It is with the greatest shock and horror that one has read the report of the killing of 20 alleged red sanders smugglers in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh on April 8, 2015, by the so called newly formed `Red-sanders Anti-Smuggling Taskforce’.
The excuse that was given for this outrage is that the members of the taskforce were attacked by a group of woodcutters with stones, and sickles and it was in self-defence that these men were shot in broad daylight. It is mentioned that the trees that were being logged were that of a rare and protected species and that there is a flourishing illegal trade in the exploitation of this rare resource. Even the National Human Rights Commission has expressed outrage and has called for an explanation.
No decent person can avoid being shocked to the core by such an atrocity. No decent person can stay quiet and not condemn this senseless loss of life. No one in his or her right mind would accept the explanation that this was an act of self-defence by the members of the taskforce. A thorough investigation into the events must be carried out at any cost and those at the top of the command chain must be brought to book for this atrocity.
If history is to teach us anything, it would be that no such thing is likely to happen. Andhra Pradesh has historically been a region where there has been immense and skewed growth of the worst kind. A glittering Hyderabad competing with global cities on the one hand of the undivided Andhra Pradesh on the one hand, and the worst kind of underdevelopment, poverty and destitution on the other, with vast regions being in perennial famine, with the worst kind of caste oppression, oppression of tribal populations and forest dwellers on the other, is the spectacle that Andhra Pradesh presents to the world. This has gone hand in hand with vast amounts of investment of security apparatus, anti-guerilla activities of the state, with the spawning of all sorts of taskforces to crush the people of the state, with this evidently
continuing into the bifurcated Telangana and Andra states.
This must bring into question what these security forces are for and how they operate, and the fact that they very much operate within the rubric of the Indian state and have constitutional sanction in brought into focus. This must bring into question the issue of impunity of the security forces that willy-nilly carry out whatever the like here and elsewhere. Let there be debate on this issue in every nook and cranny of the country.
It must also be brought into focus that the supposed protection that is being offered to nature and rare species by the taskforce and the State that is behind it, is the same State that willy-nilly rapes and plunders nature, whether it be in Orissa (POSCO) or in Tamil Nadu (Kudankulam). It is not a handful of woodcutters that have brought nature to ruin, but the biggest industrial houses, foreign capitalists and indeed PSUs, that have no taskforce stopping their rampage. But rather it is other taskforces and security apparatus that break the back of the resistance to the rape of nature and the traditional way of life of all the marginalized sections of society. Let there be no illusions about the existing environment prevailing in the country.
At this time, all must come together to discuss what is what and to ask where is the country headed, and debate all the issues raised above.