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Arundhati Roy in JNU on the Lalgarh issue and State repression: A brief report with text, audio and photos of the public meeting

Posted by Admin on August 8, 2009

Source: Emotionally Speaking… by Vikas Gupta

JNU students listening to Arundhati speech

This is a multimedia report of the public meeting organised by the Democratic Students’ Union [DSU] in the JNU campus at Kamal Complex [KC] Open Air Theatre [OAT] 7 August 2009, 9:30 pm. The topic was ‘State Repression and Peoples’ Resistance: Experiences from Lalgarh’. It was also an occasion for the release of DSU’s fact finding report on Lalgarh. The other two speakers were Prof. Amit Bhattacharya from Jadhavpur university and Madan Kashyap, the poet.

Arundhati ROy public meeting in JNU

I reached the meeting at about 10 pm only and Mr. Madan was already halfway through his speech. Mr. Madan spoke in Hindi while the other two speakers spoke in English. This post has the audio of Arundhati’s speech, audio of Prof. Bhattacharya’s speech and partial audio of Shri Madan Kashyap’s speech and some DSU banners and pics. Please note that I have nowhere posted my comments, prejudices and opinion and I am reproducing it honestly just like a ‘citizen journalist cum messenger.’ About 500 girls and boys turned up to listen to the three speakers. That’s the open air theatre behind the shopping complex of JNU [KC, OAT]. This was probably the fifth time I had listened to Arundhati Roy; she does not look like a woman in her late 40s, she’s lean and has childish looks! :D

Arundhati Roy: Full Audio of her speech [hear and/or download from the link]

DSU HIndi banner on farmers' plight JNU campus JNU Politics

Click on the audio [about 30 minutes] below to hear her or just read it. The audio is not top-notch and I suggest that you hear it with full volume. If there is any problem with it you can click here to hear it on the source page where it is hosted [you can also download the audio from there]. The transcription of first three minutes of her speech follows the audio [no time for full transcription].

The transcript of first three minutes of her speech

Very nice to see so many here….[voice not clear]. Actually I have read the report and I do want to congratulate the students who wrote it because it really does come across as a very human document and a document with which it’s pretty hard to argue because it does really make a lot of space for peoples’ voices as opposed to some preachings from some previously indoctrinated position.

JNU Politics, JNU leftists, Naxalbari ek hi raasta

I really want to congratulate; very nicely written work… [*audience clap*]. It’ s very comforting to know that people from this university do go out and do listen; I think one of the troubles we are having these days is that people have just stopped listening. Everybody is full of information, full of .. , so sure of themselves and even when we appear to be listening we are not really listening! So I think that this document somehow has a lot of …. and I appreciate that. The last line of this report says that ‘Lalgarh should become a model of resistance in the rest of the country’ and… I want to talk about that actually because you have heard quite a lot of detail exactly what are the ins and outs, what the texture of the movement and I just think that it’s pretty clear that the distinctions that are being made in the corporate press and the corporate civil society trying to separate Adivasis and the Maoists and the governments and talk about people being sandwiched in the middle is a very apolitical position which eventually in some cases in a naive and well-intentioned way and in some cases in a pretty mala fide and not at all well-intentioned way but I do …..[voice not clear] support the status quo and then people talk of peace and what that kind of peace ends up meaning is ‘can you peacefully allow the corporates to take over the land!?’ So Peace is a very contentious word!

I just want to defocus a little bit and talk about the larger scenario that is unfolding in this country. To say that we are in a very dangerous position because over a period of …. certain things have been put in place and it’s very difficult for people to understand it [systemically unless they are very political people. But basically what has happened is What we think of democracy has been emptied out and each of its institutions hollowed out and we have something of a plastic bag above our head…. Hear the audio for the rest of her speech.

DSU wall posters JNU red JNU

Arundhati on extreme right, Madan Kashyap in the middle, Prof. Amit Bhattacharya of Jadavpur University second from right while the young girl on extreme left is the firebrand DSU activist, a JNU student, who anchored the public meeting.

Audio of Speeches of Madan Kashyap and Prof. Amit Bhattacharya Hear/download]

Click on the audio [about 73 minutes] below to listen to them. Mr. Madan’s speech [Hindi] is only partial followed by Professor Amit’s speech. Prof. Amit made many digs at the functioning CPI(M), West Bengal and openly criticised historian Irfan Habib, Sumit Sarkar and others. Click here for the original source from where you can download this audio.


