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Malayalam movie ‘Pada’ on Kerala’s Maoist revolutionaries  conquers many a heart

The film hit the theatres at a time when the Maoist movement in Kerala is on a revival path after passing through the worst phase in its history.

Published: 16th March 2022 06:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th March 2022 12:12 PM  |  A+A-

Poster of the film ‘Pada’.(Photo | Facebook)

Express News Service

KOZHIKODE: Maoist supporters in Kerala are elated over the overwhelming reception the movie ‘Pada’ has received from various sections in the society that are not inclined to the kind of politics the red rebels pursue. A number of important figures ranging from Tamil director Pa. Ranjith to writer V R  Sudheesh have showered encomiums on the movie that captured one of the most dramatics actions of the Maoists in Kerala.

The film hit the theatres at a time when the Maoist movement in Kerala is on a revival path after passing through the worst phase in its history. Continuous arrests and encounter killings had crippled the movement though the Maoist leadership is presenting a brave front. Armed squads of the Maoists have restarted their customary visit to the houses on the fringe of the forests in Kozhikode and Kannur. Police suspect a few Malayali youths have recently joined the Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) of the CPI (Maoist).

Police protection was given to Chakkittappara grama panchayat president K Sunil after Maoists issued threat against him. The movie has made the Ayyankali Pada activists M N Ravunni, Kallara Babu, Ajayan Mannur, Rameshan Kanhangad and Vilayodi Sivankutty, who took then Palakkad collector hostage, instant heroes. Interviews in media have positioned them as true revolutionaries who were ready to sacrifice their life for a social cause.

Maoists may not have even dreamt of such a positive reaction from a society that viewed them with suspicion till the other day. Ravunni, who was the master brain behind the Palakkad action, is moved by audience response.

“There was a thunderous clap in the theatre when the movie ended. After the movie was over, a group of young men surrounded me and wanted to shake hands and take a selfie,” he said. “They might have identified me from the photograph shown at the end of the movie. They told me that the heroic act has become an inspiration for the youth,” he said.

“I am told that there was shouting of slogan Ayyankali Pada Zindabad at a theatre near Manjeri. The youth might not have heard about Ayyankali Pada as they were born much later,” he said. Ravunni said one of the positive effects of the movie is that the youths have started showing interest in revolutionary politics. “They are awakened to the treachery being meted out to the most oppressed class,” he said.

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CRPF officer killed, jawan injured in encounter with Naxals in Chhattsigarh
OTHER STATES

CRPF officer killed, jawan injured in encounter with Naxals in Chhattsigarh

A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer was killed and a jawan injured in an exchange of fire with Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s left-wing extremism affected Bijapur district on February 12, officials said.

The incident took place around 9.30 a.m. near a rivulet close to Putkel village under Basaguda police station limits when a team of CRPF’s 168th battalion was out on a road security duty, Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) P. Sundarraj told PTI .

When the patrolling team was cordoning off forest near Dongal Chinta rivulet in forest, around 450 km away from capital Raipur, it came under heavy fire from a group of Maoists leading to the gunfight, he said.

“Assistant Commandant Shanti Bhusan Tirkey, belonging to the CRPF’s 168th battalion was killed in the incident, while jawan Appa Rao sustained injuries,” the IG said.

After being alerted about the incident, reinforcement was rushed to the spot. The situation is under control, he said.

Red salute to Comrade Saroj Dutta

“49 years ago on this day (5th August, 1971), revolutionary poet Saroj Dutta was abducted and within few hours shot and beheaded by the police. On official records, he still remains missing. Thousands of such poets and young comrades have lost their lives to keep the charade of ‘Democracy’ and ‘Republic’ intact. Why all these lament of the death of republic today? What republic? That which learned Mossad and CIA torture manuals to apply it on rebels? That which implements unending AFSPA and carries on brutal atrocities in Manipur and Kashmir? That which locks up a
90% disabled professor in a solitary confinement? That which orders snipers to shoot anti- atomic Power plant protesters? That which unleashes a war on it’s Adivasis population in the name of anti-Maoist operations? That in which Muslims and Dalits are still day treated as animals and lynched?
The imagined community that you liberals boasted about was all imagined along your class-caste line. The all symbolic foundation of ‘secularism’ and ‘democracy’ ends here today, with the construction of the Ram Mandir. All you liberals and centrists are doomed now. The spectres of left radicalism will haunt you restlessly.” (From Facebook)

12 new Maoist committees formed in Telangana

Published: 20th July 2020 09:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th July 2020 09:52 AM  |  

ABAD: The Maoist party has formed as many as 12 area committees and reconstituted the state committee with seven senior leaders in Telangana, according to sources.

