Wednesday, March 31, 2010


By Trevor Selvam 28 March, 2010

(Recently a lengthy article titled 'WALKING WITH THE COMRADES', written by noted writer Arundhati Rai was published in OUTLOOK. In this article she described in detail her experience of visits to Dantewada and other places currently covered by Operation Green Hunt. It was widely appreciated, but some people, particularly on the Internet, spewed venom against Arundhati Roy after reading it. Here we are publishing a reaction to it by Trevor Selvam which appeared on )

For the past few years, I have seen the hate that has been spewed out at Arundhuti Roy. There are various categories of Indian men and women who do not like her. Let us deal with the men first, as their hatred (camouflaged or obvious) for an intelligent female writer is nearly reflexive. Women on the other hand do not seem to have their hate mongering so mordant and merciless and generally do not spew out sexist hatred.

So, by all accounts she is a bitch, a cunt, a Muslim arse-licker and so much more. Who are these people who have such wonderful things to say about her? In the beginning I would not bother to read the responses and letters to various articles on the web. Now, I do scan through them, unpalatable as most of them are. Because they reflect on the psyche of the nation. They mirror the incredible mental descent and cultural depravity of a post-Bollywood, web-savvy class, cut off from historical precedent, unaware of India’s socio-economic past, unaware of rational, sensible discourse and debate, ignorant about India’s own philosophical traditions, let alone world history-- about colonization and the genocide against aboriginal people. What vitriol, filth and misogyny runs through the veins of these Indians! When Sarojini Naidu, Aruna Asaf Ali, Mridula Sarabhai and other women spoke and wrote essays about their feelings about the people of India not a single misogynist invective was hurled at them. Today, when Medha Patkar, Vandana Shiva, Arundhuti Roy, Nandini Haksar and even Sania Mirza reflect on their experiences, Indian men of the above variety unleash their religious, sexual, tribal, super-nationalist, obscurantist prejudices immediately.

So, first there are the flag waivers and false-pride upholders of the Bharat Shining Bajrang Brigade. No matter what, for these people, there are certain aspects about their notion of India that immediately induces a knee-jerk response. And they have been toilet trained from birth to have this Pavlovian response. They must defecate on intelligent, conscious, articulate women who bring the facts out bluntly. With them you don’t bring up issues like India’s miserable record after 62 years of independence in literacy, social hygiene, health, body mass index of 80% of the population, female survival rate, diarrheal deaths, farmer suicides, mass deforestation (except in Maoist areas as agreed upon by the GOI) human development index (in the sub Sahara category), mass increase in poverty, (please do not compare with China or Brazil—because China doctors the numbers, no matter what and Brazil is a flash in the pan!! Even though the UN and the Economist have praised their performance in these areas in the last five years). So for them, Arundhuti Roy is a bitch. And they say so in responses to blogs, websites, newsline sites etc. They have no use for her. Rather than deal with the irrefutable facts and the content of what she raises, they end up fermenting in an anti-intellectualist bog. Responses sprinkled with undertones of religious and communalist hatred are rolled out. Like Barack Obama had to deal with his middle name of Hussein, Arundhuti has to deal with Suzanna. Like the USA has its pot bellied, red-necked, tea party activists shouting “nigger socialist” at Obama, India’s pan-chewing inarticulate Modi-men call her a Christian-Commie bitch.

Then there are the other men and some women, who say they have a problem with her politics! They write the blogs. They are guest columnists. They say she is “sleepwalking”, “moonwalking”, that she is romanticizing tribals, that she is exploiting her Booker fame and going where she does not have acumen and others do! She is pushing the boundaries of journalism, rushing to immature conclusions, raising issues that should not be discussed or have been thrashed out in the annals of deconstructionist academic journals or need to be understood in the terminology of Eurocentric terminology from a hundred years gone by. They talk about the “rumours of Maoism,” the discourse of counter-terrorism, warning about not being influenced by the discourse of insurgency and substitutionalist rhetoric, because it has become sophisticated and unlike the times of Birsa Munda and Sidhu Kanu. In those times when the Brits called anyone “badmash” they were really meaning peasant militants and “dacoit village” meant a community that was in a mood of resistance. Today, they warn, there is a Maoist discourse that overshadows the tribal voice. So, whatever you hear, even if you have been there and talked to ground level tribal activists and villagers, it is still coloured by Maoist rhetoric. Who is whitewashing whom? The Adivasis have become automatons in the hands of the Maoists! Like the blue skinned avatars with long tails, they need urban-skinned, wheel chair bound (many skirmishes in many journals!) what-nuts to show the way! Because, there is no unfiltered tribal discourse anymore. It is all elite discourse. And all this is expertly analyzed and blogged-out from Delhi and Mumbai (without venturing out once to Maoist guerrilla zones) while holding on dearly to obscurantist and pedantic rhetoric from the time of Leon Trotsky. If there is any group or cult that latches on to a Marxist nameplate and lobs stones and pebbles from collapsing rooftops at the masses below, it is this variant. They have a handful of disconnected souls, desperately seeking a space on the “negotiating table with PCC” through statements of disunity, discovering the theory of “sandwiches”, appearing regal-like on TV panels with the nutjob circus of Arnab and Barkha and through their hobbit-like blogs.

