BLOOD on the BEND
As the Pablo Neruda poem goes, the blood was already and always flowing, eternally clotted and forensically meaningless
Amit Sengupta Delhi
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
and from every dead child a rifle
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.
And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!
From ‘I’m Explaining a Few Things’
by Pablo Neruda
Instead of using repetitive clichés as a status quoist replacement for abject illiteracy, and ephemeral and self-righteous outrage as patriotic purity, if there is a state of war, let us first accept that there is a state of war. Sanjay Kak’s recent, much acclaimed, non-didactic documentary, Red Ant Dream, uses the ‘state of war’ metaphor by Bhagat Singh to reposition the idea of both armed and non-violent resistance across the fragmented landscape of invisible India, its vast swathes crushed by abysmal poverty, deprivation and relentless injustice, trapped in the contemporary political economy of insatiable corporate greed with the State as both pimp and mediator. Not only bled by the huge economic disparity between the obscenely rich and crushed poor, India is on a permanent threshold of multiple and complex layers of indigenous unrest which the powers that be are refusing to understand or resolve.
If you view Red Ant Dream objectively, even with forced detachment, you will quickly receive the message which is rooted in the history of many ravaged geographies, from Punjab to Niyamgiri to Bastar. That memories of Avtar Singh Pash and Bhagat Singh’s dream of India are still alive and resurrecting eternally; that the dream has been methodically degraded by those who rule this country.
This India is invisible, because this is authentic, mainstream, existential India, sitting around a makeshift fire but invisible to the blind and myopic; misunderstood, marginalized and brutalized, yet again reduced into a dark continent by an illiterate and detached power elite, including much of the pompous media, which bloats as the sole representative of objectivity, morality and truth.
Much of this morality and truth, as much as progress and prosperity, is manufactured consent: prejudiced and partisan. Much of this patriotism is located in the frog-in-the-well syndrome of the super rich, rich and the upwardly mobile — all brazen beneficiaries of the new, neo-liberal economy. Ironically, once again and now, this shallow, pampered and microscopic elite is baying for blood. Even while the blood of 27 people has not really dried after the killings near Sukhma. And, indeed, many of them had nothing to do with Salwa Judum or Operation Green Hunt.
Blood flowed at the bloody bend at Darbha on May 25 which was not sanitized. So why was it not sanitized, even while the chief minister’s route is always sanitized with thousands of cops? Is the mighty Indian State so amazingly weak and ineffective? And will this savage Maoist bloodbath create new rivers of blood in this Abhujmar, literally, the terrain that no one has been able to understand, neither in flowery fiction nor in bitter realism?
So, now, will it be an eye for an eye, vicious revenge for vicious revenge, death and mass murder for death and mass murder, bullets between the eyes or body parts axed and chopped into pieces; more human bodies on both sides massacred in the quest for what — revolution, democracy, nation-state, growth rate?
It is still not clear why the Maoists killed Nand Kumar Patel and his son in cold blood, allowed the Konta MLA Kavasi Lakhma to run for his life, and yet, in an uncanny ritual, provided water and administered medicine to the injured who survived. It is already being stated that the killing of Patel and his son was perhaps a “big strategic mistake” which the Maoists will regret in the days to come. Did the hardliners of the MCC and Party Unity with the CPI(Maoist) prevail yet again?
Patel was not exactly a supporter of the Salwa Judum, he had visited the village of Sarkeguda in Bijapur district where 17 tribals were massacred by central and state forces, and he, like Ajit Jogi, had opposed Operation Green Hunt. Besides, he was trying to retrieve the forests of Bastar electorally from the BJP-government backed RSS groups like the Vanvasi Kalyan Kendras. Indeed, barring one, the seat won by Lakhma in Konta, the Congress lost 11 of the 12 assembly seats in Bastar in the last polls, where the BJP had no base in the past. This area was electorally always with the Congress and the CPI, with CPI leader Manish Kunjum holding rallies of thousands of people. Indeed, Congress leader and BJP stooge Mahendra Karma started his political career in the CPI, even winning elections under the CPI’s red flag.
Karma was no freedom fighter or high priest of morality. He was a prophet of doom. He had compulsively and openly operated as a brutish thug and nasty warlord, an extraconstitutional criminal and don backed by the Indian State. His hands were soaked in blood. He presided over mass destruction and burning of villages, rapes and gangrapes of tribals, organized plunder and loot, murder and mass murder. There is no real count of the hundreds and thousands ravaged by Karma’s ‘internal war’ against his ‘own people’.
He, backed by the BJP regime, the Union home ministry and the Congress party, unleashed a virtual civil war. He pitched tribal against tribal, celebrated unprecedented mass suffering and tragedy, destroyed homes and hearth, and diabolically organized the displacement of tens of thousands from their original habitat.
If the Maoists were armed, his forces too were armed, brutal, outside the law but protected by law and the State. He was on record as saying that if journalists entered certain areas, they should be killed. And if villagers refused to join the Salwa Judum, their villages should be razed.
