Monday, 30th October 2017

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Activists target PC for 'war on Maoists'

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  • Published 19.10.09

New Delhi, Oct. 19: A group of activists has cautioned the government against launching a “war on Maoists” and alleged that the security offensive was being mounted to favour Indian and multinational corporate interests keen to exploit the natural resources of Naxalite-held areas.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who was among many who addressed a protest gathering today, made a pointed conflict-of-interest allegation against Union home minister P. Chidambaram.

Bhushan said: “He has represented many companies with business interests in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, he was a director of Vedanta (a multinational with mining ambitions in Orissa) until the day he became finance minister in 2004. The idea of this war by the government seems to be to use propaganda to get tribal areas vacated for corporate companies, just as George Bush used a false campaign on weapons of mass destruction to grab Iraq’s rich oil wells for American business houses.”

Bhushan sounded a shrill alarm on the threat to civil liberties, saying: “The government is leaving no space for democratic dissent, it is behaving like Bush, either you are with the government or against it. This is a frightening trend that must be stiffly opposed.”

An open letter to the Prime Minister released on the occasion urged the government to “immediately withdraw the armed forces and stop all plans for carrying out military operations, which have a potential for triggering a civil war”.

The government is currently preparing for a multi-pronged offensive against armed Naxalites in parts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, but maintains it is neither waging a war nor intending to use the armed forces in the operations. The Indian Air Force, though, will be used for “logistical” purposes and has permission to fire in self-defence.

Human rights activists have argued that this amounts to a “licence” to fire. “Let there be no confusion about this, what the government is going for is nothing but a full-blown war on its own people,” said Gautam Navlakha, who anchored the protest meet.

The open letter itself made no accommodation for the government’s stated position and said: “We are deeply concerned by the Indian’s government’s plans for launching an unprecedented military offensive by army and paramilitary forces in the adivasi regions…. the geographical terrain where the military offensive is planned to be carried out is very rich in natural resources and has been the target of large-scale appropriation by several corporations.”

The letter has been issued under the aegis of Calcutta-based rights group Sanhati and among its signatories are author-activist Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky and academics Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar.

Roy chose a subtle tack and played on what she called “differences” within the ruling establishment. “There seems to be some unease within the government over what is going to happen, there is a divide between the hardliners and those who think otherwise and I think Rahul Gandhi has been articulating that position. That is a sign of hope,” she said.

Roy endorsed the co-speakers and held that the radical-extreme element today was not the Maoists but the “military muscle flexing of the government”.