Sunday, October 28, 2007


National Convenor: Pradip Prabhu, 3, Yezdeh Behram, Kati, Malyan, Dahanu Rd. 401602.
Delhi Contact: SRUTI, Q-1 Hauz Khas Enclave, New Delhi 110 016. Ph: 9968293978, 26569023.



Dear Friends,
This is our second open letter to you. We had first written to you in January regarding your petition in the Supreme Court challenging the "tiger amendment" to the Wildlife Act last year; your response to that letter is still awaited. It appears you have since filed an affidavit in that case challenging the 2006 Forest Rights Act, which your Advocate Mr. Raj Panjwani referred to in court. Despite your refusal to provide us with a copy of that affidavit, we recently managed to examine it.

We are hence writing this second open letter. Now as then, we write to protest the fact that your 'legal' arguments actually are an attempt to use law to cloak a deeply elitist, repressive and authoritarian model of "conservation" that has caused immense harm both to forest dwellers and to conservation itself. In particular, we wanted to raise certain issues with you:

In your petition you make the remarkable claim that "if co-existence [between humans and wild animals] was feasible, wild animals, ages ago, would have been domesticated just as horses, dogs and pigs."

You also claimed that coexistence is a "myth, based on utopian visions, deriving its sustenance from folklore." In January we had pointed out that this position runs counter to that adopted by the world's largest conservation organisations, in addition to contradicting history, ecological science and common sense. Since then, you have not clarified this position at all. Can we then assume that your approach continues to be based on such notions?

Your affidavit attacks the Forest Rights Act on several grounds. First is that the sections that empower the the community to also protect forests amount to "transferring control and management of the country's natural heritage to the gram sabha / individuals.

" The law is very clear that this power in no way detracts or derogates from the powers of the existing authorities; it is a power in addition to that of the Forest Department. Indeed, this section one of the most pro-conservation elements of the law, for it is communities who have fought most fiercely against practically every environmentally destructive project, against every open cast mine, dam, or polluting industrial estate. You are no doubt aware that internationally, "community conserved areas" are seen as a priority area of work for conservation organisations such as the IUCN, with even India's Wildlife Protection Act providing for their recognition. Yet your position would imply that the forest authorities should have the sole power to protect forests and wildlife.

Are your organisations in favour of truly open, people-based conservation, as it is understood internationally? Or in favour of a closed system where a handful of forest officials decide everything, the system under which five lakh hectares of forest have been destroyed in the last five years alone?
Second, you say that this law will "infringe upon the rights of non-beneficiaries to natural heritage / ecology" by destroying forests.

The Forest Rights Act is not a land distribution measure that will wipe out forests. It is intended to address the failure to record people's rights during the process of declaring government 'forests', many of which often are not forests at all. To this day 82% of Madhya Pradesh's forest blocks have not been surveyed, and 60% of India's national parks have not completed the recording of rights. Millions of people have lost their lands and their livelihoods during this seizure of resources by the British Empire and post-Independence governments. Till today they live under extreme oppression, facing daily harassment, violence and extortion. The Tiger Task Force called it "a completely illegal and unconstitutional land acquisition programme"; the then Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commissioner, in his 29th report, said the "criminalisation of the entire communities in the tribal areas is the darkest blot on the liberal tradition of our country."

How can addressing this enormous injustice inherently be a violation of the right to natural heritage? You may not agree with this Act's methods or approach; but by repeatedly denying that there is an issue of rights, you imply that "conservation" can only work by violating the rights of millions of people. If this is your position ? and we hope that it is not - your notion of 'conservation' is both untenable in principle and doomed in practice. It is worth noting that the IUCN once again takes a position completely contrary to yours when describing their work: "Indigenous peoples, landless workers, small producers, mobile communities, low-income consumers, and all others who are dependent on natural resources, but without property rights over them, will hopefully acquire some form of rights entitling them to an equitable participation in managing those resources and benefiting from them."

Moreover, if natural heritage is indeed a concern, one would expect that you would enthusiastically support communities in their struggle against the Polavaram dam, against Vedanta's mines in Orissa, or against Coca Cola in Plachimada. One would expect you to condemn the dilution of the Environmental Impact Assessment notification, the draft new mining policy, or the moves to privatize forests and take away community lands for timber plantations. The communities fighting these projects and policies are truly fighting for their natural heritage ? not as a legal abstraction but as a lived reality. Yet on all these issues, all we hear from your organisations is a deafening silence.

We can only conclude from this that, as in January, you are simply uninterested in the real issues at stake. Far easier to condemn forest dwellers than to resist corporate interests. Far easier to sentence communities to inhuman oppression than to demand both conservation and justice. Far easier, at the end of the day, to join with power than to fight it.

Conservation has not succeeded and can never succeed if it is based on an authoritarian, repressive model inherited from an Empire. We have no doubt that you believe in conservation. The question is: do you believe in democracy?

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The Bastar Dussera that attracts hundreds of tourists from all over was this year celebrated with 'borrowed' funds.It is a shame, that for a government that otherwise claims to promote tourism and culture failed to provide funds on time for this important event.

Dussera in Bastar is celebrated in respect of Danteshwari Mai, the presiding diety.A sum of about 20 lakh is sanctioned evry year for this festival.. which the Dussera committee spends on goats for sacrifice, food items, grocery, crackers, liquour and other requirements.This year too these items were obtained , but on credit.....Apparently not a single rupee has reached the committee from the Govt. as a result of which they had to make do with the Collector's funds.

The Manjhis will leave for their villages on 27 th, by which time they hope to get their stipulated allowance of 6000rs. Even the goats worth one and half lakh ruppees that were sacrificed during the Dussera period were bought on a credit of 50,000rs!!!

The Muriya Durbar that is supposedly a connection between the villagers and the state has also become a platform for netas now..Only four Manjhis out of 70 got to speak for 13 minutes in the allotted 3hrs, where rest of the time was hogged by our politicians....A very shameful state of affairs!

Considered as a state festival, was this their best ?

source: dainik bhaskar

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


A History of Discrimination, Conflict, and Resistance

-- By C.R. Bijoy, Core Committee of the All India Coordinating Forum of Adivasis/Indigenous Peoples

The 67.7 million people belonging to "Scheduled Tribes" in India are generally considered to be 'Adivasis', literally meaning 'indigenous people' or 'original inhabitants', though the term 'Scheduled Tribes' (STs) is not coterminous with the term 'Adivasis'. Scheduled Tribes is an administrative term used for purposes of 'administering' certain specific constitutional privileges, protection and benefits for specific sections of peoples considered historically disadvantaged and 'backward'.

However, this administrative term does not exactly match all the peoples called 'Adivasis'. Out of the 5653 distinct communities in India, 635 are considered to be 'tribes' or 'Adivasis'. In comparison, one finds that the estimated number of STs varies from 250 to 593.

For practical purposes, the United Nations and multilateral agencies generally consider the STs as 'indigenous peoples'. With the ST population making up 8.08% (as of 1991) of the total population of India, it is the nation with the highest concentration of 'indigenous peoples' in the world!

The Constitution of India, which came into existence on 26 January 1950, prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15) and it provides the right to equality (Article 14), to freedom of religion (Articles 25-28) and to culture and education (Articles 29-30). STs are supposedly addressed by as many as 209 Articles and 2 special schedules of the Constitution - Articles and special schedules which are protective and paternalistic.

Article 341 and 342 provides for classification of Scheduled Castes (the untouchable lower castes) and STs, while Articles 330, 332 and 334 provides for reservation of seats in Parliament and Assemblies. For purposes of specific focus on the development of STs, the government has adopted a package of programmes, which is administered in specific geographical areas with considerable ST population, and it covers 69% of the tribal population.
Despite this, and after the largest "modern democracy" of the world has existed for more than half a century, the struggles for survival of Adivasis - for livelihood and existence as peoples - have today intensified and spread as never before in history.

Over centuries, the Adivasis have evolved an intricate convivial-custodial mode of living. Adivasis belong to their territories, which are the essence of their existence; the abode of the spirits and their dead and the source of their science, technology, way of life, their religion and culture.

Back in history, the Adivasis were in effect self-governing 'first nations'. In general and in most parts of the pre-colonial period, they were notionally part of the 'unknown frontier' of the respective states where the rule of the reign in fact did not extend, and the Adivasis governed themselves outside of the influence of the particular ruler.

The introduction of the alien concept of private property began with the Permanent Settlement of the British in 1793 and the establishment of the "Zamindari" system that conferred control over vast territories, including Adivasi territories, to designated feudal lords for the purpose of revenue collection by the British. This drastically commenced the forced restructuring of the relationship of Adivasis to their territories as well as the power relationship between Adivasis and 'others'. The predominant external caste-based religion sanctioned and practiced a rigid and highly discriminatory hierarchical ordering with a strong cultural mooring.

This became the natural basis for the altered perception of Adivasis by the 'others' in determining the social, and hence, the economic and political space in the emerging larger society that is the Indian diaspora. Relegating the Adivasis to the lowest rung in the social ladder was but natural and formed the basis of social and political decision making by the largely upper caste controlled mainstream. The ancient Indian scriptures, scripted by the upper castes, also further provided legitimacy to this.

The subjugated peoples have been relegated to low status and isolated, instead of either being eliminated or absorbed. Entry of Europeans and subsequent colonisation of Asia transformed the relationship between the mainstream communities and tribal communities of this region. Introduction of capitalism, private property and the creation of a countrywide market broke the traditional economy based on use value and hereditary professions.
All tribal communities are not alike. They are products of different historical and social conditions. They belong to four different language families, and several different racial stocks and religious moulds. They have kept themselves apart from feudal states and brahminical hierarchies for thousands of years.
In the Indian epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas (folklores) there are many references to interactions and wars between the forest or hill tribes and the Hindus.

