ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Turmoil in South Bastar


Issn 0012-9976


Issn 0012-9976

Ever since the first issue in 1966, EPW has been India’s premier journal for comment on current affairs and research in the social sciences. It succeeded Economic Weekly (1949-1965), which was launched and shepherded by Sachin Chaudhuri, who was also the founder-editor of EPW. As editor for thirty-five years (1969-2004) Krishna Raj gave EPW the reputation it now enjoys.


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Economic and Political Weekly 320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel Mumbai 400 013 Phone: (022) 4063 8282 FAX: (022) 2493 4515

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Printed by K Vijayakumar at Modern Arts and Industries, 151, A-Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai-400 013 and published by him on behalf of Sameeksha Trust from 320-321, A-Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai-400 013. Editor: C Rammanohar Reddy.

Turmoil in South Bastar

received a press handout issued by southern Bastar division of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on 24 April in the evening. The news about district collector Alex Paul Menon being “kidnapped” had already become an issue of deep concern. I readily agreed to be of any help in normalising the situation, especially in the context of my long personal association with the people and the area. I have so far received no request of any kind from the Government of Chhattisgarh.

The Maoist press release concludes with a set of issues that must be attended to immediately. It also expresses its concern about the health of Menon, supply of medicines to him and his early recovery. The supply of medicine is being attended to by Manish Kunjam, resident of Sukma and national president of the Adivasi Mahasabha.

The Maoists’ demands:

  • (1) There are basically three demands under item 1, namely, (i) stop Operation Green Hunt, (ii) stop combing operation, and (iii) move the police to the barracks, and (2) All demands from items 2 to 9 concern “Fake Cases” of different types in which countless categories of simple people are involved.
  • A brief resume of these demands is given below:
  • (i) Green Hunt: The idea of this term has been borrowed from the “hunting expeditions” of the Wild West in the US with the little stigma for capturing resources and eliminating indigenous people till about the beginning of the 20th century. “A good Indian is a dead Indian” was in common parlance. Today in our country, “a good tribal is a displaced tribal who moves out obediently at the wish of the State”.
  • (ii) Combing Operation: It is an unmixed horror to the simple tribal people especially in the remote regions of our country.
  • (iii) “Move to the Barracks”: The police movement in areas like Bastar in recent years has been massive which the simple tribal cannot endure. He is used to a frame where police is conspicuous by its absence. While rationalising the administrative structure in the context of the Provisions

    may 5, 2012

    of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, a senior police officer opined that we need not bother about police stations. There are hardly any cases registered in these areas, an average of one case in two years. My worry was about the crack in the system that forced concerned people to go to a police station. “Move to the Barracks” is people’s natural response.

    Alleged Fake Cases:

    The first question in these cases is: What is meant by fake? The written word is superior to oral presentation in Indian law. In this frame, therefore, the people who know the law are always a privileged lot. Those who are unaware about the law are generally the losers even though they may be telling the “truth, nothing but the truth”. How much time a case may take is nobody’s business. The fact that the case may have merely a bundle of lies may be established after a long time.

    The tribal people are especially handicapped by the fact that they may be managing their affairs in accordance with their customs and traditions as was in vogue in excluded and partially excluded areas and even in the princely states. With the adoption of the Constitution, all laws that were in vogue in British India got extended to these areas. And the governors who had powers to adapt and amend the laws took no action. All this led to “criminalisation” of the concerned tribal territories. The simple tribal and even their articulate leaders are unaware of legal refi nements and the people suffer because no one cared to look at the basic anomalies in the functioning of the system. The simple tribal either suffered quietly or revolted against the system.

    The following are the so-called “fake” cases that the Maoists have pointed out:

  • (i) There are hundreds of fake cases that have been forced on the simple people without even their knowing what the charges were all about. They are imprisoned in jails of Dantewada and Raipur without knowing what they have been deemed guilty of.
  • (ii) A fake case has been launched against a number of innocent people for allegedly
  • vol xlviI no 18

    Economic & Political Weekly


    storming the house of a Congress leader in Dantewada district. All innocent people must be released.

    (iii) Nine Maoist Party workers, mentioned by name, have been jailed under fake cases. They must be released.

    (iv) Cases launched against an elderly journalist and Asit Sen must be revoked.

    It is important to note that the Maoists are not begging for some favours. They are openly alleging that fake cases have been launched against named people. It must be ensured that the simple tribal people are not victims of the adage “justice delayed is justice denied”. These people do not even know why they have been kept in jail.

