Night March

INTRODUCTION

My warmest salutes to Alpa Shah for writing her book ‘Night March’ of the Guerrillas. I hardly have an adjective to express my admiration for such a scholastic and creative work which is a vivid firsthand experience of her most penetrative travels in Jharkhand. Above all she was a very witness to the crusaders of liberation, living like one among the Maoists, in their very heart. Few women in the world could ever display the relentless courage and endurance she exhibited in living in the hardest of conditions to integrate with the guerrillas.

She is an inspiration to the rich and upper middle class who are predominantly sold to making money to declass themselves and identify themselves with the down trodden.

Her writing also scorns the intellectuals who are virtual slaves of the rotten socio-economic order.

The book depicts how the Maoist guerrillas of the C.P.I. (Maoist) of India are based in the very thick and skin of the masses and the depth to which they deploy their very idioms. It describes the deep transformation taking place from within amongst the leaders positively and negatively. She does justice to the creativity and relentlessness of the Maoists and describes the democratic advances and dramatic changes they have made to the lives of the people. With deep insight she probes into the minds or psychology of the Maoist cadres and leaders.

The book‘s chapters remind you of the ebb and flow of river flowing or an Ocean.

Like a tapestry she beautifully knits the lives of a set of characters with contrasting qualities giving the sensation of a novel. She ignites the first spark of the book in poetic fashion when she first sets foot it the areas of the Guerrillas in Lalgaon in Jharkhand.It is so gripping that it can make a reader feel as though he is part of the whole thing. Such a book is comparable with the best Indian classics on the Communist Movement and gives memories of Edgar Snow’s journeys ‘Red Star over China.’ Just like Snow she based herself in the very heart of the Guerrillas, sharing life with them.

In a very subtle manner she reveals how the Indian socio-economic order has it’s unique charasterictics from China with much influence of caste than analyzed by traditional Communists .The glaring loopholes of the social system are illustrated most coherently. Even the shortcomings of the Maoists are highlighted practically and theoretically. It is her strong conviction that urban areas and work was neglected and the characterization of India as semi-feudal was erroneous.

Much more emphasis she felt should be place on Constitutional rights. In her study she also revealed that there was not sufficient differentiation analyzed on the socio-economic condition of tribals from peasants in the plain areas.

In her view the strategy of protracted people’s war too has flaws with the penetration of Imperialism and capitalism through corporates .Adequate autonomy too was not developed for the tribals in terms of self -governance.

The Book is divided into 7 parts with 20 chapters. Part 1 is ‘Gong Underground;Part 2 is on ‘Prashant,the Kid among Goats; Part 3 is on ‘Gyanji,an agile mind;’ Part 4 is on ‘Kohli’s Home Away From home’;Part 5 is on ‘Frankenstein Monster;’ Part 6 is on Somwari’s Autonomy from the shackles of Patriarchy;’ ; Part 7 is ‘What Came to Pass.’ Each chapter keeps the reader in suspense in its very own way.

In the first part in ‘Half a Century of Armed Resistance’, she gives a deep historical coverage of the genesis of the Indian Communist Movement. The roots of Naxalbari and Charu Mazumdar are traced and the impact of Maoist China. She also described the impact of Maoism in Philllipines, Nepal, Peru and other parts of Latin America as well as revolutionary movements in Africa. The historical origins were traced in the semi-colonial social systems which bred revolt.Anti-colonial revolts of India wee also described. The peace negotiations of 2004 by the Peoples War Group and 2010 Operation Greenhunt were delicately touched upon.

Her autobiographical chapter in part ‘Following the Call’, reveals what drew her towards this work is intriguing, inspiring and touching. She describes her family’s influence whose values were in starking contrast to the typical Gujarati familes of East Africa. She describes the characters connected to her and what influenced her quest with deep passion.

