This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 8 April 2013 contains two articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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– U.S.: Heartless at Wounded Knee
– Jarkhand, India: Statement on killing and abduction of Maoists
Heartless at Wounded Knee
8 April 2013. A World to Win News Service. Millions of people have read the story of the violent conquest of American Indian lands in historian Dee Brown’s 1971 classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. But now the Oglala Lakota Sioux are being asked to buy what was stolen from them.
Today a parcel in Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation is owned by a non-Indian man who lives far away and wants to sell it. This part of the historic battleground is adjacent to the mass grave referred to in the book’s title.
Wounded Knee, a village in South Dakota, is famous as the site where Native Americans inflicted a crushing defeat on a U.S. Army regiment in 1876, and where in 1890 the same Seventh Calvary regiment mowed down as many as 300 Indian men, women and children. It is also well-known because of the 1973 occupation of the village led by members of the American Indian Movement seeking justice.
This is a place whose value lies in its embodiment of Native American history. If the tribe wants to buy it, they will have to pay the owner almost four million dollars for 17 hectares. Otherwise, the owner says, he will auction it off to the highest bidder, hoping for commercial development. This situation is grotesque and criminal – more like demanding ransom money for ancestral bones than an ordinary commercial transaction – but is a perfectly legal consequence of a century and a half of legalized theft, murder and punishment of the survivors.
The U.S. government promised the Sioux an enormous extent of land in the north-central U.S. in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The government broke that treaty, and signed a new one for a much smaller amount of land in 1868. But three years later it passed the Indian Appropriation Act, which effectively turned reservations into prisoner of war camps whose inhabitants had no rights and could not leave. When gold and other valuable resources were discovered in the Black Hills, the government divided up the land, among Native Americans who hated the concept of private ownership of land, and white settlers to whom private property was everything. Native Americans were left with land nobody else wanted – and then expelled from it when someone did.
In 1980 the Sioux were offered money from the federal government following a court decision that declared that their land had been taken from them illegally, in violation of the second Fort Laramie treaty. But accepting that settlement would mean giving up their claim to the Black Hills and they rejected it. Now the Oglala tribe of the Sioux is supposed to receive about 20 million dollars in compensation for government theft of money from land sales, but with the tribal government 60 million dollars in debt, this will not mark a turn for the better.
Much of the Pine Ridge Reservation is in Shannon County, the poorest county in the U.S. The land suitable for agriculture has been leased off to big producers. The tribal government is almost the only source of employment. About half the people live way below the official poverty line. The weather is harsh, the houses are in very bad condition, often unheated, and 40 percent have no electricity. Disease is rampant. Life expectancy is 47 years old for men and 52 for women, with drugs, alcohol, suicide and other forms of violence taking their toll. Rape is common often carried out with impunity. Tribal governments have no authority over non-Indians who commit crimes on the reservation, and are most interested in enforcing their own rule. In reality they are local stooges of a federal government that is, at best, indifferent towards Native American lives.
Along with the kidnapping of Africans into slavery, the foundation of the wealth of the class that rules the U.S. today began with the seizure of Native American land and killing off the original inhabitants. Of the eight million Native Americans who once lived in what is now the U.S., according to an estimate, only a few hundred thousand were left by the beginning of the twentieth century, and they number only about half a million now. About half live in the country’s 300 reservations.
The mark of a successful genocide is being able to say the victims themselves are responsible for killing themselves and each other on the reservations long after the cavalry imprisoned them there. Pine Ridge is a ghetto on the prairie, and when tribal members leave, it is usually for urban ghettos, the Army – or prison.
In 1890 the Native Americans from several tribes who were killed at Wounded Knee had been faced with a government order to sell their land. A chief named Sitting Bull and his followers refused. They were involved in the Ghost Dance movement, a religious revival that predicted the coming of a messiah and the end of white domination. The federal government considered it a sign of rebellion and moved to wipe it out by force. Sitting Bull was arrested and killed. The government ordered the arrest of the Sioux leader Big Foot and the tribe was declared “hostile”, which amounted to a declaration of war.
The cavalry pursuing Bigfoot’s band was equipped with Hotchkiss guns, a new kind of rapid-firing weapon that shot explosive shells. It was a rotating cannon, lighter than standard artillery, designed to be pulled by horses through rough terrain. It was used in this last major battle between the U.S. Army and Native Americans, and then a short time later in the American conquest of Cuba and the Philippines.
Troops approached the group led by Big Foot and told him they were going to take the 120 men and 230 women and children to an army camp. Night was falling and the head army officer announced that their captives would be disarmed after daybreak. Teepees were set up. In the morning, not satisfied with the arms that had been turned over to them, soldiers began tearing apart the tents and belongings. A shot rang out as the troops scuffled with a warrior for his gun. The soldiers began firing indiscriminately.
