Volume 7, No. 1, January. 2006


"The Forest is Ours" — Assert the indigenous Adivasi inhabitants of Dandakaranya and the vast hinterland of India


"Jal, Jungle, Jameen hamara hai!" "The forest is ours! Our Right over the forest produce is inalienable!"—These slogans are reverberating across the vast forested, hilly regions of India stretching from the seven North Eastern States to the Wynad belt in the south western tip of the Peninsula, where the indigenous adivasi people of India reside, people who have long suffered the oppression, suppression, exploitation and discrimination in the hands of the imperialists, comprador big business houses, feudal forces, rapacious contractors, moneylenders and traders, forest officials, government bureaucrats and policemen. Ironically, despite its unending chatter about uplifting the girijans (literally hill people), it is the Indian state that is spearheading this oppression and exploitation of the adivasis.

The oppression and exploitation of the adivasis has been continuing for centuries and has taken the most cruel forms since the invasion and occupation of our country by the British colonialists. The British colonialists, recognising the vast potential for profits that the backward, hinterland inhabited by the adivasis held in store, exploited its rich mineral and forest resources to the maximum possible extent. They undertook mining exploration, set up plantations and constructed railways on a war footing to plunder the vast natural wealth. They converted these regions into profitable sources of raw material inputs for their industries or for simply looting and selling off the forest wealth. They dug several mines all over the country to carry away the iron ore, manganese, coal, bauxite, gold, diamonds, dolomite, quartz, limestone and lots of other mineral wealth. They cut down the forests for Sal, Teak, bamboo and other natural wealth. They hunted and killed animals and birds driving several rare species to near-extinction. In short, they destroyed the economy, society and culture of the adivasi communities, broke up their collective life, carried them away to distant places to work as cheap labour in tea-gardens, coffee plantations, as construction labour, as casual labour in mines and industries. This was the first big onslaught by imperialist capital on the adivasis of India.

Revolts broke out all across the country against the terrible exploitation of these thugs. The great Santhali rebellion of the mid-19th century led by heroic warriors like Siddu Kanu, Birsa Munda and others, the Halba rebellion of 1774-79, the Paralkot rebellion of Gend Singh in 1825, the Muria rebellion of 1876, Gond adivasi revolt (bhumkal) of Abhujmad led by Gundadhur in 1910, the Rampa rebellion of the 1930s led by Alluri Seetharama Raju in East Godavari and Vishakhapatnam in north Andhra, the Gond rebellion of Adilabad led by Komuram Bheem, and several such adivasi revolts shook the British empire and showed the seething anger and the united might of the adivasis.

The post-British period in India saw the same pattern of development by the reactionary ruling classes of India who came to power by colluding with the British and other imperialists. Large-scale eviction of the tribals became one of the cornerstones of the new pattern of industrial development. Millions of adivasis have been uprooted from their natural habitat by the huge irrigation, hydro-electric and multipurpose projects, thermal plants, steel plants, bauxite and alumina plants, etc., initiated since the time of Nehru and that are continuing till date. National Parks under various nomenaclature have displaced several lakhs of adivasis from the interior forests.

In addition to tribal land alienation there are tribals/ non tribals displaced by development projects (such as dams, mines, industry etc.) that have not received rehabilitation and have ‘encroached’ forest land to eke out a living. According to the estimates of the Planning Commission, 21.3 million people were displaced by development projects between 1951 and 1990 alone. Of these, 8.54 million (40%) belonged to Scheduled Tribes who constitute less than 8% of the total population. Only 2.1 million (25%) of them are reported to have been rehabilitated. The rest were left to fend for themselves.

Today, the imperialists continue to step up their plunder unhindered along with their comprador capitalists in India. Contractors, traders and forest officials continue their rampage fleecing the adivasis of what they have. The adivasis are prevented from enjoying their traditional rights of collecting forest produce and they are fined even for collecting wood for the construction of their huts. On the other hand, the contractor-smuggler-CBB-bureaucrat nexus, with the blessings and active connivance of the State, take away the forest wealth without paying a pie. The story of exploitation of the adivasis and the snatching away of their traditional rights over the forests differs little whether it is in the deep jungles of the North East or in mineral-rich Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka or Kerala. The pattern of so-called development being pursued by the reactionary ruling classes of India in collusion with the imperialists is the same—plunder the mineral and forest wealth in the name of developing the industries, displace the local adivasi communities, snatch their rights over the forests, convert them into cheap labourers for the big business and imperialist ventures. And now this plunder is set to increase ten-fold with just the three states of Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa having signed MoUs of over Rs.3 lakh crores in the course of just the past one year for mega iron ore and steel plants.