Eminent historians who have done detailed research on the epic Ramayana (200 B.C to 500 B.C) have concluded that 'Lanka', the kingdom of the demonic king Ravana and 'Kishkinda', the homeland of the Vanaras (depicted as monkeys) were places situated south of Chitrakuta hill and north of Narmada river in middle India. Accordingly, Ravana and his demons were an aboriginal tribe, most probably the Gond, and the Vanaras, like Hanuman in the epic, belonged to the Savara and Korku tribes whose descendants still inhabit the central Indian forest belt. Even today, the Gond holds Ravana, the villain of Ramayana, in high esteem as a chief. Rama, the hero of Ramayana, is also known for slaughtering the Rakshasas (demons) in the forests!

The epic of Mahabharata refers to the death of Krishna at the hands of a Bhil Jaratha. In the ancient scriptures, considered to be sacred by the upper castes, various terms are used depicting Adivasis as almost non-humans. The epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Puranas, Samhitas and other so-called 'sacred books' refer to Adivasis as Rakshasa (demons), Vanara (monkeys), Jambuvan (boar men), Naga (serpents), Bhusundi Kaka (crow), Garuda (King of Eagles) etc. In medieval India, they were called derogatorily as Kolla, Villa, Kirata, Nishada, and those who surrendered or were subjugated were termed as Dasa (slave) and those who refused to accept the bondage of slavery were termed as Dasyu (a hostile robber).

Ekalavya, one of their archers was so skillful that the hero of the Aryans, Arjuna, could not stand before him. But they assaulted him, cutting his thumb and destroying his ability to fight - and then fashioned a story in which he accepted Drona as his Guru and surrendered his thumb as an offering to the master! The renowned writer Maheshwata Devi points out that Adivasis predated Hinduism and Aryanism, that Siva was not an Aryan god and that in the 8th century, the tribal forest goddess or harvest goddess was absorbed and adapted as Siva's wife. Goddess Kali, the goddess of hunters, has definitely had a tribal origin.

History of the Adivasis
Little is known about the relationship between the Adivasis and non-Adivasi communities during the Hindu and Muslim rules. There are stray references to wars and alliances between the Rajput kings and tribal chieftains in middle India and in the North-East between the Ahom Kings of Brahmaputra valley and the hill Nagas. They are considered to be ati-sudra meaning lower than the untouchable castes. Even today, the upper caste people refer to these peoples as jangli, a derogatory term meaning "those who are like wild animals" - uncivilised or sub-humans.

The Adivasis have few food taboos, rather fluid cultural practices and minimal occupational specialization, while on the other hand, the mainstream population of the plains have extensive food taboos, more rigid cultural practices and considerable caste-based occupational specialisation. In the Hindu caste system, the Adivasis have no place. The so-called mainstream society of India has evolved as an agglomeration of thousands of small-scale social groups whose identities within the larger society are preserved by not allowing them to marry outside their social groups.

The subjugated groups became castes forced to perform less desirable menial jobs like sweeping, cleaning of excreta, removal of dead bodies, leather works etc - the untouchables. Some of the earliest small-scale societies dependent on hunting and gathering, and traditional agriculture seem to have remained outside this process of agglomeration. These are the Adivasis of present day. Their autonomous existence outside the mainstream led to the preservation of their socio-religious and cultural practices, most of them retaining also their distinctive languages. Widow burning, enslavement, occupational differentiation, hierarchical social ordering etc are generally not there. Though there were trade between the Adivasis and the mainstream society, any form of social intercourse was discouraged. Caste India did not consciously attempt to draw them into the orbit of caste society.

But in the process of economic, cultural and ecological change, Adivasis have attached themselves to caste groups in a peripheral manner, and the process of de-tribalisation is a continuous one. Many of the Hindu communities have absorbed the cultural practices of the Adivasis. Although Hinduism could be seen as one unifying thread running through the country as a whole, it is not homogenous but in reality a conglomeration of centuries old traditions and shaped by several religious and social traditions which are more cultural in their essence (and including elements of Adivasi socio-religious culture).

Adivasis at the lowest rung of the ladder
Adivasis are not, as a general rule, regarded as unclean by caste Hindus in the same way as Dalits are. But they continue to face prejudice (as lesser humans), they are socially distanced and often face violence from society. They are at the lowest point in every socioeconomic indicator. Today the majority of the population regards them as primitive and aims at decimating them as peoples or at best integrating them with the mainstream at the lowest rung in the ladder. This is especially so with the rise of the fascist Hindutva forces.

None of the brave Adivasi fights against the British have been treated as part of the "national" struggle for independence. From the Malpahariya uprising in 1772 to Lakshman Naik's revolt in Orissa in 1942, the Adivasis repeatedly rebelled against the British in the north-eastern, eastern and central Indian belt. In many of the rebellions, the Adivasis could not be subdued, but terminated the struggle only because the British acceded to their immediate demands, as in the case of the Bhil revolt of 1809 and the Naik revolt of 1838 in Gujarat. Heroes like Birsa Munda, Kanhu Santhal, Khazya Naik, Tantya Bhil, Lakshman Naik, Kuvar Vasava, Rupa Naik, Thamal Dora, Ambul Reddi, Thalakkal Chandu etc are remembered in the songs and stories of the Adivasis but ignored in the official text books.

The British Crown's dominions in India consisted of four political arrangements:

the Presidency Areas where the Crown was supreme,
the Residency Areas where the British Crown was present through the Resident and the Ruler of the realm was subservient to the Crown,
the Agency (Tribal) areas where the Agent governed in the name of the Crown but left the local self-governing institutions untouched and
the Excluded Areas (north-east) where the representatives of the Crown were a figure head.

After the transfer of power, the rulers of the Residency Areas signed the "Deed of Accession" on behalf of the ruled on exchange they were offered privy purse. No deed was however signed with most of the independent Adivasi states. They were assumed to have joined the Union. The government rode rough shod on independent Adivasi nations and they were merged with the Indian Union. This happened even by means of state violence as in the case of Adivasi uprising in the Nizam's State of Hyderabad and Nagalim.

While this aspect did not enter the consciousness of the Adivasis at large in the central part of India where they were preoccupied with their own survival, the picture was different in the north-east because of the historic and material conditions. Historically the north-east was never a part of mainland India. The colonial incorporation of north-east took place much later than the rest of the Indian subcontinent. While Assam ruled by the Ahoms came under the control of British in 1826, neighbouring Bengal was annexed in 1765. Garo Hills were annexed in 1873, Naga Hills in 1879 and Mizoram under the Chin-Lushai Expeditions in 1881-90. Consequently, the struggles for self-determination took various forms as independence to greater autonomy.

A process of marginalization today, the total forest cover in India is reported to be 765.21 thousand sq. kms. of which 71% are Adivasi areas. Of these 416.52 and 223.30 thousand sq. kms. are categorised as reserved and protected forests respectively. About 23% of these are further declared as Wild Life Sanctuaries and National Parks which alone has displaced some half a million Adivasis. By the process of colonisation of the forests that began formally with the Forest Act of 1864 and finally the Indian Forest Act of 1927, the rights of Adivasis were reduced to mere privileges conferred by the state.

This was in acknowledgement of their dependence on the forests for survival and it was politically forced upon the rulers by the glorious struggles that the Adivasis waged persistently against the British. The Forest Policy of 1952, the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972 and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 downgraded these privileges of the peoples to concessions of the state in the post-colonial period.

With globalisation, there are now further attempts to change these paternalistic concessions to being excluded as indicated by the draft "Conservation of Forests and Natural Ecosystems Act" that is to replace the forest act and the amendments proposed to the Land Acquisition Act and Schedule V of the constitution. In 1991, 23.03% of STs were literate as against 42.83% among the general population. The Government's Eighth Plan document mentions that nearly 52% of STs live below the poverty line as against 30% of the general population.

In a study on Kerala, a state considered to be unique for having developed a more egalitarian society with a high quality of life index comparable to that of only the 'developed' countries, paradoxically shows that for STs the below poverty line population was 64.5% while for Scheduled Castes it was 47% and others 41%. About 95% of Adivasis live in rural areas, less than 10% are itinerant hunter-gatherers but more than half depend upon forest produce. Very commonly, police, forest guards and officials bully and intimidate Adivasis and large numbers are routinely arrested and jailed, often for petty offences.
Only a few Adivasi communities which are forest dwellers have not been displaced and continue to live in forests, away from the mainstream development activities, such as in parts of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh, Koraput, Phulbani and Mayurbanj in Orissa and of Andaman Islands.

Thousands of Korku children below the age of six died in the 1990s due to malnutrition and starvation in the Melghat Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra due to the denial of access to their life sustaining resource base. Adivasis of Kalahandi-Bolangir in Orissa and of Palamu in south Bihar have reported severe food shortage. According to the Central Planning Committee of the Government of India, nearly 41 districts with significant Adivasi populations are prone to deaths due to starvation, which are not normally reported as such.
Invasion of Adivasi territories The "Land Acquisition Act" of 1894 concretised the supremacy of the sovereign to allow for total colonisation of any territory in the name of 'public interest' which in most cases are not community notions of common good. This is so especially for the Adivasis. The colonial juristic concept of res nullius (that which has not been conferred by the sovereign belongs to the sovereign) and terra nullius (land that belongs to none) bulldozed traditional political and social entities beginning the wanton destruction of traditional forms of self-governance.