WHY COMRADES WERE ATTRACTED TO THE MOVEMENT AND WHY THEY LEFT IT

There is a fascinating account in the various factors that motivated individuals to joint the guerilla army  and why some even deserted it.They are covered in the Part 2’Prashant,the Kid among goats’, ‘Gyanji,an Agile Mind, ‘Kohlis Home away from Home,’ and  ‘Vikas, Frankenstein’s monster.’

There is a very enlightening experience with top Maoist leader Gyanji,who ignites the first spark of this epic work, around whom the book greatly revolves. It summarizes the circumstances with which he rejected a lucrative career in the Indian Adminstrative Service and what made him extricate himself from the influences of Vedic philosophy or Hinduism. The metamorphosis described is truly touching in what lit the spark into his turning into a revolutionary.Inspite of coming from a largely landed family Gyanji imbibed the teachings of Marx,Lenin and Mao.

Gyanji spoke extensively of the state repression smashing the backbone of revolutionary activities. In deep depth he covered the unimaginable disparity, justifying the need for revolutionary violence. He asserted how morally Naxalites were not commiting terrorism. In his view it was almost impossible to undertake open mass mobilisation. He also feared that some people joined the ranks only for material needs and not with the long term revolutionary goals.

Prashant was born into a small family in a mud hut in South Bihar. guerrillas recruited supporters from not just the lowest castes but also from small farmers from middle castes, like Prashant belonged to.Prashant was bored at school and skipped his class to graze the family’s goats in the forest. Here he had his first encounter with the Maoists and was inspired by them.Prashant was first inducted into the cultural troupe. He turned into an ardent student of Marx, Lenin and Mao and even learnt English.

Another striking example is how Kohli revolted against his father’s misbehaviour towards him. Coincidentally on the day his father was hit he came in touch with the Maoist zonal leader Parasji.Nothing motivated Kohli to join school which he felt had no proper textbooks and a source of black money for construction contractors. In his view the mid day meal scheme was a source of supply for the blackmarket supply of kerosene, rice and dal.Nor were there competent teachers.

The egalitarian values of the Naxalites were elaborated, revealing their humanism and subtle interrelationship the people. Significance of a Moral economy was highlighted, confronting extensive poverty, low literacy rates, limited employment opportunities, social opression and human rights violation.

The Naxalites mastered the art of establishing intimate emotional relations which drew comrades like Kohli into the camp. Within the army units enthusiasm for cadres was generated to study Communist history New recruits were overwhelmed with struggles for better wages, land and forest rights etc.The humanism of the revolutionaries played a more crucial role than the material aspirations raised. The hierarchies of caste and class wer deeply penetrated as a result of ideological mastery.Adivasis floated in and out of squads like fish or birds migrating.

The book gives instances also about the weaknesses and discrepancies which are reflected in the narration of how certain Comrades left the guerrillas, even to join Hindu spiritualism.

Jitesh and Sureshji.Jitesh worked as a servant for an IAS officer .To save himself from a murder accusation he joined the guerrillas. with his brother being accused of murdering his neighbour. His brother too joined the Maoist sqaud to evade arrest.Suresh was the son of a dalit mother, and not only discriminated as a dalit ,but also a victim of leprosy.

Another fascinating interview was that of Bimalji who came from a poor family. He left his teaching post to join Coal workers movement in City of Dhanbad.

Other characters amongst whom this book revolved around were Vikas,Kohli and Birsa.They all revealed unique charasterictics which threw light on the harsh realities prevailing within the movement.

Birsa was a well educated adivasi from Lalgaon who was impressed with the work of the Maoists fighting against displacement of Adivasis by the construction of large dams.and a proposed army firing range. It inspired him to examine life in the armed squads. After a stint in the Maoist army he left it and became a part-time village worker.

Vikas was part of a Maoist operation in Nayagarh in2008 which acquired legendary status and even covered by the Indian press. The author’s encounter with Vikas was the most perfect illustration of how opportunism permeated the highest echelons of the leadership. In a very subtle manner the author describes how in day to day experiences she detected the essence of his character in his very machismo.In speaking to his juniors Vikas displayed masculinity prevalent among upwardly mobile lower classes in India.,addressing his juniors in a very rough manner. In the author’s first meeting at Lalgaon he harshly interrogated her. Fascinatingly it is the author who got insight into the flaws or blemishes of Vikas before Gyanji.

