Arundhati Roy: The crisis of Indian democracy (part 2)

Over the past few months, the government has poured tens of thousands of heavily armed paramilitary troops into the forest. The Maoists responded with a series of aggressive attacks and ambushes. More than 200 policemen have been killed. The bodies keep coming out of the forest. Slain policemen wrapped in the national flag, slain Maoists, displayed like hunter’s trophies, their wrists and ankles lashed to bamboo poles; bullet-ridden bodies, bodies that don’t look human any more, mutilated in ambushes, beheadings and summary executions. Of the bodies being buried in the forest, we have no news. The theatre of war has been cordoned off, closed to activists and journalists. So there are no body counts.On 6 April 2010, in its biggest strike ever, in Dantewada the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) ambushed a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) company and killed 76 policemen. The party issued a coldly triumphant statement. Television milked the tragedy for everything it was worth. The nation was called upon to condemn the killing. Many of us were not prepared to – not because we celebrate killing, nor because we are all Maoists, but because we have thorny, knotty views about Operation Green Hunt. For refusing to buy shares in the rapidly growing condemnation industry, we were branded “terrorist sympathisers” and had our photographs flashed repeatedly on TV like wanted criminals. What was a CRPF contingent doing, patrolling tribal villages with 21 AK-47 rifles, 38 INSAS rifles, seven self-loading rifles, six light machine-guns, one Sten gun and one two-inch mortar? To ask that question almost amounted to an act of treason.

Days after the ambush, I ran into two paramilitary commandos chatting to a bunch of drivers in a Delhi car park. They were waiting for their VIP to emerge from some restaurant or health club or hotel. Their view on what is going on involved neither grief nor patriotism. It was simple accounting. A balance sheet. They were talking about how many lakhs of rupees in bribes it takes for a man to get a job in the paramilitary forces, and how most families incur huge debts to pay that bribe. That debt can never be repaid by the pathetic wages paid to a jawan, for example. The only way to repay it is to do what policemen in India do – blackmail and threaten people, run protection rackets, demand payoffs, do dirty deals. (In the case of Dantewada, loot villagers, steal cash and jewellery.) But if the man dies an untimely death, it leaves the families hugely in debt. The anger of the men in the car park was directed at the government and senior police officers who make fortunes from bribes and then so casually send young men to their death. They knew that the handsome compensation that was announced for the dead in the 6 April attack was just to blunt the impact of the scandal. It was never going to be standard practice for every policeman who dies in this sordid war. Continue reading “Arundhati Roy: The crisis of Indian democracy (part 2)”

Arundhati Roy: India in Crisis

The law locks up the hapless felon
who steals the goose from off the common,
but lets the greater felon loose
who steals the common from the goose.
– Anonymous, England, 1821

In the early morning hours of the 2nd of July 2010, in the remote forests of Adilabad, the Andhra Pradesh State Police fired a bullet into the chest of a man called Cherukuri Rajkumar, known to his comrades as Azad. Azad was a member of the Polit Bureau of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and had been nominated by his party as its chief negotiator for the proposed peace talks with the Government of India. Why did the police fire at point-blank range and leave those telltale burn marks, when they could so easily have covered their tracks? Was it a mistake or was it a message?

They killed a second person that morning — Hem Chandra Pandey, a young journalist who was traveling with Azad when he was apprehended. Why did they kill him? Was it to make sure no eyewitness remained alive to tell the tale? Or was it just whimsy?

In the course of a war, if , in the preliminary stages of a peace negotiation, one side executes the envoy of the other side, it’s reasonable to assume that the side that did the killing does not want peace. It looks very much as though Azad was killed because someone decided that the stakes were too high to allow him to remain alive. That decision could turn out to be a serious error of judgment. Not just because of who he was, but because of the political climate in India today. Continue reading “Arundhati Roy: India in Crisis”

The Pakistan flood, economic damage and the truth about foreign aid

6 September 2010.  World to Win News Service.

The immediate loss of life due to the continuing flooding in Pakistan is tragedy enough, but the long-term impact may cause even greater disaster.

