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Transcription — Arundhati Roy on Free Speech Radio News

Posted by redpines on March 23, 2012

Many thanks to Julie for this transcription.

“You cannot equate violence of the resistance with the structural violence of the Indian state which is resulting in 250.000 farmers killing themselves, 80% of the population living in poverty.  You really can’t equate the two.  And that’s what many people do. “

Arundhati Roy on the Maoist movement in India – Free Speech Radio News – 17 November 2011

FSRN: In India’s rural forests, mining corporations and state militias have launched a violent assault on the Maoist guerillas and landless tribal communities.  Activist and author Arundhati Roy spent weeks with the Maoist fighters in the conflict zone, and her time there is the subject of a new book called ‘Walking with the Comrades’.  It’s a first-hand account of the hidden side of the global economy and an analysis of a long-running and often misunderstood armed movement.  She joins us from New-York.  Arundhati Roy, welcome to FSRN.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you so much.

FSRN: Let’s begin with the region where you spent time, Dantekaranya, in India.  Describe the place and the people who live there.

AR: It’s a kind of large strait of uninterrupted forest inhabited mostly by various indigenous tribes.  In the area that I visited, there was mostly one tribe, called the Gonds.  And there, for the last 30 years, there has been a sort of incipient Maoist movement which has right now surfaced in a really serious way because of the fact that the Indian government has signed over much of this forest land, the rivers, the mountains, everything to various multinational corporations for building dams, steel plants and aluminium refineries.  There are, all together in India, about 100 million indigenous people, seriously under threat, living very very fragile lives.

FSRN: You talk about the agreements, the formal agreements, that have been made between these multinational corporations and the Indian goverment.  One of those companies that is operating in the region is called Vedanta.  Can you tell us about that company and how it operates in the area?

AR: Vedanta wasn’t exactly in the area that I visited.  They’re just coming there.  But it has signed huge agreements for the mining of bauxite in the state of Orissa.  Vedanta is one of the largest corporations in the world.  It is listed on the London Stock Exchange.  It’s leader lives in the former house of the Shah of Iran.  It is mining in areas where these indigenous tribes, the Dongria, the Gonds, live.  And it’s one of the most ruthless mining company in the world, I would say.  Actually, the process of mining bauxite and turning it into aluminium is one of the most toxic processes in the world.  Aluminium is sort of central to the weapons industry.  So, because it’s such a toxic process, it has been sort of exported out of Europe and America to countries like India.  But that process requires such a lot of water and such a lot of electricity, and it creates such a lot of toxic wastes that it devastates the entire environment where an aluminium refinery might be set up.  Vedanta is one of the companies, but there are many others as well.

FSRN: And the effects of a move like that, with the mining of bauxite, not only comes in and takes parts of the land to displace people, but as you outline, it creates these toxic pools.  There a photographs in your book that shows the effects of this kind of mining and what it does to the land.  And one of those areas is, as you describe in your book, a sacred place for the indigenous people there.

AR: Yes, it’s a sacred place and one of them is a mountain called the Niyamgiri, which means ‘the mountain of justice’.  It is as sacred to them as a church or a mosque is to a christian or a muslim.  But since they are the poorest people, whatever sacred it is to them, it doesn’t seem to matter very much.

FSRN: Another aspect of this, in addition to the influence of multinational corporations and mining, is the military campaign.  The Indian government launched a campaign called ‘Operation Green Hunt’ against Maoist forces.  It came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called them the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by the country.  How does ‘Operation Green Hunt’ play out on the ground there?

AR: ‘Operation Green Hunt’ was announced in 2009.  And the shares of mining companies went up.  And then, something like 200.000 paramilitaries, heavily armed paramilitary forces began to move into the forest.  So now, as we speak, preparations are on for the army to move in.  And so we are going to witness India, which calls itself the larger democracy in the world, which has already deployed its army several times in states of the north-east, in Kashmir, in Telengana, in Goa, in Punjab, deploying it against its poorest people.  India has one of the biggest defense budgets in the world.  All this power is going to be directed against the poorest people in the country because those Memorandum of Understanding have been signed and the corporations are running out of patience.

