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Authorities 'use' choppers for crack down, whisk away Gadchiroli anti-mine protesters

By Our Representative 

The civil rights network*, Forum against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), claiming to be a joint platform of progressive organizations and individuals, has demanded “immediately release" of eight arrested activists of Damkondawahi, Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra, rounded up for protesting against expansion of a major mining operation.
Talking with media, at the Press Club of India, Delhi, FACAM member Ehtmam ul Haq, moderating the discussion, said, in Damkondawahi, Llyod Metal’s mining operation is being expanded, with Surjagarh becoming the main site of protest. On 20th November 2023, he informed media, the protestors were encircled by paramilitary forces, who destroyed destroyed the protest site.
“Eight ground-level activists were rounded up from their villages and taken to Gadichiroli town via helicopters, contravening the typical process of arresting and transportation via jeeps. Those who sat in dharna against the arrests were brutally lathi-charged due to which some protesters lost consciousness”, he said.
Adv Lalsu Nogoti, a longtime leader of the Surjagarh struggle, talked of the hills where his Madia-Gondh tribe resides, a PVTG-designated Adivasi group. Lloyd Metals won the lease of 348 hectares land in this area, against which the Adivasi peasants have been struggling since 2007.
He emphasized on development from the point of view of the locals, not the Indian state’s model which displaces, uproots and kills. He mentioned that the corporate-state nexus is so entrenched, the government in his region is equivalent to “company servants.”
Punem Jetti, a local sarpanch in Surjagarh area and a leader in the anti-displacement struggle, elaborated on how their current protest has been ongoing for 225 days. She explained how state repression has suppressed the democratic process. Her husband to0 faced state repression, she said, adding, in the fight for jal-jangal-jameen women have played an active role.
Damodar Turi, an anti-displacement activist from Jharkhand, spoke about the history of exploitation in regions with forests, mines and minerals. They brought in laws which have been used by the state today to establish mines and exploit the resources.
He described how movements are of three types -- Gandhian model, NGO model or a "truly people’s model". He said that the last model as followed in Nandigram, Surajgarh and Niyamgiri is the only model that works for the people.
According to him, the state’s response of brutal repression and militarization is proof of that and the response of places where the Adivasis are attempting to establish similar people’s model of developments, such as Damkondwahi, helicopters and lathi-charges are used, an indication of the government being scared of the people and their model.
Prafulla Samantara, renowned environmental activist, spoke of how the state repression happening in Gadchiroli, is happening everywhere the corporates are there to loot resources. All political parties are endeavoring to bring foreign finance capital from the World Bank and IMF. This corporatization is at the cost of our kisan, our workers and our public enterprises.
He described how various struggles like Nandigram have shown us that the imagination of people for a proper model of development is alive. He pointed out that the crux of the struggle between the corporates-state and the people is about land. To fight for the environment, he asserted that we need to participate on the people’s end in the fight against land grab, corporate resource loot and militarization.
Madhu Sudan, a leader of Mulniwasi Samajsewak Sangh, looked at the role of the ideology of brahmanism which propagates notions of “vanvasi” and “Ram Rajya” to derail Adivasi and Dalit struggles into the fold of Hindutva. He stated that displacement is directly tied to caste, class, culture, climate and corporates.
Dr. Saroj Giri, Professor of Political Science at Delhi University and a member of FACAM, threw light on the state-corporate nexus, especially as seen through Operation Samadhan-Prahar, an extension of the erstwhile Operation Green Hunt and Salwa Judum.
He drew a parallel between the operations of the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza against the national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people with Operation Samadhan-Prahar’s double attack of corporatization and militarization of people’s land and resources.
He bemoaned the lack of documentation of such military operations, be it Operation Steeplechase during the time of Indira Gandhi, Operation Green Hunt in the 2010s and now Operation Samadhan-Prahar, suggest the Indian state is continuing its genocidal war particularly against the resource-rich Adivasi.
He cited the four aerial bombings which occurred in Bastar as part of this operation and the numerous military bases being cropped up in villages where people are waging their struggles for jal-jangal-jameen.
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*Constituents: All India Students' Association (AISA), All India Revolutionary Students Organization (AIRSO), All India Revolutionary Women's Organization (AIRWO), Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organization (BASO), Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (bsCEM), Collective, Common Teachers Forum (CTF), Democratic Students Union (DSU), Lawyers Against Atrocities, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS), Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI)

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