India UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-05-05
5th May 2006
We start with a major - and exclusive - "op-ed" on Vedanta's exploits in Orissa, as its illegal refinery moves closer to completion.. One of MAC's correspondents sums up what's happened since the Indian Supreme Court's failed earlier this year to implement its own forest protection committee's recommendations calling for a halt in construciton.
Rio Tinto is another UK company interested in exploitating Orissa - especially the iron ore district of Keonjhar, an indigenous forest area already grossly over-mined. This is one of the poorest parts of the most impoverished state in India. Can even more exploitation change the situation for the better?
As concerned Canadian shareholders urge Alcan not to proceed with its own joint venture Orissa aluminium project , so another grop of women has taken over the continued blockade against Tata's steel project at Kalinganagar.
The BBC revists India's first uranium mine and its correspondent is appalled at what he finds. And Maoists (Naxalites) in Chhattisgarh issue a statement explaining why they're especially targetting mining.
NIYAMGIRI CALLING - from the "Mountain of Law"
5th May 2006
Among the darkest aspects of Vedanta's Lanjigarh project is the seeming subversion of the Law. A potent irony, since Niyamgiri, which Vedanta plans to mine, means "Law mountain", and the presiding deity of the area for Adivasis and non-tribals alike is Niyam Raja - Upholder of the Law. So maybe it is fitting if the Lanjigarh case calls into question how well the Law is being upheld.
The CEC (Central Empowered Committee - advisory body to India's Supreme Court) has written an extremely strong Report against the whole project. In its conclusions:
"The CEC is of the considered view that the use of the forest land in an ecologically sensitive area like the Niyamgiri Hills should not be permitted.
The casual approach, the lackadaisical manner and the haste with which the entire issue of forests and environmental clearance for the alumina refinery project has been dealt with smacks of undue favour/leniency and does not inspire confidence with regard to the willingness and resolve of both the State Government and the MoEF [Ministry of Environment and Forests] to deal with such matters keeping in view the ultimate goal of national and public interest.
Keeping in view all the facts and circumstances brought out in the preceding paragraphs it is recommended that this Hon'ble Court may consider revoking the environmental clearance dated 22.9.04 granted by the MoEF for setting up of the Alumina Refinery Plant by M/s Vedanta and directing them to stop further work on the project." (CEC Report 21st September 2004)
Despite this recommendation, the SC has repeatedly delayed judgement. This has allowed the refinery to be constructed nearly to completion, under contract with the Australian firm Worley-Parsons, which is assumed to have has strict penalty clauses in the case of delay. Are the commercial needs of foreign companies dictating the implementation of Indian Law?
And why is Vedanta so confident that permission to clear the Forest on top of the ridge and mine there is only a matter of time?
A quick survey of the company's first Board of Directors suggests why. It included an ex-UK High Commissioner to India, and men who had been or were about to become senior figures in the Indian Government, including P.Chidambaram, the present Finance Minister. It seems that "Revolving Doors" between company and Government office guarantee that Vedanta has the highest backing. It is strongly suspected that one of the three SC Judges on the Vedanta case, Arjit Pashayat, has virtually promised Vedanta a favourable judgement. He is also known to have been pro-active in bringing archaic "contempt of court" against anyone who dares to question the integrity of how the Supreme Court functions. But what if it functions badly, upholding vested interests over and above the Law of the land?
Repeated delays to "allow Vedanta to comply with regulations" imply such vested interests are at work For now, Vedanta is not mining bauxite from Niyamgiri's summit: it is trucking in a limited amount of bauxite from a new mine at Bodai-Daldali in western Chattisgarh, whose legality is also questionable, since the company inherited this lease from Balco, now 51% owned by Vedanta. Balco was granted this lease on the grounds that it was a Public Service Utility (PSU), but this status ceased when it was bought up by Sterlite/Vedanta in 2001.
