In Episode 137 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores two of the many under-reported internal conflicts in India, which are rooted in unresolved issues left over from the colonial era in spite of 75 years of Indian independence. In the east-central interior, the Naxalite insurgency has been met with harsh repression from the security forces—especially against the Adivasis, or indigenous peoples who make up the movement's support base. In the remote Northeast, the long struggle of the Naga people is still met with massacres at the hands of the military today. For three generations the Naga have been fighting for their independence, keeping alive their indigenous culture, and protesting the genocide of their people—to the silence of the international community. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The Supreme Court of India on Juy 14 dismissed a petition seeking an independent investigation into extra-judicial killings of Adivasis, or tribal people, in villages in Chhattisgarh state. The petition charges that state security forces, including the Chhattisgarh Police and affiliated paramilitary groups, were responsible for the deaths of villagers during anti-Naxalite operations that took place in September and October 2009. The petition was filed by Gandhian social activist Himanshu Kumar and 12 relatives of the slain villagers.
Police in Gadchiroli district of Nagpur division in India's Maharashtra state broke up a thiya andolan (sit-in) by local peasants and adivasis (tribal people) at the site of the contested Surjagarh iron-ore mining project, and arrested six of the organizers Oct. 29. Gadchiroli is within central India's "Red Corridor" of Naxalite guerilla activity, and local authorities accuse the rebels of stirring up the protests. Following a demonstration at the mine site earlier in the week, two attendees were arrested by a local police "special operations team" as they departed, on charges of being Naxals. The mine at Surjagarh, in Etapalli taluka (subdistrict), is under lease by Lloyds Metals & Energy Ltd (LMEL). Since it began operations in June, it has faced repeated protests from local residents over its ecological impacts and usurpation of traditional lands. (Times of India, ToI, ToI)
The Bombay High Court on Sept. 13 issued a notice to India's National Investigation Agency (NIA), directing it to file a reply to the bail plea of Anand Teltumbde, a Goa-based professor and civil rights activist who faces charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in relation to the notorious Bhima Koregaon case. In the case, dating to 2018, several advocates for Dalits ("untouchables") and Adivasis (tribal peoples) are accused of links to the Maoist guerillas known as the Naxalites. Fifteen face lengthy prison terms and are still being denied bail. The case was back in the news in July, when a 16th among the accused, Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, 84, died in a hospital in Mumbai after taking ill in jail. His medical bail plea was still pending when he expired.
A horrific case in India's impoverished Chhattisgarh state has won a modicum of international headlines. A surgeon has been arrested on charges of "attempted culpable homicide" in the deaths of at least 13 women who underwent sterilization operations at a field camp in the village of Pandari. Dr. RK Gupta and his a team operated on 83 women in just six hours Nov. 8—in a filthy room, with rusty equipment. Gupta—who had performed over 50,000 sterilizations, and was awarded a state honor for his work—was arrested after initially fleeing, and remains intransigent, blaming the deaths on painkillers the women were given by a village clinic. The death toll may rise, as many women are gravely ill, apparently from infection. The desperately poor women were paid 1,400 rupees ($23) for the surgery. "Health workers" (sic!) also received payments for bringing women to the camp.
The underground Maoist Communist Party Manipur (MCPM) issued a statement appealing to the paramilitary Naga Regiments to resist government plans to deploy them to the Maoist guerilla stronghold areas of India, especially the Dandakaranya Revolutionary Zone in Chhattisgarh state. The MCPM's Comrade Nonglen Meitei urged in the statement issued to the media that the Nagas, an indigenous group on northeast Nagaland state, not to go to Chhattisgarh as "slaves" to fight other excluded tribal peoples in the region. The statement called on the Naga troops to lay down arms in the spirit of "revolutionary internationalism." (Nagaland Post, Oct. 23)
For those who are following the twin Maoist movements in India and Nepal, there was a delicious irony May 30 when Prachanda, leader of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), sent a condolence letter to Indian political boss Sonia Gandhi over the recent attack by Maoist Naxalite guerillas in which 27 were killed, including senior leaders of Gandhi's Congress Party. "Our party UCPN-Maoist is deeply shocked and saddened by the demise of leaders and workers of the Indian National Congress in the recent attack in Chattisgarh...unleashed by Indian Maoists," Prachanda wrote. Zee News notes that among the dead was Mahendra Karma, a notorious paramilitary leader who was accused of atrocities against perceived guerilla sympathists. A like letter from Nepali Congress party leader Sushil Koirala said: "I am extremely shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the death of senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma, other leaders and cadres of your party along with other innocent people in the ambush by the Maoists in Chattisgarh."