[This article from the Indian media exposes the target of government attacks on “Maoists” and “Naxalites” to include adivasis (tribal people) and over 1300 NGOs–advocates of tribal people’s rights–in the state of Jharkhand alone.–Frontlines ed.]
Indian state of Jharkhand
Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 51, December 11, 2010
’Operation NGO Hunt’ in Jharkhand
by Gladson Dungdung
The Jharkhand Government has launched a new operation in the State; it can be called “Operation NGO Hunt”. In a latest discovery, the Jharkhand Police have found 1300 nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) as sympathisers of the Naxalites though nobody knows the ‘parameters’ of the ‘sympathisers’. However, the way the state is behaving with these organisations, it is very clear that anyone who raises questions against the violation of the rights of the people residing in the Red Corridor is a sympathiser of the Naxalites. In fact, these NGOs, human rights groups and mass organisations are empowering the villagers, mobilising them and fighting to protect their constitutional rights in the Red Corridor but the state is determined to suppress them.
Therefore, the government has ordered an inquiry into these NGOs. The Superintendent of Police (Intelligence Department) and the Deputy Commissioners of the concerned districts are investigating the matter. According to the Intelligence Department, some NGOs are involved in unlawful activities; several organisations have direct links with the Naxalites and many organisations have protested against the government in the street. The Police Headquarters has also identified these NGOs and the Home Department has sent a list of these NGOs to the Deputy Commissioners. It seems from the state’s action that no one has the right to protest against the state under any circumstance. If so, why do we have the constitutional rights? Are we really living in a democratic country, where only the Naxalites and Maoists have the right to protest?
The Director General of Police (Jharkhand), Neyaz Ahmad, is known for his revelation of baseless information. Earlier, he had told to the people that ‘Operation Saranda’ is the biggest operation against the Maoists and the police will clear the land. However, nothing came out of it as of date. Similarly, he had attempted to propagate the fake information about the Independent People’s Tribunal against Operation Green Hunt held in Ranchi on September 2526, 2010 saying that it was funded by the Maoists, which was completely unfounded. Ironically, instead of regretting for his baseless revelation, he keeps saying that NGOs are supporting the Naxalites.
According to Ahmed’s latest discovery, several NGOs have organised protest in support of the Naxalites; they protest in the city and speak in favour of the Naxalites. Therefore, the police are strictly watching their activities. He is absolutely right when he says that many organisations have protested in the streets, and, of course, that is expected to happen in a democratic country. However, it is baseless to say that these protests were in support of the Naxalites. The question that comes up here is: if the police had the correct information of NGOs, human rights organisations and mass organisations protesting in the streets in support of the Naxalites, then who had stopped them from arresting the Naxalite supporters from the street? Why are the police afraid of the NGOs, rights organisations and mass organisations who merely carry banners, placards and handbills in the street, while protesting against the state?
IN these circumstances, one can easily understand how intelligent are our Intelligence Department and the Police Department, who do not even understand the difference between NGOs, human rights organisations and mass organisations. They call all kinds of organisations as NGOs by following the theory of the World Bank. Ironically, they get information only after everything is over and also reveal the information in the public domain and still love to be called the ‘intelligence’. The biggest question is: how can they fight the Maoist menace when they only have baseless information?
However, the big boss of the Home Department (Jharkhand), the Home Secretary, Rajbala Verma, is simply ignorant. She does not know what her Department is doing. According to her own admission, “I don’t know whether any investigation is going on against the NGOs.” How is it possible? Perhaps, it’s a part of her strategy to ‘hunt and keep quiet’ and if anyone asks about it deny the fact and become simply ignorant. Consequently, the operation can continue without any obstacle and delay.
Indeed, the main reason behind the State’s victimisation of the NGOs, human rights organisations and mass organisations in Jharkhand is, these organisations expose the state when the police and paramilitary forces organise fake encounters, rape women in the forest, torture the innocent, book the villagers in false cases and humiliate them. These kinds of cases are brought to light only because of the courage of the NGOs, human rights organisations and mass organisations. These organisations are exposing the rampant human rights violations in the Red Corridor regularly.
Though the media was also reluctant to report on the rampant human rights violations committed by the police and paramilitary forces in the Red Corridor, after the joint intervention by many organisations in the form of the Independent People’s Tribunal, where the presence of noted writer Arundhati Roy, exDGP (IPS) K.S. Subramanian and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan made a huge difference, the Jharkhand Police and paramilitary forces were exposed. As a result, there was a hue and cry in the Police Department. The DGP of Jharkhand started behaving like a wounded lion, when the information appearing in the public domain read that some senior police officers had questioned the socalled ‘antiNaxal operations’, especially on the issue of victimisation of the innocent Adivasis during such antiNaxal operations.
Secondly, the state is fully aware as to how the NGOs, human rights groups and mass organisations are mobilising the villagers against the socalled development projects. For instance, the State Government is not even able to develop “the Birsa Munda Airport” due to the people’s protest against the land acquisition. The Airport Authority has requested to the government for providing 378 acres of land and it has sanctioned Rs 1,63,85,87,469 as compensation for the land. Whatever may be the compensation package, the landowners are not ready to surrender their land. Consequently, the money is lying in the banks for more than a year. Similarly, work on 411 projects has come to a halt and these include road, dam, steel, mining and power projects. The principal obstacle to these projects is the people’s protest.
The major argument of the ruling elite is that India has to move on and grow and exploitation of natural resources is essential for that purpose; but the Adivasis and other agroforest based communities do not want to surrender their land, forest and water anymore for the corporate sharks. Therefore, the state sees the Adivasis as the biggest obstacle to the ‘growth of India’. Consequently, the state has been attempting to suppress the voices of the sane and healthy elements branding them as Naxalites, Maoists or their supporters.
IN the case of Niyamgiri, international NGOs like the Survival International, Action Aid and many local organisations exposed the foul play of the Vedanta, which led to the closing down of Vedanta’s mining project there. Of course, the Jharkhand Government has also drawn lessons from it. Needless to say that the government has signed more than 104 MoUs and most of them have been stalled due to mass protest against the land acquisition. In these circumstances, the first priority of the present BJPJMM Government is to implement all the MoUs and they see the NGOs, human rights organisations and mass organisations as the biggest obstacle to it. Therefore, they have started hunting them.
Ironically, the Home Ministry has a list of the corporate houses funding the Maoists and other Naxal groups. But instead of taking action against them, the state justifies their acts and protects them. However, in the case of other groups, the state is playing the role of a butcher. If any NGO’s involvement in unlawful activities is established, it must be punished. At the same time it is an unconstitutional act of the state to brand 1300 NGOs as sympathisers of the Naxalites without any proof. If the NGOs, human rights oganisations and mass organisations are raising questions against the state, instead of suppressing them by police action, the state should come up with rational answers, which can lead to the protection of the constitutional rights of the people and also pave the way for inclusive growth of all living beings rather than exclusive growth of merely a select few.
Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at email@example.com