    B D Sharma

    Former Commissioner for SC/ST, Government of India

    New Delhi

    Maoist Intimidation

    e condemn the attack by the Maoists on 21 April near Kerlapal village in Sukma district (in Chhattisgarh) in which they killed two security guards and abducted the Sukma district collector, Alex Paul Menon. At the time of this attack, Menon, accompanied by security guards, was in the process of conducting Gram Swaraj Abhiyaan across the district. A few hours prior to the attack, Menon had to traverse the rough terrain on a motorcycle to reach the interior villages near Badde Setti and Sam Setti. This shows his concern for the tribals residing in this remote area and his conscientiousness in attending to their problems. By killing the security guards who were on duty and kidnapping Menon, the Maoists have betrayed their lack of respect for human rights and democratic processes.

    This incident has come on the heels of a series of similar acts of abductions and killings on the part of the Maoists during the last few years in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. The abduction of Jhina Hikaka, an MLA on 24 March this year, the abduction of Vineel Krishna, the then district collector of Malkangiri district last year, and the killing of the Jharkhand police officer, Francis Induwar in 2009 show that the Maoists have no compunction in hurting the interests of the tribals and committing crimes against innocent officers and people’s representatives attending to their call of duty. We wholeheartedly condemn these acts of violence on the part of the Maoists.

    If the Maoists care for the tribals and if they have any respect for human rights, they should release both, Alex Paul Menon and Jhina Hikaka immediately and unconditionally.

    Ramachandra Guha, E A S Sarma, Nandini Sundar

    Baburao Ambadaskar: On His Retirement

    heard from a former colleague about the prospective retirement of another former colleague: Baburao Ambadaskar. In a long-living place such as the EPW, someone’s retiring is always occasion for a remembrance, even if I happened to be in the EPW for only eight years, which would but be a quarter of the time Baburao spent there.

    Baburao worked in the dispatch section of the EPW, as I knew him in the time I worked there, but he was there even longer. To place the man in a certain section, accord him an office space, and then detail the jobs he did, would be greatly diminishing all that Baburao really did, saw and talked about. But in a way, he stood for, like all its former editors and some long-timers too, EPW itself.

    I don’t remember my first glimpse of Baburao, but he was always at the place where I would fi nd him most mornings. There was the EPW in its old offi ce at Fort, and you went up the elevator with its shaking grilled cage doors; once through the door with the ubiquitous red white logo of the EPW, there would Baburao be, at his table on the extreme left. He was the one, as he proudly said on many an occasion, with the keys to the office. He “opened up” the offi ce every morning at 8.30 sharp, without fail, like he had done for 35 years and more. Yes, we knew this all right, for Baburao opened the offi ce up and R K Singh locked it for the night. A ritual that lasted for years before retirement came calling, fi rst for RK and now for Baburao.

    On Mondays, the place would be a veritable chaos; there were new weekly editions of the EPW to be labelled, tied up and then, of course dispatched to the post. That was the busiest day. If you asked Baburao for anything, for instance, stuff to be photocopied, or for files full of newspaper clippings that we needed for our editorials or even just for dispatch work not related to the “big” dispatch work, Baburao would brush you aside. Not now. In his brusque earthy way but after a while, you got used to it. Just like on other days, you would listen to Baburao’s stories and get to know his ways. The way he did not drink tea or coffee. Or his stories about the Shiv Sena, and Baburao was an active functionary of that party, campaigning for it, at times vociferous in the quiet morning, but strangely in that noiseless offi ce with its whirring old fans, stacks of old fi les, and issues, tons of browning paper, rows and columns of articles for submission, his voice was curiously reassuring. It was not just like the humming, at times rushed clangorous traffic outside but that his voice was a reminder also of what EPW was about – tolerant, accepting and timelessly Mumbai.

    His voice could equally resonate when he told you all the old EPW stories – of the then editor sleeping in the office, on the table, the day the issue was put to bed. Or of the many “eminent” people who dropped by to the offi ce, or the time the printing had to be done fast, how crises were managed, how occasions were celebrated.

    He was, as another colleague once put it, a “pillar” of the EPW, for he was indispensable in many ways and so the remark was not made entirely in jest. EPW stood secure and firm in its ideals even as other magazines fell by. And part of it was that its ideals and code of honour embraced the every man, the ordinary person, in whose name ideologies are created, wars fought, governments elected. The ordinary person always forgotten, remembered at certain moments but indispensable. But the EPW never forgot this, and this was so aptly reflected by Baburao’s place in it. He belonged to the office and in many ways, the office belonged to him. Anu Kumar


    Economic & Political Weekly

    may 5, 2012 vol xlviI no 18

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