For common people of India, the Naxalites, Maoists, Islamic Fundamentalists, Leftwing – rightwing extremists are like cousin brothers. They force people to follow their ideologies and kill the ones who dare to question. They all look-alike in morning news paper stories and evening new channel debates, where one anchor, on the top of his pitch, asks about the moment when the nation will get rid of such internal security challenges. This is one side of the story but other side of story opens itself up when you read the works of Arudhati Roy. As Washington Post described that Arundhati Roy is India’s most powerful and articulate dissident, who is patiently assessing issues of internal security challenges with a rational nationalistic approach. Being nationalistic does not mean losing connect with the people of land and allowing atrocities against the people, who don’t understand your nationalistic ideas and motivations towards big things. And, it reflects in all the works of Ms. Roy.
It reflects the book “Walking with the Comrades” too. It is a beautiful narrative of life of reluctant revolutionaries, who somehow get the gun to fuel their unwanted revolutions against their own people. It is the story of thousands of people, who live in dense forests of Chhattisgarh, India. It tells about the personal experiences of the writer during her stay in Maoist infested areas. It tells you about the little guns, games, and green revolution. In simply understandable language, she has described the ideation and functioning of a new idea called “Gram Swaraj with Guns”. She has made it clear that this idea might not suitable to work in Alaska, India, or let alone New Delhi but in the thick forests of Dandakaranya it somehow works.
There are Jantana Sarkars, which effectively ensures the rule of people’s law in the area. Real people who while being transparent and non-partisan, give judgments on local issues and take important decisions on issues related to survival. Further, the writer describes the social and administrative system of this society. For example, the common language of communication is Hindi and several divisions to handle diversified operations of the area. There are divisions like Krishi (agriculture), Vyapar-Udyog (trade and industry) Arthik (economic), Nyay (justice), Raksha (defense), Hospital (health), Jan Sampark (public relations), School-Riti Rivaj (education and culture), and Jungle. Importantly, the Jangal division stands for saving the forests. And, as per the report of Indian government, the forests have increased in the Maoist infested areas. So the fight is not of the land but it is of survival.
But what is more interesting in this journey of the writer is that the people of the jungles are only asking the central governments to stop exploiting the mineral reserves of India with such a haste and ensuring a legitimate method of compensation. So, on being disappointed from their elected government, the people of forests have put on arms to fight till their last breaths to save their homeland from crony capitalists.
My Experience as an avid reader: Reading Walking with the Comrades has been eye-opening for me. I wasn’t aware with the concept of Gram Swaraj with Gun. The increasing strength of these groups shows their belief in their own system. Apart from this, the way of telling important facts like comparison between the profits of tribal people and contractors is rational and neutral. As she does not sell any idea or agenda through this book and only opens a new window for you to look at their innocent lives. Yes, they are accused of serious crimes against the nation but they are at war and ready to pay the price of fighting for homeland. In short, I wanted to re-read it someday.
50 Words Verdict: If you don’t carry any certain ideology behind these problems and open to understand the problems from the core then Walking with the Comrades is a must read for you. It will raise substantial questions in you and encourage you to see reason in every news story before believing them.