One Response to “Arundhati Roy in JNU on the Lalgarh issue and State repression: A brief report with text, audio and photos of the public meeting”

  1. Trevor Selvam said

    The Maoists in Lalgarh Can Hold Their Heads High!

    by Trevor Selvam

    And for the following reasons:-

    1) From the beginning they have merged with the masses and never manipulated the Adivasi (aboriginal nations ) peoples’ demands. In a recent interview on one of the major Indian TV networks, when an Adivasi villager was asked, about the Maoist presence the reply was like this. “They are with us. They ask what kind of help we need. How they can support us. They do not tell us what to do. We take their advice, from time to time.” Lalgarh is a mass democratic movement using the experiences of the recent past of Singur and Nandigram. Let no academic debate club, accuse the Maoists of militarism. They have attempted to organize every strata of society, from the elderly and middle aged to women, school children, school teachers and workers. The Maoists have not showed off any of their military strength at all. They have organized the local population, who have used their traditional hand weaponry and tactics they have used for centuries, including felling trees and digging trenches to stop police traffic. The police, as we all know, had already raped and blinded women, long before the Maoists carried out their first attacks. The Maoists, as always have been grass-roots organizers and not fly by night party hacks. One does not need to be a Maoist to support their initiatives and take pride in their commitment. So where have all the Maoists disappeared? Urban reporters desperately want to find a Maoist to interview. The Maoists are so well entrenched that no one identifies them and no one seems to know where they are! Such is the frustration of the reporters. The same villager then says “But, they are everywhere.” After seven weeks, and an incredible amount of bluster about sanitizing, flushing out, declaring the re-capture of Lalgarh, the West Bengal Home Secretary A. Sen, has acknowledged that with all the forces with reptilian nicknames to create terror amongst the rebels, the whole campaign has beend declared as “partly” succesfull and the Maoists do not seem to have budged at all and in fact the government has expressed frustration that they cannot distinguish the Maoist from the masses. When the Home Secretary, was again asked whether Maoists are still there in Lalgarh, he said, “They fired on our forces even yesterday.”

    2) The CPIM and their followers have no leg to stand on when it comes to rural development (despite the strenuous attempts made by a handful of their academic part hacks, pointing to the land reforms that they have done in thirty years) and no face to hide behind when it comes to the crassest forms of local corruption, landlordism and thuggery, reminiscent of the Kuomintang henchmen during the struggles of the Chinese people in the 1930’s. For 32 years the CPIM have sat on their arses and belittled the plight of the Adivasi people, or played caste against caste, wherever it suited them. It is the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities that has successfully built roads, made schools accessible, created Health clinics and done what 32 years of CPIM misrule could not do and they have done it in 7 months. They have also clearly demonstrated that they have written their own story and they do not need anybody to lead them, dictate to them or plead their case. They are their own, independent militant mass movement. Once in a while, they will talk by cell phone to select reporters to clarify issues. Otherwise there are scores of independent Blogs popularizing their activities. Altogether, a minimum of 30 companies of forces including BSF, CRPF, specialized anti-Maoist force COBRA, state armed police, IRB and EFR are engaged in the operation in Lalgarh. The CPIM leader Biman Bose is reported to have lamented that scores of their cadre are deserting their ranks, either out of fear or out of sheer realization about the hypocrisy of their leaders.

    3) The Maoists have learnt to attack when they need to and have dissolved and conserved their strength when they must. There has been no false bravado. Slinging an old AK47 on your shoulders is not militarism, considering that the Central forces have come with helicopters, armoured carriers, mortars, several score segments of the anti-Naxalite Cobra force (whose reputation runs ahead of their actual capabilities, thanks to the sensationalist self-promoting Indian TV networks- What may I ask, is so dangerous about standing on a metalled road and repeating the same news about Security Forces movements, while a few of them lazily walk by and villagers totally ignore the reporters? This is the first time in India’entire history, to my mind, that villagers do not give a damn about loud and vociferous TV reporters.) The Maoists have not had a single casualty, nor has a single Maoist cadre of reputation been arrested by the “sanitizing, flushing, sweeping” much-ballyhooed paramilitary forces. In fact the police are clued-out as to what is their own strategy. For the first few weeks they simply waited for instructions. They have now entered all the little towns and villages (mostly walked through the metalled roads) and have occupied the schools of little children and are seen playing volleyball in the Lalgarh police station to keep their morale up. In fact many of them are already exhausted by the heat (one policeman died of a heatstroke within a few days of arriving in Lalgarh). The Police big shots sit in New Delhi or Kolkata ask for patience, when asked by the prodding reporters, when there will be some Maoist blood shed? Patience, on the other hand, after more than sixty years of independence is not what Adivasis have anymore.

