Hello Bastar a journalistic account of India"s Maoist history by Rahul Pandita

Hello Bastar: The Untold Story Of Indias Maoist Movement

Why I picked this book?

I always wanted to know about the inside stories of the Indian Naxalite/Maoist movement. There are news reports in print and electronic media which more often than not present the government side of the story. However I wanted to know why the tribals pick up a gun? Why they become enemy of the state? Why so many people support them? Why people from cities belonging to well to do and sometimes affluent families support the Naxals and join them in some cases. I have read a book by Arundhati Roy “Walking with the Comrades” which gave me a fair understanding. I wanted to read more about the Naxalite/Maoist movement, so I decided to read this one by Rahul Pandita, where he reports firsthand from the grass root level.

The Book

“The government had sent in their forces. But they had not been able to do much. What could they possibly do? Inside the villages how were they supposed to distinguish between Maoist and a tribal villager? In a number of cases, they didn’t bother to do so. So innocent tribals were picked up, brutally tortured, accused of being Maoist, and then put in Jail. Instead of solving the problem, it lent further fuel to the insurgency, more manpower to Maoists.”

This is an on-the-ground research of Rahul Pandita on the Naxalite/Maoist movement based out of Bastar. The book includes several interviews and real-life accounts. He interviewed the tribals affected by Naxalism, tribals who joined Naxal, the leaders of the Naxalite movement, and tried to find the cause of the problem which is considered the greatest internal security threat to the nation. The author presents a brief history of the Naxalite movements, its span across India, and the idea of creating a guerrilla base in Bastar. He talks about the challenges faced by the tribal villagers across the Naxal-prone regions and the hardships faced by the Maoists and the guerrillas. Further, it dwells on how they function, what are their goals and aims, what are they trying to achieve, why people from Urban areas support the Maoist movement, and many such aspects of the Naxal movement.

The book and the author might seem to be left-leaning in dealing with the subject. However as the book was written about Bastar and the Naxal Movement, it presented the perspective of the people living in Bastar, be it ordinary villagers, the people who joined the Maoists, the leaders of the movement, or the sympathizers of the Maoist movement.  While reading the book you will get to know the oppression and deprivation faced by the tribal people in the Maoist affected area. If you think about the causes there are many, but as Milton Friedman said, “The government solution to a problem is as bad as the problem.” This seems to be the main cause of the rising Naxalism.

Kobad Ghandy’s afterward provides some insight on the development of India through GDP and per capita consumption expenditure and how all this does not give an accurate picture. Averages never give an accurate picture. He provides enough examples to prove the point that the development and growth story is skewed and there is an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots which is causing unrest in the country.

A well-researched book, that gives you a glimpse into the world of the tribals, the challenges they face, the deprivation, and the oppression they face in their day-to-day life. And what forces the ordinary people from the tribal villages to take up arms and join the Naxalites.

About The Author

Rahul Pandita is the author of the best-selling Our Moon Has Blood Clots: A Memoir of a Lost Home in Kashmir and the co-author of the critically acclaimed The Absent State. He has reported extensively from war zones including Iraq and Sri Lanka. He has previously worked with The Hindu, Open Magazine, among other media organisations. Pandita was awarded the International Red Cross award for his reportage from the Maoist-affected areas in central and east India, in 2010He is a 2015 Yale World Fellow.

Our Recommendation

A must-read for all especially for those who love non-fiction and have the curiosity to know more about the Naxalite/Maoist movement active in various parts of India.

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