The invasion of Adivasi territories, which for the most part commenced during the colonial period, intensified in the post-colonial period. Most of the Adivasi territories were claimed by the state. Over 10 million Adivasis have been displaced to make way for development projects such as dams, mining, industries, roads, protected areas etc. Though most of the dams (over 3000) are located in Adivasi areas, only 19.9% (1980-81) of Adivasi land holdings are irrigated as compared to 45.9% of all holdings of the general population. India produces as many as 52 principal, 3 fuel, 11 metallic, 38 non-metallic and a number of minor minerals.

Of these 45 major minerals (coal, iron ore, magnetite, manganese, bauxite, graphite, limestone, dolomite, uranium etc) are found in Adivasi areas contributing some 56% of the national total mineral earnings in terms of value. Of the 4,175 working mines reported by the Indian Bureau of Mines in 1991-92, approximately 3500 could be assumed to be in Adivasi areas. Income to the government from forests rose from Rs.5.6 million in 1869-70 to more than Rs.13 billions in the 1970s. The bulk of the nation's productive wealth lay in the Adivasi territories. Yet the Adivasi has been driven out, marginalised and robbed of dignity by the very process of 'national development'.

The systematic opening up of Adivasi territories, the development projects and the 'tribal development projects' make them conducive for waves of immigrants. In the rich mineral belt of Jharkhand, the Adivasi population has dropped from around 60% in 1911 to 27.67% in 1991. These developments have in turn driven out vast numbers of Adivasis to eke out a living in the urban areas and in far-flung places in slums. According to a rough estimate, there are more than 40,000 tribal domestic working women in Delhi alone! In some places, development induced migration of Adivasis to other Adivasi areas has also led to fierce conflicts as between the Santhali and the Bodo in Assam.

Internal colonialism Constitutional privileges and welfare measures benefit only a small minority of the Adivasis. These privileges and welfare measures are denied to the majority of the Adivasis and they are appropriated by more powerful groups in the caste order. The steep increase of STs in Maharashtra in real terms by 148% in the two decades since 1971 is mainly due to questionable inclusion, for political gains, of a number of economically advanced groups among the backwards in the list of STs.

The increase in numbers, while it distorts the demographic picture, has more disastrous effects. The real tribes are irretrievably pushed down in the 'access or claim ladder' with these new entrants cornering the lion's share of both resources and opportunities for education, social and economic advancement.
Despite the Bonded Labour Abolition Act of 1976, Adivasis still form a substantial percentage of bonded labour in the country.

Despite positive political, institutional and financial commitment to tribal development, there is presently a large scale displacement and biological decline of Adivasi communities, a growing loss of genetic and cultural diversity and destruction of a rich resource base leading to rising trends of shrinking forests, crumbling fisheries, increasing unemployment, hunger and conflicts. The Adivasis have preserved 90% of the country's bio-cultural diversity protecting the polyvalent, precolonial, biodiversity friendly Indian identity from bio-cultural pathogens. Excessive and indiscriminate demands of the urban market have reduced Adivasis to raw material collectors and providers.

It is a cruel joke that people who can produce some of India's most exquisite handicrafts, who can distinguish hundreds of species of plants and animals, who can survive off the forests, the lands and the streams sustainably with no need to go to the market to buy food, are labeled as 'unskilled'. Equally critical are the paths of resistance that many Adivasi areas are displaying: Koel Karo, Bodh Ghat, Inchampalli, Bhopalpatnam, Rathong Chu ... big dams that were proposed by the enlightened planners and which were halted by the mass movements.

Such a situation has risen because of the discriminatory and predatory approach of the mainstream society on Adivasis and their territories. The moral legitimacy for the process of internal colonisation of Adivasi territories and the deliberate disregard and violations of constitutional protection of STs has its basis in the culturally ingrained hierarchical caste social order and consciousness that pervades the entire politico-administrative and judicial system. This pervasive mindset is also a historical construct that got reinforced during colonial and post-colonial India.

The term 'Criminal Tribe' was concocted by the British rulers and entered into the public vocabulary through the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 under which a list of some 150 communities including Adivasis, were mischievously declared as (naturally) 'criminal'. Though this shameful act itself was repealed in 1952, the specter of the so-called 'criminal tribes' continue to haunt these 'denotified tribes' - the Sansi, Pardhi, Kanjar, Gujjar, Bawaria, Banjara and others. They are considered as the first natural suspects of all petty and sundry crimes except that they are now hauled up under the Habitual Offenders Act that replaced the British Act! Stereotyping of numerous communities has reinforced past discriminatory attitudes of the dominant mainstream in an institutionalised form.

There is a whole history of legislation, both during the pre-independence as well as post-independence period, which was supposed to protect the rights of the Adivasis. As early as 1879, the "Bombay Province Land Revenue Code" prohibited transfer of land from a tribal to a non-tribal without the permission of the authorities. The 1908 "Chotanagpur Tenancy Act" in Bihar, the 1949 "Santhal Pargana Tenancy (Supplementary) Act", the 1969 "Bihar Scheduled Areas Regulations", the 1955 "Rajasthan Tenancy Act" as amended in 1956, the 1959 "MPLP Code of Madhya Pradesh", the 1959 "Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Areas Land Transfer Regulation" and amendment of 1970, the 1960 "Tripura Land Revenue Regulation Act", the 1970 "Assam Land and Revenue Act", the 1975 "Kerala Scheduled Tribes (Restriction of Transfer of Lands and Restoration of Alienated Lands) Act" etc. are state legislations to protect Adivasi land rights.
In Andhra for example, enquiries on land transfer violations were made in 57,150 cases involving 245,581 acres of land, but only about 28% of lands were restored despite persistent militant struggles. While in the case of Kerala, out of a total claim for 9909.4522 hectares made by 8754 applicants, only 5.5% of the claims have been restored. And this is happening in spite of favourable judicial orders - orders which the state governments are circumventing by attempting to dismantle the very protective legislation itself.

The callous and casual manner with which mainstream India approaches the fulfillment of the constitutional obligations with reference to the tribes, and the persistent attempts by the politico-administrative system to subvert the constitution by deliberate acts of omission and commission, and the enormous judicial tolerance towards this speak volumes on the discriminatory approach that permeates the society with regard to the legal rights of the Adivasis.

Race, religion and language
The absence of neat classifications of Adivasis as a homogenous social-cultural category and the intensely fluid nature of non-Adivasis are evident in the insuperable difficulty in arriving at a clear anthropological definition of a tribal in India, be it in terms of ethnicity, race, language, social forms or modes of livelihood.

The major waves of ingress into India divide the tribal communities into Veddids, similar to the Australian aborigines, and the Paleamongoloid Austro-Asiatic from the north-east. The third were the Greco-Indians who spread across Gujarat, Rajasthan and Pakistan from Central Asia. The fourth is the Negrito group of the Andaman Islands - the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa and the Sentinelese who flourished in these parts for some 20,000 years but who could well become extinct soon. The Great Andamanese have been wiped out as a viable community with about only 30 persons alive as are the Onges who are less than a 100.

In the mid-Indian region, the Gond who number over 5 million, are the descendants of the dark skinned Kolarian or Dravidian tribes and speak dialects of Austric language family as are the Santhal who number 4 million. The Negrito and Austroloid people belong to the Mundari family of Munda, Santhal, Ho, Ashur, Kharia, Paniya, Saora etc. The Dravidian groups include the Gond, Oraon, Khond, Malto, Bhil, Mina, Garasia, Pradhan etc. and speak Austric or Dravidian family of languages. The Gujjar and Bakarwal descend from the Greco Indians and are interrelated with the Gujjar of Gujarat and the tribes settled around Gujranwala in Pakistan.

There are some 200 indigenous peoples in the north-east. The Boro, Khasi, Jantia, Naga, Garo and Tripiri belong to the Mongoloid stock like the Naga, Mikir, Apatani, Boro, Khasi, Garo, Kuki, Karbi etc. and speak languages of the Tibeto-Burman language groups and the Mon Khmer. The Adi, Aka, Apatani, Dafla, Gallong, Khamti, Monpa, Nocte, Sherdukpen, Singpho, Tangsa, Wancho etc of Arunachal Pradesh and the Garo of Meghalaya are of Tibeto-Burman stock while the Khasi of Meghalaya belong to the Mon Khmer group. In the southern region, the Malayali, Irula, Paniya, Adiya, Sholaga, Kurumba etc belong to the proto-Australoid racial stock speaking dialects of the Dravidian family.

The Census of India 1991 records 63 different denominations as "other" of over 5.7 million people of which most are Adivasi religions. Though the Constitution recognises them as a distinct cultural group, yet when it comes to religion those who do not identify as Christians, Muslims or Buddhists are compelled to register themselves as Hindus. Hindus and Christians have interacted with Adivasis to civilize them, which has been defined as sanscritisation and westernisation. However, as reflected during the 1981 census it is significant that about 5% of the Adivasis registered their religion by the names of their respective tribes or the names adopted by them. In 1991 the corresponding figure rose to about 10% indicating the rising consciousness and assertion of identity!

Though Article 350A of the Constitution requires primary education to be imparted in mother tongue, in general this has not been imparted except in areas where the Adivasis have been assertive. NCERT, the state owned premier education research centre has not shown any interest. With the neglect of Adivasi languages, the State and the dominant social order aspire to culturally and socially emasculate the Adivasis subdued by the dominant cultures. The Anthropological Survey of India reported a loss of more than two-thirds of the spoken languages, most of them tribal.

Fragmentation Some of the ST peoples of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, W. Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram have their counterparts across the border in China (including Tibet), Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The political aspirations of these trans-border tribes who find themselves living in different countries as a result of artificial demarcation of boundaries by erstwhile colonial rulers continue to be ignored despite the spread and proliferation of militancy, especially in the north east, making it into a conflict zone.