In the present article let us see the pattern of development pursued by the reactionary ruling classes led by the CBB and backed by the imperialists in Dandakaranya, its impact on the region and its people, the history of struggles of the adivasis and the present upsurge in these struggles for their right over land and forest and mainly for their political power.

The Exploitation of Dandakaranya and the Myth of Development

Undivided Bastar district, now divided into three revenue districts—Bastar, Kanker and Dantawara—and two police districts, Bijapur and Narayanpur, is the heart of the region of Dandakaranya. It is in this district that the exploitation is at its worst. Besides undivided Bastar, the other two districts that form part of Dandakaranya are Rajnandgaon and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. Undivided Bastar has an area of over 39,114 sq km (which is slightly larger than the state of Kerala), of which 62 per cent is covered by forests. The forests provide livelihood to the predominantly tribal population that comprises around 87 per cent of the total population in the district. The trees are sal, teak, bijasal, sirsa, kusum, palas, kanha, harra, dhowara, amla, samara etc. Almost 93 per cent of the district’s population is rural and the relative index of development had come down from 44 in 1980 to 35 at present if we take 100 for India as a whole. The comparative index for MP is 73. Irrigation covers only 2 per cent of the cropped area. Agriculture is still subsistent in nature and collection of forest products such as mahua, tamarind, chironji seed, ambadi, kusum, mango kernel, harra, shikakai, karanji, peng seeds, Kosa cocoons, charota seeds, amchur, tora, chirayta, nirmali seeds, karkatiya seeds, bhilwan seeds, cashew, dhavai phool, gum are an important means of livelihood for the majority of the adivasis. Plucking of tendu leaves and cutting of timber provide some income to the families. All family members participate in the collection of tendu leaves during the summer season.

The adivasis sell the forest produce in the haat i.e., the weekly bazaar at nominal prices. The traders dupe them by exchanging goods by their weights such as selling a Kilogram of salt for a Kilogram of tamarind, mango kernel, chironge seed, or mahua. The traders also offer loans at an exorbitant rate of 120 per cent per annum to the adivasis. Although traders are prohibited from buying the forest produce from the adivasis under the Mandi Act, they continue to be the biggest buyers in the haats due to the connivance of the police and administration. The unscrupulous traders cheat the innocent adivasis in every sphere—in pricing, grading, weighing and counting of the forest produce. The tendu leaf contractors and officials exploit the adivasis by paying low prices which compels the adivasis to often go on strikes demanding a rise in the rates.

While the traders and contractors are looting the adivasis at the micro level, the Indian state, the CBB and the imperialists are carrying out large-scale exploitation by draining the region of its minerals and natural wealth. Iron ore is sold at a nominal price from Bailadilla mines to the imperialists and the CBB. A special railway line was laid to supply iron ore to the Japanese imperialists at a very cheap rate. The Bailadila range of mines is perched on the southern tip of Chattisgarh in Dantewada District. The range comprises of 14 iron ore deposits rising to a height of 1260 metres above mean sea level. The Commercial discovery of Bailadila dates back to 1955-56 when Prof. Euemura of Japanese Steel Mills Association, drew the attention of the Japanese Steel Mills to the richness of the vast deposits of iron ore and its proximity to the Eastern Coast of India. Later an agreement has been signed with the Japanese Steel Mills in 1960. An approval of the project report prepared by NMDC has been given in 1964 and the Mine Plant was inaugurated in November 1968.

Recently, the Gujarat-based comprador house of Essar was given permission to set up a pipe-line to transport iron ore from Bailadilla to Vishakhapatnam. In Kanker district, plans have been drawn to open iron ore mines in Chargaon and Raoghat. The government also sanctioned the construction of a railway line from Dalli-Rajahara to Jagdalpur via Raoghat in order to fully exploit the mineral wealth. The Courts rejected a public interest petition filed by an organization against the opening of the mines and gave its green signal to the government to go ahead with its monstrous plans to drain the district of its iron ore. Earlier, the mining of iron ore had begun in Kuvvemari and Budhwarimaad in the same district.

