[Marxism] On Change in India

Ganesh Trichur gtrichur11 at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 13 08:37:52 MDT 2011

Thanks for sharing this. I seem to empathize more with some of the comments that followed the narrative -- especially the harshest one -- than with the narrative of the traveler in a car going through rural India. Agreed that India is poor and its poverty is wretched and offends anyone with any deep sense of hatred for injustice. Agreed also that the post-1991 neoliberal reforms have produced sharp and disgusting polarizations in wealth. Agreed also on the really uneven effects of transportation and infrastructure -- only the nouvea rich have easy access to autos and they now successfully deprive pedestrians and cyclists from use of the roads -- especially in urban Delhi and Bangalore. Agreed on the horrific, soulless forms of exploitation of the poor in India's improvised factories. So why did I still keep thinking that for the author (S.Deb) the whole encounter with some of migrant poor was more in the nature of raw material to sell selective images of India to the US? An "American's view of India" seems to approximate the effects produced on me by this article. Where is any reference to resistance in Deb's narrative? Don't the poor have any agency? An article that does not give them any agency at all does not do them any service either -- apart from corraborating those popular images of India that the West has always found easy to digest.   
 > Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2011 08:53:57 -0400
> From: lnp3 at panix.com
> Subject: [Marxism] On Change in India
> To: gtrichur11 at hotmail.com
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> Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
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> http://www.guernicamag.com/features/3027/on_change_in_india_siddhartha_deb_9_1_11/
> On Change in India
> by Siddhartha Deb September 2011
> India is indeed rising. So why are more than three-quarters of the 
> country living on less than fifty cents a day? A snapshot of 
> inequity, in four scenes.
> 1. Our author witnesses a roadside “encounter”
> The highway out of Hyderabad towards Kothur village was still 
> being worked on, with new overpasses and exits being constructed 
> next to the lanes that were open to traffic. Vijay and I were 
> halfway to our destination when we saw the man appear, standing in 
> the middle of the road and waving us down. We were traveling fast, 
> moving much too quickly to understand immediately what the man’s 
> appearance meant. A few days earlier, on this same road, we had 
> been stopped by two police constables. Assigned to guard duty at 
> another point on the highway and left to fend for their own 
> transportation, all the men had wanted was a lift. But the figure 
> in front of us now was not in uniform, and his objective was far 
> less clear, although I had the impression that he was part of the 
> knotted confusion of people and cars that had sprung up suddenly 
> on the smooth thread of the highway.
> Vijay brought his tiny car to a halt, and the man loomed up in 
> front of the windscreen, a dark, stocky figure dressed in a 
> T-shirt and jeans. He put his right hand down on the bonnet of our 
> car. In his left hand, he held an automatic pistol, its barrel 
> pointing up at an acute angle. His gaze, as it swept over our 
> faces, was intense, scrutinizing us carefully, meeting our eyes 
> for a few seconds. Then he abruptly lost interest in us and 
> switched his attention to a motorcycle coming up from behind, on 
> our right. He advanced swiftly towards the bike, pointing his 
> pistol at the riders. A policeman in uniform appeared on our left, 
> tapped on our window, and asked us to move on.
> Vijay drove away slowly, his eyes and mine fixed on the rearview 
> mirror to get a better sense of the composition of the scene. 
> There was the gunman in front of the motorcycle. Off to the side, 
> next to the uniformed policeman, was a red Maruti car, a modest, 
> everyday model of the kind that might belong to a minor civil 
> servant or a doctor. There was a policeman sitting at the wheel, 
> an officer in a peaked cap, his window rolled down. There was also 
> a man in the back seat, but he was invisible, just a silhouette 
> behind the tinted black window. The gunman had now moved on from 
> the motorcycle towards an approaching bus, which he flagged down, 
> waiting as the passengers slowly piled out on to the road.
>  From all this, it was possible to come to the following 
> conclusions: The men were hunting for someone. The gunman did not 
> know what this person looked like; it was the invisible man in the 
> back of the car, an informer, who knew that. They expected their 
> target to be coming this way, but they had no information as to 
> how he or she was traveling, which is why they had stopped a car, 
> a motorcycle, and a bus. The mix of uniformed men and the armed 
> man in plain clothes, the unmarked civilian car being used by the 
> policemen, and the pistol—rather than rifle—in the hand of the 
> gunman meant that this was not a legal operation. We had just run 
> into one of the encounter squads operated by the police, what 
> Devaram had talked about when he pointed his imaginary pistol at 
> me. If the target had the misfortune of running into the encounter 
> squad, he would probably be gunned down in cold blood, with a 
> report released later to the media to say that the person had been 
> killed in an active encounter and that he had shot first at the 
> police.
> Later, I would find out from news accounts that the police had 
> indeed been looking for a Maoist who, fortunately, did not show up 
> that day. At the time, though, the scene felt unreal as soon as we 
> had left it behind, taking on the shape of a dream. And in a way, 
> the encounter squad was a dream, surfacing from the deep regions 
> of the national subconscious where farmer suicides, Maoists, and 
> impoverished workers swirled together to form the collateral 
> damage of progress. In a few weeks, the prime minister would 
> announce the dispatching of tens of thousands of paramilitary 
> troops to encircle the Maoists in the “red corridor” they had 
> carved out in the forests of central India, but although this was 
> one more reminder of the ways in which India was at war with its 
> own people, it would elicit little comment from the big cities.
> (clip)
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