Birsa who after coming out of prison was frustrated with the hierarchy in the movement, denying inequality. He accused the mass organizations of comprising of old Brahman men who could not even refute casteist ideals in their homes, who were never at the core places of struggle. In his view they organized their daughter’s weddings in traditional Hindu style.

Vikas deserted the guerrilla army by launching a mutiny from the platoon with eight young men and seven of the best rifles.Vikas was now aspiring to form his on branch and working for the Indian security forces and a mercenary gang. After a hearing in a people’s court he was executed for treason.

The case of Madhusudanji is a classic example of a Maoist leader leaving the ranks to stand as a candidate for the elections. He initiated his preparations within jail walls itself. Ironically Madhusudanji was one of the very few dalits who made it to the hierarchy of the leadership.

In detail Gyanji’s views were expressed on the extent he felt betrayed who owed it to ‘inferiority complex.’Gyanji also felt that Madhusudanahji paid a deaf era to his advice in studying the writings of Marx,Lenin and Mao.”It was his great weakness and one of the reason she could not read human history, making history with others, not just an individual making history.

Later Somwari,who spent 3 months in jail became a convert to Hindu spiritualism .”She is now part of an older generation of Adivasis reacting against their world being rapidly torn apart by guerrillas. Transforming herself by joining these spiritual sects was possibly a step to re-structure all aspects of her life. The irony, perhaps, is that this sect is likely to be absorbed by the Hindu Right.”

ESTABLISHING REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRACY

Chapter 11”Egalitarian Ideals, Humaneness and Intimacy’ described the strides in revolutionary democratic movement and methods adopted to achieve them. It was part of the chapter on ‘Kohli’s Home,Away from Home.’

An illustrative description was given of a state level Commitee conference of the Maoists, which took place once every 5 years. The book narrated how guerillas assembled at such conferences every five years even from neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

.A striking kitchen was prepared to provide for all the participants. Sacks of rice and lentils were packed up and a wll dug up to provide for clean drinking water. Rice and dal or potato currry was boiling on large aluminium vats.

At the conferences, Maoist activities of the previous years were analyzed and evaluated, future plans chalked out, and solutions to problems detected. Crucial discussions would be meticulously evaluated, with intense debates, and eventually put to vote, with the majority decision being the decider. The legacy of the Paris Commune was continued in the light of democratic centralism.

Living examples of the operation of a Jungle Sarkar were described in the book. After getting rid of the forest officials, police, thieves and contractors, and establishing their own schools and mobile camps, The Naxalites undertook redistributive measures. Ponds were filled to facilitate communal fishing. Forty acres of land was distributed .that had been taken by the state to build a cooperative farm. The state farm was a virtual cosmetic formation and the Naxalites split the land into tow parts. Half the land was shared by Kherwar Adivasis and the other half for feeding the guerillas.

The right to pick mahua flowers from the forest was also redistributed. Although some people owned mahua trees on their land, officially the trees were the property of the state department. The naxalites conducted a survey of mahua trees in the forest and then summing up the results of several meetings, re-divided the trees to make sure every household had equal access to them.

Apart from such re-distribution people’s courts settled many a major dispute, especially those between the higher castes and Adivasis .Such courts gained great credibility in the eyes of the masses who felt the injustice of the state’s courts who always arbitrarily gave judgements in favour of the ruling castes or classes. The author witnessed a people’s court resolve a battle between 2 brothers,over the right to pick flowers from eight mahua trees in the forest, decide whether or not an inter-caste development deserved to be reprimand and even make a ruling on the allotment of track land to enable someone to build a house.

Football tournaments were also organised in the rainy season which involved teams from many surrounding villages.32 teams entered a competition.Bamboo posts were erected as goals.

