Operation Samadhan-Prahar and the Changing Nature of Indian State

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Operation Samadhan-Prahar is the new initiative of the Indian government to combat Maoist insurgency in the tribal pockets of the country. Under this operation, lethal weapons are used to eliminate the tribal resistance to steal the “right to life” of the Adivasis of the country. This new strategy is based on robber Robin Hood’s maxim to rob Peter (tribal) to pay Paul (corporates).

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Operation Samadhan-Prahar has to be seen in the context of the Changing Nature of the Indian State, a new feature of the Second Republic that is in the offing to be called the New India.

It is estimated that the tribal population is about ten crores forty lacks in India.  They live in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, etc. These states are endowed with natural resources that have underground mineral wealth that needs to be mined. These regions also have dense forests that have to be cut for the exploitation of mineral wealth. The alarm of Climate Change is falling on deaf ears and doesn’t make any sense here.

Even though the areas where Operation Samadhan-Prahar is deployed are protected under the Provisions of the PESA or Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, of 1996 the government has auctioned the mines located there to several corporates houses like Adani, Birla, and Vedanta, TATA and Jindal.

Adani is exploiting Hasdeo Aranya and Dantewada for Coal and Iron Ore. Aditya Birla, L&T, and Utkal Alumina are exploiting Rayagada/Kashipur in Odisha for Bauxite,  Vedanta for Bauxite in Lanjigarh, Niyamgiri, Odisha, TATA steel for Iron ore in Jajpur, Kalinganagar, Odisha and JSW Utkal Steel in Dhinkia village, Jagatsinghpur for Iron.

These corporates are paying the bureaucrat of the State and Central government to exploit the minerals resources. However, these institutionalized robberies are met with stiff resistance by the tribal population. The tribal gram sabha empowered under the PESA Act, organizes rallies, dharnas, and other forms of peaceful protests to resist the exploitation of their natural resources but the government has dubbed them as Maoist insurgency.

It is in this context Operation Samadhan-Prahar is used to eliminate the tribal population of India. In January 2023, Home Minister Amit Shah said that the government’s effort is to make the country free of Maoism is scheduled before the upcoming 2024 parliamentary polls. Later in March 2023 he again reiterated that the fight against the Maoist is in its final phase. He vowed to eliminate the tribal resistance in the country.

Violence under operation Samadhan-Prahar- On 7th April 2023, bombs were dropped aerially with the help of drones on the tribal of Bhattum, Kavurugatta, Meenagatta, and Jabbagatta villages of Bastar district, Chhattisgarh. This was the fourth bombing since 2021, the first happened on 19 April 2021, the second on 15 April 2022, third on 11th Jan 2023. After the bombing, three helicopters were used by the Air Force for firing at the tribal population.

As part of Operation Samadhan-Prahar, the government has established military camps in the tribal areas. The armed forces have turned the habitat of Adivasis including their land, forest, and water bodies into jail or concentration camps.

On 17 May 2021, 4 Adivasis were killed by CRPF for protesting against the setting up of a CRPF camp on a 10-acre agricultural field in Silger, Bastar. On 22 May 2021, an Adivasi youth was shot dead by CRPF for collecting mangoes near the CRPF camp in Silger. On 14 January 2022, the villagers were physically attacked ruthlessly by 500-member paramilitary and state police after they protested against the encroachment of their land.

It is not only government forces but also the private militia of corporates that are deployed against the tribal population in the region. The infamous Salwa Judum militia which burned houses and murdered and raped Adivasis was funded by TATA and trained by government forces.  Though the primary source for funding the government forces is public money, in reality, Indian armed forces have become the private armies of the corporates.

In 2016, the government introduced Road Connectivity Project in the Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas (RCPLWEA) for development purposes of the region. But in reality, these roads were used by the corporate companies to move their vehicles, transport their mining machinery, and for patrolling purposes. The security forces used military vehicles manufactured by TATA to protect the corporates.

Defaming Resistance – The government has left no stone unturned to defame the tribal resistance to the state and corporate encroachment of their habitat. The state has unleashed fake news and propaganda campaign to defame the tribal resistance through the mass media. When the tribal resisted the security forces’ occupation of their schools, the news was flashed “Maoist’s attack schools.” The encounters were presented as genuine by the media and the dead were described as Maoist insurgents. Later the judicial investigation found them to be fake encounters.

Even courts are used to defame the tribal resistance blaming Maoist insurgency. Chhatisgarh-based Gandhian, Himanshu Kumar has been penalized five lakhs by Supreme Court along with dismissing the petition filed by him and 12 Adivasi villagers in 2009 that demanded an independent probe into the extra-judicial killings of Adivasis in Gompad, Chattisgarh.

 In Gompad Massacre, 16 Adivasis belonging to the villages of Belpocha, Nulkatong, Gompad, and Gachanpalli were murdered by armed forces and Salwa Judum militia between 17 September 2009 and 1 October 2009. In the same event, a 2-year-old baby’s finger was chopped off by the state mercenaries after raping and killing his mother.

But the Supreme Court, based on the version of the state, concluded that it was Maoists who had killed the Adivasis despite relatives of victims, villagers, human rights organizations, and social activists saying that the massacre was committed by the government.

The arrests of activists and human rights defenders under UAPA are also strategies of Operation Samadhan Prahar. The murder of Fr. Stan Swamy who fought for Adivasis and against their displacement, the jailing of Prof GN Saibaba for protesting against corporatization and militarization, and the incarceration of Adivasi woman Hidma Marke for leading the protest against Adani’s Bailadila iron-ore mine in Chhattisgarh are all connected with  operation Samadhan Prahar.

Under Operation Samadhan Prahar fake encounters, tortures, sexual violence, rape, and enforced disappearances are deployed as tactics of counter-insurgency methods. The government justifies combing operations against left-wing extremism as a counter-insurgency method, but in reality, it is indirectly facilitating the corporates to rob the natural wealth of the region and displace the tribal population inhabiting those places.

Conclusion- “Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas- Report of an Expert Group to Planning Commission”, says that military suppression cannot finish the resistance of Adivasis and Maoists. It also mentions and refers that the people support the Maoists because of the exploitation by the Indian state including displacement and looting of resources by the corporates. This is where and why people are forced to engage in the war to protect themselves against the government which takes oath from the Constitution and murders its citizens.

The war under Operation Samadhan Prahar by the Indian state is not only against the ten crores forty lacks Adivasi but against the entire country to help a handful of corporates. This is a new feature of contemporary India. This is going to be announced as the Second Republic maybe in 2024.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. Views expressed in the article are the author’s own. He can be contacted at [email protected]