People like Deshpande like to score points by cheap shots, not by sustained critiques. 'Embedded journalism'? This silly analogy to the US media in Iraq would be apt, if Maoists were not a marginal political force much maligned in the mainstream media. It would pass muster if, rather than being constantly misrepresented and compared to cockroaches, theirs was the only viewpoint propagated in our ever servile and ever corporate media.
Deshpande's lack of sincerity in seriously engaging with Roy's essay is patently obvious.
"Whether we agree with Roy or not we read her because she surprises us. There is always some statistic, some quotation, some ironic observation, that makes one say, Hey, I hadnt thought of that before. This time though, I found myself being disappointed* *by her. It is almost a clich of such reportage (of a writers encounter with an underground group) to begin with the rendezvous and end on a note of wistful longing. Roy does both. Come on Arundhati, I wanted to say, surprise us for cliches I can read Surendra Mohan Pathak."
So Deshpande wishes to be entertained and surprised, rather than understand. Roy may be a tad hyperbolic in her prose, and may get carried away with the verbal magic she weaves at times, but at least hers was a sincere endeavor to understand who the Maoists are, and to hear their story from their own perspective. This does not mean that she romanticizes them or that she glorifies violence or that she is oblivious to ironies that only Deshpande is refined enough to see, although I must say that his comparison of gun-toting tribals, who have been at the receiving end of the most brutal state violence, to upper caste Hindutva fascists, who are mollycoddled by the state and who operate with complete impunity, is quite telling.
Not satisfied with spewing venom at Arundhati Roy, the person, rather than address her arguments, Deshpande also has the chutzpah to misrepresent her, and to create and happily demolish strawmen. Roy never once alludes to Trinamul Congress in her essay, so whence this gratuitous insistence that she sees nothing wrong with "Maoists becoming the handmaiden of the Trinamul Congress". Roy never says that Maoists and tribals are one entity. She simply counters the oft-repeated cliche that Maoists are an outside force, who have manipulated the 'naive tribals' to do their bidding, or that 'hapless' tribals are unfortunate victims of a protracted war between the state and the Maoists. This 'sandwich theory' is what Roy challenges, and challenges effectively in her article. But this does not mean that she thinks all Maoists are tribals, and all tribals are Maoists. Deshpande needs either a lesson in elementary logic or a modicum of integrity. Is putting words in people's mouths, whom one is jealous of, currently in vogue among certain sections of the left?
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