In the winter a festival was organised to commemorate the ant-colonial Adivasi heroes. mobilize thousands of people to lalagaon.

On the 1st occasion 20000 people assembled.Ironically,the villagers were critical of the Jungle Sarcar for getting an artist from the plains which was alien to the tribals and divorced from their day to day lives.

The maximum energies are divested on protests and rallies.The venues were literally illuminated with a red spark wit daytime marches, torch-lit processions and road blocks, with huge participation of villagers.

Projecting the banner of protests against privatization, liberalization and globalization ,they demonstrated against inflation, for employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,and picketed against the corruption of the public distribution system.Effigies were burnt of prime minister Manmohan Singh and Home minister P.Chindambaram.Local agitations were followed by several other rallies to highlight their grievances in Ranchi City and also in Delhi,as part of a wider front of mass organizations.

Mangra said”Before the intervention of the Naxalites on the scene, we were not aware of the role of ministers.The Naxalites educated us on what was due from the state. Earlier we had no idea that we were entitled to Below Poverty line cards to get subsidized rations. We were unaware that the National rural employment guarantee act ensured us work.”

METHODS OF RAISING FUNDS

A separate chapter has been alloted to the manner the Maoists raised their funds. It is Part 14 titled ‘Accelerating the Reach of the State and Capital.’The guerrillas relied on tapping per-existing black markets in the ares of operation.The 3 main sources were large scale corporations, the illicit company of forest products, and the black economy around state infrastructural development projects.

In the author’s view they were protection rackets .Gyanji justified this as ‘taxation”,explaining that it was money that was any case illicit, already circulating through corruption rackets, or accumulated through exploitation of the poor. He felt that by grabbing the money from the pockets of rich capitalists, they purified the money by putting it to use for public good. Under no condition would they support the anti-people activities of the rich.

Senior cadres were alloted the portfolio to collect money from the contractors,keep accounts, and redistribute funds.Middle level leaders like Vikas had financial responsibilities. They had to coordinate with village elites to decide which of the villagers would become the contractor for any given scheme, agree to what level the chosen contractor would implement the project, ensure that the contractor saved for himself from the construction process only the amount that had been agreed with the naxalites,and they also had to retrieve a pre-determined amount of money from the building process of the guerrilla armies.

When the naxalites came into an area they made inroads into the social networks of contractors and politicians to raise demands for illicit funs. Guerrillas like Vikas would tour houses of contractors and politicians in the middle of the night with their guns threatening the local bigwigs to part with a cut of their profit to the Maoists.

The Maoists had now set up their own rules on fund extraction, how much money was to be taken, and who should be responsible for it. Regulations were also made on how loot should be distributed -what proportion of the money should be spent on village health clinics, education in the armies,etc.In tapping illicit funds, the Maoists recruited cadres like Vikas in the capitalist economy around the mines, development projects and forest product contracts, but also villagers who previously had access to these economies.Naxalites not only revised their local rules of extortion, but also replaced the old contractors with their chosen village ones.

The Maoists replaced wealthy town based Hindu and Muslim elite contractors with the more impoverished of the village middle castes and Muslims .They democratised contract-running through this manner .Rafiq from the Pathan community was an ideal illustration, who was a little more than thirty. He lived with his mother,wife,two children and two younger brothers. It was poor,disenfranchised Hindu and Muslim men like Rafiq whom the Naxalite leaders slowly befriended to displace the historically established contractor-politician nexus from the area. Even if they had no issues with supporting the Maoists as village level workers they profusely refused joining the red army, on grounds that they were for low castes.

In the author’s view having not created the infrastructure of a strong counter culture ,it was all too easy for young comrades like Vikas or Birsa to internalise some of the capitalist and hierachical values of these elites and seek to differentiate themselves from others, reproducing the inequalities that these values generated. This included accumulation of private property,and patriarchical approach towards woman. Thus a deeply capitalist culture penetrated and entrapped the Maoist ranks, in the author’s view. This diametrically opposed the goals or aspirations of a Communist society, generating inequality. It imbibed values of the ruling classes.Gyanji’s view was that political education would combat this. In the view of the author The Maoist movement was creating class differentiation and imbibing hierarchical values by not confronting capitalism at its backbone and thus bringing the state closer to Adivasi lives.

