Dialogue  April-June, 2010, Volume 11 No. 4

Propaganda with the Maoist Comrades: A disservice to all

Shankar Sharan*


‘Darling’ is a famous story of the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov. The main character is a kind girl, Olenka, who by her very nature is a compulsive, dedicated lover. She is so sweet that people call her Darling as her name forgetting her formal one. She feels lost without loving someone, having no idea or concern of her own. But as soon as she finds someone to love, her whole being comes alive, dedicated to the object of her love. Thus, whosoever she loves, his ideas, concerns, worries, idiosyncrasies etc. becomes her own overnight. She repeats the same thing faithfully, with genuine sincerity, whatever her love says or believes. This is such a powerful story that the great Tolstoy himself was always moved by reading and rereading it.

    In a sense reading Arundhati Roy reminds one of that character, albeit in a dark way. Taken wholly to political writing after her only novel, she is as dedicated to always find a cause to defend or decry. In her latest Walking with the Comrades (‘Outlook’ weekly, 29 March 2010) she concedes to be ‘scared of being lost’ in the jungle. However, the same seems truer of her ideological fetish. As if, she, the ‘global citizen’ having renounced India, is now scared of living without some cause to care about. She is no more a novelist. Thus, although bereft of the kindness of Olenka, she always repeats the fixed ideas and phrases about her current love without much thought.    

    That would be a more charitable view about the Walking with the Comrades. In it Roy has done a simple relay job of repeating approvingly everything the Maoists say, as though it were her own considered views. In the first glance the long article of about 20,000 words with fifteen pictures glorifying Maoists may appear as a travelogue, reporting or political analysis. But a careful reading reveals that it all are Maoist ideas disseminated in a literary style. If she is not so innocent in believing them, then the writing is prostituting one’s pen. She rode once again her pet hobby horse: besmirching India, a country Roy the ‘global citizen’ no longer considers her own (nonetheless enjoying all the benefits she can gather here), but disdainfully calls ‘upper caste Hindu state’, irrespective of the parties in power, fit to be destroyed. In a less charitable view of the article she has again undermined India, by way of defending the Maoists.

    Perhaps it is not for nothing that the Walking with the Comrades was first published in Pakistan’s newspaper Dawn (21 March). It remains a moot question why an influential newspaper of a country, that has no communist presence left at all, would be so interested in publishing a long communist pamphlet? The obvious reason is the hatred underlying in the article for India, especially the Government of India. Roy’s writings, this and earlier ones as well, leave no doubt about what she propagates. A destruction of the ‘Hindu state’ she has asked for in so many words repeatedly. 

   It is well-know that the central goal of the Maoists in India is to overthrow the government and the whole social-political system. To capture the state power for Maoist experiments they call ‘revolution’.  So, whatever Roy listens from the Maoists, even weird fantasies, she relays like a faithful, if ill-informed, convert. Thus she has written not as a writer or reporter but as a new believer. Whatever comrade a, b or c tells her about the past, present, theory, practice, lore, government, media, police, villagers or anything - she just relays with her ready trust and added imagination. With amazing capacity of belief! No sense of a writer or analyst is evident anywhere in the long piece. Nor even a woman’s curiosity to verify, check or know more about an incident, source of information or the veracity of the storyteller. What if it all turns out a chain of relaying superstition, half-truths, lies and conjectures? This is very likely, given the history of ‘real socialism’ and its mouthpieces all over the world, from Lenin to Mao regimes on any part of earth since 1917 till date. 

    The big untruth interspersed the entire article is to use tribals and Maoists as synonymous. Nowhere any logic or proof is proffered for it. Although the hard fact is that in all the tribal areas, including those considered Maoist, the ruling BJP won the assembly seats in the last state election. It won 11 out of 12 such constituencies. Please note: after the results were out not a word was said by any quarter that the elections were manipulated or rigged. Therefore, it is a reality that the tribals have overwhelmingly voted for the Raman Singh govt, the very regime Roy demonized and loathed in her article.  So making tribals and Maoists as interchangeable entities is a sly used to deceive gullible readers. In truth, most tribals never like Maoists (or anyone else) dictating them. The threats, killings and fear psychosis instilled by guns, landmines and summary lynching make them most of the time helplessly silent, which so many construe as support for Maoists.

