Those who have never walked through dark and dangerous forests at night may find it difficult to appreciate not one but several such journeys into Dandakaranya undertaken by the author, spread over seven long years, which resulted in this slim and eminently readable volume. It provides another first-hand account of what Maoists are up to in Chhattisgarh and is a worthy addition to several such recent accounts—Jan Myrdal’s Red Star Over India, Days And Nights In The Heartland Of Rebellion by Gautam Navlakha and Hello, Bastar by Rahul Pandita, among others.
Not surprisingly, like the others this too is a largely sympathetic, and even one-sided account of the insurgents—Choudhary is forced to wonder aloud whether he was an embedded journalist on a conducted tour. But being a son of the soil, who had made the acquaintance of Vasu, a Maoist of some substance in his younger days, Choudhary was on surer ground.
Dandakaranya was meant to be a hideout for the Maoists. But in less than three decades, the forest and mountain range straddling over the five states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra, has transformed into the insurgents’ headquarters. Choudhary’s conversations provide the Maoists’ view of how this came about. One of the illuminating passages suggest that the so-called spontaneous uprising by the tribals against the Maoists called Salwa Judum was planned in New Delhi and executed by the government. The author quotes traders and forest officials admitting that they were alerted in advance and advised not to bid in areas where the ‘spontaneous’ uprising would start months later.
Maoists the author speaks to are surprisingly candid in confessing that they are worried over the attrition rate in their ranks. They freely admit that in Dandakaranya alone, their annual budget is around `12 crore, part of which is funded by tendu-leaf traders (but there is silence on the remaining sources) and that some of them got used to ‘over-spending’. It was a mistake, they say, to accept money from Essar, a private steel company. Comrade Kosa, the top Maoist leader in Dandakaranya, shows off his AK-47, a walkie-talkie and his solar-powered laptop to the author. At the camp, Maoists assemble to watch the film Mrityudand on the laptop. Asked what his son was doing, Kosa casually mentions that he had finished college and was working in the US. In another delightful irony, the book notes that the present Rajah of Bastar, an alumnus of the London School of Economics, is leading tribals to rally against the mining projects of the Tatas.
The book courted an entirely unnecessary controversy by quoting a Maoist courier who claimed that money had been sent to Dr Binayak Sen, the human rights activist undergoing trial for allegedly aiding the insurgents, to arrange for the legal defence of a top Maoist leader in jail. Sen’s role was not germane to the book, and the reference also got diluted because other Maoists, and even the said messenger, have said that Sen never received the money and that he never worked for them.
The title of the book, and the light, conversational style are designed to draw readers who may not have the patience or the inclination also to read about insurgencies. But it provides invaluable insights to policymakers and more serious readers.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
You know, I have never met Mr. Sen, and he is certainly not a Naxal sympathiser. There are people who have come to understand some ideas on the Naxal's, not because they have been 'indoctrinated'. This statement means, that people who even became part of the Naxal movement, were from certain situations, which were anethema to the movement. Can the govt., please make me fathom, how people who had nothing to do with Communism, in the first place, became part of the extreme Communist movement called the Naxalbari movement? These people didn't become part of any mainstream Communist movement, or party. Stalin would have executed them, if they were in Soviet territory, because he would see them a threat to the Soviet state. There is no excuse for the Indian govt., none whatsoever, not even 'Soviet Bolshevism', to fathom why such entities exist. This shouldn't have been at all, in India. All the more reason why Mahatma Gandhi is more relevant to the Indian govt. than the govt. is to itself.
Shubrashu choudhay might hav gone to forests.
sorry his encounter of Maoists read like fiction fit for bollywood film
or he seems to be a daydreamer capitalist in a pursuit to makea quick bite.
He has not met a single true naxalite.His comments on
Binaysk sen taking money is utter nonsense.
OUTLOOKs credibillity is at stake by publishing this review.
Better ignore such book.Let it sell its own.
I watched Mr. Ramesh on Rajya Sabha television, on his views why Maoist insurgency is perceptible to the people. I want to share what is reality, too, and I was disappointed, that Mr. Ramesh had to share such information, because I wasn't aware myself, without information not being shared. If there is an opposition in the Lok Sabha, to the U. P. A., and they sit there, because they are elected, and don't say a word, out of respect for the house, the U. P. A. will not be more or less, secure, or insecure. I mean, the U. P. A. will be aware, that the opposition exists, and they got votes, because they opposed the opposition, and they will frame policies, accordingly. This might make the opposition blameless, and the U. P. A. might surely loose the next election. The term 'politics' is another name for the practice of coercion, by power. This is what democratic politics means, in the west, and in India, and perhaps in democracy, in plain definition. Why should anyone want to be a parliamentarian, when I don't want to contest elections against Mr. Advani, or Ms. Gandhi? We respect them, admittedly. I don't think people need to enter politics for any special reason. Parliament can, it is very evident, sit and make laws not with heated debate, coupled with anger, but otherwise, too. Did Mr. Ramesh perhaps think about what I have expressed, at all?
<p> Another ponderation. If democracy is the practice of coercion by power, and if everyone is powerful in a democracy, why should an individual feel, that everyone has the right to coerce him, because of any consideration, including livelihood, because the Indian Constitution did not want this to happen, but did not expect it? I really don't know, why Mr. Ramesh wants to be a person associated with politics. Today, life is a free for all. I mean, a fight. Dr. Ambedkar was not coerced into framing the Constitution. I feel, people have license, to express themselves, even when they know, I have no opinion but feel disgust, at their expressions.</p>
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