Sunday, June 18, 2006

There is fury building up across India - Arundathi Roy

Excerpts from her article

Q.There is a huge consolidation of these Maoist groups. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says that they have become the biggest internal security threat to India . Whats your view on this?

A. I am sure the Maoists view the PMs statement as a compliment. In a recent article in the Indian Express. Ajit Doval a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau argued that doctrinally Maoists must be treated as terrorists. Poverty is being conflated with terrorism. The Indian Government has learned nothing. It has tried the military solution in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Nagaland. It has got nowhere. Now its ready to turn its army on its own people, like a maddened tiger eating its own limbs. Though here in the big cities we call ourselves a democracy, in the countryside, all kinds of illiberal ordinances have been passed, thousands have been imprisoned, civil liberties are a distant dream. Villages are being evacuated and turned into police camps. The Chattisgarh government is fueling the situation by arming poor villagers to fight the Maoists. I dont know why they cant seem to understand that there can be no military solution to poverty. Or maybe I am being stupid,maybe they are trying to eliminate the poor, not poverty.

On top of everything else that has happened over the years, now multinational companies have turned their greedy eyes on the wealth of natural resources in these states. Mountains, rivers and forests are being plundered, its like the gold rush. And presiding over it are our own economic hit-men in the countrys top jobs. These men are staunch disciples of the Washington Consensus. They have no imagination outside of it. They are at the helm of a no-holds-barred looting spree.

Who would have thought ten years ago that Kathmandu would be under siege? Who knows, ten years down the line, it might be Delhi thats under siege. Things are certainly moving in that direction. Something has to give. We cannot go on living this lie. And now that we have seen how contemptuously the government has treated a non-violent movement like the NBA, which of us can in good faith tell people how to fight their battles? Because whatever their strategies, they are up against the same behemoth.

Q.Kanu Sanyal, one of the founders of the Naxalbari uprising, has distanced himself from much of the movement today saying that it has become extortionist, without ideology, predatory on the very poor it seeks to protect?

A. I'm sure Mahatma Gandhi would say the same of the Congress Party today. Every armed struggle will have its share of thugs and extortionists, along for the ride only for personal gain. That cadre exists in the North East, among the militants in Kashmir, and I am sure among the Maoists too. It also exists in the armed forces every occupying army has its share of looters and rapists. But the Maoists phenomenon has arisen because people have had the doors of the liberal, democratic institutions slammed in their faces. To dismiss them all as extortionists and freeloaders is not just deeply apolitical, its extremely unjust.

After all, the so called non-violent world that claims to disagree with the current government policies and has broken out in a rash of NGOs peddling everything from peace to birth control also has its share of freeloaders and racketeers. The highly paid development jet set who earns its living off poverty and conflict and misery. Many of them are as counterproductive to the cause of justice as the freeloaders and extortionists on the edge of armed struggles.

The real problem, as we have seen, is that whether a struggle is violent or not, the governments reaction is instinctively repressive. The military solution has not worked in Kashmir or Manipur or Nagaland. It will not work in mainland India. It may not be that the masses will rise in disciplined revolutionary fervour. It may be that we will become a society convulsed with violence, political, criminal, and mercenary. But the fact remains that the problem is social injustice, the solution is social justice. Not bullets, not bulldozers, not prisons.

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