A few days back, when a vitriolic hate campaign and media trial was launched by a section of the media against students of JNU, one of these ‘nationalistic’ news channels (i.e. Zee News) also did a story on Abhujmaad (in its words Naxaliyo ka Gad) and how it poses a threat to the unity and integrity of the ‘nation’. Journalistic ethics and accountability were thrown to the dogs, replaced of course with its typical crass sensationalism. There is another section of the media, working away from the glitz and glamour, keeping alive the meaning of what journalism ought to mean in a society. They are not just underpaid without much job security, but are now being increasingly harassed for writing about truths that discomfort power. Several journalists in Chattisgarh have been branded as Maoists and thrown behind bars, while some others like Malini Subramaniam have been been simply hounded out of Bastar. In today’s age, the media is supposed to ally itself closely to the project of the capital investment and nation-state, any questions to these are not to be tolerated. In fact, the workings of the media within a neo-liberal set-up ensures that there are very few challenges in the first place. In the words of Arundhati Roy, free market has done to the press what even medieval censorship could not.
These attacks however are only symptomatic of the larger state of war in the adivasi heartland of Central India. With a ruthless Kalluri in command, the attacks on activists, lawyers, journalists in Bastar are pre-emptive moves by the state as it prepares for an even greater onslaught on the adivasis of the region. ‘Clear, Hold, Develop’ as the counter insurgency manuals put it. Capital investment, operationalizing mining projects requires villages to be cleared of people, resistance to be put down more brutally, more militarization and thereby less reportage of all of this – after all we have to maintain the pretense of being a ‘democracy’. The throwing out of all possible ‘trouble-makers’ from Bastar or into prisons in the state makes the signs really ominous. It is no surprise that these attacks on activists and journalists were preceded by news of massive sexual violence by the armed forces on adivasi women over the past few months, which fact finding teams and a few journalists had brought out. They do not want any more such ‘nuisances’, while Kalluri and co. go about doing their job.
Operation Greenhunt, the all out war launched by the state inside its own borders during the previous UPA regime, is getting gorier today under the Modi-Rajnath-Raman Singh-Kalluri combine. Empty villages, adivasis eliminated physically or forced to migrate as cheap informal labour to the cities and a completely ravaged ecology, while the earth is hollowed out and the smoke from the factories takes away our resources beyond borders to fills the coffers of a few – it is a dystopic future that awaits us unless resisted to the hilt . As students, we are horrified at what is unfolding in our universities but there is also another horror unfolding in Bastar, and the attempts are to ensure that no one is left to even tell the tales of this horror. We have to makes these connections, we have to join the dots.
As for those who thought students in JNU and HCU had committed the ultimate blasphemy by questioning the Supreme Court judgements on Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon, let me end by quoting an extract from the Supreme Court judgement on Salwa Judum in 2011. Think to yourself, how much laden with double standards your “collective conscience” is.
“Our constitution is most certainly not a “pact for national suicide”. In the least, its vision does enable us, as constitutional adjudicators to recognize, and prevent, the emergence, and the institutionalization, of a policing paradigm, the end point of which can only mean that the entire nation, in short order, might have to gasp: “The horror! The horror!”
Despite the order, Salwa Judum continues under different names with impunity, complete state support and with all its horror. It was these ostensibly “non-state actors” that attacked Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, Soni Sori, Malini Subramaniam and are now threatening Bela Bhatia. In our united fronts and united struggles, let us not forget Bastar, let us not forget Singhbhum, let us not forget Kalinganagar, Niyamgari and Narayanpatna and let us stand with the most oppressed in their struggle for their jal, jangal, zameen, for their existence and dignity.