06/02/2023, 14.21
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Chhatisgarh, tribals opposed to mining bombed

A Portuguese MEP's denunciation of events that allegedly took place in recent weeks in Bastar district. The area has a strong presence of Naxalites, the Maoist guerrillas opposed to the Delhi government. Since 2017, the army has launched Operation Samadahn-Prahar to root out the insurgency that curbs mining activities. But over the past three years, several youths left without jobs have joined the militiamen in an endless cycle of violence.

Raipur (AsiaNews) - In early April, India allegedly bombed adivasi groups in Bastar district in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh to discourage indigenous environmental movements in their struggle against the construction of mines on their territories.

The episode was denounced by Portuguese MEP Marisa Matias in a parliamentary question tabled in Strasbourg in recent days.India has conducted four airstrikes in Bastar in the past three years, Matias said, pointing out that the latest of these incidents took place in Bijapur on April 7, when the Indian government "sent three helicopters to unload heavy machine-gun fire on the villagers."

"These attacks," the MEP added, "seriously violate the right to life of indigenous peoples in India and contribute to widespread environmental destruction.

Bastar is an area of India known to be controlled by the Maoists, or Naxalites, the fighters who in the 1960s, after tribal uprisings in Naxalbari, West Bengal, started a violent movement under the umbrella of the Communist Party of India-Maoist against the central government's economic and environmental exploitation, which they said was to protect the adivasis, the indigenous tribes.

In some cases, however, incidents of violence by Maoists against civilians, including women and children, used as human shields or enlisted in guerrilla warfare, have also been documented. The organization (including its armed wing, the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army, or PLGA), as "left-wing extremism" has been banned by the Indian government, but the government has not succeeded (at least so far) in eradicating it completely.

Delhi has waged a full-fledged battle against the Maoists for control of tribal lands-rich in natural resources and valuable minerals that are coveted by several companies, particularly those belonging to the Adani Group.

The Indian government, led by the ultra-nationalist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), launched Operation Samadahn-Prahar in 2017, which prior to the pandemic had dealt a severe blow to the Naxalites.

However, in the past three years, several young people left jobless have joined the Maoists in a never-ending cycle of violence: the Pci-m's Central Military Commission had admitted in December 2020 that it had killed about 3,000 policemen, 222 politicians, and more than 1,100 police informants, and lost about 4,500 of its fighters since 2001.

It should be remembered that defending the rights of the Adivasi people was also the struggle of Fr. Stan Swamy, the Indian Jesuit who died in 2021 at the age of 84 after nine months of detention in a Mumbai jail precisely for being falsely accused of links with Maoist guerrillas. It is not at all uncommon for the New Delhi government to associate anyone working for tribal rights with Naxalites, as did Fr. Swami Stan in Jarkhand.

After the alleged bombing, the Indian news outlet Scroll went to verify the facts: residents of four villages confirmed witnessing the airstrikes and hearing gunfire in the forest, while security forces denied the allegations.

However, Inspector General Saket Kumar Singh, local head of the Central Reserve Police Force (a section of the police that handles counterinsurgency operations) admitted that his men fired in "self-defense" during one of the attacks.

Scroll reporters also recovered several metal and plastic remains and some electronic equipment in the hills where the April 7 bombing apparently took place. Experts have not been able to identify them precisely, but have advanced the hypothesis that they may be explosive projectiles designed to hit a specific target.

According to the Pci-m's statement in January of this year, during another shelling, government troops are unable to penetrate the hinterland of the tribal states because of the hostility of the local population, so they are reduced to shelling villages in an attempt to sap resistance. The Pci-m, in its communiqué, goes on to stress the need to prevent the government from selling indigenous land and giving new concessions for mining.


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