The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Saturday 25 July 2009


Binayak Sen has been released on bail from Raipur jail after an unprecedented national and international campaign for two long years. But the man is worried about civil liberties of thousands of others like him who still continue to languish in jail and who are not fortunate enough to have a vocal middle class activist base and media vouch for them. Some like filmmaker Ajay T.G. and journalist Sai Reddy were fortunate enough to be released due to lack of any evidence against them but others like journalist Prashant Rahi and political activist Abhay Sahu are still incarcerated. The former two are from Chhattisgarh and the latter two from Uttarakhand and Orissa, respectively.

Soon after his release Binayak Sen said in Kolkata that the Chhattisgarh Government-backed armed tribal group Salwa Judum, meant to counter the Naxalites, is actually engaged in evacuating the common tribals from their villages so that their land can then be handed over to private corporations for exploitation of natural resources for profit. Salwa Judum and security forces including the ad hoc tribal Special Police Officers (SPOs) are engaged in killing, raping and terrorising the tribals on the pretext of them being Naxalites or Naxalite sympathisers for the express purpose of forcing them to vacate their villages.

As many as 644 such deserted villages in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh stand testimony to state-sponsored as well as Naxalite violence. The houses have been burned down or fallen on their own due to neglect for the interim three years. The common tribal caught between the cross-fire is on the run, literally, in the jungles. About one-sixth of them came to the Salwa Judum roadside camps under duress. Most did not. Even the ones who came to the camps are now returning to their villages. More than half have already done so. Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian activist, who runs the Vanvasi Chetna Asharm in Dantewada district, is helping the tribals to come back to their homes from as far as Andhra Pradesh. In addition he has been highlighting the cases of human rights violations of tribals at the hands of security forces, SPOs and the Salwa Judum. The administration, obviously not happy with what Himanshu is doing, demolished his ashram infrastructure, including his home, on the morning of May 17, 2009, in an operation which reminded of fascist tendencies of the government.

Himanshu represents a non-violent democratic force in a region torn between Naxalites on one hand and the Salwa Judum and security forces on the other. He represents the people’s voice demanding peace and development. Himanshu is actually involved in the implementation of several government developmental schemes. He is creating the space in which an ordinary tribal can exercise his/her democratic right. For example, whereas the Naxalites would ordinarily call for boycott of polls, Himanshu would encourage people to participate in the electoral process. Instead of helping him expand this space to cover more tribals, as a strategy to restrict the growth of the Naxalites, the government has come down heavily upon him with an inexplicable vengeance.
The government complains that Naxalites are not allowing it to carry out normal developmental activities. The fact of the matter is that the benefits of developmental programmes were hardly reaching the tribals in these interior areas to begin with. That provided the fertile ground for emergence of Naxalism. The Naxalites have blown up schools because they were not functioning and were instead being used to house para-military forces. The relevant question that needs to be asked is whether the government programmes are running effectively in areas not affected by Naxalites. An 80-feet road under construction between Geetham and Bijapur is definitely not for the benefit of tribals. The government has to be honest with its commitment towards development targeted at benefiting the people. People have become conscious enough to see through its hidden agenda. The benefit of the much publicised Rs 2 per kg of rice programme in Chhattisgarh does not reach a number of tribals because they simply don’t have the ration card required to access this rice. Some tribals did not vote in the last elections because their polling booth was in a Salwa Judum camp where people were inimical to them.
The government wants to deal with Naxalite violence with a heavy hand. It no longer believes in the humanitarian approaches of people like Himanshu. It is no longer willing to tolerate any dissent as is obvious from its punitive actions against Binayak and Himanshu. It is clearing the area of people as well as organisations like the VCA to prepare for a flush-out operation like that of Sri Lankan Army against the LTTE. It is already felling all roadside trees so that Naxalites may not have a hiding space. This would also suit the private corporations’ agenda. The pipeline which will carry iron ore from mines allocated to Tata and Essar in the Bailadila hills in this region to their ultimate destination in Vishakhapattanam are likely to pass through the land which was occupied by the VCA. These corporations have also been rumoured to be funding the anti-Naxalite operations of Salwa Judum which is clearly extra- constitutional.

The rise of fundamentalism and corporatisation has been accompanied by state repression of ordinary people and activists and shrinking democratic spaces. This has now become the national experience. The governments of all shades are in it together. This is what has been opposed by Binayak Sen and others like him for which they have been branded Naxalites or Naxalite sympathisers and sometimes arrested on cooked- up charges. But it is heartening to note that two years in jail and failing health has not dampened the spirits of Binayak Sen. He will lead the cause of the common people who are being sacrificed at the altar of neo-liberal policies. His incarceration has galvanised the national activist community and opened the eyes of the middle class and media to the anti-people and anti-poor agenda of the governments.

**By Sandeep Pandey, Mainstream, July 18, 2009