades.

Not many "outsiders" have any first-hand experience of the real nature of 
the Maoist movement in the forest. A recent interview with one of its top 
leaders, Comrade Ganapathy, in Open magazine, didn't do much to change the 
minds of those who view the Maoists as a party with an unforgiving, 
totalitarian vision, which countenances no dissent whatsoever. Comrade 
Ganapathy said nothing that would persuade people that, were the Maoists 
ever to come to power, they would be equipped to properly address the 
almost insane diversity of India's caste-ridden society. His casual 
approval of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka was 
enough to send a shiver down even the most sympathetic of spines, not just 
because of the brutal ways in which the LTTE chose to wage its war, but 
also because of the cataclysmic tragedy that has befallen the Tamil people 
of Sri Lanka, who it claimed to represent, and for whom it surely must 
take some responsibility.

Right now in central India, the Maoists' guerrilla army is made up almost 
entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such 
chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with 
sub-Saharan Africa. They are people who, even after 60 years of India's 
so-called independence, have not had access to education, healthcare or 
legal redress. They are people who have been mercilessly exploited for 
decades, consistently cheated by small businessmen and moneylenders, the 
women raped as a matter of right by police and forest department 
personnel. Their journey back to a semblance of dignity is due in large 
part to the Maoist cadre who have lived and worked and fought by their 
side for decades.

If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government 
which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch 
away the last thing they have – their land. Clearly, they do not believe 
the government when it says it only wants to "develop" their region. 
Clearly, they do not believe that the roads as wide and flat as aircraft 
runways that are being built through their forests in Dantewada by the 
National Mineral Development Corporation are being built for them to walk 
their children to school on. They believe that if they do not fight for 
their land, they will be annihilated. That is why they have taken up arms.

Even if the ideologues of the Maoist movement are fighting to eventually 
overthrow the Indian state, right now even they know that their ragged, 
malnutritioned army, the bulk of whose soldiers have never seen a train or 
a bus or even a small town, are fighting only for survival.

In 2008, an expert group appointed by the Planning Commission submitted a 
report called "Development Challenges in Extremist-Affected Areas". It 
said, "the Naxalite (Maoist) movement has to be recognised as a political 
movement with a strong base among the landless and poor peasantry and 
adivasis. Its emergence and growth need to be contextualised in the social 
conditions and experience of people who form a part of it. The huge gap 
between state policy and performance is a feature of these conditions. 
Though its professed long-term ideology is capturing state power by force, 
in its day-to-day manifestation, it is to be looked upon as basically a 
fight for social justice, equality, protection, security and local 
development." A very far cry from the "single-largest internal security 

Since the Maoist rebellion is the flavour of the week, everybody, from the 
sleekest fat cat to the most cynical editor of the most sold-out newspaper 
in this country, seems to be suddenly ready to concede that it is decades 
of accumulated injustice that lies at the root of the problem. But instead 
of addressing that problem, which would mean putting the brakes on this 
21st-century gold rush, they are trying to head the debate off in a 
completely different direction, with a noisy outburst of pious outrage 
about Maoist "terrorism". But they're only speaking to themselves.

The people who have taken to arms are not spending all their time watching 
(or performing for) TV, or reading the papers, or conducting SMS polls for 
the Moral Science question of the day: Is Violence Good or Bad? SMS your 
reply to ... They're out there. They're fighting. They believe they have 
the right to defend their homes and their land. They believe that they 
deserve justice.

In order to keep its better-off citizens absolutely safe from these 
dangerous people, the government has declared war on them. A war, which it 
tells us, may take between three and five years to win. Odd, isn't it, 
that even after the Mumbai attacks of 26/11, the government was prepared 
to talk with Pakistan? It's prepared to talk to China. But when it comes 
to waging war against the poor, it's playing hard.

