Archive for February 15th, 2011

“They” and “Us”

February 15, 2011

The recent piece by Ramachandra Guha in Telegraph contains some explosive stuff (and, names names):

I spent several weeks in New Delhi, seeking appointments with the most powerful men in the land. I was not alone — with me, indeed leading me, were the senior journalist, B.G. Verghese, and the brilliant anthropologist, Nandini Sundar. We had been part of a team of independent citizens who had recently returned from a trip through the district of Dantewada, in Chhattisgarh, where a bloody conflict raged between Maoist revolutionaries and a vigilante group promoted by the state government. Dozens of villages had been burnt, hundreds of people had been killed, and tens of thousands had been rendered homeless.The Maoists are accountable to nobody, but we felt that the depredations of the vigilantes (who called themselves Salwa Judum, which roughly translated as ‘Peace Hunt’) had to be stopped by the state. When we found that the Chhattisgarh administration was complicit in these crimes, we decided to bring the matter to the attention of the Central government. After many phone calls, we were able to secure appointments with the then home minister, Shivraj Patil, and the then national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan. We acquainted them with what we had found — that is to say, with displaced tribal people living in pathetic camps along the road, their homes damaged or destroyed, their women violated by the vigilantes, all part of a general atmosphere of terror and intimidation that pervaded the district.

The NSA met our presentation of this firsthand evidence with indifference, the home minister with irritation. The NSA said condescendingly that as a former policemen he did not need lessons on how to deal with Naxalism. The home minister went a step further, accusing Nandini Sundar and the present writer of being Naxalite sympathizers ourselves.

Later, I was able to secure a one-on-one meeting with the prime minister, Manmohan Singh. He pleaded helplessness. To my recounting of the crimes of the vigilantes he replied that “they say that these methods are necessary”, without specifying whether “they” were his own advisers, or the Chhattisgarh state government.

Almost five years have passed since our meetings with these three big men. I did not write about them at the time, since these were private discussions, and I hoped that the advice of experienced and independent-minded Indian democrats would effect some slight changes in state policy.

Take a look!