Arundhati Roy: Indigenous movements are our only hope.

The Indian Government which was one of the leading countries in the Non-Aligned Movement during the cold war, has now opted to being completely aligned. It calls itself a natural ally of Israel and the US. In 1990 it embraced the Free Market. Since then, structural adjustment, privatization and huge infrastructural projects like dams and power plants and mines have resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. India probably has the largest population of internally displaced people in the world. The largest majority of these people belong to indigenous tribal
communities or to the Dalit (untouchable) castes.

The present government is headed by stooges of the IMF and the corporate world. The Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, Mr Manmohan Singh has never won an election in his life. The Home Minister P.Chidambaram is a corporate lawyer who has represented many major mining corporations and also the infamous Enron. He has said that he visualizes 80% of the Indian population living in cities. This would mean social engineering on a scale that no governmet has ever dreamt of. Roughly moving about 500 million people off their lands. It can only be done if India turns into a military/police state.

But even as the rural poor are being displaced from their lands at an unprecedented pace, when they arrive in the cities, living in slums and shanty towns, forming the bulk of the virtually slave labour that builds the new, glittering cities, when their work is done they are driven out of the cities too. We have a population of 800 million people living on less than half a dollar a day. They are what the Nazis used to call “superfluous eaters”. The government wants to be rid off them.

It’s the same old story. You in the Americas know it better than almost anybody else. If you look at a map of India you will see that the forests, the massive mineral wealth, the indigenous tribes are stacked up on top of each other. The bauxite alone is valued at 4 trillion dollars..Around 2005 the Government signed hundreds of MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) with private corporations for massive mining and infrastructure projects. They tried to start work, but came up against a very, very strong resistance, not just by the party that is called the Communist Party of India (Maoist), but a whole spectrum of resistance—a biodiversity of resistance—that ranges from Gandhian, to Socialist, to indigenous militancy, to a classic, Maoist armed struggle. The Government branded them all Maoist and the Prime Minister called them —the poorest people in the country—India’s largest internal security threat. All these movements, whether or not they have taken to arms are being crushed by violent means.

The Naxalite movement began in one district in West Bengal called Naxalbari in 1967. The Party itself was called the CPI(ML) Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). It’s central political activity had to do with Land Reform. It was met with military and police repression in which the party was virtually physically annihilated. The Party split and re-split. New parties appeared with slight variations of the original ideology. But each time it appeared to have been wiped out, it rose from the dead, spreading across the country. It was particularly strong in the State of Andhra Pradesh where it called itself the Peoples War Group and then later just Peoples’ War (PW). In 2004 it was virtually routed from there and many cadre escaped to the forests of Chhattisgarh where they joined their colleagues who had been working with the tribal people for about thirty years. Now, suddenly the forest fortress into which they retreated has turned out to be a treasure trove for the coprorates and the Naxalites are being called the greates internal security threat.

Indigenous movements and struggles are on the rise everywhere in the world; especially in Latin America they are strongly questioning governments and corporations and is some cases as in Bolivia and Ecuador they face the dilemma of taking power or not, and they are advocating for a new vision of human life: “sumak kawsay” (good living) in quechua language, that harmonizes man and nature, dismissing the principles of capitalism.

These movements are our only hope. While communist resistance movements including guerillas war may have something to teach us about resistance, I do not believe they have the vision or the imagination to show us a way of sustainable living.

Women in the movement

Almost every resistance movement in India has women in front. This is among the most wonderful things about this place. Even the cadres of the PLGA (Peoples Liberation guerilla Army) are about 45% women. Though the Maoists cannot yet be called totally egalitarian, they appear to be more so on this question than other political parties.

Future of the movement

To begin with, I think, serious escalation. The Indian Government has made promises to the Corporations and here ‘creating a good investment climate’ means nothing but a war against the poor. But India is in a peculiar position. Unlike Western countries which were developing democracy at home while committing genocide in their colonies in order to extract raw materials to feed their industry, India today, which markets itself as the worlds’ largest democracy is having to colonize it’s own nether regions, to eat its own limbs. But the limbs are refusing to be eaten. The situation is this: For five years the poorest people in the world have managed to more or less hold off the richest corporations. It could be that the people of this country, with all their wisdom and resilience will win. If they do, they will make history. Maybe they will show the world a new way of doing things.

If they lose, it will be a defeat of the kind that the poor the world over have experience century after century. The fight is on. International solidarity helps, but increasingly, the fight has to be on the ground. Local, militant and impossible to co-opt.

3 Responses to “Arundhati Roy: Indigenous movements are our only hope.”

  1. 1 abinash908 July 5, 2010 at 23:44

    Chilling. Taken the rational behind such movement against the indian government because they have been continually suffered. Don’t you think we might need a leader here who has a vision and leads the revolution and also has the responsibility to take the brunt of it. Otherwise this might fail. Clearly naxals are not gaining any sympathy from the indians to overthrow the pseudo-capitalist government by involving in violence. Need a strong moralist leader who would not be suaved by any kind of political benefits or personal glory etc. Without leadership, this is gonnal fail as usual 9/10 revolutions fail at the cost of loss of indian property. Also, what is the guarantee that external enemies are not provoking these poor against the government by providing them with weapons !! The best way to protest may be not to work for these mining corporations who don’t stand up to their promise. This might be longterm but effective to discourage outsiders. Outside the world, everybody is basking in the glory of GDP and FDI’s coming in though

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