Posts Tagged ‘Operation Green Hunt’

Hitchcock, Khaki, & the Dark Secrets of Dandakaranya.

15 February 2010

Director General of Police – Chhattisgarh State, Vishwa Ranjan, is probably the most visible face in that state after may be the Chief Minister, Raman Singh. He is in the news not only because he is heading the drive against the CPI(Maoist) in Chhattisgarh, but also because of his reputation as a poet and a formidable intellectual. He is very popular with the Chhattisgarh media and often appears in print.

Once the anti-Maoist campaign is ‘successfully’ concluded, it is not difficult to see him as contender to Chief Minister’s post on his retirement quite similar to the bid made by Sri Lankan ex-General Sarath Fonseca. It was therefore disquieting to see such high ranking and popular figure lamenting himself as a ‘Double Shudra’ in an article in the Outlook Magazine, “A Khaki Shudra To Our New Brahmins”. He says he is a Shudra as a policeman : “…..someone to be ridiculed, shouted at, spat upon”. He is a Shudra again as he is a poet in Hindi and his expanded Shudra label now includes, “….writers, poets, intellectuals, journalists and teachers from mofussil towns—what I mean is, those who essentially know and think in Hindi or other regional languages of India”. That makes him a double Shudra. Whether other policemen and writers, poets, intellectuals, journalists or teachers from mofussil towns concur with him or have authorized him to speak on their behalf we do not know. But the position of authority that he wields undoubtedly allows him to take such freedoms for granted. Why does he then feel he suffers from such multiple handicaps when most will envy his status in society?

Shudra is one of the four Varnas discussed in Hindu texts and were considered lowest in the hierarchical model of Varnashram-Dharma. He goes on to cite ancient Indian jurisprudence to portray the plight of Shudra thus, “….as a Shudra, my evidence is of little value. A Shudra’s cry is a cry in the wilderness. An allegation against a Shudra needn’t be proved; it’s the Shudra who must prove his innocence”. That there had been very successful and strong Shudra dynasties in India like the Nanda, need not bother us here. Basis of Varnas according to one view is Karma or Deeds, whereas the other holds it to be Kula or Birth. Now the latter view obviously runs into trouble with “Vishwa Ranjan’s reality” because we don’t see sons of most policemen becoming policemen, or sons of poets’ poets. Would he be suggesting the former? But that would prove disastrous as it would mean Policemen have to only blame their own Karma or Deeds for the scorn they attract. Then what is it he is trying to achieve? The answer lies in his definition of the Anti-Shudra – the Brahmin, “….And, by extension of that metaphor, who are the Brahmins? The Anglophile Indians are the Brahmins—those who write and think in English, those who teach in the colleges of Delhi and other big cities”. He was also a self confessed lover of Hitchcock’s films that were accessible only to an anglophile who he now reviles. But that shouldn’t hold us here either. He  has effortlessly introduced a powerful metaphor in the discourse almost surreptitiously. Reader unwittingly, without realizing, ends up taking sides – either s/he is forced to look upon herself as a Bramhin, that is Anti-Shudra, or Anti-Brahmin, that is a Shudra. The cleavage is complete, we or they, they or we, no middle ground or third or fourth grounds are admissible, they are forbidden, and they simply disappear.  One is anti-Naxal, if not then one is anti-State. One is anti-State, if not then one is anti-Naxal. The Poet has triumphed, and now he takes a backseat. The Cop now takes over. The benefits of such cleavage will become clear shortly.

The cop talks of the objectives of operation green hunt (OGH). He is careful here not to contradict Chidambaram, who had said Operation Green Hunt is media’s creation, by saying that the joint exercise conducted by central paramilitary forces with Chhattisgarh police shouldn’t be confused with OGH.  Operation Green Hunt exists but is purely a Chhattisgarh Police’s creation. Among the four goals of the OGH he lists, the last is, “….And our final goal was to win over the minds and hearts of people by organising jan jagaran meetings at weekly tribal markets. They were meant to wean away tribals from the Maoist ambit of influence. From meetings at weekly markets, we expanded the programme into jan jagaran abhiyans in the towns and villages”. In an unguarded expansive moment a rare admission slips out that probably Maoist have the possession of the hearts and minds of the people, which he wants to win over. But then the cop recovers to launch his precision attack. In a carefully drafted narrative he says, “….in a letter dated September 10, 2009, issued by the subcommittee of mass organisations (SUCOMO) of the CPI (Maoist) and seized by the police. The party asked its mass contact groups to launch propaganda at the all-India and state levels about alleged atrocities committed by the security forces…. It encouraged flexible methods—from agitations to seminars and signature campaigns—and sought to influence sympathisers into bringing pressure on the upa government, the US, and Indian embassies abroad”. He claims that Maoist scared by the success of the fourth goal of OGH mandated this. Then he cites history when similar attempt was made by Maoists to discredit the successful jan jagaran abhiyan of Salwa Judum in April 2006. Each of these dates are carefully selected by him and have a delicious braid of “Hitchcockesque mystery”, which he so loves.

