The Burning Forest

The Burning Forest:India’s War Against the Maoists

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The war between Maoists and the state in the heart of India

The Burning Forest is an empathetic, moving account of what drives indigenous peasants to support armed struggle despite severe state repression, including lives lost, homes and communities destroyed.

Over the past decade, the heavily forested,mineral-rich region of Bastar in central India has emerged as one of the most militarized sites in the country. The government calls the Maoist insurgency the “biggest security threat” to India. In 2005, a state-sponsored vigilante movement, the Salwa Judum, burnt hundreds of villages, driving their inhabitants into state-controlled camps, drawing on counterinsurgency techniques developed in Malaysia, Vietnam and elsewhere. Apart from rapes and killings, hundreds of ‘surrendered’ Maoist sympathisers were conscripted as auxiliaries. The conflict continues to this day, taking a toll on the lives of civilians, security forces and Maoist cadres.

In 2007, Sundar and others took the Indian government to the Supreme Court over the human rights violations arising out ofthe conflict. In a landmark judgment, the Court in 2011 banned state supportfor vigilantism.

The Burning Forest describes this brutal war in the heart of India, and what it tells us about the courts, media and politics of the country. The result is a granular and critical ethnography of Indian democracy over a decade.

Reviews

  • A very important and interesting book which should be widely read. A deeply disturbing analysis of the sacrifice of tribal lives and communities caught between the camouflaged barbarity of the security forces and the violent arrogance of a deflected rebellion. The appeal for reasoned humanity cannot be any stronger – or more eloquent – than this.

    Amartya Sen
  • Nandini Sundar, an extraordinary anthropologist-activist, has mined twenty-five years of experience in the region to write an account of Bastar’s civil war that is both gripping and harrowing. She pulls no punches in describing the greed and cynical violence of state agencies, mining companies, politicians and immigrants. Her account of life in the Maoist rebel zones is graphic, full of empathy but by no means uncritical. is is a story that everyone who cares about India must read.

    Partha Chatterjee
  • Every thinking Indian, every citizen who is concerned about the present and future of the Republic, should read The Burning Forest. It is an impeccably researched and finely written work of scholarship, redolent with insight, and displaying enormous courage as well.

    Ramachandra GuhaHindustan Times