Sunday, October 3, 2010

A multi-layered perspective

The Absent State:
Insurgency as an Excuse
 for Misgovernance
Neelesh Misra, Rahul Pandita
Hachette; Rs 495; Pp 350

The challenge by naxalites in a third of the country (affecting 231 out of 636 districts) is India’s biggest internal security threat today. Does the Maoist movement shape popular resistance to the state’s power or does the movement use people’s struggles to bid for state power? Scholarly and activist accounts reflect two points of view. One view sees Maoists as being neither peasants nor workers nor tribals (Dilip Simeon), but who claim to represent their interests. Alternatively, the movement is seen as a rebellion of the people who are striving to save their land, forests, water and minerals from being grabbed and establish a people’s democratic state under the leadership of the proletariat(Gautam Navlakha). Led by the Communist Party of India (Maoist)—which was banned under the UAPA Act in June 2009—the armed insurgency has become a key challenge for the Indian state.

Neelesh Misra and Rahul Pandita’s The Absent State: Insurgency as an Excuse for Misgovernance has the virtue of reflecting both points of view by providing us with a rich, multi-layered perspective on the Naxal insurgency (comprising the bulk of the book). They tell a story of misgovernance, of an absent state, of the loss of perspective (where it is easy to be labeled a traitor or a terrorist), of security personnel fighting an impossible battle for their own survival, and of fading hopes for local democracy. Their style —which is highly readable and accessible to an uninformed audience—effectively high- lights a Roshomon-like picture of the insurgency—the state’s view, the Naxal cadre’s view, and the villager’s view—and the complex relationship between the absent state, the growing power of the insurgents, and the impact on the everyday lives of the citizens in those areas.

Full review here Financial Express

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