So Vedanta's state of the art bauxite conveyor belt up Niyamgiri's side stands unfinished, waiting for forest clearance. In its last order, the SC actually ignored the CEC report and called for a new study by the MoEF, thus rejecting the CEC's arguments, and ignoring its function as the nation's watchdog on implementation of forestry protection legislation.
From the other side, the Govt. of Orissa (GoO) has drafted a critique of the CEC's Report, casting doubt on its recommendation against the project. The main points of this document and their refutation is as follows document:-
i) It asserts that tribal people would benefit from the in-flow of funds into the
Lanjigarh area through two mechanisms - a 5% preferential equity share in the company and a condition that 5% of the net profit be spent within 50 km. radius of the project.
However the community of Lanjigarh's tribals has already been split into those for and against the company. Funds in the company's control ensure a system where those currying favour with company officials thrive at the expense of those who do not "play the game". Studying the situation at Nalco's Damanjodi refinery (Orissa's one working refinery), shows that promises of compensation and jobs have been systematically betrayed.
ii) The GoO asserts that people moved voluntarily and happily from their villages on Vedanta's refinery site, and that all 103 displaced families are either being given jobs or shops or one time cash compensation as per their eligibility and their wishes. That all displaced persons were not interested in availing compensatory land for the land acquired by the company, and that Vedanta has granted them a very generous compensation package of cash and rehabilitation in the beautiful colony of Vedantanagar.
It may well be that within officials' hearing those displaced will only say what officials wish to hear. What the same people have said to human rights researchers on many other occasions is quite different - namely that they are devastated by the loss of their villages and land, above all because they can never grow their own food again, and that "even their gods were destroyed" because the sacred stones were also bulldozed. They were not given the option of land for land. Displacement has made them landless, and dependent on the Company's goodwill to give them jobs, and it has started a process of destroying their traditional culture and community.
iii) The GoO asserts that local Councils were properly consulted and gave their unequivocal approval for the project (Gram Sabha, Panchayat Samiti and Zilla Parishad).
This is at variance with what local people say: basically that their village Councils were ignored when they did not support the project, and that in general they were manipulated and pressurized into agreeing.
iv) Answering objections that the project violates the Samata Judgement of 1997, which forbids the appropriation of indigenous land by non-tribal persons including private companies, the GoO's sub-committee's decision is quoted not to allow this judgement's validity in Orissa.
However the validity of this argument is negated by legal experts, since the Samata Judgement was made by India's Supreme Court, based on Schedule V of India's Constitution. The mining lobby has sought in various ways to dilute the application of Schedule V and the Samata Judgement. This cannot be done without destroying the fundamental right of Adivasis: their inalienable right to remain the owners of their land according to India's Constitution.
v) With regard to impacts on biodiversity, the GoO alleges that the CEC hasn't taken into account that only 20 hectares will be mined in any given year; that concurrent land reclamation will take place through compensatory re-afforestation; that the mountain top has no streams within 50 meters of the plateau top; that the bauxite bearing area is practically devoid of vegetation, and that Niyamgiri is a forest area with flora and fauna like many other places in Orissa where mining has been allowed normally. The petition also attacks the Donagria Kondhs' practice of shifting cultivation and blames them for destroying the biodiversity of the whole Niyamgiri range. The report says that there ARE no rare and endangered species in the forest area applied for diversion. It attacks the CEC's contention that mining will affect the water regime. It takes the example of NALCO and says that water still flows from the hill ranges in the mining site of NALCO and that ITS quality is as pristine as before. It also says that the bauxite mining site presents a bright example of how dense forest can be created in a mined out area after excavating bauxite. The track record of NALCO is shown to be excellent in maintaining the environmental quality of the mining area.
The distortions here are considerable-
1. Compensatory re-afforestation is no substitute for original primary forest such as exists in abundance in the mining lease area and around it. Nalco's attempts at afforestation in mined-out areas on Panchpat Mali are derisory.
