Making a case for India’s Maoists (Book Review)

July 23rd, 2012 - 11:18 am ICT by IANS  

Book: Red Star Over India; Author: Jan Myrdal; Publishers: Setu Prakashani (Kolkata); Pages: 224, Price: Rs.295.

The Swedish leftwing author makes no attempt to hide his sympathies as he returns to India to foray into the Maoist heartland in Bastar where he interacts with the dominantly tribal guerrillas and holds extensive discussions with Ganapathy, the elusive general secretary of the CPI-Maoist. “I am biased,” Jan Myrdal says candidly. “We all are; there is no such social animal as an unbiased observer.”

In comparison to the Maoists he met in 1980, Myrdal finds the CPI-Maoist a hardened lot - ideologically and militarily. “The People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army,” he says, using the Maoist nomenclature for their armed wing, “is already strong enough to inflict real and heavy military losses on government forces”.

His role, he says, is to help people abroad and in India understand why the Maoists are waging war. In his view, freedom in India is for a privileged few; the majority of the rest are steeped in poverty. The romantic India is a figment of imagination of novelists, tourist industry and movie makers. Hunger, oppression and poverty-driven suicides form the “other India”, a country where tribals and Dalits “are hounded and murdered and their women raped and mutilated for the profit and security of the ruler”.

His own journey in the Dandakaranya region helps him realize that despite official claims, there is no “liberated area”, only rebel zones. Maoist leaders frankly admit that while the CPI-Maoist is relatively strong in some rural areas, it is weak in urban centres, among the petty bourgeoisie (the bulwark of the original Naxalite movement) and even among industrial workers. Myrdal would want the CPI-Maoist to succeed but he concedes the reverse is possible. This is because the core strength of the present-day Maoists is mainly confined to the tribal community. “One should never forget the negative possibility.”

Myrdal weaves in and out of his political life and global history as he makes a case for Indian Maoists. The book carries a detailed interview with the CPI-Maoist chief. Yet this can’t be called the best of Myrdal’s works. It certainly is no comparison to Edgar Snow’s “Red Star Over China”, an iconic work that introduced to the world Chinese Communists led by the then unknown Mao Zedong.

(23.07.2012 - M.R. Narayan Swamy can be contacted at

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