Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Justice for Ruchika...Do join in!!!

Ruchika.Girhotra: Justice for Ruchika

Justice for Ruchika
Prime Minter of India
New Delhi, India.

Dear Sir:

This is an petition to serve Justice in the case of victim 14 year old girl Ruchika Girhotra who was molested and forced to commit suicide by Indian Police in 1990. http://www.facebook.com/Ruchika.Girhotra
This is to bring to your attention in which a Fourteen-year-old aspiring female tennis star Ruchika Girhotra was molested Aug 12, 1990 by Haryana Police S.P.S. Rathore. Ruchika Girhotra complained in 1990 that she was assaulted by SPS Rathore. But Mr. Rathore successfully used his influence to harass the Ruchika Girhotra's brother and father. Unable to cope with harassment imposed on her and her family, Ruchika committed suicide by consuming poison.

Shockingly, Police Inspector S.P.S. Rathore rose to become Haryana's police chief. After repeated complaints, Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court convicted Rathore in the molestation case and sentenced Rathore to just six months' imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs.1,000 ($25). Rathore was immediately granted bail by the court. Television footage shows a laughing and unrepentant Mr. Rathore following the court order.

This is a total abuse of power by Haryana Police Department along with some Politicians of the State. As the victims Ruchika's father Subhas Chander Girhotra said "This six-month punishment is not enough, it has hurt us, what kind of justice is this? We want exemplary punishment for him so that Indian children can be safe in future. My daughter is dead, but at least no other girl should meet the same fate,"

The delay of 19 years by the judiciary is outrageous. We request you to take immediate action and put this Criminal Police Chief S.P.S Rathore behind bars for the rest of his life.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Statement of the International Coalition of NGO for an OP-ICESCR on the Occasion of the First Anniversary of the Adoption of the Optional Protocol



One Year After the Adoption of the Optional Protocol: Demand Justice NOW! Ratify to Protect all Human Rights


 "With the adoption of the Optional Protocol, the United Nations has now been able to come full circle on the normative architecture envisaged by the Universal Declaration. I call on all States to promptly sign and ratify this crucial new human rights instrument."

  Navanethem Pillay

 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

  December 10th is a renowned date in human rights' history, marking the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, December 10th will also be commemorated as the first anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The adoption of the Optional Protocol finally fulfills the Universal Declaration's aspirations for universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, after 60 years of historical imbalance in their recognition and protection. The Optional Protocol has created the possibility for millions of people whose social and economic rights have been violated to seek redress at the international level by filing complaints before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations' body of experts responsible for supervising the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Covenant). In addition, it will serve as an incentive to increase States' domestic compliance with ESCR obligations and expand the national adjudication of cases that involve violation of ESC rights.

 The Protocol was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 10, 2008, and was opened for signature in September 24, 2009. It requires 10 ratifications, to enter into force.  We commend the 30 countries that have so far signed the Optional Protocol:  Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Chile, Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Montenegro, Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Timor-Leste, Togo, Ukraine and Uruguay.  We now urge these countries to move expeditiously towards ratification.  We call upon all other countries to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible and exhort those who have not yet ratified the Covenant to do so expeditiously.

 We also make a call to the international community, including civil society and States, to ensure this important mechanism achieves widespread global support; is promptly signed and ratified by all States; and implemented in a manner that ensures full protection to victims of violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

 In order for the Optional Protocol to be meaningful to those facing these violations, it is also critical that it becomes accessible and known to civil society.  With these goals in mind the International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol has launched the Campaign for the Ratification and Implementation of the Optional Protocol:  "JUSTICE NOW! RATIFY TO PROTECT ALL HUMAN RIGHTS".  We invite civil society and other committed partners to join and support this Campaign.

 The right to food, water, housing, health, education, and work are central to human dignity: they are human rights that must be secured.  Often those most vulnerable to violations of these rights are individuals and communities that face other forms of discrimination such as women, indigenous peoples, migrants, ethnic minorities and others. The Optional Protocol is an essential tool towards the protection and fulfillment of the economic, social and cultural rights of all people and as such a cornerstone on the "foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world".  


 * The NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol is formed by more than 300 organizations and individuals from more than 60 countries working for social justice worldwide.

 *Members of the Steering Committee of the Coalition:

Amnesty International; Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), Switzerland; Community Law Centre, South Africa; FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN), Germany; Inter-American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD), Paraguay; International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Switzerland; International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), France; International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net),United States; International Women's Rights Action Watch – Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific), Malaysia; Social Rights Advocacy Center (SRAC),  Canada


*Join the Campaign for Ratification to support the protection of economic, social and cultural rights worldwide!  http://www.escr-net.org/actions/actions_show.htm?doc_id=940624


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Human Rights for All..by Fr Cedric Prakash sj


Human Rights For All

Fr. Cedric Prakash, sj*

Two significant 25th anniversaries have just come and gone: the massacre of the Sikhs (in the wake of the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi), and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which killed thousands and decimated many more. One common factor stands out in both these tragedies: those responsible have been allowed to get away with murder.

Several other incidents have continued to wound the Indian psyche, these include: the Nellie bloodbath, the Bhagalpur blindings, the cold-blooded demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Gujarat genocide, the Nandigram killings. ….All dark and sordid chapters of our country's history…The list though is endless…

In each one of these, there is a definite pattern: those at the receiving end are always the poor and the marginalized, the minorities and the powerless, the adivasis and the dalits, women and children. The situation of the Dalits in Gujarat is on our front pages. The inference is obvious: a fairly significant section of our society is at the mercy of others. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that there are large sections in society who prefer to remain silent and who would rather not get involved, either due to fear or sheer selfishness.

Until the 'human rights of all' are respected and nurtured, no society can call itself developed. The benchmark of any progress is not the material prosperity of some, but rather if all are able to live in an environment where justice, peace and the common good flourish. The 'cosmeticization' of Ahmedabad should never be at the cost of the slum-dwellers of the city.

The world's focus is just now on Copenhagen, where several have gathered to grapple with key issues related to climatic change. However, unless we realize and act on overconsumption and the wanton destruction of our natural resources, we cannot expect dramatic changes. Besides, in countries such as ours, the growing concentration of wealth among a few is directly related to the escalating impoverishment of the many. The challenge then, is to address the needs of the majority and to prevent the greed of a few from increasing.