FSRN: While you talk about the operation under way now, you point out that in 2010, the chief negociator for the Communist Party of India was shot and killed by the Andhra Pradesh state police, and that was at the beginning of a round of peace talks.  Is there a peace process now?  Where does that stands today?

AR: No, there isn’t a peace process at all now.  India’s willing to talk to Pakistan, to talk to anybody else, but not to the poor.  Right now, as I said, I think that … when one side kills the peace emissary of the other side, it is pretty clear that they don’t want to have peace talks.  But it’s going to take them a while to move large numbers of soldiers into the area.  And the army is sort of refusing to be deployed unless it has the impunity of this law called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which allows solders to kill on suspicion.  They have that law covering them in Kashmire, in the north-east, which is why we’re now dicovering mass graves there.  But the army won’t want to move in unless it has the cover of this law.  Otherwise, it’ll just be courts and all kinds of litigations and so on.  There’s a lot of reaction against this law in India, so I think they’re going to pretend to repeal it and then put provisions into some other laws and make it apply across the country.  Because, in fact, there’s a lot of unrest all over the country.  It’s gradually becoming very militarize.  You can’t push through this free market policies without taking over people’s land, without privatizing, without building dams and so on.  In order to control a restive population, you need to militarize.  And to militarize, the security forces need the impunity.  So I think all that is being negociated now, so there’s a sort of quiet ominous silence, I would say.

FSRN: Arundhati Roy, one of the aspect of your new book ‘Walking with the Comrades’ is its questioning, its investigation, its exploration of the comrades themselves: ‘Who are the comrades?’  And although the government often paints the Maoist movement in one bright brush, you write of how the Communist movement has evolved.  That, in the beginning, under the founder of the Naxalite movement, it was stuck to a strict ideology and followed China even as atrocities were taking place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge or killings in Bangladesh.  But at least, in the area where you were, it has changed somewhat.  Naxalites are made up of largely displaced tribal people.  Primarily, it’s local concerns rather than a global ideology that motivates them.  How has the movement changed over time?

AR: As I said, there were a whole lot of ideological and moral questions that I had about their alignments in the past.  Their epicenter was China, not really the concerns of the country they lived in.  So they did keep quiet over the genocide in Bangladesh, what was going on in Cambodia.  That was unfortunate.  Now, the real question is: how Maoist are the Maoists?  Since they really are made up of… 99,9% of the guerilla army are indigenous, what we call adivasi people, 45% of them are women.  The party in the past has not had a very good reputation in the ways it deals with women within its own quarters.  I thought that had changed when I was there, I was quite impressed by the women that I met there and by how freely they spoke about their problems and what they were trying to do about it.  But I think the main question that I have right now, is, what is this battle about?  Is it a battle for a redefinition of the meaning of progress, of the meaning of civilization, of what constitutes human’s happiness?  And Communist Parties have not shown any great difference in the way they approach the environment or anything in their past, in Russia or in China.  And so I ask the comrades: you’re resisting this corporate take over now, but theoretically, if you were to come to power, would you leave the bauxite in the mountain?  Do you have a different view of development?  And I think that’s a kind of pressure that we all need to keep up because it is a question that the whole world has to consider.  Today, the planet is in crisis and there has to be a radical questionning of what is going on.  Just like America, in America, you have 400 people who own as much wealth as half of the American population.  In India, we have 100 people who own assests equal to one fourth of the GDP.  And we have 80% of the population living on less than 50 cents a day.  So something has to change radically.  The idea of capitalism, of progress, the measure of these things linked to consumption, all of this has to change.  While I support the resistance in the forest, I do think it’s time to begin to ask what exactly they are fighting for.

FSRN: Well, it’s not just those broad questions, philosophical questions, but also some of the practices.  The practices of summary executions, mistaken killings where civilians have been victims.  It’s not a movement without criticism in India.  And you bring up those issues too.

