Pick a side

… if you can.

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably caught this bit too. Fearing a CRPF lashback, the villagers have abandoned their homes and disappeared. If I’ve stayed quiet on this for the last week, it is only because I am very torn. I feel for the CRPF guys – apparently they only get Rs 300 a day field allowance, are poorly trained and neglected to an extent where you wonder why they bother to protect us.

But I also feel for the tribals and yet if I mention it, I risk being lumped with terrorists and other unpatriotic elements. If there’s one thing I’ve gone hoarse repeating on this blog, it is that violence is no answer, and yet, what do these people do after years of silent resistance? Are we really listening to their pleas? Nope, we have our iPods plugged in and it doesn’t matter that we’re pushing their limits further back, encroaching on their livelihood and squashing them mercilessly. Exactly how long did we imagine we’d get away with ignoring their plight?

The government is gearing up to crush them, they say. Crush, defeat, repress – I am tired of hearing such terms. Everyone has a point. There are three sides to every story. When are we going to give them a fair hearing? Why can we not meet them halfway? It is as much their India as it is ours so how dare we override their rights to their way of life?

I know Arundhati Roy is nobody’s favourite person, and yet I can’t help but see her point. In fact, lets not talk about Arundhati – I leave you with Palash’s piece on Mob. He says it better.


39 thoughts on “Pick a side

  1. It is hard to pick a side on this, just as you had written. Arundati, for all her flaws, makes good point in this case. I think the tribal’s troubles are very similar to the troubles of the North-east. We will use the area / tribals and what not when we need it, and don’t care much about developing the region or providing them a sustaining livelihood.

    I don’t have all the facts to know how successful is the “Native American Reservations” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_reservation) created in the US but we can try to see, if a similar model can be followed in India. These regions can be ear-marked to belong to the tribals, owned & inhabited by them, so that it cannot be encroached by anyone (even the state/central govts), may be even make these semi-autonomous regions. I don’t know, how these tribal land are managed today in India, so my solution might be naive /primitive, but we need to start somewhere.

    PS: Once a de-lurker, always a de-lurker 🙂

    PPS: Arundati reminds me of your previous post about not finishing a book by a famous person – Arundati’s God of Small Children was that book to me. I am more tenacious when it comes to reading books, so I ploughed through and finished the book months (if not years) after starting. Guess I am making a habit of cross-referencing posts & commenting, must tell you how my mind works 🙂

  2. I agree that violence is not an answer to anything. Especially not to violence. The sad part in our country is that I don’t feel safe enough to assume that the law is above human emotion. I am not picking a side either. But I do agree that retaliation is not a solution.

  3. Yes, its very hard. The problem is government has not been able to do anything at the grass roots. They just keep giving reservations as a way to uplift the supressed people. What they don’t realize that the people are so supressed that they can’t even reach the level to avail the reservations. We just need better governance, but how do we get it?

  4. I agree, mad momma, we cannot ignore the plight of the poor, the tribals, the villagers, the marginal people in India forever. It’s always surprised me when I’ve filmed in the slums, why there is not more violence in our country.

      • what surprises me is that people react to something like this with – oh – you bleeding heart socialists…
        and i agree… violence is never the answer, but dont give me bull about dialogue and government schemes because you have only to go visit them to see that nothing ever trickles down to them

    • And have you seen the last issue (April 19th) of India Today? The cover story reads – Declare War: The Dantewada massacre proves the failure of soft options. Bullet for bullet, the naxals must be defeated.

      What are these soft options? I have every bit of sympathy for the dead CRPF jawans, but this isn’t about 76 jawans dying. Its also about the 1000s of tribals who have died because they’re losing their livelihood and their homes and have not had Chidambaram paying them his respects.

  5. Violence is always the last resort…of people who feel helpless, and unheard. If the tribals have reached that far, the solution is not to crush them. What happened to talking? And listening?

    and isn’t this evident at every level of society, including the family? Crush the ‘troublemakers’?

    • and i think here, there seems to be some confusion over who the trouble makers really are. Isn’t this also what the British tried with us when we fought for our rights in our own land?

  6. I must also say that Maoists are not always representative of the tribal cause. Tribal is not always equal to Maoist and Maoist is not always equal to tribal. Almost always, Maoists deal ruthlessly with any difference of opinion, even if it comes from tribal persons. And not all their activities are always linked with their proclaimed greater good.