The devastated fields long the Indus and other rivers, some still under  water and others waterlogged and filled with mud and stones, constitute Pakistan’s agricultural heartland and the foundation of its economy. This season’s maize, cotton, rice and wheat, the main crops, as well as mango, banana and citrus fruits, have been lost. Worse, tens of millions of people have lost their future livelihoods, some for at least one or two seasons and others forever.

The Indus Valley stretches along approximately 650 kilometres in Sindh province, where it represents about 85 percent of the land under cultivation. People like Nizam Nathio, who had 10 acres of land and now lives in a refugee camp in Sukkur, lost all their cultivated land in the flood. “All my resources are gone and the next crop will be harvested in six months,” he says. “Will my family eat mud till then to survive?” Hakeem Kalhoro, a resident of the Naushero Feroz district, had a farm with 50 buffaloes. Now he has only one left. The floodwater has taken the rest. ”I used to sell 500 litres of milk a day, now I’m living on handouts.” (BBC Website, 19 August 2010)

Now Sindh is being hit by fresh flooding.  It is raining again, and previously contained flood lakes have broken through.

Pakistani officials say that about 3.6 million hectares of crops have been washed away, much of that in Sindh and Punjab provinces, and 1.2 million livestock killed, including ploughing animals. The World Bank estimates that crops worth $1 billion have been ruined. The UN World Food Programme says that almost ten million people are already short of food. Little clean water is available.

There is fear the number of people facing what these agencies call “food insecurity”  will mount and the whole country will face a massive food shortage and inflated prices in the coming years. Shortages of agricultural raw materials may also undermine textile and apparel manufacture, the country’s two main export sectors, and the food processing industry. In terms of this broader impact, no region in Pakistan remains untouched by the flood.

Millions of people no longer have a home to live in or land to till. As thousands more take up residence in the already overcrowded camps, hundreds of thousands of displaced people have moved to urban centres in Punjab and Sindh. Many are already making their way towards Karachi and Hyderabad. The people taking refuge in the camps were mostly tenant farmers. Many of them may become wage workers, at best, because they have little or nothing to go back to in their native villages, and some will not be allowed to go back.

At least one in ten of the country’s 166 million people have been directly affected, or even one in eight according to other estimates. Further, if there is much reconstruction, with the kind of projects and programme the capitalists of the world’s dominant imperialist countries have in mind, rural life and the whole national economy may become more dependent on the needs of world capitalism. Continue reading “The Pakistan flood, economic damage and the truth about foreign aid”

The Significance of the Refoundation of the Maoist Movement in Pakistan

A Statement to the Seventh National Congress of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party

From the General Secretary of Revolutionary Initiative

With our fists raised as high as our hopes for the future of the Pakistani revolution, Revolutionary Initiative, a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist pre-party formation in Canada, offers a red salute to the comrades convening the August 2010 7th National Congress of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party (Pakistan Workers and Peasants Party).

We understand that the 7th Congress will mark a return of the PMKP to the Maoist origins of the party, as established by its founders Major Ishaq Mohammed, Afzal Bungish, Eric Sperian, and Ghulam Nabi Kaloo in the 1960s.

The new program of the PMKP will effect a decisive break with the pseudo-alternatives currently being presented to the people of Pakistan: the perpetuation of a backward semi-colonial, semi-feudal society maintained by the pro-imperialist military and civil bureaucracy, comprador bourgeoisie, and feudal ruling elite; versus the equally backward social program offered up by the Taliban of Pakistan. By breaking with the revisionist Left, which looks to U.S. imperialism for enlightenment through its brutal “War on Terror”, the PMKP is setting a course to truly rally the peasants, proletarians, and the progressive petty-bourgeois elements to the anti-imperialist cause. Further, by exposing the program of the Taliban as fascism in a different form, the PMKP has truly placed itself at the vanguard of all the toiling masses in Pakistan.

Continue reading “The Significance of the Refoundation of the Maoist Movement in Pakistan”