Nepali Times
Fourth Estate
Asymmetric information


The gushing travelogue Arundhati Roy wrote about her experience of being embedded with the Naxalites appears to have created a spot of bother for the celebrated activist and author. The Director General of Police is contemplating action against her under the draconian Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act. The anger against the Maoists is so strong among the comfortable classes that the voice of a few civil society activists may not be enough to prevent her arrest.

The middle class is on the warpath against what Premier Manmohan Singh has repeatedly characterised as the greatest security threat to the Indian republic. The business community is baying for the blood of the Maoists. Militant Hindu groups have always detested leftwing movements. Now an influential section of the Indian media has joined the chorus and is openly calling Roy's 'Gandhians with guns' terrorists.

Roy did get somewhat carried away with her 'thousand-star lodging' in the jungles of Chhatisgarh. Gandhians and guns are contradictions in terms. The Mahatma was quite emphatic in stating: "I can find a thousand causes to die for, but I have never found a single cause that I can kill for." The massacre of hapless security personnel by stealth at Dantewada shows that the group behind the atrocious crime deserves no public sympathy. The grievances of the poor in the tribal belt are real, but such a response is abhorrent.

Maoists may justify the butchery as a 'propaganda of the deed' or even the 'violence of defensive offence'. Acolytes of the Great Helmsman are masters in the art of obfuscation. But the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans at Dantewada was an act of terrorism pure and simple. Of course, occasional acts of terror don't make an entire group terrorists. If that were so, the security forces that make people 'disappear' would deserve the tag, too. In civilised societies, crime needs to be condemned but the criminals have to be saved, sometimes from their own stupidity, insanity and rage.

Politicians have to resort to fiery rhetoric. In the wake of 9/11, George Bush II bluffed about 'smoking out' al-Qaeda from its mountain hideouts. Similarly, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram can be forgiven for exclaiming that he will "wipe out the Maoists in two to three years". The media has to see through the bluster.

When the Maoist insurgency began in Nepal, the media here was still on a learning curve. Leftwing romanticism enticed some influential reporters into depicting armed guerrillas as saviours of the poor and the downtrodden. A few rightwing editors allowed themselves to become apologists of the insurgents to vent their anger against the government of Girija Prasad Koirala. But by and large, the Nepali media avoided the 'us against them' oversimplification, even though the conflict here has been far more ruthless and has consumed many more lives than the 40-year-old Naxalite insurgency.

Enough Nepali journalists have been to India to see how the free press functions in the supposedly largest democracy of the world. Perhaps now it's time to invite some Indian mediapersons to Kathmandu to show them methods of coping with the asymmetrical warfare of misinformation. The Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels once said, "Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play." The Indian media needs to contemplate the consequences of accepting such a role. Not that we need to gloat, but we have been better learners and need to revisit our own experiences to face the challenges of an uncertain future better.

They're here, by Prashant Jha - From issue #500 (30 April - 6 May 2010)

1. jange
Interesting. The Maoists in India kill and CK Lal describes as..."atrocious crime"... "deserves no public sympathy"... "abhorrent"... "terrorism".

And similar acts by Nepali Maoists.....??? CK Lal can't find any adjectives!!??

2. Miyung

Yes, CK jee, there is something Indian journalists need to learn about from Nepali media. Particularly those Indian journos who commodify all news, disregarding the wellfare of commoners. Yet, I do not buy your arguments when you intend to hold Arundhati Roy's essay as an irresponsibly-written stuff. Roy's field-based essay is daring and thought-provoking. She dares to bring out harsh truths that elites of Delhi or Mumbi try to conceal under the veneer of IPL matches and glitzy fashion shows. Roy is no doubt right when she writes that Indian tribals need to worry when the goverment talk about their wellfare. Multinational companies are hell-bent on sucking up invaluable ore and bouxite at the cost of displacment of thousands of Indian tribals. The naxalites are just championing their right causes. If the establishment wants to crush down them for once and all, it needs to ensure tribal peopl's rights, instead of pushing them against the wall at the behest of multinationalits. This is the only way the establishment can do away with the Naxalites.  

