Free Soni Sori!

Adivasi teacher in jail in India on charges of being a Maoist sympathizer.  She’s currently in jail in Chattisgarh, and this video is part of an international campaign to win her freedom.

Wednesday, March 8, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press contacts:
Vinay Bhat
Cell: +1 412.527.7985
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
Cell: +91 98207.49204
Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison

Video Montage Marks International Women’s Day
In a global show of solidarity marking the International Women’s Day, concerned citizens from around the world today released a video documentary based on letters written by imprisoned  adivasi school teacher Soni Sori, currently held in the Central Jail in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. The video is available for viewing and sharing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWnCrB1qwE4.

Soni Sori was arrested in New Delhi on October 4, 2012 and accused of being a Maoist supporter. Despite her appeals to courts in New Delhi, she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police and taken to the state where she was beaten, sexually assaulted and given electric shocks by the police. Sori documented her torture in letters she wrote to her lawyer.

“On Sunday October the 9th 2011, I bore the pain quietly, all by myself. Whom could I tell? There was no one on my side out there,” she wrote in her letter which was read in the video. A subsequent independent medical examination found two sizable stones lodged in her vagina and another in her rectum.

Participants in this video project joined hands to draw attention to Sori’s case by reading from Sori’s letters on camera, supplementing the video with additional materials including photographs, news footage and Sori’s medical reports. As Sori said in one of her letters, she is only one of dozens of women in her prison who say they have suffered torture and sexual assault in police custody.

Sori’s lawyers have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India to transfer Sori to Delhi or another state where she would not be under the control of the Chhattisgarh police. Despite the severity of the torture, the hearing on the final decision on her appeal has been repeatedly delayed. Today marks the completion of five months since Sori was tortured.

Amnesty International has termed Soni Sori a Prisoner of Conscience (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA20/047/2011/en) and demanded that she be freed immediately and the charges against her dropped. Human Rights Watch has appealed to the Prime Minister to investigate Sori’s case (http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/07/india-investigate-sexual-assault-police-custody).

Sori is in urgent need of medical treatment for the injuries that resulted from her torture. In another letter to her lawyer, she stated that the doctors in the Raipur jail have denied treatment, on grounds that she is a “Naxalite prisoner.” Protesting this, Sori went on an indefinite hunger strike.

The video documentary also highlights the need to hold the responsible police officials accountable. Instead of investigating the police officials involved in Sori’s torture, Ankit Garg, the Superintendent of Police who ordered and oversaw the torture according to Sori, was given a national award for gallantry last January 26, the Indian Republic Day.

JOINT STATEMENT ON POLICE ATROCITIES AND STATE REPRESSION ON ANTI-POSCO STRUGGLE

MARCH 6, 2012

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We strongly condemn the attack on and illegal abduction by the Odisha police of Umakanta Biswal, a famer belonging to Dhinkia village of Odisha, and an active member of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), that has been engaged over the last six years in resisting the forcible acquisition of their land by the Odisha government for handing over to the South Korean multinational corporation POSCO. This incident, which occurred on 2nd March 2012, is the latest in the series of atrocities inflicted by the Odisha government and by hired goons associated with the government and the POSCO company, on the people of these villages. Umakanta Biswal, who was engaged in agricultural activity in his paddy field at the time of his abduction, was pursued by a group of armed plainclothes policemen on a motorbike, and shot at when he tried to escape. He has reportedly been kept in Paradip prison, and has not been produced in front of a magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest, as is required under law. We have cause to fear that he is being tortured in police custody, and are gravely concerned about his safety. This highly irregular, and illegal, form of detention of a citizen, amounting to a kidnapping by the police, is emblematic of the situation in which the villagers of the POSCO-affected area are living for the last six years, just because they have tried to protect their lives and livelihoods from being devastated by corporate greed. Numerous villagers have multiple false cases lodged against them by the police, and people are in danger of being abducted and detained by the police while being engaged in day to day activities such as farming. There have also been incidents where a villager taking his sick child to hospital has been arrested by the police. This continuing victimization and violation of basic human rights of a whole community of people is intolerable, and goes against all tenets of constitutionality and humanity. We condemn this brutal and illegal action by the Odisha government and demand that Umakanta Biswal be immediately produced in court and released. We request the National Human Rights Commission to take cognizance of this illegal detention and violation of rights of a citizen, which is symptomatic of the violation of rights of the entire community of villagers in the area of the proposed POSCO project.

Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Prafulla Samantara NAPM and Lok Shakti Abhiyan
Prof. Ajit Jha Samajwadi Jan Parishad
Partho Sarathi Roy SANHATI Collective
Kiran Shaheen Media Action Group, Delhi
Aarti Chokshi Secretary PUCL, Karnataka
Students for Resistance Delhi University and JNU
Amit Chakrabarty Research Scholar, JNU
Mamta Das NFFPFW and POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi
Subrat Kumar Sahoo POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Kamayani Bali Mahabal Lowyer Activist, Mumbai
Asit Das POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Nayan Jyoti Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
Shankar Gopal Krishnan Campaign for Survival and Dignity
Mayur Chetia Research Scholar JNU
Arya Thomas Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
P.K. Sunderam Research Scholar JNU
Bhanumati Gochhait POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi
Ranjeet Thakur Journalist, Uttarakhand
Rajni Kant Mudgal Socialist Front
Rita Kumari Pravasi Nagarik Manch
Pushpa Achanta Women against Sexual Violence State Repression Karnataka

Repeal the Land Acquisition Act!

Medha Patkar in Sasthamkotta

Image via Wikipedia

Demanding Repeal of Land Acquisition Act and Enactment of National Development Planning Act Thousands to Attend Sangharsh Dharna from Aug 3-5 in Delhi

 

New Delhi, August 2, 2011: In the wake of the new draft of Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement slated for debate in the ongoing session of the Parliament, thousands of people from at least 15 states, affected due to the archaic Land Acquisition Act 1894 (LAA) is reaching Delhi tomorrow (Aug 3), demanding immediate repeal of LAA and replacement of it with a comprehensive National Development Planning Act.

 

“We welcome reopening the whole process and focus on the pre-legislative consultations. However one needs to keep in mind that the proposed draft is not a comprehensive draft but merely a combination of the earlier proposed two bills on land acquisition and rehabilitation, and fails to take in account the concerns raised by the millions of project affected people” Medha Patkar said.

 

Movements who have been opposing LAA have also been for long demanding community control over natural resources and the right to livelihood – some of it achieved under comparatively progressive legislations like the PESA Act, 1996 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Unfortunately, these very legislations are today under threat of being not implemented or worse misused for distributing land titles to some.

 

People are coming together in Delhi at a very crucial juncture. The poor from the cities who face eviction on a daily basis and whose livelihood is under threat, and those who are threatened by various developmental activities in the coastal states and the peasants whose land is constantly being grabbed for developmental activities would come and raise their issues. The question of establishing land rights of the marginal farmers, landless workers and peasants and their control over the natural resources, should be the focus of any new legislation dealing with the questions of land for development” Ashok Chaudhary, of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, said.

 

Other than the general focus on Land Acquisition Act repeal and replacement with a comprehensive legislation, 3-day dharna (Aug 3-5) under the banner of Sangharsh would also address specific issues around: Dams (in Narmada Valley, North East India, Himachal and Central India), Thermal & Nuclear Power projects, Urban displacement, Forest Rights and Community Governance, struggles against Corporations (POSCO, Jaypee, Adanis, Tata, Coca Cola, Vedanta, Mittal, Reliance, Jindal, etc), and protecting livelihood rights of rural and urban communities in the form of statutory government entitlements such as demanding a universal PDS and adequate beneficial rights to BPL members and oppose any move at introducing cash transfers.

