Arundhati Roy: Walking With the Comrades

Arundhati Roy during a visit to the forest where she broke the taboo of of interviewing Maoist guerrillas in their base areas.

Last month, quietly, unannounced, Arundhati Roy decided to visit the forbidding and forbidden precincts of Central India’s Dandakaranya Forests, home to a melange of tribespeople many of whom have taken up arms to protect their people against state-backed marauders and exploiters. She recorded in considerable detail the first face-to-face journalistic “encounter” with armed guerrillas, their families and comrades, for which she combed the forests for weeks at personal risk. This essay was published on March 21, 2010 in Delhi’s Outlook magazine. Arundhati Roy made the pictures in this 20,000 word essay available exclusively to Dawn. The following was first posted on

Walking with the Comrades

by Arundhati Roy

The terse, typewritten note slipped under my door in a sealed envelope confirmed my appointment with India’s Gravest Internal Security Threat. I’d been waiting for months to hear from them.

I had to be at the Ma Danteshwari mandir in Dantewara, Chhattisgarh, at any of four given times on two given days. That was to take care of bad weather, punctures, blockades, transport strikes and sheer bad luck. The note said: “Writer should have camera, tika and coconut. Meeter will have cap, Hindi Outlook magazine and bananas. Password: Namashkar Guruji.”

Namashkar Guruji. I wondered whether the Meeter and Greeter would be expecting a man. And whether I should get myself a moustache.

There are many ways to describe Dantewara. It’s an oxymoron. It’s a border town smack in the heart of India. It’s the epicenter of a war. It’s an upside down, inside out town.

In Dantewara the police wear plain clothes and the rebels wear uniforms. The jail-superintendant is in jail. The prisoners are free (three hundred of them escaped from the old town jail two years ago). Women who have been raped are in police custody. The rapists give speeches in the bazaar.

Across the Indravati river, in the area controlled by the Maoists, is the place the police call ‘Pakistan’. There the villages are empty, but the forest is full of people. Children who ought to be in school, run wild. In the lovely forest villages, the concrete school buildings have either been blown up and lie in a heap, or they’re full of policemen. The deadly war that’s unfolding in the jungle, is a war that the Government of India is both proud and shy of.

Operation Green Hunt has been proclaimed as well as denied. P. Chidambaram, India’s Home Minister (and CEO of the war) says it does not exist, that it’s a media creation. And yet substantial funds have been allocated to it and tens of thousands of troops are being mobilized for it. Though the theatre of war is in the jungles of Central India, it will have serious consequences for us all. Continue reading

Primer on India, Operation Green Hunt and the International Campaign

Road blockade in Lalgarh, West Bengal

Operation Green Hunt, the People’s Struggle in India, and the International Campaign

By the International Campaign Against War on the People in India

March 25, 2010

All over the world, people are asking questions about the nature of India’s society and government, and about the war on the adivasis—the tribal peoples—that has recently been launched by that government with strategic assistance from the US and Israel.[1]

Most commentators admit that the Indian people suffered greatly under British rule. Today, it is claimed, India is on a path of rapid technical progress and development; India has its own Silicon Valley, complete with high-tech R&D and hundreds of call centers for everything from Amazon to Victoria’s Secret.  New wealth is being created at a rapid rate, a large middle class is developing that is enjoying shopping malls, multiplex cinemas and imported cars, and much of this wealth is working its way down to the villages and urban slums seen in Slumdog Millionaire.

Largest Democracy in the World?

The most common claim is that India is “the world’s largest democracy.” It is said that India’s elected government has ended the oppressive caste system, which assigned everyone to a specific caste and types of work for life. While the government says it is solving the problem by reserving a certain percentage of jobs and places in schools for dalits (untouchables) and other lower castes, today caste oppression continues to define social reality for Indians, especially in the rural areas.

The vast majority of the 1.2 billion people who live in India have no control over their lives.  Living and working conditions have not changed for the better from colonial times to the present. According to a 2008 study by the US Agency for International Development, three-quarters of the people live on less than $2 per day.[2] Illiteracy is widespread in the countryside, where more than half of the women cannot read or write and many children leave school to support their families.[3] Nothwithstanding its “socialist” pretensions, successive governments since independence in 1947 have postponed and put off free and compulsory education for children. Continue reading

U.S. Campuses Rocked by Education Rights Protests

Photo by Luis V., Kasama Project, March 2010

by Kati Ketz

Thousands of students, workers and faculty at over 100 campuses in at least 39 states participated in a national day of action March 4. One demand was that administrators and chancellors must quit raising tuition and fees. Another demand was that theycut the salaries of the highest-paid administrators instead of the lowest-paid staffers on campus. Many of the protests opposed layoffs. Actions ranged from walkouts and marches, to occupations and shut-downs, to teach-ins and movie showings

At UCLA, where cuts have been especially severe, over 300 students have staged a sit-in at the administrators’ building where the chancellor refuses to come out and meet with the protesters. Eric Gardner from UCLA Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) says, “We don’t accept the explanation that their hands are tied by the crisis. There are a lot of things they can do right now to alleviate the situation for students and workers, but they refuse – so we are confronting them and will continue to do so, today and in the future. Our struggle is not over yet. We make this university run, so they cannot ignore us for long.”