2. Excellent streams start from Niyamgiri's flanks at around 50 metres from the top. It is well known that bauxite, where covered, as on Niyamgiri, by abundant vegetation, has a porous quality which means it plays a vital role in holding water on the summit and releasing it throughout the year, in the hot season also. Tribal people living all around Panchpat Mali assert that Nalco's mining operations have seriously disrupted and polluted these streams.
3. Vedanta representing its mining lease area as "practically devoid of vegetation" is a most serious distortion, as is the criticism of the Dongrias. Dongria religion actually requires them to refrain from cutting forest on the summit, because it creates a "magnetic force" which ensures their lands' fertility, and is the abode of Niyam Raja. Their patches of shifting cultivation are on the hill-sides, never the summits. This is why there is excellent Sal forest right on the summit Vedanta plans to mine.
All these points about the impacts of mining Niyamgiri and about impacts on society could be cleared up by a proper,independent survey of Nalco's operations at Panchpat Mali and Damanjodi.
vi) Last but not least the GoO document imputes that those resisting the project are working for the interests of the international aluminium cartel which will be undercut by Orissa's lowest cost production of aluminium.
This argument can be shown to be spurious: when his company was Sterlite, Anil Agarwal was accused of tax evasion by spiriting profits out of India via his Mauritius-registered holding company, Twinstar. Vedanta Resources is a London-registered Company. Its major shareholders include several leading European banks, such as Barclays, Deutsche Bank and ABN Amro. In other words, whatever the status of the international aluminium cartel, Vedanta is part of it.
Producing aluminium cheaply in Orissa involves extreme forms of exploitation for Orissa's inhabitants through pollution, lack of proper compensation for those displaced as well as those injured in work accidents. It involves heavy subsidies in the price of electricity, water, and transport. The European Banks (Barclays, Deutsche Bank and ABN Amro) which are financing Vedanta's projects in Orissa and Chattisgarh ensure that the main profits will be made outside India, especially in London where the holding company Vedanta Resources is registered on the London Stock Exchange. Anil Agarwal is in the latest Forbes list as number 245 among the world's billionaires, and he owns a multi-million pound home in London.
For Adivasis, Mountains are spiritual entities, at the apex of the Natural Order that sustains them. Niyamgiri represents Konds' mythical origins and identity - in short, the continuity of everything they hold as sacred. Who is to say they are wrong about the forest on Niyamgiri creating a "magnetic force" that ensures the land's well-being for miles around? A generation ago this might have been looked on as superstition, but advances in anthropology as well as environmental awareness now reveal the accuracy and wisdom in this conception. Adivasis sustain themselves without using up the natural resources around them. They understand better than any geologist or engineer that these Mountains give Life to all the surrounding areas, through the streams which start from their sides. The Water which emerges out of these Mountains is pure and rich in Minerals, especially in aluminium itself, and this accounts for Orissa's outstanding fertility and Forest. Bauxite has a deep connection with abundant plant-life, and Bauxite-rich areas include most of the world's best tropical and sub-tropical Forests.
But what's in a name? Advaita Vedanta is the non-dualistic philosophy which inspired great thinkers in India from Vedic times to Gandhi. What kind of cynical mockery of India's tradition uses this name for a company which assaults the Mountain of Law?
[This article was written by a resident of Orissa who has studied the impacts of bauxite mining, and in particular the operations of Sterlite/Vedanta, for some years.]
Women lead Kalinganagar agitation
Sampad Mahapatra, (Kalinganagar)
2nd May 2006
A group of women has taken over the reins of the agitation against industrialisation in Orissa's Kalinganagar, where 13 tribal protestors were killed in police firing on January 2.
The incident had sparked off public outcry with leaders and activists staging protests, and the site being named Veer Bhoomi.
While the outrage and political attention has since dwindled, the local adivasis are determined to carry on their fight.
"The men may choose to go on the backfoot but women from the 16 villages have resolved to continue our fight for survival and human dignity," said Bini Soye, President, Women's Action Committee.
"We don't fear death. We have lost 13 lives and are ready to sacrifice another 1300. But we will not allow any industry to come up here. That's a promise," she added.