 

Representatives of people’s movements would meet with the Ministers  / senior officials of the Ministries to discuss in detail their issues. People would meet Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment and Forests, Urban Development, Commerce and Industry, Social Justice and Empowerment and Planning Commission.

 

Key organizations attending the 3-day dharna would be national networks likeNational Alliance of People’s Movements, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, National Hawkers Federation, National Domestic Workers Union, SEZ Virodhi Manch and Jan Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti, organizations like Narmada Bachao Andolan – Madhya Pradesh, PennurumaiIyakkam – Tamilnadu, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti – Assam, Nadi Ghati Morcha – Chattisgarh, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan – Mumbai, Aadivasi Mul Nivasi Astitva Raksha Manch – Maharashtra,  Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Matu Jan Saghatan – Uttarakhand, Machchi  Maar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti – Gujarat, Renuka Dam Sangharsh Samiti – Himachal Pradesh, Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch – Jharkhand, Posco Prathirodh  Sangram Samiti – Odisha and others.

 

Contacts:

Vijayan – 9582862682 / 9868165471,

Madhuresh – 9818905316

Joe – 9871153775

 

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For daily updates on the dharna: http://sangharshblog.wordpress.com/

For Podcasts: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/sangharsh-dharna-aug-3-5-2011

Follow us on Twitter: #sangharsh

For higher resolution photos of dharna, contact: +91-9871153775

 

 


National Alliance of People’s Movements
National Office: Room No. 29-30, 1st floor, ‘A’ Wing, Haji Habib Bldg, Naigaon Cross Road, Dadar (E), Mumbai – 400 014;
Ph: 022-24150529

6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 26241167 / 24354737 Mobile : 09818905316

E-mail: napmindia@gmail.com | napm@napm-india.org
Web : www.napm-india.org

5000 Rally in Raigarh to Protests Arrests

Live reporting by Bhan Sahu on CGNet Swara (audio in Hindi):

Bhan Sahu is reporting live from a rally in Raigarh in Chhattisgarh where around 5,000 men and women have assembled to protest the arrest of social activists Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel. Both were arrested on 28th May on a complaint of misbehavior by an employee of Jindal steel in a public hearing a year back. Meanwhile high court has rejected their bail application. Bhan says people are expressing their sorrow and anger in the rally and the atmosphere is very charged.

Struggle over land and democracy in India continues

Public Convention on Save Democracy

Desh Bachao – Desh Banao

A RESOLVE

June 27th 2011, New Delhi

We all who have assembled here today discussed the political situation in the country in the wake of ongoing struggles across the country in Assam against evictions, Narmada Valley against submergence and displacement, Golibar, Mumbai against Shivalik; Jagatsinghpur, Orissa against POSCO; Raigarh, Chattisgarh against Jindals; Mundra, Gujarat and Chausra, MP against Adani; Kalinganagar Orissa against Tata and thousand other places. The struggle against Reliance, Jindal, Tata, Adani, Jaypee, Mittals and other Corporations and the collaborating State power is not only to protect their livelihood but central to this is defending the basic tenets of our democracy. The overall struggle is for deepening of democracy in the country – to establish the rule of law, to ensure right to life and livelihood with dignity, to ensure democratic control over natural resources – jal, jangal, jameen and Khaniz (land, water, forest and minerals).

The social and political churning witnessed at this moment in the country today is encouraging. In a political context where the questions of working class and poorest of the poor assumes prime importance we RESOLVE that :

  •  Our collective struggles have to deal with the corruption at every level and work towards establishing communities control over the natural wealth of the country. In the wake of increasingly oppressive power of State and Corporations, our collective struggles of dalits, adivasis, women, urban poor, the displaced, workers, farmers etc. have to challenge the crony capitalism and work towards a society based on equality and political freedom.
  • Everyone need to join this struggle for stronger legislations like Lokpal Bill which will control the corruption in this country and other measures which will bring back the black money stashed in the country in different forms of illegal and benami investments and tax heavens in foreign countries.
  • We will struggle together to scrap the regressive legislations like Land Acquisition Act, Special Economic Zone Act and others and agitate for drafting of a development planning act in this country with the free informed and prior consent of the strengthened Gram / Basti Sabhas and other local self-government institutions.