    Besides, Roy has adopted the Leninist style in appropriating good adjectives, good names, etc for her party, ‘the Party’ as she called the Maoist organization she traveled with. Likewise abuses, bad epithets such as ‘killers’, ‘rapists’, ‘looter’ are used for adversaries like Salwa Judum or police forces as if it were there formal job. To be sure, while using such epithets Roy never offered any evidence or proven instance, even a newspaper report, to justify such charges. Although she has used references, quotations and newspaper report to illustrate some banal points, but never to substantiate any charges against the Union or state government or the Salwa Judum, her pet hate.  For example, in the third paragraph of the article she wrote, “An article on the internet says that Israel’s Mossad is training 30 high-ranking Indian police officers in the techniques of targeted assassinations”. Which article, published where, written by whom, on what information? one can’t find. You have to take Roy’s words as Truth itself!

     Sometimes what she mentioned as ‘read in some newspaper’, without any reference, are found in no newspaper but a Naxalite source. For example, in para  8 of her article: “…Mr Manhar, the then SP Bijapur, briefing a junior officer over the wireless about the rewards and incentives the state and central governments are offering to ‘jagrit’ (awakened) villages, and to people who agree to move into camps. He then gives clear instructions that villages that refuse to surrender should be burnt and journalists who want to ‘cover’ Naxalites should be shot on sight. (I’d read about this in the papers long ago. When the story broke, as punishment—it’s not clear to whom—the SP was transferred to the State Human Rights Commission.)”. This whole thing is taken from not any newspaper, as Roy claims, but from a ‘Naxalite’ blog or writings themselves! At all the places the same wording are found without pointing to the original, verifiable source of information.

     This is the old communist style of quoting each other, thus proving even a plain lie to be a ‘well-known’ truth! Since the name of the SP is given, a news of such value cannot be unknown to general newspapers and news agencies. But the fact is no newspaper can be found to carry any such news anytime. It is a Maoist concoction from the beginning Roy relayed as ‘read long ago’, concealing that if she had at all read it earlier this was a left-wing proclaimation, not any independent newspaper’s first hand report as pretended.

    Despite utter dearth of proof, an abusive verbiage and arbitrary name calling to the central and state governments in repetitive manner are employed to mentally condition a reader. Roy’s pet aversion proves to be the Salwa Judum, named 25 times in her article, always with worst abuses straight away. Without ever any verifiable reference to justify the abuses reserved for it. It is always a repetition of the charges, so that a reader might think of it as having at least some truth. This was a characteristics in all Lenin’s polemical writings. Roy has used this technique to glorify Maoists and vilify their opponents. One has to be acquainted with the habits of communist writing to evaluate Roy’s pamphlets.

   In the whole presentation the loadstar for Roy has been that whosoever is against India, especially the Govt of India, the state governments, particularly those ruled by the BJP, must be defendable, innocent, positive and lovable entity. And vice versa. So anyone on the side of the governments must by definition be a bad, wicked element. Similarly their activities and pronouncements. This seems to be the thumb rule applied in the article.

   To glorify Maoists Roy used the sentiments of naïve readers, describing poetic subjects like jungle, trees, flowers, nights, stars, birds and girls with charming smiles. While about the Maoist political programme, their official documents, goals, theories, etc. she has used evasion, subterfuge and concealment. In comparison, it would seem the long and frequent poetics about the jungle life, tribal festivities and natural beauties are employed to generate misplaced sympathy for the Maoists. At the same time to deviate readers from uncomfortable queries.

   Thus, the ugly facts of Leninist-Maoist theories, monumental ignorance of blind followers, their brutality and bigotries are cleverly kept from discussion. In twenty thousand words article not a single paragraph is allocated to critical examination of a Maoist belief or a believing cadre. Only glorifying them by all means is there. If this is not pure propaganda writing, then what it is? Playing on the unawareness of common readers, especially the young readers who don’t know much about the Mao phenomenon in totality, Roy has tried to win them in favour of the Maoist politics. Without revealing, that it openly stands for India’s destruction and endless killings for a so-called revolution. A revolution carried out in the last century in several countries with similar harrowing results before ending itself in total failure, except incalculable loss of life and property. 