Salwa Judum was started by Mahendra Karma, a Congress leader, with BJP government’s sponsorship sometime in June 2005. Very soon it gained notoriety as a lawless vigilante group operating with complete impunity in Bastar division. So much so that PUCL Chhattisgarh & Jharkhand, PUDR Delhi, & APDR West Bengal were galvanized into researching and documenting the atrocities & violations of Salwa Judum. When did this happen? – in April 2006! The SUCOMO letter too fell into the hands of the police fortuitously on 10 September 2009 we are told now just in time before the mass massacres that took place on 17 September & 1 October 2010 in Gachhanpalli, Gompad, Belpocha, etc where Central & State security forces stand accused. Supreme Court has asked Chhattsigarh State to produce before it today (15 February) the 12 victims & witnesses including Sodi Sambho in Writ Petition (Criminal) 103/2009. A Writ Petition (Civil) 250/2007 is coming up for hearing on 18 February with a much larger scope to redress the alleged misdeeds of Chhattisgarh Government. That is why the fear of the top cop expresses itself, “….have resulted in the state and its police officers being dragged to court”. Vishwa Ranjan’s neat plot to construct alibi post events would have got a round of resounding applause had he been a director and plot was of a fictional film. But the painter lurking within him has taken it upon himself to paint, anyone & everyone who doesn’t support him and his police force, Black or rather Red. That is no trivial matter. Further he defends the conduct of his force thus : “….Chhattisgarh police is not generally known for fake encounters or killing of innocents. If it believed in extra-judicial killing, the prisons wouldn’t be full of arrested Maoist leaders and cadres”. Dr. Binayak Sen was in jail for 2 years on trumpeted charges until his release last year on bail. Koparam Kunjam, Sukhnath and a couple other Vanavasi Chetna Ashram activists are in jail. Apparently there are several others like them.  They are neither Maoist leaders, cadres nor their sympathizers. They eschew violence most stridently, probably more than Vishwa Ranjan. Yet they are inconvenient because they bring out the truth of structural violence and police brutalities out in the open. They need to be silenced. Calling them Maoists or their sympathizers has been found to be an expedient stratagem. The cleavage comes handy. The poet proves useful.

While the policeman pursues his objective with unerring professionalism, the deep hurt of the sensitive poet keeps showing. Take the case where ‘the US’ is mentioned without any apparent relevance or context. The story goes back to a time when Dr Binayak Sen was still in jail and Vishwa Ranjan was giving a talk at Berkley – California, where for a change he found himself at the receiving end of some serious grilling. Unaccustomed to such a situation, it is claimed he became flustered and signed on a postcard addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that declared “The imprisonment of this brave and good man is outrageous. I demand his immediate unconditional release ”. The poet who thinks in Hindi is also hurt by “those who teach in the colleges of Delhi”. Why? Because one such teacher is among those who have filed the Writ Petition (Civil) 250/2007. The circle is complete – poet to police to poet again.

Epilogue : Prabhu Ramchandra passed through Dandakaranya, Ramayana tells us, on his way to Sri Lanka. He was content with the wild berries offered as refreshment by Shabari – a tribal lady – that had passed her Quality Assurance test. Rama was blissfully unaware of the treasures hidden in the womb of the Earth at Dandakaranya. Shri Krishna too was unmindful of these riches or otherwise he would have directed the Pandavas to establish Indraprastha, their capital, at Raipur. Dandakaranya remained a godforsaken place that held no one’s interests but where the unwanted original inhabitants of the Bharatvarsha were coerced into moving after they became “project affected persons” when their settled lands were forcibly seized by the ‘civilized’ people. These adivasis lead a life one with nature as they have lived sustainably for millennia up until the beginning of 21st century. But the big secret of the Dandakaranya is out. Mother Earth holds a mind boggling bounty of Bauxite, Iron ore, Chrome, Diamonds and umpteen other minerals. Civilized people want those mineral riches. They want to possess even Dandakaranya now. Adivasis have nowhere else to go. Civilized forces are not happy with the berries that 21st century Shabaris can offer. They want to ravish Shabaris. Their chattel too is fair game. Resistance is met by force that proves often fatal. These stories that are written in Adivasi blood, the civilized forces want to remain confined to Dandakaranya. These Dark Secrets should remain where they happen, only the mineral wealth should flow out.

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