India’s highest court lays bare assaults on the country’s poorest peoplesPublished by MAC on 2011-07-18
Source: Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Association for India's Development (AID), AlJazeera
No doubt many friends of India - not to mention members of its own civil society - have come close to giving up hope that "peoples' justice" would return to the world's largest democracy.
What seemed to be granted by the state on one hand (such as last year's veto on Vedanta's proposed bauxite mine in Orissa) was promptly betrayed on another - notably a permit for the massive POSCO project. See: Peoples' struggles against POSCO broaden in India - and beyond
Now, and not a moment too soon, comes a ground-breaking, if not breathtaking, judgment from the country's Supreme Court which, on 5 July 2011, delivered a striking defense of peoples' rights and condemnation of state-sponsored aggression.
The Court's rulings specifically address the atrocities, torture, murders and forced removals suffered by largely tribal and Dalit communities trying to survive within their mineral rich territories in the state of Chhattisgarh.
However, the Court's analysis of how this appalling situation came about, and the forces behind it, goes way beyond north-eastern India. It strikes to the very core of the country's neo-industrialising project - perhaps the most aggressive of its kind anywhere on earth.
A year ago (on 21 July 2010), India's Supreme Court had already damned large scale displacement of tribals from forest land in the name of mining and development, commenting:
"To millions of Indians, development is a dreadful and hateful word that is aimed at denying them even the source of their sustenance.
"It is cynically said that on the path of `mal development' almost every step that we take seems to give rise to insurgency and political extremism which along with terrorism are supposed to be the three gravest threats to India's integrity and sovereignty." See: India's highest court roundly condemns government policy towards tribal and marginal citizens
More than one kind of terrorism
The "political extremism" to which the Court referred centred around activities by so-called Maoist or Naxalite groups. These organisations have supported some forest-based communities confronted by mining, but also themselves abused the human rights of some members of those communities, and killed scores of police over the past six years. .
India's governments - at both state and central level - have encouraged the recruitment of hundreds of young tribal people to counter such "left-wing threats". See: Thousands targeted in India's "hidden" resources war
Designated as SPO's (Special Police Officers), the young tribals have been formed into vigilante squads known as "Salwa Judum" (literally "peace marchers").
Poorly-trained and educated, motivated by fear and sometimes revenge, these young men effectively became a highly vulnerable and exploited "buffer" between the state, mining companies, and underground opposition forces.
The Supreme Court has struck down recruitment of tribal SPOs as "unconstitutional" and forbidden the Chhattisgarh government to fund any other vigilante organisation that might set up to replace Salwa Judum.
Conscious that some of these youngsters might be in danger as a result of its judgment, the Court also orders the government to "undertake such measures as are necessary...to protect the lives of those who had been employed as SPOs previously ... from any and all forces, including but not limited to Maoists/Naxalites".
The Court's rulings run to 58 compact pages, comprising some of the most eloquent and erudite arguments it has ever deployed in its 61-year history. They lean heavily on authors ranging from Joseph Conrad ("Heart of Darkness") to Joseph Stiglitz, taking in works by Ajay K Mehra, professor Robert I. Rotberg and Aharon Barrack et al en route.
A culture of "unrestrained selfishness"
As pointed out by the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), the Court "dismisses the manufactured consent that has been created to build public opinion on the state of lawlessness prevailing in Chhattisgarh. Instead, it asserts that ‘the problem rests in the amoral political economy that the state endorses, and the resultant revolutionary politics that it spawns.'
"The root cause of the problem of violence, the judgment says, lies in the ‘culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by neo-liberal economic ideology' which promotes ‘policies of rapid exploitation of resources by private sector without creditable commitments to equitable distribution of benefits.'
"As the judgment makes clear through its trenchant critique, the entire miasmic worldview - built on the premise that ‘economic growth is our only path and that the costs borne by the poor and deprived, disproportionately, are necessary costs'- violates fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, particularly Articles 14 and 21 (equality before law and dignity of life)."
The tenor of the whole, and the direction that India's development paradigm should now take is perhaps best addressed in citations from Ajay K Mehra's chapter in "Maoism in Globalising India" published earlier this year, and in an April 2008 Report of an Expert Group to India's Planning Commission.
Comments Mr Mehra: "Among the rapidly growing urban middle class, the corporate world is in a hurry to expand its manufacturing capacity. That means more land for manufacturing and trading.
