May 29, 2022

Chhattisgarh: One Year since Silger Killings-Tribal Resistance against Corporate Loot Intensifies

Sanjay Parate

IT has been more than a year since five people were killed and around 300 injured in indiscriminate firing by police and armed forces on tribals peacefully protesting against another cantonment being set up on their land in Silger in Chhattisgarh, within two kilometres of an existing security establishment. Since the incident of May 2021, the whole of South Bastar has been on an agitation, demanding the removal of the military cantonment, stopping the construction of a wide road being built for mineral exploitation in the area, punishment to those responsible for this firing and compensation to the kin of deceased and the injured.

The killing of tribals was to suppress their resistance movement against corporate loot and facilitate plunder of natural resources. Even after a year, no FIR has been registered till date and the tribals are waiting endlessly for justice. The Congress government in the state cannot escape its responsibility. After this massacre, the Congress party sent a delegation to Silger, but its report has not been published yet. Public representatives of the BJP also visited there but kept silent. Under pressure following a public outrage, the government had to announce a magisterial inquiry, but even after a year there is no trace of its investigation.

The movement is developing as a representative face of resistance against the plundering of natural resources in the whole of Bastar and other tribal areas of Chhattisgarh. When this movement, run by the Moolwasi Bachao Manch, organised its meeting expressing solidarity with the nationwide kisan movement, on November 26, 2021 more than 10,000 tribal men, women and youth took part in it.

On the anniversary of the Silger killing, an event was organised on May 17, 2022 and more than 20,000 people attended it. Kala Sanskriti Manch is active in this movement. They are writing songs together with the agitators, and finalising the tunes and choreography.

The young tribals who are running the Silger movement have spoken to chief minister Bhupesh Baghel twice, but only got little assurance. Nothing concrete has been done so far.

For the past one year, the road construction work connecting Bijapur to Jagargunda has been stopped. The work has not progressed beyond the cantonment that has been built in Silger. It is clear that as long as the movement is alive, the path of corporate loot is also not easy. The tribal culture of collectivity is a deterrent against corporate plunder.

There has been a lot of government propaganda that this movement is 'Naxal sponsored', but this movement has only intensified. This is the first movement with widespread mass mobilisation after the Bhumikal movement of 1910. This movement has exposed the real face of the Congress, BJP governments.

In an audio message to the agitators, All India Kisan Sabha leader Badal Saroj said the central and state governments are waging a war against dalits, adivasis and the poor to make way for corporate loot. But the struggle against their oppression continues. If you persevere like this and the strength of the country's farmers joins you, then prime minister Narendra Modi's government will have to bow down and Bhupesh Baghel's government will be forced to accept its mistakes. He said that the memorial of the martyrs built by the agitators is not just a structure of brick, cement and concrete, but a living document of history, which will tell our future generations what kind of sacrifices were made to save the forest, life and democracy.

In his address, Chhattisgarh Kisan Sabha president Sanjay Parate said the policies of the Modi government and the Baghel government are pro-corporate, the main objective of which is to fill the coffers of the wealthy by depriving the tribals, dalits and the poor from natural resources.

Kisan Sabha leader Rishi Gupta said the governments which are not ready to follow the constitution and laws of their own country, they do not have the right to remain in power even for a minute and the citizens of this country have the right to reject such governments. Because of the governments’ pro-corporate policies, the tribals of Hasdeo, Korba and Bastar are being displaced from their land. The Kisan Sabha leaders also announced running a campaign in support of the movements of Silger and Hasdeo across the state.