|Interview with Varavara Rao, member of Revolutionary Writers' Association.|
Varavara Rao raises anti-government slogans after being taken into custody on August 19, 2005.
Varavara Rao has been the face of the Marxist-Leninist movement and the revolutionary writers in Andhra Pradesh for nearly four decades. He has served several terms in jail in his political career beginning with the tribal struggle that took root in the State in Srikakulam following the Naxalbari movement. He was an emissary of the Maoists in the peace talks with the State government in 2004. In this interview, he spoke on naxalite activity in Andhra Pradesh. Excerpts:What has led the Maoists to operate from outside Andhra Pradesh?
The State has resorted to repression against them just as it had always done in the past when a movement gained in strength. The breakdown of peace talks and the re-imposition of the ban on the CPI(Maoist) on August 17, 2005, led to the cadre looking for alternative operational zones in Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The party has made the thick forests of the two States and Jharkhand its base to carry on its activities.Why, in your view, did the government tread the path of repression after choosing to negotiate with the naxalites?
The repression started in the previous Telugu Desam regime and has been continued by the Congress government in pursuance of World Bank conditions. The police launched a crackdown on Maoists on January 6, 2005, when it became clear that there was no meeting ground between the State government and the outfit. Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was interested in going ahead with the second round of talks, slated for November 16, 2004, with the CPI (Maoist) and the CPI-ML (Janashakti), but senior police officers advised him against it. He had even acknowledged that the talks were a good sign as they would help a section of the extremists join the mainstream.Why did the talks fail?
Mainly, the government wanted naxalites to lay down arms while carrying on their political programmes and their propagating ideology. They [the naxalites] rejected this. Following a series of encounters, in which 10 naxalites were killed in a week, the CPI (Maoist) and CPI-ML (Janashakti) announced on January 16  that they were pulling out of the peace process, which was initiated following a ceasefire that both sides had agreed upon six months earlier.
The hostilities between the government and the naxalites touched a peak with the killing of Congress MLA C. Narsi Reddy at Narayanpet in Mahbubnagar district on August 15  at an Independence Day programme. The government clamped a ban on the Maoists on August 17 and two days later arrested me and my colleague G. Kalyan Rao. We were picked up because we were members of the Revolutionary Writers' Association, which was also banned as a frontal organisation of the Maoists.
We were in jail until April 2006, though the ban on the association was relaxed within three months of its imposition. Our release was delayed because the government had, in the meantime, booked six cases against us.What have been the successes, if any, of the talks?
There was a detailed discussion on 1.02 crore acres of surplus land in the State [to be distributed to the poor]. The land was divided into 35 categories. The CPI (Maoist) occupied five lakh acres, including two lakh acres in the plains. Now, the identified land is in everybody's list, including the Chief Minister's and the Left parties'. The CPI (Maoist) demanded distribution of three acres of land to each landless family and the setting up of a land commission with retired bureaucrat K.R. Venugopal as its chairman.How strong is the naxalite movement in the State now?
The CPI (Maoist) planned a mass militant programme but could not succeed. It succeeded to a certain extent in the Andhra-Orissa Border area. Moreover, all political parties are now pursing the agenda fixed by the naxalites, at least for vote bank politics. It is a great victory for the naxal movement.