It is yet another anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The choices ahead are becoming fewer. We all need to live in a society which is more just, peaceful, equitable and humane. Respecting the rights of all, defending them and nurturing them, is perhaps the only way out. 

Saturday, December 05, 2009

December 6th.....1956 and 1992

December 6th ....1956 and 1992!!!.........
December 6th ..once again ...the death Anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar ..the Architect of  the Indian Constitution....A Constitution based on the principles of JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY, and FRATERNITY!
December 6th...once again... the destruction of the Babri Masjid ...when Justice, Liberty ,Equality and Fraternity were thrown to the winds!!
Will TRUTH eventually triumph???

MEMORANDUM To PM Concerned Citizens of Gujarat for Prosecution of architect of demolition Of Babri Masjid


Movement for Secular Democracy

C/o Narmad- Meghani Library, Natraj Railway Crossing, Meethakhali, Ahmedabad- 380006

Ph.No- 079 26404418


Date- 5-12-09



Subject- Concerned Citizens of Gujarat for Prosecution of architect of

 demolition Of Babri



Mr. Manmohan Singh,

The Prime Minister of India,

New Delhi.




After 17 long years and over 4000 hearings  Justice  Liberhan has submitted his  report on the demolition of Babri Masjid and it  has been placed  on the table of  the House of the Parliament  The report has named  68  important figures responsible for the demolition. It is a matter of concern that  as there is no specific  measures mentioned in  the Action Taken Report(ATR) which was  placed before the house of Parliament  has  encouraged  the architects of  demolition of  Babri  to vilify the atmosphere of the country taking advantage of the non  prosecution.


The central thrust of the report expose   the shameless betrayal and desecration   of the Constitution and it's basic Principles by the major ruling parties and cannot be ignored  or put aside by legal squabbling and finding some loop holes here and there.


 As they say justice delayed is justice denied. However, even after this long wait those indicted by the  Commission's findings are , duly  prosecuted and punished, it will be a great , though belated service to our  wounded nation and it's torn secular fabric.

We the concerned citizens of Gujarat urge you to take immediate steps in this regard and hand over the case to CBI and open Fast track Courts with out delay to bring a logical end to years long judicial feud.


 Thanking You


 Prakash N. Shah,


Movement for Secular Democracy

Date- 5-12-09

The Signatures of the concerned leading citizens


Mr. Chunibhai Vaidya

Ms. Ilaben Pathak

Ms. Mallika Sarabhai

Mr. Girish Patel

Mr. Mukul Sinha

Dr. J. Bandukwala

Mr. Gautam Thaker

Mr. Rajni Dave

Mr. Indukumar Jani

Mr. Uttam Parmar

Fr. Cedric Prakash

Mr. Harinesh Pandya

Mr. Digant Oza

Mr. Manishi Jani

Mr. Dhiru Mistry

Mr. Mansoor Saleri

Mr. Rohit Shukla

Mr. Jagdish Shah

Ms. Saroop Dhruv

Mr. Hiren Gandhi

Mr. Chinu Shrinivasan

Mr. Dankesh Oza

Mr. Mahadev Vidrohi

Mr. Dilip Chandulal

Mr. Johannes Manjrekar

Mr. Bharat Mehta

Ms. Renu Khanna

Mr. Poonjabhai A. Patel

Mr. Ratilal Desai

Mr. Chandrakant Nai

Mr. Ratilal Dave

Mr. Chandrakant M. Trivedi

Mr. Omprakash Giri

Mr. Bharatsinh Zala

Mr. Ganpatbhai Rathod

Mr. Amrish Patel

Mr. Prafull Desai

Mr. Rahul Mehta

Mr. Pravin Pandya

Mr. Ashok Gupta

Mr. Soukat Ali Indori

Mr. Ishaq Chinwala

Mr. Vinod Pandya

Mr. Babubhai Desai

Mr. Kishorebhai Desai

Mr. Jagdish Patel

Ms. Damayantiben Parekh

Ms. Meenakshi Joshi

Mr. Jayesh Patel

Mr. Tapan Dasgupta

Mr. Mukesh Semwal

Ms. Bharti Parmar

Mr. Bhavik Raja

Mr. Satyendra Singh

Mr. Dwarikanath Rath





Copy - 

Mr. P.Chidambaram,

Union HomeMinister of  India, New Delhi.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

[ReachIndia] Resolution of Remembrance: Bhopal Remembered on the 25th Anniversary of the World’s Worst Chemical Disaster

Dear Friends,
Today, Dec 3rd, 2009, marks the 25th Anniversary of the World's Worst Chemical Disaster in Bhopal, India, where noxious white clouds of methyl isocyanate gas killed thousands within days of the incident. More than two decades on, Hospital records show that 20,000 people died and almost 600,000 people were left with irreparable physical damage but Justice was not served yet.
Survivors and supporters mark the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal industrial disaster today with demands that the people responsible for tens of thousands of deaths be finally brought to justice. Survivors are also fighting for their basic rights: Clean drinking water and healthy living environment which is still elusive to get from the Indian Government. Nearly 200 direct actions is taking place today around the World – for Bhopal, and for a toxic-free future everywhere – and we request you to join in and take action.
Today we request you to Read and sign Resolution of Remembrance (text below): We shall never forget the thousands of people who were killed, directly and indirectly injured, and those who continue to be affected by the consequences of the worst industrial event to ever affect humanity and We demand justice for the victims and survivors of Bhopal among others.
We request that you spread the message far and wide and join hands to ensure that 'No More Bhopal' happens anywhere in the world.
More information:

Resolution of Remembrance

Bhopal Remembered on the 25th Anniversary of the World's Worst Chemical Disaster

Atlanta Area Human Rights Groups Unite in Remembrance
on the 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster, December 3rd, 2009

December 3, 2009

WHEREAS, On December 3rd 1984, several tons of Methyl iscocyanate (MIC) and other poisonous gases leaked from the Union Carbide facility in Bhopal exposing more than 500,000 people to the chemicals.

WHEREAS, Estimates of those who died within the first week of the disaster range from 3,800 to 8,000. The continued effects of the exposure have resulted in 20,000-25,000 deaths in the last 25 years.

