No One Form Of Resistance Is Going To Succeed: Arundhati Roy
Diana Mavroleon in conversation with Arundhati Roy and Professor Robert Biel
20 March, 2012
Recorded ‘Live’ on Resonance 104.4fm., 8th June 2011
Arundhati Roy catapulted to international fame by the publication and subsequent award of the coveted Booker Prize in 1997 for her acclaimed (first) novel ‘The God of Small Things’. This year coincided with lndia celebrating its 50th anniversary year of independence from British colonial rule in 1947. Prior to this Arundhati wrote screenplays for film and television. Perhaps her notoriety began in 1994 with her critical review entitled: ‘The Great lndian Rape Trick’ when she questioned the rights of Shekhar Kapur’s film ‘Bandit Queen’ which re-staged the rape of a living woman without her consent. Roy charged Kapur with… “Exploiting Phoolan Devi and mis-representing both her life and its meaning”.
This critique now seems to have been poised as the early stirrings of Roy’s deep, strong and fiercely committed work of the last fourteen years; her political activism having taken hold of her voice and pen through the acute observations of the tribal people of lndia, in a worse state in our present day than probably ever before: 80% are still suffering from chronic malnutrition, that is 350 million lndian citizens living below the poverty line and with little chance of ever rising above it.
After a national struggle from colonialism, a war is now being waged between the ferocious, insatiable appetite of globalization, together with the state and multi-national corporate collusion against the marginalized millions of mainly the rural poor of lndia. Whilst vast areas of central lndia are actively pursued by corporate and state funded investment projects, literally millions of people have become displaced. Deprived of their land and farms and of all terms of equity, they are herded away, many into camps, resulting in their traditional ways of agrarian life perhaps being lost forever.
Roy’s support for Kashmiri nationalism, her campaigning alongside the Narmada Bacho Andolen (NBA) against the Sardar Sarovar great dam project fuelled by huge, some would say, un-payable national loans from North America and speculative, wolfish multi-nationals… all this now indubitably amounting to nothing less than ecocide and financial terrorism against India’s poor.
DM: Arundhati, you’re braving all for what you believe in. You represent India’s lowest rung on the caste system, the Dalits, and the definitely worsening situation for the under-classes of lndia, the disposed and the displaced. All this against the glittering banner of ‘Neo-liberalism’, a term that we’re going to be de-constructing throughout the show; it is waived in a sickening sort of fashion by what is now the expanding and broadly quite nonchalant middle classes of lndia who can be heard singing in chorus: “lndia is Shining!”.
This seems to be the banner that we’re getting here in the West. I’d like to welcome Arundhati Roy to Resonance, also Professor Robert Biel. Robert is saying that he’s not exactly a ‘specialist’ on lndia, although his three main books are certainly valid for this show. They more or less form a trilogy: ‘Euro-centralism and the Communist Movement’, ‘The New lmperialism’ and ‘The Entropy of Capitalism’. The fundamental point throughout all these works is to explore the struggles of the most repressed people.
“lndia being at the forefront of social change because it has been propelled into a certain role by global capitalism which is in itself on the brink of catastrophe”. (RB).
The Entropy of Capitalism is very contemporary and explores the content of a collapsing capitalist world order and its implications for the social movements that we will have to inherit.
DM: Arundhati, how did you initially become involved in the NBA movement that was in opposition of the great dam being built? I think it’s the third largest in the world?
AR: Before l answer that question l’d just like to say that l don’t really see myself as ‘representing’ anybody but myself. l’m not a politician. I do write about these things as a political writer, but l don’t think l have the right to say l represent anybody.
To answer your question about how l got involved with the Narmada movement, actually the NBA, which means ‘Save the Narvada’.
The Narmada is a river in central lndia. It’s been one of the most spectacular Ghandian movements in post-independence lndia and the arguments against the building of the big dams are politically, ecologically and economically amongst the most profound arguments l feel l have ever written about.
