By Alpa Shah
Published Aug 2018
Nightmarch refers to an unexpected seven-night trek among a column of Maoist insurgents, when the author found herself dressed as a man in an olive-green guerrilla uniform. The only woman, and the only non-combatant, she walked with them 250 km from one part of India to another.
Her book recounts Alpa Shah’s journey into the underbelly of the Indian subcontinent, in which she seeks to understand how and why, behind the mask of a shining ‘new India’, some of the country’s poor shunned the world’s largest democracy and united with revolutionary ideologues to take up arms against rising inequality. She reveals one of the world’s most intractable and under-reported rebellions, both from the perspectives of the leftist cadres and the poor rural communities, mostly of lower caste and tribal backgrounds, who join them. It is they who seasonally migrate for work, carrying bricks on their shoulders in faraway kilns, building the skyscrapers of a brand-new India, but who also recite poetry, sing revolutionary songs and bear arms back at home in the forested hills of central and eastern India. Shah shows why a revolution has endured in India despite state repression, and yet how it is undermined by the contradictions of emancipatory struggles and guerrilla action.
Nightmarch is above all a reflection on economic growth, dispossession and conflict at the heart of contemporary India.