Not since 2011’s landmark Broken Republic publication by author & activist Arundhati Roy have we had such an acute insight into India’s Naxalite guerrillas, brought to us now from anthropologist Alpa Shah. This is the world’s longest running ‘armed revolutionary movement’, having over half a century of activity/resistance (I think becoming operational officially in 1967). The guerillas, who’s official moniker is the Communist Party of India, most regularly referenced or identified as the Naxalites or Maoists, were initially inspired by Mao Zedong & the Communist revolution in China. They acted overwhelmingly independently (aside from ideology) within India with a fair amount regional & cultural interpretation (unlike Mao who assumed power within China, the Naxalites have continued to operate as an insurgency entity in opposition to the state). India has long suffered from some of the most glaringly offensive corruption, present at pretty much every level, as well as extreme class prejudice massively exacerbated by its caste system. The Naxalites provided an incredible remedy to this feudal abuse & liberated whole areas from corrupt, exploitative land-owners (who were inevitably from the top tiers of the caste hierarchy), dividing the land between the local populace in large acts of commonal redistribution. Furthermore, they refused to abide by the caste pyramid, thus offering an escape for those that had been socially tarnished by this awful system of sub-slavery & occupation dictation via hereditary structure. Fleeing to the Maoists ranks became a way of eschewing class branding as well as much of the entrenched sexism that blights much of Indian society. This, along with the guerrilla’s ethics, results & input made them very popular & appreciated by rural communities that were all too familiar with state or class abuses. That’s part of the Naxalites success & how this campaign of refusal has been able to persist so stoically for so long. The other major advantage is that the Naxalites allow tribal & georgic communities to live in a more ancient-pastoral/natural self-sufficiency, free from the horrors of considerable ‘development’ & the even worse horrors/obliteration that comes as a result of it. This means that much of the garbage of modern vacuity & encouraged squander is prevented from pouring it’s toxicity into communities that still have an amazing affinity & congruent relationship with the land, earth & forest. Much of this homologation with nature & mutually supportive communal living is vividly documented in the book. Although not ‘idyllic’ (whatever that means?), it’s an immensely positive, & from a rat-race perspective, enviable, achievement on how communities can live simply & supportively together away from the concrete-shit-smog that so much of the world has brought (or indeed been forced/coerced) into. It also means that the kind of corruption that thrives amongst police, politicians, institutions & civic-bureaucracies is massively reduced. The Naxalites operate in about 35-40% of India’s territory, walking & patrolling massive distances almost entirely on foot. Another central tactic to stave off state incursion, is to mine roads. This ultimately, majorly limits the scale of infiltration, access & harassment that the state can inflict & leaves communities geographically independent rendering a kind of safety & sanctuary away from external pollutants. Unfortunately, multi-nationals & mineral companies are lining-up (many of them foreign) to ransack & ruin (Rio Tinto, Posco, Vedanta, Mittal, Essar to name a few). The deposits of cobalt, Iron-Ore, coal & many other ‘valuable’ commodities to be used in useless automated drek & consumer nonsense have all got corporations salivating (apparently, extraction rights have already been paid for) over prospective exploitation bonanzas. Timber & ‘forest products’ along with the inevitable urbanization will just be further vitiation as conglomerates scramble to rape what little has not already been mangled & poisoned by this apocalyptic malpractice. & this is why the Maoists & their highly principled vigilance is so precious. The destruction that will occur should they be removed, the amount of damage, deforestation, contamination & the environmental implications will be astronomic.
An astonishing read. From an anthropological/cultural perspective the book is also extraordinary. Most of the Naxalites are Adivasi, what are referred to as tribal or ‘wild’ peoples (that’s a massive exaggeration which book clearly dispels). As you would expect, they have a much purer & wholesome form of life & principles, free from the shocking deformity & covetous junk of our modern malaise.
The death machine wants more life to burn. It’s got much worse since Alpa & Arundhati were humping it in the boonies with the guerillas. ‘Operation Green Hunt’ basically permits the Indian military to do anything it likes whatsoever within the territories. The state terrorism, murder, torture & bloodshed get almost no international attention, not least as there is now ridiculously draconian & despotic terrorist legislation & d-notice style media black-outs on this offensive (which is no doubt facilitated & maintained by the subterfuge of the mining industry within the western press).
Hopefully this great book brings more attention to this incredible & inspiring movement.
Alpa Shah, 2018, Hurst & Company, 290 pages.