"The peasants and tribals are the natural victims of acquisitions and displacements. The expanded mining activities encroach upon the forest domain.... Infrastructure development needs more steel, cement and energy.... Lacking public sector capacities, the income-poor but resource-rich states of eastern India are awarding mining and land rights to Indian and multinational companies....
"Most of these deposits lie in territory inhabited by poor tribals and that is where Naxals operate. Chhattisgarh...has 23 per cent of India's iron ore deposits and abundant coal. It has signed memoranda of understanding and other agreements worth billions with Tata Steel and ArcelorMittal, De Beers Consolidated Mines, BHP Billion and Rio Tinto.
"Other states inviting big business and FDI have made similar deals.... The appearance of mining crews, construction workers and truckers in the forest has seriously alarmed the tribals who have lived in these regions from time immemorial." (1)
And, according to the 2008 Expert Group:
"The development paradigm as conceived by policy makers has always imposed on these communities....causing irreparable damage to these sections. The benefits of this paradigm have been disproportionately cornered by the dominant sections at the expense of the poor, who have borne most of the costs.
"Development which is insensitive to the needs of these communities has inevitably caused displacement and reduced them to a sub-human existence. In the case of tribes in particular it has ended up in destroying their social organization, cultural identity and resource base.... which cumulatively makes them increasingly vulnerable to exploitation....
"The pattern of development and its implementation has increased corrupt practices of a rent seeking bureaucracy and rapacious exploitation by the contractors, middlemen, traders and the greedy sections of the larger society intent on grabbing their resources and violating their dignity." (2)
Also Indian investigative journalist, Javed Iqbal, paints a grim picture of state-sponsored human rights abuses across tribal India, following the "historic" Supreme Court judgement.
He says: "[T]he Supreme Court is a democratic fantasy of the nation. They have passed orders that the poor and the disenfranchised of this country would only dream of. And that's what they remain - dreams - as long as the political leaders and the ruling class conduct themselves in manners that are not democratic."
1 Ajay K. Mehra "Maoism in a globalizing India" in "The Dark Side of Globalization" eds. Jorge Heine & Ramesh Thakur (United Nations University Press, 2011)
2 Report of an Expert Group to Planning Commission, Government of India (New Delhi, April, 2008)
A very powerful critique of a ‘bleak and miasmic world view'
Peoples Union for Democratic Rights Press Release
6 July 2011
People's Union for Democratic Rights welcomes the recent judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in which it has struck down as ‘unconstitutional' the practice of arming local tribal youth as special police officers (SPOs) in order to fight the Maoists. It has asked the state government to:
- immediately stop using SPOs,
- recall all firearms distributed to them,
- desist from funding the recruitment of any other vigilante groups,
- ensure the filing of FIRs into criminal activities committed by them,
- offer protection to those who need it
The judgement was delivered by Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy and Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar on the writ petition filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramchandra Guha, EAS Sarma and others (Writ Petition (Civil) No (S). 250 of 2007).
PUDR welcomes the judgment as it offers a very powerful critique of what it describes as a ‘bleak and miasmic world view propounded by the respondents'.
The Court indicts the state for claiming that anyone who ‘questions the conditions of inhumanity that are rampant in many parts of that state ought to necessarily be treated as Maoists, or their sympathizers'.
The order condemns the respondents for reiterating the need for ‘constitutional sanction, under our Constitution, to perpetrate its policies of ruthless violence against the people of Chhattisgarh to establish a Constitutional order.'
The judgment dismisses the manufactured consent that has been created to build public opinion on the state of lawlessness prevailing in Chhattisgarh. Instead, it asserts that ‘the problem rests in the amoral political economy that the state endorses, and the resultant revolutionary politics that it spawns.'
The root cause of the problem of violence, the judgment says, lies in the ‘culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by neo-liberal economic ideology' which promotes ‘policies of rapid exploitation of resources by private sector without creditable commitments to equitable distribution of benefits.'
As the judgment makes clear through its trenchant critique, the entire miasmic worldview -built on the premise that ‘economic growth is our only path and that the costs borne by the poor and deprived, disproportionately, are necessary costs'-violates fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, particularly Articles 14 and 21 (equality before law and dignity of life). In a bid to contain dissatisfaction, the policy of the state to distribute guns instead of books among poor tribal youth only points to the further degeneration and dehumanization of the environment, the judgment notes.
