Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review: Hello Bastar


Hello, Bastar - The Untold Story of India's Maoist Movement
Rahul Pandita
Tranquebar Press
Rs 250
ISBN 9789380658346

About the book 
With direct access to the top Maoist leadership, Rahul Pandita provides an authoritative account of how a handful of men and women, who believed in the idea of revolution, entered Bastar in Central India in 1980
and created a powerful movement that New Delhi now terms as India’s biggest internal security threat. It traces the circumstances due to which the Maoist movement entrenched itself in about 10 states of India, carrying out deadly attacks against the Indian establishment in the name of the poor and the marginalised. It offers rare insight into the lives of Maoist guerillas and also of the Adivasi tribals living in the Red zone. Based on extensive on-ground reportage and exhaustive interviews with Maoist leaders including their supreme commander Ganapathi, Kobad Ghandy and others who are jailed or have been killed in police encounters, this book is a combination of firsthand storytelling and intrepid analysis.

Full review here DNA

A significant chapter in India’s history is the peasant uprising in Naxalbari in the late sixties spawned by CPM leaders Kanu Sanyal and Charu Mazumdar, who became disillusioned with parliamentary political processes.

The Naxalite movement itself was ruthlessly crushed but its ideology proved to be a hydra, springing various people’s movements and struggles, such as the CPI-ML (Liberation), CPI-ML (New Democracy), the MCC or PW. Loosely labelled as Maoists, these various factions — active in the in the jungles of Andhra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal — have become what the Indian state calls its gravest internal security threat.

Who make up the Maoist leaders and cadres? What is their alternate vision of development? How do they continue to exert a powerful influence on Adivasis, Dalits and the disenfranchised?

This is a subject that has scarcely been touched upon in mainstream publishing. The entry of a book like Hello Bastar therefore raises great expectations. Unfortunately, promises are belied.

Full review here India Today blogs

Who's written this book? Was my first question after I finished reading Hello, Bastar in one straight sitting. Hard-hitting, well researched and penned with a lot of passion, this book has all the ingredients of a fictional socio-political thriller; ambition, deceit, love, revenge and nationalism, except that it's not.

Hello, Bastar is supposed to be a journalistic account from the ground of how the Maoist movement has become the biggest headache for the central government and despite flashes of brilliant writing and insightful analysis; the book fails on a critical factor.

So who's written this book? The introductory page tells me that it's a journalist, Rahul Pandita, Senior Special Correspondent with national magazine; but the hundred and ninety pages that follow, show Pandita donning the role of an activist than an impartial reporter stating facts as they are and letting the reader come to his own conclusions. Pandita loves his subject and has given amazing details on the growth, finance and functioning of the Naxals – It's a book that should be made compulsory reading in the Home Ministry, but the author's sympathy makes him lose focus of his journalistic neutrality.

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