Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Maoists have killed more than 200 innocent tribals

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5684004.cms?prtpage=1


15 Mar 2010, 0408 hrs IST, ET Bureau

Gurucharan Kisku was one of the closest aides of CPIM (Maoist) leader Kishenji till recently, when he parted ways following sharp ideological
differences. His name spells terror and security forces would love to lay their hands on this key Maoist functionary, who is as elusive as Kishenji. ET caught up with Marshal in one of his innumerable hideouts and spoke to him for about half an hour about his changed beliefs:

Do you think Maoists are saviours of tribals in Bengal, Jharkhand?

This impression about the Maoists was painted by some city-bred intellectuals like Arundhati Roy. Media-savvy that he is, Kishenji has instantly taken the cue and uses every opportunity to say that he is leading a just war on behalf of “poor and deprived tribals” and that he is the Messiah.

Maoists have summed up their outlook on tribal issues in their document “Strategy and Tactics of CPI (Maoist)”. Para 3 of this document begins with a general statement that tribals are being exploited by various agencies. The impression given is that Maoists would save them from such exploitation. But I want to ask Kishenji a simple question. Why do his men collect a levy of Rs 20 and 3 kg rice from every such poor and deprived tribal household at gun point in that case ? I know thousands of poor tribal families who are not in a position to meet Kishenji’s demands, but have to cough up the money out of sheer fright.

How do you plan to combat Maoists and Kishenji in particular ?

I will try to convince my tribal brothers and sisters about what I now believe. I will mobilise them in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa and form an organisation to fight their cause. I have been with Kishenji for long and I know Maoists as few do. They are not real friends of tribals. They do not respect our culture or heritage. They are just the same as any other political party and they have chosen us to strengthen their organisation which is committed to fighting the state.

Just like CPM, Maoists too have attempted to divide tribals. The Maoist rule book says that in some areas a tiny section of adivasis has become rich and are behaving like oppressors. How true is this? I have no idea, but I know for sure that Maoists have killed more than 200 tribals who where neither rich, nor oppressor. They were just as poor as the rest of them. Take Salku Soren, Sarna Buru Besra or Dhani Ram Mandi — tribals all, at the bottom of the heap and yet killed to suit some interest. For Kishenji, it’s easy. He comes from Andhra, and I will not allow him to exploit tribals anymore.


Are you facing a threat to your life from Maoists?

Kishenji would kill me at the first opportunity and I know that. But I have set up my own security ring, comprising hundreds of armed men and women. I am still a Maoist, I believe in Maoist principles, but I do not approve Kishenji’s style of functioning. He kills people unnecessarily to create panic. Will Kishenji or his men take responsibility of those 200 tribal families, whose bread-winners he had gunned down?

What is your opinion about Operation Green Hunt?

I am not against the operation. But security forces should not torture poor tribals and villagers in the name of carrying out operations against Maoists. I know they have done so indiscriminately at Lalgarh and Jangalmahal. They were under intense pressure from their superiors to isolate Maoist leaders and sympathisers at Lalgarh from common people in the villages. Being outsiders themselves, there was no way security forces could separate the grain from the chaff. Use of brutal force made tribals resent police and jawans. If they had been kind, they would have got tribal support. Even today, if jawans are able to arrest Kishenji, no tribal will oppose it. But if forces torture simple village folk, resistance will build up.

What are your demands for tribal welfare?

Like the hill people, tribals should be given autonomy. But more importantly, we want government jobs for tribals in tribal-dominated districts. We are ready to help the government in any of its schemes meant for welfare and development of the tribal population.

Are you ready to give up arms and return to mainstream politics?

It is not a question of whether I am ready or not to surrender. Suppose I do, will society accept me? Will Kishenji and his men allow me to live once they know I have surrendered? Will police or the legal system allow me to live freely? Tell me. I don’t think I will be able to fight for the cause of my tribal people if I surrender my arms. But I can tell you that I want to carry on with the struggle in a democratic way.

Would you like to join mainstream politics?

Who does want to remain underground for the entire stretch of life? Nobody, not even Kishenji. But situations compel. These days, I hold tribal meetings in the open knowing that the police can arrest me, that Kishenji’s men can kill me. That’s why I keep my own security ring even in such meetings. But I am trying hard to return to normal life. I have spent more than 20 years in jungles and I know how tough it is, tough as I am. There are days on end when we survive only on grass and leaves. You cannot imagine the hardships I have faced during my days with Kishenji.

(The conversation ended abruptly after one of Marshal’s securitymen made a quick eye signal and hevanished in a flash).

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