The contract for mining the ore in Chargaon and Raoghat was given to NIKKO company which opened an office in Bhanupratappur. The company officials conducted a survey and tried to send the material but were obstructed by the local people. It is said that the mining in Chargaon can go on for 125 years so much are the reserves of iron ore. The effects of the mining on the people’s livelihood and environment are quite terrible. Due to the mining of iron ore in Bailadilla in Dantewara district the water of the two rivers, Sankhani and Dankini, have become poisoned. The mining in Chargaon hill would pollute the stream that flows into rivers Paralkot and Mendhaki ruining the livelihood of thousands of families who survive on these rivers for their irrigation and for fish. Several villages along the stretch of the rivers will not have access to drinking water. The villages around Chargaon have fertile land and they produce two crops of foodgrains. But if the mining is taken up 16 of these villages will be the direct sufferers while several hundred more villages will suffer acute shortages of even drinking water. Following these developments the people of the district formed the Chargaon Khadaan Virodhi Jan Sangharsh Manch. The adivasis of Chattisgarh have been agitating against the various iron ore and other mining projects since long and they bore the brunt of government repression as when they protested setting up of the projects in Bailadilla, Nagarnar and Maulibhat.

Let us see the disastrous effects of other projects in Dandakaranya. It is estimated that around 3,278 hectares of forest would be cleared by Raoghat mines. There is a proposal to set up a hydro-electric project on the Indravati river near Jeethamkhandi which would uproot several villages and deplete the forest. Permission has been granted to a private company to set up industry in Maulibhaat. The proposed Rs. 600 crore power project near Bodhghat over the Indrawati is estimated to generate 400 MW of power. This project would clear 13,750 hectares of agricultural land and 9,309 hectares of forest. Adivasi families in 60 villages will become homeless. The effects on the environment are quite severe. Moreover, the power generated from this project is meant for use not for local people but for the big industrial houses and for other states. In undivided Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh produced a substantial 36 percent of the total power generated, contributing 42 percent Thermal and 14 percent of Hydel power but in terms of power consumption, it consumed around 24 percent of total consumption in 1996-97 and 1997-98. Thus the power generated by Chattisgarh is used up by other states even as the people in the state face acute shortages in supply. Hence the people formed the Bodhghat Sangharsh Samiti and began a campaign for the scrapping of the proposed project.

Why are the ruling classes showing keen interest in the region? The secret, obviously, lies in the vast treasure that the region holds in its bosom—the millions of tonnes of mineral wealth and timber that could fatten the vultures from Washington to New Delhi. No matter if the entire region is devastated, rivers are contaminated, environment is polluted, homes of adivasi families in hundreds of villages are destroyed and lakhs of people are displaced by this "development". The wealth of the region is mind-boggling to greedy hawkish treasure-seekers who will not hesitate to unleash brutal war against their own people and spell death and destruction to countless people in order to capture this natural wealth.

For instance, in Tiriya-Machkot area alone 450 lakh tonnes of dolomite reserves are found which can be used in the iron and steel industry. In Deverapal, Potanar-Laroji, Raikot and Manjhi Dongri of Bastar district 1770 lakh tones of lime stone reserves are estimated. Bauxite is found in abundance in Keshkal tehsil of Bastar district. 53 lakh tones of bauxite reserves are estimated in this region alone. In Markatola of Kanker district and in Barchhegondi region silimanite/ kinite deposits have been discovered and gold deposits have been found in Sona dehi, Michgaon and in some other region of Bhanupratappur Tehsil.

Chathisgarh has a variety of rich minerals—iron ore, bauxite, coal, manganese, limestone, dolomite, tin ore, china-clay, quartzite, quartz-silica, fluorite, diamond, granite, corundum etc. In the districts of Bastar, Dantewara, Kanker and Rajnandgaon, iron ore is abundant. In Dantewara and Kanker the reserves are in excess of 600 million metric tonnes each. Bastar also has dolomite and bauxite. Tin ore and corundum are exploited by the MP State Mining Corp in Bastar. It is estimated by the government that there are 75 lakh tonnes of bauxite in Chattisgarh and the entire tin ore is found in Chattisgarh.