Yapa Narayana, alias Haribhushan/Jagan, has been appointed as the party’s secretary in the state.

It was believed that Jagan and his wife Sammakka were injured in an exchange of fire with the police a few years ago and that they had escaped.

The police thought Jagan might have died as there was no intel on his whereabouts.

After combing areas with Maoist presence, the police have come to the conclusion that Jagan is, in fact, alive and that he has been participating in party activities in the state.

He has now implemented the decision of the party’s central committee by forming 12 area committees in Telangana.

Osmania University  professor held for Maoist links; 20 students detained

Unlimited sway?: ‘Whether Hindutva can be deactivated by a return to the Vedas is debatable.’ PTIUnlimited sway?: ‘Whether Hindutva can be deactivated by a return to the Vedas is debatable.’ PTI

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A majority of Hindus said they felt close to the BJP. Four of five Muslims said they disliked the party

It would not be an overstatement to say that the 2019 Lok Sabha election verdict and the sheer scale of the National Democratic Alliace’s victory is in large measure a manifestation of the deepening religious divide in Indian society.

Hindu consolidation

Lokniti’s post-poll survey data clearly find that the BJP’s all-time high vote share of 37.4% has come mostly on the back of an unprecedented Hindu consolidation around the party as only a small proportion of religious minorities supported the BJP. In 2014, 36% of all Hindu voters were found to have supported the BJP. This time the number increased to 44%. The NDA got 51% votes among Hindus. In the face of such a massive consolidation of the majority community that comprises four-fifths of the country’s population, the Opposition parties stood no chance at all.

Table 1: Support for BJP rose across all Hindu castes and communities

The BJP was able to secure this enormous Hindu support on account of the backing it received from all Hindu castes and communities, including Dalits and Adivasis, when compared to 2014. Support from Dalits went up by 10 percentage points; among Adivasis, it went up by seven percentage points. In a sense, the unification of Hindu communities in the 2014 election not only persisted but strengthened further this time.

Polarisation of voters

Table 2: Support for NDA declined among minorities

If the Hindus were on one side, the minorities were clearly on the other, indicating a deeply polarised verdict. Only 8% of Muslim voters nationally ended up voting for the BJP, the same as last time. Christians and Sikhs too largely kept away from the BJP. Among Christians, 11% voted for the party. Among Sikhs, the number was the same (the Akali Dal, the BJP’s ally, got 20%). This lack of enthusiasm for the BJP among the minority communities is also evident in the party not being able to perform too well in minority-concentrated States like Kerala, Punjab and Goa.

The polarisation of voters on Hindu-Muslim lines seems to have taken place in many States, according to our survey. It was found to be most acute in States where the proportion of Muslims is high, namely, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. Not only did the BJP get a massive proportion of Hindu votes in these States, this share was much larger than what it received in the 2014 election. Increased Hindu support for the BJP in these States (and elsewhere too) ended up rendering Muslim consolidation behind the Congress and other Opposition parties ineffective again.

Table 3: The Hindu-Muslim divide: Unprecedented consolidation

In Assam, the NDA got over two-thirds of Hindu votes compared to three-fifths last time. Consolidation of Muslims in favour of the Congress in some seats went up from two-fifths to two-thirds. In Bihar, Hindu support for the NDA increased by 21 percentage points, whereas consolidation of Muslims in favour of the RJD-Congress alliance went up by 9 percentage points. In West Bengal, the BJP’s vote share among Hindus went up by 36 percentage points, whereas the consolidation of Muslims in favour of the Trinamool Congress increased by 30 percentage points. In Uttar Pradesh, the NDA got 60% of Hindu votes, while Muslim support for the mahagathbandhan was 73%.

In the Lokniti survey, the NDA got 45% of the Hindu votes in sampled seats where Muslims are less than 10% of the population, and 59% of the Hindu votes in seats where Muslims are between 20% and 40% of the population.

