‘‘An Unfinished Revolution’’

Caricature of Investigative Journalism

Varavara Rao

I happened to read Kishalay Bhattacharjee's book An Unfinished Revolution—A Hostage Crisis, Adivasi Resistance and The Naxalite Movement, published in India in 2017 by Pan Macmillan. From this book only I came to know that Kishalay is a senior journalist who has reported from India's conflict zone for over decades. He has received several awards including the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award (2006-07) for his reportage of internally displaced people. This coverage of the abduction and rescue of two Italian tourists was nominated for the best current affairs programme by Association of International Broadcasting (AIB) Award in 2013.

In fact, this is the first book of his I happened to read and it is very recent one.

He currently teaches in the School of Journalism and Communication of OP Jindal Global University in Sonepat, Haryana.

I think this is a clue to understand and assess Kishalay's bias towards Maoist Movement or let me be generous to say his world outlook, perspective not only about Maoist movement but also about Adivasis.

Kishalay's other works include Che in Paona Bazaar: Tales of Exile and Belonging from India's North East.

He must have studied the history of ancient and modern states of clans in different parts of the world since Zenghis Khan, Timur Lang to present North-East. The aboriginals' States in Exile in North East—like that of Naga Socialist Council since the times of Phizo to Muvaiah with whom the most powerful State of India had to choose to negotiate outside the country. He must have the knowledge of Adivasi kingdoms of Chota Nagpur, Bastar, etc also. Kishalay has toured the Adivasi places in East, Northeast and Central India, including Naxalbari to AOB  (Andhra-Odisha Border) cut off area. In this book itself he writes about Adivasis' struggles against East India Company, British Raj earlier to 1857 India's First War of Independence.

All this was properly grasped by him, he must have understood that the Adivasis are against the intervention of capital, state and centre in their lives or say intrusion of these three evils or one can say intervention, intrusion and aggression—right from the times of British Raj—by the state and the government at centre and states (Company first in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay) as an agent of capital—right from East India Company to present Multi-national companies. They resisted—fought back with native and traditional bows and arrows to fire-arms not only to protect and safeguard Jal-Jangal-Jameen, but also their territorial right which has to be recognised by the founding fathers of Indian Constitution in 5th and 6th Schedules. Even Security Council of UN had to pass a unanimous resolution recognising the territorial rights of aboriginal Adivasis.

The modern States whether it's US or Australia had to apologise in their law making higher bodies to Adivasis for their earlier aggression and atrocities.

I had to delve so much into the history only to observe how poor is the understanding of the author about the Adivasi perception of state. It may not be the same as of Maoists earlier to Naxalbari's upsurge but in the longest journey of 50 years of Indian Revolution—though unfinished—the Janatana Sarkar in its embryonic form of New Democracy is an example of understanding Adivasi perception of the state.

I know that I can't entertain any illusion about Kishalay as he was appointed, though a journalist, as Chair, Internal Security and Senior Fellow of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis in New Delhi in 2011. He 'wanted to pursue field based research to see what the state response has been towards long-running insurgencies in India, the CPI (Maoist) being one of them'. In his view "state is engaged in a protracted ad hoc mechanism of dealing with the resistance without really addressing the problem."

To study this, he visited Koraput and Malkangiri in Odisha and he not only tried to 'explore the dynamics the Adivasis have with the extreme left wing Maoists'. He concludes "I was certain that viewing Adivasis as Maoists or Maoist sympathisers is a stereotype we have perpetrated and that Maoists have only found Adivasis a convenient and vulnerable group to help sustain the party"—so simplistic are these research and analysis!

The running thread of his understanding is that like the ruling classes in the class society the Maoists also 'appropriate' the Adivasis. Maoists, the revolutionaries (since he said that as unfinished revolution) abandoning the private property if any, the name given by the parents and the place where they are born took up the task of revolution as Shaheed Bhagat Singh to usher in a peasant and working class raj, become the professional revolutionaries. Presently, at this stage of New Democratic Revolution choosing to live among the Adivasis for last more than three decades in Eastern and Central forests of India.

During his journalist job in NDTV, he got an opportunity to negotiate with Sabyasachi Panda, by then left the CPI (Maoist) and abducted two Italians in March 2012. Kishalay was successful in his mission in getting the release of Cladio Colangolo who came as a tourist from Italy and along with him of Paolo, another Italian settled in Puri who arranged a tour to Kandamal forest.

One must admit and admire as per the narratives of voyage expedition and experience of media crew guided by Kishalay, his discussions with Sabyasachi are very interesting (Part 1 of the book). More interesting are the narratives of Cladio Colangolo, the abducted Italian tourist and discussions with Commander Sabyasachi (Part 2) and Elina Frova, girlfriend of Colangolo's son Daniel (Part 3 about 132 pages). In Part 4 Kishalay takes readers to Kandamal and from there into the history of Adivasis’ struggles in Odisha from the past to present liberation zone in Odisha. He delves into present and past from Naxalbari to Kanu Sidhu to Birsa Munda. He mentions almost all Adivasi struggles and heroes, except Veer Narayan Singh of Chota Nagpur and Komuram Bheem of Telangana.

Komuram Bheem organised Gond Adivasis in Jodenghat and surrounding villages of present Komuram Bheem Asifabad district (then Adilabad district) against the Nizam, the ruler of biggest princely state of Hyderabad and his master British India in 1940. He occupied 12 villages making Jodenghat his base with a clear cut call and programme of 'our rule in our village'—the indigenous form of the 'grama rajya committee', the provincial revolutionary council in North Telangana Special Zonal Committee during the heyday of CPI(ML) People’s War in 1990s. The same experiment was simultaneously taken up in Dandakaranya, particularly South Bastar could sustain to develop into Janatana Sarkar.

While writing about cut off area between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh he casually mentions of abduction of Malkangiri Collector Vineel Krishna by CPI (Maoist) Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zone Committee Squad. Here I can't but conclude about his callousness and arrogance of not verifying or crosschecking the facts, leave alone his views and observations.

"… The Collector was abducted and later released against an alleged ransom." (Page 155)

Though he is professionally careful in using the word "alleged", was it not his duty to verify, to cross-check this allegation with the then Collector, Malkangiri Vineel Krishna or the mediators Prof R S Rao and Prof G Haragopal or Dondapani Mohanty who were very much available during that time in Odisha itself.

If this is the low, mean and cheap, below the belt perception of the senior journalist serving the Jindals in Indian state about the Maoists, how about him if we ask for how much ransom he got for the release of Italian tourist Cladio Colangolo!

Whereas the Italian tourist's statement of truth is—
"My small backpack is given to me. Opening the zip I realized some cash I had in the back pack is still there, despite them frisking our belongings, the valuables are as they were. It is almost £300, a considerable amount for them, and it is impossible that they did not see it—it is lying on top, the first thing first sees when opening the zip. This gives me a very positive picture of the Commander’s men. They are not looking for money. But my biggest surprise to find my iphone at the bottom of the backpack".

Vol. 50, No.41, Apr 15 - 21, 2018