With chapters of my book having come back with edits and with a new chapter I have been working on together with talking to the cover designer, I have been on a blog-break of late.
However when sensational things like Arundhati Roy justifying the reign of terror unleashed by the Naxals and Kamal Khan hurling a waterbottle at designer delicate-flower Rohit Verma (who weeps like somebody has died when asked to cook) on Big Boss Tritiyaa happen then I am forced to break the silence.
Sensational yes. Surprising no. After all both Ms. Roy and Mr. Khan push the envelope of outrageousness for the expressed purpose of self-promotion, a game known as Rakhiopoly wherein one is forced to continually raise the bar of provocativeness in order to keep oneself in the public gaze.
That is however where the similarity between the two ends. Because MNS’s-worst-nightmare KRK, with his silver gun locket and his “I am a multimillionaire whose milk comes from Netherlands” fondness for the endowed “Ka-Laudia” , is immensely endearing and totally entertaining.
Whereas Ms. Roy’s recycling of Chomskian rhetoric (“You have an army of very poor people being faced down by an army of rich that are corporate-backed”) in a way even Pritam would scoff at being unimaginatively unoriginal and her monumental hypocrisy (“If all corporations are evil, why does she take payments from publishing houses and if the environment is being destroyed, why does she let trees be destroyed to enable her to make money off selling her prose?”) is plain tiresome.
Yet what provokes me to post is that for many what she says about Naxals finds resonance in that Naxals are considered to be “independent” Robin Hoods fighting the system on behalf of the dispossessed, a militant reaction to state-oppression from tribals and other marginalized folks. This explains why the arrest of people like Chhatradhar Mahato is met with email petitions (like this one) [the argument being that Mahato is not a Naxal but a tribal leader even though Naxals were holding hostages demanding the release of "non-Naxal" Mahato) and people, like our prime minister, go to great lengths to point out that Naxals are not terrorists .
The argument as to who is a "terrorist" and who is "misguided youth" is a never-ending one (For instance, in the Western "liberal" media, the people who attacked WTC are terrorists but those who attacked the Indian parliament are "militants") that has been fought over so many times that it is not worth going into again. However what requires comment is that Naxals are anything but the "little guys fighting for justice pushed into a corner" that their PR people like Ms. Roy would have us believe. They are an organized army-like entity with a leadership structure whose principal goal is the destruction of the Indian state and the rule of law. They terrorize the populations they claim to protect, extort and appropriate resources from the dispossessed and engage in violence against people who do not represent the state. Their arms are sophisticated, they are financed by India's enemies and they are allied with SIMI tapping into their organization and their funding channels.
However unlike your average SIMI terrorists who at least publicly are condemned by one and all, the Naxals have widespread support and sympathy among the chattering classes (who ironically will be the first persons strung on trees and their possessions taken if the Naxals attain their aims). In an age where the battle is not only fought with guns and bombs but also with TV cameras and boom mics, this makes the Naxals even more dangerous.
In West Bengal, allied with the state "opposition" (who are ironically part of the government at the Center and playing a heinous double game [Link] of opportunistic collusion) and provided full support by the intellectual base in Kolkata consisting of a motley crowd of marginal actresses/directors/theater personalities/poets one of whom even donning Maoist fatigues while meeting the “non Naxal Naxal leader” Chattradhar Mahato , they have won a string of major victories by weakening the state and derailing development. And not coincidentally after their major victories, the armed insurgency in the region has also seen a remarkable escalation with the state government finding their hands bound by the deluge of public opinion, misguided and all-informed it is, in favor of the “tribals” –a campaign of misinformation orchestrated by Naxal sympathizers in the media and influential sections of the intelligentsia.
Given this, it becomes contingent on us to raise our voices, even when a book needs editing and release deadlines approach and annual evaluations are due and midterms need grading and project work need to be completed, to call out the Naxals for what they are.
Which incidentally is the name of Kamal Khan’s iconic movie.