Blood flowed at the bloody bend at Darbha on May 25 which was not sanitized. So why was it not sanitized, even while the CM’s route was always sanitized with thousands of cops?
As author Sudeep Chakravarty writes in Mint: “While I abhor violence, including the revenge hit by Maoists that finally claimed Karma at 62, his death should not be used to whitewash his crimes against humanity... …Salwa Judum vigilantes destroyed homes, and stores of grain and any other food they had; killed dozens of men, women and children; maimed and/or raped several. Children were forced to watch the death and dismemberment of parents. Pregnant women were disembowelled. The death and torture of those suspected of allying with Maoist rebels was instant. This intimidation, blessed by posses of state police and Union government paramilitaries who have their own record of blood, lust and war crimes in the region, at one point herded in excess of 50,000 tribal folk into little more than concentration camps across Dantewada district — since last year further split to create the additional districts of Bijapur and Sukma…”
No wonder, Karma was called the 13th minister of the equally blood-thirsty Raman Singh regime. He was also a tacit stooge of big business, who were eyeing the vast natural resources of Bastar. The Salwa Judum, after all, was started when the Maoists and tribals refused to accept the several MoUs with corporates who were out to usurp the mineral resources of this huge forest land. In that sense, this Vietnam-like scenario was created basically to facilitate corporate loot of these indigenous twilight zones, and that is when the ‘state of war’ became more bloody and violent.
So, the underground guerrilla armies of the Maoists, many of their top leaders killed in real and fake encounters in recent times, others tortured and condemned eternally in jail, often without trial, are refusing to accept the armed might of the mighty Indian State. And if they continue to unleash their ‘people’s war’, what will the Indian State do? Wipe them out with Israeli/Mossad drones and carpet bombing? Or unleash another spate of fake and real encounters? Or, simply, go for ‘collateral damage’ and orchestrate a few more massacres of tribals in their villages, floating yet another theory of the human shield or strategic accomplices?
If there is a state of war, then let us first admit there is a state of war. Indian people versus the Indian State and super-rich corporates obsessed with insatiable greed. And these Indian people are not only in the remote forests of Bastar and Dandakaranya: they are also in Nandigram, Singur, Lalgarh, Jagatsinghpur, Niyamgiri, Kashipur, Jaitapur, Kudankulam. They are stretched across the tribal and Dalit and the poorest of the poor territories of the Indian republic; they seem to have neither faces nor voices. Do we presume that their eyes cannot read the Indian Constitution? Are their minds blanked out? Do they feel or think? Do they feel hungry and humiliated? Do they have inner aspirations in this aspirational India?
Indeed, do they have dreams, and memories?
Mahendra Karma was no freedom fighter. He was a prophet of doom. His hands were soaked in blood. There is no real count of the thousands ravaged by Karma’s ‘internal war’ against his ‘own people’
Even Raman Singh has agreed in The Hindu that “huge” numbers of tribals are rotting in the jails of Chhattisgarh. How huge, Mr Chief Minister? Are they all Maoists or are they victims of a totalitarian Police State, with no trial or process of justice, dying every day a slow, invisible death of total condemnation by the ‘Hard State’. Indeed, we have been too obsessed with the fascist dreams of Narendra Modi, who presided over the State-sponsored Gujarat genocide of 2002, using organized Sangh Parivar/VHP/Bajrang Dal gangs to unleash the barbaric experiments with truth in Gandhi’s land — gangrapes as public spectacles, children and women thrown alive in Hindutva bonfires, human beings hacked to death or burnt alive, and so on. Following this, there was a series of fake encounters — innocent people killed in cold blood by Modi’s top cops. In this Modi syndrome of injustice, we seem to have forgiven the crimes of Raman Singh’s regime in Raipur.
Why only thousands of innocent tribals, he put Dr Binayak Sen in jail, falsely branded him a Maoist and refused to listen to the whole world to release this ‘good doctor’. So what did his top cops do with Soni Sori? Inserting stones in her private parts, is this a constitutional right of a repressive regime?
And why only the horror tales of Salwa Judum, what did the forces do in Sarkeguda on June 28, 2012, when the tribals were sitting in a night assembly to discuss their seed festival? Are their festivals and assembly outside the realm of Indian democracy so that they can be shot dead in cold blood or axed — 17 of them. And at Edasmeta on May 17-18, 2013, in the same Bijapur district, eight of them, four minors, discussing the same seed festival, killed in cold blood by the armed forces? So how many politicians visited these people and how many were punished? So why was Raman Singh not asked to take responsibility for this wilful massacre of Indian citizens, even while their post-mortems were done in the open, more grotesque than ever.
Read Ashutosh Bhardwaj’s chilling report in the Indian Express: … “The agony did not end with their death. The bodies were lying in open field, under 45 degree sun, decomposing, badly swollen and emanating unbearable smell. CRPF men, face covered, guarded them with X-95, AK-47 with an Under Barrel Grenade Launcher.
