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BackYou are here: AnalysisOpinion "Our Republic must not kill its own children" - Supreme Court on fake encounter killings of Maoists -

Opinion

"Our Republic must not kill its own children" - Supreme Court on fake encounter killings of Maoists -

by Stan Swamy

The context: The Indian Govt believes in gun, money, bureaucrats, corporates. It does not believe in people and their institutions of self-governance, self-empowerment

Of late the Indian Govt is speaking a strange language. It only speaks in terms of the money it is allocating (1) for the maintenance of the vast number of troops stationed in the naxal-affected districts of central India (Rs. 724 crores for the year 2010 - 11); (2) for the so-called Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for selected Tribal & Backward Districts to be implemented by the DC, SP, DFO of the respective districts (Rs. 3,300 crores for 2010-11). No one is supposed to ask unwarranted questions such as how qualified, equipped are these officials to undertake rural development work.

 

Secondly, the Home Minister only meets and talks to the top police, para-military, administrative officers as to how to finish off the naxals. On no occasion has he invited the elected members of the panchayats and discuss with them as to how to solve the naxal issue.

Thirdly, the Home Minister never thought of involving the institutions of self-governance such as the Panchayat raj institutions, nor did he ever invoke self-empowering provisions such as PESA Act, Forest Rights Act which were enacted precisely for the tribal people living in the mineral rich forest areas. In fact, the development plan of the govt for the 30 naxal-affected districts is a clear violation of PESA Act insofar as it is going to be done without any reference to the Gram Sabhas.

The impression that is given is that the Home Minister knows best as to what is to be done to end the naxalite issue and he has the blessings of the Prime Minister. Whatever others (judiciary, planning commission, other members of the cabinet, independent public tribunals, concerned intellectuals, human rights organisations,) say really does not matter. In short it is a bull-dozing process by the Home Ministry and we are made to silently witness.

What are some other significant sections of society saying?

1) The Supreme Court of India:

In a historic judgement delivered on 5th January 2011 in a case of dishonouring and humiliating an Adivasi woman by upper caste men in Maharashtra, the SC had the following observation to make:

"The injustice done to the tribal people of India is a shameful chapter in our country's history. The tribals were called ‘rakshas' (demons), ‘asuras', and what not. They were slaughtered in large numbers, and their survivors and descendants were degraded, humiliated and all kinds of atrocities inflicted on them for centuries. They were deprived of their lands, and pushed into forests and hills where they eke out a miserable existence of poverty, illiteracy, disease etc. And now efforts are being made by some people to deprive them even of their forest and hill land where they are living, and the forest produce on which they survive. . .

"Despite this horrible oppression on them, the tribals of India have generally (though not invariably) retained a higher level of ethics than the non-tribals. They normally do not cheat or tell lies, or commit other misdeeds, which many non-tribals do. They are generally superior in character to non-tribals. It is time now to undo the historical injustice to them." [SC judgement dated 5/1/2011, published in The Hindu on 12/1/2011, p. 9]

Even such forth right opinion coming from the highest court of the land has not brought any rethinking on the part of the Home Ministry which is still hell bent on amassing troops in the tribal villages of central & east India and torture the poor, innocent tribals in the name of containing Naxalism.

2) India's Planning Commission:

The Planning Commission has finally decided to disown the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) with the provision of Rs. 3,300 crores which the Home Ministry says will be implemented by the DC, SP, DFO of the respective districts. The Planning Commission had proposed that in the first year, the IAP funds should be utilized to make the existing systems work, to put the non-functioning Public Distribution System, schools, public health centres, Integrated Child Development Services back on stream, and subsequently to ensure the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act. [cf. The Hindu, 24/1/2011, p.9]

But the Home Ministry has not accepted it.

The Planning Commission then issued a note saying "a materialistic approach to the tribal issue will only aggravate the situation and risk it getting completely out of hand. . .

People in these areas were experiencing a deep sense of exclusion and CCEA's decision had re-inforced the feeling" . Finally, the Planning Commission has asked the PMO to consider a conflict resolution mechanism where an independent ombudsman is appointed to resolve grievances. [cf. Hindustan Times, 12/1/2011]

Most regrettably, even this suggestion of the Planning Commission has not been heeded by the Home Ministry.

3) Independent People's Tribunals:

Independent People's Tribunal, New Delhi

An Independent People's Tribunal, with some prominent retired justices as the jury and organized by a collective of civil society groups, social movements, activists, academics and concerned citizens was convened in New Delhi on 9th-11th April 2010. After hearing the testimonies of several witnesses from the central & eastern states as well as some experts on land acquisition, mining and human rights violations of Operation Green Hunt, the jury made the following observations and recommendations:

 

"Tribal communities represent a substantial and important proportion of the Indian population and heritage. They are also an important source of social, political and economic wisdom.. they have been the most successful custodian of our environment, including forests ... they have also been far more humane and committed to universally accepted values than our urban society. . .

