Revolution in South Asia

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Arundhati Roy – The Poverty of India’s Trickle-Down Revolution, Pt. 2

Posted by hetty7 on October 15, 2010

This is the second part of a two-part series.  The first part was posted here.  This was originally in Newstatesman.com

The Crisis of Indian Democracy (Part 2)

By Arundhati Roy

Newstatesman – September 11,2010

Over the past few months, the government has poured tens of thousands of heavily armed paramilitary troops into the forest. The Maoists responded with a series of aggressive attacks and ambushes. More than 200 policemen have been killed. The bodies keep coming out of the forest. Slain policemen wrapped in the national flag, slain Maoists, displayed like hunter’s trophies, their wrists and ankles lashed to bamboo poles; bullet-ridden bodies, bodies that don’t look human any more, mutilated in ambushes, beheadings and summary executions. Of the bodies being buried in the forest, we have no news. The theatre of war has been cordoned off, closed to activists and journalists. So there are no body counts.

On 6 April 2010, in its biggest strike ever, in Dantewada the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) ambushed a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) company and killed 76 policemen. The party issued a coldly triumphant statement. Television milked the tragedy for everything it was worth. The nation was called upon to condemn the killing. Many of us were not prepared to – not because we celebrate killing, nor because we are all Maoists, but because we have thorny, knotty views about Operation Green Hunt. For refusing to buy shares in the rapidly growing condemnation industry, we were branded “terrorist sympathisers” and had our photographs flashed repeatedly on TV like wanted criminals.

What was a CRPF contingent doing, patrolling tribal villages with 21 AK-47 rifles, 38 Insas rifles, seven self-loading rifles, six light machine-guns, one Stengun and one two-inch mortar? To ask that question almost amounted to an act of treason.

Days after the ambush, I ran into two paramilitary commandos chatting to a bunch of drivers in a Delhi car park. They were waiting for their VIP to emerge from some restaurant or health club or hotel. Their view on what is going on involved neither grief nor patriotism. It was simple accounting. A balance sheet. They were talking about how many lakhs of rupees in bribes it takes for a man to get a job in the paramilitary forces, and how most families incur huge debts to pay that bribe. That debt can never be repaid by the pathetic wages paid to a jawan, for example. The only way to repay it is to do what policemen in India do – blackmail and threaten people, run protection rackets, demand payoffs, do dirty deals. (In the case of Dantewada, loot villagers, steal cash and jewelry.) But if the man dies an untimely death, it leaves the families hugely in debt. The anger of the men in the car park was directed at the government and senior police officers who make fortunes from bribes and then so casually send young men to their death. They knew that the handsome compensation that was announced for the dead in the 6 April attack was just to blunt the impact of the scandal. It was never going to be standard practice for every policeman who dies in this sordid war.

Small wonder then that the news from the war zone is that CRPF men are increasingly reluctant to go on patrol. There are reports of them fudging their daily logbooks, filling them with phantom patrols. Maybe they’re beginning to realize that they are only poor khaki trash — cannon fodder in a rich man’s war. There are thousands waiting to replace each one of them when they’re gone.

On 17 May 2010, in another major attack, the Maoists blew up a bus in Dantewada and killed about 44 people. Of them 16 were Special Police Officers (SPOs), members of the dreaded government sponsored people’s militia, the Salwa Judum. The rest of the dead were, shockingly, ordinary people, mostly Adivasis. The Maoists expressed perfunctory regret for having killed civilians, but they came that much closer to mimicking the State’s “collateral damage” defence.

Last month in Bihar the Maoists kidnapped four policemen and demanded the release of some of their senior leaders. A few days into the hostage drama, they killed one of them, an Adivasi policeman called Lucas Tete. Two days later they released the other three. By killing a prisoner in custody the Maoists once again harmed their own cause. It was another example of the Janus-faced morality of “revolutionary violence” that we can expect more of in a war zone, in which tactics trump rectitude and make the world a worse place.

Not many analysts and commentators who were pained by the Maoist killing of civilians in Dantewada pointed out that at exactly the same time as the bus was blown up by the Maoists, in Kalinganagar, Orissa, and in Balitutha and Potko in Jharkhand, the police had surrounded several villages and had fired on thousands of protesters resisting the takeover of their lands by the Tatas, the Jindals and Posco. Even now the siege continues. The wounded cannot be taken to hospital because of the police cordons. Videos uploaded on YouTube show armed riot police massing in the hundreds, being confronted by ordinary villagers, some of whom are armed with bows and arrows.

The one favour Operation Green Hunt has done ordinary people is that it has clarified things to them. Even the children in the villages know that the police work for the “companies” and that Operation Green Hunt isn’t a war against Maoists. It’s a war against the poor.

There’s nothing small about what’s going on. We are watching a democracy turning on itself, trying to eat its own limbs. We’re watching incredulously as those limbs refuse to be eaten.
. . .

Of all the various political formations involved in the current insurrection, none is more controversial than the CPI (Maoist). The most obvious reason is its unapologetic foregrounding of armed struggle as the only path to revolution. Sumanta Banerjee’s book In the Wake of Naxalbari is one of the most comprehensive accounts of the movement. It documents the early years, the almost harebrained manner in which the Naxalites tried to jump-start the Indian Revolution by “annihilating the class enemy” and expected the masses to rise up spontaneously. It describes the contortions it had to make in order to remain aligned with China’s foreign policy, how it spread from state to state, and how Naxalism was mercilessly crushed.

