Thursday, September 10, 2009

The " dope sheet " Bug

Two weeks of research led to a two page document on it; i think i read about a hundred pages on MS Word to get the whole idea into my stubborn "scientific" head.The fact that i witnessed a Lalgarh (May-June 2009) for the two months that i was at home made me reconsider whether i was actually cut out to do what i would be doing @ NDTV.
The "dope sheet " bug came along pretty quickly and i didnt need more than a minute's time to decide what i wanted to do. The Dope Sheet is essentially the foundation of a news story and it's one of NDTV's ingenious ways of making us know stuff that we all should have long back.It's a verbal,conversational presentation that we are asked to give a group of 40 aspiring journalists for around 10 mins or so.Here is what came out of it.

Naxalism and political insurgency in India: an inconvenient reality

Forty two years after the Naxalbari uprising, it is remarkable that Maoism remains a potent political force. It has survived the retreat of the Left in academia and trade unions, It has survived the rise of caste, politics, even the rise of the NGO sector, provided a platform to separate 'social' work from 'political' work.
While some Naxals of the 60s and 70s did make a few changes in their political beliefs and practices, the movement seems none the weaker for that reason. The Left landscape is a minefield of splinter groups, but for all their differences these organizations pose a serious threat to state power. Therefore, when one takes stock of 42 years of Naxalism, we should understand it as a phenomenon of the present rather than of the past.
The naxalite movement emerged from a violent uprising in Naxalbari on May 25th 1967 by the local peasants in protest of the CPI (M) government lead by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal.Their main agenda has been to destroy the State legitimacy and to create a mass base, with certain degree of acceptability, with the ultimate object of attaining political power by violent means. This was the period in Europe, Asia and America, when new radical struggles were breaking out marked by the rereading of Marx, the rediscovery of the sources of revolutionary humanism
The Naxalite movement was a part of this contemporary, worldwide impulse among radicals to return to the roots of revolutionary idealism and they went to their base-the peasants who had a long tradition of fighting against imperialism and feudalism.

Presently the movement is restricted to an impoverished region known as the “Red Corridor” under which comes parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal states. The main reasons why these areas are significant in such militant activity are because of indigenous tribal populations
who are disadvantaged in their relationship with other components of society, deep caste divides and low literacy levels especially in Bihar and Jharkhand.
The movement is highly organized in terms of its hierarchy and uses a 13 member politbureau with state representatives who channelize funds for procuring arms and ammunitions. Their funds come from various sources like government and non-government funds, extorting money from businessmen, contractors and even from illegal opium cultivation in some states. Their modus operandi is predominantly by attacking police stations, infrastructure like rail and road transport and power transmission; manifest themselves through civil societies on issues like the SEZ policy, land reforms, displacement etc.
Interestingly, the involvement of women has been very high throughout its inception and hundreds of women have participated in encounters and ambush operations etc but most of them are now struggling to adapt themselves to mainstream life. Some are even fighting for the rights of surrendered women militants through community groups like the Bandhumitra.
The casualties in civilian lives and security forces in these areas have been over 6000 in the last 20 years and the government is yet to show some definitive action. The obstacles faced by the government are on the lines of weak political leadership in these areas, improper coordination between the centre and the state, also the economic backwardness cannot be ruled out. Another big setback was the failure of the salwa judum campaign. Though according to official claims, the Salwa Judum campaign was a Gandhian, voluntary and spontaneous movement that began in June 2005 but it was a cult of violence let loose. There is also a very strong naxal-politician nexus in the country which has to be disrupted. On paper, several measures to tackle the problem have been taken such as setting up of task forces like the CoBRA , organizational bodies, commissions, coordination teams, a 14-point action plan etc. However, the implementation of these measures is seriously flawed with the exception of the grey hounds in AP. It is important to determine whether this is a national problem or a state problem.
While the Naxalites operate only within geographical boundaries, the government has to operate within both geographical and political boundaries. This explains the divergence of approach between different states i.e in some states, it is possible for the government to hold talks with the Naxals, in others, it is not.
A proper analysis of the Naxal threat is very important given that while some of them are mercenaries and others are ideologues, a vast majority enter the movement because they have no other choice. Despite their theoretical allegiance to Marx and Lenin, they have not made any serious effort to organize urban masses, instead evolving over the years as a political organization of tribals, marginal peasants and Dalits in a corridor of about 150 districts from Bihar to Andhra Pradesh through Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Urban upper middle class ex-Naxals might laugh off the encirclement theory, but for rural cadres exposed to the excesses of urban India after the consumer boom of the 90s the cause remains plausible as ever. Thus the tools in the hands of Naxals are ideologies tailor-made for the oppressed masses, fear of the gun, and a messiah/Robin Hood image.
Another perspective that we could look at is the idea of development with naxals in power, if they are given government resources/private resources/funds for development activity that would be credited to them it would further enhance their image among the tribals
,but the return for the government would be sustained economic ventures enhancing the quality of life of the tribals
and economic improvement will eventually bring about a change in perception. Development in Naxal areas will change a lot of existing dynamics.
The intellectuals of the country can and should play a greater role in defining the threat. It is important to spread the government's reach to large parts of untouched territories. Unless this is done, no amount of force can provide a solution. The biggest danger today is that of militarizing the problem. Fortunately, within the armed forces, there is great clarity that the army should not get involved in this problem. The police force, however, is still not capable of providing security. While better training and arming of the police forces is important, it is necessary to strategize various responses. This presents a difficult intellectual challenge and the national effort needs to be directed towards addressing it.
Media interest in such an issue has been substantial with the parallel film industry showing considerable interest in the issue with films like Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Hazaar Chaurasi ki Ma adapted from Mahasweta Devi’s novel.
The fundamental question therefore still is to understand the nature of the threat before deciding upon the approach to deal with it. To understand today's India, it is essential to listen to these voices that describe the tortuous odyssey of a political movement that had been born from the womb of the bleeding Indian countryside.

