A Believer’s Obeisance: Soumitra Ghosh

SOUMITRA GHOSH is with the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers (NFFPFW). A guest post received via Dilip Simeon

Does the Outlook article [by Arundhati Roy] tell us anything new? The Maoists have built a dream world in Dandakaranya, and the gun has heralded that dream. The Green Hunt is meant to shatter this dream, period…Apart from good anecdotes, there’s no political analysis of the movement, and the problematique of the Maoist movement was cursorily mentioned.

It seems rationality is banished. You oppose Green Hunt means that you see in the Maoists an unending series of dreamers and visionaries, and the making of a new world order. She doesn’t even bother to be historical, the history is what her contacts tell her.

What is utterly unacceptable is this woolly-headed,mushy and journalistic portrayal of a political movement. The Maoist movement was never,and won’t be a ‘adivasi’ movement,in the sense we use the term to describe a range of social movements.

If the Maoists have to be defended,it has to be a defense of their politics. If they have to be opposed, it should be done from a political perspective as well. But one doesn’t expect that from
Arundhati. She is a believer and a celebrity.

But are there any easy beliefs any more?

The most serious problem with the attitude expressed in the article is the glorification of ‘revolutionary violence’, and the portrayal of it as the true emancipation of adivasis. No mention of other adivasi or people’s movements in the country. They don’t matter. The only action
is coming from the barrel of a gun.

The Maoist movement is not a typical resistance group. It is driven by an ideology that has its own historicity and its own series of histories. Judging by that the piece reads like a class-one propaganda, similar to those we used to receive from the occasional visitors to the ‘closed’ post-revolutionary societies throughout the last century. Many of those were extremely good reading…and human. When it all came down, we saw the human shrouded a lot of ‘inhuman’, and
the ugly devils of hegemony, domination and power lurked behind the pleasant facade,and not all of that was bourgeois counter-revolutionary propaganda.

The communist movement failed worldwide mainly because the party replaced the people. Like others preceding him, Mao in his last days understood that clearly,and hence the concept of cultural revolution. Ironically,the bombardment of party headquarters was overseen by the
same hierarchical party, backed by the PLA. The result was known.

Throughout the world, one after another vanguard party-led revolutions failed. The Maoist guerrilla wars were no exception. On the other hand, even erstwhile regimented left groups like the Zapatistas reinvented themselves, and a whole string of non-party movements are coming up everywhere in Latin America and sometimes in Asia, too. History keeps on teaching us lessons. Do we learn, with an open mind? Do we change the way we think and act? Or, we remain confined to the old ideas and ossified beliefs,and refuse to change?

Arundhati talks of party wooing the people. Yes,the Party does that as long as it suits it. But always,and remember always,the Party is above the people: as vanguards,as leaders. Always,the Party knows best. It happened before and it’ll happen now. The illusion and ritual of believing(be it in the party,the God,the market) are strong,fundamental institution which refuse to die.

Party-led revolutions do not like questions. They prefer obeisance.Which Arundhati’s article is full of, and that’s why pieces like these seem inane.

13 thoughts on “A Believer’s Obeisance: Soumitra Ghosh”

  1. “Party-led revolutions do not like questions. They prefer obeisance.Which Arundhati’s article is full of, and that’s why pieces like these seem inane.”

    Your anxieties aren’t Arundhati’s, Mr. Ghosh, because she knows as well about the problem you have with parties. So please don’t mis-read Arundhati’s article with your own out-of-context nightmares and instead try to address the main/real issue at hand which she raises. It will need some lessening of your intellectual/activist self-importance though. And if you still can’t find the real issue at stake which Arundhati addresses and forces us to consider – read Sunalini’s response to a certain Mr. Banaji here.


  2. A mature political critique of A. But let us forget her for a moment. The entire edifice of the movement-whether Maoist, tribal and other sections of the poor has acquired energy and relevance on the basis of massive neglect and exploitation of the natural and constitutional rights of the tribal and other communities by the state.


  3. what a response from mr. ghosh. it is like g.k.pillai’s fear mongering that tomorrow the maoists will be in power and then all hell will break loose. mr. ghosh is more interested in fighting his own demons than the state’s tyranny on the common people. probably that is what happens when you are too wrapped up in the comforts of ngo politics in the name of rejecting parties. probably a smoke with marcos will cure all evils. we hear that marcos needs some saviours.


  4. I have seen strategic harvesting in Mizoram around 1977 and so I think the facts part of Roy’s article is probably ok. I wonder whether the tribals are using Maoists because they could not get effective support from elsewhere.


  5. Any support or critique at this juncture should be primarily political….

    This may sound very crude, but embedded tales of pathos, sacrifice, honesty are available in all hues…cpm, ngos, Gandhian, even the families of hindutva brigade have their own genuine stories of sacrifices and hardship on their way to promised land. So had Nazis and so do Zionists.

    But one has to stop and ask tough political questions. What, how and why.

    Also, its not that Arundhati doesnt consider these questions. She wonders what if the party changes its mind tomorrow about keeping the Bauxite in the mountains. But then, she leaves it all on an abstract phrase – ‘….But can we, should we let apprehensions about the future immobilise us in the present?”

    Are these just apprehensions about future? Haven’t we seen a brutal past? Isn’t this support for tribal life and culture just tactical and isnt the party still, as a self-professed objective tool of history, married to ‘the’ socialism which comes after capitalism? Doesnt it still idolize Stalin, tiananmen and all the gory violence?


  6. “out-of-context nightmares” Manash?

    “fear mongering” Rajiv?

    Good grief! Are you guys even from this planet? If you are, then what are you smoking? The extent of your deludedness about these “revolutionaries” is truly disturbing. With minds as simple as yours, it’s a mere accident that you support the left. You could just as well have been with the Bajrang Dal or the Taliban and not known the difference.


  7. would the maoist be there if the tribals or their identity struggle did not exist.
    and how many of us are willing to take walk in that forest, especialy of we are “celebirties”. I dont know many people who for their efffort in keeping their celebrity will walk the talk.
    Also I believe it will take centuries before we as human mature to share not only our resources but our consciouness(that is how i undertsand socialism).
    and if this is not history what is, how many neutral, to the center people are lossing any sleep over “gullible” tribals.
    violence is unacceptable but you see, “violence begets violence” so we can play a blame game, about who fired first. Can we do anything about it?
    In Peace


  8. Part-led revolutions do not like questions ? Has there been a revolution in moder times without a party leading it ? Can formations like the NAPM lead a revolution ?


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