WHEREAS, Tens of thousands of people, families and children still suffer from the exposure today. 

WHEREAS, Tons of hazardous chemicals that Union Carbide left around its facility have seeped into the ground and local drinking water. Even today, the site is said to be contaminated by "thousands of metric tons of toxic chemicals including lead and mercury."

WHEREAS, Compensation for victims families and health services to the survivors are shameful and inadequate and do not represent a just outcome of the negligence of Union Carbide.

WHEREAS, Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide in 2001 and refuses to take the responsibilities of Carbide's liabilities in Bhopal, including the clean-up of the contamination and effects of the ongoing exposure to the contamination.

WHEREAS, An outstanding warrant and criminal charges are still pending against the former CEO of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson, and former Union Carbide India Limited employees.

WHEREAS, We recognize that many strides have been made and the disaster in Bhopal has not been forgotten due to pressures from the survivors, their supporters and activits in Bhopal.

WHEREAS, We are in awe of the courage and perseverance of the survivors and activists who continue to be dedicated to the cause of justice in Bhopal and keep the focus on the people suffering from this continuing disaster. Their struggles, marches, fasts and tours that have also brought survivors to Atlanta on two occasions, continue to inspire us.

WHEREAS, We also recognize that tangible efforts to bring justice are needed to begin to reconcile the events of 25 years ago and since, and is a necessary step toward healing.

WHEREAS, Reconciliation can come only when Justice is achieved.


We shall never forget the thousands of people who were killed, directly and indirectly injured, and those who continue to be affected by the consequences of the worst industrial event to ever affect humanity.

We remember with reverence all who have sought justice for the last 25 years.

We demand justice for the victims and survivors of Bhopal.

We call for the demands of the victims to be met by the corporation (Dow Chemical/Union Carbide) that is responsible for the disaster without any hindrance from the US or Indian government.

We call for the demands of the victims to be met by the local and national Indian government, including their right to land and water free of contamination.

We call for all governments to implement and have the right to implement effective mechanisms to protect humanity from the potential of such a disaster by implementing unequivocal laws that prohibit exposing communities to dangers presented by industrial (global or local) production of materials and energy.

We demand that the accountability of global corporations must extend globally.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, we shall be mindful that justice, reconciliation, and healing of those affected shall be our overall humanitarian goal.

"We're not even handed. We have our own agenda - that of political engagement... to put an end to the structural violence that keeps the poor poor." - Binayak Sen
Order 2010 calendars at

Reachindia mailing list

Saturday, November 07, 2009

India: Protect Civilians in Anti-Maoist Drive



For Immediate Release


India: Protect Civilians in Anti-Maoist Drive

Maoists and Government Forces Should Not Repeat Past Abuses


(New York, November 5, 2009) – Government forces and anti-government Maoist fighters should ensure that civilians are protected during armed operations in central India and elsewhere, Human Rights Watch said today.


"Government and Maoist claims to be acting on behalf of India's poorest people can be undermined by the atrocities by both sides against these very same people," said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Local people are at risk of being caught in the middle of the fighting – killed, wounded, abducted, forced to take sides, and then risk retribution."


On November 4, 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, noting the "systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse" of tribal communities, said that "more could be done; more should be done." However, he also warned that the threat of violence by the Maoists will be countered with "determination." The Indian government's new counter-insurgency measures, "Operation Green Hunt," has deployed national paramilitary forces, along with state police forces, to end armed resistance by the Maoists, also called Naxalites, and to secure areas that had been under rebel control.


The Maoists claim that they are fighting for the rights of the poorest of the poor in India, particularly tribal groups, Dalits, and landless peasants. The government, while agreeing that there is a desperate need for development in Maoist-dominated areas, says that the Naxalites are blocking government development initiatives and should engage in peaceful advocacy. A key factor in the dispute is access to natural resources, particularly huge mineral deposits in many of the states suffering conflict.


The Naxalites operate in nearly 200 of India's 600 districts and recruit local villagers to support the combatants, leaving the villagers vulnerable to arrest and torture by government forces. Villagers accuse the Naxalites of forced recruitment, including the recruitment of children, and widespread extortion. The Naxalites attack government installations, including schools, raid police stations and armories, and use landmines and improvised explosive devices. In recent attacks, the Naxalites have hijacked a passenger train, abducted police officials, attacked employees of industry or mining companies, and beheaded police and suspected informers.


"The Maoists have used violence to highlight the government's failure to address poverty and the harm caused by big infrastructure projects," Ganguly said. "But their own abusive methods call into question the sincerity of their claims."


Human Rights Watch and others have documented widespread abuses by Indian government forces, including arbitrary arrests, torture, and unlawful killings, all of them unpunished, during previous operations against Maoists.


In Chhattisgarh, the state government has backed a vigilante movement called the Salwa Judum, leading to killings, rapes, and the forced displacement of tens of thousands of civilians. Human Rights Watch supported a statement on October 30 by Home Minister P. Chidambaram condemning the Salwa Judum, in which he said that the government does not "favor non-state actors like Salwa Judum taking to arms."


Human Rights Watch urged the government to ensure that Salwa Judum members and state forces responsible for human rights violations are properly prosecuted. Yet with large numbers of paramilitary forces also being deployed, there is reason to be concerned that the abuses will increase.


"While senior officials have been saying the right thing, the real test is what happens on the ground," Ganguly said. "The government needs to send a strong message to Operation Green Hunt forces that human rights violations will not be tolerated and prosecute those responsible for past abuses."


Human Rights Watch called on the Indian central government and state governments to protect freedom of expression and to avoid conflating sympathy for concerns expressed by the Maoists with criminal complicity in acts of violence or intimidation. The state government of West Bengal has recently accused some filmmakers, writers, and activists of supporting the Maoists merely because they supported groups protesting police violence.


Human rights activists have repeatedly come under attack or been arbitrarily arrested on unsubstantiated accusations of Naxalite links. Binayak Sen, a physician and human rights activist, was detained from 2007 to 2009 for allegedly acting as a courier for a Naxalite leader in jail, even though Dr. Sen had visited the leader under the supervision of jail authorities. In 2008, Dr. Sen was awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights; rights groups, doctors, and ordinary citizens all over the world signed petitions for his release.


