About a month back, I met Rahul Banerji, a social activist from Madhya Pradesh, who was visting his mother in Calcutta. Rahul and I were in school together in Calcutta (1968-72). We met out of the blue in 1988 and have been in touch off-and-on since then. For over 20 years now, Rahul has been working for the rights of the advisasis or indigenous people of central India, and especially against the depredations of corrupt forest officials, contractors, police and politicians. For his efforts he has been thrown in jail several times - on various trumped up charges, including treason. So we had a long dialogue, on various matters. Most interesting for me was our discussion on "Naxalism", in the course of which Rahul made the distinction between "Naxalism" and "Jihadism", two forms of violent political struggle. (A fortnight earlier, at a conference on city planning in Salzburg, Austria, Prof Franz Oswald, from Zurich, phrased something I said as "violence as a planning tool". So this was very much on my mind.).
In the last week of May, historian Ramachandra Guha, together with 5 others, comprising the ‘Independent Citizens’ Initiative’, travelled through the Maoist controlled areas of central India. The hilly and wooded terrain here is now home to a brutal civil war played out away from the national gaze and mostly unreported by the national press. It is, however, a conflict of the gravest importance to the future of India. According to the ministry of home affairs, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is active in more than one hundred districts of the country, and at least fifty-five are reckoned to be ‘seriously affected’ by revolutionary violence. Two months ago, the prime minister of India said that this constitutes the gravest internal security threat to the nation, surpassing in its gravity the insurgencies in the North-east and in Kashmir.
The Telegraph carried a 4-part article by Guha, on Naxalites, or the Maoist revolutionaries in India.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4