The Adivasi territories have been divided amongst the states formed on the basis of primarily the languages of the mainstream caste society, ignoring the validity of applying the same principle of language for the Adivasis in the formation of states. Jharkhand has been divided amongst Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa though the Bihar part of Jharkhand has now become a separate state after decades of struggle. The Gond region has been divided amongst Orissa, Andhra, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Similarly the Bhil region has been divided amongst Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

In the north-east, for example, the Naga in addition are divided into Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Further administrative sub-divisions within the states into districts, talukas and panchayats have been organised in such a way that the tribal concentration is broken up which furthers their marginalisation both physically and politically.

The 1874 "Scheduled District Act", the 1919 "Government of India Act" and later the "Government of India Act" of 1935 classified the hill areas as excluded and partially excluded areas where the provincial legislature had no jurisdiction. These formed the basis for the Article 244 under which two separate schedules viz. the V Schedule and the VI Schedule were incorporated for provision of a certain degree of self-governance in designated tribal majority areas. However, in effect this remained a non-starter. However, the recent legislation of the Panchayat Raj (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996 has raised hope of a radical redefinition of self-governance.

By not applying the same yard stick and norms for Adivasis as for the upper caste dominated mainstream, by not genuinely recognizing the Adivasis' traditional self-governing systems and by not being serious about devolving autonomy, the Indian State and society indicates a racist and imperialist attitude.
The call for a socially homogenous country, particularly in the Hindi Hindu paradigm have suppressed tribal languages, defiled cultures and destroyed civilisations.

The creation of a unified albeit centralised polity and the extension of the formal system of governance have emasculated the self-governing institutions of the Adivasis and with it their internal cohesiveness.

The struggle for the future, the conceptual vocabulary used to understand the place of Adivasis in the modern world has been constructed on the feudal, colonial and imperialistic notions which combines traditional and historical constructs with the modern construct based on notions of linear scientific and technological progress.

Historically the Adivasis, as explained earlier, are at best perceived as sub-humans to be kept in isolation, or as 'primitives' living in remote and backward regions who should be "civilized". None of them have a rational basis. Consequently, the official and popular perception of Adivasis is merely that of isolation in forest, tribal dialect, animism, primitive occupation, carnivorous diet, naked or semi-naked, nomadic habits, love, drink and dance. Contrast this with the self-perception of Adivasis as casteless, classless and egalitarian in nature, community-based economic systems, symbiotic with nature, democratic according to the demands of the times, accommodative history and people-oriented art and literature.

The significance of their sustainable subsistence economy in the midst of a profit oriented economy is not recognised in the political discourse, and the negative stereotyping of the sustainable subsistence economy of Adivasi societies is based on the wrong premise that the production of surplus is more progressive than the process of social reproduction in co-existence with nature.

The source of the conflicts arises from these unresolved contradictions. With globalisation, the hitherto expropriation of rights as an outcome of development has developed into expropriation of rights as a precondition for development. In response, the struggles for the rights of the Adivasis have moved towards the struggles for power and a redefinition of the contours of state, governance and progress.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Undivided Bastar is larger in geographical area then Kerala State. Primitive
culture art, tradition and Adivasi life style has the power to destroy
imperialism. The best scholars in the world are doing research on how the
tribals lead to happy and lengthy life even in the absence of material
comforts. The study on their genes are also going on.

Under article 244 of the Indian constitution scheduled areas were
established under fifth schedule where all the administrative and executive
power will be in the hands of native people. Today they are fighting for
their rights through the reservations provided to them by the constitution.
They had their own culture and customs. According to that culture for them
their society is the highest.

Today in Bastar Bhoomkal Manjhi Govt. system is going on by Manjhi Sarkar,
Pargana, Manjhis, Chalkis, Permad, Gyata, Pujaris and Barelas according to
their primitive tradition. Even Mughal emperors also respected them. But the
suppressive and exploitative policies of the Britishers led Bhoomkal Manjhi
Govt. to revolt. This freedom movement was led by Amarvir Gundadhar. This
movement affected the whole Bastar State.

The leader of the Bhhomkal Manjhi Govt. Amarvir Gundadhar shouted the slogan
– "We want Adivasi Muriya Raj". This Bhoomkal movement was known as
Bhoomkal blood revolution. In 1911 British Govt. declared Bastar as
independent state before the leadership of martyr Gundadhar.

The puja is performed of Rajarao Bhatta Rao on Raoghat hills. There is a
huge temple of Purwatraj and Maoli Mata, Danteshwari's fair is organized
every year.

Raoghat is also called as Raodongri, there are many herbal plants on this
hill including huge forest cover. This hill is the soul of human being as
it has the valuable stones and NTFP like Mahua, Sal seed, Tori etc.

In that case mining on this hill is against the primitive culture of the
tribes. In the month June 2007 huge crowd of tribe demonstrated campaign
against the mining of Raoghat hill. The Raoghat hill is the natural place of
workship, where all human beings live in harmony. In today's modern age also
life is not possible without forest. In the 1990-91 census of trees by
forest department, there were 7.1 thousand million trees on Raoghat. So
destroying this forest in also against public interest. Bastar is a tribal
dominated area. So the MNCs under the pressure of world market are looting
the natural resources in the name of industrialization. There are Vaishnav
Devi temple and Bamleshwari temple on this hill. Both these (Shaktipeeths)
powerful holy place are centre of belief of Bastar. But the centre of
worship and beliefs of tribes has no place in the thinking of capitalism.

Some people are trying to suppress tribal people and remove them from their
native places in the name of development. Tribal culture is at the verge of
destruction, so this is the need of the hour to implement sixth schedule in
tribal area.

Ratneshwar Nath

[It was published in Young India (Ahmedabad), dated February 12, 1925, and reproduced by M.N. Gupta in his book. They Lived Dangerously, PPH, New Delhi, 1969.]

I THINK IT IS MY DUTY TO REMIND YOU OF THE promise you made some time back that you would retire from the political field at the time when the revolutionaries will once more emerge from their silence and enter into the Indian political arena. The experiment with the non-violent non-cooperation movement is now over. You wanted one complete year for your experiment, but the experiment lasted at least four complete years, if not five, and still do you mean to say that the experiment was not tired long enough?

You are one of the greatest of personalities in the present age and under your direct guidance and inspiration, your programme was actually taken up, for some reason or other, by the best men in the land. Thousands young men, the flower of the youth of our country, embraced your cult with all the enthusiasm they could gather. Practically the whole nation responded to your call. We can safely say that the response was phenomenal if not miraculous. What more could you want? Sacrifice and sincerity on the part of your followers were not wanting; the most selfish of professional men gave up their professions, young men of the country renounced all their worldly prospects and joined the forces under your banner hundreds of families were rendered destitute for want of pecuniary income. Money was not wanting. You wanted one crore of rupees and you got more than you wanted. In fact I shall perhaps be not far from the truth if I say that the response to your call was more than you yourself expected. I venture to say that India followed your lead to the best of her ability, and this I think can hardly be denied, and still do you mean to say that the experiment was not tried far enough?

In fact, your programme failed for no fault of the Indians. You have only a programme to the country, but you could not lead the nation to a victorious end. To say that non-violent non-cooperation failed because the people were not sufficiently non-violent is to argue like a lawyer and not like a prophet. The people could not be more non-violent than they were during the last few years. I would like to say that they were non-violent to a degree which smelt of cowardice. You would perhaps say that it was not this non-violence, the non-violence of the cowards, that you wanted. But your programme did not contain that item which could transform cowards into heroes or which could detect and ultimately reject the cowards from the bands of heroes. This was no fault of the people. And to say that the majority of non-cooperators was cowards and not heroes, is to shirk responsibilities. To say this is rather tocommit an outrage on the manliness of the nation. Indians are not cowards. Their heroism can always be compared with that of the best heroes of the world. To deny this is to deny history. When I speak of Indians’ heroism I mean not only the heroism which sparkled in the annals of the glorious past, but I include the heroism that is manifesting itself in the present, because India is still not dead.
What India wants is a true leader, a leader like Guru Gobind Singh or Guru Ramdas and Shivaji. India wants a Krishana who can give a worthy ideal, to be followed not by India alone, but buy all humanity, by all the members of this humanity with diverse temperaments and capacities.

Non-violent non-cooperation movement failed not because there was sporadic outburst of suppressed feelings here and there but because the movement was lacking in a worthy ideal. The ideal that you preached was not in keeping with Indian culture and traditions. It savoured of imitation. Your philosophy of non-violence, at least the philosophy that you gave to the people for their acceptance, was a philosophy arising out of despair. It was not the spirit of kshama of the Indian rishis, it was not the spirit of ahimsa of the great Indian yogins. It was an imperfect physical mixture of Tolstoyism and Buddhism and not a chemical mixture of East and West. You adopted the western method of congresses and conferences and tried to persuade the whole nation to accept the spirit of ahimsa, irrespective of desh, kal and patra like like Tolstoy, but which was a matter of individual sadhana with the Indians. And above all, you were and are still vague as regards India’s ultimate political goal. This is miserable. Your idea of independence is not in consistence with Indian ideals. India stands for Sarvan paravasham dukkham sarvamatmavasham sukham and for the ideal that individual existence is solely for the purpose of humanity and through humanity serving god, jagathitaya cha krishnaya cha. The non-violence that India preaches is not non-violence for the sake of non-violence, but non-violence for the good of humanity, and when this good for humanity will demand violence and bloodshed, India will not hesitate to shed blood just in the same way as a surgical operation necessitates the shedding of blood. To an ideal Indian, violence or non-violence has the same significance, provided they ultimately do good to humanity. Vinashay cha duskkritama was not spoken in vain.

To my mind, therefore, the ideal that you gave to the nation or the programme of action that you laid before it, is neither consistent with Indian culture nor practicable as a political programme.

