[News] Searching for Jake Sully in India’s heartland

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 3 12:24:18 EDT 2010

Harsha Walia: Searching for Jake Sully in India’s heartland

By <http://straight.com/archives/contributor/197>Harsha Walia

Building traditional irrigation systems, 
practicing forest conservation and cooperative 
farming, and providing educational and medical 
facilities in the isolated rural forests of 
India. This could be the role of any 
nongovernmental organization or charity, but is 
actually the work of armed Naxalite Maoists. In 
addition to community development, Naxalites have 
politically to self-govern and have claimed 
responsibility for numerous killings of 
government officials, security personnel, and 
alleged informers. Today, many of the Naxal 
cadres are 
(tribal indigenous) and 40 percent are women. 
Naxalites have been operating since the 1970s in 
20 states around the jungles of Central and Eastern India.

Naxalites recently made headlines, as Indian 
prime minister Manmohan Singh declared them “the 
most serious internal threat to India’s national 
security” and unleashed Operation Green Hunt. 
Under Green Hunt, 250,000 police, armed forces, 
and counter-insurgency teams have been deployed, 
while the U.S. 
military intelligence and tactical guidance. The 
jungles are under a heavy siege: checkpoints, 
army patrols, helicopter missions, and gunfire 
battles that kill 
civilians per week. Based on the 
model of soft power alongside military might 
(charity from the barrel of a gun), 
government-sponsored agencies are setting up 
rehabilitation camps for the 200,000 already-displaced villagers.

It is easier to fixate on the real and perceived 
violence inflicted by armed insurgents. As 
political groups in the Middle East, Pakistan, 
and Afghanistan are presumed to all be “Islamic 
jihadis”, the caricature of Naxals as fanatic 
ideologues is compelling. It behooves us, 
however, to ask why the Maoist insurgency 
persists, why Adivasis would choose a life that 
inevitably leads to confrontation with the 
world’s third largest military, why the depths of 
the jungles holds a greater promise than the 
heavenly slogan of economic development.

The neoliberal model that led to the nine-percent 
“India Shining” growth rate could more accurately 
be described as India’s Doom. The statistics are 
chilling: although they comprise only nine 
percent of the country’s population, more than 40 
percent of 
land for development is Adivasi land; over 60 
million Adivasis were 
from 25 million hectares of land between 1947 and 
2004 including by burning of villages, rape, 
illegal detention, mass murder, and 
raids; and there have been approximately 200,000 
suicides in the past decade. Home to 52 
billionaires and a millionaire population that 
has grown by 20 percent in the past five years, 
India also boasts 230 million people living in 
hunger, overwhelmingly Adivasis.

The most convenient distraction of India’s Red 
Scare has been that the beneficiaries of the 
military occupation of the forests and attendant 
terra nullius are corporations. The Maoist 
heartland coincides with the mining heartland. In 
the words of the prime minister: “if Left Wing 
extremism continues to flourish in important 
parts of our country which have tremendous 
natural resources of minerals and other precious 
things, that will certainly affect the climate for investment.”

The area has been slated for more than 300 
tax-and-labour-law-free special economic zones. 
Corporations have signed 650 billion rupees worth 
of memorandums of understanding for resource 
extraction (imagine this: the value of bauxite 
ore, just one of the 28 precious minerals, is 
valued at almost $6 trillion), and infrastructure 
development such as dams and power plants. A 
Ministry of Rural Development report has termed 
it “the biggest grab of tribal lands after Columbus”.

In her most recent 
Arundhati Roy writes: “The Maoists are not the 
only ones who seek to depose the Indian State. 
It’s already been deposed several times by Hindu 
fundamentalism and economic 
totalitarianism....Almost from the moment India 
became a sovereign nation, it turned into a 
colonial power, annexing territory, waging war.”

There is now a complaint against Roy under the 
Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. 
Outrageous but not as gruesome as the arrests, 
police shootings, and in-custody torture of 
non-Naxal activists including doctors and 
journalists. Yet another purpose of Green Hunt 
emerges: quelling any dissent by brandishing the 
conveniently exaggerated “Maoist sympathizer” 
catch-phrase. Like the other democratic oases 
U.S. and Israel, Enemies are necessary (and 
easily drummed-up post-9/11) to justify military 
crackdowns, corporate looting, and human rights violations.

Still, rural resistance is declaring Jaan denge 
par jameen nahin denge (We’ll give our lives, but 
never our land) and mobilizations across the 
country are reaffirming the demand jal, jangal, 
jameen (water, land, livelihood). A communique 
from the Kenddungri Panchyat in West Bengal 
reads: “You distribute a few crumbs amongst us, 
the poor, and then hang the label ‘development’. 
Every 300 out of 1000 adivasi children die before 
the age of five. If we call this your silent 
terrorism would that be wrong? We regard as a new 
independence our power to stand up united and resist.”

The human rights network 
has drafted a proposal calling for negotiations 
upon the cessation of police-paramilitary actions 
and cancellation of development projects. A 
recently concluded 
People’s Tribunal on Land Acquisition, Resource 
Grab, and Operation Green Hunt released 
comprehensive recommendations including: 
immediate termination of Green Hunt; ending all 
compulsory acquisition of land and forced 
displacement; publicly releasing details of all 
memorandums of understanding; and transforming to 
a sustainable model based on local agrarian 
economies instead of extractive industries.

This epic battle of a fattened corporate 
capitalism versus a dying land and its 
inhabitants, of blood-thirsty robotic 
paramilitaries versus a contradictory and living 
rebel force is fit for an Avatar remake. Except 
Jake Sully may want to add his name to the 
struggle by staying home and dismantling North 
American mining and investment interests that are 
colonizing India’s (heart)land and most of the planet.

Harsha Walia is a local activist and writer who 
has been named one of B.C.’s 100 most influential 
Indo-Canadians. Walia is a member of the 
<http://sansad.org/>South Asian Network for 
Secularism and Democracy, which will host a film 
screening and discussion­“What Operation Green Hunt Mean

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