Directly l got involved because the movement was at its peak sometime in ’93-94, and it had become one of the first ‘Peoples’ movements to actually chase the World Bank out. The World Bank itself commissioned a report called the ‘Morse Committee Report’
And the report came out saying….
“This is an absolute disgrace, and that the World Bank should pull out of it”, which it did and then the Indian government took over the funding. At that time the repression in the valley against the fact that this dam was going to submerge, displacing something like 200,000 people just by the reservoir alone, a lot of them tribal people. The police repression (and so on) had increased to a point, and the movement decided to go to Court. The Supreme Court ordered a ‘Temporary Stay’ on the building of the dam. That was celebrated for a few years, but then in 1999 the court suddenly lifted the ‘Stay’ creating a great deal of despair, because in those intervening years the movement had somehow dispersed, not entirely, but it had lost a lot of its momentum. l decided to travel to the valley to write about it and l wrote an essay called…“The Greater Common Good” in which l argued that the dams were an absolutely disastrous policy to follow.
DM: It’s worth mentioning that over the last 50 years of dam building there’s a modest estimation of 33 million that could be expanded to 56 million people in India who have been displaced, through not just the mega-dam building, but 1000’s of smaller dams being built and that in India 80% of the land is agrarian land. The life, the main vein of India runs through its farming; a rural life, and the people who are being displaced at the moment are in the central states, but the dams are going throughout. And so the dams alone are a sort of ironic analogy of what you would like to think of as water running through the veins of the land, but in fact it’s gone disastrously wrong. A lot of the dams actually don’t work do they?
AR: Well, the fact is that after that struggle, which in a way is still going on, but in a way is now just a struggle for compensation (and things like that), but in the north-east in the state of Arunachal they are planning hundreds of dams. Other than that they are going even further and planning something called ‘The River Linking Scheme’ where they are trying to link all of India’s rivers as if there is a sort of drainage system. Just the business of building the dams gives so much money to those who build them. They are now amongst the richest industrialists in the world, the dam builders. The figure is between 33-50 million displaced. India has something like 3,000 big dams and they are planning several hundred more. When they know that the dams don’t work; when they know that the dams are silting up; when they know that the areas affected by dams are now becoming salt effected and water logged. So it’s a case of knowing that what you are creating is an ecological disaster and on an un-imaginable scale, but doing nothing to stop it but pushing the project further and further.
DM: Just to endorse what you have just said, a quote from (your book) ‘Power Politics’,
“Quite apart from the human cost of big dams, there are staggering environmental costs; over 3 million acres of emerged forests, ravaged eco-systems, destroyed rivers, de-funct silted up reservoirs, endangered wildlife, disappearing bio-diversity and 24 million acres of agricultural land that is now water-logged and saline. Today there are more drought prone and flood prone areas in India than there were in 1947. Not a single river in the plains has potable water. Remember – 200 million Indians have no access to safe drinking water”.
So basically, apart from the ecological disaster on a rural and agricultural level, is there any going back?
I’d like to bring Robert Biel into this now. Robert you have an intense interest in agriculture. You have been active in practical experiments in ‘Low Level Food Growing’. What is your take on the vast amount of forestry that is actually submerged now? If you put a halt to it, have you any idea how one would be able to salvage the damage and the loss that has actually taken place; and how would you propose to go forward with a system that might just work?
RB: I think you have to hand knowledge back to the farmers and to the basic producers. The traditional approach to agriculture was always to understand how the natural system worked and to work with it, and to understand it you need a deep amount of knowledge, and then you can minimize the physical input because you want not to interfere with how the natural system works, but to work in sympathy and symbiosis with it, and l think that was the traditional approach. What you have in any system of ‘domination’ is to siphon knowledge to the top of the system to take it away from the people, and so the fundamental solution is to re-distribute knowledge and allow experimentation to flourish from below.
