Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Vishwaranjan from Himanshu Kumar

Dear Vishwaranjan ji,
I write this letter to you with a calm mind and with a thorough understanding of your situation. This letter is untouched by even a trace of rancor or hopelessness.

I was inspired to write this letter for the following reason. After we dared to bring the Singaram massacre case to the court, our 18 year old Ashram was demolished by the Government. We then moved our Ashram activities to a rented house. However, after I left Dantewada in January 2010, police took possession of the house. Just a month ago, police stole a lot of stuff belonging to the Ashram, and vandalized several vehicles on the Ashram premises. Since then, two Adivasi women and and an old man have been staying there. These three are constantly harassed and intimidated by the police who force their way in on the pretext of looking for me and threaten to come back again in the middle of the night. The police have also forcibly obtained thumb prints of these three workers on blank sheets of paper. The women workers have been so intimidated that they ask me if the police would harm them in some way, and with a quivering heart, I try to reassure them that since they have done nothing wrong, there is no reason why the police would harm them. But deep in my heart I know all my reassurances are empty.

The truth is that police can at any time concoct false charges against these three workers, declaring them naxalite commanders, 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. Kopa Kunjam is a young and passionate Adivasi who was a full time preacher for the Gayatri Mission for eight years, and used to campaign against alcohol consumption in the adivasi society. When Vanvasi Chetna Ashram started its work in the area, he felt he was more in line with its modern and scientific thinking. He then joined us, and worked incessantly to organize women and youth into a formidable force. Due to his efforts, the various and almost endemic rice scams that plagued ration shops started coming to an end. Teachers, Anganwadi workers and workers from the Health Department started going to the villages. People also started to get full pay which was their due under NREGA, and the mortality rate of children dying from malnutrition started declining dramatically in the area where Kopa had been working.

But Kopa made one crucial mistake. The adivasis who are forced to stay in Salwa Judum camps are made to work under NREGA and are paid only half of what is due to them. The other half used to go, and still goes, to the Salwa Judum leaders and the police. Kopa stood against this, and was able to redress this injustice at various places, where he managed to get people full pay that was due to them. It is precisely because of this that from then on he became a marked man, and police arrested him on trumped up and flimsy charge of murder. He has been in prison for past one year. None of what I say is bluster, and I can back up all my claims with hard evidence, and should you decide to challenge me, I am willing to provide all the evidence publicly.

I remember when Kopa and his fellow workers rehabilitated more than thirty villages. These were those villages which were burned and destroyed by police, security forces and Salwa Judum, after they had raped several women and murdered countless innocents. Kopa rehabilitated these villages again after coaxing people who had fled to the jungles or to Andhra Pradesh, and he encouraged people to start farming again. With public approval, he was also successful in making these villages peaceful and weapon free zones, since no weapons were allowed in. He was also trying to start schools, Anganwadis, ration shops and Panchayat. Was this the crime for which you put him in a prison cell? What did you get out of this? After you imprisoned Kopa and hounded me out of Dantewada, violence has only increased manifold there.

You claim that you are a writer, a literary and hence a sensitive person, and you also want people to recognize and respect you as such. But don't you think that one of the necessary preconditions of being a writer is the ability to see the unvarnished truth without rose-tinted glasses, to feel it deeply, and to express it beautifully? But to lie incessantly and to constantly think about it? Is that how you think you can create timeless, beautiful, limpid and progressive people's literature? Forget about other people, I doubt if anything you write enthralls you yourself, because your heart knows that what you write 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, “Mister Chief Minister, this is how you can legally acquire Adivasi land, and 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 very same day. If only you will remember your duty even now.

Vishwaranjan ji, you wrote an article in which you lamented that Human Rights workers look upon police as shudras, and treat you like untouchables. But the truth is exactly the opposite. We never tried to break relations with you. It is the police that decided to either concoct fake charges against people and arrest them for working to bring peace to violent areas, or to hound them 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 vegetable selling women and children who collect empty discarded bottles from train stations? I hope you are not dreaming of winning your fight against Naxalism with such allies.

You may also remember the case of a woman official who used to rob the money that was due to the Adivasi women workers running the Teknar village Anganwadi in Dantwada. When they campaigned against this daylight robbery with the assistance of a worker from our Ashram, your SP regtistered an FIR against me. In my last meeting with you, 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.

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 exact opposite of what they are now. That is why if one really wishes to find the truth, one should try to put oneself in the shoes of the other person. That is our first step towards grasping truth. Try to imagine yourself in the house of an Adivasi in Dantewada district, and ask yourself if your thoughts and beliefs about police, government and naxalites would be the same as they are in your role as 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

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