PUDR believes that the situation in Chhattisgarh was never a law and order problem and was deliberately made into one by the ‘mandarins of high policies' in order to protect and pursue anti-people economic policies. PUDR reiterates its belief in the judgment and hopes that the current policy of creating armed vigilante groups such as the Salwa Judum or Koya Commandos will cease immediately. PUDR applauds the efforts of the petitioners who have painstakingly gathered facts and presented them before the court since 2007.
Paramjeet Singh and Harish Dhawan
Extracts from the Supreme Court Judgment, 5 July 2011:
We order that:
(i) The State of Chattisgarh immediately cease and desist from using SPOs in any manner or form in any activities, directly or manner or form in any activities, directly or indirectly, aimed at controlling, countering, mitigating or otherwise eliminating Maoist/Naxalite activities in the State of Chattisgarh;
(ii) The Union of India to cease and desist, forthwith, from using any of its funds in supporting, directly or indirectly the recruitment of SPOs for the purposes of engaging in any form of counterinsurgency activities against Maoist/Naxalite groups;
(iii) The State of Chattisgarh shall forthwith make every effort to recall all firearms issued to any of the SPOs, whether current or former, along with any and all accoutrements and accessories issued to use such firearms. The word firearm as used shall include any and all forms of guns, rifles, launchers etc., of whatever caliber;
(iv) The State of Chattisgarh shall forthwith make arrangements to provide appropriate security, and undertake such measures as are necessary, and within bounds of constitutional permissibility, to protect the lives of those who had been employed as SPOs previously, or who had been given any initial orders of selection or appointment, from any and all forces, including but not limited to Maoists/Naxalites; and
(v) The State of Chattisgarh shall take all appropriate measures to prevent the operation of any group, including but not limited to Salwa Judum and Koya Commandos, that in any manner or form seek to take law into private hands, act unconstitutionally or otherwise violate the human rights of any person. The measures to be taken by the State of Chattisgarh shall include, but not be limited to, investigation of all previously inappropriately or incompletely investigated instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum, or those popularly known as Koya Commandos, filing of appropriate FIR's and diligent prosecution.
In addition to the above, we hold that appointment of SPOs to perform any of the duties of regular police officers, other than those specified in Section 23(1)(h) and Section 23(1)(i) of Chattisgarh Police Act, 2007, to be unconstitutional. We further hold that tribal youth, who had been previously engaged as SPOs in counter-insurgency activities, in whatever form, against Maoists/Naxalites may be employed as SPOs to perform duties limited to those enumerated in Sections 23(1)(h) and 23(1)(i) of CPA 2007, provided that they have not engaged in any activities, whether as a part of their duties as SPOs engaged in any form of counter-insurgency activities against Maoists/Naxalites, and Left Wing Extremism or in their own individual or private capacities, that may be deemed to be violations of human rights of other individuals or violations of any disciplinary code or criminal laws that they were lawfully subject to.
AID welcomes SC Judgement Disbanding SPOs in Chhattisgarh
Association for India's Development (AID) statement
7 July 2011
Association for India's Development (AID) welcomes the judgement given by the Supreme Court of India1 on the PIL filed by social anthropologist Nandini Sundar and others against the Chhattisgarh Government, declaring the appointment and arming of civilians as special police officers (SPO) as illegal and unconstitutional. AID has always stood for the restoration of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of adivasi communities and has condemned the violation of these rights regardless of the perpetrator. The judgment comes as an affirmation of our stand and a decisive step in the direction of peace and justice.
The Supreme Court has pointed to the deprivation of the adivasis and the expropriation of natural resources for the benefit of a few, to be the root causes of insurgency in areas like Dantewada. The judgement also reprimands the state for taking a militarized approach to the problem and for its victimization of defenders of human rights. We express our admiration for social workers like Himanshu Kumar, Binayak Sen, Kopa Kunjam, Sukhnath Oyame who have exposed the brutalization of society3 through the state's support of Salwa Judum and SPOs since 2005, at the cost of their personal freedom. Violence has displaced 300,000 people from 644 villages4 in these areas, who continue to live a life of destitution. AID supports the relief and rehabilitation of Koya refugees in Khammam, Andhra Pradesh.
We demand that the Central and State Governments implement the Supreme Court order by ceasing to use and fund SPOs, retrieving firearms issued to former SPOs and taking steps within constitutional permissibility to protect their lives, investigating all previously inappropriately or incompletely investigated instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum, filing appropriate FIRs and ensuring the due process of law. We also demand that the activists like Kopa Kunjam, Ramesh Agarwal, Sukhnath Oyame, and other political prisoners who have been imprisoned under false charges and draconian laws for championing similar causes be released immediately.