    In the similar manner, while criticizing, accusing and ridiculing the state and central governments for trying to quell the Maoist insurgency Roy has not taken up a single argument of the warring sides to fair discussion. She has just sided with the Maoists, without offering so much as giving a cogent reason for doing so. Her support to the Maoists is as blind as the Maoist cadres are in their faith of world revolution on the sayings of Mao. Perhaps captivated by her own romance with rebels, she like the Chekhovian character took it for granted that Maoists are right and the Govt of India is wrong. With no questions asked.

    It is a mystery, however, why such a blatantly partisan, propagandistic writing found such an extraordinary space in a weekly newsmagazine liberally funded by government advertisements and private capital. That, too, not as an unpublished article but a reprint of a Pakistan publication. Will the newsmagazine be as generous to publish a good retort to Roy’s harangue? If not, the owners and management owe an explanation to the countrymen why they are so enthusiastic against the country’s constitutional system, its stability and integrity?

     Describing in a little detail some young Maoist cadres’ stories of life, Roy never seem to have any curiosity that how such innocent, almost illiterate boys and girls came to accept a foreign, imperialist and weird political ideology that Maoism is. Or, is it that she did ask the questions, but found the answers so embarrassingly vacuous or worse that she thought it wise to hide them altogether? Hide in order to bolster the mystic image of ‘young revolutionaries’ as she decided to portray them beforehand.

      Because, it seems quite improbable that a writer, by definition always wanting to know as much about her subject as possible, should not ask a central and obvious question. That how one became an adherent of the political thought of Mao? Just what and how much he or she knows about the creed, its actual achievements so far, etc? Having no hint about it in the whole article, although Roy lived weeks with them with no other work than asking and listening, raises questions as to whether she actually went to live with the Maoists to be more informed about the issues involved or just to make an excuse to have a field day in her own agenda of blackening the ‘Hindu state’? Is it a deliberate act of a shrewd activist to use the poor, ignorant Maoist boys and girls for spreading her old anti-India canard once again in a new script? Or, is it a gross ignorance of a feted pamphleteer herself?  We don’t know the answer yet but the question is quite pertinent.

    In points of equating tribals of Dandakaranya with Maoists of outside, as if they both are one and the same, Roy displays an autocratic mindset. She does not mention any point of convergence between them, whether at the level of culture, life style, beliefs, language or even interest. But all the same the local villagers of Bastar are considered as hunky dory with naxalites of far places. On what grounds, we never find in the lengthy article. Both are against the state government or police or forest department, Roy wants to have us believe. But apart from a suggestive tone there is nothing concrete to prove this similarity of purpose between the two. Only an assertion is inherent in the entire writing. In order to give the Maoists a kind of valid over-lordship on the tribals. If that is not so, the question is inescapable as how and by which instrument the Maoists became the voice of the tribals?

     Having fought some trade union kind quarrels for the tribals cannot be the answer, because economic struggle has nothing to do with a Maoist programme. Maoism stands for something very far from it. Therefore, the question remains as to how could the Maoists be the spokesperson of the tribals? If there is no tangible answer, especially in view of the last assembly election results, then it is only a smart assumption thrust upon the readers. An assumption made a ‘fact’ on the basis of nothing but incessant propaganda.     

    Vilification is a pet habit of all kind of leftist writers. Roy has adopted it, too, as effortlessly. Therefore, individuals and institutions are vilified at will without caring for a shred of evidence. Congress leader Mahendra Karma, industrial house Thapars, Chief Minister Raman Singh, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Police Superintendent Manhar, other unnamed SPs and DM, and Salwa Judum – all these are vilified at will. The last has been the worst hit at the hands of Roy. Is it not because they are the most damaging body for the future of Maoist politics? Because they cannot be taunted as ‘other’ since they are led by genuine, local tribals. After the Salwa Judum, the governments are vilified the most.