A fifth of the iron ore in the country is here, and one of the best quality iron ore deposits in the world is found in the Bailadila mines in south Chhattisgarh, from where it is exported to Japan. Rich deposits of Bauxite, Limestone, Dolomite and Corundum are found in the State. The State is lucky to have large deposits of coal, iron ore and limestone in close proximity, making it the ideal location for the lowest cost of steel production. Workable deposits of Corundum are widespread in South Chhattisgarh. Corundum includes semi-precious varieties of Ruby and Blue Sapphire, and possibilities of finding precious varieties exist as well. The corundum mines in Bhopalapatnam have become a source of enrichment for the smugglers and government officials but are of no use for the local adivasis.

According to an estimate, the amount of reserves available for some of the major minerals in the region are: 35,000 million tones of coal, 2336 million tones of iron ore, 3580 million tones of lime stone, 606 million tones of dolomite, 96 million tonnes of bauxite and so on.

The 150-year-long history of struggles of the adivasi peasantry of Dandakaranya

The region of Chhattisgarh, which falls in the present Dandakaranya, has witnessed several tribal rebellions starting from the late 18 century through the 19 century to the first few decades of the 20 century. Some of these tribal revolts were localised while others were more widespread. All these rebellions were centred around the traditionally inalienable right of the tribals on the local resources land and forests. Often the mobilisation was around the issues of tradition, culture and the tribal way of life. These rebellions were also a protest against an alien system of governance and an alien political, economic and social order that had been forced upon them by the British. These tribal rebellions, although they predominantly took place in Bastar, were spread across the various tribal areas of Chhattisgarh as well. It is important to understand the long tradition of protest and rebellion of the adivasis of the region in order to understand their present role in the ongoing people’s war against the Indian state.

The Halba rebellion was the first documented rebellion of the adivasis in Bastar against the British and the Marathas. It lasted for nearly five years from 1774-1779. Its significance lies in the fact that it was the first organized resistance by the adivasis against the intrusion of the British in Bastar. The Halba rebellion is also a very important event in the history of Bastar as it was responsible for the decline of the Chalukya dynasty. The fundamental reasons for the rebellion were economic in nature. There had been a prolonged famine, which had severely affected the people who had very little cultivable land. The presence of Maratha forces and the terror caused by the East India Company in these adverse circumstances precipitated the rebellion. The stronger armies of Bastar supported by the British and the Marathas crushed the rebellion. A massacre of Halba tribesmen followed the defeat of the Halba army.

The Paralkot rebellion was representative of the resentment felt by the Maria gonds of Abujhmar against the invasion of outsiders, primarily the Marathas and the British. This rebellion was led by Gend Singh who mobilized the Marias against the British. One of the objectives of the rebellion was to establish a world free of loot, plunder and exploitation. The presence of the Marathas and the British threatened the identity of the Marias and they resisted this through organising the rebellion of Paralkot in 1825. The immediate reason for their resentment was the heavy taxes levied by the Maratha rulers. In essence this rebellion was directed against the foreign interference and control of Bastar and its aim was to re-establish the independence of Bastar.

The rebellion of Tarapur (1842-54) was once again the assertion of the tribals against the invasion of their local culture and the tampering with their traditional principles of social, economic and political organization. It started with an opposition to taxes levied under the pressure of the Anglo-Maratha rule. For the tribals, these experiences of coercive taxation were alien and new, and therefore they opposed them. The local Diwan became a symbol of oppression and bore the brunt of tribal anger.

The Maria rebellion, which lasted nearly 20 years from 1842 to 1863, was seemingly in favour of an inhuman practice of human sacrifice. In reality, the revolt was against the insensitive and intrusive handling of tribal faith. The Anglo Maratha combine did not hesitate to enter and pollute the temple of Danteswari. The facts clearly indicate that this rebellion was more defensive in nature and was waged by the tribals to protect their land and tradition. Furer Hamendorf (Aboriginal Rebellions in the Deccan, Man in India, No.4,1945, PP 2089) writes that all these rebellions were defensive movements, they were the last resort of tribesmen driven to despair by the encroachments of outsiders on their land and economic resources.

The adivasis of Bastar were actively involved in the First War of Independence of 1857 with Southern Bastar as the centre of the revolt. Under the leadership of Dhruvarao a battle was waged against the British. He belonged to one of the Maria tribes called Dorla and was supported by his tribesmen.