I think what we’ve done from by distancing ourselves from Nature, by alienating ourselves and trying to control it and impose some sort of rule over it is to create a system where we have to put in too much energy. This notion of ‘The Entropy of Capitalism’ which l put forward, one of the things it means, is the drying up of energy that enters into the system. The most obvious way in the ecological debate is fossil fuel energy which is what we talk about quite a lot, and obviously if fossil fuel energy is drying up and we still have this very high energy demand then we’re going to have to go into a kind of mad quest for supposedly renewable forms of energy. We can see this with the bio-fuel ideas. For example: if you look at Brazil which is a kind of equivalent to India in that it’s making an insane bid to be a new ‘super power’ premised on creating bio-fuel plantations with immense ecological damage. The phenomenon of dams is another aspect – a false quest for pseudo, sustainable energy to meet this energy gap.
DM: There was a spectacular struggle by NBA beginning in 1993, and what l can decipher is that the Supreme Court would halt the plans and then they would lift injunctions and the whole case would open up again. This seems to be much the case in Indian politics that these cases would go on for years and years and give hope to the people and to their movement. We’re going to go onto the subject of the area of Chhattisgarh and the displacement of the Adivasi in the forests a bit later on in the show, but in the case of the NBA, could you try to describe what that movement’s impact was on first of all halting it (the dam), and what are the effects of it now and where are we as it actually stands?
AR: Well, first of all, if you look at what is known as the ‘Narmada Valley Development Project’. lt consists of thousands of dams built on this one river that was to change this whole river into a sort of step reservoir, and the movement of the Adivasi, the indigenous tribal people in the hills and the bigger farmers in the plains, to stop these dams was a movement that, in a way, did much to catch the imagination of many people across the world. It was a non-violent movement and appealed to every institute in India’s democracy, and yet it ended up being completely side lined. This doesn’t mean it didn’t have any success. I would say that the main success was a sort of awakening in the minds of people, that they did have the right to resist and that they did have the right to question. However, the Indian government listened to nothing. It toyed with them; it played around with them for many years. So did the courts. They had several committees and secret reports. All of that happened and eventually it side-lined the movement, leaving people with a question and with what has led to a great deal of violence: “Which democratic institute in this country, in India, can an ordinary person appeal to and expect justice from?”
I think that is the fundamental question today, because it’s not just an accumulation of ‘knowledge’ of course, it’s an accumulation of ‘water’. All civilizations have tried to control water, but here the accumulation of these huge reservoirs of water are actually a part of a very particular part of a political vision where the Home Minister of India today says he wants to see 75 - 80% of India’s people living in these huge cities, (of course they are also chased out of the cities), but in order to have that movement of 75% of the people you are talking about moving 500 million people which means you need a militarized society to achieve that. Then you control the people in the cities; you control the water in the rivers; you control the resources and decide, ‘who is expendable and who isn’t?’… That is what is going on now.
DM: If we talk a little about the ‘re-settlement plans’, one thing l see is that people are herded away onto land that isn’t even agricultural, and so they can’t sustain themselves, and so it seems that at the end of the day they are even flooding land that is supposed to be sorted for re-settlement. Where does the voice of the Indian people, on a grass roots level, actually go?
The Supreme Court, and l’m not actually at this stage saying that they are acting in collusion, but if their (the peoples’) voices are not heard, what is actually happening to these people now Arundhati?
AR: Well, once again, if you look at the Narvada project, there was something that had as much power as the Supreme Court, a sort of Narvada water disputes tribunal which came out with what sounded like a pretty reasonable rehabilitation plan, to those who believe that tribal people can be up-rooted, which is a genocidel suggestion in the first place. Let’s put that aside for later. lt said that the villagers who’d be displaced would be given “land for land” that “villages would be settled as villages”.
What of course did not count were the many people who were going to suffer as ‘projected effected’. For example those who were effected by the canals were not ‘projected effected’; those who didn’t have land, Dalits or Untouchable castes; fishing people; sand miners… these were people who were not considered, but even those who were considered ’project effected’ eventually ended up being scattered around. For example one of the first few villages was re-settled in 120 different places, and that’s just one village, and then others were simply not. Then the Courts said, “Let’s just forget about ‘land for land’ and give them ‘cash compensation”.
