|Arundhati Roy with Maoists - from Outlook|
A university in Tamil Nadu has withdrawn Arundhati Roy’s book, Walking with the Comrades, from its postgraduate English syllabus because the student’s wing [ABVP] of BJP wanted the ban. BJP and its allies pretend to be as bold as Chhatrapati Shivaji or Ma Durga, but when it comes to actual encounters they are as timid as the dogs outside their territories. The way they demand bans on books, arrests of writers and activists, and censorship of the media points to a sort of deep cowardice.
Let us confine this discussion to Ms Roy and her concerned book. It was actually an essay published in the Outlook in March 2010 after the author’s visit to the Maoists in the Dandakaranya forests. The Congress was the ruling party in Delhi at that time and so the criticism of the government should hit the Congress rather than the BJP and its allies. What irks the ABVP then?
Well, there’s as much difference between the Congress and the BJP as between Tweedledum and Tweedledee when it comes to exploitation of the tribal people and propitiation of the corporate sector. Roy’s essay exposes the government’s complicity in the transmutation of simple tribal people into deadly Maoist warriors. If the Congress led such a government at the time when the essay was written, the BJP does the same thing now.
[Let me digress for a moment and say this: It’s no wonder that the Congress is all set to vanish from India’s public sphere. The BJP is the natural successor of the Congress. A replica. One of them is simply redundant.]
Roy’s story that has incurred the ire of ABVP ten years after its publication begins in Dantewata which is an “upside down, inside out town”. The jail superintendent is in the jail and the prisoners are out at large. [Remember the 300 prisoners who escaped in 2008?] Women who were raped in police custody are in the jails while the rapists give religious lessons in the bazaar. The villages are empty while the forests are full of people. Upside down!
The State is the custodian of the forests and hence of the tribal homelands. The State has always striven to take over the tribal homelands and give them to the mighty corporate kings for the sake of big dams, irrigation projects, and mines. Development is the sweet name given to this process of expropriation of the tribal people. Ms Roy articulates the absurdity of this sort of development. It is not the country that gains by the process. It is just a handful of corporate bigwigs who gain. Roy cites an example from Karnataka. “For every ton of iron ore mined by a private company, the government gets a royalty of Rs 27 and the mining company makes Rs 5,000. In the bauxite and aluminium sector, the figures are even worse. We’re talking about daylight robbery to the tunes of billions of dollars. Enough to buy elections, governments, judges, newspapers, TV channels, NGOs, and aid agencies.”
Please read that quote again. Ms Roy wrote it in 2010 when the Congress was ruling India. Don’t you think the words are far more relevant today in 2020 when the BJP is ruling? Tweedledum and Tweedledee!
Now you begin to understand why the ABVP is intent on getting rid of Arundhati Roy from campuses. [And you also understand why the Congress is on the way to extinction.]
The Congress signed hundreds of MoUs against the interests of the tribal and other poor people. The BJP does the same thing.
Ms Roy also mentions in the same essay how the Ramakrishna Mission and other right-wing agencies tried to Hinduise the tribal people of Bastar. They introduced the caste system among the tribal people. They proclaimed the first converts – the village chiefs and landlords – Brahmins. Ms Roy poohpoohs the whole exercise. If people could be made Brahmins as easily as this, the whole of India should have been Brahmins now, she says. Well, the ABVP will feel a certain pain in the wrong orifices of their organisational setup.
Ms Roy is banned today somewhere. 80-year-old Varavara Rao is behind the bars for questioning the right-wing policies of the government. Another octogenarian who is also a medical patient, Stan Swamy, is in jail on fabricated charges. Vernon Gonsalves is yet another example. And there are scores more some of whom just vanished from the country.
Now Mr Modi’s government is putting restrictions on the media and OTT platforms. Be careful of what you write even on Facebook and Twitter. You may find yourself in prison at any time for a crime that you had never thought of. This is India now. A sad country that has been taken backward by centuries to the days of savages like Manu who pretended to be saints.