While the Supreme Court order to release Dr. Sen on bail in May was a positive step, days earlier, the police surrounded the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, a nongovernmental organization run by the human rights activist Himanshu Kumar in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. Himanshu, who has criticized the Salwa Judum and atrocities by state forces, was given half an hour to move out, and then bulldozers were brought in to destroy the center. The reason given was that the center, which had been there for two decades, was encroaching on protected forest land.


"The government should ensure that those who stand up for human rights are not branded criminal collaborators with the Maoists," Ganguly said. "This is not how a democracy behaves. Above all, both sides need to understand that a continuing cycle of abuse will not solve the problems faced by India's most impoverished people."


To read the July 2008 Human Rights Watch report, "Being Neutral is Our Biggest Crime," please visit:



To read the September 2008 Human Rights Watch report, "Dangerous Duty," please visit: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/09/05/dangerous-duty



For more information, please contact:

In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-7908-728-333 (mobile)

In Mumbai, Meenakshi Ganguly (Hindi, Bengali, English): +91-98-200-36032 (mobile)


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Journalism for Sale


Read this powerful, blunt, no punches pulled editorial in the Hindu yesterday.  
These are the issues we should be discussing in the community and dialoguing outside with men of goodwill.
These should be the subject of study circles we should be forming by bringing some of the best minds, young and old, from our parishes together every fornight or three weeks.  
These should feature on the website of the CBCI and other dioceses and papers like the Examiner. This is how we strengthen bridges with the majority of the 98% of people in this country who matter.
This is how we will have better informed and better formed lay people, nuns and priests (in that order). People armed with Knowledge, leaders in the true sense.
We have to ACT NOW. Don't wait for the clergy -- they want martyrs (read the Mission Congress speeches)! I prefer a live Christian to a dead one! And I dont want any more Sister Meenas.
The Hindu
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Saturday, Oct 31, 2009

Opinion - Editorials   

Journalism for sale


India's elections, which in mid-2009 brought 415 million voters to the 1.18 million ballot units in 834,944 polling stations and were mostly peaceful, may be one of the wonders of the world. But it is widely understood that in 2009 the free, fair, and democratic attributes of these elections have been compromised as never before by the large-scale, illegal, and scandalous use of money power — which, to a considerable extent, involved recycled dirty money garnered through corruption in executive and legislative office. The role of the Election Commission of India in curbing booth capturing, intimidation of voters, and some other kinds of electoral fraud has won public appreciation. But as P. Sainath points out in his article, "The medium, message and the money," published in The Hindu on October 26, 2009, "it is hard to find a single instance of rigorous or deterrent action" by the ECI in the face of such a serious danger to the democratic process. That is a large question that needs to be addressed in depth and in all its complexity by the various players in the political system.

The new shame is the extensive and brazen participation of not insignificant sections of the news media, notably large-circulation Indian language newspapers in two of India's largest States, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, in this genre of corruption — which a politician speaking at a Hyderabad media seminar memorably characterised as a "Cash Transfer Scheme" from politicians to journalists. Sainath's article exposes the phenomenon of "coverage packages" exploding across India's most industrialised State during the recent Assembly election. Candidates paid newspapers different rates for well-differentiated and streamlined packages of news coverage. Those who could not or would not pay for the packages tended to be blacked out. The Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists has, on the basis of a sample survey conducted in West Godavari district, estimated that newspapers across the State netted Rs. 350 crore to Rs. 400 crore through editorial coverage sold to candidates during the 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Some candidates even recorded the expenditure incurred in purchasing editorial coverage in their official accounts submitted to the ECI. With some senior journalists drawing its attention to this new-fangled cash transfer scheme in Andhra Pradesh, the Press Council of India has constituted a two-member committee to inquire into the matter. What to do about such a shocking breach of readers' trust (which is unlikely to be confined to Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra) by the so-called Fourth Estate will form the subject of a follow-up editorial. ###

Allwyn Fernandes
Communications Professional
'Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind do not matter, and those who matter don't mind'

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Heart Of India Is Under Attack


To justify enforcing a corporate land grab, the state needs an enemy – and it has chosen the Maoists

The low, flat-topped hills of south Orissa have been home to the Dongria Kondh long before there was a country called India or a state called Orissa. The hills watched over the Kondh. The Kondh watched over the hills and worshipped them as living deities. Now these hills have been sold for the bauxite they contain. For the Kondh it's as though god had been sold. They ask how much god would go for if the god were Ram or Allah or Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the Kondh are supposed to be grateful that their Niyamgiri hill, home to their Niyam Raja, God of Universal Law, has been sold to a company with a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy that teaches the Ultimate Nature of Knowledge). It's one of the biggest mining corporations in the world and is owned by Anil Agarwal, the Indian billionaire who lives in London in a mansion that once belonged to the Shah of Iran. Vedanta is only one of the many multinational corporations closing in on Orissa.

If the flat-topped hills are destroyed, the forests that clothe them will be destroyed, too. So will the rivers and streams that flow out of them and irrigate the plains below. So will the Dongria Kondh. So will the hundreds of thousands of tribal people who live in the forested heart of India, and whose homeland is similarly under attack.

In our smoky, crowded cities, some people say, "So what? Someone has to pay the price of progress." Some even say, "Let's face it, these are people whose time has come. Look at any developed country – Europe, the US, Australia – they all have a 'past'." Indeed they do. So why shouldn't "we"?

In keeping with this line of thought, the government has announced Operation Green Hunt, a war purportedly against the "Maoist" rebels headquartered in the jungles of central India. Of course, the Maoists are by no means the only ones rebelling. There is a whole spectrum of struggles all over the country that people are engaged in–the landless, the Dalits, the homeless, workers, peasants, weavers. They're pitted against a juggernaut of injustices, including policies that allow a wholesale corporate takeover of people's land and resources. However, it is the Maoists that the government has singled out as being the biggest threat.

Two years ago, when things were nowhere near as bad as they are now, the prime minister described the Maoists as the "single largest internal security threat" to the country. This will probably go down as the most popular and often repeated thing he ever said. For some reason, the comment he made on 6 January, 2009, at a meeting of state chief ministers, when he described the Maoists as having only "modest capabilities", doesn't seem to have had the same raw appeal. He revealed his government's real concern on 18 June, 2009, when he told parliament: "If left-wing extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected."

