[Reader-list] Fw: memories of a naxalite friend

sabitha t p sabitha_tp at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Apr 28 23:09:47 IST 2008

Hi all,
What I find appalling in Manmohan Singh and the new corporate Congress (as well as the new corporate CPI-M) is how they use the language of terror to describe Naxalites, remaking them as "terrorists", instead of addressing the deprivation of millions that leaves them with no alternative but to look out for themselves and join aggressive movements of dissent such as Naxalism. The recasting of Naxalites as "terrorists" absolves the state of its responsibility for the brutal police actions against admirable personages such as Dr.Binayak Sen and lesser but no less brave mortals in Chhatisgarh and elsewhere while shifting the focus away from the cause to dissenting reaction to it. 
I've grown up with Naxalites and Naxal-sympathizers - including my father -and they're all far from being "terrorists", just a community of brave socially conscious individuals and public intellectuals who want to make a difference, who don't want to close their eyes and shut their ears like the vast majority of us.

See all evil, hear all evil, speak out.

--- On Mon, 28/4/08, Sanjay Kak <kaksanjay at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Sanjay Kak <kaksanjay at gmail.com>
> Subject: [Reader-list] memories of a naxalite friend
> To: "Sarai Reader List" <reader-list at sarai.net>
> Date: Monday, 28 April, 2008, 7:31 PM
> Apologies for cross-posting: and in respect.
> Sanjay Kak
> -------------------------------------------
> Memories of a Naxalite Friend
> Times of India, Mumbai Sunday 20 Apr 2008
> by Jyoti Punwani
> Cerebral malaria can be fatal, but people have been known
> to recover from
> it. Anuradha Ghandy, however, didn't stand a chance.
> Already weakened by the
> sclerosis when she walked into the hospital, it was too
> late. Within 24
> hours, she was gone. By the time her vast circle of friends
> was informed on
> the evening of April 12, the 54-year-old had already been
> cremated. Better
> this than death by 'encounter', after prolonged
> torture. For that was the
> fate we feared this Naxalite could not escape.
> That Anu managed to evade arrest for so long, was an
> indicator of the
> ruthlessness with which she effaced her identity. This, of
> course, meant
> isolating herself from all those who would have given up
> everything to nurse
> her. There was another way she could have recovered, even
> while underground.
> Anu could have followed medical advice and given herself
> the break her body
> so badly needed. For someone so important to the Party
> (CPI-Maoist), it
> might well have allowed it. But that wasn't her style.
> Just climbing stairs had become an ordeal five years ago.
> Yet, days before
> her death, she was in some jungle where malaria was
> probably an
> inevitability. Anuradha Ghandy, I learnt after her death,
> was a senior
> Maoist leader. Her political career spans the first radical
> student outfit
> in Mumbai (PROYOM) in the '70s, and the armed dalams of
> Adivasi women in
> Bastar. Certain that like her comrades in Chandrapur, she
> too would be
> implicated in false cases and arrested, Anu went
> underground some years ago.
> When I first met her in 1970, Anuradha Shanbag was the
> belle of the ball in
> Mumbai's Elphinstone College. A petite bundle of
> energy, bright eyes
> sparkling behind square glasses, her ready laughter,
> near-backless cholis
> and coquettish ways had everyone eating out of her hands,
> professors
> included. Elphinstone then was an intellectual hub. The
> Bangladesh war was
> just over, drought and famine stalked Maharashtra. Naxalism
> had come to
> Mumbai, at that time the industrial capital of the country.
> Anu, majoring in
> Sociology, was everywhere—inviting Mumbai's leading
> radicals to talk about
> the reasons for the drought, putting up posters that
> proclaimed 'Beyond
> Pity' and urging students to get involved with the
> crisis in the
> countryside, defending this stand against those who felt a
> student's role
> must be limited to academics and at the most, 'social
> work'.
> Anu was also the one to question celebrity guest speakers
> such as Girish
> Karnad, whose path-breaking plays had just hit the stage,
> on the link
> between theatre and society. And it was Anu who introduced
> us to that
> feminist bible, Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch.
> Those were the days of
> 'parallel' cinema. Marathi amateur theatre was
> blossoming at Dadar's
> Chhabildas Hall. The Dalit Panthers had exploded into the
> Marathi literary
> scene. Adil Jussawala's New Writing In India was still
> making waves. Forum
> Against Rape, Mumbai's first feminist group, had just
> been founded. Anu, by
> then a lecturer at Wilson College, was immersed in all
> this. With her wide
> range of interests, she succeeded in linking the human
> rights organisation
> she and few others founded after Emergency with the
> city's intellectual
> ferment. Among other things, the Committee for the
> Protection of Democratic
> Rights (CPDR), demanded that the State stop acting
> lawlessly with Naxalites
> even though they rejected its laws.
> Thanks to Anu's ability to talk as intelligently with
> George Fernandes as
> with Satyadev Dubey, her brother Sunil Shanbag's
> mentor, the cream of
> Mumbai's intellectuals supported this demand.
> Playwright Vijay Tendulkar and
> reformist Asghar Ali Engineer were CPDR's president and
> vice-president.
> It was time for Anu to grow into a successful academic, the
> type who writes
> books and attends international seminars. Instead, in 1982,
> she left the
> life she loved to work in Nagpur. The wretched conditions
> of contract
> workers in the new industrial areas near Nagpur and of
> Adivasis in the
> forests of Chandrapur had to be challenged. Committed
> cadres were needed. In
> her subsequent trips to Mumbai, Anu never complained about
> the drastic
> change in her life: cycling to work under the relentless
> Nagpur sun; living
> in the city's Dalit area, the mention of which drew
> shudders from Nagpur's
> elite; then moving to backward Chandrapur. In Marxist study
> circles,
> 'declassing oneself' is quite a buzzword. From
> Mumbai's Leftists, only Anu
> and her husband Kobad, both lovers of the good life,
> actually did so.
> Kobad's family home had been a sprawling Worli Sea Face
> flat; he was a Doon
> School product. Anu's lawyer-father may have left his
> family estate in Coorg
> to defend communists in court in the '50s, but she had
> never seen
> deprivation. Despite her own rough life, neither did Anu
> make us feel guilty
> for our bourgeois luxuries nor did she patronise us. On the
> few occasions
> she would suddenly land up over these 25 years, it was as
> if she had never
> left. She had the same capacity to laugh, even at herself,
> the same ability
> to connect, even with management types, the same readiness
> to indulge in
> women's talk. But with those closest to her, she seemed
> unnaturally
> detached. Her parents doted on her, yet she didn't take
> every opportunity
> she could to meet them. I realise why now.
> Rushing to meet them whenever she came to Mumbai would have
> been worse than
> an indulgence. It would not only have eaten into the time
> she had for Party
> work, it would have also made it impossible for her family
> to have accepted
> what she saw as inevitable—an underground future. In
> order not to endanger
> her family, Anu simply disappeared from their horizon. When
> her father died,
> she couldn't go home. That was also the reason for her
> harsh decision never
> to have children, though her parents would have willingly
> brought them up.
> That was one bond she knew would draw her away from the
> life she had chosen.
> The 'Naxalite menace', says Manmohan Singh, is the
> biggest threat to the
> country. But I remember a girl who was always laughing, and
> who gave up a
> life rich in every way to change the lives of others.
> jyoti.punwani at gmail.com
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