Tag Archive for 'Maoism'

Arundhati Roy: ‘They are trying to keep me destabilised. Anybody who says anything is in danger’

Stephen Moss in The Guardian:

This is not an ideal beginning. I bump into Arundhati Roy as we are both heading for the loo in the foyer of the large building that houses her publisher Penguin’s offices. There are some authors, V S Naipaul say, with whom this could be awkward. But not Roy, who makes me feel instantly at ease. A few minutes later, her publicist settles us in a small, bare room. As we take our positions on either side of a narrow desk I liken it to an interrogation suite. But she says that in India, interrogation rooms are a good deal less salubrious than this.

Roy, who is 50 this year, is best known for her 1997 Booker prize-winning novel The God of Small Things, but for the past decade has been an increasingly vocal critic of the Indian state, attacking its policy towards Kashmir, the environmental destruction wrought by rapid development, the country’s nuclear weapons programme and corruption. As a prominent opponent of everything connected with globalisation, she is seeking to construct a “new modernity” based on sustainability and a defence of traditional ways of life.

Her new book, Broken Republic, brings together three essays about the Maoist guerrilla movement in the forests of central India that is resisting the government’s attempts to develop and mine land on which tribal people live. The central essay, Walking with the Comrades, is a brilliant piece of reportage, recounting three weeks she spent with the guerrillas in the forest. She must, I suggest, have been in great personal danger. “Everybody’s in great danger there, so you can’t go round feeling you are specially in danger,” she says in her pleasant, high-pitched voice. In any case, she says, the violence of bullets and torture are no greater than the violence of hunger and malnutrition, of vulnerable people feeling they’re under siege. More:

Also read FT interview

Nepal’s stalled revolution

Manjushree Thapa in The New York Times. Thapa is the author, most recently, of the novel “Seasons of Flight.”

I WAS at a dinner party in Kathmandu when a journalist friend looked at her cell phone and made a joyous announcement: “Mubarak’s gone!”

“Really?”

“He left Cairo for Sharm el-Sheikh. The army’s taken charge,” she said. No one at that Feb. 11 party, neither the foreign-educated Nepalis nor the expatriates who call Nepal home, had any connection to Egypt. Yet the victory felt personal. A bottle of wine appeared and we toasted Egypt.

As protests spread in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Libya, what is emerging as the “Arab Spring” continues to resonate here. Just five years ago, the world was watching Nepal as it now watches the Mideast and we had our dreams of democracy.

“I don’t know why, but I love to see people revolting against their leaders,” Jhalak Subedi, a magazine editor, wrote on Facebook.

“We Nepalis, we grew up with political movements,” he explained over a cup of coffee. He had came of age amid student politics, was even jailed in 1990 for his activism. “Despite all our movements, we still haven’t been able to have the kind of change our hearts are set on,” he said. “I think that’s why we feel so happy when we see change taking place elsewhere.” More:

 

The Trickledown Revolution

The answer lies not in the excesses of capitalism or communism. It could well spring from our subaltern depths. Arundhati Roy in Outlook:

In the early morning hours of July 2, 2010, in the remote forests of Adilabad, the Andhra Pradesh state police fired a bullet into the chest of a man called Chemkuri Rajkumar, known to his comrades as Azad. Azad was a member of the politburo of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and had been nominated by his party as its chief negotiator for the proposed peace talks with the Government of India. Why did the police fire at point-blank range and leave those tell-tale burn marks, when they could so easily have covered their tracks? Was it a mistake or was it a message?

They killed a second person that morning—Hemchandra Pandey, a young journalist who was travelling with Azad when he was apprehended. Why did they kill him? Was it to make sure no eyewitness remained alive to tell the tale? Or was it just whimsy?

In the course of a war, if, in the preliminary stages of a peace negotiation, one side executes the envoy of the other side, it’s reasonable to assume that the side that did the killing does not want peace. It looks very much as though Azad was killed because someone decided that the stakes were too high to allow him to remain alive. That decision could turn out to be a serious error of judgement. Not just because of who he was, but because of the political climate in India today.

