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Mainstream, VOL L, No 20, May 5, 2012

Who Am I?

Sunday 13 May 2012, by Gladson Dungdung


An emerging human rights organisation of Jharkhand, the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement, has released the first “Jharkhand Human Rights Report 2001-2011”, which was welcomed from all corners of the society. However, I was just checking to know the reason of the absence of some human rights activists at the report release function held in Ranchi on March 10, 2012. While responding to my queries, one of the noted human rights activists of the State told me: “You have written a lot against us in the report.” I was stunned to hear such an unexpected view, but repeatedly questioned him: “What do you mean by ‘us’?” He responded by saying that he cannot tell me everything over the phone but he’ll talk to me later.

Indeed, he was quite upset and angry with me. He was upset with a chapter in the report entitled “Naxalism and Human Rights Violation”. Per-haps, he associates himself with the Naxal movement, which is, of course, not wrong. But often I hear him justifying the killings by the Naxals. Last year, when I had raised questions against the brutal killing of innocent people by the Naxals through the media, he had told me: “I don’t expect such things from you.” The relevant question here to be asked is: should a human rights activist be biased in favour of anyone? How can a human rights activist justify the killings? And can a human rights activist shield the perpetrators like the state does? Ironically, this activist used to hold a big position in an India-based internationally known civil rights organisation.

I recall that the same human rights activist and his companions had applauded me and my team, when the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM) had intervened and exposed the rampant human rights violations by the security forces in the Saranda Forest last year. Consequently, the security forces were forced to vacate 25 villages and schools. In fact, I had become a champion of civil rights for them at that time. However, the Jharkhand Human Rights Report, which has had a ripple impact in the State, made me a villain in the eyes of those human rights activists now. What a contradiction, paradox and tragedy!

Similarly, a few years back, when I came into the limelight through human rights activism, I was branded as an anti-national by the so-called patriots. A few youth had even ruthlessly questioned me as to whether I get money from Pakistan, Nepal or China for speaking against the Indian state. They had even attempted to brand me as a Maoist sympathiser and supporter. And when I intensified my interventions on the issue of gross human rights violations committed by the security forces in the name of cleansing the area of Maoists in the Red Corridor, some of them even told me that I’m an overground Maoist and a Maoist ideologue as well.

THE story does not end here. The law enforcement agencies have also been attempting to brand me as one working for the Maoists. When I intervened on the issue of rampant human rights violations in Saranda Forest by the security forces, the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Kolhan), Naveen Kumar, said that the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement was an outfit of the CPI (Maoist), has intention to derail the anti-Naxal operations and, therefore, it was crying foul. The Jharkhand Police also traced mobile records and other documents to prove our links with the CPI (Maoist) but in the end they got nothing because the JHRM has nothing to do with the Naxals.

Likewise, last year, when I participated in a mass rally against police atrocities held at Khunti in Jharkhand, a police officer, P.K. Mishra, of the Khunti Police Station had questioned me: “Why don’t you organise a rally against the Maoists when they kill our police forces?” He had even threatened me with dire consequences if I didn’t shut up on the issue of police atrocities. The worst thing is: I made a complaint to the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police of Khunti about the incident and asked them for action against the police officer, but nothing was done against him. However, I didn’t shut up and continued to demand justice for the victims of police atrocities but I’m under attack from all sides.

Meanwhile, I had two rounds of discussion with Jairam Ramesh, the Union Minister of Rural Development, on the issue of the Saranda Development Plan. I was surprised to find his reactions. He told me that I have been raising the issue of human rights violations by the security forces but what about the Maoists? He also told me that the CRPF officers were quite unhappy with me as I have been filing cases against them. However, when I informed him about the preparation of the Jharkhand Human Rights Report, which would also highlight the human rights violations by the Naxals in Jharkhand, he was quite satisfied and had expressed his willingness to release the Report.

The most interesting point is that everyone wants me to shoot the other on her/his behalf in the name of the human rights. It seems that India’s Corporate Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s theory of being either on this side or that side, there being no middle path in between, is internalised by them. However, the fundamental rights, that is, rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of individual guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, have no place in this theory. According to a noted educationist of Jharkhand, Dr Rose Kerketta, the state has a killer instinct; therefore, whoever comes to power will continue the same practice and hence we should not expect much from the state for the protection of human rights.
Of course, there is no doubt of the state being the biggest violator of human rights; consequently the state sponsored human rights violations have been rapidly on the rise across the country. However, can we put aside the human rights violations committed by the non-state actors and the society? There are three major violators of the human rights, that is, the state, the non-state actors (Maoists, other Naxals and criminal groups) and the society as a whole. But the state is constitutionally responsible for the protection of human rights and in fact the other forces emerge only when-ever and wherever the state fails to deliver justice.

But, these days it has become fashionable for the so-called human rights activists to cry foul on human rights violations by the security forces and keep mum when the non-state actors engage in the same violations. Hence, it is obvious that they are also batting on behalf of the Naxals just like the state which bats for the corporate houses. Such actions of the so-called human rights activists will only add to the problems in the civil liberties movement and question the credibility of the activists’ voices; and persons like me will also have to struggle for our distinct identity. Finally, I would always keep clarifying to everyone that I neither stand with the state nor with the Naxals but I walk with the most marginalised people whose human rights are being violated everyday by either side.

Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at

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