About the Book
A report from the epicentre of conflict In its war against the Maoists, it is the Indian State that usually gets to tell its side of the story. But official explanations are not meant to convey the truth. Most often they attempt to cover up or obscure the reality. In this situation of internal war, not satisfied with the knowledge offered by books and documents, Gautam Navlakha went into the heart of Bastar to get to know the Maoists first-hand. This book is an account of the fortnight he spent in the guerrilla zone where the Maoists run their people's government, the Janatam Sarkar. His inquiry unflinching and his perspective critical but partisan-Navlakha succeeds in the difficult task of making the demonized human, laying bare the heartland of rebellion.
About the Author
Gautam Navlakha is a civil liberties activist working of the non funded People Union for Democratic Rights (Delhi) and was associated with Economic and Political Weekly for more than three decades. He lives in New Delhi.
I woke up with the moon shining bright on my face. During the fifteen-day journey every night I saw the moon grow in size. From new moon to full moon, a fortnight was now coming to an end. Tonight would be full moon. It was 3.30 a.m. and I could not sleep. I sat up. It was the day we were to return. My heart felt heavy. I heard Jan stir next to me. He asked me, 'Is something wrong?' I said, 'I am not able to fall asleep. I feel sad wondering if 1 will get to see "them" again will these young women and men with whom I spent days nights be still around? The party members we got to know and with whom we shared so much-talking, arguing discussing so frankly-will I get to meet them again?
39; said, 'Yes, it's been quite remarkable meeting all of them, I for one have been treated as a grandfather, rather strange for someone like me who comes from Sweden, you. 'But listen,' he said, 'you can still return, whereas I am not only getting old but also do not think that I will be allowed to return.' We sat talking in whispers. But the feeling did not disappear. Just when it was time for us to bid goodbye at the 'border' Niti came up to me and said, 'Bhai, mujhe bahut bura lag raha hai ki aap log ja rahe ho.' (Brother, I feel bad that you all are leaving today.) I said that is our feeling too. She added, 'Hum yahi baat kar rahe the ki John sir se kabhi milna nahin hoga. Lekin aap vapas aaoge na?' (We were discussing that we might not meet John Sir ever again, but you will come again, won't you?) I told her she could count on me that I will never give up trying to make my way back there to see them. I meant every word. What a tragedy it would be if these men and women were to die at the hands of security forces that neither know nor appreciate the motivation of these courageous young people-what the party means to them, why they took up arms, what they have achieved, why they joined this resistance and what their dreams are. When it comes to looking at military suppression by the Indian State there is a tendency to read it as less than war. The reason we do not perceive it as war is because it takes place within the borders of the 'nation state' where deployment of 'Armed Forces of the Union' is considered legitimate, whatever be the reason. For instance, if one equates the promotion of mining and industrialization with 'development', then those who oppose this can projected as 'unlawful' and accused of disloyalty and treason and therefore designated as 'enemy'. Never mind that the government and corporations feel free to acquire through force and fraud.
Those who organize resistance against this either face annihilation through military operations or get incapacitated by charges of sedition and 'waging war', stripped of their right to expression and association. And yet, it cannot be denied that it is our people who are being militarily suppressed. The Doctrine for Sub-Conventional Operations brought out by the Integrated Headquarters in the Ministry of. Defence (Army)' points out that in sub-conventional warfare there is a blurring of distinction between 'front and rear; strategic and tactical; combatants and non-combatants'.' Therefore, there 'is a need to change a soldier's mindset from fighting the "enemy" in a conventional conflict, for which he is trained, to fighting his "own people"." At another place the doctrine lays down what is expected from fighting one's own people and says that' ... the military operations should aim firstly, at neutralizing all hostile elements in the conflict zone that oppose or retard the peace initiatives and secondly, at transforming the will and attitudes of the people ... The endeavour should be to bring about a realization the fighting the government is a "no win" situation and that their anti-government stance will only delay the return of peace and normalcy. Therefore, distancing from the terrorists in their own interest and the only plausible course of action. However, the manifestation of such a realization can take from a couple of years to decades as attitudes take time to form and to change [emphasis mine]. The actual conduct of such wars of suppression brings out the brutal nature of this form of warfare. It invariably involves disappearance, detention, torture, rape and a very incidence of killings, with rare instances of justice. Therefore, when every abuse has been employed against Maoists/Naxalites-when they are diagnosed, dissected and demonized-we would still be compelled to answer some fundamental questions: Why this war? Who are these '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 (PW), their political goals and themselves? How do they intend to take a leap from their forest strongholds into the world outside? There is also more than one side in a war. To claim that only one warring side has the right to propagate its views whereas the other does not because they are projected as 'enemy' makes even less sense in a situation of internal war where both sides comprise our own people. Therefore, a desire to humanize the demonized, and to get to know the Maoists first hand-not just through sporadic conversations, books, documents but to travel and meet and see for myself-had been building up for many years. Twice I came close to making the trip.
The first time I was let down by two young journalists who failed to show up at the rendezvous. Another time I was unable to prepare myself at short notice. I was not going to miss out on this third opportunity. Although what is called the guerrilla zone is still an area of contention and control between the government and the 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.
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