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Travels with the Indian Maoists

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Maoist rebel reads at the boundary of a temporary base in the Abujh Marh forests of Chhattisgarh, India. Click on pic for more photos (photo by Mustafa Quraishi).

Back in February Bhupinder reviewed Satnam’s book on his travels with the Naxalites in rebel controlled and influenced zones in India.

Satnam…is an unknown writer- there is very little about him in the book except a few self descriptions. We know that at the time of his travel in 2001 he is a forty something, bespectacled Punjabi journalist who took a 2 month tour of the ‘red’ tribal belt in Eastern India in the company of the guerrillas…Satnam’s undying idealism,however, makes his account outstanding. The very fact that a person would travel all the way from Punjab to the tribal districts of Eastern India, that too, in a Maoist controlled territory is quite remarkable.

The book, a translation from Punjabi to English, makes for an effortless reading. It is written in a simple style, like a journal, and keeps the reader engaged with insightful observations that the writer makes about the life of the Maoist guerrillas and the tribals among whom they work. The descriptions are not exotic or scintillating as they might have been in the pen of a more youthful or excitable writer- indeed as they in Arundhati Roy’s somewhat flamboyant short travelogue, but have the quiet dignity of aging silver. In terms of time, Satnam’s 2001 rendezvous with the Maoists is older than that of Roy’s as well as Sudeep Chakravarti’s Red Sun, Travels in Naxalite Country (2008).

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