It is simply inconceivable and incomprehensible to think that you still dare to entertain the slightest hope that England can be just and generous out of her free will-this England ‘which believes in Jallianwalabagh massacres as a legitimate means of self-defence’, this England which tried the O’Dwyer-Nair case and gave Judgement in favour of barbarism. If you have an iota af faith left in you in the good sense of the British government, then according to you where is the necessity of any programme at all? If there is any necessity of any movement in order to bring the British government to their senses, then why speak of the honesty and good intentions of the British government? It seems that the prophet in you is gone and you are once more a lawyer defending a weak case; or perhaps you are always an exponent – a mighty exponent – of half-truths only. A sovereign independent Indian Republic in alliance or in federation with the other independent nations of the earth is one thing, and self-governing India within this imperialistic British empire is perfectly another thing. Your sentiment of remaining within the British empire reminds one of the many Himalayan miscalculations, that you have compromised a worthy ideal with the present needs of a false expediency, and this is the reason that you have failed to capture the imagination of the youths of the country-youths who could dare and who are still daring to go against your wishes although they unhesitatingly recognise you as one of the greatest of personalities of the modern age. These are the Indian revolutionaries. They have now decided to remain silent no more and therefore they request you to retire from the political field, or else to direct the political movement in a way so that it may be a help and not a hindrance to the revolutionary movement. They suspended their activities so long simply to comply to your request direct and indirect, and they went further. They actually helped you in the carrying out of your programme to the best of their abilities. But now the experiment is over and therefore the revolutionaries are free from their promise, or, as a matter of fact, they promised to remain silent only for a year and no more.

Further, I would like to point out that you have misjudged the revolutionaries in many respects when you blamed them in your recent presidential address in the 39th Congress. You said that the revolutionaries are retarding India’s progress. I do not know what you mean by this word ‘progress’. If you mean political progress, then can you deny that every political progress that India has already made, however little that might be, has been made chiefly by the sacrifices and the efforts of the revolutionary party? Can you deny that the Bengal partition was annulled through the effort of the Bengal revolutionaries? Can you doubt that the Morley-Minto reform was the outcome of the Indian revolutionary movement which was mainly though not wholly instrumental in bringing about the Montford reform? I shall not be very much surprised if you will answer these queries in the affirmative but I can assure you that the British government realises the potentiality of this movement. Even the late Mr. Montague expressed to an Indian of position and rank that he took the trouble of coming to India and risked his life simply due to the activities of the young Indian revolutionaries.

If you mean that these reforms are no index to true progress, then I would venture to say that this revolutionary movement has achieved no mean progress in the moral advancement of India. Indians were miserably afraid of death and this revolutionary arty once more made the Indians realise the grandeur and the beauty that lie in dying for a noble cause. The revolutionaries have once again demos-trated that death has a certain charm and is not always a dreadful thing. To die for one’s own beliefs and convictions, to die in the consciousness that by so dying one is serving God and the nation, to accept death or to risk one’s life when there is every probability of death, for a cause which one honestly believes to be just and legitimate – is this no moral progress?

You have said to the revolutionaries, “You may not care for your own lives, but you dare not disregard those of your countrymen who have no desire to die a martyr’s death.” But the revolutionaries are at a sad loss to understand the meaning of this sentence. Do you mean to say that the revolutionaries are responsible for the death of 70 men who were condemned in the Chauri Chaura trial? Do you mean to say that the revolutionaries are responsible for the bombing and killing of innocent people at Jallianwalabagh and Gujranwalla? Did the revolutionaries, during their struggle for the last twenty years, in the past or in the present, ever ask the starving millions to take part in the revolutionary struggle? The revolutionaries have perhaps a better knowledge of the mass psychology than most of the present leaders. And this was the reason that they never wanted to deal with the masses until they become sure of their own strength. They always believed that the masses of northern India were ready for any emergency and they were also right in thinking that the masses of northern India are a dense matter of high explosive, dangerous to be handled carelessly. It was you and your lieutenants who misjudged the sentiments of the masses and dragged them into the satyagraha movement people who were groaning under a thousand oppressions from within and without, where the lightning of anger lay unperceived, and you had to pay the penalty for it. But, Can you given any instance where the revolutionaries dragged unwilling souls into valley of death?

Lastly, I would like to say something about the remarks you have made in connection with the strength of the British empire.
You have said to the revolutionaries, “Those whom you seek to depose, are better armed and infinitely better organised than you are.” But it is not shameful that a handful of Englishmen are able to rule India, not by the free consent of the Indian people but by the force of the sward? And if the English can be well-armed and well-organised, why cannot the Indian be better armed and better organised still-Indians who are saturated with the high principles of spirituality? Indians are men in the same sense as the Englishmen are. Then, what on earth makes the Indians so helpless as to think that they can never be better organised than their English masters? By what argument and logic of fact can you disprove the possibilities in which the revolutionaries have immense faith? And the spirit of non-violence that arises out of this sense of helplessness and despair can never be the non-violence of the strong, the non-violence of the Indian rishis. This is tamas, pure and simple.
Excise me Mahatmaji, if I am severe in criticising your philosophy and principles. You have criticised the revolutionaries most unsympathetically and even you went so far as to describe them ass the enemies of the country, simply because they differ from your views and methods. You preach tolerance but you have been violently intolerant in your criticism of the revolutionaries. The revolutionaries have risked their everything to serve their motherland, and if you cannot help them, at least be not intolerant towards them.

Friday, October 5, 2007


1. The place and the movement

Kashipur is a sub-division in the Rayagada district of (south) Orissa. According to the recent Census, the Jhodia and Kandho tribes and the Panos (untouchables or dalits) constitute a large majority of the population. Topographically the region can be divided into two distinct parts, 1 - the ghats or the mountains, 2 - the valley and the lower plains. Beginning with the colonial administrator-anthropologists, most historians and others writing on this part of our country have repeatedly stated that, over centuries of history, these people have been gradually pushed towards the infertile/less-fertile mountain lands by the Hindu caste peasants of the valleys or plains below.

They now survive on dongar (mountain slope) cultivation and collecting minor forest produce of various kinds, including seasonal fruits for a part of the year. That does not suffice. Another part of the year, they survive on the gruel of mango-kernel collected during the summer. Death due to starvation, malnutrition, and malaria is not uncommon.

The history of the people here has been a history of oppression by ‘social superiors’ and ‘outsiders’. And this history has continued since the days of their settlement and civilisation. During the nationalist movement the nationalists used the resentment of the ‘tribals’ against the forest contractors, liquor-vendors and sahukars for their own nationalist agenda without ever trying to understand them and their problems. Thus despite the romantic Verrier Elwin, the philanthropic Thakkar Bapa, the social and economic condition of the ‘tribals’ did not change meaningfully. In ‘independent’ India too they still toil hard for food. Wherever they work, the benefits of those works have never been theirs. There has been no provision for their education or health-care. They do not enjoy electricity nor have a supply of safe drinking water, yet at every general election their votes are sought by self-seeking politicians and they do cast votes, valid votes. Instead, the history of independent India has further increased their woes. One only has to take a look at the demographical details of the industrial cities of Bhilai (where Shankar Guha-Niyogi was shot dead while he was asleep) and Tatanagar. The ‘tribal’ people are the servants, ill-paid wage labourers, half-fed rickshaw pullers, TB patients, consumers of spurious and cheap liquor, and beggars, slum-dwellers in their own land. What a change?

Today, the people of Kashipur, are trying to stop the repetition of this history. Since 1993, they are engaged in a relentless battle to convert Kashipur into another Bhilai. It was in 1993 that the then government of Orissa entered into an understanding with a few trans-national companies/industrial houses, to start the mining of bauxite in the region with a design to set up plants for extraction of alumina and exporting the alumina for their production of aluminium. UAIL (Utkal Aluminium International Limited) was a consortium of Tata, Norsk-Hydro, Hindal Co. and Alcan. Now only Hindal Co. and Alcan are part of the consortium. UAIL is supposed to have its mines at Baphlimali. Similarly L&T will have its mines at Sijumali, Sterlite India Limited will have mines at Niyamgiri and Aditya Birla’s Hindal Co. will have another independent unit by mining at Kodingamali hills. All these units together are meant to affect about 2700 families of nearly 200 villages.

As the survey work started in the region the people started asking questions as to what is going to be done there (Independent India does not think them fit for providing information). Once they learnt what is going to happen, they resisted, initially by putting road blockades so that ‘experts’ cannot enter the region with their gadgets and creating difficulty in the survey process by snatching survey instruments. As the police tried to help the MNC officials by arresting some of the villagers, the people gheraoed police stations and got their friends released. Such protests, without physically harming anybody went on for a few years. And gradually, people of the place and activists from other peoples’ movements in Orissa joined hands and organised themselves. The companies got alarmed and recruited lumpens to physically attack a few of the protestors and activists. And with police connivance, the company thugs succeeded in beating up people. This did not deter the spirit of the people and the movement as it grew in strength.

The forces representing the private profiteers and their local minions fired on a peaceful gathering of protestors, on 16 December 2000, murdering three villagers at Maikanch. After this two of the trans-national companies withdrew from the project consortium. The judicial enquiry held to probe the incident of firing and killing tried to sanitise the entire attempt by suggesting, beyond its brief, ‘industrialisation in the region was necessary’.

After all these events, however, from October 2004, the Government of Orissa has again, rather aggressively tried to help the trans-national companies. It has set up police posts at almost every village, deployed the Indian Reserve Force, CRPF, Orissa Reserve Force to browbeat the villagers to subordination. Arbitrary arrests and the registering of false cases have become the order of the day. Since January 2005, till June 2005 around 30 arrests have been done which include many women and a boy who is 12 years old.

