A poet died
back home
and I,
miles away
couldn't make out
what it meant.

He had died before also,
almost, I mean.
Like a frog run over by a truck
many a times he had
fallen down on the black mud
of the streets,
drenched in blood,
in wine,
spread eagled,
almost dead.

There were his other deaths too,
less physical,
but more intense.
Mostly murders, i guess.

Love hate lust
and folks like you and me
together had him dead
at the cross, many times,
and yet, from his blood,
holy in its unholiness,
they had risen like fire,
burning their way 
right into you.

They called him an addict,
made fun at his back,
but were silent as the stones 
when he rode,
with his 'bird' and the 'snake'*
like a king 
on the streets 
in the rain 
of molten, acidic,
black ink.

I asked a friend of mine
what it means when
a poet dies;
don't know why, but she said
probably it was a 
'trick question'.
May be 
that's what it could mean
when a poet dies.

A trick
to end the agony 
of being shackled to life.

A question
that keeps screaming
in your head, 
never letting you 

* In memory of the Malayalam poet A. Ayyappan who passed away recently. The poet who had led a tumultuous and lonely life remained lonely in his death also. His body remained unidentified on the roadside for hours.The poet had recently won the coveted Aashan prize.

* The poet's favourite metaphors, the 'bird' and the 'snake'
Dear friends, 
Due to the issue of word limit, i'm forced to post this article in  6 parts, each part a separate post. If you can take the pain of reading it from bottom to top, you would be able to read it as one article, which's how i wanted it to appear. Hope you would bear with the inconvenience!

(continuation of Tales from Dantewada..page 6)

The Maoists have time and again proclaimed their reluctance to compromise with the “bourgeois democracy” of the Indian state. But when one takes a closer look, what’s happening in Dantewada doesn’t look like a struggle to capture the state at all.  Instead, what’s revealed is the sad plight of a people forced to take up arms when their last resource, the land, is being forcefully looted by a corporate-state nexus.  In their struggle for existence they’ve none to turn to, except the Maoists. So naturally, they become Maoists.  But it’s not the Maoists who have forced the adivasis to take up arms; it’s the vicious and unyielding exploitation inbuilt in the system that’s responsible.

The conflict that’s snowballing in to a full scale war in the Indian heartland is a cause of concern for every citizen in this country. With the murder of Azad (maiost spokesperson) in a fake encounter, the prospects for dialogue between the gov. and the Maoists have become bleaker. The Indrāvati river in Dankaranya is turning dead red.

“History had taught him
how dictators are  born
from the blood of the poor
time and again.

but at this moment
he’s with the these black people
singing the songs of liberation
under these tamarind trees”
                                          (There, Sachidanandan)

Today the Indian democracy is at crossroads, confronting the historic ‘ on whose side are you’ question. It doesn’t look like as if it can escape answering it, not this time.
Will it be able to stand at the side of these “black people singing the songs of liberation”? Shouldn’t it be?
(continuation of Tales from Dantewada..page 5)
It was in 1980 that the Maoists, fleeing from AP, reached Dantewada, amidst the unorganised and exploited tribals. They had to build the organisation from scratch, and that’s exactly what they did. It all started when the Maoists intervened to secure better prices from the contractors for the ‘tendu’ and Bamboo products on which the sustenance of the adivasis depends upon heavily. They won over the peoples’ hearts with a relentless struggle against forest officials that saw the men in uniform retreating in to safety, out of Dantewada. The Maoists’ dominance in these areas is not an overnight phenomenon. It happened as a result of relentless struggle for the peoples’ rights along with ideological education and military training. Today the Maoists claim that there’s not a single landless adivasi left in the whole region.

But we also need to enquire here about the nature of the alternative put forward by the Maoists. It’s obvious that that in the last 30 years of their campaign they have been focussing almost solely on building up a well trained armed force. Till now, disappointingly, they’ve not been able to effectively intervene in basic issues of the people such as agriculture, health and education, nor have they managed to raise the standard of living of the people. Most importantly, the Maoists have failed to initiate Panchayathi raj institutions, a vital prerequisite of people’s democracy, which is promised to be heralded by the Maoists. Also, pro poor legislations of the state like NREGA and Forest Rights Act etc also remains largely under utilised by the Maoist administration which has denied the people the little relief that they could have got from their daily routine of penury and exploitation. Of course the Maoists were severely crippled as a banned organisation, no doubt, but even then there were things they could’ve done, if they were willing to shift the focus from arms.  It’s a fact that almost all the money tolled from the contractors was dedicated for the procurement of arms.

But the most disappointing aspect has been the rise in the violence unleashed by the Maoists in the last few months. One might even be able to justify the resistance they offered against Salvajudum, the tyrannical government sponsored militia which heralded a reign of terror in the villages. But the killing of civilians in recent times strips them off from whatever moral justification they had and points to a serious degradation in the organisation. It also offers a taste of things to come.  The ultimate casualty is undoubtedly the life of the poor tribal, caught in the crossfire between the state, Maoists and the salvajudum.
(continuation of Tales from Dantewada..page 4)
There’s no dearth of statistics. More than two and half crores  of people have  been displaced as a result of mining activities in the first four and half decades of Indian independence. Not even 25% of these people have been rehabilitated. Out of this population more than half are Adivasis (‘Rich Lands, Poor People’- report by CSE, 2008).  The blatant loot by private players empowered by National Mineral Development Policy of 1993 is largely responsible for this sorry state of affairs. More than 164 lakh hectares of forest has been cleared for this purpose till now. Official statistics say that there are more than 15,000 illegal mines in the country. All the gallant declarations made by the Indian gov. in various international forums for climate change regarding its commitment towards forest conservation and environmental protection has been reduced to just another joke.

