What made you write this book? Why did you feel this story had to be told?
I have spent my career as a journalist, both as reporter and editor, tracking India’s economic development, meeting those on the “street”, as well as top ministers, entrepreneurs, and executives from India and abroad; and attending summits from Delhi to Davos. I am a direct beneficiary of India’s ongoing economic liberalization and freedom of expression that India’s urban middle classes have come to take for granted. But there is an issue I did not wish to keep quiet about. Except for perhaps a ‘unity’ based on the rupee, corruption, cinema, and cricket, there is a grave disconnect between urban and rural India and even within urban India. This disconnect is economic, social, and political. Seventy percent of India is away from the ‘growth party’. To imagine that India can be unstoppable with its gross poverty and numbing caste issues is to be in lunatic denial, a display of unstoppable ego.
Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country was a story waiting to be told. There is a fairly large and excellent body of non-fiction writing on the Naxal movement of the 1960s and early 1970s and on various subsequent extreme-Left incarnations through the 1980s, in several Indian languages and in English. But besides the occasional media coverage around the time of major skirmishing between rebels and security forces, there isn’t a book on the movements of today as driven by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) that attempts to demystify the Naxal movement.
The second reason for the book was that there is a great lack of telling the human story about and around the present play of Left-wing rebellion. Typically, one comes by statistics and glib sound bites. The dispossessed and the dead are not numbers; they were–and are–people. With Red Sun I have attempted to humanize a very tragic conflict, of a country at war with itself.
A third reason is that learned writing about Maoism in India (which continues to be interchangeably referred to as Naxalism) is generally restricted to academic journals and analyses by think-tanks. There is a crying need to mainstream it, tell the lay reader, as it were, about what is going on, shake ‘middle India’ out of its mall-stupor and diminish the delusions of grandeur of India’s lawmakers.
There was every reason to write Red Sun. The truth about this wrenching war has to be told.