Dressed in a delicate white sari, with flowers in her hair and the characteristic sparkle in her eyes, author- activist Arundhati Roy affirmed clearly her support for the Maoists at a public lecture on Wednesday.
Condemning the Home Ministry’s recent directive to haul up any overt supporter of the Maoists, she said, “I’m on this side (with the Maoists). I don’t care if they pick me up and throw me in jail.”
Though Roy said she is “completely contemptuous” of the violent killing of the 76 CRPF personnel in Dantewada by Naxalites in April, she added that she could not “take the side of the state” either.
“What were 76 paramilitary soldiers doing in tribal villages with their AK-47s and stenguns? I don’t believe in an atrocity-analysis of this war on people.”
Both Roy and journalist Gautam Navlakha, who also spoke at the lecture organised by the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, had spent a few weeks in the forests of Dantewada earlier this year. After the April attacks, both faced criticism for their sympathetic and romanticised portrayal of the Maoists in their essays about them.
“But I believe in the romance and the beauty of the forests of Dantewada, where the poorest people are standing up against a military state and saying they’ve had enough,” said Roy.
“The Maoists have definitely committed crimes, but we need to go beyond them and ask the fundamental question — why does the government take recourse to war?” asked Navlakha, who, along with Roy, said the recent Jnaneshwari Express accident may or may not have been the work of the Maoists, but one must not condemn without investigation.
“Nobody needs this war more than the government of India, and we need to ask why,” said Roy, alleging that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared the Maoists as India’s “greatest internal security threat” at a time when a large number of MoUs were between the government and large mining corporations.
Stressing the need to “keep the bauxite in the mountain”, Roy said the tribal resistance in the Red corridor was about the larger issues affecting the planet. “This is not a new war in the history of the world, but if we win, it will be a new victory.”