‘I’m not Sonia or PC... I do not represent Maoists or the State’

Kolkata: “Why do you want to make a Sonia Gandhi out of me?” replied Arundhati Roy, writer and one of the vocal members of the Independent People’s Tribunal that has taken up the cause of Maoists. After Dantewada, would you ask the Maoists to abjure violence and come to the negotiating table? “I am not Chidambaram,” was Roy’s curt answer.

And would you like to mediate should there be negotiations between the Maoists and the Government of India? “I would not. Because I don’t have the skills. I don’t represent the Maoists. I don’t represent the State. I just have an independent opinion,” argued Roy.

At a media interaction in Kolkata on Wednesday afternoon, Roy however, had enough skills to trace an axis of violence that stretched from the Taliban Afghanisthan to the Western Tribal provinces to North East India to Lalgarh and Dantewada.

The story is the same. The resistance taking different shapes and forms from Talibans to Maoists, the writer felt. And almost at the end of a nearly a two-hour press conference when she was repeatedly asked why she did not have a single word of condemnation about the Dantewada massacre of 75 CRPF personnel, Roy said: “ You should stop heckling me.”

The present level of conflict only shows how the tribals are facing the last push. Forget lack of development and malnourishment, they are facing a situation in which they are about to lose their land. But deprivation cannot validate violence, she agreed. “Nothing can validate violence. Maoists have done killings that can’t be justified. How can one justify the beheading of a policeman? There is absolutely no justification.” The rich and the powerful do not go to war against the tribal. “It is the poor pitted against the poor,” she said, trying to rationalise that soldiers who are being sent to fight the Maoists are also poor.

The day’s event was organised by a consortium of 27 political outfits, rights groups, trade unions and included a large number of splintered Naxalite groups.

The Association for Protection of Democratic Rights chief Sujato Bhadra was one of the conveners, as was theatre personality Bivas Chakrabarty. At the media interaction, Gautam Navlakha, Editor of EPW, shared podium with her along with Bhadra and Bivas Chakrabarty. Left historian, Sumit Sarkar also attended the meeting. Bengali author and Magsaysay winner, Mahasweta Devi was supposed to address the meet but had left for Delhi.

A committee was formed by the name of 14 th April Committee and the day’s meeting was described as the inaugural one. Ultra left insiders said there was a move to unite various splintered Naxalite factions and the urban, educated youths who had sympathy for ultra left ideologies.

Asked what could resolve the conflict, Gautam Navlakha and Arundhati Roy said the ban on the CPI (Maoists) should be lifted immediately and the leaders released to give the outfit space to come the negotiating table. Operation Green Hunt has to be stopped and the Centre has to make public all MOUs signed with mining corporations and about SEZs.