‘Maoism is not the issue, the issue is Tribal Rights’

In an open air exhibition on Carter Road on the evening of June 6, 2010, photographer Javed Iqbal showcased a dozen photos heat warming pictures. With the theme of ‘Maoism is not the issue, the issue is Tribal Rights’, his lens captured the lives of a few thousand deprived villagers whose existence has been stormed by this ugly battle.
Every picture tells a heart rending story. Imagine someone wanted to build a huge factory at the very place that you live, which you abode, your home. You are told to settle for a meagre  compensation and relocated miles away. Imagine if instead of negotiating with you, they make you sign away your land at gunpoint. The most striking photo is the one in which a boy is holding up Mahatma Gandhi’s photo amidst  ruins. This reveals how the hapless villagers are still clinging on to the last rays of hope and justice.
Ever since independence, development projects have hardly done any good; rather they have been responsible for more displacement than the partition.
In Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and other states in the country, the government has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with various multinational companies like the Tatas, Vedanta, POSCO, the Birlas, the Essar Group, the Jindal Group, Mittals, Lafarge, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and others for mining and setting up large scale projects. The government is illegally grabbing vast tracts of land at the behest of large corporate; often by violating the constitutional rights of the Adivasis for the land they have inhabited long before the idea of India ever came into being.
The Adivasis however, are not remaining silent. When they protest, the government jails them on false charges or kills them and even brands them as Maoists.
The Maoists too, are using the just cause of the Adivasis for their own political aims and have committed vast atrocities on the Adivasis themselves. In this war launched by the State on its people, both, the Adivasis and Jawaans are being killed while large companies and corrupt ministers stand to profit from the war and its consequences.
Can we keep quiet in this war on our own people? Can we support such ‘development’ which is subjecting once self sufficient people to a state of deprivation? Isn’t it time we stopped sending our Jawaans to kill our own people and be killed? Won’t this forest fire burn us too?
We can only save ourselves by guaranteeing the Adivasis their rights. They do not need industrial development that will rob them of their land, their culture and their identity. They need dignity. They need their forests, their land, and their songs.
The sound of the waves splashing against the crags in a city hundreds of miles away echoes the resounding  cries of the tortured Tribals. The most shocking photo was of an 18-month old baby’s hand whose three fingers were blown off by security forces’ bullets. His parents, grandparents and aunt had also been the victims. Another photo had the silhouette of a security personnel against the background of an empty village, which symbolized the lifelessness of the area. Another was that of homeless old people, whose protruding ribs were foretelling the story of their starvation.
Iqbal’s frames have hit the people hard and now it’s the time for the government to act. We are all waiting.
Aryani Banerjee

Image Source: [http://southasiarev.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/indian-maoists-training.jpg]