The adivasis are continuing their blockade on the National Highway No 200 which was initiated after the police firing in January.
They are yet to be invited for a dialogue with the state government that they had been promised.
The protestors were initially willing to talk even if the government agreed to three of their seven demands, but the delay has prompted them to toughen their stand.
"The state government is not serious about finding a solution, which is why the road blockade continues. They underestimate our strength. We now feel we should put up blockades on other roads so the government comes under some pressure," said Ravi Jarika, leader of the People's Anti-Displacement Front.
The agitation has refused to wither away, and has highlighted the contradictions between industrialisation and displacement. Kalinganagar is clearly a test case for everyone, irrespective of which side of the fence they are on.
Groups lobby Alcan on expansion plans: B.C., Quebec regions eyed for smelters
Toronto Globe and Mai
28th April 2006
MONTREAL -- Alcan Inc.'s annual meeting yesterday became the rallying point for British Columbia and Quebec groups that want their region chosen for the company's next major aluminum smelter expansion.
Another group, meanwhile, demanded that Alcan back out of a proposal to build a major bauxite mining and alumina smelting project in a poor region in India.
Richard Evans, at his first annual meeting since being appointed chief executive officer this spring, confirmed that Alcan is looking at five or six major primary aluminum projects, evaluated mainly on their access to cheap energy.
One of these is in Kitimat, B.C., where Alcan may modernize and expand its old smelter, while the other would involve the expansion of a modern refinery in Alma, Que.
Mr. Evans said Alcan would like to expand Kitimat, with new smelting technology that would be 30 to 35 per cent more efficient. A major engineering challenge is how to situate an enlarged smelter, as the site is hemmed in by mountains.
"I would like nothing better than a good project for Kitimat," Mr. Evans said. "It is in our interest to build the biggest smelter that will fit on the site."
The other primary metal ventures are in Cameroon, China, Iceland and South Africa.
Meanwhile, a Montreal-based order of Roman Catholic nuns, along with Ethical Funds Inc. of Vancouver, proposed that Alcan set up an advisory committee to evaluate the project in Kashipur, India.
Their proposal got 37 per cent of shareholder votes, unusually high support for a proposal that is opposed by a company board.
Mr. Evans said the company, which would have a 45-per-cent stake in the project, has not made a decision whether to proceed.
He said Alcan would have the project evaluated by a third party for its environmental, social and economic impact if it did decide to go ahead. But he said the company does not want its agenda dictated by activists, who might force Alcan into expensive studies for projects it might not carry out.
"It's a clear signal that shareholders are more aware of social impacts," said Lise Parent, spokesperson for the group opposed to the Indian project."
Her group claims the mining project is being forced on the region by multinationals against the will of the local populace.
Alcan shares fell by $1.94 to $57.43 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, a loss of 3.3 per cent. Alcan is to release its first-quarter results next week.
Rich" district in poor health
27th April 2006
BHUBANESWAR: Keonjhar, one of the "richest" districts in the State, has quite a few dubious distinctions to its credit - rising incidence of malaria, high infant mortality rate, malnutrition, increasing pollution and killer roads.
Known as the mother of all mining zones, the district continues to wallow in a vicious state of negligence by the administration. The road, communication, infrastructure, law and order, healthcare facility, civic amenities have so far shown no improvement, decades after the region contributed to development of many economies through its mineral resources.
Seeking short-term and long-term actions on these problems, a delegation of citizens from the district, under Kendujhar Citizens? Forum, met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here on Tuesday.
The members, while thanking the administration for completing Keonjhar-Panikoili section of NH-215 on time, they expressed concern over the unattended 45-km stretch of Keonjhar-Joda section.
All the 25 narrow bridges call for urgent attention as they are unfit for bearing the traffic load. No progress has been made as far as bypass roads for urban centres are concerned. These are the points where most of the mishaps take place.
"Commercial pressure on export of iron ore fines is one of the root causes of the plight of Keonjhar, which needs a review in the policy matter," said Kiran Shankar Sahu, a member of the forum.