   For example, in para 8 Roy wrote, “The BJP chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, announced that as far as his government was concerned, villagers who did not move into the [Salwa Judum] camps would be considered Maoists.” Now, Roy is fully aware of the meaning of words and their implications, as is evident from her indignant observations on the word ‘infested’ in para 3 of the article. So, in her turn, why she fails to mention the date or title, let alone the exact quote from such a provocative ‘announcement’ of no less an authority than the Chief Minister? Since an announcement is by definition a formal statement. It is in open public domain to be circulated and, therefore, available to everybody.

   So, why Roy failed to give any thread to check about such an important ‘announcement’? Because, perhaps there was never any such announcement by the Chief Minister. It is a Maoist slander Roy tried to pass as a fact! Just as she did earlier. In one of the post-Godhra articles in the same Outlook, dated 2 May 2002, she wrote about the “disrobing and burning alive of the daughters of Ahsan Jafri”. The blatant lie was immediately exposed by none other than T A Jafri, the son of Ahsan Jafri. The said daughters were happily living in the USA at the time Roy described them as being disrobed and burnt in Gujarat, as an eye-witness account! Point to note: after caught on such a horrible blunder Roy was not ashamed. She did not tender any apology to readers or anyone, but arrogantly displayed a ‘so what?’ attitude.

    There are many smaller lies, that is relaying concoctions without bothering to verify, though not less demeaning to someone or other, in this article too. (Wonder, how the same newsweekly is persistent with giving such an extra-ordinary space to a proven purveyor of untruth!)

    By any strict examination the entire article of Roy is not any intellectual defense of the Maoists. Nor any economic or political analysis of the tribals in the Dandakaranya. It is a plain, anti-India, anti-Hindu propaganda on behalf of the Maoists. Hence no care deemed necessary to adhere to any scholarly or journalistic standards befitting a worthy writing. Countless blank spots, reference-less statements, dateless incidents and quotations, jumping on topics and issues without concluding any of them convincingly, insinuations, conjectures, patching up a half-truth or total lie with sentimental drivel, real or imaginary, irrelevant descriptions, unnecessary authentic newspaper reference for such an ordinary information as celebration of a festival (para 12), while the same conspicuously missing for even the gravest charges against the government, police forces  and senior officials, etc – all these scattered in the entire article point to its being a stubborn pamphleteering. A thing which has become the only vocation of Roy for the last several years.

   For another blatant example of fabrication in Roy’s article, she attributed a shame to no less than the Supreme Court of India! In the para 12 she justifies the murderous Maoist ‘jan adalats’ being more worthy than the Supreme Court. Her ground? In Roy’s own words, ‘And what about the Supreme Court that brazenly admitted it did not have enough evidence to sentence Mohammed Afzal (accused in the December 2001 Parliament attack) to death, but did so anyway, because “the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender”.’ The quoted words in her article are put in a way to appear like from the Supreme Court’s judgment on Mohammad Afzal. But no reference is given by Roy, as to from which judgment, dated so and so, such a great self-demeaning confession was made by the highest court of the land!

    It is a clever way to put the Supreme Court of India in a very bad light. Her trick not only absolves, indirectly, the Maoist killers doing so-called jan-adalats; but also blackens the judiciary of the hated ‘Hindu state’. It is a deception to besmirch the Supreme Court. For, the Court was certain about the terrorist act of not only Mohammad Afzal whom it sentenced to death, but also about S A R Gilani, the rogue lecturer of Delhi University whom it let off. This point was reemphasized when Gilani’s lawyer Ram Jethmalani later filed a petition in the Supreme Court requesting to pronounce his client innocent of all charges in that case. Then the Court had sternly told the lawyer that his client was not innocent, he was freed for lack of conclusive evidence. That the Court knew he was an accomplice in the terrorist act, but let him go because the law requires solid evidence. So, sentencing Mohammad Afzal was never as Roy put it to be. Her insinuation is a case of slander against the Supreme Court, a thing she loves doing because it earns her instant rewards abroad. (See the citation of Lennan Foundation prize, worth  350 thousand US dollars, to Arundhati Roy in 2002.)

