Gladson Dungdung, a human rights activist from Jharkhand, talks about his experiences with development and how his demands for constitutional justice has often resulted in people asking whether he is a Maoist.
I appeared in public life through my human rights works, writings and speeches. However, I reached to a larger audience when I got a chance to appear in television debates on the issue of Naxalism last year. After these debates, I got immense positive and negative responses from across the country. I was upset for sometime precisely because of the most negative responses I got from youth who are running behind the market forces unknowingly.
They ruthlessly questioned me about whether I get money from Pakistan, Nepal or China for speaking against the Indian State. I responded to a few of them with detailed explanations, but many believe P Chidambaram's theory of this side or that side; therefore they are not ready to accept my rational arguments.
Meanwhile, I continued my work of raising the genuine issues of the marginalised people of India. Amidst, the so-called operation green hunt was also launched in the state of Jharkhand in the name of cleansing the Maoists. I passionately attempted to bring out the truth of the OGH, the intention of the state behind the OGH and sufferings of the villagers caused by the OGH.
As a result, so-called educated people intensified their personal attacks against me. There are also some e-groups where they attempted to coin me as a Maoist sympathiser and supporter. Finally, they have portrayed me as a Maoist ideologue.
I just laugh, laugh and laugh. Precisely, because how can a person suddenly become a Maoist ideologue without having an in-depth study on Maoism? I have never read about Maoism.
I deliberately do not read about any ideology because I know that Maoists teach the Adivasis about Maoism, Gandhians preach them about Gandhism and Marxists ask them to walk on Marxism; but no one bothers about Adivasism, which is the best 'ism' among these, which perhaps leads to a just and equitable society. I have been raising questions about how the Indian State has deliberately destroyed Adivasism.
The Adivasi religion was not recognised by the Indian Constitution, traditional self-governance was neglected, culture was destroyed, lands were grabbed and our resources were snatched in the name of development. But what do we get out of it? Should we still keep quiet?
Are we not the citizens of this country who need to be treated equally? Do they care about our sufferings?
I'm one of those unfortunate persons, who have lost everything for the so-called development of the nation and am struggling for survival even today. When I was just one year old, my family was displaced. Our 20 acres of fertile land was taken away from us in the name of development. Our ancestral land was submerged in a dam, which came up at Chinda River near Simdega town in 1980. We lost our house, agricultural land and garden but we were paid merely Rs 11,000 as compensation. When the whole village protested against it they were sent to Hazaribagh jail. Can a family of six members ensure food, clothing, shelter, education and health facilities for life with Rs 11,000?
After displacement, we had no choice but to proceed towards the dense forest for ensuring our livelihood. We settled down in the forest after buying a small patch of land. We used to collect flowers, fruits and firewood to sustain our family. We also had sufficient livestock, which supported our economy. Needless to say that the state suppression continued with us. When we were living in the forest, my father was booked under many cases filed by the forest department (the biggest landlord of the country) calling him an encroacher and woodcutter. There was no school building in our village -- therefore we used to study under the trees, and when there was rain our school was closed. But my father taught us to always fight for justice. Though he was struggling to sustain our family, he never stopped his fight for the community.
Unfortunately, on June 20, 1990, my parents were brutally murdered while they were going to Simdega civil court to attend a case and four kids were orphaned. Can anyone imagine how we suffered afterwards? The worst thing is the culprits were not brought to justice. Can anyone tell us why the Indian State did not deliver justice to us, who snatched our resource in the name of development? Why there is no electricity in my village even today? Why my people do not get water for their field and then their lands were taken for irrigation projects?
Why there is no electricity in those houses, who have given their land for the power project? And why people are still living in small mud houses whose lands were taken for steel plants? It seems that the Adivasis are only born to suffer and other to enjoy over our graves.
After a long struggle, we all got back to life but my pain and sufferings did not end here. When I was working as a state programme officer in a project funded by the European Commission, a senior government officer and an editor of a newspaper (both from the upper caste) questioned my credentials saying that being an Adivasi, how could I have gotten into such a prestigious position? Similarly, when my friend had taken me to meet a newly-wedded couple of the upper caste in Ranchi, I was not allowed to meet them saying that being an Adivasi if I meet the couple, they might become inauspicious and their whole life would be at stake. Was I a devil for them?
However, when I joined another firm, I was totally undermined and not given the position which I highly deserved. I was racially discriminated against, economically exploited and mentally disturbed.
Can anyone tell me why I should not fight for justice? Can those so-called supporters of the unjust development process, who have not given even one inch of land for the so-called national interest, coin me as the Maoist ideologue, sympathiser and supporter respond to me: why should I shut my mouth and stop writing against injustice, inequality and discrimination?
I have lost everything in the name of development and now I have nothing to lose therefore I'm determined to fight for my people because I do not want them to be trapped in the name of development. I have taken the democratic path of struggle, which the Indian Constitution guarantees through Article 19. A pen, mouth and mind are my weapons. I'm neither a Maoist nor a Gandhian but I'm an Adivasi who is determined to fight for his people, whom the Indian State has alienated, displaced and dispossessed from their resources and is continually doing it in the name of development, national security and national interest even today.
Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is reproduced courtesy of the Jharkhand Mirror.