2. Aluminium and its beneficiary

The mining and production of alumina will exhaust the entire bauxite in the region in 23 years, which was formed in 650 lakh years of earth’s life. This region (namely eight districts of western Orissa province in India) is the largest bauxite deposit of the entire world (13% of world’s bauxite deposits being here). The bauxite deposits at this place are close to the surface of the earth; therefore, it is relatively economical to mine bauxite here. Beside, the alumina content in the bauxite in this region is about 45-48%. After mining of bauxite, here at Kashipur and other places in Orissa, alumina will be extracted from the bauxite and alumina will be exported to the western world for the production of aluminium. The final product will not be made here.

The production will pollute the environment of the entire region, particularly contaminating its water. Mining, which will level mountains, will dry up the perennial mountain streams, which supply drinking water to a large number of people, towards whom the government seems to have no responsibility. The processing of alumina from bauxite leaves a huge amount of toxic waste and chemicals, known as the ‘red mud’. The red mud contains fluoride compounds, and wherever it is dumped, it contaminates the underground water sources of the place. Bauxite mining all over the world has destroyed forest covers. It is clearly at the cost of the lives and livelihood of the marginalised section of the society, namely the small peasants, that the aluminium industry grows. So who benefits in this project of ‘development’? Aluminium is used for utensils, food-wrapping, electric wire etc. but most of the aluminium produced is used in the building of air-craft, defence research and missile-making etc. It is mostly used in the western world. And how many pages of history must we flip through to find its answer?

The mining leases given to the various aluminium companies violate the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India. UAIL particularly, we have information, is working on the project without the mandatory environmental clearance. The area where the lease has been given falls under the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court of India in the case, Samatha vs State of AP, 1997, categorically held that transfer of land by any means including lease by the government to a non-tribal is not permissible under the Fifth Schedule. But the government of Orissa maintains that this judgment is not applicable in Orissa and has been transferring the land of the tribals around Kashipur to industries.

Even the PESA Act (1996) states that before any land acquisition, particularly in the scheduled areas, it is imperative to consult gram sabhas (Village Councils) and involve them in decision-making. The state initially refused to consult the gram sabhas and started land acquisition from the people. Lately gram sabhas were conducted to fulfill legal requirements, those were exercises flouting all norms and obtaining consent through force. A striking example of this is that of D. Karal, where the village was cordoned off and the gram sabha meeting was conducted in the intimidating presence of heavily armed police and district officials who had been openly campaigning for the setting up of the industrial units. People were prevented from speaking at the meeting; the minutes and decisions recorded were not read out to the villagers, and the people present were asked to sign on blank papers.

3. Fear of further subordination

During the last few visits of some of us here in Delhi to Kashipur (particularly the villages Kucheipadar, Bagrijhola, Barigaon, Maikanch) and the interaction we had with the people there the following fears were expressed, which were based on the historical reality of industrial expansion and further marginalisation of poor people. The people of Kashipur have fear of the new order that industrialisation will usher in. It has been discussed over and over again in various contexts that the people of such project areas are sure to lose their land or means of their livelihood. This question or fear is supposed to have been addressed in what is called the ‘Rehabilitation Package’. The Supreme Court of India in one of its judgments on such rehabilitation packages has suggested that ‘land for land’ can be the only solution in such cases. But is there sufficient land, of an equivalent quality, for compensating the loss? The answer can never be in the affirmative. The rehabilitation package contains many more provisions as housing with educational and primary health-care facilities. But that does not seem to allay the fears of the people there.

The question is, if the rehabilitation’ (whatever that means) is done properly will the people of Kashipur willingly and merrily leave their hamlets/settlements, land and not oppose the setting up of the aluminium plants and mining facilities? The answer is a NO. Then why do the people insist on not leaving their land and village? The answer lies in the following dialogue with a friend in Barigaon village of Kashipur.

Mr. Bulka is an elderly person, passed his sixtieth birthday, a respected leader of not only his village but also of the entire movement against industrialisation (recently when he was released from jail, he was taken in a procession on the shoulders of the young men to his village). He said, ‘the government and the company are speaking of providing us with jobs in lieu of our land. But can they do that? The government is a bigger organisation than the (Aluminium) Company. When the government has not been able to provide jobs for all the educated people in the province, when there are so many unemployed youth, how can the Company provide jobs for all of us, the displaced people? And why do they expect us to believe in this false promise?’ He went on, ‘The Company, if at all, will give some jobs to some young men only, that too with a small pay – as coolies – they won’t employ us as babus (white collar jobs). What will happen to the old men and women (who in their kind of society are also engaged in productive labour/agriculture)? And those who will be employed will be subjected to the supervision and abuses of a superior official. We work in our land according to our own rhythm; there is nobody to look over our shoulders. But in the Company there will always be somebody to direct you. Therefore we do not need any jobs and we will fight to protect our village and the land till the end.’

Unmistakably, there was a refusal to surrender to the new forms of subordination that the people of Kashipur will be subjected to. They do not want to remain as less or uneducated people who can only be manual labourers. They do not want to be subjected to the industrial time discipline. They do not want to be under the constant gaze of a superior officer.

Mr. Bulka, who takes sufficient pride in his own society and culture added, ‘When the Company (industry) will come, all will be gone. The village, the land, the forest, the mountain streams, even the wild life. It is because of us that the wild life is still there. The bears and deer eat our corn and maize. If there will be no forest and agriculture, how will they survive? We use the forest for timber, leaves and fruits and kept it alive for our purposes.’ This was a claim which was not untrue. We witnessed ‘machans’ in their agricultural lands, which attested that there is still wild life around to destroy their crops, for the protection of which they have erected the ‘machans’.

Expressing his resentment against the urban-oriented rehabilitation residential complexes created at a nearby industrial town, namely Damanjodi, Mr. Bulka said, ‘The houses are not worthy of living. Those are small and narrow. You cannot plant a lanka or a mango tree in the yard. It is so small that your friends cannot assemble there.’ To our interjection that those are pucca (concrete) houses, he responded, ‘yes those are pucca houses, but it is not like our village. There is no room for our young boys and girls to dance. We cannot grow our food, as there would be no land. There will be no streams for us to use its water. We have to pay for everything such as water, food. We even have to pay for the funeral of our near and dear ones.’

A market-oriented existence, where everything is mediated through money and cash is not a very tempting proposal for them. This is because they will always be, in such a system, at the receiving end, as they are genuinely afraid, they will never have sufficient cash to be comfortable in that situation.

Thus they are fighting for freedom and dignity, none of which can be ensured in the industrialisation or the concomitant ‘rehabilitation’.

Source:Debarpita Manjit, revol. democracy

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

POSCO Destroys Rural Families of Jagatsinghpur

Special Economic Zones or SEZs as they are called in India are part and parcel of the New Economic Policy elaborated by the World Bank and imitated by their Indian agents. Since the early nineties the mainstream political parties of India are following the dictates of the imperialist powers and their anti-people puppet institutions e.g. the World Bank (WB) and the International Monitory Fund (IMF). As if these two were not sufficient to destroy the poverty-ridden third world, in 1995 another organisation: the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was added to destroy completely the local industry and agriculture of the third world. Look, how the people in Asia, Africa and Latin America are suffering in their millions in the hands of international corporate fascism!

The aim of the New Economic policy is to dismantle the public sector institutions built-up brick by brick during the last 6 decades with a lot of public wealth so that a colony of British Empire could face the challenges of poverty and destruction due to the ‘partition’ willfully imposed by the British rulers. It is wrong to say that the western educated Indian rulers wanted to build up the post-partition Indian economy where the role of private capital would be minimum or zero. Rather, on the specific requests of Indian trading private capital, public sector organisations were created to serve the long term interests of these private traders of yesteryear and till today that is the philosophy of Indian public sector (PSU). Indian private capital till today is not interested in long term investment in infrastructure and capital goods industry. Their only target was to trade or work as commission agents. Many of present day stalwarts of industry and commerce in India started work as ‘managing agents’ and earned huge amounts of surpluses by corrupt, fraudulent and illegal means. In all businesses where these stalwarts entered, the only philosophy of business was to earn quick profits at the cost of the national interest. In foreign trade, invoices were made fake fictitiously, foreign exchange earned were kept abroad, in preparation for the annual accounts required for Company Law and Income Tax Law, everything was manipulated, and corruption everywhere was the order of the day. MNCs like Hindustan Lever, Imperial Tobacco, Siemens, and Philips etc. were also making quick bucks and putting pressure on the political system to allow more and more MNCs to come to India so that imperialists would enjoy the same freedom to exploit India’s one billion population as the East India Company enjoyed from 1757 to 1858 and the British Raj till 1947.

After the death of Mao Zedong the Chinese Communist Party adopted the age old ‘capitalist’ path resulting in huge investments of MNCs from the rest of the world. Today Chinese goods are on the shelves of almost all the retail trading houses of the world. The phenomenal growth of China both in economic expansion and in military might frighten the imperialists. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headed by the US wants to create a buffer between China and them. On their advice, the Indian ruling class decided to follow the same Chinese route of economic activity, of course, without nuclear war power. The slogan was, ‘liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation’ (LPG). The Indian ruling class on the advice of their foreign masters handed over the future of more than a billion population to organised international criminal corporate houses without developing any type of checks and balances as is normal in the developed world. China has one party rule and they are very strict in enforcing the rules on their business houses. In US laws are meant to help unrestricted working of the corporate sector, but they can’t go beyond the four walls of law. Enron, for example in recent history, was doing a roaring business throughout the globe but once detected of ‘window dressing’ or fraud, the entire structure was crushed. Both Mr. Ratan Tata and Mr. Lakshmi Mittal faced all sorts of hurdles before they could acquire those steel companies in the EU. No one can imagine that can happen in India, though Indian stalwarts like Pandit Nehru promised to hang them on a ‘lamp post’ if they indulged in corruption, adulteration and cheating the nation. Thus the in Indian context everything is allowed provided one knows whom to approach! On the international ‘corruption index’ India is in a ‘respectable’ high position, but on the ‘human development index’ India’s placement is in the 125th or 127th among the 180 odd countries. This is in short the real lesson from the long story of ‘9 to 10 percent growth or development’ of this subcontinent during the last six decades.

