WRITTEN in Punjabi by Satnam in 2003, Jangalnama is a detailed account of his stay with guerillas and tribals in the forests of Bastar. The Penguin edition is its English translation by Vishava Bharati.
Satnam enters the forest in the company of a guide, watches closely the activities of guerillas and tribals and their close bonding with each other. He finds the tribals simple beings, free from thievery, corruption, fraud, and even sense of sin. They live close to nature, wedded to its rhythms of day and night and changing seasons, and on the products of the jungle, like rice and fish, but do not take milk or eggs, because these belong to animals. Satnam is appalled by their living conditions: there are no roads, no sewage facilities; schools are rarely visited by teachers, and doctors are virtually non-existent. Disease is rampant, deaths are an everyday occurrence, very few live beyond fifty. Victims of the “inhumanity of the government,” the tribals are also exploited by unscrupulous traders, contractors, and even the police, at whose hands they suffer torture and brutality.
Quite understandably, the tribals welcome the guerillas, when they set up their camps in their midst. Satnam gives us minute details about the organisational structure of these camps, the disciplined lives of the guerillas, their unbelievable dedication, and their heartwarming rapport with the tribals. They help them with medicines and medical help, and teach them to grow new crops and vegetables. They also encourage them to think, and introduce them to what is happening in the world. The guerrillas thus raise their level of consciousness and help them build a parallel system of development and a parallel social system based on their needs and rights. This is what Varvara Rao in the Afterword to the book calls “the hope of a new revolution with Red expertise.”
Since Jangalnama provides vital clues about understanding the thinking and activities of the Maoists, it deserves to be read by all the right-minded people of our country.
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