Table 4: Hindus on one side; Muslims, Christians and Sikhs on the other

Divided in responses too

The religious divide in these elections could be seen in not just how people voted, but also in how they responded to several survey questions. For instance, on being asked if the government should return to power, over half the Hindus answered in the affirmative, while two-thirds of Muslims and over half the Christians and Sikhs replied in the negative. On the question of Rafale, a plurality of Hindu respondents who had heard of the controversy felt there had been no wrongdoing by the government, but a majority of Muslims, Christians and Sikh respondents felt otherwise. Similarly, while most Hindus credited either the government or both the government and the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the Balakot strikes, a majority of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs credited the IAF alone.

Table 5: Hindus three times more likely to feel close to BJP than Congress

Like or dislike for a party

Finally, when respondents were asked whether they felt close to any particular party and, if yes, which party, Hindu respondents (all States combined) who felt close to a party were three times more likely to feel close to the BJP than the Congress. On the other hand, Muslim respondents who felt close to a party were five times more likely to feel close to the Congress than the BJP. When voters were asked whether they disliked a party, only one of four Hindus who said they disliked a party took the BJP’s name, whereas four out of five Muslims who said they disliked a party identified the BJP. Christians and Sikhs too were more likely to name the BJP.

Some claim that religious minorities voted in large numbers for the NDA. This is not true, according to our data. The burden and responsibility of this sweeping verdict for Prime Minister Narendra Modi rests almost entirely on the majority community’s shoulders.

(Shreyas Sardesai & Vibha Attri work at Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi)

India’s general election – 2019

Average assets of select parties in the world’s “largest democracy”

Average assets of select parties
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311 out of 967 candidates are crorepatis (millionaires)

311 out of 967 candidates are crorepatis
Crore=10 million= £8,700,00.00 approx
Average asset= 3.41 x £8,700,00.00
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Candidates of major parties who are facing criminal cases

Candidates of major parties who are facing criminal cases
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189 out of 967 candidates in Phase-6 facing criminal charges: ADR

189 out of 967 candidates in Phase-6 facing criminal charges: ADR

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Maoist call to boycott General Elections 2019

Posters appear in different places asking people to boycott elections to counter militarisation of the country.

A lyrical poster in the eastern state of Odisha

'Maoist' Banners Call For Election Boycott In Chhattisgarh's Tribal Areas

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Maoists blow up ex-MLC’s house in Bihar’s Gaya, call for poll boycott

INDIAUpdated: Mar 28, 2019 13:39 IST

Adapted from the
Hindustan Times, Gaya
Maoists,BJP leader house bombed,Bihar Maoists
The house of former Bihar MLC and BJP leader Anuj Kumar was blown up by Maoists on March 27.(HT Photo)

Maoists blew up the house of a former member of the Bihar Legislative Council (MLC) and BJP leader Anuj Kumar Singh in the state’s Gaya district late on Wednesday as they called for the boycott of Lok Sabha election 2019, police said on Thursday.

Singh’s uncle and his family member were beaten up during the attack in Bodhibigha village, about 80km away from the district headquarters, according to police.

An armed squad of the outlawed CPI(Maoist) also urged the villagers to ensure a total boycott of the Lok Sabha election 2019 across the Magadh division of the state. Their campaign at the village under the Dumaria police station continued for two hours.

They threw handbills and pamphlets calling for a boycott of the Lok Sabha election 2019 and raised slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Maoists also urged the village’s youth to stay away from the ongoing election campaigns of the political parties.

Gaya’s senior superintendent of police Rajeev Mishra confirmed the incident and said that police teams reached the spot early on Thursday morning and investigation is still on. The local police will lodge an FIR with this regard after their preliminary investigation.

When asked about the Maoists posters and handbills dropped in the village, Mishra said police have recovered some papers which were being circulated by the Maoists calling for a poll boycott.

This is not the first time that Maoists have struck the former MLC’s house at his ancestral village of Bodhibigha. They had attacked the house in 2007 and threw bombs. They had also blown up the house of Singh’s personal assistant and beaten him up him in public.

The former MLC has been on the hit list of the Maoists since 2006 for his continuous campaign against the Maoists across Magadh division.

Mishra, however, said that there is no infrastructure in the village and the police station there would not be viable. There have been adequate forces in Dumaria-Imamganj areas to control the situation, he said.

Maoists have carried out their anti-election campaign in the past as well. Last month, the they had torched a government middle school which was turned into a police camp for the election.