OPPRESSION OF WOMEN

On aspect of gender, generation, class and caste a chapter was covered. In Part 6 ‘Somwari’s Autonomy from the Shackles of Patriarchy.’ In Chapter 17  ‘Gender, Generation,,Class and Caste.’ Issue was discussed at maximum height.

The author revealed captivating images of woman bearing arms with characteristic pride, meeting several activists of the Nari Mukti Sangh.In the view of Maoists “Women hold up half the sky.”

The Maoist placed great accent on redressing issue of gender relations with 40% of the Maoist cadre comprising woman. Women in the villages played an integral role in giving food, acting as couriers, caring for sick comrades in their homes and even hiding the guerillas.In the protests they played a formidable role .In many regions of the country Naxalites had built women’s organizations in the villages, demanding equal wages for agricultural work, seeking higher wages for kendu leaf connection, and demonstrating against rape of dalit woman by upper caste men.

Women even in an embryonic stage joined the armed units, leading platoon sin battles. Women were literally sandwiched between the state’s army and the Maoist soldiers .Most made the choice of joining the Maoist ranks. However in other Maoist strongholds, the number of women taking up guns was relatively low.,inspite of presence of woman’s mass organizations. Most women who came within the fold of the guerilla army departed after a year, mainly being around 20 years of age.

A detailed description was done of Woman comrade Seema in a meeting at Lalagaon who came from Andhra Pradesh. Originally she was from a banned Maoist front from Andhra Pradesh and was deputed by the Maoist leadership to the forest s of Jharkhand. Sitting under a Guava tree with the author she revealed how she was trying to figure out all day which girls left the Women’s liberation front since she had last visited 3 months ago and which women joined the ranks. Significantly,Seema belonged to a lower caste but was still well educated and spoke fluent English.Seema also revealed how she had just received a letter from a female guerilla who had been arrested and who stated that during her torturous interrogation ,the police had asked her about every scar on Seema’s body, every mole on her face and every line on the palms of her hands. The author had deep admiration for Seema’s daunting courage but questioned upholding the traditional monogamous family structure within the movement and not confronting the male leadership domination.

Reference has been made to the heroic life of Anuradha Gandhy towards liberation of women. Her life achievements were narrated in organizing 5000 workers in a thermal plant to strike, mobilised house servants, railway workers, power loom workers and coal miners. Her confrontation with untouchability among dalits in slums was also highlighted and how she brought dalit question on the revolutionary map. Her insightful reviews were also praised on women’s issues and how she combated repression from the underground. In the author’s view she was the best example of the teaching that the world was not to be interpreted but changed, as prescribed by Karl Marx.

The author narrated stories of 2 of the squad members who left the women’s liberation front for a few days on grounds of illness. She met them in the house of Comrade Savitri.One of them joined the ranks of naxalites because she had been lonely at home after her parents had gone of to Delhi as construction labour. When she fell ill she had come to Savitri’s house to recuperate and then returned to the squads. The other girl came to Savitri’s house to recover and then went to work in a brick kiln in West Bengal.The 3rd girl Pratibha wanted to return to the woman’s front as she liked it but was worried about the circumstances that impended her.The involvement of her brother Ranjeet was a threat to her survival and being subject to police harassment.Savitri herself was going through a bout of depression being in a love with a boy whom the parents denied on grounds of superstition.

A detailed coverage is given on Comrade Somwari,wife of Bimal. Bimal had left his wife to marry Somari.The couple had 2 children. Few weeks after they started living together the first wife made legal claims on their land and filed charges on the couple. An allegation was made that Bimal left her when she was pregnant to marry Somwari.Now the couple had to either give her compensation or face incarceration. To evade jail,Bimal went to work as a construction worker in Chennai.Now Somwari took over the household. She brought up her son and daughter working as a part-time assistant health worker .She leased their land to a cousin, to till in return for sharing half the produce.