Who are the Maoists? They are members of the banned Communist party of India (Maoist) – CPI (Maoist) – one of the several descendants of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), which led the 1969 Naxalite uprising and was subsequently liquidated by the Indian government. The Maoists believe that the innate, structural inequality of Indian society can only be redressed by the violent overthrow of the Indian state. In its earlier avatars as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in Jharkhand and Bihar, and the People's War Group (PWG) in Andhra Pradesh, the Maoists had tremendous popular support. (When the ban on them was briefly lifted in 2004, 1.5 million people attended their rally in Warangal.)

But eventually their intercession in Andhra Pradesh ended badly. They left a violent legacy that turned some of their staunchest supporters into harsh critics. After a paroxysm of killing and counter-killing by the Andhra police as well as the Maoists, the PWG was decimated. Those who managed to survive fled Andhra Pradesh into neighbouring Chhattisgarh. There, deep in the heart of the forest, they joined colleagues who had already been working there for decades.

Not many "outsiders" have any first-hand experience of the real nature of the Maoist movement in the forest. A recent interview with one of its top leaders, Comrade Ganapathy, in Open magazine, didn't do much to change the minds of those who view the Maoists as a party with an unforgiving, totalitarian vision, which countenances no dissent whatsoever. Comrade Ganapathy said nothing that would persuade people that, were the Maoists ever to come to power, they would be equipped to properly address the almost insane diversity of India's caste-ridden society. His casual approval of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka was enough to send a shiver down even the most sympathetic of spines, not just because of the brutal ways in which the LTTE chose to wage its war, but also because of the cataclysmic tragedy that has befallen the Tamil people of Sri Lanka, who it claimed to represent, and for whom it surely must take some responsibility.

Right now in central India, the Maoists' guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa. They are people who, even after 60 years of India's so-called independence, have not had access to education, healthcare or legal redress. They are people who have been mercilessly exploited for decades, consistently cheated by small businessmen and moneylenders, the women raped as a matter of right by police and forest department personnel. Their journey back to a semblance of dignity is due in large part to the Maoist cadre who have lived and worked and fought by their side for decades.

If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have – their land. Clearly, they do not believe the government when it says it only wants to "develop" their region. Clearly, they do not believe that the roads as wide and flat as aircraft runways that are being built through their forests in Dantewada by the National Mineral Development Corporation are being built for them to walk their children to school on. They believe that if they do not fight for their land, they will be annihilated. That is why they have taken up arms.

Even if the ideologues of the Maoist movement are fighting to eventually overthrow the Indian state, right now even they know that their ragged, malnutritioned army, the bulk of whose soldiers have never seen a train or a bus or even a small town, are fighting only for survival.

In 2008, an expert group appointed by the Planning Commission submitted a report called "Development Challenges in Extremist-Affected Areas". It said, "the Naxalite (Maoist) movement has to be recognised as a political movement with a strong base among the landless and poor peasantry and adivasis. Its emergence and growth need to be contextualised in the social conditions and experience of people who form a part of it. The huge gap between state policy and performance is a feature of these conditions. Though its professed long-term ideology is capturing state power by force, in its day-to-day manifestation, it is to be looked upon as basically a fight for social justice, equality, protection, security and local development." A very far cry from the "single-largest internal security threat".

Since the Maoist rebellion is the flavour of the week, everybody, from the sleekest fat cat to the most cynical editor of the most sold-out newspaper in this country, seems to be suddenly ready to concede that it is decades of accumulated injustice that lies at the root of the problem. But instead of addressing that problem, which would mean putting the brakes on this 21st-century gold rush, they are trying to head the debate off in a completely different direction, with a noisy outburst of pious outrage about Maoist "terrorism". But they're only speaking to themselves.

The people who have taken to arms are not spending all their time watching (or performing for) TV, or reading the papers, or conducting SMS polls for the Moral Science question of the day: Is Violence Good or Bad? SMS your reply to ... They're out there. They're fighting. They believe they have the right to defend their homes and their land. They believe that they deserve justice.

In order to keep its better-off citizens absolutely safe from these dangerous people, the government has declared war on them. A war, which it tells us, may take between three and five years to win. Odd, isn't it, that even after the Mumbai attacks of 26/11, the government was prepared to talk with Pakistan? It's prepared to talk to China. But when it comes to waging war against the poor, it's playing hard.

It's not enough that special police with totemic names like Greyhounds, Cobras and Scorpions are scouring the forests with a licence to kill. It's not enough that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the notorious Naga Battalion have already wreaked havoc and committed unconscionable atrocities in remote forest villages. It's not enough that the government supports and arms the Salwa Judum, the "people's militia" that has killed and raped and burned its way through the forests of Dantewada leaving 300,000 people homeless or on the run. Now the government is going to deploy the Indo-Tibetan border police and tens of thousands of paramilitary troops. It plans to set up a brigade headquarters in Bilaspur (which will displace nine villages) and an air base in Rajnandgaon (which will displace seven). Obviously, these decisions were taken a while ago. Surveys have been done, sites chosen. Interesting. War has been in the offing for a while. And now the helicopters of the Indian air force have been given the right to fire in "self-defence", the very right that the government denies its poorest citizens.

Fire at whom? How will the security forces be able to distinguish a Maoist from an ordinary person who is running terrified through the jungle? Will adivasis carrying the bows and arrows they have carried for centuries now count as Maoists too? Are non-combatant Maoist sympathisers valid targets? When I was in Dantewada, the superintendent of police showed me pictures of 19 "Maoists" that "his boys" had killed. I asked him how I was supposed to tell they were Maoists. He said, "See Ma'am, they have malaria medicines, Dettol bottles, all these things from outside."

What kind of war is Operation Green Hunt going to be? Will we ever know? Not much news comes out of the forests. Lalgarh in West Bengal has been cordoned off. Those who try to go in are being beaten and arrested. And called Maoists, of course. In Dantewada, the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, a Gandhian ashram run by Himanshu Kumar, was bulldozed in a few hours. It was the last neutral outpost before the war zone begins, a place where journalists, activists, researchers and fact-finding teams could stay while they worked in the area.