We sincerely hope that this judgement marks the beginning of a process of peaceful and just reconciliation in Dantewada and other conflict-torn regions in India.
 SC order on Writ Petition No. 250 of 2007. Nandini Sundar & Ors Vs. State of Chhattisgarh
 Chhattisgarh: AID stands
 Where the State Makes War on its Own People: PUCL Report, April 2006
 Being Neutral is Our Biggest Crime: Human Rights Watch Report, July 2008
Contacts: Tathagata Sengupta: tsengupta [at] gmail.com
An end to an unending war in India
After years of bloodshed, India's Supreme Court bans arming militia in Chhattisgarh - but the state may not comply.
21 July 2011
On July 5, the Supreme Court of India delivered a judgment on the legality of the Salwa Judum, the armed counter-insurgency group - declaring it illegal and unconsitutional. The government had tried to portray the Salwa Judum as a peaceful Gandhian movement, even when its militants went to village after village, where they burnt, raped, looted and murdered people.
The idea of the state and the security establishment was to deliberately target the civilian population in order to sever the decades-long Naxalite Maoist insurgency from their base, also known as the "drain the pond to catch the fish" plan. This led to an escalation of violence that left more than 644 villages empty, according to government figures, and an estimated 60,000-200,000 people displaced, according to independent sources such as Human Rights Watch. In the writ petition before the Supreme Court, it was alleged that the state-backed Salwa Judum militia had committed at least 99 rapes and more than 550 murders between 2004 and 2008.
The Supreme Court, in its order banning the arming of the civilian population to combat the Maoists, stated that "this case represents a yawning gap between the promise of principled exercise of power in a constitutional democracy, and the reality of the situation in Chhattisgarh, where the Respondent, the State of Chhattisgarh, claims that it has a constitutional sanction to perpetrate, indefinitely, a regime of gross violation of human rights in a manner, and by adopting the same modes, as done by Naxalites/extremists".
The court goes on to mention: "Tax breaks for the rich, and guns for the youngsters amongst [the] poor, so that they keep fighting amongst themselves, seems to be the new mantra from the mandarins of security and high economic policy of the State. This, apparently, is to be the grand vision for the development of a nation that has constituted itself as a sovereign, secular, socialist and democratic republic."
The problem is, the Chhattisgarh government has a history of not paying any attention to the national judicial system. It has already paid no attention to the constitution, trying to justify an invisible war for a kind of industrial development whose nuclear weapons manifest themselves as perpetual poverty and chronic malnutrition. Indigenous societies and farmers across the country have rejected this kind of development.
Supreme Court orders asking the security forces to not occupy schools have not been followed. Supreme Court orders requesting the police to lodge First Information Reports regarding the killings were not followed, and a Sessions Court order for the arrest of Salwa Judum leader Soyam Mukha has repeatedly been ignored, even when he has given press conferences or led protest rallies in front of police officers.
Now, local reports claim that the police have been disarming Special Police Officers, while the government is considering a review petition appealing the Supreme Court decision. At the same time, Special Police Officers, or SPOs as they're more commonly known, are aware that some of them can't go back to their homes.
One wonders what will happen to Comrade Naveen, a Maoist area commander who allegedly raped a girl, then ran way from his village to eventually become a Special Police Officer, whom the police will now be disarming pursuant to Supreme Court orders.
The petitioners, in a press release dated July 8, stated: "We appeal to the Maoists to join all right thinking citizens in hailing this historic judgement and to desist from harming SPOs, or any other group of citizens in any way. They should be allowed to peacefully reintegrate into their villages."
Peace is doable. Will the war stop? A few weeks ago, quietly and without much ado, the army also entered the jungles of Bastar, in Narayanpur District, for what it called "training exercises". And yet there remain emphatic voices among the ruling class that the troops must be used to fight a war against the Maoists that the government and the Salwa Judum had fought with complete impunity for the past seven years.
No one knows the exact number of people killed by the Salwa Judum; the government never counted them, and the petitions were never complete. The village of Kottacheru for instance, had nine dead - but the court petitions alleged only five. The village of Badepalli was burnt down in 2006, and again in 2009 - but no one ever reported it. The violence was very real.