Buried deep inside the fury that is directed against them by the orthodox left and the liberal intelligentsia is their unease with themselves and a puzzling, almost mystical protectiveness towards the Indian state. It’s as though, when they are faced with a situation that has genuine revolutionary potential, they blink. They find reasons to look away. Political parties and individuals who have not in the last 25 years ever lent their support to say, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, or marched in solidarity with any one of the many of peaceful people’s movements in the country, have suddenly begun to extol the virtues of non-violence and Gandhian Satyagraha. On the other hand, those who have been actively involved in these struggles may strongly disagree with the Maoists, they maybe  wary, even exasperated by them, but they do see them as a part of the same resistance.

It’s hard to say who dislikes the Maoists more – the Indian state, its army of strategic experts and its instinctively right-wing middle class, or the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist), usually called the CPM, the several splinter groups that were part of the original Marxist-Leninists or the liberal left. The argument begins with nomenclature. The more orthodox communists do not believe that “Maoism” is an “ism” at all. The Maoists in turn call the mainstream communist parties “social fascists” and accuse them of “economism” – basically, of gradually bargaining away the prospect of revolution.

Each faction believes itself to be the only genuinely revolutionary Marxist party or political formation. Each believes the other has misinterpreted communist theory and misunderstood history. Anyone who isn’t a card-carrying member of one or the other group will be able to see that none of them is entirely wrong or entirely right about what they say. But bitter splits, not unlike those in religious sects, are the natural corollary of the rigid conformity to the party line demanded by all communist parties. So they dip into a pool of insults that dates back to the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, to the great debates between Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, to Chairman Mao’s Red Book, and hurl them at each other. They accuse each other of the “incorrect application” of “Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong Thought”, almost as though it’s an ointment that’s being rubbed in the wrong place. (My earlier essay “Walking With the Comrades” landed directly in the flight-path of this debate. It got its fair share of entertaining insults, which deserve a pamphlet of their own.)

Other than the debate about whether or not to enter electoral politics, the major disagreement between the various strands of communism in India centers around their reading of whether conditions in the country are ripe for revolution. Is the prairie ready for the fire, as Mao announced in China, or is it still too damp for the single spark to ignite it? The trouble is that India lives in several centuries simultaneously, so perhaps the prairie, that vast stretch of flat grassland, is the wrong analogy for India’s social and political landscape. Maybe a “warren” would be a better one. To arrive at a consensus about the timing of the revolution is probably impossible. So everybody marches to his or her own drumbeat. The CPI and the CPM have more or less postponed the revolution to the afterlife. For Charu Majumdar, founder of the Naxalite movement, it was meant to have happened 30 years ago. According to the Ganapathy, current chief of the Maoists, it’s about 50 years away.

Today, 40 years after the Naxalbari uprising, the main charge against the Maoists by the parliamentary left continues to be what it always was. They are accused of suffering from what Lenin called an “infantile disorder”, of substituting mass politics with militarism and of not having worked at building a genuinely revolutionary proletariat. They are seen as having contempt for the urban working class, of being an ideologically ossified force that can only function as a frog-on-the-back of “innocent” (read primitive) jungle-dwelling tribal people who, according to orthodox Marxists, have no real revolutionary potential. (This is not the place perhaps, to debate a vision that says people have to first become wage-earners, enslaved to a centralized industrial system, before they can be considered revolutionary.)

The charge that the Maoists are irrelevant to urban working-class movements, to the Dalit movement, to the plight of farmers and agricultural workers outside the forests is true. There is no doubt that the Maoist Party’s militarized politics makes it almost impossible for it to function in places where there is no forest cover. However, it could equally be argued that the major communist parties have managed to survive in the mainstream only by compromising their ideologies so drastically that it is impossible to tell the difference between them and other bourgeois political parties any more. It could be argued that the smaller factions that have remained relatively uncompromised have managed to do so because they do not pose a threat to anybody.

Whatever their faults or achievements as bourgeois parties, few would associate the word “revolutionary” with the CPI or CPM any more. (The CPI does play a role in some of the struggles against mining companies in Orissa.) But even in their chosen sphere of influence they cannot claim to have done a great service to the proletariat they say they represent. Apart from their traditional bastions in Kerala and West Bengal, both of which they are losing their grip over, they have very little presence in any other part of the country, urban or rural, forest or plains. They have run their trade unions into the ground. They have not been able to stanch the massive job losses and the virtual disbanding of the formal workforce that mechanization and the new economic policies have caused. They have not been able to prevent the systematic dismantling of workers’ rights. They have managed to alienate themselves almost completely from Adivasi and Dalit communities. In Kerala many would say that they have done a better job than other political parties, but their 30-year “rule” in West Bengal has left that state in ruins. The repression they unleashed in Nandigram and Singur, and now against the Adivasis of Jangalmahal, will probably drive them out of power for a few years. (Only for as long as it takes Mamta Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress to prove that she is not the vessel into which people should pour their hopes.) Still, while listing a litany of their sins, it must be said that the demise of the mainstream communist parties is not something to be celebrated. At least not unless it makes way for a new, more vital and genuinely left movement in India.