Charla Schlueter from UCLA SDS was also at the protest. “Five hours later, students are still here protesting the cuts with spirit. Later tonight, there will be a march with both UCLA and high school students demanding an end to the furloughs, and no more pink slips for high school teachers [who are expecting 5000 more pink slips this spring]. This whole day has been incredible – I have never seen so much unity amongst students, workers and professors working together to defend public education. Professors have brought their classes to the protests, people have been bringing food at water, workers have been taking their furlough days to protest.”

Schlueter continued, “ The most inspiring moment to me was when a group of visiting grade school kids came to the protest and talked about how nobody in their family has had the opportunity to attend college. That’s when I realized that if we don’t fight this now, then those children might never get that opportunity.” Continue reading

Peasants Tortured and Murdered in Brazil

This statement was received from Cebraspo, the Brazilian People’s Solidarity Center.


The National Commission of Poor Peasants League

Poor Peasants League of Rondônia and western Amazon

Jaru, Rondônia, December 10th, 2009

On December 9, at 2 o’clock pm, two coordinators of the Poor Peasants League of Rondônia, northern Brazil (LCP / RO) were kidnapped by paramilitaries in the service of landowners, on the road linking the peasant camp called Rio Alto and the city Buritis, in the state of Rondônia. The coordinators Elcio Machado (called Sabiá) and Gilson Gonçalves were tortured with refinements of cruelty. They had their fingernails torn out and also pieces of skin were torn from their bodies, then both were killed. On the morning of the same day two peasants had been brutalized on the same road.

Gilson had been interviewed in 2008 by a delegation of the International Association of People’s Lawyers – IAPL, which held a mission to investigate the facts, abuse and violence of the Brazilian State and landowners against the poor peasants of Rondônia.

The camp Rio Alto is located on lands that were supposed to be reserved for the Settlement Project of peasants from Rio Alto. But by the connivance of officials of the Incra National Institute of Agrarian Reform, an agency of the federal government, those lands were illegally taken by the landowner Edilson Cadalto. Since last year more than 45 families have been camped in that area and have been resisting the attacks of armed gangs of paramilitaries in the service of the landowner. Continue reading

US-AFRICOM Conference Staged in Ghana, March 20, 2010

AFRICOM to sharpen skills of military

The First United States – Africa Command Inspector General (IG) outreach conference opened at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) with the aim to help African military leaders champion standards, performance and also illustrate how the work of the IG system contributes to the fight against crime and corruption.

The conference, which ends on Thursday, would provide a platform to discuss IG’s missions, principles, organizational structures, operations, challenges and best practices of the system in the various countries.

Col. Ron Baldinger of the US Air Force explained the IG system as a military commander’s tool to instill, maintain accountability as well as professionalism. He said it allowed the military commanders to also ensure soldiers and their families got a venue for exposing violations coupled with wrongdoing when all other avenues had failed.  “The IG is the means by which a commander can monitor forces for compliance with established standards and policies”, he said. Continue reading

Call from the Philippines: Resist U.S. Military Intervention!

This article was published on Philippine Revolution in October 2008.

Resist US military intervention in the country

American troops are permanently stationed in the country, contrary to claims that they are merely visiting. Since 2001, when the Bush regime cited the Philippines as its “second front” in the US’ global terrorist war, American troops have been pushing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to wage war against various armed groups in Mindanao and have had bigger and broader involvement in these wars as well.

American troops are involved in intelligence work, provide weapons and training to the AFP and directly participate in combat operations. Their permanent presence in the Philippines enables the US to prop up the puppet regime and protect US power in Southeast Asia.

The US invokes the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)–an agreement it exploits and circumvents at will–to justify its troops’ continued presence in the country. The American soldiers’ permanent presence is camouflaged through “joint military exercises” that are held several times a year. Continue reading

CPP Opposes May Elections, NPA Launches Successful Tactical Offensives

The four articles that appear here–two commentaries on the elections and two reports on recent military victories over the Philippine Army–lay out the position of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, the NPA, on the upcoming national elections in May and their basic strategy to  ”arouse, organize and mobilize the people in mass struggles and the armed struggle.” These articles and the CPP’s bimonthly newspaper, Ang Bayan, are available on the Philippine Revolution website.

“The NPA views elections under a reactionary state as a power struggle amongst various factions of the ruling classes. It neither participates nor can it decide the outcome of these elections. On the other hand, the NPA upholds that the genuine democratic elections that reflect the peoples’ choices take place among local organs of political power organized in revolutionary base areas in the countryside.”

Walk the talk

Chadli Molintas Command, NPA-Ilocos-Cordillera Region, March 10, 2010

Recent ridiculous allegations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines linking a presidential candidate and more than 50 politicians to the New People’s Army highlight once again the apalling ineptitude of the Arroyo regime’s propaganda and psywar machinery.

As proof, the AFP presented an intelligence report that listed the names of politicians supporting the NPA, and said a decision to support a presidential candidate in exchange for money was passed by the Communist Party of the Philippines during its anniversary meeting in barangay Aguid, Sagada, Mountain Province last December 28, 2009.

The depths from which the AFP dredges up data for its intelligence report is so murky and slimy that even its own officers are confused. The CPP anniversary is on the 26 of December, and no meeting to decide whom to endorse for president ever took place last December in barangay Aguid or in any part of the Cordillera. Continue reading