     To turn to the article under scrutiny, the credit to Roy is only the form she adopted for the Maoist propaganda. This, too, is not such a strength by which it got so lavish a space in a big Indian newsweekly. The reasons are elsewhere, from where hidden and open support for a blatantly anti-India tirade guarantee praise and attractive honours. These ultimately make our desi editors and academics, not yet free from the colonial inferiority complexes, involuntarily admire such ‘rebel’ writers. Fake rebels to be sure, but made real by force of incessant approval from forces abroad. Therefore, the value of Roy’s writings is not erudition, nor sincerity to any truthful account, nor even the literary style, but her being ‘global’ (read: anti-India) citizen by her own proud assertion.

     On the face of it her article is a travelogue to undiscerning readers. By force of literary presentation and engaging style. But it is all style and little substance. For example, the lively description of some of the Maoist tribal girls and naxal boys, mostly non-tribal as far as the names indicate. They are presented as kind, gentle, loving individuals. They might be so. But that in no way exclude their being totally ignoramuses about the diabolical political creed, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM in naxal-speak), they are following. They might just as well be the expendable fuel by which leaders like Lenin and Mao tried to ignite a ‘world revolution’. However, except wasting millions of such trusting, kind boys and girls both of them achieved nothing. Absolutely nothing, by any historical reckoning.

      Somehow Roy knows it, may be not in its full extent. In all probability she has not seen a ten volume Chinese encyclopedia about the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), a period now China officially calls as ‘ten years calamity’. The same Cultural Revolution, however, was one of the two things Mao was proud of till his end! Roy may not have read Gulag Archipelag, too, the magnum opus of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Named as the greatest non-fiction of the 20th century, Gulag is the most authentic, detailed literary investigation of Leninist-Stalinist political system of Russia existed during 1917-1956. Without reading this treatise no one can fully comprehend what the communist systems actually were. Roy has evidently not read great details of real Leninist, Stalinist, Maoist horrors. Otherwise she would not have defended Mao and Charu in the juvenile way, with conjectures and sentimental mumbo-jumbo as can be seen in para 13 and 14. In her words, “But can we, should we let apprehensions about the future immobilise us in the present?”

     So, she knows by other extant sources what had been the horrible results of those Stalinist and Maoist regimes in Russia, China and elsewhere. Hence the ‘apprehensions’. But she tries to convey that ‘those things’ will not happen here, should the Maoists win the war. Strangely, she never provides a single basis, even a straw, for her optimism. This kind of blind advocacy, on balance, only shows that destroying the ‘Hindu state’ is her first priority. Which is why she is not unduly perturbed about what happens after Maoists took it over. Else there is no reason why the lessons of a century of communist regimes world over should not be a stern warning to a sensible writer. On the contrary, Roy is hell bent to convert her readers to the same mad Maoism, or MLM.

    In any case, the Indian variant of this creed has not shown any visible difference for the last four decades. Roy herself, in spite of her wish, could not find anything different. Her dear comrade Kamla does not watch any movies but the ambush videos (para 20), the video the Maoists make of their ambush operations in which their victims are trapped, killed or maimed by the landmines. Only such videos comrade Kamla loves to watch! What does it signify except a pathological lust for blood? How, then the result would be any different from Mao’s China or Pol Pot’s Cambodia if she becomes a ruling Maoist, progressing from the present struggling one? Roy has no argument to offer. Perhaps she is not bothered too. 

     Therefore, the otherwise gentle demeanour of individual comrades proves nothing. Roy has done a moral wrong, as a writer, to use their innocence in order to justify a cannibalistic ideology. (Yes, during the Cultural Revolution in some cases they literally ate the flesh of ‘class enemies’ to show their class loyalty!) In view of everything, Roy’s pathetic attempt to paint Charu Mazumdar as a ‘visionary’ (para 13-14) gives the game away. She knows and mentions obliquely his blind faith in Mao and his fetish, his ‘almost genocidal’ language. Still she clings to Charu and tries to make a great visionary out of him. As usual, without any foundation.

