In late 2009, with an array of military forces, hi-tech support and utmost cruelty, the government of India launched an operation to eliminate Maoists. This initiative is wrongly dubbed as Operation Green Hunt by the media. Initially, this phrase was used by Chhattisgarh police to describe a specific operation against the insurgents.
The target of this initiative is the hilly and forest regions of 5 central and eastern states – Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
Read a comprehensive report in pdf format: NAXAL Violence in India
Reasons Behind the Initiative
India is economically on the move since the economic liberalization began in early 1990s. The rulers are eager to maintain the current growth rate of around 8%, which paradoxically has widened the gap between the fabulously rich of the cities and the desperately poor of forests. There has been no trickle-down of benefits of liberalization to the bottom rungs of society. In between lies the growing middle class of 200 million people comprising of private and government employees, service providers and entrepreneurs etc.
Indian and international corporate houses are waiting eagerly to lay their hands on the resources and minerals like bauxite, coal and iron ore and the enormous pool of cheap labour. Tata and Essar are two such rich entities eyeing the riches of tribal lands in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. So the Indian government can no longer afford to tolerate the fact that a large swath of the country is no longer under its control, and is determined to crush anything that stands on its way – the Maoists or the poor masses who have survived on local forests since ages.
Precursor of Operation Green Hunt
Operation Green Hunt’s precursor was the Salwa Judum – vigilante militias funded by the governing parties and local state governments. The leaking of a draft government report stating that Salwa Judum was first funded by Tata and Essor Steel created an outburst in the press; that part was subsequently edited out of the final version. Salwa Judum recruited those local people who could be bought to work as bullies and informers, sometimes offering free mobile phones in exchange for information. For those they couldn’t buy, they exercised a reign of terror. The official figure of emptied villages in Chhattisgarh is 644. Thousands of villagers were murdered. Thousands were arbitrarily arrested and left rotting in jail. Over 300,000 people were displaced.
In attempting to separate the people from the CPI (Maoist), nearly 50,000 were forced to live in Vietnam-style strategic hamlets. Villagers who did not move into the hamlets were considered Maoists by the authorities. Independent journalists and intellectuals who tried to report on these atrocities were beaten, jailed or otherwise prevented from investigating Salwa Judum’s actions.
The “land to the tiller” views of CPI (Maoist) are in contradiction to India’s rising capitalist development at its most competitive and cutthroat. In terms of a CPI (Maoist) – “They want to crush us, not only because of the minerals, but because we are offering the world an alternative model. “
The So-called Operation Green Hunt
Unlike Salwa Judum this operation is coordinated by the central government, which predicts a long and bloody war until the tribal area is “sanitized” and the Naxalites defeated. More than 100,00 military and paramilitary troops are being sent into the Adivasi areas. The plan is for the occupiers to gradually spread from one “sanitized” area to another. Twenty Warfare Training Schools are being built in India. The first operations were carried out in Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) and Gadchiroli (Maharashtra).
With Operation Green Hunt the burning, killing, looting, and torturing has increased exponentially – again caught in the fire are innocent tribes.
Stifling People’s Voice
Dr Binayak Sen, internationally renowned for the voluntary health clinic for the rural poor in Chhattisgarh he has run since 1981 and a human rights activist, recently lectured a university crowd on “Violence and justice in our times”, describing how Operation Green Hunt is worsening health conditions for an already undernourished population.
He said that over 50 percent of tribals have a body mass index of 18.5. According to the standards set by the Health Organization, this means that the population is in a state of famine. Dr Sen was recently released after two years in a Chhattisgarh prison on charges of “treason and waging war against the state”. He was accused of passing a letter from a Maoist prisoner he had been treating medically in jail to someone on the outside. After an international outcry, he was released on bail. (14 March 2010, Indian Express)
Such voices are unfortunately irritants for people who want to see progress only through the lenses of GDP numbers and soaring stock prices of rich corporate houses.
Frontline Magazine, 13-26 March 2010
“If the operation continues, the civilian death toll is liable to rise from several hundred to several thousand a year, as had happened in Argentina and Peru, where 50,000 to 100,000 people ‘disappeared’ in decades-long counter-insurgency operations. ”