Give ‘who’ cash compensation? Who qualifies for that?
DM: And what can they spend the money on?
AR: The men get the money. They drink, they buy motorbikes that they can’t even run because they don’t have money for fuel after two months, and a whole society is destroyed. But l think for political movements it was difficult to explain to people that when a dam is being built so far away, that actually your house is going to go down under water. Often the tribal people would say…
”lt can’t be. That can’t happen. Our river wouldn’t allow that to happen!”.
But it happened. Today the situation is that nobody believes these things anymore. Nobody believes the bullshit about…
”We’ll give you jobs; you’ll modernize and you’ll get the fruits of modern development”, which is one of the favourite phrases that are being banded around. So you have, gradually, lndia that is becoming more or less un-governable. You have insurrections, some armed, some un-armed, all over the place. You have an increasing deployment of paramilitary and of course today, the terrifying prospect of the wars that were fought in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, migrating to the heart of lndia. They are planning to deploy the Army and even the Air Force against the indigenous people’s struggle in Chhattisgarh that is in the centre of lndia, and where the corporates want the lands for mining.
(MUSIC INTERLUDE: extract supplied by the Adivasi Arts Trust of the Pardhan Gond tribe based along the Narvada River in Madya Pradesh, playing a traditional song on the Bana fiddle, called the Karma dance.)
DM: l’d like to make a mention of ‘Disappearing Worlds’ that is the title of the photographic exhibition currently being held at SOAS in the Brunei Gallery, by Robert Wallis, about the ancient traditions of the adivasi/tribal people of lndia being under threat.
What we are seeing now is collusion between the lndian state and the national and multi-national corporates who are honing in on the fact that the rural and poorest parts of lndia are actually home to some of the richest in natural resources.
Arundhati, you have worked extensively in these rural parts, you have seen what is going on there first hand. There’s a Maoist insurgence; the ‘Salwa Judum’ has just been disbanded but in place of that is ‘Operation Green Hunt’ …which seems to be even more terrifying. Could you give us some background as to why a State funded, armed, local militia like Salwa Judum was put in there in the first place, and what position the Maoists are in, in the rural parts of lndia today?
AR: That’s quite a long and far ranging question to answer. Let me try to do it on a few levels. First, as we know that from Independence to the late 1980s to the early 90s, India was following a Nehruvian, Soviet model of development where the economy had the commanding heights and there came the displacements; the big dams; the big state infra-structure projects. But in the late 80s, basically after Capitalism won its ‘Jehahd’ over Soviet Communism in Afghanistan, India re-aligned itself and became completely aligned, and saw itself as a natural ally of Israel and America, and opened its markets. At exactly the same time it also opened the locks of a 14c mosque called the ‘Barbri Masjid’ which had been a disputed site between the Hindu and Muslim communities, where the Hindu’s said that their god ‘Ram’ had been born there. When both these locks had been opened, the locks of the Indian market and the locks of the Barbri Masjid, it un-leased two kinds of totalitarianism; one was the Indian right wing totalitarianism; the other was a sort of economic totalitarianism, both of which at the end of their process manufactured these two so called kinds of terrorism: the Islamist terrorists for the Hindu Right, and you had the Maoist terrorists for the Economic Right. Both parties: the Hindu Fundamentalist Party called the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), and the Congress party used this bogus of terrorism to continuously militarize, and the laws; the liberalism; the privatization and the corporatisation of the infra-structure and public institutions actually drove up the economic growth rate. lt created a huge a huge middle class in terms of numbers which became a market that was coveted by the economic and business communities across the world, but that middle class was created at the cost of a massive under-class and the victims are not only the tribals.