The forum led by its president Bhagirathi Mahanta felt that there should be a substantial reduction or if possible a hold in export of minerals till the basic road infrastructure is in place.
The members also drew Naveen?s attention to poor funding by the State Government, confusion over four-laning and the current two-laning work and delay in creation of alternate mineral routes.
Their demand for irrigation facilities was met with immediate answers and the officials concerned promised to look into the delay in Kanupur project of Upper Baitarani, De river left canal and Rengali left canal projects to draw water to Ramachandrapur.
They also drew the CM?s attention towards the degrading condition of Orissa School of Mining Engineering, gradual degradation of environment in the district and establishment of a medical college at Keonjhar or at least a medical research centre to tackle health issues.
Against 22,000 hectares granted for mining lease, compensatory afforestation is planned on 9,000 hectares, which is doubtful.
So far, afforestation has been carried out on 4,000 hectares and such an imbalance can trigger ecological disturbances, they stated.
Living next to India's uranium mine
Mark Whitaker, BBC News, BBC India
4th May 2006
Despite its achievements, India still can't shake off the problems of poverty, disease and malnutrition. And, as Mark Whitaker's been finding out in the eastern state of Jharkhand, the search for prosperity and progress has its victims too:
Seven-year-old Guria can neither speak nor walk If you met Guria, you would fall in love with her.
Guria is a dark-eyed little girl who lies in the shade of her house on a bed made of rope, waiting for her daddy to come home from work.
She grins as she sees him, and those dark eyes of hers light up. Her father returns her smile as he scoops her up in his arms. But his eyes are filled with tears.
For Guria cannot speak. Nor can she walk. Her hands - if you can call them hands - are bent, and quiver. But her eyes reach out.
Her father pedals a rickshaw for a living. He earns a pittance and tells me he will do all he can to care for Guria, while he is alive. But what will happen when he dies?
Guria is seven years old.
A stone's throw from her house, another girl lies on another rope bed. She is 23.
In many ways, she is like Guria, save for the fact that she seems to be in pain.
She gasps for breath. Her look is anguished, hurt.
She is dressed in a sari, but she never goes anywhere, and has never been anywhere. For 23 years this has been her life.
The parents of these girls are not sure what has caused their daughters' plight. There are around 50 other children in Jaduguda, in India's eastern state of Jharkand, in a similar condition.
But the state-owned corporation responsible for the vast uranium mining complex which dominates the village insists it is not to blame.
Over the past 30 to 40 years, the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) has transformed Jaduguda, bringing jobs, money and housing for the workers.
But its critics say progress has come at a high price.
Many people here saw their land requisitioned when the mines came. Instead of living on it, they must now work beneath it.
Once, these hills were the haunt of bear, elephant and tiger. But no more.
The forest canopy is sparse now, but among the trees there stands a roadside shrine.
Surrounded by offerings of coconut and incense, it is dedicated to the goddess Rankini, a local deity whose realm encompasses Jaduguda alone.
The people of the village put their faith in their goddess - or else in witch doctors.
Rankini's jurisdiction may be limited, but from her vantage point the goddess can spy on mere mortals toiling in the valley below.
I saw some of them. They were digging for water. Each bucket they brought to the surface was brown ooze. So they dug deeper.
Above them, barely a stone's throw from their makeshift well, there was a wall. The wall of a dam - behind which lie millions of tons of slurry and waste from the uranium pits.
And, in the river which runs past Jaduguda, I saw villagers washing their vegetables.
Upstream, the river's waters mingle with the murky outflow from the mine workings.
UCIL has successfully defended its health & safety record in court There are no signs to warn of contamination. Just as there are no signs on the trucks which carry uranium ore from the mines or bring nuclear waste from across India for dumping.
Back in 1998, when India announced it had conducted tests of a thermo-nuclear device in its north-western deserts, the people of Jaduguda came out onto the streets to celebrate "their" bomb.
