Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Window on Maoism in Chhattisgarh

Maoism has reached its peak in many senses in the Dandakaranya region in the extreme south of the State of Chhattisgarh in India.  The Maoists have an active mass base of people in the area who are ruled by their Janathana Sarkar and they have a People's Liberation Guerrilla army and also armed jan militias which are capable of defending their areas of control against the security forces of the Indian State. Due to their ruthless execution of informers the Maoists have also ensured that not only are the movements of their armed cadre and top  leaders shrouded in absolute secrecy but also that very little authentic information about them is available to the intelligence agencies of the State and the general public. Thus, the only way to get to know something about this armed political movement, that has successfully fought the State in its remote forested bastion, is when the Maoists themselves allow some intellectuals and journalists into their area to talk to them and see their activities. Since in today's media dominated world it is important to have publicity, the Maoists have selectively chosen to open a few windows from time to time into their otherwise information dark room. Shubhanshu Choudhury's book "Lets Call Him Vasu – With the Maoists in Chhattisgarh" is the latest in a slew of such books or monographs that have been published in recent times, written by journalists or intellectuals who have  been favoured by the Maoists to peek into their otherwise closed world.
This book provides some interesting insights into the Maoist movement in Dandakaranya on the basis of hard journalistic reporting. The most important is the massive support that the Maoists have among the tribals in their area of influence which ensures their being able to survive despite the State's concerted offensive against them. The State's strategy of launching a counter movement of tribals in the form of the "Salwa Judum" and displacing them from the villages and putting them in camps near the highways has backfired.  The tribals who suffered the atrocities of the Salwa Judum and witnessed the rampant corruption and mismanagement in the camps have preferred to cast their lot with the Maoists despite the risks of State oppression involved in this. The young tribals, both boys and girls, have joined the Jan Militia and then graduated to the PLGA and are fiercely committed to establishing their Janathana Sarkar and freeing themselves from the yoke of the Indian State which they find to be unjust and repressive. Clearly it is not only the fear of the Maoist's guns that keep the tribals in their thrall but also a genuine disillusionment with the way the Indian State has functioned in their area.
The second important insight is regarding the weapons and military tactics of the Maoists. Shubhranshu through discreet but pointed questioning has been able to ferret out some information about this. Regulation firearms are at a premium for the Maoists and they have to get them mainly by raiding the camps of the security forces or police stations or blowing up their patrols. Even so bullets are difficult to get and so there are standing instructions that firearms are not to be used unless absolutely necessary. This increases the importance of the less efficient country made firearms and especially the improvised explosive devices which are the most favoured weapons for attack. Consequently, the Maoists are rarely in a position these days to face frontally any big exercise of the security forces and rely instead on well planned secret attacks on smaller patrols who are foolish enough to ignore safety precautions. Their tribal intelligence network immediately gives the Maoists information about possible sitting ducks among the security forces and so there are regular such sorties which result in the death  of security personnel and an increase in the arms cache of the Maoists.
The book deals with the various aspects of Maoism in Dandakaranya laced into the personal narrative of one Maoist who is given the name Vasu. This is the person who has made it possible for Shubhranshu to get a chance to be with the Maoists and even interview the elusive General Secretary Ganapathy. The story of Vasu underlines the deep commitment of the non-tribal cadre of the Maoists who have sacrificed everything for the cause of the Indian Revolution and are living in extremely hard conditions, always on the move, even though they are now in their fifties or more. However, Vasu's story also underlines the futility of the Maoist enterprise of bringing about a revolution from a remote tribal corner in the current global and national context. Vasu has two children who are now grown up and are living a mainstream life in Andhra Pradesh. He has never been in touch with them after going underground due to security reasons and desperately writes a letter and gives it to Shubhranshu to deliver to them which the latter obviously tears and throws away the moment he is out of the Maoist area and before he encounters any police personnel!!  This futility of the Maoist project is further underlined when Shubhranshu does not succeed in getting any satisfactory answers to the many uncomfortable questions he asks Ganapathy about the future of the movement in the context of the dominance of the mighty Indian State and its total encirclement and containment of the movement to a few remote forested patches peopled by tribals.
There are many more stories in this book which have been narrated in a simple style and provide a very interesting read. Overall this book represents good investigative non-judgmental journalism that has brought out some earlier unknown information about one of the long standing underground armed political movements in this country and is recommended reading for both lay readers and scholars.

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