Slumming with the Maoists

via Dr Vijaya Rajiva published on May 30, 2010

In March 21,2010, the writer and activist Arundhati Roy wrote a lengthy article ‘Walking with the comrades ‘ (Outlookindia). This is an adventurous romanticized account of her meeting with Maoists in the forests of Dandakaranya, where the non Tribal Maoists had entrenched themselves since 1980.The article does not add anything new to our knowledge of the Maoists or the tribal youth whom they had inducted into their struggle against the Indian state, which is not already in the public domain. And it also omits much that is significant and is also already in the public domain. Whichever way one reads the article there is a glorification of the Maoist cause : the overthrow of the Indian state (which Roy curiously calls the upper class Hindu state) and their pretence of benefiting the Tribals of the area. The present writer has already drawn attention to
the question of what have the Maoists done for the welfare of the Tribals which justifies their attack on the Indian state and the atrocities they have committed against Indian civilians, both Tribal and mainstream.

The article reads like good fiction and should be so read. Ms. Roy has a felicitous way of invoking the terrain and expressing her own responses to her physical environment,the beauty of the Dandakaranaya forest and the cultural practices of the Tribals, although the ones she met were those trained by the non Tribal Maoist leaders from outside the region. So far so good. Anyone has the right and privilege of experiencing the beauties of Nature. But to conflate this with an almost schoolgirlish awe at the presence of hardened Maoist leaders whom she was meeting for the first time, is silly to say the least.

But expecting any serious analysis of the situation from Ms. Roy would be a misguided expectation. Ms Roy is a good writer of fiction but not to be taken seriously as a sociological or political commentator. But she can and should be faulted for her unfortunate slamming of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. She refers to his humbug about using non violent methods of struggle. Although Gandhiji did make many errors of judgment, his advocacy of non violent struggle for social justice is the one that activists such as Roy should uphold, not the violence she has openly glorified in her article. This violence has certainly not benefitted the Tribals and has only resulted in setting back their cause by several years. Not Mao but Gandhi is the right choice for any Indian, tribal or non tribal.

Hence, her recent letter to Outlookindia that she has been been misrepresentd by her critics and that she has never used the phrase ‘Gandhians with guns’ to describe the Maoists, is beside the point and is a feeble attempt to extricate herself from the corner into which she has painted herself. Whether it is the Outlookindia blurb that used the phrase, is beside the point. The content of her article is there for all to see. And her entire protestation is in bad faith.

The second problem with Ms. Roy is that she shares with some(not all) Indian activists a visceral dislike of Hinduism. In her case it is compounded by the fact that she is not Hindu, hailing as she does from a Kerala Christian family. No doubt she grew up with pejorative statements by the Christian community about the pagans and their religion. Her observation in the article that Hinduism’s greatest gift to humanity is the caste system is so silly and yet she does seem to take her own ignorance of the religion seriously enough that she advances it as the root cause of the plight of the Tribals. There is a caustic (jaundiced !)mention of one of the early attempts of Hindu religious leaders to work for the uplift of the Tribals. Conversely, there is no mention of Christian proselytisation of the Tribals. Nor has she made any attempt to assess the sterling work done by Hindu groups such as the RSS to break down the barriers of the caste system and the remarkable educational work done in their schools for the Tribals. More needs to be done by a conscious effort of all Indians, but it has to be done within the ethos of the country’s heritage. And that civilisational heritage is without question Hindu.

Like many contemporary Indian writers on the subject (Hindus and non Hindus alike)her real target is Hinduism. And when cornered by inconsistencies arising from their ignorance of the religion, they retreat into the popular ruse that they are attacking Hindutva , not Hinduism.

The present writer agree with VS Naipaul that Hindutva or Hindu Nationalism is the expression of Hindu identity which had long been suppressed by the dark night of Occupation , both Islamic and European.

In this context the question can be asked : what is Ms Roy’s agenda ? Her schoolgirlish awe in the presence of criminal non tribal Maoist leadership is yet to be unravelled. And probably could be ignored if it were not for the glaring fact that the Maoists are, as Manmohan Singh put it, the greatest internal security threat that India currently faces. And the line that she pedals is against the overall health of the Indian body politic and should be firmly rejected.

(Dr. Rajiva is a Political Scientist who taught at a Canadian university).

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