Sagarika Ghose interviews Arundhati Roy for CNN-IBN:
Sagarika Ghose: You wrote your article ‘Walking with the comrades’ in The Outlook before Dantewada happened. In the aftermath of the Dantewada, do you still stand by the tone of sympathy that you had with the Maoists cause in that essay?
Arundhati Roy: Well, this is a 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: Who then will break the cycle of violence? The state argues that the reason why the state has to cleanse the area or sanitize the area is because whenever it initiates development works on bridges or starts school; those are blown up by the Maoists. Is it that the cycle of violence according to you can only be broken by the states and if the state pulls back is that what you believe?
Arundhati Roy: 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: But you condemn state violence and the charge against you is that you don’t condemn Naxals violence and also you don’t condemn Maoists violence. In fact you rationalise it and even romaticising violence? That is a charge made against you and in fact if I can read from your essay where you have written that, “I feel I want to say something about the futility of violence but what should I suggest they do? Go to court, a rally, and a hunger strike that sounds ridiculous; which party they should vote for, which democratic institution they should approach? You seem to be saying that non-violence is futile?
Arundhati Roy: 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.
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