It's not enough that special police with totemic names like Greyhounds, 
Cobras and Scorpions are scouring the forests with a licence to kill. It's 
not enough that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border 
Security Force (BSF) and the notorious Naga Battalion have already wreaked 
havoc and committed unconscionable atrocities in remote forest villages. 
It's not enough that the government supports and arms the Salwa Judum, the 
"people's militia" that has killed and raped and burned its way through 
the forests of Dantewada leaving 300,000 people homeless or on the run. 
Now the government is going to deploy the Indo-Tibetan border police and 
tens of thousands of paramilitary troops. It plans to set up a brigade 
headquarters in Bilaspur (which will displace nine villages) and an air 
base in Rajnandgaon (which will displace seven). Obviously, these 
decisions were taken a while ago. Surveys have been done, sites chosen. 
Interesting. War has been in the offing for a while. And now the 
helicopters of the Indian air force have been given the right to fire in 
"self-defence", the very right that the government denies its poorest 

Fire at whom? How will the security forces be able to distinguish a Maoist 
from an ordinary person who is running terrified through the jungle? Will 
adivasis carrying the bows and arrows they have carried for centuries now 
count as Maoists too? Are non-combatant Maoist sympathisers valid targets? 
When I was in Dantewada, the superintendent of police showed me pictures 
of 19 "Maoists" that "his boys" had killed. I asked him how I was supposed 
to tell they were Maoists. He said, "See Ma'am, they have malaria 
medicines, Dettol bottles, all these things from outside."

What kind of war is Operation Green Hunt going to be? Will we ever know? 
Not much news comes out of the forests. Lalgarh in West Bengal has been 
cordoned off. Those who try to go in are being beaten and arrested. And 
called Maoists, of course. In Dantewada, the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, a 
Gandhian ashram run by Himanshu Kumar, was bulldozed in a few hours. It 
was the last neutral outpost before the war zone begins, a place where 
journalists, activists, researchers and fact-finding teams could stay 
while they worked in the area.

Meanwhile, the Indian establishment has unleashed its most potent weapon. 
Almost overnight, our embedded media has substituted its steady supply of 
planted, unsubstantiated, hysterical stories about "Islamist terrorism" 
with planted, unsubstantiated, hysterical stories about "Red terrorism". 
In the midst of this racket, at ground zero, the cordon of silence is 
being inexorably tightened. The "Sri Lanka solution" could very well be on 
the cards. It's not for nothing that the Indian government blocked a 
European move in the UN asking for an international probe into war crimes 
committed by the government of Sri Lanka in its recent offensive against 
the Tamil Tigers.

The first move in that direction is the concerted campaign that has been 
orchestrated to shoehorn the myriad forms of resistance taking place in 
this country into a simple George Bush binary: If you are not with us, you 
are with the Maoists. The deliberate exaggeration of the Maoist "threat" 
helps the state justify militarisation. (And surely does no harm to the 
Maoists. Which political party would be unhappy to be singled out for such 
attention?) While all the oxygen is being used up by this new doppelganger 
of the "war on terror", the state will use the opportunity to mop up the 
hundreds of other resistance movements in the sweep of its military 
operation, calling them all Maoist sympathisers.

I use the future tense, but this process is well under way. The West 
Bengal government tried to do this in Nandigram and Singur but failed. 
Right now in Lalgarh, the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner 
Committee or the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities – which is 
a people's movement that is separate from, though sympathetic to, the 
Maoists – is routinely referred to as an overground wing of the CPI 
(Maoist). Its leader, Chhatradhar Mahato, now arrested and being held 
without bail, is always called a "Maoist leader". We all know the story of 
Dr Binayak Sen, a medical doctor and a civil liberties activist, who spent 
two years in jail on the absolutely facile charge of being a courier for 
the Maoists. While the light shines brightly on Operation Green Hunt, in 
other parts of India, away from the theatre of war, the assault on the 
rights of the poor, of workers, of the landless, of those whose lands the 
government wishes to acquire for "public purpose", will pick up pace. 
Their suffering will deepen and it will be that much harder for them to 
get a hearing.

Once the war begins, like all wars, it will develop a momentum, a logic 
and an economics of its own. It will become a way of life, almost 
impossible to reverse. The police will be expected to behave like an army, 
a ruthless killing machine. The paramilitary will be expected to become 
like the police, a corrupt, bloated administrative force. We've seen it 
happen in Nagaland, Manipur and Kashmir. The only difference in the 
"heartland" will be that it'll become obvious very quickly to the security 
forces that they're only a little less wretched than the people they're 
fighting. In time, the divide between the people and the law enforcers 
will become porous. Guns and ammunition will be bought and sold. In fact, 
it's already happening. Whether it's the security forces or the Maoists or 
noncombatant civilians, the poorest people will die in this rich people's 
war. However, if anybody believes that this war will leave them 
unaffected, they should think again. The resources it'll consume will 
cripple the economy of this country.