We urge everyone – people from all walks of life workers, adivasis, dalits, urban poor, women, men and professionals, intelligentsia and everyone else to join in this struggle against exploitation, oppression and inequality and secure justice and dignity for everyone. Let us all join hands to work together !

The Convention was addressed by Medha Patkar, Kuldip Nayar, Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar, Swami Agnivesh, Mastram Kapoor, Yogendra Yadav, Arvind Kejariwal, Raja Bundela, Dr. Sunilam, Ravi Kiran Jain, Smt Manju Mohan, Kavita Krishnan, Ajit Jha, Rakesh Rafiq and many other activists.

Note : Next national meeting on July 3rd, Sunday, 10:00 am onwards @ Centre of Science for Villages, Wardha, Maharashtra. For details write to napmindia@napm-india.org | 9818905316

 

Sign the petition against POSCO in Orissa

Sign the petition here (the text of the petition is below).

To: Dr. Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of India
New Delhi

Sub: Demand that Central government stop playing double games with people’s lives in POSCO and other large projects; enforce laws relating to people’s rights

Dear Dr. Singh

As concerned citizens of this country, we are appalled at the callous and cynical manner in which the Central government is seeking to exploit people’s struggles for short term political gain. Rather than enforce the law as it stands, the government is playing both sides of the fence. On the one hand it violates the law to favour companies, and on the other it seeks electoral mileage by loud declarations of sympathy when people rise to fight these illegalities.


We refer to the recent statements by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and by other leaders in connection with the POSCO project in Orissa, wherein the Minister, for instance, has asked the State government to follow “democratic practices” and engage in “dialogue and discussion.” But, under the Forest Rights Act, it was the Environment Ministry’s duty to engage in precisely such “democratic practices” before it handed over forest land to POSCO. Meanwhile, long before any process of any kind was complete, you and your office, as well as the Steel Ministry, were making public commitments to POSCO and the South Korean government that the project will be carried out. If the Central government and the ruling party really believe in democracy and dialogue, why have they systematically violated required democratic procedures when handing over land – and forest land in particular – in the first place?

Under the law, forest land cannot be taken until people’s rights over it are fully recorded, and the government must respect forest dwellers’ power to protect and manage their forests. On July 30, 2009, the Ministry itself recognised this when it issued an order explicitly stating that no clearance for diversion of forest land will be given without a gram sabha resolution – i.e. a majority vote at an assembly of the village – that their rights have been respected and that they consent to the takeover. Yet the Ministry broke the law and gave clearance to the POSCO project without a single majority resolution from any village in the area. Indeed, the Minister questioned the majority resolutions actually passed against the project and asked for action against the elected sarpanch, while ignoring the fact that his State government and the Ministry were the ones actually breaking the law.

The same gross illegality is happening in projects across the country. Till date there has not been a single case known of a project being rejected on the basis of a gram sabha resolution – a basic “democratic practice” that the Minister is now advertising. The Minister meanwhile stated in an interview on June 5th that he plans to amend this order because it has become too difficult for the Ministry to comply with the law.


Now, as children, women and men form human barricades to save their lands from POSCO, the very same Minister who violated every tenet of both law and democracy declares that democracy should be respected. Will your government wait, as it did in Sompeta, Srikakulam and elsewhere, for people to die before it remembers its legal duties? Do you seek another Bhatta Parsaul for electoral benefit? Your government is playing a cynical game with people’s lives to benefit corporate profits on the one hand and it’s “aam aadmi” image on the other.