Meanwhile, the Indian establishment has unleashed its most potent weapon. Almost overnight, our embedded media has substituted its steady supply of planted, unsubstantiated, hysterical stories about "Islamist terrorism" with planted, unsubstantiated, hysterical stories about "Red terrorism". In the midst of this racket, at ground zero, the cordon of silence is being inexorably tightened. The "Sri Lanka solution" could very well be on the cards. It's not for nothing that the Indian government blocked a European move in the UN asking for an international probe into war crimes committed by the government of Sri Lanka in its recent offensive against the Tamil Tigers.

The first move in that direction is the concerted campaign that has been orchestrated to shoehorn the myriad forms of resistance taking place in this country into a simple George Bush binary: If you are not with us, you are with the Maoists. The deliberate exaggeration of the Maoist "threat" helps the state justify militarisation. (And surely does no harm to the Maoists. Which political party would be unhappy to be singled out for such attention?) While all the oxygen is being used up by this new doppelganger of the "war on terror", the state will use the opportunity to mop up the hundreds of other resistance movements in the sweep of its military operation, calling them all Maoist sympathisers.

I use the future tense, but this process is well under way. The West Bengal government tried to do this in Nandigram and Singur but failed. Right now in Lalgarh, the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee or the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities – which is a people's movement that is separate from, though sympathetic to, the Maoists – is routinely referred to as an overground wing of the CPI (Maoist). Its leader, Chhatradhar Mahato, now arrested and being held without bail, is always called a "Maoist leader". We all know the story of Dr Binayak Sen, a medical doctor and a civil liberties activist, who spent two years in jail on the absolutely facile charge of being a courier for the Maoists. While the light shines brightly on Operation Green Hunt, in other parts of India, away from the theatre of war, the assault on the rights of the poor, of workers, of the landless, of those whose lands the government wishes to acquire for "public purpose", will pick up pace. Their suffering will deepen and it will be that much harder for them to get a hearing.

Once the war begins, like all wars, it will develop a momentum, a logic and an economics of its own. It will become a way of life, almost impossible to reverse. The police will be expected to behave like an army, a ruthless killing machine. The paramilitary will be expected to become like the police, a corrupt, bloated administrative force. We've seen it happen in Nagaland, Manipur and Kashmir. The only difference in the "heartland" will be that it'll become obvious very quickly to the security forces that they're only a little less wretched than the people they're fighting. In time, the divide between the people and the law enforcers will become porous. Guns and ammunition will be bought and sold. In fact, it's already happening. Whether it's the security forces or the Maoists or noncombatant civilians, the poorest people will die in this rich people's war. However, if anybody believes that this war will leave them unaffected, they should think again. The resources it'll consume will cripple the economy of this country.

Last week, civil liberties groups from all over the country organised a series of meetings in Delhi to discuss what could be done to turn the tide and stop the war. The absence of Dr Balagopal, one of the best-known civil rights activists of Andhra Pradesh, who died two weeks ago, closed around us like a physical pain. He was one of the bravest, wisest political thinkers of our time and left us just when we needed him most. Still, I'm sure he would have been reassured to hear speaker after speaker displaying the vision, the depth, the experience, the wisdom, the political acuity and, above all, the real humanity of the community of activists, academics, lawyers, judges and a range of other people who make up the civil liberties community in India. Their presence in the capital signalled that outside the arclights of our TV studios and beyond the drumbeat of media hysteria, even among India's middle classes, a humane heart still beats. Small wonder then that these are the people who the Union home minister recently accused of creating an "intellectual climate" that was conducive to "terrorism". If that charge was meant to frighten people, it had the opposite effect.

The speakers represented a range of opinion from the liberal to the radical left. Though none of those who spoke would describe themselves as Maoist, few were opposed in principle to the idea that people have a right to defend themselves against state violence. Many were uncomfortable about Maoist violence, about the "people's courts" that delivered summary justice, about the authoritarianism that was bound to permeate an armed struggle and marginalise those who did not have arms. But even as they expressed their discomfort, they knew that people's courts only existed because India's courts are out of the reach of ordinary people and that the armed struggle that has broken out in the heartland is not the first, but the very last option of a desperate people pushed to the very brink of existence. The speakers were aware of the dangers of trying to extract a simple morality out of individual incidents of heinous violence, in a situation that had already begun to look very much like war. Everybody had graduated long ago from equating the structural violence of the state with the violence of the armed resistance. In fact, retired Justice PB Sawant went so far as to thank the Maoists for forcing the establishment of this country to pay attention to the egregious injustice of the system. Hargopal from Andhra Pradesh spoke of his experience as a civil rights activist through the years of the Maoist interlude in his state. He mentioned in passing the fact that in a few days in Gujarat in 2002, Hindu mobs led by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP had killed more people than the Maoists ever had even in their bloodiest days in Andhra Pradesh.

People who had come from the war zones, from Lalgarh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, described the police repression, the arrests, the torture, the killing, the corruption, and the fact that they sometimes seemed to take orders directly from the officials who worked for the mining companies. People described the often dubious, malign role being played by certain NGOs funded by aid agencies wholly devoted to furthering corporate prospects. Again and again they spoke of how in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh activists as well as ordinary people – anyone who was seen to be a dissenter – were being branded Maoists and imprisoned. They said that this, more than anything else, was pushing people to take up arms and join the Maoists. They asked how a government that professed its inability to resettle even a fraction of the 50 million people who had been displaced by "development" projects was suddenly able to identify 1,40,000 hectares of prime land to give to industrialists for more than 300 Special Economic Zones, India's onshore tax havens for the rich. They asked what brand of justice the supreme court was practising when it refused to review the meaning of "public purpose" in the land acquisition act even when it knew that the government was forcibly acquiring land in the name of "public purpose" to give to private corporations. They asked why when the government says that "the writ of the state must run", it seems to only mean that police stations must be put in place. Not schools or clinics or housing, or clean water, or a fair price for forest produce, or even being left alone and free from the fear of the police – anything that would make people's lives a little easier. They asked why the "writ of the state" could never be taken to mean justice.

There was a time, perhaps 10 years ago, when in meetings like these, people were still debating the model of "development" that was being thrust on them by the New Economic Policy. Now the rejection of that model is complete. It is absolute. Everyone from the Gandhians to the Maoists agree on that. The only question now is, what is the most effective way to dismantle it?

