We, members of the War Resister’s International (WRI) and all participants of the Triennial conference held in Ahmedabad from 22-25 January 2010 have, as part of our deliberations, also discussed the current situation in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.
We are deeply concerned that the indigenous population of this tribal dominated region is facing the worst humanitarian crisis of its entire history as a consequence of the armed conflict between the State and Salwa Judum (a state sponsored armed militia) and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) that is continuing in this region since mid-2005. So far more than a thousand people have been killed, more than a hundred women have been raped, many hundred villages have been burnt and at least a 100,000 people displaced from their homes, lands and forests; the scale of displacement is said to be the largest instance of ‘internal displacement’ in the country in current times. The resultant civil war has further impoverish these people, who in government statistics were already acknowledged as the poorest of the poor, and caused them immense and unimaginable suffering.
Instead of taking cognizance of the various reports on the ground situation by national and international human rights organizations, journalists, various social organizations, government commissions, orders of the Supreme Court and responding in a way that the basic rights and security of the people are protected in accordance with the Constitution of India and the international covenants that the Indian government is a signatory of, the State has taken recourse to further militarization by commencing Operation Greenhunt and Trishul in 2009 leading to a fresh spate of violence and displacement in the region. This ‘war’ is not restricted to only combatants but, for the most part, is taking in its sweep the ordinary citizen of the interior forest villages who are all understood to be ‘Maoists.’ The Maoists for their part are also responding in a similar vein which has led to a never-ending spiral of violence. Democratic space for any form of disagreement or dissent, even that which is essentially nonviolent, is now minimal where everybody who talks about rights and justice is viewed with suspicion. Democracy in the region and the state has thus been seriously undermined.
WRI is committed to nonviolent social transformation. We believe that nonviolence is an important value that needs to be respected not only by members of a society but also by Governments. Fighting violence, whether structural or revolutionary, with more violence will only lead to death and destruction. In the interest of the ordinary citizen of the region we appeal both sides of the conflict to resort to nonviolent means of conflict resolution.
We demand that:
- Both sides immediately announce and respect a ceasefire followed by a dialogue.
- Every effort be made to ensure a safe passage to the affected people back to their homes, land and forests.
- The government respects the ‘Rule of Law’ and deal with the Maoists only through legal means.
- The CPI (Maoist) respect the international laws related to similar conflicts such as those contained in the Geneva Convention and the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- The Chhattisgarh Public Security Act, 2005, be repealed.
Ahmedabad, 25 January 2010