Criticism and comments welcome.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An urban intimacy

Time is just slipping me by and the worse hit is my blog.This week there was lots to do at work.The big presentation on Anderson Cooper and then continuing to plunge deeper into my dope sheet issues.I am now really getting the feel of Dr.Nigam's "pressure cooker environment".Anderson Cooper went realy well probably because we contrasted him with Arnab Goswami.
Delhi is getting more simpler,the traffic doesn't piss me off anymore as i take an auto every morning to office,i don't mind if it's raining and i have to wade through a knee-deep puddle to get home,even if i am wearing white that day.I guess i'm growing up.
Saturday got interesting as Vivek Mansukhani started with out theatre workshops,it was essentially for some people to overcome the fear of public speaking but we did some innovative team building exercises.I think it was the first time after coming to NDTV that i let my hair down,never knew that dumbcharades, mimes and role-playing could be so much fun.
Then came "Shob Choritro Kalponik" , Rituporno Ghosh's new film.An intriguing watch after ages i must say after a disatrous spate of films like Chokher Bali and Antarmahal.Bipasha Basu was stunning in her debut bengali film with her tassar and silk sarees,braided hair and her big black bindi. The film spoke of a woman's journey to self-discovery bordering on paranoia after her poet husband's death.The film stood by Ghosh's school of filmaking,his provoking script and out of the box cinematography and edits.The shots were edgy and inanely fluid at the same time taking the solitary viewer on a visual ride especially where bipasha hallucinates conversing with her alter ego.The pace of the film is intersperced with some excellent poetry by Joy Goswami and soulful Rabindra sangeet by Srabani Sen.
Monday found me in office earlier than usual.The day whizzed past like every other,now that our pace is to the power 3 according to Dr.Nigam.Looking forward to lots this week,some of them would be on the lines of
  • talking to Mr.Suni Sethi,chairman of FDCI who is organising the first of its kind,men's fashion week in Delhi (and we obviously get passes for the 13th Sep finale!!)
  • meeting Vikram Chandra,of The Big Fight fame who is coming to talk to us about changes that could be incorporated in his show.(Woah!!)
  • the Delhi book fair at Pragati Maidan
  • the innumerable plays at National School of Drama and India Habitat Centre that we bunk workshops to go to.
  • not forgetting Quick Gun Murugan on thursday with the entire class.
Delhi is not so bad after all,i get to be with such nice people rather than pubbing all the time which was all i did in Bangalore with some jerks ( for some people i should be doing that here as well,Delhi's supposed to have a great nightlife and all that blah!!).
Also i read two excellent books, Hanif Khureishi's The Black Album and Mohsin Hamid's Moth Smoke. More on them later.