Somwari now developed feelings for an Adivasi teacher who came to teach in a local school. However Bimal,returned being worried he would lose his wife.Somwar’s case was not unusual in choosing one’s own cohabitating partners, to start living with them and even to have children, with weddings to follow only if they could afford them. It was also common for women and men to seek other partners if a relationship did not work.

The author wished that Comrade Seema came to live with her to witness the relative autonomy of Somwari. And her other Adivasi female neighbours.

EXCHANGES WITH GYANJI

Part 3 ‘Gyanji-An Agile Mind.’ Traced the genesis of what turned Gyanji into a revolutionary.

Most mindboggling exchanges took place between the author and Gyanji.The author felt the Maoists ignored forms of egalitarianism that already prevailed in Adivasi Communities.Gyanji firmly felt that the Maoists had failed in laying a sound educational base with political education neglected. Many Adivasi cadres left the squads and did not return.Gyanji also highlighted that they needed to understand the Maoist programme more lucidly.

An intense debate took place between the author and Gyanji on permitting free sex within, permitting pre-marital and extra-marital relations. In the author’s view it gave Adivasi women greater economic autonomy and more freedom from their higher caste counterparts.Gyanji felt such a policy would lead to sexual anarchy and was counter posed to Maoist ideology.Romantic liaisons were often discouraged by Maoist leaders. The author went to the extent of asking Gyanji why as a Marxist he insisted on such subordination of women and cherished family structures based on tradition.

Hindu rituals were abolished, but to marry Permission had to be granted from the higher leadership. It had to be verified that the bonding was due to revolutionary commitment and not through casual sexual encounters. Divorce was not granted without proper reason or grounds. Otherwise interview of the Maoist leadership granting divorce would be a manifestation of individualist thinking, irresponsibility and anarchy.

The author’s views were deeply divergent feeling that such an approach would grant a licence for male-caste leaders to control women .Gyanji retorted stating that her views were very mechanical. In reply She refuted Gyanji by claiming he was undialectical.

In Gyanji’s view the intensity of state repression literally reduced their revolutionary activities to military combat alone. In the depths of despair, it was a big hurdle to rekindle flame of struggle. The state repression acted as an obstacle to develop political consciousness, political education or mass mobilisation. In his view the main danger was that people penetrated into the maoist ranks, without sharing their vision of a Socialist World.-,with the gun becoming just a propeller towards achieving upward social mobility, within the very systems the Maoists wish to topple.

The author had strong conviction that the social base of the system or backbone would be untouched .In her view the multinational companies would remain which generated inequality; but the Maoists would kill hundreds of young Adivasi soldiers of the state armies. Gyanji in reply explained that even it this was true the people killed had become an arm of the state and they would not target the same men when they returned back home to their village to visit their families.

The author asked Gyanji “Is it not the case that the power flowing from the barrel of the gun will reproduce the very systems that you are trying to extinguish?”

Gyanji replied, “It is one of the gravest challenges that clandestine underground movement faces.”

Significantly in a self-criticism Gyanji states, “The main problem is that our capacity has been reduced to military needs of war at  the cost of political education of soldiers attention has been elevated to military attacks nod counter-atacks to confront state repression. Far too much time was spent on planning formations of attack, military drills and making weapons, and relatively far too little time allotted to reading, debating and nurturing or moulding a community away from the arms and the hierarchies of society that surrounded them.”

The author had deep conviction that in confronting such oppression counter-violence may be the only road and only by taking up cudgels of arms can any impact be made. However she saw the danger of a pitfall in counter-violence turning into the very purpose or a force that is an end in itself, which would relegate collective social change to the backseat.

