Sunday, November 01, 2009

Mr Chidambaram’s War By Arundhati Roy

Mr Chidambaram’s War By Arundhati Roy
Dawn, 31 Oct, 2009

The low, flat-topped hills of south Orissa have been home to the Dongria Kondh long before there was a country called India or a state called Orissa. The hills watched over the Kondh. The Kondh watched over the hills and worshipped them as living deities. Now these hills have been sold for the bauxite they contain.

Perhaps the Kondh are supposed to be grateful that their Niyamgiri hill, home to Niyam Raja, their ‘god of universal law’, has been sold to a company with a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy that teaches the Ultimate Nature of Knowledge).

It’s one of the biggest mining corporations in the world and is owned by Anil Aggarwal, the Indian billionaire who lives in London in a mansion that once belonged to the Shah of Iran. Vedanta is only one of the many multinational corporations closing in on Orissa.

If the flat-topped hills are destroyed, the forests that clothe them will be destroyed too. So will the rivers and streams that flow out of them and irrigate the plains below. So will the Dongria Kondh. So will the hundreds of thousands of tribal people who live in the forested heart of India, and whose homeland is similarly under attack.

In our smoky, crowded cities, some people say, ‘So what? Someone has to pay the price of progress.’ Some even say, ‘Let’s face it, these are people whose time has come. Look at any developed country, Europe, the US, Australia — they all have a ‘past’.’

Indeed they do. So why shouldn’t ‘we’? In keeping with this line of thought, the government has announced Operation Green Hunt, a war purportedly against the ‘Maoist’ rebels headquartered in the jungles of central India.

Of course, the Maoists are by no means the only ones rebelling. There is a whole spectrum of struggles all over the country that people are engaged in — the landless, the Dalits, the homeless, workers, peasants, weavers.

They’re pitted against a juggernaut of injustices, including policies that allow a wholesale corporate takeover of people’s land and resources. However, it is the Maoists who the government has singled out as being the biggest threat.

Two years ago, when things were nowhere near as bad as they are now, the prime minister described the Maoists as the ‘single-largest internal security threat’ to the country.

This will probably go down as the most popular and often-repeated thing he ever said. For some reason, the comment he made on January 6, 2009, at a meeting of state chief ministers, when he described the Maoists as having only ‘modest capabilities’ doesn’t seem to have had the same raw appeal.

He revealed his government’s real concern on June 18, 2009, when he told parliament: ‘If left-wing extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected.’

For complete article, click here

Mr Chidambaram’s War - Outlook India (a longer version)

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