So it’s not just that we are fighting to preserve some tribal community but a huge under-class of people, the tribal people in the forests and other villagers in the plains being massively dis-possessed. lf you look at a map of India today, the Maoists; the minerals; the tribals and the forests are all in the same place, and the governments have signed hundreds of ‘Memorandums of Understanding’ (MOU’s) with private corporations, handing over that tribal territory, even though it is expressly against the Indian Constitution. lnitially they tried to displace the tribals with what was called the Salwa Judum, which is a government, armed militia who are not necessarily the tribal elite. Some of them are victims of the government who are armed, made into police officers and told to go in and burn villages and rape women. lt was a policy of strategic hamleting where some 600 villages were forcibly emptied; 50,000 people came out to live in roadside camps and 350,000 people were off the radar. Half of them were in the forests; some ran to other states for look for jobs, but all of them were labelled as ‘Maoists’. The Maoists who were in the forests, and had been there for several years having been driven out of the neighbouring state of Andhara Pradesh, suddenly expanded their strength because tribal people had watched their brothers and sisters being killed and raped, their villages being burnt. The Maoists then formed their Gorilla Army and fought the Salwa Judum, and fought them quite successfully. So then the government then upped the anti and announced ‘Operation Green Hunt’ where it formerly sent in something like 200,000 paramilitary forces to the states of these adivasi populations living on mineral rich land.
Operation Green Hunt also didn’t really succeed, so now they are sending in the Army, pretending that they are just sending them to create a big army training centre but in actual fact of course everyone knows that the Army and the Air Force are going to be deployed by the world’s largest democracy against its own people.
DM: We have a situation where there are organizations; non-violent, civil organizations working within these areas, for example the PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), which is now under serious threat of being branded an ‘illegal’ organization. These organizations work against civil and human rights violations that are being purged against the poor and the displaced, and who have no real way of contacting the outside world. How trapped and isolated these people are. You can hardly imagine the cult of terror that is actually taking place in vast amounts of India today. lt seems that the elite, mega rich of India and the expanding rich middle classes have actually become the State.
We could also talk a bit about the DflD (UK’s Department for lnternational Development) having invested millions of pounds of funds into India, (lndia being the largest recipient of DflD aid having received over £1 billion in bi-lateral aid between 2003-2008), under the auspices of trying to help it develop internally. What seems to be happening now is that the suppression of voice, even of an NGO whether it be from a foreign country or a homegrown organization, is being called ‘a voice to crush’.
And so how do you see the Media being able to make any ground in order to support these people? ls there any Media support for them? lt would seem as though everybody stands the risk of being arrested and imprisoned on trumped up charges. We’re going to be talking a little about Dr Binayak Sen who is out on bail at the moment, but he was given a life sentence (by a Raipur Session Court in Chhattisgarh) on trumped up charges, basically for investigating Salwa Judum, and trying to see that the in-balance (of health care) be re-addressed. And so what is the media focus on what is going on there now? There must be some sort of discourse going on in India?
AR: There is a debate of sorts going on, but what has happened is that we have to look at it in this way: that there is a band width of resistance movements, the Maoists are the armed end of it inside the forest, and there are non-violent and militant movements being waged very bravely against paramilitary forces by villagers outside of the forest. But what has happened is that the government has passed a series of laws, particularly the ‘Unlawful Activities Act’, which if you read the ‘Chhattisgarh Special Security Safety Act’, laws like these which make even thinking an anti-government thought, a criminal offence. So under these laws of ‘Sedition’ and ‘Waging Wars Against the State’, what is happening is that everybody, whether they are inside or outside the forest is being called a Maoist and being imprisoned.
The role of the media, and of course there is a media that does cover it sometimes, but generally the problem is that 90% of the turnover of the media’s profits comes from corporate advertising. And so often you will have a situation in which some media houses have direct mining interests; or you have huge corporates like the Tata’s or Essar who have mining interests in that area and who actually run magazines and newspapers, and so in many ways are in a position to control the content. You have the deliberate hunting down of all activists outside of the forest who express any kind of sympathy, or any kind of condemnation of what is going on. The effort is really to isolate people in their villages or in the forest. You have people who are seriously malnutritioned, living in conditions of famine, but they can’t come out of the forest; they can’t buy medicines; they can’t buy food. And so it is an extremely serious situation.