The Maoists (in their current as well as earlier avatars) have had a different political trajectory. The redistribution of land, by violent means if necessary, was always the centrepiece of their political activity. They have been completely unsuccessful in that endeavor. But their militant interventions, in which thousands of their cadre – as well as ordinary people – paid with their lives, shone a light on the deeply embedded structural injustice of Indian society. If nothing else, from the time of the Telengana movement, which, in some ways, was a precursor to the uprising in Naxalbari, the Naxalite movement, for all its faults, sparked an anger about being exploited and a desire for self-respect in some of the most oppressed communities. In West Bengal it led to Operation Bargadar (“sharecropper”) and to a far lesser extent in Andhra Pradesh it shamed the government into carrying out some land reform. Even today, all the talk about “uneven development” and “exploitation” of tribal areas by the prime minister, the government’s plans to transfer Joint Forest Management funds from the Forest Department directly to the Gram Panchayats, the Planning Commission’s announcement that it will allocate Rs14,000 crores  for tribal development, has not come from genuine concern, it has come as a strategy to defuse the Maoist “menace”. If those funds do end up benefiting the Adivasi community, instead of being siphoned away by middlemen, then the “menace” surely ought to be given some credit. Interestingly, though the Maoists have virtually no political presence outside forested areas, they do have a presence in the popular imagination, an increasingly sympathetic one, as a party that stands up for the poor against the intimidation and bullying of the State. If Operation Green Hunt becomes an outright war instead of a “sub-conventional” one, if ordinary Adivasis start dying in huge numbers, that sympathy could ignite in unexpected ways.

Among the most serious charges levelled against the Maoists is that its leaders have a vested interest in keeping people poor and illiterate in order to retain their hold on them. Critics ask why, after working in areas like Dandakaranya for 30 years, they still do not run schools and clinics, why they don’t have check dams and advanced agriculture, and why people are still dying of malaria and malnutrition. Good question. But it ignores the reality of what it means to be a banned organisation whose members – even if they are doctors or teachers – are liable to be shot on sight. It would be more useful to direct the same question to the government of India, which has none of these constraints. Why is it that in tribal areas that are not overrun by Maoists there are no schools, no hospitals, no check dams? Why do people in Chattisgarh suffer from such acute malnutrition that doctors have begun to call it “nutritional AIDS” because of the effect it has on the human immune system?

In their censored chapter in the ministry of Panchayati Raj report, Ajay Dandekar and Chitrangada Choudhury (no fans of the Maoists – they call the party ideology “brutal and cynical”) write:

“So the Maoists today have a dual effect on the ground in PESA areas. By virtue of the gun they wield, they are able to evoke some fear in the administration at the village/block/district level. They consequently prevent the common villager’s powerlessness over the neglect or violation of protective laws like PESA, eg, warning a talathi, who might be demanding bribes in return for fulfilling the duty mandated to him under the Forest Rights Act, a trader who might be paying an exploitative rate for forest produce, or a contractor who is violating the minimum wage. The party has also done an immense amount of rural development work, such as mobilising community labour for farm ponds, rainwater harvesting and land conservation works in the Dandakaranya region, which villagers testified had improved their crops and improved their food security situation.”

In their recently published empirical analysis of the working of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) in 200 Maoist-affected districts in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, which appeared in The Economic and Political Weekly, the authors Kaustav Banerjee and Partha Saha say:

“The field survey revealed that the charge that the Maoists have been blocking developmental schemes does not seem to hold much ground. In fact Bastar seems to be doing much better in terms of NREGA than some other areas . . . on top of that, the wage struggles, the enforcement of minimum wages can be traced back to the wage struggles led by the Maoists in that area. A clear result that we came across is the doubling of the wage rates for tendu leaf collection in most Maoist areas . . . Also, the Maoists have been encouraging the conduct [sic] of social audits since this helps in the creation of a new kind of democratic practice hitherto unseen in India.”

Implicit in a lot of the debate around Maoists is the old, patronising, tendency to cast “the masses”, the Adivasi people in this case, in the role of the dim-witted horde, completely controlled by a handful of wicked “outsiders”. One university professor, a well-known Maoist baiter, accused the leaders of the party of being parasites preying on poor Adivasis. To bolster his case, he compared the lack of development in Dandakaranya to the prosperity in Kerala. After suggesting that the non-Adivasi leaders were all cowards “hiding safely in the forest”, he appealed to all Adivasi Maoist guerrillas and village militia to surrender before a panel of middle-class Gandhian activists (hand-picked by him). He called for the non-Adivasi leadership to be tried for war crimes. Why non-Adivasi Gandhians are acceptable, but not non-Adivasi Maoists, he did not say. There is something very disturbing about this inability to credit ordinary people with being capable of weighing the odds and making their own decisions.