The First war of independence in 1857 was spearheaded in Chhattisgarh by Vir Narain Singh who was a benevolent jamindar of Sonakhan. The British arrested him in 1856 for looting a trader’s grain stocks and distributing it amongst the poor in a severe famine year. In 1857 with the help of the soldiers of the British Army at Raipur, Vir Narain Singh escaped form prison. He reached Sonakhan and formed an army of 500 men. Under the leadership of Smith, a powerful British army was dispatched to crush the Sonakhan army. The British succeeded after a prolonged battle and Vir Narain Singh was arrested and later hanged on the 10th December, 1857. He became the first martyr from Chhattisgarh in the War of Independence. Vir Narain Singh’s martyrdom has been resurrected in the 1980’s and he has become a potent symbol of Chhattisgarhi pride.

Later in 1858, the Gonds challenged the British in several battles. In 1859 a very important rebellion began to take shape in Southern Bastar with the tribals refusing to let contractors undertake cutting of Sal trees. The people of these Jamindaris were called Kois or Koyas. This rebellion was against the decision of the British to give contracts for cutting forests to contractors from Hyderabad. These contractors were also responsible for the exploitation of the tribals. The local tribals in 1859 decided that they would not allow the felling of a single tree. The British took this as a challenge to the might of the empire and used coercive methods to continue the felling of trees. This rebellion was a loud and clear assertion by the tribals of their inalienable rights on their forests and natural resources.

In 1867, Gopinath Kapardas was appointed the Diwan of Bastar State and was responsible for large scale exploitation of the tribal population. Tribals from different parganas jointly requested the King to remove the Diwan but the King did not concede to these demands. This led to the Muria Revolt of 1876 The rebelling tribals surrounded Jagdalpur on 2 March 1876; the King with great difficulty was able to inform the British forces. Finally a strong British army sent by the Resident of Orissa, crushed the rebellion.

The 150 year history of protests and rebellion in Bastar culminated in the Bhumkal rebellion of 1910. This rebellion was widespread affecting more than half of the parganas of Bastar. It symbolized the struggle of tribals against an alien rule attempting to remould the tribal pattern of life. The rebellion was ultimately crushed by strong armies of the British. After the crushing of the rebellion, the local tribals and supporters of the rebellion were subjected to severe abuse. However, the post Bhumkal British policy in Bastar was forced to be more sensitive to the tribals and their traditional way of life.

Several policies of the state at that time proved extremely oppressive for the tribals of the region and became focal points of the Bhumkal rebellion. Extensive forest areas were declared reserved forests; resulting in the tribals feeling that their inalienable right over forests has been subverted. Due to the excessive revenue demands of the colonial rule, several tribal villages were given on lease to thekedars who adopted extremely oppressive means to collect revenues from the tribals. The monopoly on liquor brewing also was a causal factor for the Bhumkal rebellion. The tribals considered liquor as the prasad of Gods, and the order banning liquor brewing, amounted to interference in their religious affairs to them.

During the rebellion on 7 February 1910, Rani Subaran Kunwar declared that the British rule on Bastar has been abolished and tribal rule was re-established. This declaration sums up the Bhumkal rebellion and the protests of Bastar. It articulates the assertion of the tribals to weed out alien rule and protect their traditional tribal way of life.

The anti-imperialist and anti-State struggles of the adivasi peasantry of Dandakaranya

It is against the above background of continuous intrusion into tribal lands, society and culture by the outside exploiters and the continuous struggle of the adivasi peasantry for their inalienable right over their traditional lands and right over the forests that the present explosive situation in Dandakaranya, the militant struggles of the adivasis against exploitation in all its forms, particularly against the rapacious plunder by the CBB and the Indian state, and the increasing role of the Gond adivasis in the advancing people’s war can be properly understood.

Gonds, who are almost 70 lakhs, are spread out in seven states, but mainly concentrated in five states. This division of the Gond population into several administrative territories is a cruel ploy of the ruling classes to scuttle their development into a single nation. While several other advanced nationalities achieved their statehood through prolonged struggles or through political lobbying, the Gonds have not yet been able to unify their community into a single nationality. In fact, the subjugation of the Gonds commenced from the period of the Kakatiya kings who ruled from Andhra Pradesh in the 14th century. They remain victims of the policy of ‘divide and rule’ first introduced by the British colonialists and which is continuing after the British left. The Gonds are known by different names—Rajgond, Baiga, Madia, Muria, Dhurva/Parja, Bhatra, , Halba, Durggond and Dorla.

