Essay based on Sanjay Kak’s documentary film ‘Red Ant Dream’
The state of war exists.
A calm but firm voice, distilling reason to its fundamentals, declares: “Maoism teaches us that self-preservation is possible only through war.” A caption mentions ‘Azad, spokesperson, CPI (Maoist).’ We never see him. We learn about his death later, death in custody. Azad’s words about self-preservation, which reach us now after his death, acquire a decisive clarity. The devastating collusion between the State and big capital has left no other possible way to preserve a life of dignity than to fight for it. This is the resounding call from the bloodied forest in the vast hinterland of central India that has announced a ‘People’s War’ on the Indian state. It is a revolutionary war that hopes to stop the indignity of the ruling elite’s war on the people.
Red Ant Dream, Sanjay Kak’s new feature-length documentary, is a tour de force. The film engages you compellingly with the power of its ideas, while it catches you at the visceral level with the intensity of its images. Appearing amid the din of corporate media’s demonization of India’s insurgent Maoists and Adivasis as the enemies of the ‘nation’ on whom the country needs to be tough, Red Ant Dream shakes you to see that the state of war already exists; it is just that the news has not been allowed to reach your ears. Or you have, like the proverbial three monkeys, refused to see, hear, or speak the ‘evil’ of the bitter truth—the bitter truth of everyday deprivation of the poor upon which the Indian middle class’s self-congratulatory comfort zone has been erected.
It is plausible to suggest that people’s movements are influenced by ideologies. The State experts, and even the mainstream Indian Left parties, see the political thought of Mao Tse-Tung (20th century Chinese communist leader) as mainly responsible for the insurgency in the forests of central Indian states. For the Adivasis, the numerous forest dwelling ethnic and tribal groups in India, and perhaps even for the Maoist insurgents, however, clarity of thought comes from experience and from the critical encounters with the State. They see the State as representing only the interests of the rich and the powerful; and given the spectacular inequalities of wealth the last twenty-two years of neoliberal economic policies have produced in India, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the State’s organizing logic articulates the forcibly accumulative logic of capitalism. As Ladda, an Adivasi activist from Lakhpadar, Odisha, says in the film: “the company giant has swallowed the Indian government giant. They have now become one giant.” For Adivasis, the war of dispossession has been going on incessantly for more than a century now. And so has been the resistance. On the Maoist influence, Ladda, facing the camera, declares, almost tongue-in-cheek: “Lingaraj (Lingaraj Azad, an Adivasi activist and intellectual) is my guru, and if he is a Maoist, then I am too.” Continue reading