29 July, 2021

The Claws Of The State

The war on Maoists is backed by a parallel war on rights activists

Illustration by Sandeep Adhwaryu
The Claws Of The State

There are things I haven’t forgotten about that October night 30 years ago, like the shock of discovering that my knees were shaking as the banging on the door grew louder. The voices, coarse and angry, were asking for P.V. Bhaktavatsalam, the lawyer who had dared to defend those charged with being Naxalites in a state obsessed with eliminating them. The parallels with modern-day Chhattisgarh couldn’t be greater.

Back then, between August and October 1980, ten young men had been killed in police encounters in the North Arcot and Dharmapuri districts. Their crime? Organising peasants in that backward region, where the Naxalites had a base. M.G. Ramachandran, then chief minister, had given the police, headed by the megalomaniacal Walter Dawaram, a carte blanche to crush the peasant movement. The police went about their task in the only manner they know: eliminating the leaders and arresting those protesting these murders for sedition.

In those post-Emergency days, when human rights was a cause that attracted celebrities,...

In this article:

More from Jyoti Punwani

Latest Magazine

August 02, 2021

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section