If ghosts are the lingering spirits of someone, or something thathas ceased to exist, then perhaps the new four-lane highwaycrashing through the forest is the opposite of a ghost. Perhaps itis the harbinger of what is still to come.The antagonists in the forest are disparate and unequal in almostevery way. On one side is a massive paramilitary force armedwith the money, the firepower, the media, and the hubris of anemerging Superpower.On the other, ordinary villagers armed with traditional weapons,backed by a superbly organized, hugely motivated Maoistguerilla fighting force with an extraordinary and violent history ofarmed rebellion. The Maoists and the paramilitary are oldadversaries and have fought older avatars of each other several
times before: Telengana in the ’50s, West Bengal, Bihar,Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh in the late ’60s and ’70s, and thenagain in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra from the ’80s
all the way through to the present.
They are familiar with each other’s tactics, and have studiedeach other’s combat manuals closely. Each time, it seemed as
though the Maoists (or their previous avatars) had been not justdefeated, but literally, physically exterminated. Each time theyhave re-emerged, more organized, more determined and moreinfluential than ever. Today once again the insurrection hasspread through the mineral-rich forests of Chhattisgarh,Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal
homeland to millions of
tribal people, dreamland to the corporate world.
It’s easier on the liberal conscience to believe that the war in the
forests is a war between the Government of India and theMaoists, who call elections a sham, Parliament a pigsty andhave openly declared their intention to overthrow the Indian
State. It’s convenient to forget that tribal people in Central India
have a history of resistance that pre-dates Mao by centuries.
(That’s a truism of course. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t exist.) The
Ho, the Oraon, the Kols, the Santhals, the Mundas and theGonds have all rebelled several times, against the British,against zamindars and moneylenders. The rebellions were