Brutal attacks on civilians
The fingers of 18-month-old Katam Suresh were cut off during an attack by government security forces on his village of Gompad, Chhattisgarh [Javed Iqbal]
On October 2, 2009, central government security forces attacked the village of Gompad, based on information that an armed Maoist squad was nearby. They killed nine people, including an eight-year-old girl; cut the fingers off an 18-month-old baby; brutally tortured and killed his mother; and shot dead his grandparents, leaving their bodies in a heap of corpses in a small open pathway. On the same day, another police patrol caught two young men, one from Nukaltong and the other from Velpocha, and shot them dead on their way back to the police station.
The village of Goomiyapal is a little over four kilometres from the mining town of Kirandul. The first documented attack there took place on April 12, 2009, when the Salwa Judum and the police beat a young man and his mother. Then, in December 2009, six people were shot dead in an encounter. A 15-year-old boy was shot dead on February 12, 2010. Then in May, a day before Maoists attacked a civilian bus with an improvised explosive device, killing 33, two people were killed and their houses set alight in Goomiyapal.
The villages of Tatemargu and Pallodi were turned to ashes as they were razed to the ground on November 9, 2009, by the security forces during a "combing operation". Four people from Tatemargu, two from Doghpar and another from Pallodi were picked up and executed in the jungle. The villagers only remember the police taking them away, then discovering dry pools of blood in the jungle.
As the village of Pallodi was rebuilt, nearby Tadmetla village - where 76 security personnel were ambushed and killed by Maoists in April 2010 - was burnt down on March 16, 2011, along with the villages of Timmapuram and Morpalli. Three people were killed, three people died of hunger after getting lost in the jungle, and three women were alleged to have been raped. Numerous relief teams and private citizens were stopped from helping by the Salwa Judum or Special Police Officers.
Maoists culpable, too
Maoist atrocities also go painfully forgotten: the story of one member of a Maoist cadre raped by her own comrades was written off as state propaganda, just as the gunning down of children by the police was written off as Maoist propaganda by the state. Another class of "revolutionaries" referred to the gang rape of women in Tadmetla by the security forces as "good for the revolution" because it would incite the people to "wake up".
This was told to me with disgust by the late civil servant, SR Sankaran, a man who once helped bring the government of Andhra Pradesh and the Naxalite parties together for peace talks. By 2010, he was a broken man, aware that his failure to bring peace to Andhra Pradesh indirectly led to an escalation of the conflict in neighbouring Chhattisgarh. And he knew both sides of the war, he had told me first of the Kakatiya train burning on the October 9, 1990, when the Maoists had set fire to the general class carriages, killing 47 people. Or how the police shot indigenious people protesting in Indervelli in Adilabad on April 20, 1981, killing anything between 13 (according to the government) or 60 (according to others).
When there is no end to state atrocities in the country, one would wonder, where is the revolution that the Maoists have apparently been fighting for?
In the Pamed block of Kanchal village, 14 Maoist Dalam members were poisoned one eventful morning in 2008. On the same day, two villagers disappeared with a visiting police patrol. In retaliation, the Maoists killed six villagers from Kanchal in front of their families as informants. Some 59 of 89 families in Kanchal left their homes and now live in Andhra Pradesh. So much for the revolution.
In April this year, I asked the displaced villagers of Kanchal: "If the Salwa Judum would go away, would you return to your villages in Chhattisgarh?"
"If Naxalism would go away, would you return?"
"How would Naxalism ever go away?"
The killing of alleged informants by the Maoists has occured at regular intervals and is often unreported. As recently as July 7, Kailash and Shashi Majhi were shot dead by Maoists. Both of them were from Barigaon village in Kashipur, Orissa, a village on the forefront of the Adivasi agitation against displacement which has faced more false arrests and beatings from the police than any other village in Kashipur.
Back in Chhattisgarh, in the village of Basaguda, the Maoists killed four people. Two kilometres away in the village of Lingagiri, the CRPF and the Salwa Judum killed four people and raped two women.
It almost never ends. Story after story of Dantewada involve the killing of people by the Salwa Judum and the Maoists.
And at no point have there been any prosecutions for those who ordered the killings described above. The Supreme Court has ordered that the state must "investigate all previously inappropriately or incompletely investigated instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum, or those popularly known as Koya Commandos, filing of appropriate FIRs and diligent prosecution".