Aslo, I would like to request CK jee to dare to write about the plight of Nepali people suppressed by yet-not-finished feudalists as Roy does. Writing columns sitting within your cocoon and trying to strike a chord with just the Kathmandu elites does not make you the celebrated columnist on the long run. I know you have travelled through troubled districts of Tarai but it is simply not enough. At present, you are the only Nepali  columnist we can look up to, but you need to do more.  

3. Kirtee Joshi

"In civilised societies, crime needs to be condemned but the criminals have to be saved".... and elected to the high office of PM, isn't so?. We are in indeed an example. At a time when the Maoist insurgency was at its peak, leftist-human right activist-cum-part time negotiator P R Tuladhar was asked why only the state was being condemned for rights violation, and why not the Maoists. His simple reply was that the Maoists never accepted any rule, so how could they be blamed for not obeying the rule (of law)! Maoists in Nepal have proved that Gandhi looks better on portraits, but it's the gun that matters, and even more so when intellects like Lal come forward to justify.

4. Bored
If only we had an intellectual with even half of Arundhati's gift and moral courage. But being a subjugated society that suffers from 'poverty of imagination' (to use CK Lal's own phrase), we have to make do with the likes of CK Lal. The best we have are feel-good liberals, stuffed with what Roy calls the 'pious humbug' about ordinary citizens being caught between the evil Maoists and the State. The 'Sandwich Theory' is probably the most popular theory of this century - indeed, how comfortably it rests on the liberal conscience!

5. Sargam
Arundhati Roy is quite known  to the Western world Media for her statute of a passionaria who mints money by writing off all she accumulates in her head during her raids in Jharkhand and around where Maoism have chosen to go wild. Of late, she had written a long long letter addressed to the readers of Guardians, UK wherein she mainly vociferated against the Indian government's negligence regarding the Orissa affairs where the locals were getting ousted manu militari by the local state police to please the Multi-billionaires  the likes of Laxmi Mittal.

She is very radical  if we take in account her personal equations. It is quite hard to make out what really revolts her. Either capitalist world that albeit feeds her to keep going or the poverty of some laissez- faire population left at their own by the central government of India. If  I dare quoting Winston Churchill, " Equality according to communism is the dividing up of misery in equal parts." What solution should folks find out because the more developing countries like India progress the more the gap of poverty widens between the rich and the poor.

This attempt of Mr. Lal gives us a head start to the whole Media adventure. And we are in the mood of catch the thrill and regale yourself  as you please. 

6. Arthur
The most useful thing in this article is the link to Arundhati Roy's article. She is inspiring, not gushing.

She has integrity and takes risks.

One might have hoped for at least some journalistic solidarity against the threat to arrest her for her reporting.

Instead we just see the usual tired cynicism.

7. Merlin
Come down to earth, Arthur... She doesn't take risks, and won't be among the victims of the hundred thousand troops sent to the areas most affected by the insurgency.

8. nishma

I think Arundhati takes immense risks - the risk to come under constant, virulent media attack for speaking truth to power (perhaps the most difficult and daring choice any public intellectual could make), along with the risk to be hated and targeted by those who have money, mob and guns. It is fashionable to label her passion for justice as 'romanticism', 'naivety', etc. and to resent her fame as 'celebrityhood', but a vast number of people who love and admire her constitute what they call 'the wretched of the earth'. But they don't have access to internet unlike those who run hate campaigns against her in cyberspace.

9. Nirmal
Let's see If any Arundhati except of this Arundhati could enjoy the same hospitality with which she has been welcomed to pen for the cause in rebels' land. Me guys, I don't accept that one can kill or destroy fundamental rights of others just because they don't have them unfortunately. To take away others' life doesn't enter in my learning dictionary. Perhaps Arundhati's yes. She is not anyone, she enjoys an indian kuire life so her sunglasses don't catch others except her Gandhians with guns rays of hopes to live a life.

10. npap
"occasional acts of terror don't make an entire group terrorists" .. really? tell that to 9/11 victims ..

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)