Structural violence, Adivasis peoples, and the struggle for land.
Through the lens of Red Ant Dream (2013) and Red Alert: The War Within(2009).
This presentation intends to briefly address the concept of structural violence from the analysis of two Indian films, namely, Red Ant Dream (2013) and Red Alert: The War Within (2009). This essay is part of the presentation submitted to the class Asia in International Relations and Strategic Studies of the Institute for Strategic Studies.
The concept of structural violence, presented in the first documentary, serves as a guide for the development of both audiovisual productions. Whether pointing out the collateral effects of this spiral of violence initiated by political, economic, and cultural factors like state violence, social and gender inequality, caste system, and land expropriation or on the part of social movements and armed groups, whose justify the use of violence as a response to the violence of the state and the erosion of bourgeois democracy.
- Adivasis peoples, struggle for land and their relationship with the environment.
The Adivasis expropriation of land by landowners and capitalism development is presented as harmful not only to their traditional culture and cosmology but also to the environment itself because its resource extraction is not sustainable. It can harm not just the lives of the indigenous who lives there, but also the lives of thousands of people. This conflict involves a dispute over the use of natural resources, attracting the attention of national and international companies against indigenous and peasants movements.
Such is the case of the Adivasis struggle to stop mining on Niyamgiri Hill, whose lands were expropriated without a proper compensation process. The modernization of the countryside in the 1970s (Green Revolution) also served to prevent peasant rebellions, trying to demobilize them, especially the Naxalites, whose greatest merit is to have maintained, to this day, the banner of peasant struggle, and its connection with the demands of the Adivasis peoples.
The main reason for the wide popularity of the Naxalites in the entire forest region abutting the Godaveri river in Telengana, Vidarbha and Chhattisgarh is the protection they gave to the forest dwellers for cultivation in reserve forests, the substantial increase they achieved in the payment for picking tendu leaf, and the end they put to the oppressive domination of the headmen and patwaris (Balagopal 2006a: 2185)
The popularity of the Naxalites lies in the fact that they can articulate the concept of structural violence with the peasant and indigenous struggle, guaranteeing the protection of the people in managing their territory. It fully depends on the broad support of the masses, in the countryside as well as in the cities, and this is the key to their success or failure.
The historical process of state violence, expropriation of the lands, and poor living conditions for Adivasis peoples is the key room for recruitment by Naxalites, whose soldiers from its bases are mostly young Adivasis. The state’s violent approach against Adivasi and the Naxalite movement has, as a side effect, the growth of its armed resistance.
- Adivasis tribes, Indian Independence process and its relation with nowadays social movements.
Still, in the relation between Adivasis and the Indian State, it is important to point that many Adivasis have influenced Indian history, like the Adivasis rebellions during the period of British colonization and their impact on the process of Indian independence.
This heritage seems to historically link Adivasis peoples and the struggle for land with the heart of the Republic of India, from the emancipation of the country and the demolition of the old colonial structures to the process of popular struggles for the granting of human rights, through Indian Constitution.
The Indian State uses its historical denial of the Adivasis land’s rights to facilitates the State’s stereotype that all Adivasis are Maoists, facilitating the criminalization of Adivasis people, as the Naxalites movement is considered a major internal threat, viewed by the State as terrorists. The main State objective is to prevent Naxalites' territorial advance and popularity among the masses, through the financing of local militias and counter-terrorism operations.
- Power, violence, and the relationship between national security and the security of the people.
The duality between national security and the security of the people is pointed out in both documentaries, as the establishment of security through power represents the security of those who manage the power. Violence is one of the ways to dispute over territories and people.
People, therefore, represent a gravitational force that attracts multiple sides, state forces, social movements, armed groups, and religious groups, to dispute them. These multiple sides grow stronger with the adhesion of people and weaken with their departure.
State operations to contain the Maoists, such as Operation Green Hunt, seek to demobilize what they see as an internal threat by retaking control of the territory, developing infrastructure, establishing guerrilla and psywar combat methods in association with local militias and traders.
- The relationship between violence and the erosion of bourgeois democracy.
Finally, the erosion of bourgeois democracy, its crisis, as pointed in the first documentary, is a factor in unleashing violence. The erosion of capitalist democracy, therefore, arises once the population’s demand is not achieved and there are few or insufficient means to supply it.
The Indian State, which acquired experience from its operations to demobilize the Naxalites, ends up purposefully criminalizing leaders of social movements that have little or no relationship with Maoism to facilitate discredit and its persecution. In this sense, it would not be uncommon to consider that the struggle against the growth of territorial control of the Naxalites collides with the criminalization of the social movements itself.
Finally, the adherence to violent methods, understanding violence as a structural concept through where you can analyze Indian society, is not something only of Maoist guerrillas, as some analyzes that intend to describe the Naxalite rebellion as a mere conflict between terrorists and state forces.
For example, the Salwa Judum, a militia created with the help of the Chhattisgarh State, by people from local tribes, local traders, and businessmen, for controlling the territory and expelling guerrillas. This organization was created to curb the activity of Naxalites in Chhattisgarh and was made illegal in 2011 due to human rights violations and for providing poor training to tribal youth who were recruited into the militia. To this day, this group acts as an auxiliary force for the state of Chhattisgarh.
Short commentaries made after the presentation:
Unfortunately, this presentation doesn’t have the goal of deepening this topic that is so important to the Indian reality. However, some brief and final comparisons can be made about the relationship of States with peasant and indigenous movements, in its comparison to the Brazilian context, as in Brazilian history, there also was a progressive process of land expropriation, which displaced and killed many indigenous peoples and cultures, as well as peasants' families. In this sense, the relationship between these forces is also unstable, as the State is pressured by the interests of large agribusiness landowners and the Brazilian elite. [Incomplete]