From Mining to Militarism
Mining and militarism have a deeply intimate history. In 2003, when India liberalized its mining policy, the de facto Maoist control over the region was seen as constituting a major obstacle to rapid industrialization and land acquisition. Industry associations like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) explicitly supported the government’s offensive against the Maoists and called for the involvement of the private sector in this effort:
The growing Maoist insurgency over large swathes of the mineral rich countryside could soon hurt some industrial investment plans. Just when India needs to ramp up its industrial machine to lock in growth and when foreign companies are joining the party – Naxalites are clashing with mining and steel companies essential to India’s long-term success.
Human rights activists argue that it is not a coincidence that Salwa Judum began just when the state government had signed a memorandum of understanding for a steel plant with the Tatas in June 2005. Around the same time, Essar was acquiring land for another steel plant in Dhurli and Bhansi villages, and both the Tatas and Essar were given captive iron ore mines on the Bailadilla hills. ‘Public hearings’ were held in Lohandiguda, Dhurli and Bhansi, in order to fulfi l the offi cial requirement under PESA of eliciting villagers’ ‘consent’:
The villagers under the leadership of Dantewada Adivasi Mahasabha and Sangharsh Samiti Dhurli, said that on 9th September the police forced them to sign No objection letters. Two constables were posted in each house. No outsider was allowed at the meeting place. People were not allowed to leave their homes or to talk to each other. According to villagers, at 9 a.m. they were forced into vehicles, and taken to the meeting location. Supporters of the opposition leader (Mahendra Karma) also helped the police in this process. The villagers related that they were taken into a room in twos, and pistols were placed at their temples to make them sign where told.