In Orissa, for instance, there are a number of diverse struggles being waged by unarmed resistance movements that often have sharp differences with each other. And yet between them all they have managed to temporarily stop some major corporations from being able to proceed with their projects – the Tatas in Kalinganagar, Posco in Jagatsinghpur, Vedanta in Niyamgiri. Unlike in Bastar, where they control territory and are well entrenched, the Maoists tend to use Orissa only as a corridor for their squads to pass through. But as the security forces close in on peaceful movements and ratchet up the repression, local people have to think very seriously about the pros and cons of involving the Maoist Party in their struggles. Will its armed squads stay and fight the state repression that will inevitably follow a Maoist “action”? Or will they retreat and leave unarmed people to deal with police terror? Activists and ordinary people falsely accused of being Maoists are already being jailed. Many have been killed in cold blood. But a tense, uneasy dance continues between the unarmed resistance and the CPI (Maoist). On occasion, the party has done irresponsible things which have led to horrible consequences for ordinary people. In 2006 at the height of the tension between the Dalit and Adivasi communities in Kandhamal District, the Maoists shot dead Laxmananda Saraswati, leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a fascist outfit of proselytisers, working among Adivasis to bring them “back into the Hindu fold”. After the murder, enraged Kandha tribals who had been recently converted to Hinduism were encouraged to go on a rampage. Almost 400 villages were convulsed with anti-Christian violence. Fifty-four Panna Dalit Christians were killed, more than 200 churches burned. Tens of thousands had to flee their homes. Many still live in camps, unable to return. A somewhat different, but equally dangerous situation is brewing in Narayanpatna and Koraput, districts where the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (which the police say is a Maoist “front”) is fighting to restore land to Adivasis that was illegally appropriated by local moneylenders and liquor dealers (many of them Dalit). These areas are reeling under police terror, with hundreds of Adivasis thrown in Koraput jail and thousands living in the forests, afraid to go home.

People who live in situations like this do not simply take instructions from a handful of ideologues who appear out of nowhere waving guns. Their decisions of what strategies to employ take into account a whole host of considerations: the history of the struggle, the nature of the repression, the urgency of the situation, and quite crucially, the landscape in which their struggle is taking place. The decision of whether to be a Gandhian or a Maoist, militant or peaceful, or a bit of both (like in Nandigram), is not always a moral or ideological one. Quite often it’s a tactical one. Gandhian satyagraha, for example, is a kind of political theatre. In order for it to be effective, it needs a sympathetic audience, which villagers deep in the forest do not have. When a posse of 800 policemen lays a cordon around a forest village at night and begins to burn houses and shoot people, will a hunger strike help? (Can starving people go on a hunger strike? And do hunger strikes work when they’re not on TV?) Equally, guerrilla warfare is a strategy that villages in the plains, with no cover for tactical retreat, cannot afford. Fortunately people are capable of breaking through ideological categories, and of being Gandhian in Jantar Mantar, militant in the plains and guerrilla fighters in the forest without necessarily suffering from a crisis of identity. The strength of the insurrection in India is its diversity, not uniformity.

Since the government has expanded its definition of “Maoist” to include anybody who opposes it, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Maoists have moved to centre stage. However, their doctrinal inflexibility, their reputed inability to countenance dissent, to work with other political formations and, most of all, their single-minded, grim, military imagination makes them too small to fill the giant pair of boots that is currently on offer.

(When I met Comrade Roopi in the forest, the first thing the techie-whiz did after greeting me was to ask about an interview I did soon after the Maoists had attacked Rani Bodili, a girls’ school in Dantewada which had been turned into a police camp. More than 50 policemen and SPOs were killed in the attack. “We were glad that you refused to condemn our Rani Bodili attack, but then in the same interview you said that if the Maoists ever come to power the first person we would hang would probably be you,” he said. “Why did you say that? Why do you think we’re like that?” I was settling into my long answer, but we were distracted. I would probably have started with Stalin’s purges – in which millions of ordinary people and almost half of the 75,000 Red Army officers were either jailed or shot, and 98 out of 139 Central Committee members were arrested; gone on to the huge price people paid for China’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution; and might have ended with the Pedamallapuram incident in Andhra Pradesh, when the Maoists, in their previous avatar People’s War, killed the village sarpanch and assaulted women activists for refusing to obey their call to boycott elections.)

Coming back to the question: who can fill that giant pair of boots? Perhaps it cannot, and should not be, a single pair of feet. Sometimes it seems very much as though those who have a radical vision for a newer, better world do not have the steel it takes to resist the military onslaught, and those who have the steel do not have the vision.

Right now the Maoists are the most militant section of a bandwidth of resistance movements fighting an assault on Adivasi homelands by a cartel of mining and infrstructure companies. To deduce from this that the CPI (Maoist) is a party with a new way of thinking about “development” or the environment might be a little far-fetched. (The one reassuring sign is that it has cautiously said that it is against big dams. If it means what it says, that alone would automatically lead to a radically different development model). For a political party that is widely seen as opposing the onslaught of corporate mining, the Maoists’ policy (and practice) on mining remains pretty woolly. In several places where people are fighting mining companies there is a persistent view that the Maoists are not averse to allowing mining and mining-related infrastructure projects to go ahead as long as they are given protection money. From interviews and statements made by their senior leaders on the subject of mining, what emerges is a sort of “we’ll do a better job” approach. They vaguely promise “environmentally sustainable” mining, higher royalties, better resettlement for the displaced and higher stakes for the “stakeholders”. (The present minister for mining and mineral resources, too, thinking along the same lines, stood up in parliament and promised that 26 per cent of the “profits” from mining would go into “tribal development”. What a feast that will be for the pigs at the trough!)

