Walking with the Comrades
March 21, 2010 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Last month, Arundhati Roy decided to visit the forbidding and forbidden precincts of Central India’s Dandakaranya Forests, home to a melange of tribal people many of whom have taken up arms to protect themselves against state-backed marauders and exploiters. She recorded in considerable detail her face-to-face encounter with armed guerillas, their families and comrades.
posted by shoesfullofdust (11 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't finished reading this yet, but I just want to chime in that it is fascinating. Roy's writing is dense but creates a vivid picture - well worth reading.
posted by mai at 3:26 PM on March 21, 2010

Thanks for pointing this out. A remarkable read.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:42 PM on March 21, 2010

Amazing, so far, and fascinating. I have a cold right now and thus the attention span of a gnat, so reading this is taking longer than usual. Still, fantastic. Thanks very much.
posted by rtha at 5:11 PM on March 21, 2010

We walked to the bus stand, only a few minutes away from the temple. It was already crowded. Things happened quickly. There were two men on motorbikes. There was no conversation—just a glance of acknowledgment, a shifting of body weight, the revving of engines. I had no idea where we were going. We passed the house of the Superintendent of Police (SP), which I recognised from my last visit. He was a candid man, the SP: “See Ma’am, frankly speaking this problem can’t be solved by us police or military. The problem with these tribals is they don’t understand greed. Unless they become greedy, there’s no hope for us. I have told my boss, remove the force and instead put a TV in every home. Everything will be automatically sorted out.”

posted by rtha at 5:17 PM on March 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

I just came here to say that Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things is like butter.
posted by neuron at 8:22 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this, shoesfullofdust.
posted by carter at 8:41 PM on March 21, 2010

The PWG were not the first evangelicals to arrive in Dandakaranya. Baba Amte, the well-known Gandhian, had opened his ashram and leprosy hospital in Warora in 1975. The Ramakrishna Mission had begun opening village schools in the remote forests of Abujhmad. In north Bastar, Baba Bihari Das had started an aggressive drive to “bring tribals back into the Hindu fold”, which involved a campaign to denigrate tribal culture, induce self-hatred, and introduce Hinduism’s great gift—caste.

Oh yes, that is exactly what these people need to bring them into the modern age.

Comrade Rinki has very short hair. A bob-cut, as they say in Gondi. It’s brave of her, because here, ‘bob-cut’ means ‘Maoist’. For the police, that’s more than enough evidence to warrant summary execution. Comrade Rinki’s village, Korma, was attacked by the Naga battalion and the Salwa Judum in 2005. At that time, Rinki was part of the village militia. So were her friends Lukki and Sukki, who were also members of KAMS. After burning the village, the Naga battalion caught Lukki and Sukki and one other girl, gang-raped and killed them. “They raped them on the grass,” Rinki says, “but after it was over, there was no grass left.” It’s been years now, the Naga battalion has gone, but the police still come. “They come whenever they need women, or chickens.”

Somehow I get the impression that winning hearts and minds is not the first priority of these security forces. Someone should send out a memo.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:56 AM on March 22, 2010

Fascinating read, thanks very much shoesfullofdust.
posted by nfg at 5:30 AM on March 22, 2010

Arundhati Roy rejects offer to become go-between but urges Maoists and India to call a ceasefire.
posted by adamvasco at 5:59 AM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is both fascinating and sad. Thank you for sharing; don't think I would have come across the piece otherwise. There is a recent article I found about something similar happening in Afghanistan's villages that this reminded me of. Wish more people would know about these things going on around the world.
posted by the_chap at 8:03 PM on March 23, 2010

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