An old college friend of a friend, a big noise in the corporate world, had come along for one of the meetings out of morbid curiosity about a world he knew very little about. Even though he had disguised himself in a Fabindia kurta, he couldn't help looking (and smelling) expensive. At one point, he leaned across to me and said, "Someone should tell them not to bother. They won't win this one. They have no idea what they're up against. With the kind of money that's involved here, these companies can buy ministers and media barons and policy wonks, they can run their own NGOs, their own militias, they can buy whole governments. They'll even buy the Maoists. These good people here should save their breath and find something better to do."

When people are being brutalised, what "better" thing is there for them to do than to fight back? It's not as though anyone's offering them a choice, unless it's to commit suicide, like some of the farmers caught in a spiral of debt have done. (Am I the only one who gets the feeling that the Indian establishment and its representatives in the media are far more comfortable with the idea of poor people killing themselves in despair than with the idea of them fighting back?)

For several years, people in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal – some of them Maoists, many not – have managed to hold off the big corporations. The question now is, how will Operation Green Hunt change the nature of their struggle? What exactly are the fighting people up against?

It's true that, historically, mining companies have often won their battles against local people. Of all corporations, leaving aside the ones that make weapons, they probably have the most merciless past. They are cynical, battle-hardened campaigners and when people say, "Jaan denge par jameen nahin denge" (We'll give away our lives, but never our land), it probably bounces off them like a light drizzle on a bomb shelter. They've heard it before, in a thousand different languages, in a hundred different countries.

Right now in India, many of them are still in the first class arrivals lounge, ordering cocktails, blinking slowly like lazy predators, waiting for the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) they have signed – some as far back as 2005 – to materialise into real money. But four years in a first class lounge is enough to test the patience of even the truly tolerant: the elaborate, if increasingly empty, rituals of democratic practice: the (sometimes rigged) public hearings, the (sometimes fake) environmental impact assessments, the (often purchased) clearances from various ministries, the long drawn-out court cases. Even phony democracy is time-consuming. And time is money.

So what kind of money are we talking about? In their seminal, soon-to-be-published work, Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminum Cartel, Samarendra Das and Felix Padel say that the financial value of the bauxite deposits of Orissa alone is $2.27 trillion (more than twice India's GDP). That was at 2004 prices. At today's prices it would be about $4 trillion.

Of this, officially the government gets a royalty of less than 7%. Quite often, if the mining company is a known and recognised one, the chances are that, even though the ore is still in the mountain, it will have already been traded on the futures market. So, while for the adivasis the mountain is still a living deity, the fountainhead of life and faith, the keystone of the ecological health of the region, for the corporation, it's just a cheap storage facility. Goods in storage have to be accessible. From the corporation's point of view, the bauxite will have to come out of the mountain. Such are the pressures and the exigencies of the free market.

That's just the story of the bauxite in Orissa. Expand the $4 trillion to include the value of the millions of tonnes of high-quality iron ore in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and the 28 other precious mineral resources, including uranium, limestone, dolomite, coal, tin, granite, marble, copper, diamond, gold, quartzite, corundum, beryl, alexandrite, silica, fluorite and garnet. Add to that the power plants, the dams, the highways, the steel and cement factories, the aluminium smelters, and all the other infrastructure projects that are part of the hundreds of MoUs (more than 90 in Jharkhand alone) that have been signed. That gives us a rough outline of the scale of the operation and the desperation of the stakeholders.

The forest once known as the Dandakaranya, which stretches from West Bengal through Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, is home to millions of India's tribal people. The media has taken to calling it the Red corridor or the Maoist corridor. It could just as accurately be called the MoUist corridor. It doesn't seem to matter at all that the fifth schedule of the constitution provides protection to adivasi people and disallows the alienation of their land. It looks as though the clause is there only to make the constitution look good – a bit of window-dressing, a slash of make-up. Scores of corporations, from relatively unknown ones to the biggest mining companies and steel manufacturers in the world, are in the fray to appropriate adivasi homelands – the Mittals, Jindals, Tata, Essar, Posco, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and, of course, Vedanta.

There's an MoU on every mountain, river and forest glade. We're talking about social and environmental engineering on an unimaginable scale. And most of this is secret. It's not in the public domain. Somehow I don't think that the plans afoot that would destroy one of the world's most pristine forests and ecosystems, as well as the people who live in it, will be discussed at the climate change conference in Copenhagen. Our 24-hour news channels that are so busy hunting for macabre stories of Maoist violence – and making them up when they run out of the real thing – seem to have no interest at all in this side of the story. I wonder why?

Perhaps it's because the development lobby to which they are so much in thrall says the mining industry will ratchet up the rate of GDP growth dramatically and provide employment to the people it displaces. This does not take into account the catastrophic costs of environmental damage. But even on its own narrow terms, it is simply untrue. Most of the money goes into the bank accounts of the mining corporations. Less than 10% comes to the public exchequer. A very tiny percentage of the displaced people get jobs, and those who do, earn slave-wages to do humiliating, backbreaking work. By caving in to this paroxysm of greed, we are bolstering other countries' economies with our ecology.

When the scale of money involved is what it is, the stakeholders are not always easy to identify. Between the CEOs in their private jets and the wretched tribal special police officers in the "people's" militias – who for a couple of thousand rupees a month fight their own people, rape, kill and burn down whole villages in an effort to clear the ground for mining to begin – there is an entire universe of primary, secondary and tertiary stakeholders.

These people don't have to declare their interests, but they're allowed to use their positions and good offices to further them. How will we ever know which political party, which ministers, which MPs, which politicians, which judges, which NGOs, which expert consultants, which police officers, have a direct or indirect stake in the booty? How will we know which newspapers reporting the latest Maoist "atrocity", which TV channels "reporting directly from ground zero" – or, more accurately, making it a point not to report from ground zero, or even more accurately, lying blatantly from ground zero – are stakeholders?

