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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 21 New Delhi May 14, 2016

Chhattisgarh: A Land of “Primitive Accumulation”

Monday 16 May 2016


Marx used the category “primitive accumulation” to characterize the violence associated with the birth of capitalism.The “robbery of the common lands”, “expropriation of the agricul-tural population from the land” and the “usurpation of...clan property, and its trans-formation into modern private property under circumstances of reckless terrorism” were “just so many idyllic methods of primitive accumu-lation”. It should be mentioned in this connection that Marx argued in Volume 1 of Capital that “primitive accumulation” precedes capitalistic accumulation. Rosa Luxemburg’s argument that ruthless violence is an organic part of pene-tration of capital into non-capitalist territories signifies an original contribution to Marxist theory, and it enlightens us to understand theoretically the multiple instances of violence unleashed by the Indian state and corporate giants in the tribal land of Chhattisgarh.

The recently published Report—State of Siege: Report on Encounters and Cases ofSexual Violence in Bijapur and Sukma districts of Chhattisgarh—of the combined team of Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations, and Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (April, 2016), bears testimony to the process of “primi-tive accumulation” unfolding in Chhattis-garh. The Report reminds us that in the pursuit of clearing resource-rich lands of their traditional users and occupants for the benefit of corpo-rations, state-sponsored vigilantism and milita-risation have accelerated in the region since 2005. The Report has documented “the narrative of violence and displacement in Chhattisgarh in the name of development, by reporting on the findings of the encounter killings and sexual violence in the villages of Peddajojer, Nendra and Kunna in January 2016”. It has been observed in the Report that the use of fake encounters and sexual violence by the security forces is increa-singly becoming a tool in the war which the state is waging against the adivasis of Chhattisgarh.

Let us revisit the story of one alleged “encounter” in the Peddajojer village of Bijapur district. On January 15, around seven in the morning, three young men in their early twenties and three minor girls from Peddajojer village were on their way to Reddi village to buy provisions. All of them were unarmed civilians. When they reached the middle of the forest path connecting Chinnajojer and Peddajojer, they were ambushed and fired upon by the security forces. While the three young men and a 13-year old minor girl were killed, the other two girls managed to escape to the village and warn the villagers. Subsequently, the two girls went into hiding for fear of their lives. It is evident in the Report of the investigating team that those killed at point-blank range were ordinary villagers engaged in agriculture and not Maoists, as claimed by the police.

A brutal story of sexual violence in the Nendra village of the same district is incorporated in the Report. Four to five batches of police and security forces were conducting search and combing operations in the village. As soon as they entered the village, they started firing indiscriminately. The men of the village fled immediately. What happened to the women? Over thirteen instances of gang rape were reported by the women...There were others who preferred not to speak of it publicly, and did not want to register a complaint. Many other women were disrobed, molested, subjected to verbal abuse. Incidents of sexual violence have been reported from all paras of the village.

According to Giorgio Agamben, “modern totalitarianism can be defined as the establish-ment, by means of the state of exception, of a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system”. What is happening in Chhattisgarh perfectly fits with Agamben’s reading of modern totalitarianism and Marx’s concept of primitive accumulation.

Arup Kumar Sen, Kolkata

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