Book Review: Blood On My Hands

From reading circles to raising slogans, anything questioning the present regime is now an act of sedition. Even voting for a non-BJP government to power inside this limited democracy is an anti-national act. Not just the Muslims but every one is in an obligation to prove oneself as a nationalist.

In a multi ethnic, multi cultural union like India being a nationalist means to conform to the holy cows created by the state. From cricket to capitalism, any one who presents an alternate view is a Naxal or a Maoist. Both BJP and Congress are guilty of promoting such a mind set. One such holy cow is the Indian Army.

A soldier dying in the glaciers of Siachen evokes a sense of sacrifice and salute in the minds of our people. But a Dalit dying of asphyxiation in the sewage pipes of our streets hardly gets a sympathy. In the Times Now debate on the JNU issue Arnab Goswami was shouting at the student activists:“Don’t you dare speak over me when I am speaking of Lance Naik Hanumanthapa! We’re proud of him and we’re ashamed of you!”. Apparently that was enough to convince the ‘Nation’ that the student activists of JNU were anti-national, atleast for that moment. Even the meta-narrative in the Indian movies doesn’t dare to criticize the Indian army. Every other government institution can be accused of corruption and can be shown in bad light but not the army.

Blood on my hands written by Krishalay Battacharjee, a senior journalist of NDTV challenges this meta narrative and records some of the gory acts of the Indian army in the North Eastern parts of India.

The book records the confessions of Army officials who have served in the north eastern states of India. The confessions contain gory details of how the Army under the protection guaranteed by AFSPA has turned itself into a state run Mafia. For the sake of awards and rewards innocent people are targeted and killed. The media shamelessly accepts the military version of the story and makes it the official version.

How these “innocent victims” fall into the trap of the army and who these innocents are reveals a much more darker side of the army. These innocent victims are literally “supplied” by the underground mafia who operate in those areas. Impoverished Bangladeshis who cross the border illegally in search of a livelihood are targeted by the mafia. In fact it’s the mafia who run the business on both the sides of the border. The poor Bangladeshi immigrants pay their lifetime savings in the hope that a better future awaits them in the other side. The heroism, sacrifice and valorous acts of the army personnel which we see on-screen are all a result of the balanced supply-demand equation that operates behind the scenes.

It’s not just innocent humans who are in demand but also weapons. Weapons which are displayed along with the dead to portray them as dangerous elements who try to destabilize the state are also procured by the army through arms smugglers.

Blood On My HandsBut where does the money come from, for the market to work? The army officials who confess the crimes that happen in the North East reveal that the funding by the state is not adequate to “procure” innocent victims. Then where does the money come from? Drug, weapon and timber smuggling, human trafficking, appropriation of money allocated to the sadhbavana projects are all the source of money for the illegal market to function.

And all this is done for the sake of awards, medals and rewards. The army’s performance is measured in points system. For every militant killed or surrendered points are added to the army unit and the unit which gets the highest number of units may get posted for a United Nations mission which will give opportunity for the soldier to earn more money and other benefits. As the confessing army officers reveal many high officials posted in the North East are awarded with Ashok Chakra, Shaurya Chakra apart from the huge amount of wealth they have amassed during their posting in the north east.

All this have become possible only under the impunity guaranteed by the Armed forces special power act (AFSPA). The draconian act is another colonial law incorporated into the democratic framework of Indian state. The Armed Forces Special Power Ordinance was introduced by the British to suppress the Quit India movement. Ironically it was Jawaharlal Nehru who is hailed as a great democratic and secular leader, who brought the legislation of AFSPA and applied to the North Eastern states. The AFSPA contains provisions that grant immunity to members of the armed forces who kill people they suspect as militants. Any one can be arrested and any premise can be searched. No legal action can be taken without prior permission from the central government.

The NHRC and various committees and commissions have found that many cases of killings were not genuine and the official story of encounter is found to be fake. But the convictions are very rare in such cases.

New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) has always stood against such draconian laws and have stood in solidarity with the oppressed people of North East and activists like Irom Sharmila who fight against AFSPA. The actions of the army should not be considered as isolated events. They are a part and parcel of the states oppression of the poor and minorities. It was this very capitalist Indian state that declared the tribals armed with bows and arrows as the biggest internal security threat. It is the same state that creates rouge soldiers in the name of Special Police Officer’s (SPO) to counter local unrest. Any one who criticizes these from the narrow perspective of human rights or from the perspective of working class are branded as anti-national.

This book is another evidence against state sponsored violence carried out under the legal sanction of draconian laws like AFSPA in the North East and elsewhere. Suspending law to protect law and order is paradox capitalism can live with. Only a democratic conversation with the oppressed nationalities can give a true solution to the problems, be it economic exploitation or rights of self determination. Repeal AFSPA!! Fight for Democratic Socialism!!

Arun Kali Raja