“In the first few seconds of violence, the firing of carbines was deafening, filling the air with powder smoke. Among the dying who lay sprawled on the frozen ground was Big Foot. Then there was a brief lull in the rattle of arms, with small groups of Indians and soldiers grappling at close range, using knives, clubs and pistols. As few of the Indians had arms, they soon had to flee, and then the big Hotchkiss guns on the hill opened up on them, firing almost a shell a second, shredding the teepees with flying shrapnel, killing men, women and children.
“‘We tried to run,’ Louise Wise Bear said, ‘but they shot at us like we were a buffalo. I know there are some good white people, but the soldiers must be mean to shoot children and women. Indian soldiers would not do that to white children…’
“The soldiers lost 25 dead and 39 wounded, most of them struck by their own bullets or shrapnel… A detail of soldiers went over the Wounded Knee battlefield, gathering up Indians still alive and loading them in wagons. As it was apparent by the end of the day that a blizzard was approaching, the dead Indians were left where they had fallen.” (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.)
Twenty soldiers were awarded medals of honour, the U.S.’s highest military distinction, for their work that day in 1890, the most ever awarded for a single battle in American history before or since. Those medals have not been rescinded, despite demands. In 1973 the government displayed the same attitude in its merciless persecution of people in Wounded Knee who rose up against a corrupt, puppet tribal government.
This time it was the FBI, not the cavalry, that was sent in, and in the context of those days – including support for the occupation from all over the U.S. and the world – they could not just use their big guns. But after the end of the 71-day armed stand-off they started a reign of terror on the reservation. About 1,200 people were arrested. At least two AIM members were killed and another activist disappeared.
Leonard Peltier was arrested for allegedly shooting two FBI agents during this warlike period. He always denied it, and the informant whose testimony helped lead to his conviction later said the FBI coerced her into lying. Other evidence has also been thrown into doubt by legal officials. He has had much support among ordinary people and prominent public figures. Nevertheless, Peltier has been in prison for the last 37 years, beaten badly on at least one recent occasion, with no prospect of release. Clearly this is about more than him; it is meant to send a message.
The cavalry has moved on to invade other countries, but the prison camps they constructed for Native Americans remain standing and under guard.
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Jharkhand, India: Statement on killing and abduction of Maoists
8 April 2013. A World to Win News Service. Following is a press statement by the Revolutionary Democratic Front of India dated 29 March, 2013.
The media has reported the claim made by the Jharkhand police that ten [Communist Party of India (Maoist] cadres were gunned down by the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) during a “fierce gun battle” that started in the afternoon of 27 March 2013 and continued till the next morning in the Lakarbandha forests in Chatra district of Jharkhand, which falls under Kunda police station limits. Around 25 other Maoists have been abducted after the battle as per media reports. Lalesh Yadav, alias Prashant, Secretary of the Bihar Jharkhand North Chhattisgarh Special Area Committee of the CPI (Maoist); Jaikumar Yadav, Platoon Commander; Dharmendra Yadav, alias Biru, Sub-Zonal Commander of Chatra Palamu; and Prafulla Yadav, Sub-Zonal Commander of Koleswari, are reported to be among the dead.
According to the police version of the incident, it had received information about an ongoing gun battle between the CPI (Maoist) cadres and TPC members in the evening of 27 March. Around a hundred armed men of the CoBRA battalion of the CRPF and District Armed Police left at 10pm on the same evening, who reached the site of the encounter at 3 am in the morning. The paramilitary and police forces engaged in a gunfight from 3 to 4 am in which they fired 80 to 90 rounds of bullets. By daybreak, the police claims, the belligerent CPI(Maoist) and TPC cadres retreated from the spot. During a search of the area, the police is said to have recovered ten bodies of CPI (Maoist) members, nine in uniform, along with seven weapons, cane bombs, empty cartridges and Maoist literature from the encounter site. Though the police have said that two TPC members died as well, the bodies of the supposedly dead TPC members have not been recovered by the police.
CPI(Maoist), however, has refuted the police story. A spokesperson of the party in his telephonic statement to the PUCL Jharkhand told that there was no encounter or gun battle as claimed by the police. According to him, it was a joint operation planned and executed by the central paramilitary forces and state police in collusion with the TPC. The state armed forces and the TPC used covert operatives to mix poison in the food served to the Maoists. When they were in an unconscious state after consuming the poisoned food, their arms were first taken away and then were selectively killed by the TPC and the armed forces. The rest of the 20 to 25 Maoists were later abducted and taken away by the TPC men. The spokesperson also confirmed that the four leaders named by the media are among the dead. The spokesperson has also confirmed that there were 200 armed personnel in the operation from TPC and paramilitary and Jharkhand police.