Maoists call for arrest of killers of C.P. Jaleel

Based on a news item from The Hindu, KALPETTA, MARCH 25, 2019 20:50 IST

They say they will avenge planned murder of Comrade Jaleel

With Maoists being sighted again in Wayanad, the police and the district administration may face a big headache in the days to come.

Jaleel, a Maoist who was killed on March 7 in an alleged encounter with the commandos of Thunderbolt, at a private resort at Lakkidi in the district.

Five armed persons, including two women, reached Makkimala town near Thalappuzha around 8 p.m. on Sunday, introducing themselves as Maoists, police department sources said.

They spent nearly 30 minutes in the town by shouting slogans and pasted posters on walls of the town. They interacted with nearly 15 villagers who were present in the town, the sources said.

They shook hands with the villagers but not allowed to take photographs on mobile phones.

The militants told them that they were the Kabani Dalam members of the Communist Party of India (Maoists) Western Ghats committee.

Fake encounter

They said they would retaliate against the planned murder of Jaleel. The encounter was fake and the incident was fabricated by the police with the support of some traitors of the resort, they added.

The Maoists left the town after procuring provisions like egg and bread from a grocery shop and paid ₹100 to its owner.

They also distributed the March edition of the ‘Kattu Thee’ a monthly publication of the organisation published by Mandakini, on behalf of the Kabani Dalam.

The pamphlet started with offering hundreds of red salutes to the martyr, Jaleel. It also asked the public to take revenge against the murder. Though the Thalappuzha police reached spot at once they could not trace any evidence of the militants.

Map of study area – Wayanad district in Kerala, India.  

 Telengana:

  Heavy forces deployed in view of Maoists’ bandh call

The Greyhounds teams and special police forces have intensified combing operation in the more than six Maoist-affected districts.

Published: 31st January 2019 08:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2019 08:52 AM  |  A+A-

Express News Service
Security personnel check vehicles at Kaleswaram
bridge in Bhupalpally | Express

T
Bhupalpally: Following ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by the CPI (Maoist) on Thursday, the district police and central para-military forces have taken up intensive combing and checking in the bordering areas of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

In the wake of intelligence report that Maoists might try to attack Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP), a large contingent of police has been deployed at the project sites.

“Security has been beefed up at all the project sites in the district. Our men have been put on high alert and measures are being taken to keep ultras away from the district,” SP R Bhaskaran said.

Intensive combing and checking is going on at Kaleshwaram, Mahadevpur, Pallimela, Kaniyegudem, Wazedu, Venkatapuram, Eturnagaram, Mangapeta and Tadvai mandals of the district.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDAgYHwlVng

Naxals regrouping in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka: Police

In a first since 2005, there have been sightings of Maoist groups in the Western Ghats, says an intelligence report

The Maoists’ main recruitment is from Karnataka and Chhattisgarh, but they prefer to stay in Kerala parts of the Western Ghats, according to an intelligence report. Photo: HT

The Maoists’ main recruitment is from Karnataka and Chhattisgarh, but they prefer to stay in Kerala parts of the Western Ghats, according to an intelligence report. Photo: HT

Wayanad (Kerala): The Kerala and Karnataka Police as well as intelligence agencies say there has been a strong Maoist resurgence in the Kerala-Karnataka-Tamil Nadu (KKT) region, in what could deal a blow to the Union government’s efforts to contain Left-wing extremism (LWE) in the country,

After a hiatus of nearly 12 years following the 2005 killing of Saketh, a Karnataka state committee member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the group has started making a comeback in the KKT tri-junction, according to an intelligence report reviewed by Mint.

“Currently the Western Ghat zonal committee is run by B.G Krishnamurthy and militarily supported by Vikram Gowda. Their main recruitment is from Karnataka and Chhattisgarh, but they prefer to stay in Kerala parts of Western Ghats. There have been sightings and four groups are operating in the Kerala side of Western Ghats,” the report said.

“In September 2017, five armed Maoist cadres forced their way into a house at Parappanpara in Kerala’s Kozhikode district. Having robbed the owner of basic supplies and food, they warned him against contacting the police, and fled. The next day, the Kerala Police embarked on a massive combing and search operation against the group in the nearby forest areas, only to find that the group had escaped without a trace,” said a senior Kerala Police official, seeking anonymity.

Though they could not be located, the team of Maoists (of that particular group) was led by Soman, who hails from Wayanad and is also a former leader of another Maoist front organization, the official added.