We demand that your government immediately cancel all illegal forest and environment clearances to projects, uphold the Forest Rights Act and the democratic process it requires, and ensure that all land acquisition in non-forest areas too is made legally and practically subject to a democratic decision making process. The government cannot be allowed to continue playing games with the blood of innocent people.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

NAPM memo on POSCO in Odisha

NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS

National Office : A Wing First Floor, Haji Habib Building, Naigaon Cross Road                                                                                  Dadar (E), Mumbai – 400 014. Phone – 9969363065;

Delhi Office : 6/6 jangpura B, New Delhi – 110 014 . Phone : 9818905316

E-mail: napmindia@napm-india.org | Web : www.napm-india.org

———————————————————————————————————————————-

June 13, 2010

 

Dr. Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister, Union of India

 

Shri Naveen Patnaik

Chief Minister, State of Odisha

 

We have written to you earlier on the issue of proposed POSCO plant in the State of Odisha. We are extremely concerned at using police force against its own people in the villages of Gobindpur and Dhinkia, Jagatsinghpur to force them to vacate their homes and lands setting up this plant in the name of “public interest”. How can this be the ‘public interest’ if people of the region has been opposed to this project for more than five years, since the day MoU was signed ? Some of us have visited the area in these years and seen the resistance and also the thriving natural resources and communities living with dignity.

 

There has already been violence in this area by the police against people including women and children protesting peacefully, and on June 3, 2011, 17 people were beaten up and arrested for resisting the destruction of their betel vines, the source of their livelihood. As on June 12, 2011, the whole area is tense with about more than 25 platoons of fully armed police menacingly present, making loudspeaker announcements every 15 minutes, ordering the people to vacate or in default face police action. The people are especially afraid that the police may attack at night, but they are determined to peacefully resist the land acquisition. Women and children have been forced to lie in this chilling heat facing the boots of your armoured police. Is this the great democracy we are celebrating ?

 

It need not be made more explicit that use or threat of police force by the Odisha State Government or the Union Government based on illegal environmental clearance from the Union Government is completely unconstitutional. By not taking all possible steps to prevent police action against peacefully demonstrating citizens, you are violating the Constitution of India which you have sworn to uphold when you took office. Similar action took place in Kalinganagar in 2006, when 14 people who were peacefully resisting destrcution of their homes were shot dead by Odisha police. The police violence against the resistance of people in other places like Kashipur (Odisha), and Nandigram and Singur (West Bengal), to name just three, to government acquisition of land in the “public interest” has severely eroded the faith of people all over the country in the democratic professions of both state and union governments. In fact, people’s perception is that governments, regardless of ideology, are complicit with the multi-national corporations that demand land and other primary resources at the cost of poor rural and tribal people.

 

The acquisition of forest land is in violation of the Forest Rights Act, a matter on which the two committees of MoEF have already clarified and asked settlement of rights of people living there. You possibly have very good reason to neglect such people-oriented, constitutionally and legally sound advice but whatever the reason, it is anti-people, undemocratic and in violation of the sacred oath of office that you have taken. In fact the reason is eminently suspect.

 

It is unutterably sad that Independent India, that too under the rule of a party that won independence from the British, is using colonial methods of grabbing land with the use of police force from poor but self-supporting rural people to benefit multi-national business corporations in spite of their peaceful resistance, and when their pending cases in the High Court are due to be heard shortly. It is amazing how you, in your positions of power, are completely divorced from the reality of the gross injustices and violation of constitutional and human rights being perpetrated by the organs of the State against the very people who have elevated you to those positions. We fail to understand that why is Odisha government in such a hurry when the MoU with POSCO is not even there, it lapsed and your government needs more time to renew it. What is the hurry ? Whose interests are you trying to promote ?

 

Dear PM, you must uphold the promises made by your government and party that there won’t be any forcible acquisitions against the wishes of people. This is the test case for your intervention.

 

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is never too late to take a right decision and pass legally and constitutionally correct orders. In view of the foregoing, we take this opportunity to urgently urge you to immediately withdraw the police forces that threaten the people of Gobindpur and Dhinkia in jagatsingpur District of Odisha, and put halt to any forced land acquisition in the area for the POSCO project.

