Sunday, 21 July 2013

BOOK REVIEW : Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita


HELLO BASTAR by RAHUL PANDITA


                      "Naxal, Naxalite and Naksalvadi are generic terms used to refer to various militant Communist groups operating in different parts of India under different organizational envelopes. In the eastern states of the mainland India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha), they are usually known as, or refer to themselves as Maoists while in southern states like Andhra Pradesh they are known under other titles. They have been declared as a terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India (1967).[1][2][3] Leaders of the movement have been found to have hideouts located in China.[4]
In 2006 India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing estimated that 20,000 armed cadre Naxalites were operating in addition to 50,000 regular cadres[6] and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them to be the most serious internal threat to India's national security.[7]"
The above paragraph is taken from wikipedia. I wanted to find out what the term NAXALITES meant to us , and, I am not surprised that as usual we have half-baked information at our immediate disposal. Though it is authors like Rahul Pandita who passionately work hard to bring the real picture infront of us.
Yes, I agree that the maoist or the naxalite movement is the biggest internal threat to our democracy. And kudos to our security forces for sacrificing their lives to keep us safe and trying their level best to contain and reduce the influence of the naxalite movement in India. But is this all that is there in this picture?
Are the naxalites power hungry? Are they doing this under the influence of some foreign power? Are they really forcing the localites and the adivasis of their areas to follow them against their wishes?
The answer is an emphatic NO..
Though our country India claims to be the biggest democracy in the world, I would say it is a farce. How can a country be democratic when more than half its population, living in villages are ruthlessly exploited by the local officials and the rich landlords since the time of Independence. We talk about globalisation and FDI and becoming a global power but on what account? A country does not become advanced just on the basis of its handful og big cities and a handfull of rich inustrialists. Today whether it is Chattisgarh or Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh or Bihar, it is the downtrodden and the forgotten section of our society who are taking up arms to protect their right to live peacefully in their areas.
I wish to applaud Pandita for writing such a meticulous and detailed book on the maoist movement in India. As expected, it is a very well researched book which traces the origins of the naxalite movement from West Bengal upto the present day scenario. I was surprised and at the same time impressed to read about the Janathana Sarkar or the People's Government formed by the Maoists in the areas of their influence, which really works for the beefit of the localites and guarantees the massess all the fundamental rights denied to them by the sysytem.
Pandita has written extensively about the organisation structure of the Maoists,their fundings and even their method of procuring the weapons.
The book ends with an afterword written by Kobad Ghandy, a pioneer and a visionary of the Maoist movement, who is in Tihar Jail since his arrest in the year2009.
Here is a poem by revolutionary poet Gorakh Pandey  which expresses the sentiments of the thousands of young men and women who fight for a purpose which we the common citizens know as MAOIST MOVEMENT :
                       It's thousands of years old
                       their anger
                       thousands of years old
                       is their bitterness
                       I am only returning their scattered words
                       and you fear that   
                      I am spreading fire.

Monday, 1 July 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The palace of illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni



Mahabharata is one mythological story which we all know very well and have grown up listening or reading it's various tales. I was around 10-11yrs old when I first heard about it from my grandmother who seemed very excited about Mahabharata being aired on Doordarshan every Sunday morning. And so developed a Sunday ritual at my place. Everyone would get up early, take a bath, have breakfast n then sit infront of the television to watch Mahabharata.
Mahabharata is an epic tale wherein the main theme is the fight against injustice and to act in accordance to your dharma. It is the story of the families of two brothers Dhritarashtra and Pandu, the Kauravas n the Pandavas and how their enemity ultimately leads to the bloody battle of Kurukshetra which brings an end to the Third Age of Man or  the Dvapar Yug, as per the Hindu scriptures.
Many authors have written about the varied and fascinating tales of Mahabharata. This book, though, is different. In this book the author talks about the Mahabharata through the eyes and emotions of Draupadi.
The book starts with the birth of Draupadi and her brother Dhristadyumna from the sacrificial fire of the great Yagna organized by king Drupad who wanted to take revenge from Drona, the great teacher of warcraft, who not only taught Kauravas and the Pandavs but even taught Dhristadyumna. Draupadi talks about her childhood which was very lonely and gloomy and how she always dreamt of getting married and going to a new ideal palace. The story moves ahead to her swayamvar where she snubs Karna and eventually gets married to Arjuna. She talks about the horrible way in which her new mother in law Kunti, gets her married to all her five sons  and the strange special code of marital conduct designed by sage Vyasa to foster harmony in the Pandava household. As Divakaruni writes, Draupadi says, "like a communal drinking cup, I would be passed from hand to hand whether I wanted it or not." Post marriage, Draupadi along with her husbands and her mother in law go to live in the royal palace of Hastinapur. But Draupadi could never settle there and  always had an intense desire for a palace of her own, which would be designed according to her choice. This heartfelt desire gets fulfilled when they shift to the barren Indraprashtha and the Pandavas ask the great Ashura magician Maya to build them the most beautiful palace. It was the most maginificient magical palace that shifted the settings strangely making the palace new each day. The Pandavas loved their palace but in the end it was their pride in this magical palace which made Duryodhana greedy for it leading to the infamous game of dice where the Pandavas lost everything. Yudhisthir, not only lost all his riches and the magical palace but also his brothers, himself and their wife Draupadi. It was Draupadi's humiliation by the Kaurava brothers in the royal court of Hastinapur that made her vindictive and so determined to take her  revenge from the Kauravas. It was she who with her open, matted hair, her sharp comments and taunts never made the five Pandavas forget her humiliation during their long exile of thirteen years. When even after the exile Duryodhana refused to give back Indraprashtha to the Pandavas, it lead to the bloodiest battle of that age which wreck destruction, both physical and emotional, of a magnitude never imagined before. Though technically the Pandavas won the battle of Kurukshetra but in reality, they had lost all that mattered to them- their sons, their beloved family members, their values n the righteousness which Yudhisthir always prided on.
Divakaruni is undoubtedly a master storyteller. This take on Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective is a refreshing change and makes the reader view the Mahabharata from a totally different angle. To read about a young Draupadi, a lonely motherless princess who has never received any love or affection from her father and how this craving for love, fame and power changes the life of Draupadi as well as those around her, is a sheer delight. It is intriguing to read how Draupadi was so ruled by the prophecy, which was made at the time of her birth. At the same time it is inspiring to know that inspite of all her hardships, she faced life like a regal queen stoically without begging for forgiveness or sympathy.
A must read for all those who love the mythological tales with a strong female protagonist.