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Asia

Bestselling Indian novelist says Operation Green Hunt has gone awry

The acclaimed Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy who is a staunch critic of the ongoing armed offensive against the Maoist rebels in India argues that the government's strategy has gone terribly wrong.

Indian author Arundhati Roy is often present at protests

Indian author Arundhati Roy is often present at protests

The Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, who wrote the 1997 bestseller "The God of Small Things", is also known internationally for her campaigns against the violence of states and private corporations. She denounces the government's anti-Maoist offensive, which has been codenamed Operation Green Hunt.

"It has gone terribly wrong," she told Deutsche Welle. "To try and sort out this very deep problem militarily is to create a situation, which is quickly spiraling out of anybody's ability to extract any kind of morality out of the various atrocities that are taking place. Unless they try to negotiate some kind of ceasefire, somehow, I don't see how it is going to be sorted out. I don't even know whether talks can sort it out but certainly they have to try another tack."

Last week, over 140 people were killed when a Mumbai-bound train derailed. The accident was blamed on the Maoists.

Last week, over 140 people were killed when a Mumbai-bound train derailed. The accident was blamed on the Maoists.

The offensive to quell the Maoist rebellion in the rural heartland involves 56,000 paramilitary troops in six states.

Offensive linked to economic interests

Roy claims the offensive is closely linked with economic interests. "In states like Orissa and Jharkand, the security forces are moving against everybody resisting the takeover of their land by mining corporations," she said.

"Millions of people are displaced from their lands by a government which is taking over resources. I hate that word but they are taking over mountains, forests and land to hand them over to corporations. Hundreds and hundreds of MOUs have been signed. Environmental engineering and social engineering is taking place in the country. Anybody who thwarts that plan, whether Maoists, Gandhians or Gandhian socialists or whoever they are, the minute somebody raises their voice or if somebody is effective, security moves against them. They don't mind dissent as long as they know it is entirely ineffective."

After meeting Maoist guerrillas in their forest base earlier this year, Roy penned a 20,000 word essay, arguing that the Maoists had a point when they say the gap between the rich and the poor has increased. The levers of government, she maintained, are increasingly controlled by private entities.

"India today is a country where a lot of the growth rate is fuelled by this mining money," she reiterated to Deutsche Welle. "This situation is not new. Latin America has seen it, Africa has seen it. The kind of money you are talking about is so great that you can buy governments, buy the media, buy the courts, you can buy the whole country. You can run the country and these people are gradually running the country. The elections are not between the BJP, Congress or the Samajwadi Party. They are between the Ambanis, the Tatas, the Mittals – the people pulling the strings now."

"Two-pronged strategy is moronic"

This situation is what makes the current offensive against the Maoists even more absurd, she argues. "This two-pronged strategy is moronic because the government's idea of development is what caused the problem in the first place," she said.

"How are you going to solve it by what's creating the problem as well as a military assault? Operation Green Hunt is being built up as a war – they don't want to use the word war but as an offensive let's say – against the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is a banned party."

Over 50,000 paramilitary troops are involved in Operation Green Hunt

Over 50,000 paramilitary troops are involved in Operation Green Hunt

The debate around the Maoists in Indian society is polarized – some support military action, others such as Roy and certain rights activists say the rebels are a symptom of social inequity and decry the military offensive.

The discussion is not likely to subside and has become more heated of late, as Maoist attacks have become more deadly, increasingly targeting security personnel and even civilians.

Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Anne Thomas

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