Friday, October 29, 2010
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
The hounding of activist Himanshu Kumar is a parable about the war and panic in Chhattisgarh and the complete blackout of information, reports TUSHA MITTAL
HIMANSHU KUMAR is shaving his moustache to become more unrecognisable. Instead of the usual white kurta, he’s wearing a red shirt and jeans. The lights in his two-room rented house have been turned off. If you chanced upon him on a winter night in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, speaking in hushed whispers about jumping off the back wall and disappearing into the darkness, you might have mistaken this Gandhian activist for a fugitive.
For the last 18 years, Himanshu has been trudging through the jungles of rural Chhattisgarh, empowering tribals, teaching them how to vote and bringing them access to food and healthcare through his Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA). When his wife first joined him, he told her to replace her make-up kit with medicines. Despite living in this Maoist-dominated conflict zone for nearly two decades, despite its many intimidations, Kumar has never felt the urge to flee. Until now that is – when the might of the State is upon him.
Trouble first began to escalate in 2005 when the infamous Salwa Judum was launched. The VCA filed at least 600 complaints against human rights violations by the State and fake encounters by the police. Himanshu Kumar was transformed in the State’s eyes from trusted aide to adversary. In May 2009, his ashram was brutally demolished by the police. Now suddenly, the Gandhian activist has lost his liberty. He lives in a free country, but does not have the freedom to walk out through the front door of his own house.
“Should I get arrested and become a martyr or should I leave before they catch me?” Himanshu Kumar wonders out loud on the morning of January 4. He knows what happened to Binayak Sen. He knows he could be next. “I’m worried the police will implicate me in a false case. They could arrest me anytime now,” he says.
This is not misplaced paranoia. Himanshu’s makeshift ashram is under constant police surveillance. On January 3, his car was stopped by the police as it sped from Dantewada to Raipur carrying Sodi Shambo, 28, a tribal woman with a fractured leg held together by a metal rod. Shambo’s husband was tilling the fields on the morning of October 1, 2009, when Salwa Judum SPOs barged into Goompad village. One bullet from their guns split open her leg. Her children leapt towards her, covering her body. That could be why she is still alive. Nine others were killed during combing operations. Most were those who could not run away — Madvi Yankaiya, 50; Madvi Bajaar 50 and his wife Madvi Subhi, 45; their daughters Madvi Kanama, 20 and eight-year-old Madvi Mooti; and a newly married couple Soyam Subaiya, 20 and Soyam Subhi, 18. Another 2-year-old boy was found with his fingers missing. The Dantewada SP announced that nine Naxalites had been killed in an encounter in Goompad village. This is the tale the outside world would have believed, had Himanshu not met Shambo during a regular public hearing in the forest. She told him about the massacre she had witnessed; he ensured she filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court. The court accepted her petition and directed the state to file a response.
Had Shambo reached Delhi, where she was headed for medical treatment, she could have become a major embarrassment for the Chhattisgarh government. This is why Himanshu and Shambo were suddenly surrounded by police on the highway and detained at Kanker police station. There was an order from the Dantewada SP that Shambo be produced in the police station to record her statement on the Goompad killings. Shambo had been living openly in Himanshu’s ashram in Dantewada for the last two months but the police had not approached her for a statement. “We did not know where she was. We were trying to find her,” says SP Amaresh Mishra ingenuously. “I found out through an Internet forum that Himanshu was taking her to Raipur. I also got a letter from Shambo’s masi two days ago accusing Himanshu of vanishing Shambo all this while.” This was a patently concocted assertion given that Himanshu had presented Shambo to the media at a big press conference in Delhi in October. Clearly, a false case of abduction against Kumar was in the works. According to Colin Gonsalves, a senior advocate who has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court on the Shambo case, it’s actually the other way around. “This amounts to illegal abduction by the police. Shambo is not an accused. She cannot be forced to go anywhere,” said he.
On January 4, Shambo was sent to Maharani Hospital in Jagdalpur for further treatment under police “security.” Sudhir Thakhur, the doctor responsible, admitted the hospital did not have the required medical facility to perform Shambo’s surgery. TEHELKA was not allowed to speak to Shambo at the hospital, despite a guarantee from the Dantewada SP that she was not being kept in confinement. Even after the director of the hospital gave permission, police personnel guarding Shambo’s bed refused to let us near her. When we tried to talk to the ward nurse, the police ensured they overheard the conversation.