AR: I do.  The fact is that one of the problem is that the way the Indian government and the Indian security forces are trying to break the movement is by infiltrating it with informers and spies and so on.  And also the fact that the Indian legal system, the courts, are completely outside the reach of ordinary people.  So when that is happening, or if, let say, a thousand paramilitaries go and burn a village with information from somebody, you wonder who can the villagers turn to.  Because they can’t go and file a police case, they can’t go to court, the whole machinery of democracy is ranged against them.  The democracy in India is only for the middle class.  So then, this kind of system of rough justice surfaces and of course, sometimes it works, but sometimes it’s completely wrong.  And what are we to do about it?  Thses are not of course new questions.  There are questions that armed resistance and armed struggles have faced all along.  It becomes the responsibility of those of us who don’t condemn them outright to actually keep the pressure on and to question these things.

FSRN: Some of the most memorable people that you speak with and meet while you’re in the forest, and that we come to meet as readers, are women.  As you report, 45% of the members are women and that traditionnal discrimination and violence in some of the tribal communities have motivated some of the women to join the movement.  And also, once the women are inside the Communist Party, they faced discrimination over the years.  Can you tell us about one of the woman you met?

AR: Inside the forest, I met women who had watched their partners, who had had their partners being captured, tortured and killed.  I met women who had seen their families being slaughtered or who had watched their sisters or mothers being raped, and then had taken the gun.  When I was outside, I met an extraordinary woman called Padma, who used to be with the Maoists.  And then she had been arrested and she had been beaten so much that her organs were all hammered.  She had to have most of them removed.  Her knees were smashed because the police said: ‘we don’t want you to be walking in that forest again’.  When I met her, she was only in her thirties but she had to drag herself up the steps and down the steps.  But now, she’s working with an organisation of the parents, the relatives of murdered people.  And she would just criss-cross the state in whatever vehicule she could get and collect the dead bodies to take them back to the homes of the people who were just too poor to even make that journey (travel from this end of their state to the other to pick up their loved-ones who have been killed).

FSRN: While you were there, there are numbers of vivid scenes that we come across and one of them is a moment where you’re looking through a laptop, I believe it is, and through media reports that have come out.  And you find a video interview with yourself, with you detailing your own work.  I was interested to hear how people you spent time with in the forest viewed you, and how they saw your visit there and what they hoped that you would bring to the outside world.

AR: The thing is that … just in order to be invited to go into the forest required a certain amount of trust from their part.  Because, as I said, having spies and informers infiltrating them was one of the major tactics used by the security and the intelligence services.  I think what happened with me is they viewed me as somebody who was not going to just go in there and please them, and say ‘I’m a Maoist’ and ‘I’m on your side’ and ‘I believe in everything that you do’.  But as somebody who is prepared to be open-minded and prepared to criticize them, but from a position of integrity.  Not from a vested interest or from a position where I was really working for somebody else, or somebody else’s agenda.  And also not to be superficial because what happens is that, in this kind of atrocity based analysis, where terrible things are done by both sides, you tend to forget what is actually going on.  You cannot equate violence of the resistance with the structural violence of the Indian state which is resulting in 250.000 farmers killing themselves, 80% of the population living in poverty.  You really can’t equate the two.  And that’s what many people do.  The liberal Indian intellectuals just say: ‘this is bad, that is bad, poor people are stuck in the middle, so let’s just leave it’.  Even the idea of non-violence, at some point, becomes immoral.  When you are watching a violent onslaught on a people who then respond, and you just say ‘no, at any cost, you have to be non-violent’… if you were in the middle of that conflict and you said it, that would be one thing.  But from a very safe distance, to sit there and say it, I think it’s unacceptable.  I think that was it.  They saw me as somebody who wasn’t someone who was playing for popularity or longing to please the establishment, who would think it through for myself.  Even if that resulted in criticizing them.

FSRN: Questions fill your writing in this book.  Questions about preconceptions, about the role of the military or corporations, about the idea even of armed struggle, of justice, of poverty.  It’s a continual and focused inquiry that animates this book.  What questions do you still have at this point?

