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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 49, Dated December 11, 2010
ENGAGED CIRCLE  
DANTEWADA

| OPEN LETTER FROM HIMANSHU KUMAR, ACTIVIST |

‘You’ll regret that you didn’t follow your conscience’

Shattered Activist Himanshu Kumar amid the ruins of his ashram

PHOTO: SHAILENDRA PANDEY

DEAR CHHATTISGARH DGP VISHWARANJAN JI,
I write this letter to you with a calm mind and a thorough understanding of your situation. This letter is untouched by even a trace of rancour or hopelessness. I was inspired to write for the following reasons. After we dared to bring the Singaram massacre case to court, the government demolished our ashram, forcing us to move our activities to a rented house. However, after I left Dantewada this January, the police took possession of the house. A month ago, they stole our belongings and vandalised several vehicles in the premises. Since then, two Adivasi women and an old man have been staying there.

They are constantly harassed by the police who force their way in on the pretext of looking for me and threaten to return later in the night. The women have been so intimidated that they ask me if the police would harm them. With a quivering heart, I try to reassure them that since they have done nothing wrong, there is no reason why they would be harmed. But deep in my heart, I know that all my reassurances are empty.

The truth is that the police can concoct false charges, declare them Naxalites and arrest them, and then it will be all over for our ashram. Isn’t this exactly what you did with Kopa Kunjam? You first tried to intimidate him by beating the daylights out of him. When that did not work, you arrested him. Kunjam is a young and passionate Adivasi who was a full-time preacher at the Gayatri Mission for eight years, and used to campaign against alcohol consumption in the Adivasi community. When Vanvasi Chetna Ashram started its work in the area, he felt he was more in line with its modern and scientific thinking. He joined us and worked incessantly. Due to his efforts, the rice scams that plagued ration shops started coming to an end. Teachers, and anganwadi workers returned to the villages. People also started to get their due under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), and the mortality rate of children dying from malnutrition started to dip.

But Kunjam made one mistake. The Adivasis who are forced to stay in Salwa Judum camps are made to work under MGNREGA and were paid only half their due. The other half used to go, and still goes, to the Salwa Judum leaders and the police. Kunjam fought against this and was able to redress this injustice. It is precisely because of this that he became a marked man, and the police arrested him on a trumped-up charge of murder. He has been in prison for the past year. None of what I say is bluster and I can back up all my claims with concrete evidence.

‘After you jailed Kunjam and forced me out, violence has increased a lot in Dantewada’

I REMEMBER when Kunjam and his fellow workers rehabilitated more than 30 villages. Those were the villages that were burned by police, security forces and Salwa Judum after they had raped several women and murdered many innocents. Kunjam rehabilitated these villagers after coaxing the people who had fled to the jungles or to Andhra Pradesh, and encouraged them to start farming again. With public approval, he was successful in making these villages weaponfalsehood free zones. He also tried to start schools, anganwadis, ration shops and panchayats. Was this the crime for which you put him in prison? What did you get out of this? After you imprisoned Kunjam and hounded me out of Dantewada, violence has increased manifold there.

You claim you are a writer, and hence a sensitive person, and you also want people to recognise and respect you as such. But don’t you think one of the pre-conditions of being a writer is the ability to see the unvarnished truth without rosetinted glasses, to feel it deeply and to express it beautifully? But to lie incessantly and constantly think about it, is that how you think you can create timeless, beautiful, limpid and progressive people’s literature? Forget about others, I doubt if anything you write enthralls yourself, because you know that it is a product of falsehood and of an artificial mental state.

You may remember that Salwa Judum had just begun when we last met. I had asked you then, “Vishwaranjan ji, whom are you fighting for? For this country or for the economic self-interest of corrupt politicians?” I also said that the real duty of a police officer like you is to protect the Constitution and the rule of law, and the day you tell this greedy and corrupt chief minister, “Mr CM, there is a way of legally acquiring Adivasi land. If you dare violate this law, I will arrest you,” and the day the police raise their guns for the poor rather than against them, Naxalism will disappear the same day. If only you could remember your duty at least now.

You wrote an article in which you lamented that human rights activists look down on the police as shudras, and treat them like untouchables. But the truth is the opposite. We never tried to break relations with you. It is the police who decided to either concoct fake charges against us or to hound us out.

You claim that you are fighting an important battle. Alright, we are willing to believe you. But who is with you in this battle? Greedy politicians? Corrupt officials? Policemen who collect bribes from poor and hapless women selling vegetables and children who collect empty discarded bottles from train stations? I hope you are not dreaming of winning your fight against Naxals with such allies.

YOU MAY also remember the case of a woman official who used to rob money that was due to Adivasi women workers running the Teknar village anganwadi in Dantewada. When they campaigned against this daylight robbery with the assistance of our ashram worker, your SP registered an FIR against me. During our last meeting, I told you that the police, which is allied with those who sell the ration meant for infants and hence is complicit in this heinous crime, can never eradicate Naxalism from this society. You dare not even dream such dreams.

‘Who is with you in this battle? Greedy netas? Corrupt officials? Police who take bribes?’

I believe that our sense of right and wrong partly depends on where we are born. For example, if I am born in India, I consider Pakistan to be evil. Much the same way, if I were born in the house where you were born, and you were born where I was, our beliefs would be the opposite of what they are now. That is why if one wishes to find the truth, one should try to put oneself in the other’s shoes. That is our first step towards grasping the truth. Imagine yourself in the house of an Adivasi in Dantewada, and ask yourself if your thoughts and beliefs about the State and Naxalites would be the same as they are now in your job as Chhattisgarh DGP.

I know you will not agree with anything I have said now. But once you are out of your job, it is then that truth will dawn on you and bother your conscience. Then you will regret the fact that while you had the ability to do something, you did not follow the voice of your conscience and you did not do what was right and just and what you should have done.

Best regards "
HIMANSHU KUMAR


letter@tehelka.com

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