After all, Jaduguda produces all of India's uranium.
Many in the village think they have shown pride in their country's nuclear achievements. Now they say it is time their country started to do more for them, and offered them proper protection and health monitoring, medical care and compensation.
People are wary too of outsiders asking questions. One accused me of being an informer. When you have spoken to us, he said, you will drink wine with the bosses from the company.
As for the company, UCIL, it promised me an interview. But at the appointed time I waited outside the mine headquarters in vain. There was no interview. And no wine.
A survey suggested that nearly one in five of all women living near the mine has suffered either a miscarriage or a stillbirth within the previous five years.
The state legislature described the deaths and health problems as deplorable.
But a court case brought by local activists against UCIL - which is a subsidiary of the department of atomic energy and of the government of India - failed, after the company insinuated the problems were the result of poor hygiene and diet, and alcohol abuse.
So now, in the courtyard of a house in a small village in India, two teenagers - brother and sister - squat on crumpled limbs on a dirt floor scooping rice from metal bowls with their misshapen hands.
In the village's main street, another boy mends bicycles he will never be able to ride - because when he was nine his legs suddenly started to bend and break. They look now as if they have melted.
And as night starts to fall, Guria's father cradles his little girl - with her beautiful dark eyes - and wonders what on Earth will happen to her when he is gone.
Maoists fighting mindless mining in Chhattisgarh
Raipur,May 4: After fighting against the feudal system rampant among the Adivasis in the Dandakaranya region in central India, the two-year old Communist Party of India-Maoists is currently training its guns on what it calls the “unmindful exploitation” of natural resources by multinational companies in the mineral rich region, setting the stage for confrontation with the states in the region vying with each other to secure investment.As iron ore reserves of the country’s first major steel mill at Bhilai dwindle, the Steel Authority of India is looking for alternate sources in the neighbourhood but faces problems from the Adivasis who are up in arms against “mindless mining.”
“The Bhilai Steel plant might have helped increase the industrial muscle of the country but has not brought about changes in the economic conditions of the tribals in the area,” said a functionary of the Maoist group, while talking to a group of newspersons from Delhi.
“We are not against development or mining but the mining lease should not be given to multinationals or big industrialists who have no stake in the development of the region. The industries, which take up the mining lease, should also work for the social uplift of the adivasis,” the functionary said.
The functionary quoted the instance of indiscriminate mining in the Balladilla region, in south Bastar, where the world’s best iron ore is mined and exported entirely to Japan through the Visakhapatanam port.
“Mining has been going for over three decades but the only industry to flourish in the area is prostitution. Mining has destroyed the ecology of the area and the adivasis are left
with drinking highly contaminated water,” he said.Tatas, Jindals, Essars, Jaiswals and any number of multinational firms have signed memoranda of understanding during the last one year with the states in the region who vie with each other to provide facilities to them.
The Maoists have organised mass rallies to rouse public opinion against exploitation of the rich mineral resources that would not benefit them. The tribals resisted the Bhilai Steel Plant Authorities’ plans to dig in new iron ore mines at Raoghat and Chargaum villages. The police opened fire killing 12 Adivasis when they protested against setting up of a new plant by a major industrial house at Kalinganagar in neighbouring Orissa a few months ago.
As the war of nerves between the Maoists group and the states in the region over the pace of development peaked, the Chhattisgarh government came up with a novel idea of floating a “people’s movement” called Salva Judum to take on the Left wingers.
In the local Gondi dialect, considered part of the ancient Dravidian language, Salva Judum means chasing an animal by a pack of hounds. Adivasis speak the Gondi dialect and support the creation of a separate Gondwana state comprising the Bastar region.
The Judum movement has the backing of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the opposition Congress. In fact, leader of the opposition, Mr Mahendra Karma is one of the leading lights of the Salva Judum intended to bring the “misguided adivasis” back to the mainstream and isolate the Maoists spearheading the movement. Another major intention of the movement is to bring down the violence in the region. Mr Karma, himself a tribal, belongs to a Majhi (village mukhiya) family from south Bastar region.