The facts and circumstances of the incident, the modus operandi of the state’s armed forces and the history of the notorious TPC in Jharkhand indeed point strongly towards a covert operation, a staged “encounter” and cold-blooded murder of the ten Maoists. It is difficult to believe that ten members in a large team of 30-odd armed Maoists fell in a gun battle while all of the TPC goons and the armed forces engaging them survived without any casualties. The police itself have admitted that none of their troops sustained even injuries. The claim by the police that two TPC members were killed and one was injured in the “encounter” is highly doubtful, given the fact that the police did not recover the bodies of the TPC members. In spite of the contrary claims by the government, the collusion between the Jharkhand police, the paramilitary forces and the TPC in conducting operations against the Maoists is well known. Therefore, it can be assumed that the state’s armed forces had full knowledge of the Maoist team’s presence in Lakarbandha forest, and that they directed and participated in this dastardly covert operation from the beginning to the end. TPC, a mercenary vigilante gang propped up by the government, was one of the instruments in executing this extrajudicial killing.
This is not the first time that covert and deceptive means of poisoning was used by the Indian state to eliminate Maoist leaders and cadres by planting moles and informers. Three Central Committee members of the erstwhile CPI(ML) Peoples’ War [one of the two main parties that later formed the CPI (Maoist)]– Shyam, Mahesh and Murli – were first poisoned by using an informer in Bangalore, abducted and flown to Andhra Pradesh, tortured and later shot dead in December 1999. Then the police floated the story that the three were killed in an “encounter” in Karimnagar district of AP. A villager residing near the so-called encounter site was also picked up and killed by the police and shown as a squad member to bolster their Goebblesian lie. The demand by the civil rights organizations and democratic forces for a judicial inquiry into the incident was declined by the government. The guilty police officers and their political bosses are yet to be brought to book for this fascist murder, and indeed enjoy full state protection.
Similarly, Chhattisgarh police claimed to have killed 14 members of a Maoist squad in Bijapur district on 18 March 2008 after a “fierce encounter”, even though not a single policeman was even injured as a result. The villagers who were eyewitnesses later told the media and civil rights organisations that the police story of the ‘encounter’ was to cover up the fact that the squad members were poisoned by using spies and killed. The government and the police have never acknowledged this covert and cold blooded mass murder, and rather hailed it as “the biggest ever counter-insurgency operation in the state”. These are just two of the innumerable instances of fascist murder by the state’s forces against the revolutionary movement using spies, coverts and vigilante gangs, and then boasting of shooting down revolutionary leaders, cadres, sympathisers and civilians in “heroic” battles. The latest killing of ten Maoists in Chatra district of Jharkhand points to a similar cold-blooded murder for which the Indian state and its armed forces are equally responsible as its foot-soldiers, the TPC. This covert operation smacks of the fascist former CRPF boss K Vijay Kumar’s involvement, who is presently the advisor to the governor of Jharkhand and virtually running the home ministry in the state which is presently under President’s rule.
TPC was formed by renegades of the CPI(Maoist) after deserting the party in 2001. The Indian state, its armed forces and intelligence agencies were instrumental in its formation and continued presence in Chatra, Latehar and Ranchi districts. TPC has established a reign of terror in these districts, indulging in killings, kidnapping, extortion and torture – all under the patronage of the state and its armed forces. It has particularly targeted the revolutionary organizations and their mass base during the twelve years of its existence. This is because TPC considers the revolutionary masses and their movement as the biggest impediment for its expansion, which is coterminous with the safeguarding the political power of the reactionary ruling classes comprising of the feudal forces and the comprador big bourgeoisie.
TPC is only one of the vigilante gangs run by the ruling classes. In Jharkhand itself, the Indian state has promoted other fascist execution squads which go by the names of Jharkhand Prastuti Committee, Shanti Sena. There is hardly any difference between TPC of Jharkhand and the Salwa Judum of Chhattisgarh, Ranvir Sena of Bihar, Sendra and Narsi Cobra of Andhra Pradesh, Shanti Sena of Odisha, Ikhwan of Kashmir and Sulfa of Asom. They are all sponsored, nurtured and used by the Indian state to crush the democratic and revolutionary movements of the oppressed peoples and nationalities. Only, TPC claims itself to be a “Maoist” group, and the state too conveniently portrays them as such!
RDF demands that a judicial inquiry be immediately conducted to inquire into the killing of ten Maoists in Chatra, Jharkhand, so that the facts of the incident can be brought to light and those guilty of this cold-blooded murder be brought to book. We also believe that the lives of the twenty people kidnapped by the TPC are in danger. Whether they are presently in the custody of the TPC or the police, all measures must be taken to save their lives. All of them must be produced before a magistrate immediately. In addition, TPC must be disbanded without delay, and the Indian state must stop its patronization of vigilante gangs in the country, including TPC in Jharkhand.
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