Indian minister criticises "romantic" version of Bijapur massacre
In the wake of the Bijapur Massacres three weeks ago [see: Indian government wages bloody war on its own peoples] India's central minister for Rural Development was interviewed on 16 July by the Times of India.
He didn't swerve from repeating the version of events, given by other government spokespeople, which sought to blame at least some of the victims of this outrage for their cold-blooded murder by state police.
On the contrary, Ramesh attacked some of the many Indian human rights organisations in India which have unequivocally condemned the massacre.
"Let's not romanticise Maoists", says the minister, "there's a certain tendency on the part of intellectuals and activists to demonise the security forces and romanticise the Maoists. I do neither. You have to be realistic."
In rebuttal of Ramesh's "realism", some of those maligned "intellectuals and activists" published a letter to the Editor of the Times of India, where they commented:
"Despite repeated efforts by activists to work with government to find a peaceful and just solution to the ongoing conflicts and problems in different parts of the country, the Government seems to have decided to wage a war on those who stand for the constitutional, democratic and human rights of all citizens, as part of its strategy of media management and manufacturing consent."
Letter to editor
Times of India
18 July 2012
Jairam Ramesh's statements as far as they refer to the Bijapur killings in his interview (July 16, 2012) are unacceptable and diversionary, apart from being factually incorrect.
Since 2005 activists have been condemning the use of teenagers on both sides of the State-Maoist war. In any case, there is a clear difference between Maoist child soldiers drafted as combatants, and non-combatant children attending a meeting in their own village to discuss sowing. If even senior ministers chose to ignore this basic difference underlying the Geneva conventions, what can we expect from forces on the ground?
Even if the CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] committed a genuine mistake, what is inexcusable is the cover up that first resulted in the proud claim to have killed Maoists, and then moved on to talk about human shields, and the criminal records of those killed. It is not as if the CRPF checked people's criminal records before firing at them! And how does attending a village meeting - even if Maoists are present - make you into a human shield? One expects the Government, and its Ministers to ensure this never happens again, rather than obfuscate a deadly attack on unarmed civilians.
It has become fashionable to attack civil rights activists as if demanding the rule of law were equivalent to wielding a gun. Despite repeated efforts by activists to work with government to find a peaceful and just solution to the ongoing conflicts and problems in different parts of the country, the Government seems to have decided to wage a war on those who stand for the constitutional, democratic and human rights of all citizens, as part of its strategy of media management and manufacturing consent.
Aruna Roy, Nandini Sundar, Bela Bhatia, Apoorvanand, Harsh Mander, Nikhil Dey, Kavita Srivastava, Sandeep Pandey, Shabnam Hashmi, Kiran Bhatty, Himanshu Kumar, Harsh Dhobhal, S.R. Darapuri, Arundhati Dhuru
'Let's not romanticise Maoists - or demonise security forces'
Times of India
16 July 2012
Jairam Ramesh, Union minister for rural development, is known for his contrarian views. Currently, the Maoist insurgency occupies his attention, Ramesh is visiting 31 Maoist-affected districts and exploring the issue up close.
Speaking with Monobina Gupta, Ramesh discussed Maoist politics, tribal displacement - and the land acquisition Bill:
How would you characterise the Maoist movement?
Of the 82 districts classified as left-wing extremist districts, the core of the problem lies in 25-30 forest-rich, tribal-domi-nated, mineral-rich and remote districts...so far, we've dealt with Maoist violence largely as a security issue. True, there can be no development in the absence of security - but it's a limited perspective.
On thinking about these issues, I came to believe in a two-pronged strategy of security and development. Then I realised political mobilisation was missing. In the absence of this, young men and women were being forced to join Maoist organisations. As I got more involved and looked at rural development, housing and water issues, I found the fourth missing element of rights, dignity and justice.
I have seen how tribals have been displaced multiple times since the 1950s and '60s, without proper relief and rehabilitation. According to Walter Fernandes, the number of the displaced is between two and five crore [20 - 50 million people]. Land has been taken sans adequate compensation. Development alone, building bridges and schools, won't work. It's about rights and justice, implementing constitutional safeguards.
It's taken Andhra Pradesh decades to deal with the Maoist problem, combining security, development, politics and justice issues. Despite my serious differences with Mamata Banerjee, I've seen the difference she and Shubhendu Adhikari have made on the ground. Mamata's action of going to Jangalmahal and picking up and kissing a baby has been far better than sending thousands of forces. Political cadres are active today in Jangalmahal.
Speaking of forces, what is your opinion on the recent Bijapur killings?
A judicial inquiry has been ordered. I have read the report prepared by activists and had a long discussion with the CRPF. As always, truth on the ground is incredibly complex - genuine mistakes may have been committed, just as innocents may have been used as shields.
What about killing human shields, many children?
I have a PS who was abducted by Maoists in February 2011 in Malkangiri, kept in captivity for 10 days. His abductors included 14-year-olds. What are these activists talking about?
Let's not romanticise Maoists - there's a certain tendency on the part of intellectuals and activists to demonise the security forces and romanticise the Maoists. I do neither. You have to be realistic.
What's your position on the land acquisition Bill?
We're giving flexibility to states. If Mamata wants the Centre to have no role and to de-industrialise Bengal - who are we to protest? The state must play an important role in land acquisition under well-defined rules. Land and information markets are imperfect with an asymmetry of power and information. If you allow private investors to buy land, they will strike deals with large land-owners, bamboozling small landowners. The state has to protect the interests of land-owners and livelihood-losers. This is what Singur taught us. Differing with the earlier Bill, the present Bill explicitly recognises the rights of both land and livelihood-losers.
How do you view Centre-state relations?
We're not leaving everything to states. Why then have a central law? It's a bad idea to have the pendulum swing from a strong Centre to a withered-away Centre. We need a strong Centre as well as strong states, nagar palikas, panchayats. Decentralisation shouldn't mean abdication of the central government's role - central government is absolutely essential in the Indian context.