All of us are subjects of this colonial power willingly recruiting ourselves to be deployed to oppress someone else.
If you go to Chattisgarh the most dreaded people there were the Naga battalion. And yet about ten days ago the commander of the NSCN, the Naga movement had come to see me. He was telling me about the history of the struggle which began in 1956. And the cease-fire was signed in 1997. I said to him tell me, do you have a body count? Because we know the body count in Kashmir: 70,000 people killed. The Naga government has a body count but I think it is a little exaggerated. So I said to him, what is it? He said to me 250,000 people. I don’t know what he means by exaggerated! Even if it was doubled, you know. And yet the world doesn’t know about this because India has great publicity going. We are a great democracy!
Recently I travelled in North Telangana with a woman called Padma. Padma was with the People’s War Group. She was arrested just about a week after she had had her appendix removed. She was caught. She was beaten in the police station until she haemorrhaged and had to have all her organs removed. Then they broke her knees and they told her this is so you will never walk in the forest again. She was in prison for 8 years. Only time she was allowed out was when her husband who was also in the CPI (Maoist) was killed to attend his funeral. Today she runs an organisation for the Committee for the Retrieval of Dead Bodies from illegal encounters in India. She goes around North Telangana mostly in a tractor getting the bodies of people who have been killed by the police to their homes. I travelled with her to these homes. And you know the biggest room, the biggest home that I went into was much less than the size of this platform. She told me Padma told me, you know Arundhati these are middle class households the poorer people they don’t have houses, they live outside in the open under a thatch. Now, this is what’s going on in this country.
I went to Kadalu which is in Tamil Nadu with a friend of mine who’s a Dalit. I said to him take me to a place where a Dalit soldier who was killed in Kashmir has been buried. There was a SP with us. He took me to a garbage heap, to a garbage heap where there is a separate pump for water for Dalit soldiers to be cremated. And upper caste people do not allow the body of that Dalit soldier to be carried past their houses ‘cause it will pollute them. I turned around and I asked the SP. I said, “Tell me what is your job here? Is it your job to make sure that those bodies are carried down the street with dignity and buried with dignity?” And he said: “Ma’am my job is to preserve law and order, which means to make sure that does not happen.” So, you know when we are talking about identity, battles and struggles, sometimes my mind is a whirl! I don’t know how to think about these things any more.
Resistance is a beautiful thing
Earlier this year I travelled for weeks. I spent two and half weeks with the Maoists in the forests. You know they have been working there for 30 years doing politics. Which means not just guerrilla warfare. But what is their first initial battle with people who have nothing but loincloths? …That was a monumental fight! Today that political work of theirs has become something for reasons of its own the Indian government calls its greatest internal security threat. In that forest I walked with the comrades the people’s liberation army. Fifty percent of them are women. And you’ve got to hand it to them! I went in there thinking like many liberal feminists that an armed struggle is disempowering for women. That the women inside are going to be in terrible condition. I was disabused of that because many of the women who joined that struggle joined it in order to get away from the patriarchy of their own traditions and their own community. What women they were! The first time in India I lay in the forest and I felt for the first time in my life that there was enough space for all the organs of my body! I saluted them I said wow! This gives us a reason to stand up and say Zindabad! I believe that here too in Kashmir women have played a very very important part. It doesn’t mean that everybody has to pick up a gun and become a fighter. I keep saying in India that I believe in the biodiversity of resistance…
I want to say that here that resistance is a beautiful thing. But it has many meanings and many facets. You know what constitutes resistance is not just one thing. Just like you cannot call a group of trees that is just one kind of tree a forest. A forest has biodiversity and that’s what makes it strong. It cannot just get wiped out by one kind of thing. In that way in India there is a biodiversity of resistance of standing up to the state, you know. That biodiversity of resistance requires that you campaign to everybody. It is not just to say that the stone pelters are doing what they are doing so I can stay at home. But a real resistance would be what can I do? I am a doctor or I’m a lawyer or I’m a teacher or I’m a housewife: what can I do that will lend solidarity to this struggle?