While the Kannadiga cadre of the Maoists has suffered a decline because of the gradual shift to Kerala, senior state police officials said that the southern tip of Karnataka, overlapping with Kerala and Tamil Nadu had become a safe haven for the CPI (Maoist) cadres who had begun to retreat from their current strongholds in the Andhra-Odisha border.

“To strengthen themselves, they are planning to develop morally, militarily and their organization capabilities. They are planning to train uneducated cadres by giving them both tactical and political education,” the aforementioned report said.

On 21 April 2017, the Kerala Police conducted another round of combing operations in the Nilambur Forest in Malappuram district after receiving reports of a Maoist group camping inside the forest and intelligence units in the state confirmed “that the group had planted landmines around their camp near the Mancheeri Tribal Colony, in an apparent bid to prevent police raids. A group of armed cadres had also warned the Mancheeri Colony residents of landmines and had asked them not to enter their camp area.”

Experts said that state borders were more porous, given lower levels of policing.

“State borders are less policed and so Naxal movement is easy there. But there needs to be more specific intelligence on their movement and where they will hit next,” said Gurmeet Kanwal, defence analyst at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.

Basavraj takes Over from Ganpathy as New Chief of CPI (Maoist) and India’s ‘Most Wanted’ Man

In his over three-and-a-half-decade association with the organisation, Basavaraj has served as the chief of Central Military Commission of CPI(Maoist).

From: Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:November 28, 2018, 12:24 PM IST

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New Delhi: The CPI(Maoist) has formally announced a change of guard. Basavaraj alias Namballa Keshav Rao has replaced Ganpathy alias Muppalla Lakshmana Rao as the new general secretary of the banned organisation, and also perhaps as the most wanted man in India.
The formal announcement, through a press release dated November 10, was handed out to local journalists in Bastar on Wednesday morning. The release confirmed that Ganpathy, has been replaced by Basavaraj.
Sources say it was 71-year-old Ganpathy who proposed the name of 63-year-old Basavaraj as the new general secretary in a meeting of the politburo members in February last year. As is the case with most CPI (Maoist) cadre, who mostly come from the undivided Andhra Pradesh, the new general secretary is also from Telangana. (*)
While Ganpathy is from Berpur village of Jagdil district, Telangana, Keshav Rao is from Gianapet village of Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. Ganpathy used to work as a teacher in Eligadu village of Karimnagar district and joined the Maoists after meeting Kondapalli Sitaramaiya who founded CPI-ML People’s War Group.

In his over three-and-a-half-decade association with the organisation, Basavaraj has served as the chief of Central Military Commission (CMC). Intelligence sources had a few weeks ago attributed the rise in the number of incidents against security forces in Bastar to his promotion.

Basavaraj is known for being an expert in explosives and military tactics. He has been underground for the last 28 years. Little is known about his past except that he graduated from Regional Engineering College (REC) in Warangal, now renamed the National Institute of Technology (NIT). He was often arrested in Srikakulam for his agitations and protests led in student days.

“Every offensive against the security forces in the area you can think of, from Dantewada 2010 attack [in which 76 CRPF soldiers were killed], the Jeeram Ghati attack [in which 27 people, including former state minister and leader of Salwa Judum – Mahendra Karma, and Chhattigarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, were killed], have been planned and ordered directly by him,” an intelligence officer told News18.

The officer said Basavaraj is the brain behind the organisation’s attacks against security personnel and his elevation may see a spike in such incidents.

For past several months, there have been speculations in Bastar about Ganpathy’s failing health. It was reported that the Naxal leader, who has a Rs 2.5 crore bounty on his head, was suffering from liver problems and had to be carried around.

The press release issued by the CPI (Maoist) makes an almost obituarial reference to Ganpathy, mentioning the illness he’s suffering from thrice, and recounting his 25-year tenure as the head of the People’s War Group, which then merged into CPI (Maoist) and took the shape of outfit that is today active in Bastar, parts of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand.

* In a future article we will discuss the history of peasants uprisings in these places – the heartland of such struggles in India.

Define The Term ‘Urban Naxal’, Historian Romila Thapar Asks India Government

Talking on the house arrests of five activists, she said these are the people who are fighting against social injustice.

