115. Just read…… The Burning Forest: India’s war against the Maoists

Four pages of acronyms and abbreviations gives an indication of the tsunami of people, places and organisations cited in this work; all testimony to the flawed counter-insurgency that sees only a security issue. And even while reading this account of incidents since 2005, the Indian Ministry of the Interior has announced the construction of more than 250 police stations in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh to intensify the terror against the Indian people.

Nandini Sundar, human rights activists and Professor of sociology at Delhi University, has details the stories that the mainstream media has left in the shadows in the former undivided district of Bastar . Prof. Sundar been instrumental in challenge state abuse and terror, filing a case with the Supreme Court against 500 deaths and rapes in Chhattisgarh, arising out of the Salwa Judum vigilante movement. In 2011, the Supreme Court of India banned Salwa Judum, but the state sponsored strategy remains under different banners.

Her work details the violated land rights, and the deliberate creation of insecurity. Such insecurity, she argues, legitimizes the government’s coercive action of moving displaced groups into camps where they are policed, starved, and turned against their own village people. Parallel to this the big corporations take over the rich land of Chhattisgarh, all in the name of development, in what is claim are moves “toward development and security.”

The voice heard from the pages is not of the Maoist-led resistance (more CPI if anything) but an attempt to hold the Indian state and its instruments to account, striving to make the Constitution of India meaniful. As she writes in the Preface:

“This book is written because, in the absence of justice, at least the truth must be on record.”

Bastar2009 Meeting of revolutionary Adivasis in southern Chhattisgarh.
2009 Meeting of  Adivasis in southern Chhattisgarh.

Documents, statements, and interviews of leaders of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in various languages, including English, Hindi and Telugu, can be found at BANNEDTHOUGHT.NET – the website itself subject to access censor within India.

Originally published by Juggernaut Press in 2016 unfortunately with the Verso edition having the cost of £24.99 for the paperback it is unlikely to be a browsing buy but will appear on reading lists and undergraduate bibliographies.


Just read…..Night March: among India’s revolutionary guerrillas

Reading about the ‘Naxalites’


Just read…..Night March: among India’s revolutionary guerrillas

Alpha Shah,

Night March: among India’s revolutionary guerrillas [London: Hurst & Co. 2018]

In a richly detailed and almost lyrical reading, here is the creative nonfiction elaboration of L.S.E. anthropologist, Dr Alph Shah’s more academic exploration centred on her experience amongst the Adivasis of eastern India. In 2010, engaged in field work research, Alpha Shah embarked on a seven-night trek, walking 250 kilometres through the dense, hilly forests with a column of People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army.

Not many author decides to publish a story that is nearly a decade old. In this instance her account illustrates both sustainability and equilibrium. Ten years on the mixed motives and effects detailed in her account remain potent factors in maintaining and feeding the struggles in the rural rebel heartlands that India’s security and media label a “red corridor”.

Not the format to challenge head on the well-rehearsed counter-insurgency narrative as set out (for instances, with caveats) in Arun Srivastava’s “Maoism in India” [Prabhat Prakashan 2008], however obliquely discussed are such persistent claims and questioning of the romanticising of the struggle as if there were no contradictions amidst the setbacks of the decade since the events of Dr Shah’s literal night march.

The obvious sympathy for those who form the focus of her academic engagement, and desire for social justice has not blunted Dr Shah’s critical gaze. Shah allows the combatants to speak for themselves in her memoir often on contentious concerns that question what seldom appears in partisan propaganda and sometimes erupt in polemical fury. But here, in a statement not dated by time, is a quietly spoken observation from a leading combatant:

“Our capacity has been reduced to the military needs of the war.” In response to the intense state repression, they have increased their attention to the military attacks and counter-attacks at the expense of the political education of their soldiers, the ethical foundation of their cadres and the politicisation of their supporters

Night March provides an insight to a protracted struggle that has no easy answers but could have earth-shattering consequences, and has already, as Shah testifies, a profound effect on individuals.

A useful guide to the contending literature on this under reported struggle, and then too often reduced to a litany of “crime reporting”, comes with the inclusion of Shah’s bibliographic essay on Naxalites and the literature that is “interesting for what it says about the authors and their perspectives as it is for its analysis.”


Link to  Reading about the ‘Naxalites’