The timing of getting this book for review was possibly the best. Anna Hazare’s agitation was climaxing, Arnab Goswami was almost on the verge of having a massive coronary thrombosis by shouting himself hoarse, middle class, particularly a handful of self-proclaimed “right-wingers” were feeling empowered with playing their part in the second freedom movement, by sms-ing “proud to wear anna cap” slogans. (That somehow makes them Gandhian, but well!) Anti-establishment and civil disobedience feelings were running high, and people were venting their anti-authority revolutionary spirit, by crossing the road everywhere except the zebra crossing, jumping signals, and spitting on the pavements. Amidst such time, I got in my hand, the book, which claims to be “The untold story of India’s Maoist Movement”.
Now, I like OPEN magazine. Honestly. I wish someday I might get a chance to write there. I like Rahul Pandita‘s pieces too. Dude has got a lucid style, and panache. And to be fair to the profession, he doesn’t suffer from the basic ailment that majority of the Indian journalists suffer from, at times incorrigibly. The God complex. There is no intellectual audacity in his writing, no subtle arrogance. It says what it wants to say, simply.
The other good thing is that the author traveled while doing his research. He didn’t write theories from his couch. Which is quite praiseworthy.
The good part ends. Just there.
For a start, this book is no “untold story”. It says what we already have heard for decades. The same clichéd propaganda, the same emotional overdose, the same point of view of “utter suffering”. The same old story. It can be found in any leftist/ultra-leftist propaganda literature near the Presidency College, Calcutta, or the Delhi University campus. It can be heard from the spokesperson of the innumerable NGOs with shady funding. It can be read in numerous ultra-left and revolutionary blogs, claiming to talk about similar “untold stories” of exploitation in rural India.
Now, the question is that of credibility. Just because a man from village himself comes and says, he is exploited by big corporations, doesn’t make it Bible truth. The words of Kobad Ghandy or Ganapathy or Varvara Rao is not Bible truth either. Also, a personalised account of Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy in a book claiming to be the “untold story of Maoists”, tends to raise a few uncomfortable question about the neutrality and tilt of the book. Where is the other side of the story? Why does no one ask, that for how many days more the “poor oppressed people” will live on subsidies by Government, paid by the taxpayer, and claim more benefits just because they are poor and oppressed, and they “choose” not to change? Why will the urban people bear the burden of self-created vicious chain of poverty? If the basic problem for the rise of Maoism is lack of development, why does the media never raise the finger against those leaders who oppose land acquisition for industry? Why is the story always about the “exploiting” landowners “oppressing” the “poor”, while no word about how Kangaroo Maoist people’s tribunals sentencing people to death arbitrarily, just because they belong to upper castes? Why nothing is said about Maoists mafias looting money from coal mine areas, to buy more arms?
Some questions are never answered. Because no author, no journalist, no one here, dares to go against the flow. Not this book, not any book.
There are a few analytical mistakes too. I will give one example. One of the prime reason given for the failure of “Naxal movement” in Kolkata during the 60’s is China factor, and how Charu Mazumdar’s “personnel murder” was disputed by Chinese leadership, which apparently led to the downfall. That’s utter over-simplification. During the 60’s, with no Television, and Radio sets being a luxury, I seriously doubt that a speech by some Chinese comrade had that much influence on the movement in Kolkata. The basic two reasons behind the failure of Naxal movement during the 60’s are these. Number one, it was never a mass movement. It was a movement by mostly elite college going romanticised youths. It affected them like dysentery and/or love. With time, it went away, and people got back to fixing up their career. Secondly, the leadership then under Siddhartha Shankar Ray was stern. They took the necessary action. Without the fear of media, human rights, NGOs, and without the concern for their image, for the betterment of future society. Unlike the politically correct, spineless bunch these days.
Anyway…back to this book. I appreciate the effort of the author of taking such a controversial topic which is bound to raise a lot of heated debate. That’s all. The book is a nice weekend read. It will be very popular among the kohl-eyed, bandana wearing, urban, posh romanticised revolutionaries. But if you are looking for real answers to the problems facing India, real raw uncomfortable truth, then this book is not for you. It is just another brick in the wall. Same old, same old.
Two stars on five. And the two stars just for the writing style.