Sanhati, a collective of academicians and social activists, has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to reconsider government plans to launch a “military offensive” in the Adivasi-populated regions of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal.
Stating that the military campaign targeted at “liberating” the areas from Maoist rebels would endanger the lives and livelihoods of the poor living in those areas, Sanhati said the offensive would result in massive displacement, destitution and violation of the human rights of ordinary citizens.
The letter was released in the Capital at a press conference which was addressed among others by renowned author Arundhati Roy.
“To hunt down the poorest citizens in the name of trying to curb the shadow of an insurgency is both counter-productive and vicious. The ongoing campaigns by para-military forces, buttressed by anti-rebel militias, organised and funded by government agencies, have already created a civil war-like situation in some parts of Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, ” the letter says.
It also warns “The proposed armed offensive will not only aggravate poverty, hunger, humiliation and insecurity of the Adivasi people but also spread it over a larger region.”
The letter says the access that the poor Adivasi had to forests, land, rivers, common pastures, village tanks and other common property resources had been restricted with the setting up of Special Economic Zones and other development projects related to mining, industrial development and Information Technology parks.
“We fear that the Government’s offensive is also an attempt to crush such popular resistances in order to facilitate the entry and operation of these corporations and to pave the way for unbridled exploitation of natural resources and the people of these regions.”
“It is the widening levels of disparity and the continuing problems of social deprivation and structural violence, and the State repression on the non-violent resistance of the poor and marginalised against their dispossession, which gives rise to social anger and unrest and takes the form of political violence by the poor. Instead of addressing the source of the problem, the Indian State has decided to launch a military offensive to deal with this problem,” the letter laments.
Signed by academicians and social activists from across the world, the letter says the government’s plans to launch a military offence would prove to be a “crippling blow to Indian democracy”.
Urging the Central Government to immediately withdraw the armed forces and stop all plans for carrying out military operations, the collective cautioned that such offensives “have the potential for triggering a civil war which will inflict widespread misery on the poorest and most vulnerable sections”.