… “Jara pet par chira laga,” a doctor said. He too had his face covered. A man, Suklu, came forward and cut open a naked body. Red worms protruded out from stomach. “Dead bodies become like balloon. When you cut them, they produce fart like sound,” a CRPF cop explained. Relatives of the deceased held the bodies as the doctor examined the bodies with a stick, from a distance.
… “Don’t you have another blade, a new one,” Civil Surgeon Dr B R Pujari asked his colleagues. Only two blades were used so far, and five bodies had been cut open from various sides, the doctor thought of changing the blade. But there was none. Suklu did not change surgical gloves through the process…”
As the Pablo Neruda poem goes, indeed, the blood was already and always flowing, eternally clotted and forensically meaningless. They too are rooted people with ecological destinies who fiercely protect their precious folk narratives and radical inheritance of autonomy, freedom and dignity. And they have a long memory. As Red Ant Dream shows, they fought many insurrections against the British, as they are now fighting the Indian State. In this rebellion, nothing seems to have changed, not even the colour of blood. Or, the idea of justice and injustice.
‘The eight did not die because Maoists used them as human shields’
Following media reports that eight adivasis and a CRPF constable had died in an alleged encounter on the night of May 17, 2013 at Edasmeta village in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, a team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) from Andhra Pradesh visited the area on May 25/26 to elicit facts. The team spoke with residents of Edasmeta as well as police officers at Gangulur. There are 67 households in Edasmeta located in six paras (hamlets). The village is in Burgil panchayat of Bijapur block and falls in the jurisdiction of Gangalur police station.
It is the HRFs view that contrary to the police version of an encounter with Maoists, there was no exchange of fire at Edasmeta on the night of May 17. Eight adivasis, including four minors, all of them male, and the CRPF constable, died as a result of indiscriminate and unilateral firing by the CRPF. None of the deceased eight adivasis are Maoists as the police initially claimed. The eight did not die because the Maoists used them as human shields as an improvised police version put out a day later stated. They were killed in gunfire unleashed by a specialized anti-naxalite unit of the CRPF. There was no provocation whatsoever… Four more adivasis including a minor were injured. This callous brutality is chillingly similar to the slaughter of 17 adivasi civilians (including six minors) at Sarkeguda, also in Bijapur district, on the night of June 28, 2012.
This one-sided firing by the CRPF took place upon a gathering of adivasis of Edasmeta who were performing the beej pondum, the seed festival held this time of the year before the rains arrive and sowing begins. About a 100 adivasis had gathered around a small structure containing their dieties known locally as ‘gaama’. The beej pondum on May 17 was the last of the four-day-long festivities that were held during the evening-night. The adivasis had congregated at the place which is an open field and about a 10- minute walk from the village. The area is ringed on all sides by fairly thick forest. That the adivasis were unarmed civilians would have been clear to the naked eye from a distance since they had lit a large fire.
A huge contingent of security forces from Gangulur consisting of CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, a specialised anti-naxalite guerilla unit of the CRPF) commandos numbering about 150 personnel surrounded the area from three sides. The CRPF men caught hold of three young men, Punem Sukku, Karam Budra and Karam Lakhma, who were going towards a chelimi (a water hole) to drink water and also fetch some for others gathered at the pondum. The CRPF men roughed them up. The terrified three managed to wriggle out and ran into the forest in the direction away from the gathering. The villagers noticed the presence of the CRPF men when the three young men started running. They stopped dancing and immediately the CRPF started firing at the gathering. It was about 10 pm.
The initial burst of firing was from the north and it hit Karem Somlu (35), Punem Somu (30) and the beej pondum pujari Karem Pandu (37). They died on the spot. As soon as they heard the shots and saw these men falling, the adivasis began to scream and run with most of them heading south towards the village. The firing continued, this time from the west, killing the four minor boys, Karam Guddu (10) Karam Masa (16), Karam Badru (8) and Punem Lakku (15). It is entirely credible that the CoBRA constable, Dev Prakash, was hit by the gunfire unleashed by his colleagues from the west. His body lay next to that of Karam Masa’s.
Villagers of Edasmeta, the HRF team spoke with, stated emphatically that there were absolutely no Maoists in the area and the CoBRA constable was hit in the same burst that felled Masa.
Edasmeta village has been subjected to violence during the Salwa Judum campaign. In the winter of 2005, Salwa Judum vigilantes and the police raided and set the entire village on fire. Three adivasis, Karam Budru, Karam Latchu and Karam Lakku were caught by the Salwa Judum on that day. They beat up and inflicted knife and axe injuries on all three. Budru and Latchu died but Lakku managed to survive…
Excerpts from the ‘Brief report of the killing of adivasi civilians by CRPF at Edasmeta in Bijapur District, Chhattisgarh’ by the Human Rights Forum (HRF).