Apart from the Army and the Paramilitary, the other huge effort is to break the movement by using ‘informers’… paying really poor people to go in, and to come out with information so that the Movement breaks from within. lt’s an extremely dire situation, a sort of ancient war being fought but in a very modern way, using the media as a weapon as well.
DM: Robert, where would you say ‘Democracy’ might stand here? There isn’t a vertical description of it, but where are we able to discern where the ingredients of a truthful democracy might be in India today, and where do you see this term going? Can we even properly use the term ‘democracy’ for India?
RB: l think that globally, democracy should mean ‘the right for people to make an input into the future; to vision what the future is going to be’. At the moment there is a very strong, dominant discourse which is kind of siphoning within itself, all the right to determine what the definitions of the society are and what the future is going to be, and l think it’s that kind of challenge which is really important.
MUSIC interlude: from the album ‘Goddess’ released on Arc Music, composed by Baluji Shrivanath. Linda Chanson, vocals. Baluji Shrivanath, sitar.
DM: Arundhati, what are your observations of globalization’s impact, firstly on India and the reverberations on what is being described as an upward-bound super power? What is the reality of globalization?
AR: Well, as I said, in the process of what they called ‘freeing’ or ‘liberating’ the markets began in the early 1990s, and democracy has come to be synonymous with the free market and yes, of course it drove up the growth rate, but how does that growth rate continue to grow? Lt continues to grow because they are selling off public infrastructure including minerals and obviously water supply and telecommunication etc. The scandals are now in billions of dollars. They are selling minerals to corporations for just a small royalty; the government gets almost nothing and the corporations are making such huge amounts of money they can buy everybody. They buy judges; journalists; politicians, newspapers….
DM: That’s a coalition of world super-powers isn’t it? Therein lies the mattress.
AR: Yes, and what is the end result of India? ls it doing the majority of people any good? Surely it has created a middle class, but it has also resulted in 836 million people living on less than 20 rupees a day, which is 30 cents a day; it has made India a country with more poor people than all the poorest countries in Africa put together; it has resulted in the suicides of, I think, 175,000 farmers who have been in debt; it has the world’s largest population of malnutritioned children.
So if you could see that we were moving in a direction where yes, some people are going to suffer but eventually things would be okay, that would be fine. But you see it moving in exactly the opposite direction, and some of us have been saying this for years, not because we are rocket scientists but because we could see it happening. Today we have a country in which there is a civil war which the corporate media is doing its best to hide, and anybody who is speaking about it is being jailed or imprisoned, or in some way threatened, or maligned, or smeared in some pretty dangerous ways.
DM: Your book ‘Listening to Grasshoppers’ (2009), has the sub-title ‘Field Notes on Democracy’. Just looking at that term now, how does it apply? lt certainly doesn’t apply on an horizontal plain, but are there any vertical points that you could pin down, an element where democracy is actually working and could effect that band of middle class who I used the term ‘nonchalant’ to describe earlier, because it would seem that unless certain sections of a middle class join with the masses, that mass movement is inevitably going to be crushed by the forces that be, as we’ve seen in Chhattisgarh. They are now placing an army right on the fringes of the forests there and calling it ‘Training in Forestry Military Tactics’. They are always going to come up with these new titles for suppressing and crushing the voices of dissent, whether they are Maoists or villagers or whoever. ls it that there is such a climate of terror that even if people wanted to speak out, are the middle classes frightened would you say, of being able to voice opinion, even if they were against all these state corruptions and collusions?
AR: I think that what has happened in India is that the institutions of democracy, whether it is the press, or the courts, or the parliament… all of it has been hollowed out by this huge flush of corporate funding. The political parties are run by corporations, and so even if they appear to disagree with each other, on Wikileaks you had them re-assuring the Americans with, ”Look, it’s just theatre. You know we actually agree with everything that is being said!”