The Gonds began to lose their traditional lands to the non-adivasis who came from outside and snatched away the lands by taking advantage of the adivasi culture of considering land as a non-commodity and as collective property. As long as the adivasis were unconnected with the outside world, the influx of non-adivasis from the "civilized" world was hardly existent. However, with the construction of roads, railways and bridges, the civilized people from outside flocked to adivasi areas and began to usurp their lands. This so-called development, without any protection to the local adivasis, only made them landless and drove them away from their traditional lands. As observed rightly by the renowned anthropologist, Hamendorf, construction of roads and bridges in the adivasi areas brought forth, not real development, but, impoverishment and destitution to the ordinary adivasis.

It is this pattern of development that is continuing to displace the Gonds from their hearths and homes, turning them into homeless migrants, beggars and cheap labourers. The slogan "The Right over the Forest belongs to adivasis!" arose out of this alienation of the adivasis from their traditional means of livelihood.

In continuation of their 150-year-long tradition of militant protests and armed rebellions, the adivasis of Dandakaranya, during the period since 1980, have demonstrated their collective might and fighting capacity by turning up in thousands to protest against the government policies that were aimed at depriving them of their rights over the forests. And thousands of them joined the armed struggle spearheaded by the CPI(ML)[People’ War] since 1980 and now advancing under the leadership of the newly-formed CPI(Maoist). Hundreds of villages have armed people’s militia units whose presence, along with that of the regular units of the PLGA, protects the adivasis from the exploitation by the outside land-grabbers, comprador capitalists, contractors, forest officials, government bureaucrats, traders and policemen. The adivasis have taken up massive struggles against the tendu leaf contractors, traders and forest officials and won several victories. Of particular significance is the continuous struggle of the adivasis of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra against the Ballarpur Paper Mills of the big comprador business house of Thapar. As a result of this militant struggle against Thapar’s exploitation of the adivasis, the latter could increase the rates of bamboo several times. The adivasis had also stopped the indiscriminate felling of the forest by the contractors, timber smugglers and the CBB in Dandakaranya region. Now wherever they are organized they enjoy the right over the land and the forest resources. It is now well established that it is not the adivasis who are responsible for the denudation of the forests but it is the contractors and the CBB who are the culprits. Contrary to the myth floated by the ruling classes that forests are being denuded by the adivasis, it is the latter, led by the CPI(Maoist), who are the real protectors in DK and other regions in the country. The attempts by the ruling classes to plunder the wealth of the region through various mining and other projects that cater to the needs of the imperialists and the CBB, have been thwarted by the organized and consistent resistance of the adivasis.

The Indian state is desperately trying to break the back of the movement by resorting to massive suppression campaigns through the might of the police and central para-military forces as well as through various cunning ploys and intrigues such as: creating divisions among the adivasis, taking up so-called developmental activities to win over a tiny section, creating a network of police informers, and unleashing a brutal reign of terror. The Jan Jagaran Abhiyan or Salwa Judum, initiated mainly in Dantewara district, and Gaon Bandhi in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, are recent examples of the attempts by the reactionary ruling classes to pit one section of adivasis against another, aimed at creating schisms within the adivasis and weakening the ongoing revolt of the adivasis. Given the huge mining interests in the region the ongoing Salwa Judum campaign in the region is particularly horrifying with the forces having mobilised lumpens burning down 50 villages, brutally killing over 100, including children and raping about 30-40 women. To terrorise the populace the severed heads are hung on trees and post of their own houses.