But let’s take a brief look at the star attraction in the mining belt – the several trillion dollars’ worth of bauxite. There is no environmentally sustainable way of mining bauxite and processing it into aluminium. It’s a highly toxic process that most western countries have exported out of their own environments. To produce one tonne of aluminium you need about six tonnes of bauxite, more than a thousand tonnes of water and a massive amount of electricity. For that amount of captive water and electricity, you need big dams, which, as we know, come with their own cycle of cataclysmic destruction. Last of all – the big question – what is the aluminium for? Where is it going? Aluminium is the principal ingredient in the weapons industry – for other countries’ weapons’ industries. Given this, what would a sane, “sustainable” mining policy be? Suppose, for the sake of argument, the CPI (Maoist) were given control of the so-called Red Corridor, the tribal homeland – with its riches of uranium, bauxite, limestone, dolomite, coal, tin, granite, marble – how would it go about the business of policymaking and governance? Would it mine minerals to put on the market in order to create revenue, build infrastructure and expand its operations? Or would it mine only enough to meet people’s basic needs? How would it define “basic needs”? For instance, would nuclear weapons be a “basic need” in a Maoist nation state?

Judging from what is happening in Russia and China, and even Vietnam, communist and capitalist societies eventually seem have one thing in common – the DNA of their dreams. After their revolutions, after building socialist societies that millions of workers and peasants paid for with their lives, both countries now have begun to reverse some of the gains of their revolutions and have turned into unbridled capitalist economies. For them, too, the ability to consume has become the yardstick by which progress is measured. For this kind of “progress” you need industry. To feed the industry you need a steady supply of raw material. For that, you need mines, dams, domination, colonies, war. Old powers are waning, new ones rising. Same story, different characters – rich countries plundering poor ones. Yesterday it was Europe and America, today it’s India and China. Maybe tomorrow it will be Africa. Will there be a tomorrow? Perhaps it’s too late to ask, but then hope has little to do with reason.

Can we expect that an alternative to what looks like certain death for the planet will come from the imagination that has brought about this crisis in the first place? It seems unlikely. The alternative, if there is one, will emerge from the places and the people who have resisted the hegemonic impulse of capitalism and imperialism instead of being co-opted by it.

Here in India, even in the midst of all the violence and greed, there is still immense hope. If anyone can do it, we can do it. We still have a population that has not yet been completely colonised by that consumerist dream. We have a living tradition of those who have struggled for Gandhi’s vision of sustainability and self-reliance, for socialist ideas of egalitarianism and social justice. We have Ambedkar’s vision, which challenges the Gandhians as well the socialists in serious ways. We have the most spectacular coalition of resistance movements with experience, understanding and vision.

Most important of all, India has a surviving Adivasi population of almost 100 million. They are the ones who still know the secrets of sustainable living. If they disappear, they will take those secrets with them. Wars like Operation Green Hunt will make them disappear. So, victory for the prosecutors of these wars will contain within itself the seeds of destruction, not just for Adivasis, but, eventually, for the human race. That’s why the war in central India is so important. That’s why we need a real and urgent conversation between those all those political formations that are resisting this war.

The day capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognise that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers, because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.

The first step towards reimagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination – an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfilment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to our future. To do this, we have to ask our rulers: Can you leave the water in the rivers? The trees in the forest? Can you leave the bauxite in the mountain? If they say cannot, then perhaps they should stop preaching morality to the victims of their wars.

8 Responses to “Arundhati Roy – The Poverty of India’s Trickle-Down Revolution, Pt. 2”

  1. […] Arundhati Roy – The Poverty of India’s Trickle-Down Revolution, Pt. 2 […]

  2. Isms are egos. and egos are manipulated as isms. your writings are neither new nor innovative. but the eyes are changing to equate your writings whether right or wrong, have to be determined by the most of who are waging war on behalf of Indian tribes against the govt of India as well as its state forces.govt of India and the state govts are set to sell out the minerals and natural resources to the local, national, and global capitalists in which the Indian capitalists are a part. writing is a tool, but the tool is not equal to fight against the state, which needs more spirit and strength to fight against the security forces of India.

  3. artemi0 said

    Ayub Mohammed

    Assuming you are referring to Arunditi Roy’s writings here. While the conclusions she draw’s may not necessarily be “new”- I find them innovative and refreshing nonetheless. She is a prominent and respected intellectual who has brought this struggle before a “new” and even international audience. I don’t think this aspect of her work should be disparaged or diminished

    She has in fact taken a side here- on behalf of the tribal people’s of India. Wether she admit’s it or not it’s a side that defacto aligns with the Maoist’s. Taking this stand she has placed herself in harms way, in opposition to the Indian state. She has done so against a backdrop of “Indian Democracy”- and has been scathing and critical to the point of calling out the keystone and foundational aspects of it-and more or less labeled the process as ridiculous.

    This is not to say her writings are uncrititical of Maoist politics in India. In particular she has voiced a rather strong criticism of (aspects)regarding revolutionary violence. I feel some of this criticism is unfounded- it’s a visceral and personal reaction to the more brutal aspects of the revolutionary process. I don’t want to put words in her mouth (she’s more elequent then me and can do so herself)- but she feel’s some aspects of revolutionary violence leave a “bad taste” in her mouth. Fair enough.

