One of two scathing criticism of arundhati's visit with maoists.
I find the above criticism by Sudhanva Deshpande trite, circular, and mean-spirited for the following reasons.
1. That her writing is superb - she picks up in ironies - and seduces you to side with her.
Yes, Arundhati surprises us with her irony, and makes us wonder why we hadn't thought of it. Every writer has a style (or a trick if you may). Yet, you make it seem as if it were some dirty secret of hers you have exposed, implying she is a charlatan and an impostor with an agenda. This sets the tone for the rest of the article.
2. That Arundhati did not vomit in shock that a rebel was watching an Ambush video -- but was shocked at the videos of violence made by Hindutva goons in Gujarat.
You seem disinterested in the obvious distinctions between the videos (and this shows your fascist vision of some delusionary neutrality.) One is live violence perpretrated by a state sponsored, powerful, criminal gang intent on committing a pogrom against a politically disempowered ethnic minority. The other is someone watching (not filming nor killing in) a video in order to fight a state apparatus that has routinely used violence against a small, rural, tribal peoples to uproot them, eliminate them, subject them to collective punishment, take over their land, and fill it with business enterprises. She does not have to vomit. She is not a saint. She is entitled to her ideological underpinning. Not all violence is equal. Some is sicker.
3. That she is an embedded journalist -- something she despises.
Would she report the same way if she were "embedded" with the Hezbollah or the Hamas? Would she not have a feminist critique of them? I bet she would. If she were embedded with american soldiers in the war on Iraq, would she lose sight that the war was based on a false premise, and is likely illegal? Is she that fickle about her life's safety that she takes on ideologies of any transient benefactors? As if ideology were a print tattoo. We believe her because she speaks for those underrepresented by mainstream media, or even institutionalized leftists, and almost always speaks factually (even if she flourishes with pretty rhetoric). Saying that she humanizes is cheapening it. For some this rhetoric speaks to the multiple complexities of struggle. She is, if anything, unembedded..
4. That she romanticizes, and falls prey to a fantasy of walking with rebels under moonlit skies.
By that logic, anyone who removes themselves from the daily existence of walks between the water cooler and the keyboard, classroom and the cafeteria, and visits slums, and idyllic towns, communities that have been stricken with famine, war, or poverty - is liable of romanticising the other. And is tortious as charged. Yet reporting must be done. Under moonlit skies with rebels called Venu or not. At least she is doing it -and not asking that she be applauded for her venture.
5. That she makes light of indefinite hunger strikes.
You have such high standards for her. She is not allowed to laugh at herself. How does her joke mock her own past peaceful protests against big dams? How is she in anyway denouncing peaceful forms of resistance. If anything, she is acknowledging the obviously vast rift between her past activism, and that of the young Maoists. She is not necessarily endorsing it. Perhaps, she is articulating the weak alliance leftists have with one other, and how we must continually review the work done - we may differ in tactics, but we understand the problems.
6.That Charu Mazumdar fetisizes violence, but AR says look at the beautiful dancing tribals.
If anything, AR dreaded the dance performance - but then observes how much of a break it was for the people. And regarding Charu - she distances his ideology from the lived experiences of Maoists. Almost each act of violence is in response to an act of repression. Now the Maoists could be trained to brainwash journalists, but how many journalists visit them? And if she is watching the dancing tribals - she is watching the dancing tribals as a sympathizer to their cause, and not the repugnant image of an Orientalist Englishman watching native rituals. One can not de-link her politics from her viewership. Must her entire visit be steeped in stern and constipated admonition of their means?
7. That all the criticisms of the Maoists that appeared in EPW are water off her back.
Look, someone got to tell the other side of the left. Details and criticisms can be finessed later in an arbitration of sorts for each one of the incidents listed in her article and media- but at least allow space for this form of observation and expression. Nobody has a lifetime warranty on truly left position.