And for these folks, suddenly, unconditional non-violence has become gospel. It is somewhat pedestrian, is it not, to suggest that violence must be a last resort? Do these folks really believe that the Maoist organizers have a pathological need to initiate violence? Do they really think that the last few years of active and physical dispossession instituted by the state and police forces, have been carried out with benign persuasion? Do these folks really comprehend the nature of the sadness and deprivation that Adivasis have had to contend with for decades, before there was some sort of organized resistance which led to some minimum gains, which they now want to defend? Sometimes, if it were not for the complicated academic language they use, their logic is no different from that in the mainstream media, whose definitions of violence, “caught in-between”, democracy, upholding the recourse to legal institutions seem paranormally identical. It is like there is no difference between the rant of the Times of India and the refined sardonic comments of those who want to cut down Arundhuti Roy in their fussy, chintzy blogs. They want to call her a bitch too. But they won’t. So they say she moonwalks and sleepwalks; like an imbecile, like a whiny errant spoilt girl, like a non-academic truant who has not studied their gospels on Permanent Revolution.

In the beginning they said, that Naxalites have not given up the tactics of annihilation, although if they bothered to read carefully through the documents of the Maoists, the old annihilation politics had long ago been dispensed with. In those days, small groups of individuals, invariably with college cadre forming a sizable section would swoop down on a local jotedar or landlord without initiating any mass movement or mass activity in the region. The idea was that “action” would create mass initiative and interest. Today, the Maoists reportedly use execution only after there has been a verdict passed in the Local government (Janathan Sarkar). Of course, one could be totally cynical about such exercises, but would that not be a flagrant case of urban elitism? Sometimes, the tribal community has been far more insistent on instituting violent retribution than the guerrilla units themselves. Whenever an informer is executed, especially those who have been responsible for killing Maoists and tribal sympathizers by bringing in the police and the COBRA/EFR/CRPF, the media and their “left” wing democratic proselytizers have ridiculed the process of arriving at such “peoples’ court” decisions, without investigating on the ground. The incident becomes the politics, and the perfunctory analysis of the incident becomes the planted discourse. No effort is made to find out what was behind the incident. That cadres and leaders of the CPI(M) operate as police informers and “dalals” is not a major mystery for the people in these areas. But, for these “left” wing bloggers, who until yesterday denied the existence of aboriginal people ,(only 8% of the population thanks to centuries of genocide against them), “now tribals are killing tribals.” Then they started writing articles that said “It will be hard to find a single Bhattacharya, Banerjee, Mukherjee, Basu or such like among the dead.” Well, that has also started happening. As of yesterday a top Maoist squad leader Bikram alias Abhisek Mukherjee — a former Jadavpur University student—was killed along with three other rebels in an encounter with COBRA commandos in Hathilot forest of Jangalmahal’s Lakhanpur on Thursday night. Either way you are damned. Whether it is Adivasis or non-Adivasis. Even crocodiles, if they could, would sue for the usage of their non-existent tears by such charlatans.

In the beginning they said, that these Maoists do not seem to build any mass movements. It is all secretive and militarist. Then articles started appearing about twenty years of sustained land distribution, cooperative farming, tax collection and distribution, medical clinics, irrigation programs, alternative energy and environmental programs, literacy campaigns, mobile health clinics and the participation of ten of thousands of people. Pictures started appearing of mass gatherings (never mind Arundhuti Roy’s pictures of the Bhumkal celebrations). Do mass movements have to be urban trade union organizations, petition campaigns and “Maidan Chullo” processions only?

In the beginning they said Maoists do not have any urban presence, they do not have any support amongst city intellectuals. They even ruefully said, it’s not like the old Naxalite days! Belatedly they have started a campaign to attack those intellectuals who have stated their clear cut opposition to the policies of the Indian government and in support of the Maoists. They are discovering that more and more city intellectuals and academics find that it is more important to oppose the government’s proto-fascist tactics than to criticize the Maoists for their failings. So they have started attacking these progressive intellectuals through their blogs, writings and attempted caricatures of the Maoists.

In the beginning they also said the Maoists had no tribal and women leaders and when the State started killing Maoist commanders who were women and tribals, and there were more and more spokespersons of tribal origins speaking through mass organizations, they started saying that they do not have any women in their Politburo!

What Arundhuti Roy has been saying for the past several years is nothing new to the Maoists. For years they have been trying to bring to the forefront (their media consciousness and ability to engage the interest of mainstream journalists, domestic and international, is relatively new) ---is the collapse of the possibilities of bringing about social change in India though regular mechanisms. India does not have the organs to promote social equity anymore. They have collapsed completely since the neo-liberalist drive to convert the entire Indian economy into a “do it or otherwise” coercive entity subservient to a handful of large anti-environmentalist business houses. India’s parliament is a sty, full of criminal millionaires. The Congress Party has been running the Salwa Judum and their new avatar, the SPO force. Who is going to negotiate with those who have knives to the throats of the Adivasis? Who is kidding who about exhausting legal channels for change? Where is the scope for challenging national laws that permit USA-like detention without trial systems? Even the Supreme Court’s verdict to produce missing Adivasis within 24 hours has gone completely ignored. Where is the mechanism for implementing seriously the various commissions on minority status and women’s status? Everyone knows that passing bills in Assembly and Parliament are symbolic gestures.

One can dispute many of the tactics of the Maoists and one can critique many of their actions, but it is time for India’s intellectuals to comprehend that diminishing and ridiculing the stand taken by Arundhuti Roy will be a permanent scar on the evolving history of this nation. She is merely stating that the regular channels for genuine change in India are exhausted. Someone has to state this very clearly. That those who are attempting alternate methods are being violently suppressed. And it is their story that she wants to tell. It is time for all the alternative left and democratic opposition to come together on a common platform (even if they disagree on many issues) and jointly oppose this horrendous Green Hunt that is in full swing now, before full scale massacres start happening.

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