    It must be said- her writing lately & overall- recognizes and justifies revolutionary violence via confronting the Indian State. She may not be completely comfortable with it (right now). She may be critical of aspects of revolutionary violence. She has not written it off as a mechanism of social change- and in fact defend’s the Maoist’s in India who are employing it.

    Not the first communist here, and am sure I won’t be the last- who recognizes the somewhat contradictory nature of Arunditi Roy. I understand her as a “body in motion”-her direction leaning more toward our side than to their side (now).

    If we don’t have room for her critical voice in our project, well that says alot more about us than it does of her. For 200-300 yrs since the enlightenment the communist project has had use for critical intellectuals, we need more of them right now and today.

    Ayub Mohammed poses several interesting problematics-to rephrase- Does the gun control the Party? or does the Party control the gun?

    I agree that the gun is the decisive tool. It is not however the only tool to be employed in a protracted struggle against the state. The Indian Maoist’s have given their own projections on the time frame of seizing state power- that is in the next 50 yrs. The pen is definately not the decisive tool- we will not write or blog our way to the finality of revolution. The pen is a tool as well- which gives spirit, strength, and rally’s to the fight.

    Let’s not pit the pen against the gun- we should seek a synergy and use both to maximize effects

  4. Ceylon Communist Party ( Maoist) said

    Arundathi Roy Facing Threat of Sedition Charges:
    By: Surendra Rupasinghe: Chairman: Anti-Imperialist People’s Alliance:

    The Context:
    Arundathi Roy is facing the threat of being charged for sedition by the Indian State. This is because she had visited Indian Occupied Kashmir, met and spoke with a diverse group of people who had shared their grief, bitterness and anger, and who had attested to the atrocities committed against them by the Indian occupation forces. Shaken by this direct experience, she had dared to expose the crimes of occupation and the untold suffering and abuse the people have had to endure for sixty three years. She had exposed the hideous torture to which detainees have been subjected to. She had cried out in agony for the oppressed Kashmir people, including detainees, Moslem women victims of rape, the Dalit soldiers and poor Indians- all of whom are paying the insufferable price of Occupation. On this basis, she had called for freedom, simply as the most civilized and humane solution to this volcanic political crisis and epic human suffering. She had simply stood for the right of self-determination of the Kashmir people, so they can be free of all external manipulations and control, and decide upon the form of independent state under which they shall live with equality, dignity, security and democratic freedom. She is only giving expression to accepted UN resolutions, and to the official declarations of the Indian State itself, which has publicly and on several occasions, reiterated its unwavering commitment to this very same right of self-determination. She is simply demanding that the Indian State lives up to its own stated principles and policies, since this is the way to bring peace, security and justice to the region. The Indian State would be walking into a veritable political storm, where its stark duplicity would be held up before the people of the world, if it would dare to indict Arundathi on sedition charges.

    Alerting The Possibility Of Unprecedented Human Catastrophe:
    She is issuing an implicit warning that unless there is a democratic solution, based on respecting the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, the conflict would lead to even more unthinkable horrifying consequences. And she right. If this conflict is not resolved democratically, and it leads to yet another war between India and Pakistan, it would be catastrophic for the whole South Asian sub-continent- and beyond. There will be colossal human dislocation, death and destruction. It will have lasting devastating effects on the environment. Next time around, a war between India and Pakistan will have global and regional players preying for strategic advantage and superiority. It would bring unprecedented anarchy and chaos, as each imperialist/ reactionary/ expansionist predator power moves to optimize its own political-economic-strategic advantage- at the expense of the other. Implicitly, she is alerting the world of the impending catastrophe, if freedom is not granted to the people of Kashmir- Now!

    Further Duplicity and Deception Or Moving Forwards:
    Now, instead of taking up the critical and vital issue of independence and freedom of the Kashmiri nation– self-determination – simply reiterated by Arundathi Roy and echoing millions of others, and endorsed by the vast majority of countries in the world represented in the UN, the Indian establishment has decided to bring her down as a traitor. She is being accused for calling for the break up of the Indian Union, and indirectly for supporting separatism and terrorism. Instantaneously, almost all the print and electronic media in India have splashed the issue, in a mounting campaign of vilification. It is something to ponder how this particular mix of vocabulary and political culture built around conjoining separatism=terrorism=traitor is gaining legitimacy throughout the neo-colonial states of South Asia- and gaining currency internationally.

    Arundathi: A Guardian and Symbol of Freedom:
    Arundathi Roy is loved and respected, even adored, all over world by all freedom-loving people. She has consistently and courageously stood with the oppressed against the oppressor. She has brought hope and inspiration to the struggles of the oppressed for liberation. What she has done is to speak the truth about the land and the people of Kashmir that countless millions of people in India and around the world have being saying for six decades. Arundathi Roy had also defended the struggle of the adivasi tribal people in that vast and wide expanse referred to as the ‘ red corridor’ to retain their land, livelihood, culture and identity, when the Indian government is trying to liquidate their distinctive existence, in order to offer the land and resources of this vast area for exploitation and plunder by predator multi-national corporations. This revolutionary struggle is being led by Maoist forces, who have been declared to be the most serious threat to internal security by the Indian State, and who are facing sustained vicious military suppression and political repression. Yet, Arundathi Roy had unwaveringly defended the right of the oppressed tribal people to struggle for their land and for their liberation. This position won great and abiding respect, love and admiration for Arundathi Roy from a whole array of progressive, democratic, revolutionary- freedom loving – people of the world.

