Romanticising the rebels

June 7, 2010

Everybody loves a good yarn about the little guys taking on the establishment despite the odds.

And Booker Prize-winning writer and self-styled activist Arundhati Roy believes there is romanticism in the armed struggle of the Maoists against the state.

Roy, who has spent some time with Maoist groups, has slammed the government’s policy toward the Maoists, who have been accused of targeting civilians in several recent incidents including a train derailment that killed more than 100 people and appears to be denting support amongst the intelligentsia for the rebels.

Roy, speaking recently in Mumbai, said while she does not condone the killing of civilians, she was on the side of the resistance, which in India comprises an entire gamut of movements of which the Maoists are the most militant.

Roy, wearing a crisp cotton saree, flowers in her salt-and-pepper hair and black-framed spectacles that give her the appearance of a stern school teacher rather than an award-winning writer, has been criticised for her stand, accused of romanticising a deadly issue.

She retorts that she is a romantic, that she believes in the romance of poor, little people standing up to the mighty state.

Writers, poets, artists and filmmakers pride themselves on their ability to approach issues differently, not just with cold logic and reasoning, but also creativity and sympathy.

But is this just about tiny Davids taking on mighty Goliaths? Is it as straightforward as Bush’s proclamation: “You are either with us or against us”?

With the government refusing to back down from its stance that the Maoists must lay down arms before any talks, and the Maoists showing no signs of relenting despite the threat of the use of the military, there are more questions and no easy answers.

Sadly, wars have not ended because of a stirring poem or heartfelt essay. No matter how romantic the notion.

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