And Justice for INSAF
Recently, legendary adivasi activist Dayamani Barla was jailed because she was protesting along with locals against village land being usurped. It took a long campaign to get her out, even as the state government continued to hound her. However, the movement continued. She remained undefeated. She was last week presented the prestigious Ellen L Lutz Indigenous Rights Award by Cultural Survival (US).
After a spell in prison when she refused bail and was charged under false cases (see ‘Her Prison’ in this issue, pg 24), Madhuri Krishnaswamy has been finally released in Barwani; but Abhay Sahoo is still in jail, even as the rebel villages in Jagatsinghpur, still fiercely opposing the Posco project, are virtually under the siege of armed security forces.
Three top anti-Posco activists and local villagers had earlier died in a ‘mysterious’ bomb explosion, something which stunned the villagers who have led a resilient and protracted, but fiercely non-violent, movement against the $12 billion Posco project, apparently extremely close to both the Odisha chief minister and the prime minister’s hearts. The Odisha CM, like the PM, are obsessively in love with big business and MNC projects. It’s a kind of tunnel vision of neo-liberal fundamentalism.
Earlier, several times, villagers, including children and women, have made human chains or done picketing on the ground, lying in the heat, holding hands, blocking police entry, in the anti-Posco struggle. This was a unique and original form of protest, not seen in India since Independence. This has been met often with early-morning police raids, demolition of their betel vines and homes, theft of their food and chickens, forced compensation cheques, and relentless police brutality and terror. And yet, this peaceful movement has refused to succumb. Sahoo is a CPI leader, though the dogged movement is eclectic and is derived from many democratic currents; that is why, perhaps, he has still not been branded a Maoist.
Krishnaswamy is no Maoist but was branded one by the BJP regime in Madhya Pradesh. She was also externed. Educated in Delhi and belonging to the family of a top Indian Air Force official, she has organized Dalits and adivasis into a powerful collective, demanding effective health services for women and the poor, and implementation of government schemes like the MNREGA. Strong feudal and corrupt networks, entrenched and backed by the regime, have declared her their enemy.
Why have they blocked the funds of INSAF, with no legitimate reason? Surely, they are not doing anti-national activities or underground politics?
At Kudankulam, the struggle is refusing to ebb, despite court orders and organized police repression. Top scientists and intellectuals have questioned the safety standards of the plant, even those who do not oppose nuclear energy. The huge support along the coastal villages remains strong, and the struggle network is lucid. People are refusing to accept the plant; Fukushima is a running nightmare. This project too is apparently very close to the PM’s heart.
The Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), inspired by mentor Anil Chaudhary, among others, works through multiple networks of human rights and civil society groups. Many of the struggles cited above, including those of Barla, Sahoo and the Kudankulam struggle, have been assisted by the forum. Some of the finest minds, including mass leaders, secular activists, journalists, writers and academics are friends of INSAF. It is an open-ended, transparent and progressive institution, which preserves and protests in support of democratic, secular values. Chaudhury, a soft-spoken JNU alumnus, is loved and respected across the spectrum. The number of people, individuals and groups he has directly and indirectly helped runs into thousands. Across the old JNU students’ network, and among civil society groups, he continues to be a role model and inspiration.
So, why is the UPA government and its Union home ministry hounding INSAF and all the secular, democratic, human rights campaigners working on the ground with the poorest of the poor? Is the PMO too involved in this undemocratic action? Why have they blocked the funds of INSAF, with no legitimate reason? Surely, they are not doing anti-national activities or underground politics? Why are they being blacklisted? Certainly, those who oppose nuclear energy are not terrorists? And it is perfectly legitimate to express dissent in a democratic country, is it not?
If the fascist BJP is branding even NAC members as Naxalite supporters, and is still spewing hate against Dr Binayak Sen, it is understandable. But why is the Congress regime so blind and revengeful? Especially against those who are upholding the secular, progressive and egalitarian values of the Indian Constitution?