“I started travelling to the Red Corridor in order to collect evidence that this is not a war against terrorism, the so-called Naxalite insurgency by the CPI-Maoists but a war against the Adivasis. The hidden goal is to snatch their resources i.e. their lands, their forests, their water and hills. I believe that my mission to Saranda Forest proves this to be the case. I have taken great care in my researches and I am convinced that the war is actually, fundamentally, a war for control over mineral resource and that it threatens the security of all the common people in the Red Corridor and is wrecking their peaceful existence, their good governance, development and prosperity.”
-Gladson Dungdung cited in Felix Padal’s review of Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India
PUDR strongly condemns the deplaning of Ranchi based human rights activist, journalist and writer Gladson Dungdung from his flight to London on 10th May, when he was travelling to participate in a workshop on environmental politics and history of South Asia at the University of Sussex's Centre for World Environmental History. Dungdung’s views couldn’t be clearer; nor the motive behind his deplaning more transparent, than from the passage cited above.
Gladson Dungdung has for a long time been a very vocal critic of the government’s development and land acquisition policies in Jharkhand, of multinational corporations, and the attack on Adivasi peoples’ rights. He was actively involved in the struggles against Arcelor Mittal, and the Nagri (Jharkhand) protest movement against acquisition of agricultural land in a fifth schedule area for a law University and IIM, in connection with which Dayamani Barla too had been arrested.
It should therefore come as no surprise that this is not the first time that Gladson has attracted the ire of the government; . His passport had been impounded in January 2014 as well, after he had spoken against the government’s land acquisition policy in tribal areas , at conferences in Germany and Thailand in 2013. The airport authorities have cited the 2013 withdrawal of his passport as the reason behind the deplaning, which is absurd as he has travelled to Denmark and London in 2014 and 2015, the last to release his book Mission Saranda. His passport had been returned in July 2014.
The restrictions on travel are clearly directed at preventing the exposing at international fora, the ugly side of the Indian government’s mining policies, and its genocidal war against Adivasis in the name of fighting Maoism, especially at a time when IndiaInc is going all out to attract foreign capital. The present instance is of a piece with Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai’s offloading in January 2015 when she was going to address British legislators about rights violations in the coal producing area of Mahan in MP.
The present incident assumes added significance in the immediate context where the government has been advocating the watering down of the Forest Rights Act in tribal areas, with the Chattisgarh government having already summarily set aside some of its provisions. The restriction on travel in Gladson’s case is part and parcel of preventing the dissemination of uncomfortable truths through restrictions on freedoms of speech expression and movement, and must be resisted at all costs.
Moushumi Basu, Deepika Tandon
13th May 2016