Politics of The Padayatra-1

Nirmalangshu Mukherji

As the daring, innovative Shanti Padayatra completes a week of gruelling march through a dangerously beautiful territory, it is time to assess its historical significance. I will keep doing this in short spells until the march reaches its destination, and the so-called Bastar dialogue takes place in Jagdalpur on 13 October.

This has been a march by adivasis themselves, accompanied by a few, very few, well-meaning non-adivasi activists. And the Maoists have condemned the effort. Even before the march started, they ordered the local adivasis to boycott the yatra; they also targeted the principal organiser Shubhranshu Choudhary as a corporate agent etc. No doubt, the order has reduced interaction between the local population and the yatris, but the yatra continued in defiance of the diktat. Recall that the Maoists have always ordered boycott of the electoral process, threatening people with physical harm if they disobeyed. These orders prove conclusively that Maoists are threatened by any democratic action by the adivasis.

After some initial support 30 years ago, Maoists have controlled the habitat and the economic life of the adivasis directly with guns so that only their fatwahs are the rule. If the Maoists enjoyed popular, voluntary support, there would have been no need to do so. Contrary to armchair, elite maoist propagandists such as Gautam Navlakha, Arundhati Roy, Varavar Rao, Sumanta Bannerji, Nandini Sundar etc.—who view the Maoist movement as a genuine uprising of people—Maoists have degenerated into an anti-democratic mafia, as fully documented in my book.

For the first time in recent history, the march of the adivasis has directly challenged the hegemony of the Maoists. The fact that adivasis of different regions can unite and organise a bold peace march on the highway basically means that the adivasis have regained part of their habitat simply by demanding peace. That is the power of non-violence. No wonder neither the Maoists nor their ‘revolutionary’ elite sympathisers are pleased with it.

(to be continued)

8 October 2018

Oct 10, 2018

Nirmalangshu Mukherji [email protected]

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