In our school textbooks during colonial days we read that ‘Indian agriculture depends on the monsoon’, and today after 60 long years of so-called ‘independence’ day in day out all the media show the progress of monsoon since the first week of June every year. Why is the monsoon is so important to-day? What happened to the crores of rupees spent on big dams and irrigation projects? Where are those contractors, politicians and engineers who cheated this country? Around 700 million people are still in the villages of India whose only occupation is agriculture. Most of the holdings are either small or marginal. Big size holders of land are very small in number. The increasing cost of cultivation, uncertain market conditions and high rate of interest for private loans are causing widespread bankruptcy among increasing number of cultivating families. ‘Farmers’ deaths’ are no longer news; one may get international awards by highlighting the total failure of Indian agriculture. It is happening every day in different parts of the country. Even ‘once upon a time very rich Punjabi farmers’ are committing suicide because they can’t pay their debts. Farmers in Vidarbha in Maharashtra are selling their human organs to pay off debt, in Punjab one finds advertisements that this or that village is ‘on sale’. Even then the Indian representatives in World Economic Forum meetings is increasing year after year! From the face of these representatives of Indian destitutes there is hardly any expression that they at all think of this country and its billion populations.

Who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs? We were told that ‘green revolution’ and ‘white revolution’ were achieved in India. But in recent times our internal production of cereals, lentils, cooking oils and so on are short in supply and India is forced to import them at any price, because the internal price of these commodities of these day to day requirements are sky high. In the same manner milk and milk products are imported by MNCs and distributed in the country. We read everyday discussions on ‘food security’, minimum calories etc.etc. but who is going to implement it in a World Bank dictated ‘market economy’. Food, clothing and shelter are meant for those who have purchasing power, but how many Indians earn one US $ a day for 365 days in a year. One US $ gets now Rs 40 ( in future it will fall further) and the official urban minimum wage is double or treble of this figure in many urban centres in India. One kilogramme of flour costs around Rs. 20 and it is impossible for a family of 5 or 6 members to live on Rs 40 per day income. The villages of India are destroyed by the well planned economic policies followed by the mainstream political parties: both the UPA supported by the ‘left’and the NDA. The recent birth of the UNPA, as a form of another cartel in the political bazaar of India deserves observation, as AIDMK and others betrayed in recent Presidential election!

The present economic situation in rural India is the result of a well thought-out strategy of the imperialist powers. Both the US and the EU have to maintain their agricultural sector with a huge subsidy and they want a greater market share in the developing countries. That is why the WTO forced India to withdraw all import duties on agricultural commodities but refused to withdraw their own subsidies and flatly denied to reduce import restrictions on agricultural commodities from the third world countries. Result is, as an example, Indian cotton growers can not compete with imported subsidised cotton from US and when they run in huge debt they are forced to commit suicide. ‘Genetically modified (GM)’ crops grow in huge quantity and developed countries want market in the developing countries. These GM crops are dangerous for man and beast. We don’t know whether India is importing any GM crop and in what quantity. But they are selling GM seeds manipulating politicians. Even the judiciary is party to this anti-people conspiracy of the MNCs. Our policy makers willingly never allowed either private or public investments in agriculture, though around two-third of our workers are directly dependent on agriculture. This is the largest private sector in India, a family of 5 or 6 are directly engaged in his or her tiny farm during the crop season New economic reform measures of Government of India want to utilise the golden opportunity of man made agricultural bankruptcy to throw out millions of this country from this occupation! What is the alternative for these hapless people?

Relatively backward states like Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa are rich in minerals and water resources. Tribals are the significant population in these states. Where tribals live below the surface of their huts and cultivating land there is huge reserve of iron ore, manganese, coal, bauxite etc. etc. – costly mineral resources of the country in huge quantity. Both Indian Corporates and MNCs are flocking in large numbers to these three states and negotiating with the local corrupt politicians of the state governments to get ownership rights of these mineral resources. Every one wants to acquire ‘captive mines’, so that they can make this country empty of minerals within no time. They want to start factories to process these minerals into finished products and /or export raw minerals to foreign countries. Paradeep port on Orissa coast was developed by Japan long ago to export iron ore. Now China is the largest buyer of iron ore from India though they have their own huge reserve of ore. They have stopped export of their own iron ore. There is no ‘national’ mineral policy of the Government of India in general and on iron ore in particular. It is decided ad hoc, based on who will earn what amount. Exhaustible minerals like coal, iron ore and others are not exported when the country like India needs it for its mere survival. The centre is committed to export, it has nothing to do with ‘national interest’. In the recent Corus takeover negotiations of the Tatas, the Government of India is reported to have assured the Tatas of cheaper iron ore from India. The same assurances were probably given to NRI businessman Mr. Mittal. Everyone wants exclusive ownership of captive mines from where they can withdraw as much as they want at the minimum price to be decided by the politicians irrespective of price escalation in the world market. This is practiced only in India, nowhere else in the world. This is only one example how corporate loot is openly allowed by the new economic policy dictated by the WB, IMF and WTO.

The same thing has happened with POSCO (Pohang Steel Company Ltd.) of South Korea. This is a big steel producer in the world and it has steel plants in many countries. On June 22, 2005 POSCO and Government of Orissa entered into an agreement that this foreign company will invest around $12 billion (now around Rs 48000 crores and it may go down further in future with appreciation of Rupee) and produce around 12 million tones of steel per annum. They will use around 600 million tons of iron ore and export around 400 million tons of good quality ore through a captive port to be developed near the existing Paradeep port. The project will get water from the Mahanadi barrage at Jobra and Naraj in Cuttack. As there is no surplus water available, who will suffer when Posco starts withdrawing water. Why do not they use the sea water after processing? Centre has given the green signal to the Project as an SEZ and therefore, it is entitled to all the concessions of an SEZ. The project requires a land area of 4004 acres in three panchayats: Gadakujang, Dhinkia and Nuagaon in the district of Jagatsinghpur. They will require more land for developing infrastructure. The government claims that 471 families will be affected and many of them have already accepted compensation! However, in their meetings those who protest against acquisition claim attendance of more than 20,000 people of around 4000 families. Why is the Orissa government not telling the truth? Whom they are afraid of?

Why is FDI in steel making required in 2007? Don’t we have enough Indian producers of steel; both in the Private and Public sector. Is it that our steel makers don’t have enough funds for investment? Some of them are migrating to distant lands to produce steel. During the last one year two big steel companies were sold out outside India because the owners failed to run it profitably. One was purchased by Mr Mittal, an NRI and the other was acquired by Mr Tata. One of the main reasons why they were sold is because cost of iron ore is getting costlier day by day. China produces huge quantities of steel, it has its own iron ore reserves, but imports from rest of the world, including India, a huge quantity of iron ore every year. It refuses to export its own ore. Indian rulers have decided recently to allow export of more and more good quality ore to foreign countries, depriving the future generations of this precious mineral. Will the people of India accept such an anti national policy of the Centre? This is another form of state terrorism.

Regarding Posco project, there is no scope of transferring 4000 acres of fertile agricultural land for a steel factory. People of these three panchayats have refused to allow either government representatives or the salaried staff of the Korean company to enter into their villages, as was done in Nandigram in West Bengal or Kalinganagar in Orissa. The local economy is a thriving, labour-intensive one based on agriculture and fishing. Apart from paddy, coconut etc., cash crops like betel (pan), cashew, supari and kewra are produced in huge quantities and sold throughout the country. Its betel leaves fetch huge profit during the Diwali festival from north and west India. Many families of this area can give employment to the staff of Posco against their vague promise of ‘one member of each affected family’ and that too temporary unskilled job with no minimum wage law as it is a SEZ project (no law of the land is enforceable in the SEZ area). How stupid is this? The government claims that out of 4000 acres of land given to Posco, 3566 acres is forest land and belongs to the government. We hope Naveen Patnaik, chief minister, and his team of NDA government in Orissa knows that forest land belongs to those who live in forest and no government can throw them out as they used to do in the past before the Forest Law was passed last year. Even the Ministry of Forest and Environment cannot help Naveen babu though it is well known throughout the country as anti people, anti forest and anti environment. It is worth reminding our friends in Orissa and in Delhi, the forest that we find along the coast line of Orissa is a must in this area as the area is prone to frequent cyclone and storm. Have we forgotten the Tsunami and Indian coastal people! Are they not still suffering! Will Koreans allow their company to endanger the life of lakhs of coastal people of Orissa to earn some pennies as profit?

The group of ministers appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office to go into SEZ policy after the Nandigram massacre in March 2007 recommended that SEZs should not be set up in areas of cultivable land, then how Posco was recognised for SEZ by Mr. Kamal Nath ?. Why are not state governments instructed by the PMO to do a land survey before they enter into a Memorandum of Understanding? This happened with Tata as he was to be given some ‘gift of land at Singur’ in West Bengal by CPI (M). Singur has the best cultivable land in West Bengal producing more than one crop each year. Paradeep port has sufficient capacity so why is an additional port being built by its side by Posco which will endanger the fishing industry and the life of thousands of rare turtles ? Is the central ministry of shipping, road transport and highways sleeping on the entire issue? Regarding the resettlement of the affected families in the Project area, where is the promised law of settlement of SEZ-affected people and in the absence of that how is the Orissa government allowed to approach individual landholders. Why is not Posco advised to approach individual land owners, instead of using the colonial 1894 Act. Mr Chief Minister of Orissa should sit down with his counter part in Karnataka, because both of them are running NDA governments and ask the latter about land acquisition for industrialisation. The Karnataka government wants industrialists to directly approach landowners and the government has no role in the matter.