As Himanshu shaves off his moustache in the darkness, it is almost as if he is at a tipping point. Caught in a pool of quicksand, he must leap out immediately or sink. “My faith is not shaken. I’m just feeling trapped inside a web. To break this perhaps it is necessary for me to go fight from a new place. I am not running away. I just need to change my location.”
THE BATTLE between the State and Maoists is well known. But in Chhattisgarh, another battle has been fast gathering steam — between the State and civil society, between a policed existence and the idea of democracy, between a coerced media and free speech. Himanshu Kumar is now at the centre of that battle. Over the years, he had become one of the few bridges that link the rest of India to the remote jungles of Chhattisgarh. Given the national media’s neglect, and the absence of a robust local press, he was perhaps the only disseminator of an alternate reality. Without him and a few other activists working in the area, there would be only one version — that of the State. This is what the Chhattisgarh government is now trying to create. Every few days there is news of an encounter — six killed in Jagargunda, another six killed in Gumyipal. No one knows if these are Naxals or ordinary tribals. The State doesn’t seem to want anyone to find out.
At a recent press conference in Raipur, Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwa Ranjan told journalists on record that there could be police action against them if they wrote in favour of Naxalites. Two weeks ago in Dantewada, DIG SR Kalluri called journalists into his office for one-on-one sessions. “He told us not to write in favour of the Naxals (euphemism for not writing anything against the State) and said the police have their eyes on us,” says NRK Pillai, vice-president of the Chhattisgarh Working Journalists Union. “The atmosphere isn’t conducive. There’s no one really to back us. Press owners will not stand by us. There’s always the fear of what will happen to our families.”
In the last two months, as Operation Green Hunt has got underway, the Chhattisgarh government has upped the ante in its efforts to squash any space for dissent and democratic protest. Stories from the jungles are not being allowed out; neutral outsiders are not being allowed in.
On December 29, 2009, Delhi University professor of sociology Nandini Sundar and political science professor Ujjwal Kumar Singh arrived in Bastar to undertake an independent survey of the situation. They found all the hotel rooms in the small towns of Dantewada and Sukma mysteriously full, out of bounds for them. The professors had to spend the night in a jeep, before they got accommodation at a boys’ hostel. There too, seven armed SPOs barged into Sundar’s room, then spent the night patrolling the grounds outside. The next day two jeeps of armed SPOs followed the professors around until they left Chhattisgarh, ensuring they could make no neutral enquiries from villagers about what was happening on the ground.
TEHELKA was meted the same treatment. On January 4, we were denied the right to stay at Madhuban Lodge, the only hotel in Dantewada. The receptionist opened rooms for us at first, but suddenly changed his mind when he got a call from his manager. The manager said the hotel had orders from the police not to give rooms to journalists without a “proper enquiry.” Dantewada ASP Rajendra Jaiswal denied that any such order exists but refused to call the hotel to clarify this. “Why should I help a stranger?” he told TEHELKA. Later, the hotel owner said all the rooms were needed for a family function.
On January 6, a band of activists, including Medha Patkar and Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey, were assaulted with stones and eggs as they marched to the SP’s office in Dantewada for some answers. The police looked on.
Though there is little clarity on whether the offensive against the Naxals – Operation Green Hunt – has officially begun, another kind of assault certainly has. So far, Himanshu Kumar has certainly borne the brunt of it.
On December 14, 2009, a mob several hundred-strong surrounded Himanshu’s ashram, shouting slogans like “Himanshu Bhagao, Bastar Bachao”. They were protesting a padyatra he was about to undertake to engage with the tribals. Such an expedition would boost the morale of the Maoists and dampen that of the security forces, they alleged. According to Himanshu, the mob consisted of SPOs and tribals lifted from Salwa Judum camps to stage a demonstration. The padyatra was to be followed by a satyagraha to protest police excesses and a jan sunvai (public hearing) to take stock of ground realities post the declaration of Operation Green Hunt. In what was being perceived as a sign of positive intent, Home Minister P Chidam baram had agreed to attend the public hearing. Human rights groups from across the country were scheduled to participate. But that came crashing down when the State decided it would not allow anyone to explore its territory.
HIMANSHU RECEIVED a notice from Reena Kangale, the Dantewada collector, prohibiting him from initiating any public assembly. “Section 144 was imposed because of municipal elections,” says Kangale. “I denied permission for a padyatraand issued a prohibitory order stating the police can take action if any public meetings happen without my consent.” On December 13, an all-women fact-finding team was stopped at several points enroute to Dantewada and not allowed access inside. The Chhattisgarh Governor advised Chidambaram not to attend the jan sunvayi for safety reasons. The Home Minister stayed put.