AR: The question now is no an analytical question so much as a question of ‘what do we do to this mantle, what we know is an absolutely destructive way of thinking, way of living?’  What is it that connects the Wall Street Occupation to the people in the forest?  And I think what connects it is absolute exclusion of the majority of the people in the world for the obscene benefit of a very few.  So after having gone through almost ten or twelve years of travelling, thinking, writing about these things, I come to some pretty simple conclusion.  One of which is that there has to be a lid on the amassing of wealth for any individual or any corporation.  I believe that this cross-ownership of businesses has to stop, like a mining corporation can’t own a newspaper and a university and a NGO and a hospital and a law school and a few television companies.  It’s just suicidal.  I think we really have to enter a period where we begin to put a lid on all of this and a cap on all of this just for the survival of, not just human being, but the planet itself.

FSRN: Arundhati Roy’s new book is called ‘Walking with the Comrades’.  It documents the weeks she spent with Maoist guerillas in the forest of India, and it brings a critical look at the violent government response to the movement.

Posted in India News, Indian Maoism, Indigenous Struggles | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Nepal – Indigenous Groups Demand Autonomy

Posted by hetty7 on February 24, 2012

Magar peoples in Nepal

The Maoists of Nepal have long called for a Federated People’s Democratic Republic. Kasama’s Nepal’s Crossroads: Without a people’s army, the people have nothingaddresses this issue, which is related to the article below:

For a Federated People’s Democratic Republic Broad ranks within Nepal’s Maoist party have been opposed to proposals and compromises that would consolidate a parliamentary political order without basic revolutionary change. They have popularized their plan for a New Nepal: a federated people’s democratic republic.

This envisions a determined and thorough uprooting of the oppressive old feudal culture and an agrarian revolution to end the exploitation of rural people by landowners and usurers. It would bring a historic end to the domination of Nepal by India and foreign corporations. And it would overthrow survivals of the previous political-military system that served elites alone.

Having a federated republic means an end to theocratic Hindu hegemony and the dominance in Nepal of one ethnicity and language. It would involve forms of autonomy in local areas, establishing equality of many minority religions, languages, and ethnic groups for the first time.

This article is from myrepublica

Indigenous groups demand autonomy

Rohit Rai

Dharan, Jan. 21: Leaders of indigenous groups  have said they will exercise autonomy through their own mechanism if the political parties fail to ensure right to self-determination and autonomy in the new constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

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India: Tribal peoples fight corporate land grabs in Jharkand

Posted by redpines on January 15, 2012

The following is a discussion of a group of adivasi (tribal) people in Northeastern India who are resisting forced displacement from their land and homes by corporate mining and industrial interests.

In a span of three to four years the Jharkhandi people began to realize that the central & state governments were not for peoples’ welfare but that they were laying steps to sell off peoples’ land, their water & forest resources together with all the mineral riches to corporate houses. They decided to act. Wherever projects together with land requirements were announced, people mobilized and organized themselves and said a definite ‘no’ to the government and companies. People’s Resistance Movements Against Dispacement sprang up in different parts of Jharkhand from 2004 onwards.

Explanatory notes: an MOU is a “Memorandum of Understanding, in this case between corporations and the Indian state. A lakh is a unit of measurement equal to 100,000.

Though this piece is a great introduction to tribal resistance in India, this site does not necessarily endorse all the analysis contained within. The article originally appeared at Sanhati.

Where Ants Drove Out Elephants – The Story of People’s Resistance to Displacement in Jharkhand

January 6, 2012

By Stan Swamy

This article is an introduction to the trajectory of peoples’ movements against displacement in Jharkhand in the last few years. As the author writes, the resistance in Jharkhand has resulted in the fact that “[o]ut of the about one hundred MOUs signed by Jharkhand government with industrialists, hardly three or four companies have succeeded in acquiring some land, set up their industries and start partial production.” – Ed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Maoists call for 24-hour shutdown to protest police atrocities

Posted by D and I Consulting on August 25, 2011

Jhargram, August 24 (ANI): The Maoist backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) organisation in Jhargram district of West Bengal called for a 24-hour shutdown on Monday against the atrocities that are committed by the police on the innocent villagers and complained of apathy by state government. It was in Lodhasuli that the Maoists had called for a shutdown and around 300 tribals, who supported PCPA, attended the meeting in the area. Joydeb Mahato, a PCPA leader, said that the shutdown would also be observed on Wednesday.