 

India "has been witnessing gross violations of the rights of the poor, particularly Tribal rights, which have reached unprecedented levels since the new economic policies of the 1990s. The 5th Schedule rights of the Tribals, in particular the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and the Forest Rights Act have been grossly violated... Our development model has led in recent years to a huge drive by the State to transfer resources, particularly lands and forests which are critical for the livelihood and survival of Tribals, to corporations for the exploitation of mineral resources, SEZs and other industries, most of which have been enormously destructive to the environment... the consultation with the Gram Sabhas required by the PESA Act has been rendered a farce as has the process of Environment Impact Assessment of these industries.

"This has resulted in leaving the Tribals in a state of acute malnutrition and hunger which has pushed them to the very brink of survival."

Recommendations

"1. Stop Operation Green Hunt and start a dialogue with the local people. 2. Immmediately stop all compulsory acquisition of agricultural or forest land and the forced displacement of Tribals. 3. Declare the details of all MoUs and projects proposed in these areas and freeze all MoUs... 4. Rehabilitate and reinstate the Tribals forcibly displaced... 5. Stop all environmentally destructive industries as well as those on land acquired without the consent of the Gram Sabhas... 6. Withdraw the paramilitary and police forces from schools and health centres..." 7. Stop victimizing dissenters and those who question the actions of the State. . ." [cf. published in Integral Liberation, Bangalore, December 2010, pp. 105-107]

Independent People's Tribunal, Ranchi

Another Tribunal on Operation Green Hunt in Jharkhand was organized by several social activist groups in Ranchi on 25th-26th September 2010. The jury consisted of some prominent legal and administrative personalities. After hearing about 30 persons from the villages occupied by para-military forces, the jury made the following observations and recommendations:

"The testimonies of social activists and Tribals in Jharkhand gave a dismal and indeed alarming picture of human rights violations against the Adivasis of the State... Over the last 60 years, more than 2 million acres of land have been acquire by the Jhrakhand State in the name of varius ‘development' projects, displaceing more than 1.5 mn Adivasis from their homelands. This drive for the acquisition of their land has become particularly acute during the last decade when 102 MoUs have been signed..., some for thousands of acres of land involving the displacement of thousands of Tribals. Most of these MoUs are for mining or for setting up other polluting industries. These have however met with enormous (organized) resistance from the Adivasis... As a result, virtually none of these MoUs have so far been operationalised.

"All this land acquisition has however been done without the consent or even consultation of the Adivasis. The MoUs were in fact signed in great haste and secrecy with no information at all to the people who were to be affected. This is in complete violation of the PESA Act... there is thus a widespread feeling among the Adivasis that their right to self-rule is flagrantly violated and their very identity and existence threatened.

"The government's response has been the Operation Green Hunt, which is causing enormous violations of the human rights of Adivasis through all kinds of excesses by the security forces - for instance, arbitrary arrests of Adivasis as well as of those who highlight the abuses by the security forces, on false and trumped up charges; people even being killed in fake encounters or in custody. Hence, more Adivasis take up guns and join and join the Maoists.

Recommendations

"1. The Government must address the underlying causes of Tribal alienation by ensuring that the PESA Act is strictly complied with and that there is no involuntary acquisition of Tribal land without the consent of the Gram Sabhas. The Adivasis must be given the effective right to decide the kind of development which should take place in their areas. 2. All MoUs entered into by the government which involve the acquisition of Tribal land must immediately by made public and put on hold. 3. Operation Green Hunt to be withdrawn in a phase, but rapid withdrawal of pare-military forces from Jharkhand.

4. The government must make a full and complete disclosure of people killed by the security forces in Operation Green Hunt, and of those who have been detained, arrested and killed under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). 5. the police and the security forces must be made effectively accountable for their human rights abuses. For this a State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and Police Complaints Authorities with adequate powers must be set up; 6. The SC & ST (Prevention of atrocities) Act 1989 must be diligently applied against security officers under the monitoring of the SHRC. 7. A High-Level Commission must be set up to investigate cases of encounter killings, torture and killing in police custody, and arrests on false and fabricated charges. [cf. published in Integral Liberation, Bangalore, December 2010, pp. 107-109]

By way of concluding these reflections, shall we say that the Home Ministry is not interested in solving the issue by dialoguing with the Maoists and the village people who are being harassed by the police & para-military forces. It would rather talk with high level police officers, bureaucrats and corporates. It has chosen the power of the gun as the main instrument of resolving the problem.

In such a scenario, the only effective way to force the arrogant rulers of the country to pay heed to the voice of the Adivasis and Dalits is through massive Civil Disobedience movements which alone will force the govt to come to the negotiating table and face the people. This will call on all the various people's resistance movements, concerned intellectuals, human rights organizations, committed media to form a common platform to act together for the cause of our people . Sure, some efforts are being made in this direction. The ripples have to become a mighty wave.

30 Jan. 2011