Days after I said goodbye to the comrades and emerged from the Dandakaranya forest, I found myself charting a weary but familiar course to Jantar Mantar, on Parliament Street in New Delhi. Jantar Mantar is an old observatory built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 1710. In those days it was a scientific marvel, used to tell the time, predict the weather and study the planets. Today, it’s a not-so-hot tourist attraction that doubles up as Delhi’s little showroom for democracy.

For some years now, protests—unless they are patronised by political parties or religious organisations—have been banned in Delhi. The Boat Club on Rajpath, which has in the past seen huge, historic rallies that sometimes lasted for days, is out of bounds for political activity now, and is only available for picnics, balloon-sellers and boat-rides. As for India Gate, candlelight vigils and boutique protests for middle-class causes, such as ‘Justice for Jessica’—the model who was killed in a Delhi bar by a thug with political connections—are allowed, but nothing more. More:

Can the Left become relevant to Islamic Pakistan?

Pervez Hoodbhoy in New Politics (via 3quarksdaily):

The left has always been a marginal actor on Pakistan’s national scene. While this bald truth must be told, in no way do I wish to belittle the enormous sacrifices made by numerous progressive individuals, as well as small groups. They unionized industrial and railway workers, helped peasants organize against powerful landlords, inspired Pakistan’s minority provinces to demand their rights, set standards of writing and journalism, etc. But the Left has never had a national presence and, even at its peak during the 1970s, could not muster even a fraction of the street power of the Islamic or mainstream parties.

A comparison with India is telling. While the Indian Left has also never attained state power — or even come close to exercising power and influence on the scale of the Congress Party — it looms large in states like Kerala, Tripura, and West Bengal where it successfully ended iniquitous feudal land relations. Across the country it helps maintain a secular polity, protects minorities, keeps alive a broad focus on progressive ideas in culture, art, and education, and uses science to fight superstition. Today, a Maoist movement militantly challenges the depredations of capitalism as it wreaks destruction on their native habitat. Left-inspired movements noticeably impeded passage of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. Indeed, for all its divisions and in-fighting, the Indian Left is a significant political force that is a thousand times stronger than its Pakistani counterpart.

Surely this difference begs an explanation. The answer is to be found in Pakistan’s genesis and the overwhelming role of religion in matters of the state. Understanding this point in detail is crucial to the question: how can one hope to make the Pakistani Left relevant in the future? Are there intelligent ways to deal with a major handicap? More:

Nepal’s perilous ascent

Manjushree Thapa, the author of “Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy,” in The New York Times:

Nepalis will vote today for the first time since a democratic uprising in 2006 that rejected King Gyanendra Shah’s absolute rule and led to a peace deal that ended a 10-year Maoist insurgency. This is not an ordinary election. We will be voting for a 601-member constituent assembly that will draft a new constitution that most likely will abolish the monarchy and will certainly restructure Nepal.

It is compelling, and moving, to live through the remaking of one’s nation.

Still, Katmandu has grown hushed and watchful, and anxious, as Election Day has neared. In previous weeks, the political parties staged rallies, canvassed door to door, and filled the streets with scratchy loudspeaker announcements imploring us to vote.

[Nepal is voting in landmark elections today, March 10]

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In Nepal, monarchy fades from view

The royal past is being slowly rubbed away across the onetime Hindu kingdom of Nepal as the country prepares for a vote for a special assembly to rewrite the Constitution. From The New York Times:

Gorkha, Nepal: This is the cradle of the kingdom, from where, more than 250 years ago, a shrewd and ambitious king named Prithvi Narayan Shah set off to conquer faraway lands and create the nation now known as Nepal. Here today stands a gleaming white marble memorial in his honor, except that on the pedestal where his likeness once stood, His Majesty’s name inscribed below, there is now something decidedly less majestic: a pot of pink geraniums.

The king’s statue was toppled by Maoist insurgents last year. They dragged the head through the narrow cobblestone lanes of Gorkha, smashing it until it broke into pieces and singing, “Long Live the Maoists.”

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