 

Medha Patkar, Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd), Prafulla Samantra, Sandeep Pandey, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Gabriele Dietrich, Anand Mazgaonkar, Faisal Khan, Sister Celia, Vimal Bhai, Mukta Srivastava, Suhas Kolhekar, Suniti S R, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Ramakrishna Raju, Madhuresh Kumar

 

Condemn the Assault on anti-POSCO activists

Please sign this petition by clicking here.

To:  Chief Minister of Orissa, Prime Minister of India

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing assault on the anti-POSCO protesters in Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa. After arresting and beating people last week, today more than one thousand police surrounded the area and laid siege to those protesting. Women, children and men spent the entire day in intense heat in order to stand vigil against the illegal attack on their lands. Both people and police officials have lost consciousness from the heat; the police snuck in from one direction and destroyed some vines. Dhinkia gram panchayat, where the crisis is occurring, contains around 2/3 of the land sought by the steel plant and the majority of those affected.

This horrific attack comes at a time when two cases by the villagers are pending in the Orissa High Court, and when there is a criminal complaint against the District Collector for lying and fabricating the evidence that was the basis of the clearance to take the land.

It also comes after three official committees found the land grab to be illegal and in violation of the Forest Rights Act, and after it was exposed by international experts that the project has no benefits for the local or national economy (while providing a minimum profit of Rs. 1,95,000 crores to POSCO).

That the Orissa government itself sees no great urgency in this project can be seen from the fact that the MoU with POSCO has not been renewed for over a year, and its renewal was deferred again just three days ago. There is thus not even any agreement on what the project will be when it comes up. Why then this inhuman attack on those seeking to defend their rights? Can it be anything other than an attempt to terrorise the protesters and all others who may dare to oppose the crimes of the state?

Clearly the State government, with the support of the Centre, is not concerned about the law, the people, the environment or development. Yet again we see the use of police terror to loot our people for private profit. No words of condemnation are sufficient for this heinous crime.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

 

Arundhati Roy: ‘They are trying to keep me destabilised. Anybody who says anything is in danger’

From the Guardian UK:

The Booker prize-winning novelist on her political activism in India, why she no longer condemns violent resistance – and why it doesn’t matter if she never writes a second novel

Arundhati Roy. Photograph: Sarah Lee

This is not an ideal beginning. I bump into Arundhati Roy as we are both heading for the loo in the foyer of the large building that houses her publisher Penguin’s offices. There are some authors, V S Naipaul say, with whom this could be awkward. But not Roy, who makes me feel instantly at ease. A few minutes later, her publicist settles us in a small, bare room. As we take our positions on either side of a narrow desk I liken it to an interrogation suite. But she says that in India, interrogation rooms are a good deal less salubrious than this.

Roy, who is 50 this year, is best known for her 1997 Booker prize-winning novel The God of Small Things, but for the past decade has been an increasingly vocal critic of the Indian state, attacking its policy towards Kashmir, the environmental destruction wrought by rapid development, the country’s nuclear weapons programme and corruption. As a prominent opponent of everything connected with globalisation, she is seeking to construct a “new modernity” based on sustainability and a defence of traditional ways of life.

Her new book, Broken Republic, brings together three essays about the Maoist guerrilla movement in the forests of central India that is resisting the government’s attempts to develop and mine land on which tribal people live. The central essay, Walking with the Comrades, is a brilliant piece of reportage, recounting three weeks she spent with the guerrillas in the forest. She must, I suggest, have been in great personal danger. “Everybody’s in great danger there, so you can’t go round feeling you are specially in danger,” she says in her pleasant, high-pitched voice. In any case, she says, the violence of bullets and torture are no greater than the violence of hunger and malnutrition, of vulnerable people feeling they’re under siege.

Her time with the guerrillas made a profound impression. She describes spending nights sleeping on the forest floor in a “thousand-star hotel”, applauds “the ferocity and grandeur of these poor people fighting back”, and says “being in the forest made me feel like there was enough space in my body for all my organs”. She detests glitzy, corporate, growth-obsessed modern Indian, and there in the forest she found a brief peace.