    4) The Maoists have enabled civic society leaders, leading intellectuals, workers’ organizations to come to Lalgarh in support and solidarity. Workers contingents have taken the train to Lalgarh and marched through the town in solidarity, despite attempts by the Police Officers to prevent them. Scuffles broke out and arrests resulted. The marchers were asked to not use megaphones. They agreed and their voices could be heard across the fields, so clear and loud were their slogans. The Maoist have self-generated several dozen websites all over the world and several score blogs, as well, that are continuously reporting on the day to day events there. The world is now aware of Lalgarh and for the first time the CPI(M)’s hand-in-glove collaboration with the Indian state is obvious to progressive forces all around the globe. The leaders of the local CPIM are now openly complaining to TV newspeople that the Security Forces are doing “nothing” to the Maoists. What exactly is the “something” that they want to see done to the Adivasis and the Maoists? Even some of the TV crew people are amused and note that the Maoists are the people and they are almost indistinguishable. Do the CPIM leaders want an adivasi bloodbath? The CPIM leaders are using helicopters to leaflet the Maoist strongholds, exactly like the US Armed forced have done in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    5) The Indian State and its armed forces are demoralized, weary, leaderless and typically mindless. Nobody knows who is actually in charge of the Joint forces that have been sent into Lalgarh. Many of the police superstars have been moved or have themselves transferred to other areas. Some of the commanders of the CRPF have refused to go on deep penetration missions, based on their experiences in Chattisgarh. Their minions in WB police, lathi charge school kids, stay in their camps all night, walk around some paddy fields during the day for television crews, stomp around main town centres, do route marches and have failed to live up to any of the bravado that their spokespersons have touted about them, in the past. This is despite the repeated announcements about “recapture, re-liberate, flush-out, sanitize etc ”that the press have been fed. Except for a few journalists, all the mainstream journalists continue to peddle the same “embedded” jargon that they have learnt from the Amanpour-Barka Dutt crew. At the present time, some 30 companies of security forces cannot seem to deal with the phantom might of some 500 armed Maoists (by their own count).

    6) The Security forces have taken over eleven schools in the Lalgarh area and all educational activity has been stopped. What political right do these forces have to occupy schools? For villagers, this is what matters. For outsiders, in Kolkata, it is not of significance. Because the children of the CPIM leaders are still going to St-Lawrence, St.Xavier’s, St. James, La Martiniere and South Point without any problems.

    7) The CPIM led police forces and the central joint force have now used special chemical dyes and sprayed them in the forest areas so that Maoists could be detected, even many years later, through satellites from Space, using the technology of the Indian Space Research organization and support from US Intelligence services! What a travesty and what a joke! This is what the CPIM has come around to. Reminds one of Agent Orange, the attacks on Hue by the 81st Airborne and the next step was the secret bombing of Cambodia. And the Indian Security Forces have learnt to speak the same language as the American Officers did during Vietnam and later on in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. “What can we do, they are dressed often like the civilians. We cannot distinguish them. They do not play fair. They scurry away into the jungles. They attack isolated camps.” Well, wake up you brave anti-Naxalite commandos! This is something that people have engaged in from the time of the Santhal Vidhroho, from the time of Sidhu and Kanu. They hit when they can and disappear and run and conserve.

    The Maoists have no reason to feel harried. They have held their patience and should continue to. The Security forces will thin out after a while. And the CPIM and their goons may try to again come back after a while, under police escort. Let the local people decide where they want to take this struggle. Let the Adivasis decide how far they want to go with their struggles. In the meantime, the Maoists should conserve their strength, popularize their activities amongst the urban intelligentsia and bring more and more of the mine area workers into their struggle areas.

    The Maoists must also give thought to supporting a broad coalition, which can develop into an open mass political party that is based in the struggle areas of Chattisgarh, Bihar, Purulia, Bankura, Midnapur, Bastar and other adjoining areas. They must also be ready to negotiate and take the political demands of the Adivasi people to a higher plane.

    Trevor Selvam is a freelance writer based in Chennai. He can be reached at

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