“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Every individual needs to stand up to defend our common natural heritage as well as the constitutional rights of our indigenous people.
I wanted to spread the word about one of the current horrors of state repression and human rights violations… the same oppression, genocide and exploitation of indigenous peoples that is repeated throughout history continues, this time we shouldn’t we know better?
INDEPENDENT PEOPLE’S TRIBUNAL on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab and Operation Green Hunt
9-11 April 2010, Speaker’s Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi
Central India is home to the Adivasis and Dalits, India’s first people. It is also home to the richest concentration of natural resources in the country. Today, as powerful Indian and global corporations race each other to gain control of the land, water, forest and mineral wealth of the region, this natural wealth has become a curse to these indigenous but marginalised communities. What comes between corporate greed and natural resources are the tribals asserting their customary rights, right to life and livelihood, as well as their constitutional rights over the same natural resources. Corrupt corporations, joining hands with corrupt states, are helping destroy India’s vibrant natural heritage and mineral wealth. Human rights abuses by police, paramilitary forces and state-sponsored militia are spreading in the name of Operation Green Hunt, which seems to make it a war against the very citizens it promises to protect. A virtual information blockade prevents information from coming out of states like Chhattisgarh which are bearing the brunt of Operation Green Hunt. Our country needs to know the truth about such a massive war against our own people. That is why an Independent People’s Tribunal, consisting of eminent jury members, has been called to hear testimonies from affected people, deliberate and submit a report on the matter to the public.
The heartlands of India are the lungs of the country as they are part of a vital ecosystem comprising of the water cycle and the forests that produce oxygen. They also comprise of the rich agricultural lands. For centuries, the indigenous communities have fought against the greed of the forest and timber mafia in order to conserve these forests and the rich mineral wealth within them.
However, with the opening up of the global market, the pressure on the State to hand over most of these areas to global corporations for mining and other ‘industrial’ purposes has increased. Private companies, both domestic and foreign— Arcelor Mittal, Jindal, Essar, Posco, Tata, and Vedanta, to name but a few – are taking advantage of the opportunity thus presented. This worldview of ‘Development and Globalisation’ has also become the mantra that is threatening people’s rights to land, resources and livelihood. The Adivasis are being forced out of their own homes and villages, where their communities have lived for thousands of years. This violation of the democratic and constitutional rights of indigenous communities has led to the present situation of conflicts.
The vicious systemic violence is being taken to a new level by using military and paramilitary forces through Operation Green Hunt. The UPA government’s last election victory has emboldened Home Minister P. Chidambaram to arm-twist state governments into participating in Operation Green Hunt. Independent sources acknowledge that more than 100,000 paramilitary/police personnel armed to the teeth have been mobilized against the poorest of the poor. Air force, helicopter gunships, military trainers, special forces units etc. are on the roll in several Indian states since November 2009. With even independent journalists being barred from entering conflict zones, only government versions of violence and military operations are being released to the media and the public. While the state justification for Operation Green Hunt is an attack on the Maoists, it is evident that the brunt of this war and hunt will be borne by the Adivasis.
Citizens and civil rights groups who have voiced concerns against Operation Green Hunt are being labelled as ‘Naxal sympathizers’ and are being arrested. Journalists are being blocked from entering the impacted areas to investigate these brutalities. Unless stopped, this is likely to lead to an unending cycle of violence which could lead to genocide of the Adivasis and a civil war-like situation in many parts of the country.
It is in this context that an Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) on these issues is being organised by several individuals and groups, inviting a panel of eminent jurists, administrative service personnel, social scientists and writers. The people’s jury will hear testimonies from the affected people, social activists and experts working in these areas. The authorities would also be invited to participate and present their viewpoint. The tribunal will conduct its hearings on the 9th, 10th and 11th of April 2010 at the Constitution Club, New Delhi.
The Independent or Indian People’s Tribunal (IPT) has, through earlier hearings, gained acceptance in the country as a means for civil society groups to present an issue of immense public concern before an impartial and eminent group of jury members, whose report on the subject would be useful in educating and informing the people and mobilizing public opinion.
The present IPT focuses on a vital issue that could spell life or death for 80 million indigenous people of our country. The IPT will focus on the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, which are bearing the brunt of Operation Green Hunt. In particular, it will examine human rights abuses, forcible acquisition of Adivasi land as well as the looting of land, water, forest and mineral wealth in these areas.
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Every individual needs to stand up to defend our common natural heritage as well as the constitutional rights of our indigenous people.
As Martin Niemöller said:
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
When the government puts corporate interests ahead of constitutional law, suppresses free speech and victimizes those who it is meant to protect, every single citizen’s freedom is at risk.
Organised by: Citizens against Forced Displacements and War on People
6/6, Jangpura B, New Delhi