    Tribals are hounded by the state, and hounded tribals are often driven to Maoism in their desperation. What else can one do, once branded as a Maoist? Some flee and bury their stories deep in their hearts. But several Maoists don’t always use violence as the last resort. To lead an armed struggle, violence has to become normal, everyday for them. And with that come human rights violations on this side of the fence also.

  7. I loved how Anjali put it: “Tribal is not always equal to Maoist and Maoist is not always equal to tribal. Almost always, Maoists deal ruthlessly with any difference of opinion, even if it comes from tribal persons.”

    Firstly, the state and the steps it has taken in the past have gone seriously wrong, in terms of honouring this difference. Secondly, the fact that the state has gone horribly wrong in SOME ways (and I do not think one of those is backing capitalism) cannot serve as a justification for becoming or glorifying insurgents with illegal arms. Thirdly, though I don’t want to be calling anyone a bleeding heart socialist, but why channelize all the hatred towards capitalism either? Has it done us no good? What would be good enough here: earmarking out pretty little forested Naxalite and Maoist countries in the heart of India? Because mainstream induction clearly isn’t working. What is the guarantee that these baby-faced terrorists will not come back and become red/blue/yellow revolutionaries claiming the state sidelined them? Lots of questions on my mind and it’s impossible to pick a side, though one thing is pretty clear: How anger manifests itself in this case is simply dangerous, and it does need to be crushed. I find no sympathy in my heart for the killers in this case, no matter what the history. To even attempt to justify this would be like trying to justify a Kasab becoming a terrorist.

    • but thats the point – understanding where the state has gone wrong doesnt make you a socialist. And neither is this against capitalist. its simply about being fair. and a little more emphathetic

      • Exactly MM, it is about being fair. In fact, I think the only solution there is, is for the state to trace its steps back and stop being aggressive with this blanket suppression. It needs to empathize with the tribal who is not a Maoist. So that there are no more Maoists claiming the state drove them to it. For the rest of us too, it’s a little preposterous to squarely conclude that it is capitalism/the state driving young tribals to Maoism. How is that even possible? It takes much more (external resources, funds, and other motivations of those providing these funds) to fuel something of such a scale!

        Oh, I forgot to say that Palash’s article that you linked up is simply brilliant: the CRPF jawaan could very well be the same as the enemy he fights, if not for his uniform (unfortunately not much else). Arundhati Roy is brave. But too extemist to ever be taken seriously. Which is still better than an Arnab/ Rajdeep, waiting to brand her but being naively unquestioning when it comes to the actions of the Govt.

  8. i dont have an indepth knowledge of the whole issue. however in case it is indeed “frustrated” tribals and not mao-ists who are responsible for the killing – it’s probably a desperate need to be heard. However, can them continuing to wage a war against the Indian state really be the resolution to their problems? Will this help them get their land back? Keeping quiet hasn’t helped their land..So what will???

  9. While I agree with you that many of these areas are neglected, under-served and exploited, rationalizing this sort of behavior amounts to lending these acts of violence some sense of credence. I sure know you don’t justify any of this but there is no two sides as you put it, there is just one and its the losing one.

    We are looking at this exploding right at our faces real quickly. As with Madhu Koda’s, I am certain these acts are by a few ‘tribal elites’ who mean no good to their own even if you sit down and talk.

  10. We are not unmindful of the socio-economic causes. We have heard people say that there is no water; there is no development; there are no schools; there are no jobs; there is no employment. I do not disagree. But who can be blamed except ourselves?

    This is from Chiddu’s speech in parliament post the massacre. In it he clearly says that all of us are responsible for the lack of development in these places (and by extension all of India?)


    We have to be on both sides, because on both sides Indians are involved. But as another commentator has pointed out not all Maoists are tribal and not all tribals are Maoists. Those who are pure Maoists have to be taken out because they do not believe in democracy etc. Maoism is not a nice and pretty ideology. Heck the Chinese gave up on it a long time ago.

    As to how much these people must have suffered to take up arms – a hell lot.

  11. Okay, it’s way late to comment on this topic, but I read Tehelka’s interview with Dantewada attack masterminds today (http://www.tehelka.com/story_main44.asp?filename=Ne010510amongst_the.asp#) and could not help but feel that these people are as far removed from what the adivasis want and need as the government is.

    As an example, read their response to the question: “If you keep destroying schools like this, ordinary adivasis will suffer…” If they are having to hold on to their propaganda machine so closely, it is likely that adivasis need to protected from them, not by them.

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