Not just patriotism of a kind

Why the heck is it so important to be a patriot of any kind? This reveals the utter desperation and inability to deny a stratified concept completely.

Here is what the newspapers say:

Writer-activist Arundhati Roy on Sunday described Maoists as "patriot of a kind" and accused the prime minister and home minister of "violating the Constitution and Panchayat (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act by allowing corporates to use tribal land". "Patriot of a kind, they (Maoists) are. But here patriotism is very complicated. So at the moment what people are fighting for is to keep this country from falling apart," Roy said after addressing a meet on Cultural Resistance to War on People in Corporate Interest, organised by a magazine.

Patriotism is not complicated if you know your mind and the minds of the people on whose behalf you speak. There are indeed different kinds of fidelity – whether to the nation or in relationships or from your pet dog. The whole credo of ‘someone’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’ has been going on for years and it is understood as a complex theory.

However, to say that they are fighting to keep this country from falling apart is a stretch. These are insurgency movements and they are protesting against the policies of various governments and the establishment; they are not sewing patches and not one separatist movement has any alliance with another in any part of the country. All those verbal pebbles in Kashmir did not cause even a minor ripple in the Naxal forest lakes.

"The whole world has been intently watching the poor tribal people of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Lalgarh (West Bengal). Nowhere in the world have movements (against corporate invasion) so big, beautiful and successful been carried," she said.

The whole world does not care and we should not be concerned about how the whole world is viewing movements within our country that are truly fighting for space and a say. I am quite certain that for Ms. Roy the world does not mean what Papua New Guinea or Burkina Faso or even Bangladesh and Nepal think; it is the huge conglomerate nations, the G-Summiteers who need to be impressed. That’s where the big-ticket seminars are held.

There is no doubt that the poor have raised their voices but it has come at a huge cost. There is nothing “beautiful” about it, unless you want to print glossy pamphlets that show up clotted blood in high resolution pixels. Quit romanticising the travails of the poor.

Was the magazine that organised the lecture a tribal one or sponsored by the poor? No. This is a business sector, and Ms. Roy is a part of it. Let us just say this too is corporatisation of a kind.


  1. Farzana,
    Here is the thing.
    Mostly the theme at play here is the social discourse on the political issues.
    Let us consider Kashmir as example.
    The social discourse we see about Kashmir has been oscillating between "Total Freedom Sentiment devoid of Practical implications" and "Total control bordering and transgressing the punishment for infidels - even including general kashmiri population". Between these oscillations we sometimes see a refreshing outlook articulated by persons such Samar Halarnkar expressing his co-worker's sentiments behind stone pelting. A larger problem with the discourse is its fallback on the political idioms / patterns resorting to both pro and anti state positions. Further still, lack of proper credible political movement only re-inforces the stereotypical positions. Ms. Roy's positions need to be seen in this perspective. Her problem is banking on the discourse - and just the discourse. Medha Patkar would use the discourse as a political weapon combining it with her activism. Noam Chomsky would dissect it making more pragmatic demands on the state. Ms. Roy is trapped in the discourse. "Literally".
    Having said all of the above - however - I still don't see Ms. Roy catering to any "industry". Not even by a long shot - to be precise. Another thing about vocal persons like Ms. Roy has been they have - albeit unknowingly - helped articulating various political struggles.

  2. Mahesh, Farzana, Sorry I have not watched this blog in a while -- too much other mischief to consider :-P

    Kashmir is India's solution to controlling China's access to the Arabian Sea, and no matter what the Kashmiris think or feel, the Republic of India has an interest in having a lever to moderate China's behaviour. In the so-called "public interest", Kashmiris better fall on India's side or get chewed up by power politics.


  3. Mahesh:

    I think bracketing movements when discussing specifics is THE problem. Roy does it and so do several others. If people like her or even some other 'vocal' ones articulate various political struggles, they ought to take into account the various thought processes within those struggles. They cannot be herded like cattle. (And I do not see how such people get legitimacy of saying what the separatists have maintained, and the lesser locals have lived through.)

    The term 'industry' can refer to any established group that refuses to accept that even dissent of one kind is not god. The feedback I get for raising some points regarding her positions reveals that this is an established mainstream idea that has taken root. It helps linear thinking, I guess.

    We have to disagree, I am afraid.

    - - -


    Good to see you back, and better to discover that you have mischief to consider. This blog is a straitlaced place, as you well know :)

    Re. the Kashmir issue and India's interest, again I think we are obfuscating the main issue of the people's struggle as opposed to political interests. China, while an important consideration, has never been a moot point in this particular equation. It is too late for Kashmiris to fall on India's side and they are already victims of the power struggle between two nations.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.