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Aerial bombing of Adivasi areas continues: Hague, Geneva conventions 'violated'

Counterview Desk
The civil rights network, Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), taking  strong exception to what it has called the state’s “genocidal war on people”, has said that 5th aerial bombing in Chhattisgarh's Bastar took place on 13 January 2024, adding similar operations were carried out in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh on 8th and 12th January, and drone strikes on Indo-Myanmar border.
In a statement, it said, “The killing of Adivasi peasants is being justified either in the name of Maoist encounter or crossfire and lives of Adivasi peasants are passed off as mere statistics of collateral damage in state's anti-Naxal operations”.
FACAM added, “The use of aerial bombs in internal conflicts endangering the lives of civilians, whatever the political reason may be, is not only a violation of the democratic rights within the Indian Constitution and domestic law but is also a matter of concern internationally as it stands in violation of the 1907 Hague Convention as well as the Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions.”

Text:

FACAM has learned that the Indian state has once again used drones for aerial bombings in Mettaguda, Errapali and Bottethong on 13th January 2024. These villages lie on the borders of Sukma-Bijapur districts in Chhattisgarh. In another recent incident, Ramesh Poyam from Bodga village of Bastar was shot dead by the bullets of the police and paramilitary on 30th January 2024 when he went to take bath in the nearby river. 
The Forces were reportedly returning from Abujhmad region after busting a 130-meter-long Maoist tunnel and destroying a “Martyrs Memorial” of the Maoists when they engaged in an encounter with the Maoist forces. After the firing stopped and Ramesh went to take bath, he was reportedly shot by the forces and yet again, the killing has been justified with the excuse of “crossfire with Naxalites”. Ramesh had come to his sister's house to invite her to a celebration on birth of his child two days ago.
The undeclared civil war in Central India has only escalated rapidly in recent months. The killing of Adivasi peasants is being justified either in the name of “Maoist encounter” or “crossfire” and lives of Adivasi peasants are passed off as mere statistics of collateral damage in state's “anti-Naxal operations”. 
Moreover, this is the fifth time in a three-year period where the Indian state has resorted to dropping bombs on the heads of its own people as part of Operation Samadhan-Prahar in pursuance of rapidly expanding the corporate loot of natural resources in the region and genociding the Adivasi peasants through large-scale militarization for this purpose. These villages are no stranger to such bombings. 
Mettaguda and Bottethong have been repeatedly aerial bombed since 14th April 2022, when 35 blasts took place in the villages and surrounding areas. Precisely one year before the current incident, on 11th January 2023, the villages of Mettaguda, Bottethong and Errapali were subject to these bombings. 
In a fact-finding report released by the Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organizations (CDRO) titled, ‘When the Sky Spits Fire’ on the subject of the 11th January 2023 aerial bombings, a local recounted, “we had gone out early morning [in the forest] to gather mahua leaves when suddenly from the top a drone came and showered bombs over us. We didn’t understand what was happening.” 
Adivasi peasants engaging in their traditional activities of gathering mahua leaves to sell them find no peace in their lives as the Indian state’s Operation Samadhan-Prahar uses more and genocidal measures to wipe out their existence itself, all undertaken with the excuse of countering Maoism. The use of drones for aerial bombings has also now become a practice that is not only being undertaken in Bastar but is reportedly also being employed in some other parts of India. 
On 8th January 2024, reports have emerged regarding drone-based aerial bombing taking place near the Indo-Myanmar border, with the claim of targeting the Assam based rebel group which is not engaging in peace talks with the Indian state, the United National Liberation Front of Asom (Independent). Four days later, on 12th January 2024, reports emerged that the Indian state used drones once again to drop bombs near the Pangsau border in the Changland district, Arunachal Pradesh which is a densely populated area. 
Once again, the attack was undertaken with the excuse of curtailing a separatist movement, this time the Naga movement’s National Socialist Council of Nagaland- Khaplang (Yung Aung). 
In a period of 5 days, the Indian state undertook drone strikes in three different parts of the country, targeting Adivasi peasants in Bastar and oppressed nationalities in the North-East, mere days before the state celebrated the adoption of the Indian Constitution and India becoming a so-called republic. We believe that this expansion of aerial attacks is the reflection of experiment being conducted in Central India that has been conveniently silenced by state and therefore not seeing sufficient scrutiny. 
Asked an Adivasi peasant: why are there these attacks in Bastar? Is it a foreign country? We need to go to the fields to feed our stomachs
It should also come as no surprise that the Indian state is increasingly using the Israel-made Heron Mark 2 drones for these aerial bombings and has now not only become the world’s largest purchaser of arms, but it has also become Israel’s biggest customer of arms, importing a variety of arms, UAVs, missiles and even technology like Pegasus surveillance software which it has used against democratic-minded activists. 
Akin to the Zionist state and its curtailment of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and the genocide it is carrying out in Gaza, another genocidal attempt is fomenting in Bastar with mobilization of 3000 paramilitary forces under Operation Kagar. 
The use of aerial bombs in internal conflicts endangering the lives of civilians, whatever the political reason may be, is not only a violation of the democratic rights within the Indian Constitution and domestic law but is also a matter of concern internationally as it stands in violation of the 1907 Hague Convention as well as the Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions.
This escalation of war in Bastar in January alone has witnessed killing of 6-month child in Mutvandi on 1st Jan, fake encounter of 3 peasants in Nendra on 16th Jan, and the killing of Ramesh Poyam on 30th January. Even as we speak, we are receiving inputs from members of Moolwasi Bachao Manch that forces have fired rocket shells in villages around the newly setup camp in Tekalguda, where they lost 3 CRPF soldiers and 14 were injured in the Maoist attack on under construction on 30th January 2024. 
We believe that the escalation of war that has been brought forth by intensification of militarization and counter assaults by the Maoists will lead the impunity granted frustrated soldiers to carry on more reckless attacks such as these in the upcoming days and will wreak havoc on the people of Bastar, if it is not opposed by democratic progressive forces across the country unitedly.
We reiterate the same question which was asked by an Adivasi peasant, “why are there these attacks in Bastar? Is it a foreign country? We need to go to the fields to feed our stomachs; the soldiers are filling our bodies with bullets. What is the Indian government doing to stop this?” 
  • FACAM condemns the use of drone-based aerial bombings in Chhattisgarh, in Arunachal Pradesh and near the Indo-Myanmar border.
  • FACAM condemns the killing of Ramesh Poyam in Bijapur by DRG personnel and demands an end to the genocide of Adivasis in India’s resource-rich regions.
  • FACAM demands the stopping of Operation Kagar and Operation Samadhan-Prahar!

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