Despite all these desperate attempts by the Indian state, the struggles of the adivasis are forging ahead undeterred. For instance, adivasis of Bastar came out in large number protesting against the inclusion of Bastar (i.e., the three districts of Bastar, Dantewara and Kanker which were in Bastar district until 1998) in the new state of Chattisgarh which was formed in November 2000. Thousands participated in demonstrations and rallies held in Kunta, Bhopalapatnam, Madded, Bhairamgarh, Bhasagudem, Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Koelbeda and other towns. Around 25,000 people attended the rally in Narayanpur in 2001. Also in end-2001, a 10,000-strong morcha was held by adivasi peasantry in Orcha in Maad division demanding education for their children and healthcare for the adivasi people. Demonstrations took place in Kunta, Bijapur and other towns in south and west Bastar. As drought struck the area in 2002 and government bureaucrats played with the lives of the people by swallowing the foodgrains and funds allotted for the ‘Food for Work’ scheme, adivasis under the leadership of the DAKMS confiscated the foodgrains from the government godowns and private hoardings and distributed them to the starving people. In Maad and North Bastar divisions several famine raids were conducted on the godowns and foodgrains were seized. In south Bastar, the houses of landlords and traders mainly in the bordering areas of Andhra Pradesh were attacked and several tones of foodgrain were distributed to the people. Thousands of people were mobilized in these raids which became successful despite heavy police protection to the landlords.

The gond adivasis have also begun to directly confront the armed police defying the threats, intimidation and restrictions imposed by the latter. In January 2003, for instance, around 12,000 people demonstrated in front of Manpur PS in Rajnandgaon district protesting against police atrocities. When the police opened fire on the adivasis they retaliated by beating up some police officials upon which the latter turned tail. Soon after 3000 adivasis demonstrated in front of Gyarapathi PS in Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra and warned the police of dire consequences if they did not stop their atrocities. The peasants also issued similar warnings to the police in Marripalli PS. Four thousand adivasis of Kishtaram area in south Bastar demonstrated peacefully in Seethapuram village condemning the atrocities perpetrated by the police of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. The police opened indiscriminate fire on the people killing an 18-year-old adivasi girl, Kadthi Some.

On February 10, 2004 bhumkal divas was celebrated throughout the region of Maad. 10,000 adivasis, including 4,000 women, attended the meeting held in Nelnaar village to commemorate the bhumkal (rebellion) that took place in 1910 against the British imperialists. The significance of bhumkal lies in the fact that for the first time the Madiya gonds formed their own kingdom by throwing out the British. The uprising, however, was crushed within five days after the formation of the adivasi kingdom.


No society can survive without food and no industrial development can take place without access to minerals and forest products. A society can survive without the computer or the internet but it is impossible to do so without agriculture, mining, and forest products. That is why in spite of the hype about information technology and knowledge revolution, the imperialists and the ruling classes everywhere are unleashing plans to control the natural wealth without which the wheels of industry and, consequently, the advance of society, grinds to a halt.

It is a fact that the natural resources in the world are limited. In India the resources are continually being depleted due to the unbridled loot by the imperialists and big business. As the mineral and other natural resources are getting depleted the imperialists and the ruling classes of India led by the CBB and their imperialist masters are evincing keen interest in the hitherto unexplored mineral-rich regions in order to keep their profits from falling. Today, most of these resources lie in regions where the people’s war led by the CPI(Maoist) is strong and advancing. Whether it is the mineral-rich region of Jharkhand, or Orissa, Chattisgarh or Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh, the regions inhabited by the adivasis are virtually in the control of the Maoists. This fact was acknowledged by none other than the Prime Minister himself. Talking to journalists at Bangalore, he stated: "The Union Government is concerned, particularly as the Naxalites have emerged in the hilly areas of central India, where there are our mineral and hydel resources. The Naxalite movement is gaining momentum and the Centre (the Central Govt.) is concerned."

The Indian ruling classes are obviously worried that the adivasis in this vast tract of land have risen up in arms against the reactionary Indian state and exploiters of various hues and are asserting their inalienable right over land, natural resources and forest. They are fighting for establishing their power and authority over these regions by destroying the power and authority of the Indian state that represents the comprador capitalist and feudal forces.

Hence the imperialists and the Indian ruling classes, through the armed might of the Indian state, have been drawing up diabolic schemes to unleash the most cruel terror over this vast tract, to enact massacres of adivasi people who dare to resist the exploitative practices of the ruling classes and to turn the entire region into a graveyard if necessary in order to squeeze it of its mineral and forest wealth. Hence it is all the more important that the people of the entire country stand up in support of the ongoing people’s war and the militant struggles of the adivasis and fight unitedly against the machinations of the Indian ruling classes and their mentors abroad.




Home  |  Current Issue  |  Archives  |  Revolutionary Publications  |  Links  |  Subscription

<<  Previous Issue | Next Issue  >>