Romanticising violence

Tazeen Javed April 21, 2010

Ever since Arundhati Roy published her long article recently in favour of what the Indian government calls Maoist rebels, the Indian media and blogosphere has quite unanimously denounced Roy, labelling her naive admiration for the Maoists a proclivity towards “left-wing utopianism”.

Roy enraged a lot of Indians when she called very violent Maoists ‘Gandhians with arms’ adherents of the philosophy of non violence consider this sacrilegious. Just like Arundhati Roy, Pakistan has Imran Khan who supports the Taliban and is critical of army operations in Swat and Fata. Like Roy, Khan also believes that it is the circumstances that have turned peace-loving tribals into warring security threats.

If you hear their arguments, they are almost identical. They both question the legitimacy of a state to declare war against its own citizens, they both think the state policies are responsible for the creation of the Taliban and Maoists in their respective countries, and they both think that rebels are essentially good people.

The modus operandi of the Taliban and the Maoists are similar. Both are brutal and only believe in their own version of justice. Both conduct show trials and execute whomever they deem guilty. Both use explosive devices against government officials, police, army and common people. Both try to control the supply lines in their respective areas.

Both recruit under-age boys, at times by force, and brainwash them into carrying out operations. The situation in both the insurgency inflicted areas is similar. People on both sides of the border have legitimate grievances – 62 years into independence, their rights like access to water and sewerage have been neglected by successive governments.

The parallels don’t just end here. If President Zaradri calls the Taliban the ‘biggest security threat’ then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the Maoist threat the ‘gravest national security crisis’ India faces. The Taliban in Pakistan and Maoists in India are lucky to find supporters in Khan and Roy.

If Imran Khan is a firebrand speaker who can get college kids to support his cause, then Roy’s reputation as a prize winning writer and activist lends credo to the Maoist cause. If he speaks at left- wing forums in England and regales them with tales of government atrocities against the Taliban, Roy portrays a romantic image of the Maoists fighting the big bad government and capitalism.

Imran Khan won the world cup for Pakistan in 1992 and Arundhati Roy won her Booker prize in 1997. They may truly believe in the cause of the Maoists and the Taliban or perhaps they always root for the underdog, but one must keep in mind that it can also be a case of keeping the adulation of people alive through taking up causes against the government.

Even though we live in times when non-state actors are considered responsible for most of the chaos and terrorism, being anti state is still considered cool. If you hear the arguments presented by Roy and Khan, everything is either black or white but in politics and more so in power politics, things are almost always grey.

The state has failed to address the issues of its people but even then, only the state has the legitimacy to change it. Romanticising violence may win Arundhati Roy and Imran Khan popularity, but it can never provide a long lasting solution for peace.