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Vedanta, Chidambaram, Chattisgarh And Maoist

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

09 May, 2010

Vedanta is a mining company headquartered in London. Anil Aggarwal and Naveen Aggarwal are the owners of this company. They have huge mining interest in several states of the country including in the Chattisgarh state of India.

Chattisgarh is a mineral rich state that was carved out of Madhya Pradesh on November 1, 2000. The state has 75 million tones of bauxite mine at Lanjigarh. In the Dantewada and Bijapur districts of Chattisgarh there are iron and bauxite deposits worth several crores of rupees. The Vedanta Company wants to lay their hands on all these precious minerals.

When Chhattisgarh came into being, the Vedanta group owned company ‘Strelite’ bought a 51 percent stake in state owned BALCO for about Rs 551 crores and took over the company's management. It was the first public sector undertaking to be disinvested under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.

The Sterlite group excavates around five lakh tonnes of bauxite every year from a place called Mainpat in Chhattisgarh annually. Besides, it’s also excavates 300,000 metric tonnes of bauxite in Kabirdham every year. In spite of reaping such rich dividends, Sterlite never bothers to pass on even a few benefits to its workers.

In fact, the list of the irregularities committed by the Sterlite Company is endless. The Company resorted to deep-hole blasting for excavating bauxite, and this has a violent impact on the whole area. It created cracks in the farm land, and farming cannot be done on cracked surfaces. The blasting has also caused an increase in health problems among the residents.

The farmers whose land was taken were promised huge compensation but were left at the mercy of private contractors. Not only did the farmers lose their land and their houses, but they were also forced to live in small camps or rented houses.

In 2003 Sterlite Company cheated the government crores of rupees in taxes and got caught. The person who took up their legal case was PC Chidambaram, who is currently the home Minster of India, and a lawyer by profession. Chidambaram was also a member on the board of directors of Vedanta Company for a while.

The forests of Chattisgarh which contain these mineral deposits are also home to lakhs of Adivasi or indigenous people who are variously called Koli, Munda, etc. Even though sixty three years have lapsed to our country’s freedom, no government till this date has provided these Adivasis with even basic amenities like education, roads, ration cards, etc

The condition in the areas where Adivasis reside is so miserable that hardly many of the people there cross the age of 40 years. In this short lifespan they have to survive on the forests whatever little the Mother Nature can offer them.

The Vedanta Company could not start mining for the precious deposits without driving the hapless Adivasis out of the forests. The government made some devious plans to force them out and in the beginning, the Advasis refused to move out but later protested. Government sent in the armed forces and the Adivasis left their villages and ran into the forests.

The government created a people’s army called ‘Salwa Judum’, which burnt down villages, beat up children and men and raped women. When harassment by the government continued, the Adivasis had no option left but to rally behind the Naxalites and take up an armed struggle.

Naturally, the government could not tolerate this and that is why it started sending thousands of CRPFs to wage a war against those Adivasis who are, incidentally, as much Indian as any Aryans and the Dravidians who are sitting in the mandarins of power in New Delhi.

The former lawyer of the Vedanta Company and now the honorable Home minister of this country has recently threatened: “I don’t care how many men I lose, I will win this war.” He is saying this perhaps because he wants to finish off the Adivasis so that Vedanta can start mining in those forests.

Just like they catch the Muslim boys on the suspicion of being Jehadis in any communally sensitive part of the country, the Chattisgarh government has imprisoned many tribal boys of young age because it thinks they are a threat to the security of this country.

This is the way the national security is being handled in this country. It is with this mindset the power wielders of this nation want to deal with the problem of social unrest, hunger, deprivation and marginalization.

Now, a few words about the Maoists who are revolutionaries mainly consisting of the extremely poor people including a large number of Dalits and Adivasis. They come mainly from the toiling masses and they are trying to organize the vast population of such masses against those who try to impinge on their right to life and liberty. They seek to arm and train them so that these masses can resist the onslaught of the rich and powerful who are intruding into their land.

In this effort the Maoist go beyond the idea that mass movements should focus on some specific issues like increase of wages, better health care, more honesty of public servants and so forth. The view of the rebels is that the poor and exploited people must first and foremost establish their own democratic political power and their own state power in various places.

This is because without controlling state power, the poor and the exploited can at most hope for only limited improvements in their living conditions. So, the Maoists mobilize the poor to fight against the existing state, even armed fight if possible, as they consider the existing state to be a set of agents acting for the big multinational corporations, rich landlords and the wealthy in general.

The fight is an extremely challenging and unequal one. The rich are aided by the government bureaucrats, the police and even the military, the half clad hungry belly people are armed with revolutionary zest and some country made weapon.

Also, contrary to what the Government and the mainstream media are propagating, the Maoist rebels are actually completely opposed to individual killings; they openly denigrate such stray terrorism-like acts. Their fight is against the flawed state apparatus and they want to change this decrypt structure that’s cloaked under democracy and being drummed up by the state sponsored mass media as the best system of governance.

What the Maoist has been attempting to build up is a mass movement, even armed, to take on the violence of the ruling classes and its representative state machinery. What the government is trying to do is to slap them into sanity. This ding- dong battle is going on for the past sixty three years or so in the country and if at all any one who has gained ground in this tussle are the Maoist.

The government policy granting mining rights to the bourgeoisies have created havoc on the minds of the indigenous people. Their resistance against such oppression is being construed as rebellion and they are being treated on par with the terrorists.

Its unfortunate, that one hand India is extolled for being the largest democracy, on the other hand no one no one is talking about the injustice that’s committed by the democratically elected government of this land.

The government which is responsible for creating the Maoists problems is bent on using its strong arm tactics to tackle the problem as if unaware of the fact that one can lord over with the bayonet of the gun but can’t sit on it.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at [email protected]