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Arundhati Roy Terms Maoist Attacks Like Chhattisgarh As Counter-Violence


In the aftermath of the Maoist attack on the Congress Yatra in Chhattisgarh on Saturday, activist and writer Arundhati Roy points out in an interview to CNN-IBN that the Maoists have no choice but to indulge in ‘counter violence’.

Here is Roy’s interview with CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghosh:

Arundhati Roy. AFP

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Well, this is an odd way to frame before and after Dantewada happened because actually you know this cycle of violence has been building on and on. This is not the first time that a large number of security personnel have been killed by the Maoists. I have written about it and the other attacks that took place between the years 2005-2007. The way I look at is often you know people make it sound that oh on this side of people, who are celebrating the killing of CRPF jawans and that side of the people who are asking for the Maoists to be wiped out. This is not the case. I think that you got to look at the every death as a terrible tragedy. In a system, in a war that’s been pushed on the people and that unfortunately is becoming a war of the rich against the poor. In which rich put forward the poorest of the poor to fight the poor. CRPF are terrible victims but they are not just victims of the Maoists. They are victims of a system of structural violence that is taking place, that sort to be drowned in this empty condemnation industry that goes on which is entirely meaningless because most of the time people who condemn them have really no sympathy for them. They are just using them as pawns.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> There is some simple sort of litmus test for that, is it the case that there are hospitals, schools, low malnutrition and lot of development in poor areas where there aren’t any Maoists? That’s not the case. The fact is even if you look at the studies that have been done by doctors in a place like Bilashpur. What Vinayak Sen describes as nutritional aids is happening. When you go into the schools, you see that they are used as barracks. They are built as barracks so as to say that Maoists blow up schools and they are against development is a bit ridiculous.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> This is a strange charge on someone who is writing about non-violence and non-violence movement fro 10 years now. But what I saw when I went into the forests was this – that non-violence resistance though it has actually not worked; not in the ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ and not even in many other non-violence movements and not even in the militant movements. It has worked in some parts of the movement. But inside the forests it’s a different story because non-violence and in particularly, Gandhian non-violence in some ways needs an audience. It’s a theater that needs an audience. But inside the forests there is no audience when a thousand police come and surround the forest village in the middle of the night, what are they to do? How are the hungry to go on a hunger strike? How are the people with no money to boycott taxes or foreign goods or do consumer boycotts?

They have nothing. I do see the violence inside that forest as a ‘counter violence’. As a ‘violence of resistance’ and I do feel terrible about the fact that there is this increasing cycle of violence that the more weapons the government arms the police with those weapons end up with the Maoist PLGA. It’s a terrible thing to do to any society. I don’t think that there is any romance in it. However I’m not against romance. I do feel it’s incredible that these poor people are standing up against this mighty state that is sending thousands and thousands of Para-military. I mean, what they are doing in those forests against those people with AK-47 and grenades.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> They snatched it from cops.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> No, I’m not. Because I think it suits the status-quo to have everybody saying…this is terrible and all. So just let’s just keep on without taking it into account the terrible structural violence that actually is creating a ‘genocidal situation’ in those tribal areas. If you look at the levels of malnutrition, if you look at the levels of absolute desperation there; any responsible person has to say that the violence will stop when you stop pushing those people. When you have a whole community of tribal; which by the way, is a population larger than the population of the most countries, is actually on the brink of survival, fighting for its own annihilation. I can’t equate their reactions, their resistance to the violence of the state. I think it’s immoral to equate the two.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> I think there are something about Gandhi, which do deserved to be mocked and I think there are something about him which deserve a great deal of respect. Particularly, his (Gandhi’s) ideas of consumption, minimalist and sustainable living. However, let me read what he said in his thing of trusteeship. This is a quote of his notion of trusteeship, “the rich man will be left in possession of his wealth of which he will use what he reasonably requires for his personal needs and will act as a trustee for the remainder to be used for the good of the society”. I think that is one statement which can be mocked. I have no problem mocking it.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> No, certainly I feel that India is a oligarchy where it does work as a democracy for the middle classes and the upper classes.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Yeah, because it doesn’t work for the mass of the people it’s a fake democracy. So you have institution which has been hollowed out, you have institution to which poor have no access and when you look at the institution of the democracy, look at the elections, at the court, at the media and you look at the judiciary. You have a very dangerous system building. If you increasingly excluding a vast section of the poorer people in this country and that’s why I say it fake. It works for some and it doesn’t work for others depending on where you want to place your feet; your politics is defined. If you stand in Greater Kailash; sure it’s a great and vibrant democracy but if you stand in Dantewada- it is no democracy at all. You have a Chief Minister who basically said that those who don’t come out of the forests and live in Salwa Judum camps are terrorists. So looking after your chickens and tending to your fields is a terrorist act? Is that democracy?

