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Triennial Day 2 Part 2

Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

The breaking news just doesn’t stop.

After lunch yesterday (23 January) we broke up for workshops. For some reason we had two workshop slots of differing lengths, and there was also the option for many of them of continuing the workshop after the break. The first slot (2 hours) I went to hear Bela Bhatia talking about the conflict in the state of Chhattisgarh, where police and Maoists are fighting a vicious war in a tribal area. (Tribal people are known as “adivasis” or “earliest/original inhabitants”.)

Her talk was embedded in a workshop entitled “War on terror”, and Jorgen Johannsen started things off with a definitional PowerPoint presentation on terrorism and counter-terrorism. I couldn’t help butting in at the start of his Q&A to quote AJ Muste, and the primary need to deal with the violence of established power.

After some wandering discussion, we then heard Bela describe at the micro level what has been happening in these war-torn areas. Some speakers have described some of these security force occupations/operations in some parts of India as “genocide”; I don’t think Bela used the term.

She started by observing that the armed revolutionary communist movement which started in 1967 used to be known as the “Naxalites” but now is called the “Maoists”. Through factionalism, there are now 60 groups around India. Howard Clark of the Peace News Board, who was in the audience, was incredulous and asked for a confirmation of the 60 figure. (Now I wonder if I misheard and it should have been “16″!)

The main Maoist group, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), was formed by merger of three groups in 2004 and has pursued a somewhat bizarre anti-state campaign of attacking railway stations, electricity pylons and so on. Originally the Naxalite armed actions were related to people’s concerns – during the famine, seizing food from the warehouses and distributing them; taking land from big landowners and re-distributing it; retaliating against landowners who had raped local women; and so on. Now, CPI (Maoist) actions are not understood by the people, Bela said.

Okay, I’ve run out of time…. More later.