Tuesday, April 10, 2007


"I’ve always felt that it’s ironic that hunger strikes are used as a political weapon in a land where most people go hungry anyway."
~ Arundhati Roy.

Kurdish Aspect is carrying Serdar Sengul's remarks from the KNCNA conference last month. While I agree with him that the subject of education is a critical one for the Kurdish people, and that the history of the destruction of the Kurdish educational system by the Turkish state is a subject worthy of study, and that the creation of a new Kurdish educational system is absolutely necessary, what intrigued me was the fact that Heval Serdar's master's degree study was on "the changing perceptions of security in India in the post-Cold War Era."

The reason that this intrigued me was that last week, some nice person sent me a link to an interview with famed Indian writer Arundhati Roy, suggesting that her remarks might be fruitful for Kurds to reflect upon. Having read through the interview several times now, and keeping in mind the recent history of repression--at least from Semdinli, through the Amed Serhildan, to the Koma Komalên Kurdistan's offer of a democratic resolution and the rejected unilateral ceasefire, to the attacks against the Kurdish leadership in Europe in February, the poisoning of Ocalan, and the crackdown on DTP--I feel that Arundhati Roy's comments on the current situation in India are compelling for the Kurdish people as well as for the Indian people.

What does a people do, when playing the democracy "game" by the West's chameleon rules only results in more repression, more imprisonment, more torture, more offensive military operations? What does a people do, when faced with repeated, gross injustices and the hypocrisy of servile, corporate-controlled democracies?

The interview with Ms. Roy focuses on the rising violence in India, a subject about which not much is heard at all in the American media. There have been articles about the Maoist/government peace process in India, and the articles in the American media on that subject have had a bitter flavor to them, for two reasons I suspect: because "Maoists" have actually entered a dialog with a government and have worked out a solution and because peace means a loss of revenue for the American war industry. However, the rise of "Maoists" and other dissenters willing to use violence in India is completely off the mainstream American radar. Why is that?

Upon being asked about her reluctance to condemn violence, Ms. Roy replies:

What I feel is this: non-violent movements have knocked at the door of every democratic institution in this country for decades, and have been spurned and humiliated. Look at the Bhopal gas victims, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The nba had a lot going for it — high-profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to rethink strategy. When Sonia Gandhi begins to promote satyagraha at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it’s time for us to sit up and think. For example, is mass civil disobedience possible within the structure of a democratic nation state? Is it possible in the age of disinformation and corporate-controlled mass media?

[ . . . ]

There was a time when mass movements looked to the courts for justice. The courts have rained down a series of judgments that are so unjust, so insulting to the poor in the language they use, they take your breath away. A recent Supreme Court judgment, allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances, said in so many words that the questions of corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise! In the era of corporate globalization, corporate land-grab, in the era of Enron and Monsanto, Halliburton and Bechtel, that’s a loaded thing to say. It exposes the ideological heart of the most powerful institution in this country. The judiciary, along with the corporate press, is now seen as the lynchpin of the neo-liberal project.

In a climate like this, when people feel that they are being worn down, exhausted by these interminable ‘democratic’ processes, only to be eventually humiliated, what are they supposed to do? Of course it isn’t as though the only options are binary — violence versus non-violence. There are political parties that believe in armed struggle but only as one part of their overall political strategy. Political workers in these struggles have been dealt with brutally, killed, beaten, imprisoned under false charges. People are fully aware that to take to arms is to call down upon yourself the myriad forms of the violence of the Indian State. The minute armed struggle becomes a strategy, your whole world shrinks and the colors fade to black and white. But when people decide to take that step because every other option has ended in despair, should we condemn them? Does anyone believe that if the people of Nandigram had held a dharna and sung songs, the West Bengal government would have backed down? We are living in times when to be ineffective is to support the status quo (which no doubt suits some of us). And being effective comes at a terrible price. I find it hard to condemn people who are prepared to pay that price.

When asked if "rebels are only the flip side of the State:"

How can the rebels be the flip side of the State? Would anybody say that those who fought against apartheid — however brutal their methods — were the flip side of the State? What about those who fought the French in Algeria? Or those who fought the Nazis? Or those who fought colonial regimes? Or those who are fighting the US occupation of Iraq? Are they the flip side of the State? This facile new report-driven ‘human rights’ discourse, this meaningless condemnation game that we are all forced to play, makes politicians of us all and leaches the real politics out of everything. However pristine we would like to be, however hard we polish our halos, the tragedy is that we have run out of pristine choices. There is a civil war in Chhattisgarh sponsored, created by the Chhattisgarh government, which is publicly pursing the Bush doctrine: if you’re not with us, you are with the terrorists. The lynchpin of this war, apart from the formal security forces, is the Salva Judum — a government-backed militia of ordinary people forced to take up arms, forced to become SPOs (special police officers). The Indian State has tried this in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Nagaland. Tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands tortured, thousands have disappeared. Any banana republic would be proud of this record. Now the government wants to import these failed strategies into the heartland.

[ . . . ]

But to equate a resistance movement fighting against enormous injustice with the government which enforces that injustice is absurd. The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence — revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates.

When asked if the Maoists might also usher in an "exploitive, autocratic, violent" regime:

. . . the Maoists in Nepal have waged a brave and successful struggle against the monarchy. Right now, in India, the Maoists and the various Marxist-Leninist groups are leading the fight against immense injustice here. They are fighting not just the State, but feudal landlords and their armed militias. They are the only people who are making a dent. And I admire that. It may well be that when they come to power, they will, as you say, be brutal, unjust and autocratic, or even worse than the present government. Maybe, but I’m not prepared to assume that in advance. If they are, we’ll have to fight them too. And most likely someone like myself will be the first person they’ll string up from the nearest tree — but right now, it is important to acknowledge that they are bearing the brunt of being at the forefront of resistance. Many of us are in a position where we are beginning to align ourselves on the side of those who we know have no place for us in their religious or ideological imagination.

Ominous words, those last. How well do they apply to the Kurdish situation?

The entire interview is available at ZNet and it's worth at least one read; maybe more. Ms. Roy's comments on globalization are also compelling for Kurds under Turkish occupation, particularly as regards the Ilisu Dam exploitation project, as well as for South Kurdistan with its free-for-all investment law and the mad scramble for control of wider Iraqi oil resources by Western corporations.

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