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Well there are two things. First on a philosophical level I would say that I don’t believe that the imagination that has brought to the planet to this crisis is going to come up with an alternative. So the least we can do is to stop and enlighten those who we think of as keepers of our past but could be people who have the wisdom for the future.

But on “Operation Green hunt”, I would like to say three things, I think government should come clean on all these MoUs, infrastructures projects; declare them and tell us what they are and freeze them for now. Insist that all the villagers that have been pushed out, we are talking of hundreds and thousands of people be rehabilitated. Guns need to be pulled back.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> You see what’s happening now with that the privatization of the mining industry that there is a very sort of false understanding that mining is going to push up growth. It will push it up in strange way which has nothing to do with the real development. But if you look at the royalties that the government gets e.g for iron ores Rs 27 for 5,000 tonnes profit for the private company. We are paying without ecology of other people’s economy. So it’s a myth of this thing called growth.

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> I’m afraid of myself. These are not my skills. I don’t trust myself. If you are a basket ballplayer you can’t be a swimmer. So I think there are people who would do a good job but I don’t think I’m one of them. But I think one question we have to ask is whom do we mean when we say Maoist? Who does the ‘Operation Green Hunt’ want to target? Because for this there has been a discrete separation been made that here are the Maoists and here are the tribal. On the other hand some people say Maoists represent the tribal. Neither of which is true. The fact is that the about 99 per cent Maoists are tribal. But all tribal are not Maoists, still numbers turn into tens and thousands of people who would officially call themselves Maoists. Among them 90,000 women belong to women organisation. 10,000 belong to the cultural organisation. So are they all going to be wiped out?

Sagarika Ghose: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Are you worried about the case that has been filed against you? There has been a complaint filed against you under Chhaatisgarh Special Powers Act (CSPA) and police are investigating on that for lending your support to the Maoists after your article. Are you worried about the state prosecution?

Arundhati Roy: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Why do you think your writings are as controversial as they are. Why does India love to hate Arundhati Roy? Why does there are so much hate mail directed at you? Why do people think you say things that people don’t agree with? Why are you the writer that India loves to hate?

Arundhati Roy: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> But do you think there is a problem. Do you think the government, the media, the kind of dominant culture is targeting intellectuals, is targeting people like human right activists? Is this dangerous?

Arundhati Roy: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Let me just ask you what a viewer wrote to me, “ when I see a 16-year-old with a gun, I would feel scared and mourn that. Why would Arundhati Roy when she looks at a 16-year-old look with a gun celebrated and say she is so beautiful, she has a lovely smile”?

Arundhati Roy: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Let me read out some of the criticisms that have been made against you fellow thinkers and activists, who said “ she equates their cynical quest for power with genuine demands, rights and concern of the people who live in the forests. She give new meaning to the binary logic something which she ridiculed George W Bush for. She is at the moment a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. And another par lance is that she would be described as an embedded journalist”. How do you react to this criticism?

Arundhati Roy: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> So you believe that Constitution has ceased to exist?

Arundhati Roy: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Do you think of ever giving up India and living up in somewhere else?

Arundhati Roy: