Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion – Gautam Navlakha

03 Apr

[In January 2010, leading democratic rights activist Gautam Navlakha accompanied Swedish writer Jan Myrdal to the jungles of Central India, and engaged in conversations with the leadership of CPI(Maoist). In the following essay, being published exclusively at Sanhati, he explores further the various facets of Maoist politics and the socioeconomic and cultural life in the Dandakaranya region. – Ed]
When every abuse has been hurled and epithet employed against the Maoists, half-truths and untruths begin to acquire wings. They are diagnosed, dissected, and demonised; the intelligentsia are reluctant to face facts. Yet we are still compelled to demystify reality and to answer some fundamental questions: Why this war? Who are these people, the “single biggest threat” to India’s internal security? What is their politics? Why do they justify violence? How do they perceive their “people’s war”, their political goals and themselves? How do they intend to take a leap from their forest strongholds into the world outside?
This desire to humanize the demonised and to get to know the Maoists first hand, i.e., not simply through conversations, books, and documents, but to travel and meet and to see for myself, had been building up for many years. Twice I came close to making the trip. On the first occasion, I was ditched by two young journalists who failed to show up at the rendezvous. On the second occasion, I was unable to prepare myself at short notice. I was not going to miss out on this, my third opportunity. Anyways, what follows is that I – along with Swedish writer Jan Myrdal – saw, heard, read, discussed, debated, and argued during a fortnight-long journey in January 2010 in what the CPI (Maoists) describe as a guerilla zone, where they run Jantanam Sarkar (JS) or their “people’s government”. Although “guerilla zone” is still an area of contention and control between the government and rebels, it is nevertheless an area where the Indian State has been forced to retreat and is using military force to re-establish its authority.
Truth, it is said, is the first casualty of war. Therefore, it is not surprising that Indian government denies the very fact of prosecuting a war against the CPI(Maoist)! Instead, it is said that they are merely carrying out “police action” to restore civil authority. A police action brings the image of baton or lathi wielding cops trying to restore order in a riotous situation. Whereas 75 battalions (bns) of central para military forces especially trained in jungle warfare and assisted by more than 100 bns of state armed constabularies, the Indian Reserve bns and the SPOs, all heavily armed, have been deployed [1]. Besides, Union Minister of Home P Chidambaram categorically asserted that Indian government had a “legitimate right” to use “as much force as necessary” against the Maoists (Times of India, March 13, 2010). An extraordinary control regime is in place, which among other things, regulates entry and exit into areas held by the Maoists guerillas, somewhat akin to entering another country. Unless people carry identity cards signed by the Superintendent of Police they can neither enter nor exit from the area. As for movement of

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