There is intense anger in the book, I say, implying that if she toned it down she might find a readier audience. “The anger is calibrated,” she insists. “It’s less than I actually feel.” But even so, her critics call her shrill. “That word ‘shrill’ is reserved for any expression of feeling. It’s all right for the establishment to be as shrill as it likes about annihilating people.”

Is her political engagement derived from her mother, Mary Roy, who set up a school for girls in Kerala and has a reputation as a women’s rights activist? “She’s not an activist,” says Roy. “I don’t know why people keep saying that. My mother is like a character who escaped from the set of a Fellini film.” She laughs at her own description. “She’s a whole performing universe of her own. Activists would run a mile from her because they could not deal with what she is.”

I want to talk more about Mary Roy – and eventually we do – but there’s one important point to clear up first. Guerrillas use violence, generally directed against the police and army, but sometimes causing injury and death to civilians caught in the crossfire. Does she condemn that violence? “I don’t condemn it any more,” she says. “If you’re an adivasi[tribal Indian] living in a forest village and 800 CRP [Central Reserve Police] come and surround your village and start burning it, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to go on hunger strike? Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.”

Her critics label her a Maoist sympathiser. Is she? “I am a Maoist sympathiser,” she says. “I’m not a Maoist ideologue, because the communist movements in history have been just as destructive as capitalism. But right now, when the assault is on, I feel they are very much part of the resistance that I support.”

Roy talks about the resistance as an “insurrection”; she makes India sound as if it’s ripe for a Chinese or Russian-style revolution. So how come we in the west don’t hear about these mini-wars? “I have been told quite openly by several correspondents of international newspapers,” she says, “that they have instructions – ‘No negative news from India’ – because it’s an investment destination. So you don’t hear about it. But there is an insurrection, and it’s not just a Maoist insurrection. Everywhere in the country, people are fighting.” I find the suggestion that such an injunction exists – or that self-respecting journalists would accept it – ridiculous. Foreign reporting of India might well be lazy or myopic, but I don’t believe it’s corrupt.

She sounds like a member of a religious sect, I say, as if she has seen the light. “It’s a way of life, a way of thinking,” she replies without taking offence. “I know people in India, even the modern young people, understand that here is something that’s alive.” So why not give up the plush home in Delhi and the media appearances, and return to the forest? “I’d be more than happy to if I had to, but I would be a liability to them in the forest. The battles have to be fought in different ways. The military side is just one part of it. What I do is another part of the battle.”

I question her absolutism, her Manichaean view of the world, but I admire her courage. Her home has been pelted with stones; the Indian launch of Broken Republic was interrupted by pro-government demonstrators who stormed the stage; she may be charged with sedition for saying that Kashmiris should be given the right of self-determination. “They are trying to keep me destabilised,” she says. Does she feel threatened? “Anybody who says anything is in danger. Hundreds of people are in jail.”

Roy has likened writing fiction and polemic to the difference between dancing and walking. Does she not want to dance again? “Of course I do.” Is she working on a new novel? “I have been,” she says with a laugh, “but I don’t get much time to do it.” Does it bother her that the followup to The God of Small Things has been so long in coming? “I’m a highly unambitious person,” she says. “What does it matter if there is or isn’t a novel? I really don’t look at it that way. For me, nothing would have been worth not going into that forest.”

It’s hard to judge whether there will be a second novel. The God of Small Things drew so much on her own life – her charismatic but overbearing mother; a drunken tea-planter father whom her mother left when Roy was very young; her own departure from home in her late teens – that it may be a one-off, a book as much lived as written. She gives ambiguous answers about whether she expects a second novel to appear. On the one hand, she says she is engaged with the resistance movement and that it dominates her thoughts. But almost in the same breath she says others have “picked up the baton” and she would like to return to fiction, to dance again.

