Poet, professor and Marxist critic, Varavara Rao has been the face of the Naxalite movement in AP for almost four decades now. In an exclusive interview to Daipayan Halder, he spoke on 'State terrorism' and the status of the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh
Is the State becoming intolerant?
It is. The State has become the biggest terrorist. But in Andhra Pradesh, more than in any other state, atrocities have been the worst. If you are a Naxalite, a naxal sympathiser, an ideologue, or simply a civil rights activist, you can be put behind bars or killed in a fake encounter any time.
In 1992, for example, journalist Gulam Rasul wrote about a land scam in an Urdu daily. An additional DSP killed him in a fake encounter and branded him a Naxalite. His friend who was traveling with him in a scooter was also killed. Doctors working for the underprivileged, lawyers taking up the causes of the marginalised are being put behind bars. Civil liberties are being curbed like never before. Laxmi, a women's rights activist, was killed in a fake encounter in 2005. Since 1969, more than 2,000 people have been killed in fake encounters.
But didn't the previous Andhra Pradesh government want to negotiate with the Naxalites?
The peace talks between the government and the Naxalites broke down and the ban against them was re-imposed on August 17, 2005. This has led the cadre to look for alternative operational zones in Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The repression started in the previous Telugu Desam regime and has been continued by the Congress government in pursuance of World Bank conditions.
he 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 YS 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.
Why did the talks fail?
Mainly because the government wanted Naxalites to lay down arms, while carrying on their political programmes and their propagating ideology. 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, 2005 that they were pulling out of the peace process.
Is it hard to get the youth interested in Naxalism?
It is only the petty, bourgeoisie youth who are taking to the market economy. The marginalised youth, i.e. the Muslims, the Dalits and the tribals, are not swayed by the market forces because they can see that inequality is rising. They are attracted to the movement. But there is no campus culture today. You can get a degree through distance education without ever walking into a university campus. In a campus, there is scope for healthy political debates. That culture is dying.
But the Centre now says that Naxalism is a developmental issue and plans to address it as such
These are academic talks. (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh says it is a developmental issue, but he is also supporting SEZs. SEZs will displace people, take away their livelihoods. So the problems will persist. Look at what is happening at Nandigram, at Singur, at all other places.
The movement will continue. The forces of liberalisation and globalisation have widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots. This has to be redressed.