The mob attack from “tribals” was also used as a pretext to send a jeep of armed SPOs as security for Himanshu. “There is a threat to his life. The tribals are unhappy with him. We are giving him police protection,” Dantewada SP Amaresh Mishra told TEHELKA. That Himanshu himself has written to the SP stating he does not want this protection is irrelevant.
The police “protection” has successfully hampered Himanshu’s work. He is unable to visit villages on fact-finding missions. Any complaints from tribals against the State bring instant reprisals. There have been other intimidations. Under pressure, Himanshu’s current landlord, an employee of the local district council, asked him to vacate the house in a few weeks.
To disable Himanshu further, his key aide Kopa Kunjam was arrested on December 10 on charges of murdering a former sarpanch, Punem Honga. Honga was abducted by Maoists along with another sarpanch who had been traveling with Kopa on his bike on July 2, 2009. According to VCA, the night before he was arrested, Kopa was offered Rs 25,000 to quit working with Himanshu and warned of dire consequences if he continues. Kopa refused the money. Sukhdev, another backbone of the VCA, was threatened with a similar fate after Kopa’s arrest. He quit. Lingu, another aide who also quit, confirmed to TEHELKA that he was with Kopa at the Dantewada police station the day before Kopa’s arrest, and was present when the police tried to convince Kopa to take up “other more meaningful work”.
The Maoists are not willing to talk, and the State is clearly not allowing any other dialogue. Himanshu’s struggle becomes more poignant in the backdrop of the violence being unleashed all around it. The Maoists continue to fell trees, block trains, abduct and kill. The Salwa Judum continues to rape women, burn houses, loot and kill. Amid all the chaos, as the year ended, one man sat in a white kurta, under a sprawling tree, spooling a loom of thread. He had not been allowed a padyatra or a satyagraha or ajan sunvai, so he was fasting to protest State atrocities. But events over the last two days have forced the man in the white kurta to shave his moustache and turn into a man in red shirt and jeans — a reminder of an original freedom struggle, being scuttled all over again.
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 02, Dated January 16, 2010
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Friday, December 04, 2009
The murder before Kargil
Last Updated: 2009-05-20 10:00:02
I received this email today....you can go thru it and then have a dekkho at what I have to add to this...
Dear Sir/Madam ,
SPARE 5-MINUTES from ur busy schedule .PLEASE !!!
Lt. Saurabh Kalia of 4 JAT Regiment of the Indian Army laid down his
life at the young age of 22 for the nation while guarding the
frontiers at Kargil.
His parents, indeed the Indian Army and nation itself,
lost a dedicated, honest and brave son..
He was the first officer to detect and inform about
Pakistani intrusion. Pakistan captured him and his patrol party of 5
brave men alive on May 15, 1999 from the Indian side of LOC.
They were kept in captivity for three weeks and
subjected to unprecedented brutal torture, evident from their bodies handed over
by Pakistan Army on June 9, 1999.
The Pakistanis indulged in dastardly acts of inflicting burns on these Indian officers with cigarettes, piercing their ears with hot rods, removing their eyes before puncturing them and breaking most of the bones and teeth.
They even chopped off various limbs and private organs of the Indian soldiers besides inflicting unimaginable physical and mental torture.
After 22 days of torture, the brave soldiers were ultimately shot dead. A detailed post-mortem report is with the Indian Army. Pakistan dared to humiliate India this way flouting all international norms.
They proved the extent to which they can degrade humanity. However, the Indian soldiers did not break while undergoing all this unimaginable barbarism, which speaks volumes of their patriotism, grit, determination, tenacity and valour - something all of India should be proud of.
Sacrificing oneself for the nation is an honour every soldier would be proud of, but no parent, army or nation can accept what happened to these brave sons of India. I am afraid every parent may think twice to send their child in the armed forces if we all fall short of our duty in safeguarding the PRISONERS OF WAR AND LET THEM MEET THE FATE OF LT.SAURABH KALIA.
It may also send a demoralising signal to the army personnel fighting for the Nation that our POWs in Pak cannot be taken care of. It is a matter of shame and disgust that most of Indian Human Rights Organisations by and large, showed apathy in this matter.
Through this humble submission, may I appeal to all the civilized people irrespective of colour, caste, region, religion and political lineage to stir their conscience and rise to take this as a NATIONAL ISSUE !!!