Significantly at the end she recounts how Gyanji was subjected to perilous conditions within the prison walls with prisoners denied basic human conditions. The author reflected the appalling conditions prevailing within jails.

APPRAISAL

For this I have referred mainly to Part 7 in ‘What Came to Pass’. In Chapter 20 on ‘Incarnations.’

Purely with regards to the Maoist movement the book makes me question whether subjective conditions truly exist for launching of protracted peoples War in India with sufficient agrarian revolutionary revolution existing. No doubt it has illustrated how the Maoists have ignited a spark which glows like an inextinguishable star, who ressurect themselves from the deepest depths of despair. Still it reveals sharp weaknesses in mass line with so many recruits leaving the people’s army and the lack of a coherent or fortified structure. No mention also of struggle or support of poor peasantry in plain areas. From the experiences narrated I find a dicthonomy between the practice of the Chinese Communist party in building a base area in Hunan in the 1930’s and 40’s and the C.P.I. (Maoist) today .I strongly feel that policies adopted to recruit funds revealed anarchic tendencies and not in consonance with revolutionary practice.

An important weakness of the book is inadequate depth on the aspect of the relation of the People’s Guerrilla army with the mass movement or agrarian revolution and the level at which political self-governance has been established or base areas built. The level of democratic functioning within the Maoist army and fronts is not touched upon sufficiently. The aspect of massline has hardly been touched upon in sufficient depth.

The neo-fascist element was not analyzed from a Leninist class point of view but from an ‘identity’ one. She overestimates the development of bourgeois parliamentary democracy, failing to understand that in reality it is a pigsty. .I feel the author lacks a coherent analysis of the character of the state and the essence of the politics of the New Democratic Revolution.

To an extent credibility is robbed of the movement claiming that Maoist destroyed the culture of Adivasi’s communities. It denies a Marxist approach by advocating immersion in the capitalist economy ‘creation of new communities’, and ‘need to rely on the support of pre-existing family relations.

She fails to understand the essence of theory of Protracted peoples War theory or it’s applicability. No cutting edge is given to politics of practice of people or revolutionary armed resistance.

Over-emphasis has been awarded to capitalism and critique of semi-feudal relations by her, failing to detect that globalisation has not destroyed the roots of semi-feudalism. She fails to understand that semi-feudalism still permeates the countryside with the existence of money lenders and commission agents and vast presence of absentee landlordism. Land grabs by upper caste politicians from landless agricultural labourers, and land auctioned to landless agricultural workers at exorbitant rates testify this.

Alpa Sha’s conclusions express elements of liberal or anarchist trends when stating that Dalits and Adivasis would ultimately not seek the withering of the state as a revolutionary ideal, but aspire to be granted a greater share of the state. This gives scant respect to the goals of the Maoists aspiring to build a Communist Society.

The positive points of the book are that it reveals that in crucial junctures Maoists fail to apply the mass line or develop democracy at sufficient depth. In her prolonged coverage she reveals how the military line does not do complete justice to mass movements or incorporate all sections of the masses and indirectly even endorses factionalism. The numerous instances of cadre leaving the ranks testify this, particularly lack of political education.

I also praise he for applauding the striving of the Maoists to establish revolutionary democracy and fully justifying it as a democratic revolutionary force.Alpa Shah has given a most humane image or form to the Maoist Guerillas, highlighting how they have confronted opression at it’s very backbone.

Her work praises how the Maoists mobilised the Dalits and Adivasis who were marginalized at a crescendo by the rulers .Alpa Shah recognises the emotional intimacy the Maoist developed with the opressed people at the base, which made them an integral part of the family and kinship network of the Adivasis.Great accent has been given on the opression of women and how even the Maoists practice discrimination in their ranks. The political education campaigns have also been praised. I appreciate she has not exhibited revolutionary romanticism like Arundhati Roy in her writings on the Maoists. Above all her account illustrates the importance of Che Guevera’s words on imbibing or inculcating an inner change within man.

Harsh Thakor is a political commentator

Email- thakor.harsh5@gmail.com


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