Define The Term 'Urban Naxal', Historian Romila Thapar Asks Centre

The five activists have been under house arrest since August 29

NEW DELHI: Eminent historian Romila Thapar, who petitioned the Supreme Court against the house arrest of five Left-leaning activists, has asked government to define the phrase ‘urban Naxal’, saying either they do not understand the meaning of the term or the activists like her do not.

Talking on the house arrests of five activists Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, she said these are the people who are fighting against social injustice.

“We were all born Indians, lived as Indians all our lives. These activists are fighting for good causes and terming them urban Naxal is a political move,” she said.

“Do they even know what urban Naxal means, first ask the government to define the term urban Naxal and then tell us how we fall into this category. It is very easy to call us urban Naxal. And also tell us how we have become urban Naxal, either the government does not understand the meaning of urban Naxal or we don’t understand the meaning of the term,” Ms Thapar told PTI.

She was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference held by the petitioners after the Supreme Court judgement on Friday refused to interfere with the arrest of the five rights activists in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case and declined to appoint a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe their arrests.

The five activists have been under house arrest since August 29.

Politicians like Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have often referred to the five activists as “urban Naxals”.

Many social media users have enlisted themselves as “urban Naxals” in a show of solidarity with the arrested Leftwing activists as ‘MeTooUrbanNaxal’ hashtag trended on Twitter.

They countered that the term ‘urban Naxal’ was a mere creation of some sections to brand everyone as Naxalites (so that they can be arrested) who have an anti-establishment stance.

Ms Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala were the petitioners who filed a case in the Supreme Court after the five lawyers, journalists and civil rights activists were arrested across the country on August 28 and charged with abetting acts of terror under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

“Any democratic institution cannot take law into its hands. It has to go through a certain procedure. Arrests are the last step of a probe it is not the first step of an investigation,” she said.

“Arbitrary arrests on implausible charges means the police can walk into our homes and arrest us – either without a warrant or a warrant written in a language we don’t understand and then accuse us of activities about which we know nothing,” she said.

Discovery of pen gun from slain Maoists alarms security forces

pen-gun-1
The pen gun recovered from Maoists | via Patrika

For the first time since the emergence of Naxalism, a country-made pen gun has been found in the possession of one of the eight suspected Maoists, who were killed in encounter on the hills of Bailadila in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh on Thursday. The discovery has surprised the security forces.

According to police sources, two rifles, along with some other weapons, were recovered from Maoists, but the most surprising find was a pen gun. Local media, quoting jawans who were part of the encounter, said the pen gun was recovered from the lady Naxal commander, Jaini, who was among those killed in the encounter.

The small, country-made weapon was made from a nine-inch long metal pipe with nine mm bullets to be used in it.

The pen gun, which resembles a flute, has a range of 15 to 20 metres, according to locals. It is mainly used by the Maoist cadre in emergency situations when they lose their main attack weapons—AK47s and INSAS rifles.

Most of the weapons used by Maoist guerrillas are those that are normally used by police and para-military forces. They often loot the arms carried by the security forces whenever they ambush patrolling parties. According to an estimate, over the last 20 years, nearly 4,000 weapons have been stolen or snatched from police forces by Naxals.

The discovery of indigenous pen gun from Maoists has alarmed the police who will have to rethink about their security strategy as the small weapons may pose threat to important people in the election year.

Over the last two years, Chhattisgarh police has launched a major offensive against the Naxals in Bastar zone. Thursday’s encounter saw eight Naxals being killed, while earlier this year, 18 Naxals were killed in two separate encounters in south Bastar.

Thursday’s encounter is considered important as Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called up Chief Minister Raman Singh to congratulate him over the same. Later, a statement was released by government saying the home minister congratulated state for the successful operation.

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‘URBAN MAOISTS’: IN MODI’S INDIA, IF YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT YOU MUST BE ON THE LEFT

Nationwide police raids on human rights advocates come at a time of rising discontent and anger against the ruling BJP government

BY HARSH MANDER

India’s democracy suffered a body blow this week when police raids across six cities resulted in five prominent left-wing human rights defenders being arrested, the homes and offices of many more searched, and their documents, books, mobile phones and laptops seized.

These included lawyers, a poet, an 81-year-old Jesuit priest and a management teacher. They were all charged under an extraordinary anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which allows investigating agencies to withhold many aspects of due process.

