01 November 2009

India and Its Maoists

This morning in The Times, you can find this report on the growing conflict in India between Maoist guerrillas one the one hand, the government and large extractive industries on the other. Caught between the two is the adivasi population who inhabit vast forested lands in southern and eastern portions of the country. The adivasi are often impoverished, indigenous tribal peoples. In The Times story Arundhati Roy is identified as among the people who believe the government ought to initiate negotiations with the insurgents. Roy published a longish essay on this matter in The Guardian late last week. You can find it here. It seems clear that Roy finds the Maoists, their history and their current tactics deeply troubling. But she also understands the reasons why the local population might side with them against the government. And she wonders why, given any number of other resistance movements across the country, the government has launched a massive military campaign against the Maoists.

It seems to me that the local population is caught between communist thugs and corrupt government officials. Both sides are more than willing to brutalize those they take to be 'collaborating' with the other side. Indeed, both sides seem to be more than willing to invoke collaboration to rationalize any havoc they cause. Roy holds out some hope that it may be possible to put brakes on the impending violence. From where I sit that seems unlikely. The choice for local populations, as is often the case, is between fanatics and expropriators. That is no choice.

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