Yet the men of power continue to be in power, or are shot dead in Maoist ambushes, leading to more vitriolic politics, and further contributing to the downward spiral of violence and counter-violence. So how does disarming the foot soldiers and the cannon fodder change things? Will there really be prosecutions?
To the credit of the state of Chhattisgarh, it is sometimes honest enough not to pretend to be a democracy. From the courts to the press to the intelligence agencies, there is zero tolerance for dissent. Any talk of human rights is denounced as hogwash, and vocal people are often accused of not loving their country.
The recent arrest of whistleblowers and environmental activists Ramesh Agarwal and Harihar Patel, who exposed the environmental crimes of the Jindal Group, is just the tip of the iceberg. Chhattisgarh also holds the dubious distinction of arresting a human rights worker on Human Rights Day for the murder of a man whose life he tried to save. Kopa Kunjam has been in jail for a year and a half now, even after witnesses testified in court that he tried to save lives.
Ironically, as civil society activists celebrate the Supreme Court judgment, Kartam Joga, one of the authors of the Writ Petition that was filed in the Supreme Court, is also still in jail on trumped-up charges.
In another case involving a recent police shooting in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court has already gone on to mention that the "state is the biggest land grabber", using a colonial era law - the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, to forcefully take farmers' lands and hand them over to private companies over a loosely defined "public purpose".
The state is also using this law in Jaitapur, Maharashtra for the Areva Nuclear power plant; in Lohandiguda, Chhattisgarh for Tata's steel plant; and in Orissa for POSCO's steel plant. In Orissa, disenfranchised farmers have stood up, organised themselves into islands of resistance, and said "no" to the government's policy of rehabilitation and compensation. One would always hear them tell you: "We'd rather die than give up our land."
Today, children from the villages of Dhinkia and Govindpur have stopped the entry of the police and the administration into their villages, to stop land acquisition, when every government agency has conspired to cheat them of their rights.
Indian democracy falters
The administration has been pondering an armed intervention to break the barricade of young children and women. That's Indian democracy today. A hunger for resources - for land, for forests, for iron ore, for bauxite - is trampling over the rights of people.
And it's not just democracy in the government that is dying in India. Democratic thought seems to have been executed as anonymously as the 17,000 custodial deaths that have taken place in the past ten years, deaths reported by the Asian Centre For Human Rights.
Let us take, for example, the police shootings in Forbesganj, Bihar, on June 2, that left four dead, in which a policeman jumped up and down on a dying man - in front of the officer who said: "It's enough, he got his punishment." Or the shooting in Assam on June 22 that left three people dead, when they were merely asking the government to stop evicting them from their lands and to address their claims over the forest, as per the Forest Rights Act.
The Supreme Court order regarding the Salwa Judum is aware of the state of the nation, when it even goes on to mention, "... that unrest is often the only thing that actually puts pressure on the government to make things work and for the government to live up to its own promises. However, the right to protest, even peacefully, is often not recognised by the authorities, and even non-violent agitations are met with severe repression".
Eventually, the Supreme Court is a democratic fantasy of the nation. They have passed orders that the poor and the disenfranchised of this country would only dream of. And that's what they remain - dreams - as long as the political leaders and the ruling class conduct themselves in manners that are not democratic.
And if they want to change, they can start by reading the court order itself:
"The justification often advanced by advocates of the neoliberal development paradigm, as historically followed, or newly emerging in a more rapacious form in India, is that unless development occurs, via rapid and vast exploitation of natural resources, the country would not be able to either compete on the global scale, nor accumulate the wealth necessary to tackle endemic and seemingly intractable problems of poverty, illiteracy, hunger and squalor. Whether such exploitation is occurring in a manner that is sustainable, by the environment and the existing social structures, is an oft debated topic, and yet hurriedly buried. Neither the policy makers nor the elite in India who turn a blind eye to the gross and inhuman suffering of the displaced and the dispossessed provide any credible answers. Worse still, they ignore historical evidence which indicates that a development paradigm depending largely on the plunder and loot of the natural resources more often than not leads to failure of the state; and that on its way to such a fate, countless millions would have been condemned to lives of great misery and hopelessness."
Javed Iqbal is a journalist who has been reporting on tribal issues in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. He worked for The New Indian Express from November 2009 to April 2011, documenting state and Maoist atrocities in the undivided Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, and people's movements in Orissa. He has also written extensively on people's movements and slum politics in Mumbai.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera's editorial policy.