There are three grounds that police officials alluded to in trying to justify the arrests, but did not join the dots. One was a letter allegedly found on the laptop of a person arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The second was that these activists and intellectuals were party to a plot to foment violence that rocked parts of Mumbai at the start of the year, after so-called low-caste Dalits celebrated a 200-year-old victory of Dalit soldiers in the British army against a upper caste Maratha king. This despite the fact the violence broke out after upper-caste activists attacked the Dalit rally. The third was that the accused sympathised with insurgent Maoists, with an “intent to strike terror in the people of India” and “intent to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security or sovereignty of India”.

Indian legislator and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, centre, writer activist Arundhati Roy, left, and activist Sanjay Parikh sit for a press conference opposing the arrests this week of five prominent rights activists, in New Delhi, India. Photo: AP

None of the arrested activists have advocated violence against the state. But what is common to each one is that they have fought bravely and resolutely for the rights of India’s most oppressed peoples, including tribal populations who are gravely threatened by large, predatory private corporations. They are also vocal and resolute critics of the ruling party and government, deploring both the persecution of religious minorities, disadvantaged castes and workers; and what they regard to be crony-capitalist largesse to big business.

Outside China, these places are where Maoism is alive and kicking

The government and its supporters have consistently attacked its critics as “anti-national”. The supreme leader, his party, the majority Hindu community and the nation are all portrayed by the government as “one”, so any criticism of Modi, his administration’s policies or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can be effectively transmuted into attacks on Hindus and on the country.

As such, a new phrase of abuse has been added to the vocabulary of supporters of the government: “Urban Naxal” – Naxal being the Indian label for Maoists.

Retired Justice B.G. Kolse Patil speaks, accompanied by advocate Susan Abraham, left, and civil activist Anand Teltumbade, during a joint press conference opposing the arrests this week of five prominent rights activists for suspected links to Maoist rebels in various parts of the country. Photo: AP

Urban Maoists are intellectuals who are allegedly overground sympathisers for Maoist insurgents, giving them legitimacy and ideological support. This invective has been increasingly applied to everybody who stands to the left of Indian politics and in support of the rights of disadvantaged people. Noisy right-wing television channels, which have emerged as propaganda arms of the ruling government, described all those arrested as Urban Naxals.

Arrest of critics in India shows Modi wants to ‘jail all activists’: India’s opposition

India’s Supreme Court intervened to partially stay the action of the police and allow only the house arrest of the activists until its hearing next week. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud cautioned the government: “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If dissent is not allowed, the pressure cooker may burst.”

Retired judge of the Supreme Court Justice P. B. Sawant, who formerly chaired India’s Press Council, was even more scathing. “This is state terror let loose,” he declared. “It is complete lawlessness by the ruling party. All because they know that opinion has turned against them in all walks of life.”

His rage is shared by large sections of India’s intellectuals and civil society. In a joint statement, some of India’s best-known writers asked: “Their crimes? Insisting on human rights, writing, analysing, teaching, giving voice to dissent against injustice and inequality.”

Indian police detain protesters demonstrating against the arrest of revolutionary writer Varavara Rao and other activists, in Hyderabad. Photo: AP

Now in its fifth year of office, with elections only a few months away, there are signs of rising discontent and anger against the ruling BJP government.

Withdrawal symptoms: cash is still king in India, Modi not so much

Modi promised India’s massive young population 20 million jobs every year, but the country is trapped in the quicksand of jobless growth, with the number of new employment opportunities barely a few hundred thousand each year. India’s farm sector, which employs more than half the population is in a state of near-terminal crisis. The economy is also floundering, with the rupee hitting an all-time low of more than 70 to a US dollar.

All of this continues to be aggravated by attacks against Muslims and Dalits by lynch mobs, which have been openly supported, even valourised by members of the ruling party.

India: no country for Muslims

An Indian girl holds up a placard during a protest opposing the arrests this week of five prominent rights activists, in New Delhi. Photo: AP

The use of the anti-terror law against rights activists and left-wing intellectuals still does not oblige the police to reveal their grounds for the arrests. But the political subtext of the charges is anything but ambiguous.

It is aimed at ‘tarnishing’ the reputation of many of the country’s leading activists and intellectuals as “Maoists” to link rising Dalit anger against the ruling government to Maoist violence, and to suggest they not only seek to overthrow the lawfully elected government of the day with violence, but also assassinate the country’s prime minister. It is a naked bid to enfeeble democracy and warn other dissenters. India’s democratic forces are fighting back, and the battle is turning increasingly ugly.

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