Release 8 Arrested Activists of Damkondawahi, Maharashtra

in jail

On 20th November 2023, at the Press Club of India, Delhi, FACAM held a Press Conference cum Public Discussin themed “Anti-Displacement Movement & State Repression” which was opened by its member, Ehtmam ul Haq, as the moderator. He opened the discussion by updating the audience of the events which were occurring in real time parallely in the Damkondawahi, Maharashtra area. Here, Llyod Metal’s mining operation is being expanded. Surjagarh is the main site of the protest and on 20th November 2023, it was encircled by paramilitary forces with the protest site being destroyed. Eight ground-level activists were rounded up from their villages and taken to Gadichiroli via helicopters, contravening the typical process of arresting and transportation via jeeps. Those who sat in dharna against the arrests were brutally lathi-charged due to which some protesters lost consciousness. 

Adv. Lalsu Nogoti, a longtime leader of the Surjagarh struggle talked of the hills where his Madia-Gondh tribe resides, a PVTG-designated Adivasi group. Lloyd Metals won the lease of 348 hectares land in this area, against which the Adivasi peasants have been struggling since 2007. He emphasized on development from the point of view of the locals, not the Indian state’s model which displaces, uproots and kills. He mentioned that the corporate-state nexus is so entrenched, the government in his region is equivalent to “company servants.” 

Punem Jetti, a local sarpanch in Surjagarh area and a leader in the anti-displacement struggle elaborated on how their current protest has been ongoing for 225 days. She explained how state repression has brutally suppressed the democratic process. Her husband faced state repression too and pointed out that the protection of the jal-jangal-jameen is the duty of every Adivasi family, in which women have an active role. In the name of development, they have erected multiple watchtowers and police stations in every village- at the cost of their environment and without understanding the Adivasis and their needs. When they question, they are labeled as “Naxals” and repressed. 

Damodar Turi, an anti-displacement activist from Jharkhand spoke about the history of exploitation in regions with forests, mines and minerals. They brought in laws which have been used by the state today to establish mines and exploit the resources. He describes how movements are of three types- Gandhian model, NGO model or a truly people’s model. He said that the last model as followed in Nandigram, Surajgarh and Niyamgiri is the only model that works for the people- the state’s response of brutal repression and militarization is proof of that and the response of places where the Adivasis are attempting to establish similar people’s model of developments, such as Damkondwahi, helicopters and lathi-charges are used, an indication of the government being scared of the people and their model. This is because the common people have awoken to the loot of resources and the farzi government, because they are unwilling to leave their land. This is why they militarize the place- to coerce “consent” so that the corporates have the state do its ‘dirty work’ in looting the people’s “jal, jangal, jameen”.

Prafulla Samantara, renowned environmental activist, spoke of how the state repression happening in Gadchiroli is happening everywhere the corporates are there to loot resources. All political parties are endeavoring to bring foreign finance capital from the World Bank and IMF. This corporatization is at the cost of our kisan, our majdoor and our public enterprises. Though the fascists say that there is no imagination to struggle against this, he describes how various struggles like Nandigram have shown us that the imagination of people for a proper model of development is alive. He pointed out that the crux of the struggle between the corporates-state and the people is about land. To fight for the environment, he asserted that we need to participate on the people’s end in the fight against land grab, corporate resource loot and militarization.  

Madhu Sudan, a leader of Mulniwasi Samajsewak Sangh, looked at the role of the ideology of brahmanism which propagates notions of “vanvasi” and “Ram Rajya” to derail Adivasi and Dalit struggles into the fold of Hindutva. He stated that displacement is directly tied to caste, class, culture, climate and corporates. The fight against Hindu Rashtra (Ram Rajya) is a fight against Brahmanism. In the name of development, there is destruction which is being propelled by the model of Ram Rajya and there is no gram rule, but gun rule in the regions, highlighting the role of the imperialist model of development backed by the militaristic ventures of the state. 

Dr. Saroj Giri, Professor of Political Science at Delhi University and member of FACAM, threw light on the state-corporate nexus, especially as seen through Operation SAMADHAN-Prahar, an extension of the erstwhile Operation Green Hunt and Salwa Judum. He drew a parallel between the operations of the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza against the national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people with Operation SAMADHAN-Prahar’s double attack of corporatization and militarization of people’s land and resources. He bemoaned the lack of documentation of such military operations, be it Operation Steeplechase during the times of Indira Gandhi, Operation Green Hunt in the 2010s and now Operation SAMADHAN-Prahar which continue the Indian state’s history of genocidal war against people in India, particularly in the resource-rich Adivasi inhabited areas. He brought up the four aerial bombing which occurred in Bastar as part of this operation and the numerous military bases being cropped up in villages where people are waging their struggles for jal-jangal-jameen, creating a “state of exception” in the region, similar to the war justifications given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

We strongly condemn the arrest of the 8 political activists of Damkondawahi (Gadchiroli) on 20th November 2023. 

  1. We demand the immediate release of these 8 eight activists 
  2. FACAM demands the immediate halting of all rapacious mining projects opposed by the people. 
  3. Stop militarizing mineral rich regions to further corporate loot.
  4. Stop Operation SAMADHAN-Prahar

Forum against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM) – A Joint Platform of Progressive and Democratic Organizations and Individuals

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