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Book Review: Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita

He steps inside her old room, and the first thing he notices is a sticker of Bhagat Singh on the door. A comrade who accompanied him lays on the floor. He started reciting a poem by revolutionary poet, Gorakh Pandey;

It’s thousands of years old

their anger

thousands of years old

is their bitterness

I am only returning their scattered words

with rhyme and rhythm

and you fear that

I am spreading fire..

4 decades of the Maoist movement in India, starting from Kanu Sanyal to Anuradha Ghandy and Kobad Ghandy, Hello Bastar tries to provide an account of the Maoist movement in India but fails miserably. After reading Our Moon has Blood Clots, my expectations with Rahul Pandita’s second book was pretty high. But honestly I am a little disappointed by the way in which facts are just simply spilled on pieces of paper.

The account of Naxalites starts from showing how India was under the influence of Zamindars and many other landlords who used to exploit poor. Nature and homo sapiens, both were against such a minority caste. Then on top of it, Dalit community was constantly under pressure and were treated as outcasts in the Indian social structure. This was the triggering event towards Naxalism in India, Poor was getting poorer, Rich were stomping poor like cockroaches under their feet. And Government never really bothered to interfere with them.

The account of Maoist leaders like Kanu Sanyal and Ganapathi are vividly discussed. How their leadership and skills to rise above the  barriers of caste and economic structure in India helped many to join the Maoist movement in states like Mumbai, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. The author has given a mesmerising account of different incidents that led many poor to take up arms with Naxalites and start hunting for their rights. Initially this poor population was also scared of Naxalites due to a simple reason; A dog kicked and beaten too many times won’t easily become your friend even if you want it’s good”. Just like that initial Naxal Leaders tried  really hard to set up communication with Tribal people of Gond area and other minorities.

The biggest home born terrorism that our Government faces today has made a lot of efforts in the development of such tribal people. From teaching them in schools to training them in Guerrilla warfare to tackle security forces, Naxals have also claimed that what government of India was not able to do in 60 years, they have done it in 20 years. If you go through the book, the author has minutely described each and every detail of different propaganda formed by the Naxal Parties. From education of kids to proper sanitation and medical facilities, a complete civic propaganda was created and updated from time to time by Naxals for the upkeep of such minorities. Training in arms and ammunitions for their safety was also involved.

One of the most interesting areas of the book is the introduction of Anuradha Gandhy. A simple girl from Mumbai suburbs who fought as a Naxal to get rights for these poor people. Another interesting thing in the book would be writer’s photographs while researching for the book in Dandkaranya forests and tribal areas of Gond. The pictures will reveal what kind of compact life the Naxals are leading so as to save themselves from security forces and to survive. In one account, the author comes across conversations in which the Naxal leaders claim that they only kill when the security forces start killing them like butchers. Otherwise, they prefer that security forces should kill the leaders who harm their own people. There is also an afterword from the Man, Kobad Ghandy himself where in few words he describes the plight and fight of Naxalites in India.

The book could have been written in a much better direction so that the reader can understand factors, effects and survival of Naxalites. I would have preferred the brief account of each and every Naxal leader and their thought process, rather than a splotch of facts and figures which may lead to confusion and boredom for any reader. I will surely acknowledge the amount of research done in terms of Naxal movement in India, but undoubtedly, this book could have been much better.

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