Posted in India Background, India News, Indian Maoism, Indigenous Struggles | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Arundhati Roy: On the Forces Against the Indian State

Posted by D and I Consulting on August 23, 2011

The author Arundhati Roy has described herself as "Maoist sympathizer, not ideologue."

Arundhati Roy, noted author of works like the God of Small Things and Walking with the Comrades shares this opinion piece regarding the two forces working to depose the cruel Indian central government: the first a people’s army waging a liberating armed struggle movement with the support of the poorest of the poor and the other a Ghandian moralist movement led by privileged sectors. Posting here is not an endorsement of the views presented.

“you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State. One working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other, from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people.”

I’d rather not be Anna

While his means maybe Gandhian, his demands are certainly not.

If what we’re watching on TV is indeed a revolution, then it has to be one of the more embarrassing and unintelligible ones of recent times. For now, whatever questions you may have about the Jan Lokpal Bill, here are the answers you’re likely to get: tick the box — (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki Jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hind. Read the rest of this entry »

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Revolutionary Sounds: Naxalite by the Asian Dub Foundation

Posted by D and I Consulting on August 7, 2011

Thanks to Naxalite Maoist India blog for sharing this video depicting remarkable photos of the Naxalite struggle to the music of the Asian Dub Foundation and their song ‘Naxalite’. 

Posted in Indian Maoism, Indigenous Struggles | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

India: Conflict over Anti-Maoist Militias

Posted by D and I Consulting on July 14, 2011

Thanks to Revolutionary Frontlines for sharing this. The Indian state has declared war on the Adivasi (indigenous) people of India by forced displacement from their homes in order to pave the way for multinational corporations to extract resources from their land, such as limestone, dolomite, coal, and bauxite. The Maoists of India known as “Naxalites” have militantly defended the Adivasi people and have won the support of thousands of the poorest of the poor in India because of this. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) which leads this struggle against the repressive Indian state has been the target of many attacks, both physically and ideologically. Individuals who have spoken out in support of the Maoists, such as Arundhati Roy and Dr. Binayak Sen have faced arrest and threats from the State. India’s central government has now called for the regional government of Chhattisgarh to disband its anti-Maoist militias that were formed to terrorize the people including anyone suspected of being a Maoist supporter. This should not be seen as a victory – the Indian state has recently moved specialized armies into Maoist liberated areas in order to carry the murders of hundreds of individuals fighting for liberation.

MUNEEZA NAQVI, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW DELHI, July 06, 2011 – India’s Supreme Court has told the government of an eastern state to disband a militia being used to fight Maoist rebels, a move that was hailed Wednesday by rights activists.
The court’s order to the government of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday said the arming of mostly poor tribesmen was unconstitutional.

“It’s really a significant judgment. The judgment upholds constitutional principles,” said Nandini Sundar, a sociologist and rights activist who was one of the people who petitioned the court. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cambodia: Activists Protest as Navi from ‘Avatar’ Against Forest Destruction

Posted by redpines on June 3, 2011

Though the fight to preserve the Prey Lang forest is not an explicitly Communist struggle, it is important to note that the Cambodian masses are responding to the same capitalist dynamics of ecological destruction, exploitation and rural displacement that have sparked revolutionary upsurges in India, Nepal and elsewhere. Not only is the forest a vitally important source of biodiversity, it provides villagers in four Cambodian provinces with food and a way of life. It should also be noted that these struggle over the future of the Prey Lang forest is being carried out, in part, against companies based in revisionist Vietnam.

“In addition to its wildlife, the largely unprotected forest is also home to a quarter of million people who are largely dependent on its renewable resources, many of whom are from the Kuy indigenous group.”

This article originally appeared here.

Cambodians rally as ‘Avatars’ to save one of the region’s last great rainforests

by Jeremy Hance

Two hundred Cambodians rallied in Phnom Penh last week to protest the widespread destruction of one of Southeast Asia’s last intact lowland rainforests, known as Prey Lang. In an effort to gain wider media attention, protestors donned dress and make-up inspired by the James Cameron film, Avatar, which depicts the destruction of a forest and its inhabitants on an alien world. The idea worked as the rally received international attention from Reuters, CNN (i-report), MSNBC, and NPR, among other media outlets. Read the rest of this entry »

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