What is certain is that little of the second novel has so far been written. She prefers not to tell me what it is about; indeed, she says it would not be possible to pinpoint the theme. “I don’t have subjects. It’s not like I’m trying to write an anti-dam novel. Fiction is too beautiful to be about just one thing. It should be about everything.” Has she been blocked by the pressure of having to follow up a Booker winner? “No,” she says. “We’re not children all wanting to come first in class and win prizes. It’s the pleasure of doing it. I don’t know whether it will be a good book, but I’m curious about how and what I will write after these journeys.”

Are her agent and publisher disappointed still to be waiting for the second novel? “They always knew there wasn’t going to be some novel-producing factory,” she says. “I was very clear about that. I don’t see the point. I did something. I enjoyed doing it. I’m doing something now. I’m living to the edges of my fingernails, using everything I have. It’s impossible for me to look at things politically or in any way as a project, to further my career. You’re injected directly into the blood of the places in which you’re living and what’s going on there.”

She has no financial need to write another novel. The God of Small Things, which sold more than 6m copies around the world, set her up for life, even though she has given much of the money away. She even spurned offers for the film rights, because she didn’t want anyone interpreting her book for the screen. “Every reader has a vision of it in their head,” she says, “and I didn’t want it to be one film.” She is strong-willed. Back in 1996, when The God of Small Things was being prepared for publication, she insisted on having control of the cover image because she didn’t want “a jacket with tigers and ladies in saris”. She is her indomitable mother’s daughter.

I insist she tell me more about her Fellini-esque mother. She is, says Roy, like an empress. She has a number of buttons beside her bed which, when you press them, emit different bird calls. Each call signals to one of her retinue what she requires. Has she been the centre of her daughter’s life? “No, she has been the centre of a lot of conflict in my life. She’s an extraordinary women, and when we are together I feel like we are two nuclear-armed states.” She laughs loudly. “We have to be a bit careful.”

To defuse the family tensions, Roy left home when she was 16 to study architecture in Delhi – even then she wanted to build a new world. She married a fellow student at the age of 17. “He was a very nice guy, but I didn’t take it seriously,” she says. In 1984 she met and married film-maker Pradip Krishen, and helped him bring up his two daughters by an earlier marriage. They now live separately, though she still refers to him as her “sweetheart”. So why separate? “My life is so crazy. There’s so much pressure and idiosyncrasy. I don’t have any establishment. I don’t have anyone to mediate between me and the world. It’s just based on instinct.” I think what she’s saying is that freedom matters more to her than anything else.

She chose not to have children because it would have impinged on that freedom. “For a long time I didn’t have the means to support them,” she says, “and once I did I thought I was too unreliable. So many of the women in India who are fighting these battles don’t have children, because anything can happen. You have to be light on your feet and light in your head. I like to be a mobile republic.”

Roy has in the past described herself as “a natural-born feminist”. What did she mean by that? “Because of my mother and the way I grew up without a father to look after me, you learned early on that rule number one was look out for yourself. Much of what I can do and say now comes from being independent at an early age.” Her mother was born into a wealthy, conservative Christian community in Kerala, but put herself outside the pale by marrying Ranjit Roy, a Hindu from West Bengal. When she returned to her home state after her divorce she had little money and was thus doubly marginalised. The mother eventually triumphed over all these obstacles and made a success of the school she founded, but growing up an outsider has left its mark on her daughter.

Roy says she has always been polemical, and points to her run-in with director Shekhar Kapur in the mid-1990s over his film Bandit Queen – she questioned whether he had the right to portray the rape of a living person on screen without that woman’s consent. It may be that the novel is the exception in a life of agitation, rather than the agitation an odd outcrop in a life of fiction-writing. But has she sacrificed too much for the struggle – the chance to dance, children, perhaps even her second marriage? “I don’t see any of these things as sacrifices,” she says. “They are positive choices. I feel surrounded by love, by excitement. They are not being done in some martyr-like way. When I was walking through the forest with the comrades, we were laughing all the time.”