Gautam Navlakha and Arundhati Roy: India’s War on People at Home

From MRzine

This forum, held in Mumbai on 2 June 2010, was sponsored by the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights. Video by Satyen K. Bordoloi.  The text below is a brief partial transcript of the forum.

For the the first of 18 segments of the video see:

Gautam Navlakha: How many of us have dared raise fundamental issues about what the state has been doing since 1947, since the transfer of power?  There’s not a single year in the last 63 that we have had since the transfer of power when the state has not been engaged in a war in one or another part of this country.  Today . . . [we have] 235 districts — 122 districts in Jammu and Kashmir, 79 districts in the northeast, and 34 districts according to the government of India — where some form of armed conflict is going on.  In 235 districts out of 636, there is an armed conflict going on.  Does it matter to us?  No.  I think we are the biggest hypocrites. . . .

We talk about peace, we talk about non-violence, we talk about peaceful transformation, we’re against political violence and everything, but we don’t mean it.  I’m sorry we don’t mean it, because if that had been so, we would be out on the streets, we would be out on the streets protesting against . . . the wars that the state has launched against our people.  In every year that a war has been launched, we have been quiet, because we accept war. . . .

We have to ask a fundamental question.  Why is it that the Indian state takes recourse to war?  Why?  What is it that is driving them?  And what is it that allows them to wage war?  Nobody is raising questions, and nobody is giving a damn.  I mean, just look at it.  In Kashmir so much has happened, and until 2008 . . . we were telling, preaching, the Kashmiris: Give up your armed resistance, give up militancy, and the Indian middle class, the Indian intelligentsia, the Indian political elite will accept, start negotiating and accept, whatever your earlier demands.  What happened?  No sooner did they give up their armed militancy than the Indian middle class, the corporate media, the political elite turned their backs and said: Now normalcy has been restored.

Brilliant.  Brilliant.  Absolutely brilliant.  Killings can take place, rapes can take place, disappearances can take place — we remain unmoved.  We’re non-violent, so we can’t even get shaken by all these violent crimes that are committed in our name, in Jammu and Kashmir, in the northeast, in central India. . . .

After 63 years, 47% of the children, age 0-6, suffer from malnutrition, malnourishment, stunted growth.  47% of the next generation!  Is that criminal or not?  Is that violence or not?  Is that slow genocide or not?  What are we saying about that violence?  It doesn’t bother us because we don’t see it — it’s a slow, gradual death. . . .

Also, see this press report on Arundhati Roy’s comments:

DNA Thursday, June 3, 2010

Author and activist Arundhati Roy on Wednesday slammed the central government for forcing the tribals to take up arms and called for a re-look at the government’s policy of development.

Roy, along with journalist Gautam Navlakha, was talking on the subject ‘War on People’ at a press gathering organised by Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR).

The two panned the government and said that it was forcing war on people. “The government is trying to create and fashion an enemy so that it can justify war,” said Roy.

Terming PM Manmohan Singh government’s signing of agreements as a cause for the “MoUists corridoor”, Roy questioned the need for displacing the tribals for development. “If the government says it cannot provide land for land, why give some for SEZ,” she said, adding, “The economic totalitarianism is the cause for the state to become armed and meet its ends.” She also questioned the logic of displacing the tribals and putting them into the cities as slum dwellers.

“The problem exists because land reforms have not taken place. People believe that without resisting they will reach nowhere,” said Navlakha.

The activists demanded that the government first have a clear no war policy against its own people and that there was no question of Maoists giving up the resistance as that would mean surrender, which is not the right way.

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