This project will establish captive iron ore mines, why? Let them purchase iron ore from the Indian market or elsewhere and carry on their steel production. In China this company is not given any captive mines. Let them pay the increasing price of iron ore prevalent in the international market during the next 30 years. In the same manner both Tatas and Mittals are assured by their benefactors to allocate ‘captive mines’ in Orissa and Jharkhand. How long such anti- people, anti- national policies will be pursued by the governments?
Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce, friend and philosopher of the SEZ in India is reported in the press that he is angry with the Reserve Bank of India and Ministry of Finance for denying various concessions that he wants to give to the industrialists within the SEZs. In a market economy, which his Prime Minister advocates, competition is the catchword and the government has no role to play as was the case before the Economic Reform started in 1991. Why should the people in the SEZs not pay the market rate of interest as was decided by the RBI? Why does he want real estate companies to be exempted in SEZ areas? Why should not they pay all the taxes as millions of ordinary citizens pay as per the Finance Act? Initially we were told that China’s growth is due to excellent export performance. They have 5 Special Economic Zones for exclusive export. Now the Indian Commerce Ministry clarifies that units established within SEZ may not export, but they will enjoy all the concessions and privileges. Do we have any rule of law in this country? If the UPA Govt. supported by ‘left’ feels that both Indian and foreign corporate houses are to be enriched at the cost of national interests, let us debate it first in the country then implement it. Both the UPA and the ‘left’ combine and the NDA are bankrupt political combines, their main interest is to give all bureaucratic protection to the corporates to mercilessly loot the country’s natural resources and thereby keep the vast majority of the population deprived permanently of food, clothing and shelter. These poor homeless people demanded land for shelter from the Andhra Pradesh government but got bullets in return. The same story happened in Nandigram, a state ruled by the ‘left’. Will Kamal Nath and Co. restrain themselves from the ruthless destruction of millions of cultivating families, otherwise they will be left with no other alternative than to resist all attempts of the government to make them paupers and destitutes. Indians are adamant in achieving their demand to survive in their land of origin. No forces of earth can deprive their inherent ‘right to life and livelihood’.
source:revolutionary democracy


The year 2007 has a remarkable bearing on India’s historic struggle for freedom. It marks the 250th anniversary of the battle of Plassey; the 150th anniversary of 1857; the 60th anniversary of 1947; and the birth centenary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Through the course of this year, many aspects of the life and work of Bhagat Singh have been written about. While Bhagat Singh continues to remain an icon for modern-day Indian youth, the fact that needs to be underlined is that he and his associates acquired the status of living legends even in their brief life time. This is confirmed by the fact that the British clandestinely advanced the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev fearing a public outrage. In an unprecedented manner, these legendary heroes of the Indian freedom movement were hanged until death at dusk on March 23, 1931 instead of the 24th morning. The British tried to surreptitiously dispose the bodies at Hussainwallah on the banks of the Sutlej.

In the few years of his active political life, being just over 23 years of age, when the British executed him, Bhagat Singh, along with his associates had radicalised the freedom struggle. The Delhi bomb case (“to make the deaf hear”) and the murder of British officer Saunders to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai due to the severe lathicharge in the anti-Simon Commission protests brought on to the agenda of the freedom struggle, a militancy hitherto unknown.


A brief recollection of the historical circumstances of that period is important to understand this and the consequent abiding relevance of Bhagat Singh to contemporary India. All these revolutionaries enthusiastically participated in the non-cooperation movement launched by the Congress under Gandhiji’s leadership in August 1920. However, when Gandhiji withdrew this movement in February 1922 following the attack on the police station in Chauri Chaura calling it a “Himalayan blunder”, the disappointment and the consequent frustration was rampant among the youth. Some historians believe that this withdrawal forced the unspent energy of the masses into fratricidal channels. The spurt in the number of communal riots is often cited as evidence. It is precisely in this period that alternatives to the Congress were being sought. The fledgling Communist Party formed in 1920 brought together the various communist groups across the country at a convention in 1925 at Kanpur. The same year, the RSS was founded in Nagpur. It was in the course of these tumultuous years that three distinct visions on what ought to be the character of independent India emerged.

The Congress, in response to these developments, defined its vision of independent India as being a secular democratic republic. The communists articulated their vision as one that will consolidate the secular democratic republic by transforming the political independence gained by the country into the true economic independence of all its people, i.e., socialism.

The third vision in complete contradistinction to the above two sought to define the character of independent India on the basis of the religious denomination of its people. This had a twin expression. The RSS advocating its fascistic vision of a rabidly intolerant “Hindu Rashtra” and the Muslim League seeking the partition of the country to establish an Islamic republic. The ideological battle amongst these three visions, in fact, continues till date and the present-day political developments can be properly understood only within these parameters. In this battle, Bhagat Singh was closest to the communist vision and, in fact, independently moved towards communist ideological foundations. Bhagat Singh was not a lone hero but part of a remarkable group of revolutionaries. It was at Bhagat Singh’s intervention, at a secret meeting that took place in Ferozeshah Kotla at Delhi on September 8, 1928, that the Hindustan Republican Association was rechristened as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. Socialism was now accepted both as a goal and the ideological foundation of their activities. Though Chandrashekhar Azad could not attend the meeting being underground following the famous Kakori incident in August 1925 and the hanging of his associates Ram Prasad Bismal, Ashfaqullah, Rajendra Lahiri and Roshan Singh in November 1927, he had given his prior approval to the decisions taken at this meeting.


While many today seek to appropriate the legacy of Bhagat Singh and his associates, if a proper justice of their contribution to the evolution of modern independent India is to be done, then that must be based on Bhagat Singh’s own writings. For a youth barely in his twenties, Bhagat Singh, in his times, was fairly well-read. His diaries released by the National Archives on the 50th anniversary of his martyrdom revealed the vast range of contemporary writers that he read. Though Bollywood has now made his reading of Lenin famous, in his diaries, extensive quotations from various writers are there, including the famous concluding lines of the poet, Percy Byshee Shelley’s magnum opus, “The mask of anarchy”:

“Rise like lions after slumber

In unanquishable number,

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you

Ye are many – they are few.”

Everyday, during their trial, Bhagat Singh and B. K. Dutta used to enter the courts shouting the slogan “Inquilab Zindabad”. When the court questioned them on the meaning of this slogan, they submitted written statement which says: “I, Bhagat Singh, was asked in the lower court as to what we meant by the word `Revolution’. In answer to that question, I would say that Revolution does not necessarily involve a sanguinary strife, nor is there any place in it for individual vendetta. By Revolution we mean that the present order of things which is based on manifest injustice must change.

“This is our ideal and with this ideology for our inspiration we have given a fair and loud enough warning.

“Revolution is the inalienable right of mankind. Freedom is the imprescriptible birth right of all. The labourer is the real sustainer of society. The sovereignty of the people is the ultimate destiny of the workers.” Thus, the slogan `Inquilab Zindabad’ was immortalised during our freedom struggle.


There are various elements of Bhagat Singh’s life that have contributed to his immortal legend, heroism, sacrifice, the political clarity and the ability to catch the imagination of the people. The Hindi film industry has now converted this legend into an icon. During the first few years of this century, at least six films have been made on this revolutionary. The last in this series being the very creative effort, Rang De Basanti. The title of the film comes from the immortal song which Bhagat Singh and his associates supposedly sang as they were marching to the gallows. Though the film was come under severe criticism for its alleged projection of nihilism, the essential thrust is being missed. In actual life, many individuals may associate passionately with a political project due to various reasons and under varied circumstances. The moot question, however, is, when it comes to the crunch, whether these individuals stand up to their political convictions, or, not. This is the acid test. The protagonists in this film (including one who vacillates) embrace a sure death out of conviction and not being pushed into that position by circumstances. The option to opt out was always there. But, they choose not to do so.

This is exactly what Bhagat Singh and his associates did. They marched to death with a smile. When the hangman offers him to pray before death, he says, “I have neither fear of death nor belief in God”. In terms of political belief, while firmly abjuring “the cult of the bomb and the pistol”, as Bhagat Singh himself notes, they chose to throw the bomb at the Delhi assembly and murder Saunders with pistol under the firm belief that these actions would galvanise the youth to seek freedom.

Contrast this, with those political commentators who in the wake of team India’s historic win of the twenty-20 cricket world cup have sought to suggest that new India’s icons are far removed from the traditions of anti-imperialism that galvanised earlier generations of Indian youth. They need to note that popular Hindi cinema is, by far, the most reliable barometer of popular Indian opinion and sentiment. During the first six years of this decade, as stated above, six mainstream successful films have been released on Bhagat Singh! This is the reaction of the overwhelmingly youthful population of India.

However, in their effort to erase the impact of the finest traditions and legacy of revolutionary struggles that shaped the contours of modern independent India, these pundits of liberalisation spare no opportunity or effort to facilitate the transformation of modern India into a subordinate ally of world imperialism today. The ongoing national debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal and the grave implications it has on India’s sovereignty and independent foreign policy is, indeed, taking place in this very birth centenary year of Bhagat Singh.

The recollection of Bhagat Singh’s legacy, thus, is of contemporary relevance in today’s continuing battle between the three visions that we spoke of above and more importantly to safeguard and strengthen India’s economic sovereignty and, thus, its pride of place in the international comity of nations.

Source:Sitaram Yechury :Cpim.