Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Roy Among the Comrades -- II

I have previously expressed some irritation at Arundhati Roy's "embedded" piece from Dantewada, while affirming its essential importance: whatever "side" you find yourself on, you need to read this piece if you are interested in Indian politics, economic growth (more broadly, the discipline that used to be called "political economy" back in Adam Smith's day; I'm one of those who wishes it still was), and even global economic growth, with an especial focus on the "extractive"/mining industries. But Barkha Dutt's tweet, responding to yesterday's appalling massacre of 76 security personnel by Naxal rebels by taking a dig at Roy for even writing about the issue ("no more 36 page essays on the good folk of dantewada pls"), is silly: the severity and scale of this attack makes 36-page essays on understanding what the state is up against even more important. Recoiling from horror into ignorance is no tribute to the fallen: it is the privilege of those whose lives are not at risk. That can't be said of either the dead jawans or "the good folk of Dantewada". We do neither any service by reflexively jumping to the view that only an escalation in hostilities can serve the purpose.

I am not naive, and do not doubt that the Naxalites can be beaten without the use of military force/police action -- but nor can the rebellion's back be broken absent a far-reaching overhaul of the way in which the state treats its most marginal citizens. Unlike what is suggested by some of Roy's rhetoric, I do not believe this is a war being waged to wholesale displace adivasis or to exterminate them -- but there is no doubt that they are being made to bear the costs of economic development for which they see virtually no benefits. As long as that doesn't change, the insurgency cannot be dealt with: the massacre of 76 jawans (themselves almost certainly from some of the poorest segments of Indian society) doesn't change that reality; nor should it diminish the urgency of understanding the Naxalite point of view, of hearing adivasi voices that we simply don't get to hear very much of in the mainstream media. The lives of not just adivasis in Dantewada, but of many more men like the 76 slaughtered yesterday, depend on it.


ms said...

murder is murder. no flowery rhetoric by self-proclaimed voice of the naxals is going to ever change that. in the congo, overlords and boy soldiers have captured the country's source of income, the diamond mines. in this country, naxals have done the same by capturing the mineral rich areas. the same format: boy soldiers on a rampage, influx of arms and torturing and terrorising of villagers, pushing the population out of regions into other states and refugee camps. they want the run of the country where law and order doesn't exist. and for all those asking who is funding them and supplying ammunition? if mumbai underworld is not suffering from weapons deprivation, right under the proud noses of the brave maharashtra police and MMS, what goes on in the jungles policed by raw recruits is anyone's guess.

Jean-Paul, Canada said...

Neither am I naïve, but I am stumped to pinpoint the when Miss Roy became a militant (violent) Maoist. I saw a YouTube dated July 2007 of Roy speaking in Seattle, USA. I understood her anti-globalization rhetoric... but i had never thought it possible that she would revert to violence.

Does anybody know??

Qalandar said...

Jean Paul: to be fair, I doubt Roy would agree with that characterization; i.e. she would say that she isn't in favor of violence, but that the "causative" violence here is that of the state. [That is, one might say that Roy excuses violence by Naxalites, but I doubt she would accept that sort of framing of the discussion.]

milieu said...

I tend to agree with economist Jagdish Bhagwati's quote about Roy that "her conclusions are far more obvious than her arguments and that makes it impossible to function. You don t know where to begin or where to end."


Nevertheless its very important to hear those arguments carefully because there isn't any other articulate voice which holds such strong unconventional views in India.

Alas, Barkha Dutt seem to be too busy in recent times to reflect upon her behavior and responsibility as a front-line journalist.