Salva Judum was launched last year in various parts of Bastar region. The Adivasis were moved away from their hamlets and housed in camps run by the state government. The tribals are provided with free food and shelter. While government figures say about ten thousand tribals are relocated, the Maoists claim over 40,000 people were taken away from their hamlets and housed near paramilitary barracks. In the battle of wits between the Salva Judum activists and Maoists, violence peaked and over forty tribals perished. Ten days ago, over twenty tribals were killed by the Maoists after a trial by the “people’s court” dubbed them as police informers.
According to Maoists, the movement has the backing of the state government and is funded by it. Services of disgruntled Majis (village headmen), Patels and local priests are requisitioned to provide the leadership while the Naga battalion of the para military forces affords security cover. The tribals are forcibly displaced and denied access to land, the Maoists allege.
They are told that the Left wingers are opposed to development and are responsible for the closure of haat bazars (weekly market).
“The markets were closed down by the state to cripple supplies to the Maoists, and the police blamed us,” the Maoist said. since neither the Salva Judum movement nor the counter attack by the Maoists show any sign of abating, the coming days are likely to see a confrontation between them, especially in Dandewada region in south Bastar which abounds in dense tropical forests, next only to north eastern states of the country. The home ministry has decided to send a large contingent of paramilitary forces to the region after the polling process in five states are completed.
A Maoist functionary said the confrontation with paramilitary forces could last only till the onset of the south west monsoon next month. Once the rain starts they will get the advantage of dense forest cover.
As violence in the tribal areas abated, voices of moderation were raised in the trouble torn area. The former chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Mr Ajit Jogi has urged the state government to give up the Salva Judum movement saying that it has failed to provide security to the hapless Adivasis.
Mr Jogi’s demand has caused a stir among political circles since the movement has the backing of the state Congress leader, Mr Mahender Karma. Both Mr Jogi and Mr Karma are top leaders of the Congress.
The Maoist functionary said the state unit of the CPI as well as the civil rights body, People Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR) are also opposed to the continuance of Salva Judum.
The Naxalite movement has been active in Visakhapatanam, Raigarh, Malakangiri, Adilalabad, Bastar and Gadchiroli, encompassing the states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra since the 1980’s. The initial movement was spearheaded against the forest officers but took on the management of a leading paper mill over wages for bamboo cutting. It also took up the cause of tendu leaf growers against the exploitation by contractors. ‘Jal, Jungle, Jamin Kisko’ was the slogan they raised against the exploitative class, the functionary said.
For over ten years the movement focussed on ending the feudal system widely prevalent in Bastar region controlled by the Majhis. The system has been in vogue since the days Kakatiya kings who ruled the region before the advent of the British. The Britishers also patronised the system to take control over the region. Things did not change after independence, either.
The Communist Party of India-Maoists was founded two years ago following the merger of people’s war, Maoist Coordination Committee of India and the CPI-ML party unity. Their spheres of influence in the country varied but the ideology was the same-land to the tiller and power to the peasant committee. The formation of the monolith group was described by law enforcement agencies as creation of a terror corridor cutting across the entire country.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Mr L K Advani said once that they rule the roost from the Pashpathinath temple in Nepal to Lord Balaji temple in Tirupati.
The Maoist functionary said the quality of the movement has improved considerably since the merger but they are nowhere near the fighting prowess of their Nepali counterparts. They indulge in the primitive guerilla warfare as against the mobile war strategy of the Nepali counterparts.
The merger has brought about a change in tactics, building mass movements and establishment of base areas. Some changes have also been brought about in People’s Liberation Guerilla Army, but the functionary declined to disclose the details.The merger process leading to the creation of CPI-Maoists that started in 2004 was completed at all levels within a year.
Besides the Dandakaranya region, the movement is spreading its wings to cover West Bengal, parts of Karnataka, Uttaranchal and Punjab. Mass organisations have been activated in Tamil Nad.