     Roy conspicuously fails to mention what her comrades actually know about Mao, their sole inspiration. Do they know that Mao was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other 20th-century leader? And that’s one of the more positive things Jung Chang and Jon Halliday said in their 800-page Mao: The Unknown Story (2005). This is one of the numerous well-researched books came about Mao in the last two decades, by Chinese sources themselves. Do the Maoists of Dandakaranya know that Mao is no longer a revered figure in his own homeland?

    In para 15, 18 and elsewhere Roy makes a case of Maoist girls fighting for ‘female equality’ in ‘the Party’ and society. But do the poor girls know about their great Mao being a big womanizer? Even a seller of Chinese women, like goods, to foreign powers? Two years ago the State Department of USA declassified the documents on the US-Chinese relation during 1973-76. It came out that in one of his trade negotiations Mao had offered Chinese women to his US interlocutor Henry Kissinger. The long talk took place at Mao’s place in 1973.  Have a glimpse from the AFP report, Washington, 12 Feb 2008:

… In a long conversation that stretched way past midnight at Mao’s residence on February 17, 1973, the cigar-chomping Chinese leader referred to the dismal trade between the two countries, saying China was a “very poor country” and “what we have in excess is women.”

He first suggested sending “thousands” of women but as an afterthought proposed “10 million,” drawing laughter at the meeting, also attended by Chinese premier Zhou Enlai.

Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor at that time, told Mao that the United States had no “quotas” or “tariffs” for Chinese women, drawing more laughter.

Kissinger then tried to highlight to Mao the threat posed by the Soviet Union and other global concerns as he moved to lay the groundwork for restoring diplomatic ties a year after Nixon’s historic visit to China.

But Mao dragged the talks back to the topic of Chinese women.

“Let them go to your place. They will create disasters. That way you can lessen our burdens,” Mao said.

“Do you want our Chinese women? We can give you ten million,” he said.

Kissinger noted that Mao was “improving his offer.”

Mao continued, “By doing so we can let them flood your country with disaster and therefore impair your interests. In our country we have too many women, and they have a way of doing things. …

    This was a most mature Chairman Mao, in official capacity, barely three years from his death. Do the Maoists girls of Bastar know about it? Does Roy herself comprehend what its import is to the value of the grand ideology named after the said Chairman?

      In any case, Roy’s stray discussions about Mao, Charu, the whole ideology and actual history of ruling Maoism in positive light is deeply flawed. She did it on her own, strangely, without ever including the comrades in the discussion she was walking with for weeks. Her whole effort, as and when she made, in theoretical discussion about Maoism is noticeable in being disjointed. All based on imaginary, poetic optimism, as if she is compelled to defend Maoists even though there are no firm grounds for doing so.

     In effect, Roy is no doubt helping the Maoist strategists, visible and invisible, sitting here as well as pulling strings from abroad, to use such innocent tribal Chhattisgarh girls and Telugu boys as cannon fodders.  Or, as “cheap fuel to ignite revolution”, to use Maxim Gorky’s words depicting what Lenin did to the innocent workers of Russia. Given the known history of Leninist, Maoist horrors in political transformation, this is an unpardonable misdeed on the part of Arundhati Roy, the writer, to encourage uneducated, innocent boys and girls to embrace Maoism. Perhaps, to satisfy her hatred towards India she has become a blind supporter of the Maoist movement.   

      What Roy has done in this write up is either a case of blind leading/ following blinds or a calculated inciting by all means against India the ‘colonial power’, the ‘upper caste Hindu state’ as she keeps calling it hatefully. Otherwise there cannot be any justification why her writing lacks in any systematic argument, uniformity in factual presentation, sense of proportion, sense of history and reason. On all these counts the article is very poor, if examined closely. Therefore, taking it any more than a willful anti-India, especially anti- Government of India propaganda would be a gross error. It is no travelogue or intellectual argument to convince anyone, but, a willful fight “with poisoned weapons to finish the opponent”, to use Lenin’s phrase.  

Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

                                               Astha Bharati