International Human Rights Organizations must be approached to expose and pressure Pakistan to identify, book and punish all those who perpetrated this heinous crime to our men in uniform.
If Pakistan is allowed to go unpunished in this case, we can only imagine the consequences.
Below is the list of 5 other soldiers who preferred to die for the country rather than open their mouths in front of enemy -
1. Sep. Arjun Ram s/o Sh. Chokka Ram; Village & PO
Gudi. Teh. & Dist.
2. Sep. Bhanwar Lal Bagaria h/o Smt. Santosh Devi;
3. Sep. Bhikaram h/o Smt. Bhawri Devi; Village
4. Sep. Moola Ram h/o Smt. Rameshwari Devi; Village
Katori; Teh. Jayal;Dist...
5. Sep. Naresh Singh h/o Smt. Kalpana Devi; Village
Teh.Iglab; Dist.Aligarh (UP)
Dr. N.K. Kalia (Lt. Saurabh Kalia's father).
Tel: +91 (01894) 32065
Please sign in by writing your name and then copy and
paste it again to forward it to your friends and relatives. Let us give a supporting hand to Dr. Kalia in his efforts to get justice..
Remember, Lt. Kalia and his colleagues died on the front so that we could
sleep peacefully in our homes.
PLEASE DON'T BREAK THE ONWARD MOVEMENT OF THIS MAIL.
WE SEND ALL SORTS OF SILLY MAILS TO OUR FRIENDS WHICH
COMPEL ONE TO FORWARD BY SAYING THAT IT MAY HARM YOU IF YOU WON'T DO SO. BUT
HERE IT IS NOTHING LIKE THAT, IT WILL ONLY BE YOU WHO WILL FEEL
SATISFIED IF YOU WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAUSE.
JAI HIND .....Victory to India !!
...ok now my turn...
this is horrendous of course and while my sympathy is with his family and my heart foes out to them...I suggest we look at ourselves "India" first before we point a finger at others "Pakistan"
i)The Army left 5 soldiers at an advanced position even though "Massive infiltration of mercenaries covered by firing by heavily armed Pak troops" was reported...?? How is this possible? what were the officers thinking? what were these 5 jawans gonna do?
ii)They spent most of the day returning fire until their ammunition ran out...and even after they were captured, back up arrived after the Pak troops had vanished...leaving no trace...Impressive na?
iii)It is also believed that their signal instruments were not functional or had failed in the conditions....very likely...I've trained with various regiments when I was in the NCC and the pathetic state of arms and ammunition they have no option but to use is well known...I have known an entire regiment to have just one MMG (Medium Machine Gun) and no HMG (Heavy Machine Gun)and that too the MMG was not fit for action...they only used it for display and exercises!!
iv)And this is the best part ----the Indian Government has not stepped forward to acknowledge or award these soldiers and their bravery...wonderful...thanks for your lives but...lets move on! How touching and sincere and grateful!
So why do we even start with Pakistan when we have our own devils to contend with?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Dear Chandar....even I'm tempted now...
You see its really nice to hear you speak english on FB but you aren't British right? I'm sorry but I am an East Indian...and you can't get more Bambaiya than them...we are considered original settlers...but i still point out to the word settler!
You see my mother tongue happens to be English...yea two generations ago at least most of my family have lost their original language!
But then again...at that time there was no Maharashtra? Why do we harp on something that we have known for about half a century?...in the same breath forgetting that centuries ago the land was one? We are all brothers...be it someone from Chennai or from UP...I'll take a stand here and even include the Pakistani's, the Bangladeshis, the Tibetians and the Burmese...(but thats just so that hopefully you see my point..cos i am a big believer in the 'world is one' concept!)
My biggest problem is with the 'YOU' factor!! it is the easiest thing in the world for POLITIANS (and this happens the world over...from Hitler to the Americans to Mugabe!!) pick out something that alienates a section of people...the minute we as a people subscribe to the 'YOU' concept we admit defeat!
Today it is the Marathi Manoos...but has Raj or Bal have any idea how many types of Marathi are spoken? what if every dialect and type want their own state...do you realise how idiotic this is?
So please save the need to follow Maharashrian culture and Marathi Language...we learn it in schools and I can speak and write it...but it is still not my mother tongue and I dont think in Marathi!
And about the develop their own states theory I'd like to know which Marathi built the Indian railways or the port that made Mumbai so powerful? or maybe all the missionary schools that Bala Sahebs family goes to?