Last week, civil liberties groups from all over the country organised a 
series of meetings in Delhi to discuss what could be done to turn the tide 
and stop the war. The absence of Dr Balagopal, one of the best-known civil 
rights activists of Andhra Pradesh, who died two weeks ago, closed around 
us like a physical pain. He was one of the bravest, wisest political 
thinkers of our time and left us just when we needed him most. Still, I'm 
sure he would have been reassured to hear speaker after speaker displaying 
the vision, the depth, the experience, the wisdom, the political acuity 
and, above all, the real humanity of the community of activists, 
academics, lawyers, judges and a range of other people who make up the 
civil liberties community in India. Their presence in the capital 
signalled that outside the arclights of our TV studios and beyond the 
drumbeat of media hysteria, even among India's middle classes, a humane 
heart still beats. Small wonder then that these are the people who the 
Union home minister recently accused of creating an "intellectual climate" 
that was conducive to "terrorism". If that charge was meant to frighten 
people, it had the opposite effect.

The speakers represented a range of opinion from the liberal to the 
radical left. Though none of those who spoke would describe themselves as 
Maoist, few were opposed in principle to the idea that people have a right 
to defend themselves against state violence. Many were uncomfortable about 
Maoist violence, about the "people's courts" that delivered summary 
justice, about the authoritarianism that was bound to permeate an armed 
struggle and marginalise those who did not have arms. But even as they 
expressed their discomfort, they knew that people's courts only existed 
because India's courts are out of the reach of ordinary people and that 
the armed struggle that has broken out in the heartland is not the first, 
but the very last option of a desperate people pushed to the very brink of 
existence. The speakers were aware of the dangers of trying to extract a 
simple morality out of individual incidents of heinous violence, in a 
situation that had already begun to look very much like war. Everybody had 
graduated long ago from equating the structural violence of the state with 
the violence of the armed resistance. In fact, retired Justice PB Sawant 
went so far as to thank the Maoists for forcing the establishment of this 
country to pay attention to the egregious injustice of the system. 
Hargopal from Andhra Pradesh spoke of his experience as a civil rights 
activist through the years of the Maoist interlude in his state. He 
mentioned in passing the fact that in a few days in Gujarat in 2002, Hindu 
mobs led by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP had killed more people than the 
Maoists ever had even in their bloodiest days in Andhra Pradesh.

People who had come from the war zones, from Lalgarh, Jharkhand, 
Chhattisgarh and Orissa, described the police repression, the arrests, the 
torture, the killing, the corruption, and the fact that they sometimes 
seemed to take orders directly from the officials who worked for the 
mining companies. People described the often dubious, malign role being 
played by certain NGOs funded by aid agencies wholly devoted to furthering 
corporate prospects. Again and again they spoke of how in Jharkhand and 
Chhattisgarh activists as well as ordinary people – anyone who was seen 
to be a dissenter – were being branded Maoists and imprisoned. They said 
that this, more than anything else, was pushing people to take up arms and 
join the Maoists. They asked how a government that professed its inability 
to resettle even a fraction of the 50 million people who had been 
displaced by "development" projects was suddenly able to identify 1,40,000 
hectares of prime land to give to industrialists for more than 300 Special 
Economic Zones, India's onshore tax havens for the rich. They asked what 
brand of justice the supreme court was practising when it refused to 
review the meaning of "public purpose" in the land acquisition act even 
when it knew that the government was forcibly acquiring land in the name 
of "public purpose" to give to private corporations. They asked why when 
the government says that "the writ of the state must run", it seems to 
only mean that police stations must be put in place. Not schools or 
clinics or housing, or clean water, or a fair price for forest produce, or 
even being left alone and free from the fear of the police – anything 
that would make people's lives a little easier. They asked why the "writ 
of the state" could never be taken to mean justice.

There was a time, perhaps 10 years ago, when in meetings like these, 
people were still debating the model of "development" that was being 
thrust on them by the New Economic Policy. Now the rejection of that model 
is complete. It is absolute. Everyone from the Gandhians to the Maoists 
agree on that. The only question now is, what is the most effective way to 
dismantle it?

An old college friend of a friend, a big noise in the corporate world, had 
come along for one of the meetings out of morbid curiosity about a world 
he knew very little about. Even though he had disguised himself in a 
Fabindia kurta, he couldn't help looking (and smelling) expensive. At one 
point, he leaned across to me and said, "Someone should tell them not to 
bother. They won't win this one. They have no idea what they're up 
against. With the kind of money that's involved here, these companies can 
buy ministers and media barons and policy wonks, they can run their own 
NGOs, their own militias, they can buy whole governments. They'll even buy 
the Maoists. These good people here should save their breath and find 
something better to do."

