“Naxals Will Rise Again Like the Phoenix”
Posted by Sole on March 19, 2009
This interview originally appeared on Tehelka Current Affairs.
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 7, Dated Feb 21, 2009
Varavara Rao, 68, has been a key Naxal ideologue since the 1960s. A diehard believer that armed rebellion will bring ‘liberation’ to India like Mao Tse-tung in Communist China, Rao warns of a Naxal upsurge. Rao had led the Naxals in their disastrous dialogue with the Andhra Pradesh Government in 2004, after which the police had decimated the state’s Naxal leadership. Rao has just published his 50th collection of “anti-imperialist” poetry. AJIT SAHI met him at his home in Hyderabad when Rao spoke of the Naxals’ latest campaigns. Excerpts:
What is your information about the killings of policemen by Naxals in Gadhchiroli district in Maharashtra?
Initially, it was shown as an encounter and it was claimed that the CPI (Maoist) [the Naxals’ party] had suffered heavy losses. But it was revealed later that a landmine had killed 17 policemen and the Naxals hadn’t suffered any losses. Such lies are spoken only to maintain police morale.
The Chhattisgarh Government says the 19 people killed by the Salwa Judum [police-backed anti-Naxal tribal militia] in Dantewada last month were Naxals and not innocent villagers.
That’s a lie. Those killed were innocent adivasis [tribal people]. They belonged to villages that have long resisted government pressure to abandon their villages and move to the Salwa Judum camps. That’s why the Salwa Judum kidnapped and killed them. We expected this after [Chief Minister] Raman Singh claimed his victory in the Chhattisgarh election last year was the people’s approval of the Salwa Judum violence. Of course, now that the Supreme Court has ruled against the Salwa Judum, the state may abandon that and hire one or two thousand from them as regular police and turn it into a paramilitary force like Andhra’s Greyhounds. The BJP is a fascist and a terrorist party and may naturally go this way.
The government says it is the Naxals who have terrorised the people.
False. Why do people support the Naxals if they are terrorised? Most people are kept in Salwa Judum camps by force. Many want to go back to their villages.
Hasn’t Naxalism collapsed in Andhra Pradesh since the police began killing Naxal leaders and squads in 2005?
We suffered heavy losses in the region of Nallamara forests [in south Andhra Pradesh] as it isn’t contiguous with Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. But the Naxal leadership of Telangana [in north Andhra Pradesh] now works from these adjacent states. The Andhra leadership is guiding the Orissa movement also.
Strategically, the picture is not so gloomy. During the Telangana armed struggle of the 1940s, all the leaders were killed in Warangal and Nalgonda districts. But the struggle revived. In Srikakulam district, where the movement was strongest since 1968, the top leaders were wiped out by 1972. The movement was rebuilt during the Emergency [1975- 77]. During 1978-80, every single district secretary of the party was killed in fake encounters. The movement rose again.
Like the Phoenix, we would rise again from the ashes. Even the enemy can’t say the whole thing is over. For 30 years the armed struggle has been on in one place or the other. The people are overwhelmingly with the Naxals because, if nothing else, the movement has brought them selfrespect after decades of bonded labour, torture and destruction. The Naxals don’t accept the lordship of the landlords.
Would you say holding talks with the Andhra Pradesh Government was a bad idea as the Naxals came out and police got wind of their hideouts?
In principle, no, it wasn’t. Karl Marx says you can use any form of struggle. We gained politically from the talks. The middle class is now convinced that if the Naxals take power, they will have a perspective on every aspect, such as democratic rights, land reforms and self-reliance. The greatness of the revolutionary party lies in that it agreed to the talks because the people wanted talks, despite the brutal nine-year rule of Chandrababu Naidu and despite the fact that we had no illusion about the Congress rule since.
The Chhattisgarh Government says Naxal leaders driven from Andhra are creating trouble in Chhattisgarh.
Forty percent of the Naxal militia, including the women, in Chhattisgarh is adivasi. The movement has built up in Chhattisgarh since 1980. Its district level leadership comes from within. In Dantewada alone, the Chhatra Natya Manch, the cultural group that supports the movement, has 6,000 members.
Chhattisgarh aims to copy the Andhra ‘model’ of wiping out the Naxals.
The Centre and the state are coordinating on this. No Prime Minister ever spoke on the Naxals. But Manmohan Singh has repeatedly said Naxalism is cancerous and a bigger threat than the threat of terrorism. You must see this in the context of the government’s imperialist policies of globalisation. For the first time, trade organisations are talking about the Naxal ‘problem’. The Naxals represent the people’s rights to self-reliance against MNC interests.
All political parties support the MNCs. Manmohan Singh and [Union Home Minister] P Chidambaram are World Bank agents. When the Finance Minister becomes the Home Minister, it only means the Home Ministry serves the interests of industry and finance. You can’t reach anywhere if you view this only from the point of view of violence versus nonviolence. There is mass resistance to the Tatas’ steel project in Chhattisgarh, as is to the Posco steel project in Orissa.
But why oppose industrialisation?
We don’t. Did we close down the public sector? Lakhs lost their jobs with the closure of IDPL and Allwyn. Did we do that?
The Naxals have massed in Orissa. Is that the next battleground then?
The movement is now very strong in Orissa. The government there is creating a Salwa Judum in south Orissa, adjoining north Andhra, and in Mayurbhanj, which adjoins Jharkhand.
What’s the Naxals’ key agenda?
Land to the tiller, workers’ rights over the factory, and political power to the people, flowing from the grassroots. The Maoist theory explains that you first occupy the land of the village; the landlord then sends his mafia; you fight back; then the police come in support of the landlord; you then adopt guerilla methods to fight the police and the state. The economic programme is to occupy the land, the military programme is the guerilla struggle, and the political programme is to bring power to the people by organising gram rajya [village rule] committees. In 1995, the party decided to adopt alternative development programmes for drinking and irrigation water and primary health and education, among others, under the gram rajya committees. The party asked people not to pay taxes to the government and not vote in elections. That’s how it defies the state.
The state claims to work for the same issues of water, health and education.
It only claims to work on these issues, but doesn’t practice what it says. Uneven development is an imperialist characteristic.
Why do the Naxals reject elections?
The 60-year Parliamentary history is a hurdle for the revolution. One has to overcome that to achieve people’s power.
Is Naxalism on an irreversible decline?
The people are looking forward to the Naxals’ comeback. They know it is only a lull. In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote these are the worst days and also the best days. All the political parties, from Narendra Modi to Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, are united in their repression of the people. But everyone fighting imperial globalisation — not only the revolutionaries but true patriots, Gandhians, Sarvodaya people, Lohiaites, nationalists, Muslims, minorities, advisasis, dalits and women — have hopes only in the alternative revolutionary movement. They see that only the Naxals can protect our sovereignty, under threat especially from the SEZs.
Why must the revolution kill people?
The movement doesn’t believe in killing. It only believes in resistance. Ours is revolutionary violence as against the violence of the ruling class and the state. All the tools of exercising violence are in the hands of the propertied classes. You get a gun license if you have five acres of land. The whole effort of Marxism is to reinforce people to resist state violence.
Is Gandhian nonviolence irrelevant?
Even Gandhians realise Gandhi is not relevant. [Former Prime Minister] VP Singh once said if he were 20 years old he would join the CPI (Maoist).