I have been a journalist in Bastar for 28 years. For the first time, I am observing that people belonging from or connected to the adivasis, progressive people, people from communist parties, and people from various organizations (jan sanghaton) have come together for Bastar Bandh.
Currently, we find ourselves in a condition that any individual who speaks up against injustice is told to go to Pakistan or is branded a terrorist or Naxalite.
Lingaram, Soni Sori, and people like us who are fighting battles out there can only narrate about five percent of Bastar’s experiences. Even we are unable to access 95% of the stories, what are we supposed to bring for you?
The entire “drama” of Salwa Judum has been orchestrated by Essar and Tata. They received funding from Tata and support from the government. The adivasis from there were handed guns. The British did not enter India with their own army but built one in here. The government seems to have proceeded similarly in Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, and now Bastar.
They have around one jawan for every ten adivasis. Does any other country have such a situation?All these fights are only being fought in areas with mines, where there is bauxite and iron underneath.
One on side, they are appealing to people to save water because of global warming. Even if the entire country leaves their taps on for a day, the water that would be wasted would be equal to the water diverted by the Indravati dam. But that’s okay.
On the other hand, profit seeking firms that are exploiting natural resources and vehemently destroying the ecological balance are actively welcomed.
It is important to realize that the danger is not only for the adivasis or the human race but the environment as well. In such a case, if the government continues to keep quiet or if another government has kept quiet in the past, there is a clear indication that this government is not of this country but a foreign body. They should be the ones going to Pakistan. I firmly believe that this country does not have a democratic government, it is not a people’s government. If it were a people’s government, it wouldn’t be quiet.
We have been independent for 70 years and if we had scientific education, would we still be debating caste and religion?
2016 has been the warmest year of this century. Even America and Japan are worried about this. The same Japan that has been taking iron from India and has barely touched it’s own supply. The same America that takes oil from the Middle East and has destroyed Iraq for the same. The country has a large, domestic supply of oil but is intelligent enough to keep it secure for it’s own population. But our country’s idiotic politicians are not concerned about the environment, adivasis, or the forests.
The forests are only secure where the adivasis live. If we want to save the forests, we must save the adivasis first. The adivasis have a culture of celebration, their days begin and end with song and dance. But the situation in Bastar has become so that people are afraid to play the drums.
In Bijapur, four years ago that a few people were celebrating and there was interference from policemen. Small children were killed. The government declared them as naxalites while they were barely eight or nine years old.
Farmers that go to their fields are arrested. People who go to the forests to pluck fruits are arrested.
In 2005, 97% of such arrests saw an acquittal. In 2006, 96% were acquitted. These people spent two to three years in jail, they had to sell their lands to pay their lawyers, and entire families were ruined. Who is answerable for this?
Many policemen are also engaging in such arrests for stars on their uniforms, because they wish to be promoted. Why are these policemen not punished when so many innocent people are arrested?
The harvest of tendu patta provides a stable source of annual income to the adivasis. Yet, around five-six years ago, the BJP along with RSS began a campaign with the media attempting to spread that Naxalites get their major earning from selling tendu patta. Ever since, individuals associated with the production or distribution of tendu patta were arrested on being alleged naxalites.
We cannot expect the national media to cover the stories in Bastar. Many different organizations went there to write independent fact finding reports, including a team from JNU. The government decided that these reports should not come out in the public and so, it began harassing the individuals. The JNU team was instantly branded naxalite. But we must find a way to speak about Bastar and to make sure that these stories reach the court.