Monday, April 26, 2010

REVIEW: Jangalnama

Jangalnama: Travels in a Maoist Guerrilla Zone
Pp 206
ISBN: 9780143414452

The profound insights offered in Jangalnama are the result of Satnam’s close observation of the guerillas and adivasis of Bastar.—Varavara Rao

Maoist guerillas—always on the move, always on guard—living deep in the jungles of Bastar. Outlawed, demonized and hunted by the state, they are perceived with fear, incomprehension and terror by the outside world.

Satnam spent two months in remarkable intimacy with the guerrillas: travelling with them, sharing their food and shelter, experiencing their lives first hand. Through his up-close and personal account of their daily lives, we register them as human, made of flesh and bone. We are persuaded to appreciate their commitment to root out oppression.

Jangalnama is not merely a travelogue recording Satnam’s days in the jungle. It is a compelling argument to recognize the humanity of those in conflict with the mainstream of Indian society and to acknowledge their dream of a world free of exploitation.

Racy eye-opener of a book on the Maoist movement Little About
Why Bastar's tribals harbour Maoists?

This is undoubtedly India's answer to "Red Star Over China", the epoch-making story of what the then obscure Mao was up to in China's rural areas at the head of a nascent Communist party that eventually took power in 1949. When American Edgar Snow came out with the classic of a book, the world sat up and took notice.

The Indian Maoists of Bastar are of course not an unknown commodity. Yet there has been no account of what they are doing in the huge, forested land of poverty amid plenty known as Bastar, a story as exhaustive and moving as this racy eye-opener of a book.

Unlike most books on Indian Maoism, this one does not dabble in ideology, party documents and polemics. Like Snow did decades ago, Satnam, a committed Leftwing writer-activist from Punjab, focuses on the impoverished people and the revolutionaries he meets in Bastar. He spent two months in the forests, living with his subjects to study why Maoists are on the ascendency in the mineral-rich region where governments have existed only in the form of greedy contractors and corrupt policemen, leaving the mass of tribals to wallow in poverty, disease and illiteracy while outsiders strip away Bastar's minerals.

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