Arundhati Roy, in her brilliant essay titled “Walking with the comrades”, raises yet another aspect of the problem.  The Gond tribes of Orissa have been worshipping the ‘Niyamgiri’ hills as their gods for centuries by now. MNCs like Essar, Tata and Vedanta have  signed various MoUs with the state government to mine these hills which happens to be a  rich source of bauxite, iron ore and other natural resources, obligating the gov. to provide basic infrastructure like roads and conducive atmosphere for the same. Now, the question is, “would the gov.  have acted in the same way if it was faced with a situation involving, say temples or mosques instead of these hills?” Isn’t Right to Religion applicable when it comes to adivasis?  The 5th schedule of Indian constitution dealing with Administration and Control of Tribal Areas assigns the governor to report directly to the President regarding the administration of tribal areas. But all these safe guards provided by the constitution vanish in to thin air at the prospect of multimillion dollar agreements between the MNCs and the government.

This reflects the inevitable internal contradiction faced by all ‘democratic’ governments that follows the neo-liberal paradigm of development. This happens when the very conception of development becomes extremely one sided and the majority of people gets evacuated from its premises. The neo liberal slogan of development above politics effectively reduces the scope and depth of political activity in the society. Politics devoid of a dialogue about the nature of development is undoubtedly impoverished and ineffectual. Above all it makes Democracy a meaningless and wasteful exercise. Something that’s visible only in the polished streets of Delhi and not in the villages of Dantewada.
(continuation of Tales from Dantewada..page 3)
The chief aim of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ is to ‘liberate’ these areas from the Maoists (in yet another instance of irony, these are already ‘liberated zones’ as per the Maoists i.e., liberated from the tyrannical Indian state). The relevant questions here are:
1) Why does the Indian state insist on bringing these areas under the “rule of law”?
2) Till now, what prevented the state from achieving this goal?
3) What exactly was the role of the Indian state in these areas which are comparable to Sub-Saharan African countries in terms of poverty and backwardness (as per MPI-Multi Dimensional Poverty Index- Study done by Oxford backed by UN)?

It can be seen that it’s the adivasi communities that has been at the receiving end of almost all the large scale developmental projects undertaken by the gov. of India ever since independence. It’s true that the country needs hydro electric projects, express highways and mineral ores for its growth. But nothing can justify our wilful negligence of this basic question which an egalitarian society is supposed to pose at every mode of its journey-“On whose cost development?”

How on earth can you expect a people to accept and acknowledge a ‘state’ that shows no interest whatsoever in fulfilling their basic needs such as food and education? Why would they recognise such a ‘state’? For the people in the states of Chathisgarh and Jharkhand, for a long time, the officials of the Forest Dept. have been the chief symbol of the Indian state. These were men who took raping adivasi women as a matter of their right, whose routine involved destroying adivasi farm lands, day after day. It’s this brutal face of the state that forced the people in to direct confrontation with it, under the leadership of the Maoists. Today the whole Dankaranya region is devoid of the dreaded forest dept. officials. Do we need more reasons to explain the rise of Maoism in the Indian heartland?

(continuation of Tales from Dantewada..page 2)
An analysis of the history of the Indian Maoist Movement right from its beginning in 1967 reveals a crucial fact. Be it Naxalbari in WB or Wayanad in Kerala, the adivasi population has been the strongest bastion of all these movements. The voice of this highly marginalised and exploited section of the Indian society has been unmistakably loud and clear in all these battle fields. If we take a look at the maoist strongholds in the country, tagged as the red corridor by the Indian state, this will become very obvious. The states of Chathisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and W B are the core realms of influence for the Maoists. These states are largely inhabitated by tribal populations like Ho, Santhal, Oron, Kole, Munda and Gond, ‘black people’ who  have been around much before the birth of a country named India, much before colonisation took roots here.
These are people with a history of entering in to conflict with the mighty British even before the uprising of 1857. They have also offered resistance against the exploitation of the Jamindars who came later at the scene. Today, armed and organised by the Maoists, they’re fighting yet another battle, this time with the Indian state.

What exactly makes the gigantic Indian state so worried about the Maoist movement? After all, it’s just poor, illiterate and malnourished adivasis lead by a bunch of ideologues. This question inevitably leads us to the concept of sovereignty, a basic tenet of state as the highest political association. Apart from sovereignty the other important elements that characterises a state are territory, population and government. When these basic elements are challenged it’s the very existence of state structure that comes under question. Today, this is exactly what the Maoist movement has managed to achieve.  The system of parallel government that exists in Maoist dominated areas bear testimony to this fact. If one also takes in to account the self declared goal of the Maoists, the overthrow of the Indian state by 2050, the picture becomes clearer, but also grimmer. The system of government followed by Maoists in their areas of influence goes roughly like this:

                                        These areas are governed by janatha sarkars, modelled on Chineese revolution and Vietnam War. Each janatha sarkar is elected by clusters of villages with populations ranging from 500 to 5000. They function with the help of 8 depts. -agriculture, trade, finance, justice(nyay), defence, health, public relations, education and culture and forest conservation(ironically, gov. statistics say that the forest cover has actually increased in naxal affected areas!)