What is the provenance of the billions of dollars (several times more than India's GDP) secretly stashed away by Indian citizens in Swiss bank accounts? Where did the $2bn spent on the last general elections come from? Where do the hundreds of millions of rupees that politicians and parties pay the media for the "high-end", "low-end" and "live" pre-election "coverage packages" that P Sainath recently wrote about come from? (The next time you see a TV anchor haranguing a numb studio guest, shouting, "Why don't the Maoists stand for elections? Why don't they come in to the mainstream?", do SMS the channel saying, "Because they can't afford your rates.")

Too many questions about conflicts of interest and cronyism remain unanswered. What are we to make of the fact that the Union home minister, P Chidambaram, the chief of Operation Green Hunt, has, in his career as a corporate lawyer, represented several mining corporations? What are we to make of the fact that he was a non-executive director of Vedanta – a position from which he resigned the day he became finance minister in 2004? What are we to make of the fact that, when he became finance minister, one of the first clearances he gave for FDI was to Twinstar Holdings, a Mauritius-based company, to buy shares in Sterlite, a part of the Vedanta group?

What are we to make of the fact that, when activists from Orissa filed a case against Vedanta in the supreme court, citing its violations of government guidelines and pointing out that the Norwegian Pension Fund had withdrawn its investment from the company alleging gross environmental damage and human rights violations committed by the company, Justice Kapadia suggested that Vedanta be substituted with Sterlite, a sister company of the same group? He then blithely announced in an open court that he, too, had shares in Sterlite. He gave forest clearance to Sterlite to go ahead with the mining, despite the fact that the supreme court's own expert committee had explicitly said that permission should be denied and that mining would ruin the forests, water sources, environment and the lives and livelihoods of the thousands of tribals living there. Justice Kapadia gave this clearance without rebutting the report of the supreme court's own committee.

What are we to make of the fact that the Salwa Judum, the brutal ground-clearing operation disguised as a "spontaneous" people's militia in Dantewada, was formally inaugurated in 2005, just days after the MoU with the Tatas was signed? And that the Jungle Warfare Training School in Bastar was set up just around then?

What are we to make of the fact that two weeks ago, on 12 October, the mandatory public hearing for Tata Steel's steel project in Lohandiguda, Dantewada, was held in a small hall inside the collectorate, cordoned off with massive security, with an audience of 50 tribal people brought in from two Bastar villages in a convoy of government jeeps? (The public hearing was declared a success and the district collector congratulated the people of Bastar for their co-operation.)

What are we to make of the fact that just around the time the prime minister began to call the Maoists the "single largest internal security threat" (which was a signal that the government was getting ready to go after them), the share prices of many of the mining companies in the region skyrocketed?

The mining companies desperately need this "war". They will be the beneficiaries if the impact of the violence drives out the people who have so far managed to resist the attempts that have been made to evict them. Whether this will indeed be the outcome, or whether it'll simply swell the ranks of the Maoists remains to be seen.

Reversing this argument, Dr Ashok Mitra, former finance minister of West Bengal, in an article called "The Phantom Enemy", argues that the "grisly serial murders" that the Maoists are committing are a classic tactic, learned from guerrilla warfare textbooks. He suggests that they have built and trained a guerrilla army that is now ready to take on the Indian state, and that the Maoist "rampage" is a deliberate attempt on their part to invite the wrath of a blundering, angry Indian state which the Maoists hope will commit acts of cruelty that will enrage the adivasis. That rage, Dr Mitra says, is what the Maoists hope can be harvested and transformed into an insurrection.

This, of course, is the charge of "adventurism" that several currents of the left have always levelled at the Maoists. It suggests that Maoist ideologues are not above inviting destruction on the very people they claim to represent in order to bring about a revolution that will bring them to power. Ashok Mitra is an old Communist who had a ringside seat during the Naxalite uprising of the 60s and 70s in West Bengal. His views cannot be summarily dismissed. But it's worth keeping in mind that the adivasi people have a long and courageous history of resistance that predates the birth of Maoism. To look upon them as brainless puppets being manipulated by a few middle-class Maoist ideologues is to do them a disservice.

Presumably Dr Mitra is talking about the situation in Lalgarh where, up to now, there has been no talk of mineral wealth. (Lest we forget – the current uprising in Lalgarh was sparked off over the chief minister's visit to inaugurate a Jindal Steel factory. And where there's a steel factory, can the iron ore be very far away?) The people's anger has to do with their desperate poverty, and the decades of suffering at the hands of the police and the Harmads, the armed militia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that has ruled West Bengal for more than 30 years.

Even if, for argument's sake, we don't ask what tens of thousands of police and paramilitary troops are doing in Lalgarh, and we accept the theory of Maoist "adventurism", it would still be only a very small part of the picture.

The real problem is that the flagship of India's miraculous "growth" story has run aground. It came at a huge social and environmental cost. And now, as the rivers dry up and forests disappear, as the water table recedes and as people realise what is being done to them, the chickens are coming home to roost. All over the country, there's unrest, there are protests by people refusing to give up their land and their access to resources, refusing to believe false promises any more. Suddenly, it's beginning to look as though the 10% growth rate and democracy are mutually incompatible.

To get the bauxite out of the flat-topped hills, to get iron ore out from under the forest floor, to get 85% of India's people off their land and into the cities (which is what Chidambaram says he'd like to see), India has to become a police state. The government has to militarise. To justify that militarisation, it needs an enemy. The Maoists are that enemy. They are to corporate fundamentalists what the Muslims are to Hindu fundamentalists. (Is there a fraternity of fundamentalists? Is that why the RSS has expressed open admiration for Chidambaram?)

It would be a grave mistake to imagine that the paramilitary troops, the Rajnandgaon air base, the Bilaspur brigade headquarters, the unlawful activities act, the Chhattisgarh special public security act and Operation Green Hunt are all being put in place just to flush out a few thousand Maoists from the forests. In all the talk of Operation Green Hunt, whether or not Chidambaram goes ahead and "presses the button", I detect the kernel of a coming state of emergency. (Here's a maths question: If it takes 600,000 soldiers to hold down the tiny valley of Kashmir, how many will it take to contain the mounting rage of hundreds of millions of people?)

Instead of narco-analysing Kobad Ghandy, the recently arrested Maoist leader, it might be a better idea to talk to him.

In the meanwhile, will someone who's going to the climate change conference in Copenhagen later this year please ask the only question worth asking: Can we leave the bauxite in the mountain?