Maoist Insurgency Spreads to Over 40% of India
0 comments | by Asad Ismi
The state of Jharkhand in eastern India is a main focus of the insurgency. According to one observer, corruption is rampant in Jharkhand, which is turning away from electoral politics and “slipping into the hands of the Maoists.” During the last 12 years, not a single provincial government in Jharkhand has completed its term, and there have been eight of these during this period. India’s electricity generation is mainly dependent on coal, and Jharkhand, along with four other states in which the insurgency is strongest, accounts for 85% of India’s coal deposits. Jharkhand also contains the world’s biggest iron ore deposit.
The corrupt Jharkhand government has signed 42 Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with various large iron and steel companies, including Tata, Jindal, Mittal, and Essar. The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), India’s top official investigating agency, has launched a probe into the giving of coal mines by the state to Jindal Steel and Power and other companies. Jindal has benefited greatly from a policy that gave away coal mines without auctions – a policy that may have cost the government $30 billion, according to the state auditor’s report. The CBI raided Jindal’s offices and the New Delhi residence of the chairman, Naveen Jindal, on June 11.
Adivasis make up 26% of Jharkhand’s population, and many depend on forests for their livelihood. These kinds of industrial projects have already ravaged the forests, and their increase will expand such damage. Jharkhand contains the Saranda forest, Asia’s largest sal tree sanctuary, for which the government has granted 19 mining licenses. Saranda is where the world’s biggest iron ore deposit is located. At present, there is one state-owned mine operating in Saranda.
“It’s the genocide of the Adivasis,” says Xavier Dias about the opening of Saranda to mining companies. Dias is spokesperson for the Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (JMACC), the biggest alliance of Adivasi organizations affected by mining, and the editor of a newspaper dedicated to the communities impacted by mining. He has worked in support of the rights of Adivasi communities in Jharkhand for 30 years. Dias was jailed by the Jharkhand government for his activism in November 2012, on false charges.
According to Indian journalist Sayantan Bera,
“Saranda is to eastern India what the Amazon rainforests are to the world. Its springs feed rivers like the Karo, the Baitarani, and the Sanjay. Extensive mining operations are killing these perennial streams. Wastewater from washaries of iron ore mines on the periphery has already contaminated the groundwater aquifers. Mine workers and residents in the periphery of Saranda are dying from liver disease caused by contaminated groundwater.”
State security forces have launched three major military operations in the Saranda forest, aimed at clearing the Maoist presence there for the mining companies. Says Indigenous activist Gladson Dungdung, convener of the Jharkhand Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, “The government has been helping in securing land, water, and minerals for the corporate giants through military operations.
“Today Jharkhand is a fully militarized zone. There are over a hundred bases with a total of 50,000 official paramilitary troops involved in military action. There are Indian Army bases, too, but these are not involved in direct action yet. Aside from government paramilitary forces here, we also have the mining corporations’ security forces. The government claims that its troops are there to counter the Maoists, but in actuality it is the democratic movements such as people resisting land grabs or fighting police repression that are intimidated into silence. By creating this drastic panic among the people, the corporations are free to suck out the minerals and forest resources.”
Dias points out that
“Tata Iron & Steel Company’s iron ore mine lies in Noamundi, Jharkhand. It is one of their first mines in India, operational since 1907 and supplying ore to Tata’s furnace in Jamshedpur. This is the homeland of the Adivasi people of India, from whom resources were expropriated to convert the House of Tata from an opium trader to a full-fledged monopoly capitalist company, one of the first in British India.” Tata first became prominent by handling the opium trade for the British, who forced China to buy the drug which helped destroy both the Indian and Chinese economies. The opium plant was grown in India under British orders.
“The Adivasis of Jharkhand,” says Dias, “have centuries of history of struggle against the outside colonizer. The East India Company in June 1855 got the British Crown’s army to wage a war against them and, even with no firearms, they fought back. Today, their struggle is against the Indian monopoly capitalists and the state sector corporations. They are fighting for the right to self-determination within the Indian constitution, the right to a distinct culture, economy, and existence. It boils down to having the right to their land, their forests, and their water sources.”
As Gladson Dungdung explains,
“Today, we live in the corporate Indian state, not in a welfare state. The government makes all the laws and policies in favour of the corporate houses. For example, the Jharkhand government introduced the Industrial Policy of 2012, which clearly says that 25 kilometers of both sides of the four-lane road from Kodarma to Bahragora [towns in Jharkhand] will be handed over to the corporations as a Special Economic Zone. Where can people go from here? The state is simply not bothered about its people. See the example of [the state of] Chattisgarh, where 644 villages were forcibly vacated by Salwa Judum and handed over to corporations.”
Seven STF personnel were killed and dozen others were injured on April 11 when Naxals ambushed them in the forests of restive Pidmel village under Polampalli.
The ultras last Sunday set ablaze at least 17 vehicles engaged in mining work in Naxal-hit Kanker district and a BSF jawan was killed in a Naxal attack in the same district on Sunday night.
14 CRPF personnel were also killed by Maoists in Sukma district in Bastar region.