What has happened though, is that five years ago l would have said…
“Yes, the middle class is vested in this process; that it is impervious; it is nonchalant; it will not look in that direction of horror”.
But today l think what has happened is that the middle classes have begun to smell the blood in the air, and the danger to themselves in a way, the danger to a fractured future in which this country just breaks up into a very un-safe and very un-civil place. So I think on several issues middle class opinion has fractured and that is what is worrying the government deeply; that is people like Binayak Sen were put in jail, and then released, also in the hope that it would make the middle class feel that…
“It was just about an individual, he has been released now, it’s okay!”
Whereas in fact he represents something far deeper and people have begun to feel very uneasy about what is going on. That is why increasingly you have the hunting down of middle class activists and intellectuals; what I call the ‘Urban Altar of Operation Green Hunt’.
DM: lf people (listening) want to keep on track of the issues Arundhati Roy is raising, her latest publication is entitled: ‘Broken Republic’ (2011), and the conversations she has held with various people are in: ‘The Shape of the Beast’ (2008).
Robert, your take on democracy and what the impact of globalization is having on India today?
RB: I think it’s to do with having a say on what the future is going to be. lf we ask in relation to the Maoists which we were talking about earlier, the origins of Maoism was in the late 1960s and 70s. This was the time when the Soviet brand of Communism was saying that there should be popular struggles that should rock the boat, and the future would be settled by the Soviet Union winning a battle, competing against the Western economy on the same terms. That was always a very false assumption, and so the origins of the Maoist movement were just people saying “No”, that they were going to stand up and struggle for what they thought was right and not kind of subordinated to that kind of restraint. That’s something historical. So if we ask, “What is the basis for these kinds of radical movements now?”, I think there has to be a de-generation of the global capitalist system, and l’m using this term ‘Entropy’, which means not just the drying up of energy but the loss of information; the loss of diversity. You can see this both in the sense of there’s homogenization through globalism which sort of creates uniform culture and stamps out the kind of differences of tribal peoples and so on. The other way you can see this is that there is actually a lot of information around; there is a lot of creativity and exciting ideas around, but the ruling order either can’t see it or doesn’t want to see it. And so there is always a tendency to destroy what you don’t understand, and from the standpoint of the ruling order there are two ways you can do it. You either create an enclave of what you do understand which is the ‘gated community’ kind of idea, or you try to imprison what you don’t understand in strategic hamlets (or something like this), and so these two aspects go hand in hand.
I think the notion of terrorism, in part has always been used as an excuse to suppress popular movements, but it also does reflect a real fear of the ruling system; that everything is kind of slipping out of control of what it can understand.
DM: And finally Arundhati, ‘Satyagraha’ or ‘Non violent resistance’: Do you feel that it is possible at the stage things are at now in India; can a non violent resistance actually succeed in what is now clearly becoming a civil war? People are going to the State.
AR: I think that no one form of resistance is going to succeed. Like you cannot have a monoculture forest, you need a diversity of resistance. lnside the forest where there is a tribal village, when a thousand security forces go and surround it and start to burn it and kill people, they can hardly be expected to go on hunger strike because non violent resistance is a form of ‘theatre’, sometimes an effective form of theatre, but it needs an audience and a sympathetic audience. Outside of the forests these armed, military resistance movements are not being able to function. These Maoists have been wiped out, so you need a bandwidth of resistance in order to succeed.
DM: I’d like to thank the IWA (lndian Workers Association, UK) for helping to put this show together; Tara Douglas, Director of the Adivasi Arts Trust for the sound track of the Pardhan Gond; my managers here at Resonance fm, Chris Weaver and Richard Thomas, and to Arundhati Roy and Robert Biel.
PLAY OUT MUSIC: ‘Moving Away’ from the album ‘How many Prophets’ by Tunde Jegede and the Nomadic Mystics (2009).
(Transcribed from the original radio show by Diana Mavroleon).
Produced, Researched and Presented by Diana Mavroleon.
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