When people are being brutalised, what "better" thing is there for them to 
do than to fight back? It's not as though anyone's offering them a choice, 
unless it's to commit suicide, like some of the farmers caught in a spiral 
of debt have done. (Am I the only one who gets the feeling that the Indian 
establishment and its representatives in the media are far more 
comfortable with the idea of poor people killing themselves in despair 
than with the idea of them fighting back?)

For several years, people in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West 
Bengal – some of them Maoists, many not – have managed to hold off the 
big corporations. The question now is, how will Operation Green Hunt 
change the nature of their struggle? What exactly are the fighting people 
up against?

It's true that, historically, mining companies have often won their 
battles against local people. Of all corporations, leaving aside the ones 
that make weapons, they probably have the most merciless past. They are 
cynical, battle-hardened campaigners and when people say, "Jaan denge par 
jameen nahin denge" (We'll give away our lives, but never our land), it 
probably bounces off them like a light drizzle on a bomb shelter. They've 
heard it before, in a thousand different languages, in a hundred different 

Right now in India, many of them are still in the first class arrivals 
lounge, ordering cocktails, blinking slowly like lazy predators, waiting 
for the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) they have signed – some as 
far back as 2005 – to materialise into real money. But four years in a 
first class lounge is enough to test the patience of even the truly 
tolerant: the elaborate, if increasingly empty, rituals of democratic 
practice: the (sometimes rigged) public hearings, the (sometimes fake) 
environmental impact assessments, the (often purchased) clearances from 
various ministries, the long drawn-out court cases. Even phony democracy 
is time-consuming. And time is money.

So what kind of money are we talking about? In their seminal, 
soon-to-be-published work, Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the 
Aluminum Cartel, Samarendra Das and Felix Padel say that the financial 
value of the bauxite deposits of Orissa alone is $2.27 trillion (more than 
twice India's GDP). That was at 2004 prices. At today's prices it would be 
about $4 trillion.

Of this, officially the government gets a royalty of less than 7%. Quite 
often, if the mining company is a known and recognised one, the chances 
are that, even though the ore is still in the mountain, it will have 
already been traded on the futures market. So, while for the adivasis the 
mountain is still a living deity, the fountainhead of life and faith, the 
keystone of the ecological health of the region, for the corporation, it's 
just a cheap storage facility. Goods in storage have to be accessible. 
>From the corporation's point of view, the bauxite will have to come out of 
the mountain. Such are the pressures and the exigencies of the free 

That's just the story of the bauxite in Orissa. Expand the $4 trillion to 
include the value of the millions of tonnes of high-quality iron ore in 
Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and the 28 other precious mineral resources, 
including uranium, limestone, dolomite, coal, tin, granite, marble, 
copper, diamond, gold, quartzite, corundum, beryl, alexandrite, silica, 
fluorite and garnet. Add to that the power plants, the dams, the highways, 
the steel and cement factories, the aluminium smelters, and all the other 
infrastructure projects that are part of the hundreds of MoUs (more than 
90 in Jharkhand alone) that have been signed. That gives us a rough 
outline of the scale of the operation and the desperation of the 

The forest once known as the Dandakaranya, which stretches from West 
Bengal through Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, parts of Andhra Pradesh 
and Maharashtra, is home to millions of India's tribal people. The media 
has taken to calling it the Red corridor or the Maoist corridor. It could 
just as accurately be called the MoUist corridor. It doesn't seem to 
matter at all that the fifth schedule of the constitution provides 
protection to adivasi people and disallows the alienation of their land. 
It looks as though the clause is there only to make the constitution look 
good – a bit of window-dressing, a slash of make-up. Scores of 
corporations, from relatively unknown ones to the biggest mining companies 
and steel manufacturers in the world, are in the fray to appropriate 
adivasi homelands – the Mittals, Jindals, Tata, Essar, Posco, Rio Tinto, 
BHP Billiton and, of course, Vedanta.

