Last December I invited Digvijaya Singh for the launch of my book ‘Let’s call him Vasu: With Maoists in Chhattisgarh’. Maoist supporters decided to boycott.
Book launches, normally, are boring affairs where some people who had access to a prior copy of the book pontificate on how good the writer was. I wanted the discussion to be about how we move forward on the subject.
Digvijaya Singh is known for his initiative of Panchayati Raj and PESA when he was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, of which Chhattisgarh was a part till 2000. He also took forward the co-operatisation of Tendu leaf trade which is still the main source of income for Maoists in that part of the world.
I understand that in giving effective rights to Adivasis ,about their lives and future, lies the solution to the “problem”.
But unfortunately the moderator chose to attack an expose about one person which was also discussed in the book.
And now this magazine has published an article attacking me on same lines.
Himanshu Kumar is a good friend and has done courageous work in last few years of challenging Salwa Judum while living in Dantewada. He paid supreme price when state demolished his ashram.
But unfortunately he has got most of his facts wrong in the article.
Himanshu Kumar starts with an IG who was “appointed in Dantewada” who I tried to “promote” in the book as a good officer quoting some “fictitious” Naxal character.
I am sure whatever he has written about the IG is correct, but the IG was never posted in Dantewada. He was posted in Rajnandgaon. He was in charge of Naxal operations and the incident Himanshuji describes must have happened but he has got the facts wrong about the officer being suspended. He was never suspended in his entire career. I did not find anyone who could tell me the story of “corruption” of that officer “which he was famous for” as Himanshuji described. The officer had got promoted to become police chief of the state straight after.
But police officers are generally corrupt so there is not much to argue here and Himanshuji is stretching his imagination a bit far by saying I am trying to support the state when I talk about an officer who gave hard time to Naxals.
The officer left Bastar around the same time when Himanshuji first arrived in Bastar, so it looks unlikely that he started asking questions in Gondi so early but I am sure that is also correct.
And the “fictitious” Naxal character in the book who praises the IG is called Sonu who is also described in the book as younger brother of Maoist leader Kishenji and was former head of Dandakaranya.
Himanshuji can’t be farther from the truth when he says I have done nothing but whitewashed the sins of the government. I was hoping editors of Tehelka will at least get this much checked before publishing the article.
Almost half of the book, if not more, is filled with gory details of state atrocities often at the cost of being boring. I also write about state atrocities which I have not been able to cross check in the hope that someone in future will be able to verify them.
The book also exposes how Salwa Judum was a state program and was planned at least a year in advance when Tendu leaf contractors were asked not to apply for contract exactly in the areas where Salwa Judum will “start” the next year.
He has also got me wrong when he says I wrote that victims of Singaram were not innocent. If someone says that in an interview that does not mean I subscribe to that opinion.
He has again got me wrong when I write about the heroic Human Shield experiment which Himanshuji led. Timmayya the sarpanch of Nendra had gone to jail for looting a market with Naxals does not mean he is a Naxal. Rather I write in details that I was glad that innocent looking tribals like Timmayya have learnt the ropes and knows exactly what to share with whom and when. And no allegiance can be taken as permanent as is the case in all wars.
He goes on to ask me why CGnet did not disassociate with Save Binayak campaign when I knew what I write about Dr Sen in the book.
CGnet is a discussion forum and in any discussion forum there will be people from all opinions as there are in CGnet. As he knows people associated with CGnet have run pro-Salwa Judum campaign, as many of us also associated with CGnet took part in anti- Salwa Judum campaign at the same time.
May be we should try to talk if this book has any insights which can help solve the “problem” which looks such a distant dream now?
Also Read: A Cover-Up
In his book ‘Let Us Call Him Vasu’ Shubhranshu Choudhury not only tries to whitewash State crimes, but wishes to besmirch the reputation of those who have exposed the misdeeds of, and hence embarrassed, the government | By Himanshu Kumar