    An Indomitable Specter Haunting Reaction.
    Arundathi Roy is a specter haunting the Indian Comprador ruling class, which is condemning the vast masses of India to utter poverty, misery and degradation, in order to open wide the gates of imperialist penetration, domination and exploitation, so they may share in the spoils of profit and plunder. The hyped-up economic growth rates and aspirations for big-power status are based on oceans of endless mass poverty, misery and degradation- whether India or China. Regimes that survive by crushing and bleeding the poor, amassing fortunes through naked corruption, enslaving minority nationalities and sit on top of highly hierarchical, hegemonic forms of domination and control cannot tolerate any serious exposure or dissent. Cries for justice based on objective, scientific facts- based on truth, simply have to be extinguished, lest they find resonance in the hearts of the people. This appears to be what Arundathi Roy is facing.

    Hands Off Arundathi:
    When a composite profile of Arundathi Roy’s ideological and political principles are taken into account, she functions as a vanguard fighter for the oppressed that has stood against all established, entrenched and ingrained prejudice, illusion and deception, against all forms domination and subordination carried out by which ever force, and at whatever cost. This is the doctrinal essence of the message that is contained in her cry for the freedom of the Kashmiri people. We salute her for her clarity of vision, indomitable will, and courage of conviction. She has become a clarion voice of the voiceless, a sparkling light of truth, a glowing tribune of the oppressed people, not only in India, but internationally. She truly is a child of the universe who belongs to all the toiling, suffering masses of the world. If the Indian establishment is to condemn, let alone prosecute Arundathi Roy for sedition, then they shall be engaged in trying to extinguish a burning flame of democracy and freedom that has lit the world- and the consequences are bound to reverberate throughout the world.. Hands off Arundathi! will become a resounding, rallying cry for blazing the world with the message of FREEDOM!

  5. Green Red said

    While i have found the whole article fascinating and informative, comrade A Roy has finally has said things that draws a strong line between her own ambitions and, CPI Maoists’ plans.

    Earlier, in Walking with the Comrades, she – correctly – while talking about C Mazumdar, the founder of Indian Maoists’ line and movement, pointed out Indian commies’ indifference and silence about great killings occurring by a Pakistani military dictator. The whole party acted silence. Why? since, Mazumdar and the party had lots of ambitious and hopes to supposedly win a revolution while Chair Mao was alive and radical. And given that India is the China’s neighbor and, its relative positive relations with the Soviet Union, hence having support directly or otherwise for Pakistan, regardless of its terrible regime.

    But in this current great article, through logic such as:

    – – – – – –
    Judging from what is happening in Russia and China, and even Vietnam, communist and capitalist societies eventually seem have one thing in common – the DNA of their dreams. After their revolutions, after building socialist societies that millions of workers and peasants paid for with their lives, both countries now have begun to reverse some of the gains of their revolutions and have turned into unbridled capitalist economies. For them, too, the ability to consume has become the yardstick by which progress is measured. For this kind of “progress” you need industry. To feed the industry you need a steady supply of raw material…
    – – – – – – –
    she is practically drawing a thick line by proclaiming the capitalism and socialism have common DNA !!!! and condemning the current status quo of industrial world, she makes an idol about Adivasis since they live with the forest and without any technology and survives.

    Friend tells me she talks like this to not to get a Naxal label from others. And she is a revolutionary kind of her own…

    True, she defends many, many types of resistance movement in India, from Kashmir that Pakistan does a lot to manipulate to what have you…. and then, all sort of human rights and radical active groups.

    Although she does partially mention it but, what must be focused strongly upon is the type of production, pollution and so forth in capitalist world. Hopefully, Socialist coming revolutions act much greener than the capitalist world but, not enough talked about is the dividing line between Wants and Needs. When something is invented by the capitalists, even if it is want rather than needs but people will go for it. The important fact of the matter is that when socialism – more than a socialism in one country especially – gets in power, feeding all and providing water, electricity and vial things like education and health become much more urgent items – until all have them – than the color of one’s property or, speed of her/his super car model. And until such vital thing is not achieved, she is partially right to make the above comparison but, when true classless society is being defined and tried to built, one must not, due to Russia, China, anywhere’s past think of them as industry loving abuser consumerists.

    Perhaps, global warming and other ecological disaster makes Roy to think well, when the whole urban civilisation is screwed up then, we only have people – like Adivasis – as the sole survivors so, let’s glory their kind. But, cannot we dare to think that with correct communist revolution with having second contradiction (as defined by O’conner – Capitalism, Nature, Socialism)we should not be so depressed and pessimist. Imagine the same number of contemporary brain drained from the world would become communist inventors and scientists. If, their aim would not be immediate and it would be long term and, with lots of progressive minds, together they can, they will be able to find resolutions – only though, if the state and revolution is not under constant pressure from above, blockade and what have you.

    And how about Adivasis’ men and women relations? How do men treat women? Do they call for wedding, mutual love or something else? This, i leave it to you to go and research. We communists want to eliminate Class, Sex, Race, many other problems.