There's an MoU on every mountain, river and forest glade. We're talking 
about social and environmental engineering on an unimaginable scale. And 
most of this is secret. It's not in the public domain. Somehow I don't 
think that the plans afoot that would destroy one of the world's most 
pristine forests and ecosystems, as well as the people who live in it, 
will be discussed at the climate change conference in Copenhagen. Our 
24-hour news channels that are so busy hunting for macabre stories of 
Maoist violence – and making them up when they run out of the real thing 
– seem to have no interest at all in this side of the story. I wonder 

Perhaps it's because the development lobby to which they are so much in 
thrall says the mining industry will ratchet up the rate of GDP growth 
dramatically and provide employment to the people it displaces. This does 
not take into account the catastrophic costs of environmental damage. But 
even on its own narrow terms, it is simply untrue. Most of the money goes 
into the bank accounts of the mining corporations. Less than 10% comes to 
the public exchequer. A very tiny percentage of the displaced people get 
jobs, and those who do, earn slave-wages to do humiliating, backbreaking 
work. By caving in to this paroxysm of greed, we are bolstering other 
countries' economies with our ecology.

When the scale of money involved is what it is, the stakeholders are not 
always easy to identify. Between the CEOs in their private jets and the 
wretched tribal special police officers in the "people's" militias – who 
for a couple of thousand rupees a month fight their own people, rape, kill 
and burn down whole villages in an effort to clear the ground for mining 
to begin – there is an entire universe of primary, secondary and 
tertiary stakeholders.

These people don't have to declare their interests, but they're allowed to 
use their positions and good offices to further them. How will we ever 
know which political party, which ministers, which MPs, which politicians, 
which judges, which NGOs, which expert consultants, which police officers, 
have a direct or indirect stake in the booty? How will we know which 
newspapers reporting the latest Maoist "atrocity", which TV channels 
"reporting directly from ground zero" – or, more accurately, making it a 
point not to report from ground zero, or even more accurately, lying 
blatantly from ground zero – are stakeholders?

What is the provenance of the billions of dollars (several times more than 
India's GDP) secretly stashed away by Indian citizens in Swiss bank 
accounts? Where did the $2bn spent on the last general elections come 
from? Where do the hundreds of millions of rupees that politicians and 
parties pay the media for the "high-end", "low-end" and "live" 
pre-election "coverage packages" that P Sainath recently wrote about come 
from? (The next time you see a TV anchor haranguing a numb studio guest, 
shouting, "Why don't the Maoists stand for elections? Why don't they come 
in to the mainstream?", do SMS the channel saying, "Because they can't 
afford your rates.")

Too many questions about conflicts of interest and cronyism remain 
unanswered. What are we to make of the fact that the Union home minister, 
P Chidambaram, the chief of Operation Green Hunt, has, in his career as a 
corporate lawyer, represented several mining corporations? What are we to 
make of the fact that he was a non-executive director of Vedanta – a 
position from which he resigned the day he became finance minister in 
2004? What are we to make of the fact that, when he became finance 
minister, one of the first clearances he gave for FDI was to Twinstar 
Holdings, a Mauritius-based company, to buy shares in Sterlite, a part of 
the Vedanta group?

What are we to make of the fact that, when activists from Orissa filed a 
case against Vedanta in the supreme court, citing its violations of 
government guidelines and pointing out that the Norwegian Pension Fund had 
withdrawn its investment from the company alleging gross environmental 
damage and human rights violations committed by the company, Justice 
Kapadia suggested that Vedanta be substituted with Sterlite, a sister 
company of the same group? He then blithely announced in an open court 
that he, too, had shares in Sterlite. He gave forest clearance to Sterlite 
to go ahead with the mining, despite the fact that the supreme court's own 
expert committee had explicitly said that permission should be denied and 
that mining would ruin the forests, water sources, environment and the 
lives and livelihoods of the thousands of tribals living there. Justice 
Kapadia gave this clearance without rebutting the report of the supreme 
court's own committee.

What are we to make of the fact that the Salwa Judum, the brutal 
ground-clearing operation disguised as a "spontaneous" people's militia in 
Dantewada, was formally inaugurated in 2005, just days after the MoU with 
the Tatas was signed? And that the Jungle Warfare Training School in 
Bastar was set up just around then?

What are we to make of the fact that two weeks ago, on 12 October, the 
mandatory public hearing for Tata Steel's steel project in Lohandiguda, 
Dantewada, was held in a small hall inside the collectorate, cordoned off 
with massive security, with an audience of 50 tribal people brought in 
from two Bastar villages in a convoy of government jeeps? (The public 
hearing was declared a success and the district collector congratulated 
the people of Bastar for their co-operation.)

What are we to make of the fact that just around the time the prime 
minister began to call the Maoists the "single largest internal security 
threat" (which was a signal that the government was getting ready to go 
after them), the share prices of many of the mining companies in the 
region skyrocketed?

The mining companies desperately need this "war". They will be the 
beneficiaries if the impact of the violence drives out the people who have 
so far managed to resist the attempts that have been made to evict them. 
Whether this will indeed be the outcome, or whether it'll simply swell the 
ranks of the Maoists remains to be seen.

Reversing this argument, Dr Ashok Mitra, former finance minister of West 
Bengal, in an article called "The Phantom Enemy", argues that the "grisly 
serial murders" that the Maoists are committing are a classic tactic, 
learned from guerrilla warfare textbooks. He suggests that they have built 
and trained a guerrilla army that is now ready to take on the Indian 
state, and that the Maoist "rampage" is a deliberate attempt on their part 
to invite the wrath of a blundering, angry Indian state which the Maoists 
hope will commit acts of cruelty that will enrage the adivasis. That rage, 
Dr Mitra says, is what the Maoists hope can be harvested and transformed 
into an insurrection.

This, of course, is the charge of "adventurism" that several currents of 
the left have always levelled at the Maoists. It suggests that Maoist 
ideologues are not above inviting destruction on the very people they 
claim to represent in order to bring about a revolution that will bring 
them to power. Ashok Mitra is an old Communist who had a ringside seat 
during the Naxalite uprising of the 60s and 70s in West Bengal. His views 
cannot be summarily dismissed. But it's worth keeping in mind that the 
adivasi people have a long and courageous history of resistance that 
predates the birth of Maoism. To look upon them as brainless puppets being 
manipulated by a few middle-class Maoist ideologues is to do them a 

Presumably Dr Mitra is talking about the situation in Lalgarh where, up to 
now, there has been no talk of mineral wealth. (Lest we forget – the 
current uprising in Lalgarh was sparked off over the chief minister's 
visit to inaugurate a Jindal Steel factory. And where there's a steel 
factory, can the iron ore be very far away?) The people's anger has to do 
with their desperate poverty, and the decades of suffering at the hands of 
the police and the Harmads, the armed militia of the Communist Party of 
India (Marxist) that has ruled West Bengal for more than 30 years.

Even if, for argument's sake, we don't ask what tens of thousands of 
police and paramilitary troops are doing in Lalgarh, and we accept the 
theory of Maoist "adventurism", it would still be only a very small part 
of the picture.

The real problem is that the flagship of India's miraculous "growth" story 
has run aground. It came at a huge social and environmental cost. And now, 
as the rivers dry up and forests disappear, as the water table recedes and 
as people realise what is being done to them, the chickens are coming home 
to roost. All over the country, there's unrest, there are protests by 
people refusing to give up their land and their access to resources, 
refusing to believe false promises any more. Suddenly, it's beginning to 
look as though the 10% growth rate and democracy are mutually 

To get the bauxite out of the flat-topped hills, to get iron ore out from 
under the forest floor, to get 85% of India's people off their land and 
into the cities (which is what Chidambaram says he'd like to see), India 
has to become a police state. The government has to militarise. To justify 
that militarisation, it needs an enemy. The Maoists are that enemy. They 
are to corporate fundamentalists what the Muslims are to Hindu 
fundamentalists. (Is there a fraternity of fundamentalists? Is that why 
the RSS has expressed open admiration for Chidambaram?)

It would be a grave mistake to imagine that the paramilitary troops, the 
Rajnandgaon air base, the Bilaspur brigade headquarters, the unlawful 
activities act, the Chhattisgarh special public security act and Operation 
Green Hunt are all being put in place just to flush out a few thousand 
Maoists from the forests. In all the talk of Operation Green Hunt, whether 
or not Chidambaram goes ahead and "presses the button", I detect the 
kernel of a coming state of emergency. (Here's a maths question: If it 
takes 600,000 soldiers to hold down the tiny valley of Kashmir, how many 
will it take to contain the mounting rage of hundreds of millions of 

Instead of narco-analysing Kobad Ghandy, the recently arrested Maoist 
leader, it might be a better idea to talk to him.

In the meanwhile, will someone who's going to the climate change 
conference in Copenhagen later this year please ask the only question 
worth asking: Can we leave the bauxite in the mountain?

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