    So, while we must defend the uneducated people who are so ruthlessly exploited but, idolizing them without counting in what the CPI Maoists do and create in their villages, is not progressive enough to be put life and everything for, as apposed to a clear communist agenda.

    Still your fan i am Roy and, i thank people who republish, translate, put online your great writings but, if you read these words, please reply to your faraway middle eastern cousin.

    with regards
    Green Red

  6. Green Red said

    A friend asked a couple of questions about the difference i see in Capitalist and Communist industry.

    I mentioned Want and Need above. And expect ALL PEOPLE’S NEEDS to be fulfilled before being more flexible on personal Wants that are in direct contradictions with need of the many. Lots of productions nowadays are basically done through analyzing people’s psychology and making them commercial obsessed consumers. Be it cars, clothing or what have you.
    But what i needed also to mention that A Roy does not seem to count in is the nature of capitalist production. They produce to sell. Factory lives upon selling since, the capitalist expects constant profit. In second year of studying economy in college a friend tells me about Planned Obsolescence. This is the nature of capitalist factory. To do something that it breaks so, you buy a new one that may has changed bits of its appearance or, it contains faster electronic. And man, they spend so much to find a quicker computer electronic part and, when made, just play with the appearance and give it a fancier look WITH NO PURPOSE BUT TO SELL and FOOL the people.

    What is glorious in Windows 7 or Vista program? They made the mouse sing be a round circle. What psychology believes if it is Round it is more correct? That is idiocy to make a national, racial or sexual people’s interest to manipulate the science. I don’t care if somebody likes to see or write some things round if she or he prefers it that way. I personally have a weak sight that can see straight lines and regular fonts much better than round fonts say like Tahoma. Now you want to label me what? I stand for the need and what is applicable to all/majority. Now if another sector or ethnic group likes it funky or cool i ain’t gonna change my revolutionary paper’s name to make it look to win them over. I say, write things clear for all to read. I say, let’s make a house tool, automobile or what have you that doesn’t go bad in five years but rather lives for over two generation. Now if you think i am conservative then go get a disposable camera but, i consider that a crime against the rest of humanity. And if you think you are progressive or, anti racial/sexual thing so whatever you say is right and any opposing view is a racist sexist, then i better go and hang around A Roy’s Adivasis since, you are as an idiot selfish piece of flesh than any body, be it an Islamic reactionary or self proclaimed revolutionary communist, the moment you say what you say is correct and any opposing view is from a Counter Revolutionary (however more active or passive they might be) i declare you an Xtra Large piece of ego, megalomaniac and, i will be certainly glad if you pull you name and face away from serious revolutionaries. When younger, i though the most selfish leader of a party is the one who wants to be right after Marx Engels Lenin Stalin and Mao’s face logo AFTER DEATH. Now if you want to go beyond that and become a latter day’s new Marx, you are forcing me to quote a serious revolutionary from a serious historical line maker.

    Cheru Mazumdar – a forerunner of one of the most serious important revolutions in history – had once stated like, (not exact words), you do not deserve to be referred to or called a revolutionary, until for the struggle, his hand gets blood stains on it for the class struggles she/he has fought for (or unless his hand do become bloody.)
    In history of the US, right here in the belly of the beast there were few heroes who talked about by any means necessary and groups who quoted Mao talking about political power coming through the barrel of the gun.

    A gun is not a fountain pen and, people’s front is not two, three bookstore or web sites that, in addition to a percentage of supporters’ working income make your ego fed. Weren’t you better sometimes ago? If not directly struggling here, at least cannot you support a people’s struggle if they don’t buy your writings and new self proclaimed masterpieces?

    Thus, if you are not anything near what great comrade Mazumdar had indicated to be worth called a revolutionary, at least support a true revolutionary to be a worthy human being in the belly of the beast and, until you are not within people’s direct struggles and people’s wars, shut up and don’t criticize their occasional negotiations and putting guns down to continue building their people’s movements due to other reasons including their not buying your greatness.

    And negotiation is not a hundred percent Nepal matter. Great fallen comrade Azad – spokesperson of the CPI Maoist central committee was trying to establish a link to counteract Indian regime’s false calling for negotiations. Negotiations are to have time to breathe and become popularized enough before doing the final step to take over the urban part of the country without further attacks from abroad at a time that there is no China and Soviet Union leftover.

    I hope i did not bore you but, there were words kept unsaid for too long from within my soul. Where i am wrong say it but, if i am right, please support it too.

    Green Red

  7. Green Red said

    The Exact comrade Charu Mazumdar seems to be the following:

    ‘one cannot be called a revolutionary unles he has dipped his hands in the lod of a class enemy.

    {{Source? I only have seen this quotation in page 265 of the book Red Sun, Travels in Naxalite Country, written by Sudep CHakravarti, printed in India, but, with all my disliking for violence, i still find it the most honest saying about a true revolutionary, in the least, in a third world country}}

  8. Siddhartha said

    Most of the communities in the entire Indian sub-continent(such as Bengali) succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty'(Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is genuinely regret ed or ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common social space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold(supported by some lame excuses). Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour(values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting children those are born out of ignorance, extreme poverty. It seems that all of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of (social) Space’ (Henri Lefebvre), initiate a movement by heart, an intense attachment with the society at large is very much required – one different pathway has to create, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up. – S. Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101.

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