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SPRING THUNDER

The Maoists are bracing for the revolution which, they argue, is round the corner

Vijay Simha
Hyderabad

Wired: Central Committee member Patel Sudhakar Reddy connects to the world from his hideout
Photos by Ravinder Reddy
 
People flocked to Maoists seeking solutions to
problems the government should’ve been
handling. They got 784 petitions. It legitimised
them. The government was losing credibility
In a room full of books in Secunderabad, Sheikh Mastan is pleading for his life. He is weeping and prostrating at the feet of a man who has just returned from New Delhi. “They’ll kill me. Please do something. I have to marry my daughter. I can’t go to the police. I’m a dead man if I do that,” the hands are folded and the tears are coming freely. Mastan is 75, and has travelled from his small house in Warangal’s Mulugu taluk, 100 km away. He once worked for former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. He takes Rao’s name often but that’s no use. Rao is dead.

Playing God to Mastan is a man with a white beard and white hair. He is also 75, and is president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. KG Kannabiran is busy scribbling on a plain sheet of paper. He’s just back from a futile meeting with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil in Delhi and wonders if he’ll see peace in his lifetime in the Naxal-affected regions of Andhra Pradesh.

Kannabiran keeps writing as Mastan’s pleadings get frantic. Finally, he’s done. The paper that holds Mastan’s fate is ready. “Sheikh Mastan owns only five acres in Mulugu Mandal, Ramachandrapuram. He cannot be an obstruction to any revolution nor can the land he owns alter any programme of equality. I request the Jana Shakti leaders not to reduce the campaign for equality to a farce. It is such thoughtless actions which make revolution unpopular and provide justification to the brutal police,” Kannabiran has written.

Members of the Jana Shakti, one of the Naxal groups operating in Andhra Pradesh, have objected to Mastan’s plans to sell some of his 5.3-acre land to fund his daughter’s wedding. The Naxals have set a limit of 5 acres for land holding, and anyone with more than that is guilty. Mastan has 5.3 acres, so he must pay. Kannabiran is hopeful that his letter will do.

But there are no guarantees in Andhra Pradesh. People like Mastan are caught between the CPI (Maoist) and the State. And the war has just got worse. A new programme has been adopted in secret by the CPI (Maoist), one which promises to overthrow the government and establish a dictatorship for those who don’t fall in line.

The CPI (Maoist) was formed when the People’s War (PW) of Andhra Pradesh and the Maoist Coordination Committee of India (MCCI) of Bihar and Jharkhand merged on September 21, 2004. It was announced to the world on October 14, 2004. The birth of the Maoist party has since kept the government awake, with good reason.

“We are intensifying the war by forming several guerrilla zones, advancing towards the establishment of Base Areas, and transforming the guerrilla army into a regular liberation army. It is in this background that the joint meeting is going on with the objective of unifying into a single directing centre for the Indian Revolution,” the general secretary of the MCCI, known as Kishan, told delegates to the unity conference in the Charu Mazumdar-Kanai Chatterjee Hall at a secret venue on September 17, 2004.

Jungle Law: Siras (handcuffed), a surrendered Naxal-turned-informer, was executed minutes after this photo was taken
Kishan’s counterpart in the PW, Ganapathy, told the same gathering, “The unification of the two armies will hasten the process of formation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the establishment of liberated areas in our country. This, in turn, will unleash the huge, latent revolutionary potential of the oppressed masses of India and create a wave of mass political struggles in the country.”

The government considers Ganapathy and Kishan among the most dangerous men in the country. Their followers see them as heroes. The duo laid down some basic tasks of the New Democratic State that the CPI (Maoist) is to form:

Confiscate all banks, business enterprises and companies of ‘imperialist’ capital and annul all ‘imperialist’ debt;
Nullify all ‘unequal’ treaties and agreements with ‘imperialist’ countries;
Confiscate all land belonging to the landlords and religious institutions and redistribute it among poor peasants and agricultural labourers;
Regulate the industries of the ‘national bourgeoisie’;
Assure right to employment to students and youth;
Guarantee women equal rights in properties;
Provide special facilities to dalits and adivasis, including reservations;
Assure oppressed nations the right to self-determination, including the right of secession;
Implement democracy to the people, and dictatorship to ‘reactionaries’.

An accompanying secret document also laid down the strategy and tactics for the Indian Revolution, based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. This is what it says: “The axis will be armed agrarian revolution. The proletariat will be the leading force of the revolution while the main force will be the peasantry, particularly the poor and landless peasants and the agricultural labourers.

“The path is the Chinese path, i.e., the path of protracted people’s war. It will follow the path of armed agrarian revolution to set up Base Areas in the backward regions, and slowly spread these throughout the country encircling the cities and finally capturing them.
“The task of establishing and developing the Base Areas and the PLA will be the basic, central and immediate tasks, while all other tasks of the party will be geared to facilitate and promote this central task. The main centre and focus of activities will be rural areas. In addition, the development of the three magic weapons — the party, army and united front — will also be determined by the above mentioned direction of the revolution.”

It was after this that the Maoists went for peace talks with the Andhra Pradesh government in October 2004. For the Maoists, it was a charade meant to give them a respite from constant fighting in the jungles. For the government, it was a pretense meant to show they were serious about peace. Both sides got the breather they wanted. For six months ending December 2004, there was no fighting as the State and the Naxals talked.

One calculation went wrong for the government. People flocked to Naxals with problems that the government should have been solving. From disputes to civic issues, there were a total of 784 petitions that were submitted to the Maoists. It legitimised them. The government was losing the credibility battle. That was when it began insisting that the Naxals drop arms. Talks broke down on January 16, 2005.

And things have got worse after,making even veterans pensive. Gadar is a balladeer of the revolution. He’s seen it all in 30 years of singing and fighting. But even he is wary these days. “Both sides say they want to benefit people but ultimately people are paying the price. Everybody is afraid of the Maoist party. Entire forests have been liberated in Andhra Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Orissa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Ganjam and Koraput. Study the map of India, you will see that the source of income for imperialists is in the hands of the Maoists. That is the most important thing. If they blast one power line of Reliance, or one train line between Kolkata and Mumbai, things will come to a standstill,” he says.

The state government estimates that there are 926 armed guerrillas who form the core of the party. After the merger, the CPI (Maoist) central committee has 41 members (21 from the PW and 20 from the MCCI). The politburo has 13 members (seven from the PW and six from the MCCI).

The top 10 Maoist leaders in the country are: Mupalla Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathy, Cherukuri Raj Kumar alias Madhu, N. Kesava Rao alias Basavaraj alias Ganganna, Mallela Koteswara Rao alias Ramji, Vijay Dada (from West Bengal), Katkam Sudarshan alias Anand, Malla Raj Reddy alias Satyanna, Ramakrishna, Patel Sudhakar Reddy, and Kishan, the former MCCI chief now No. 2 in the CPI (Maoist). Ganapathy is the party secretary, and all of them are members of the politburo as well as the central committee.

Their aim is to rule the country, and according to a top Intelligence source, they might in three to four years. The Spy Chief says the Maoists are getting into good shape. They are able to raise money at will, and buy the arms and ammunition needed. The Maoists need a minimum of Rs 6 crore a year, half of which goes for arms, according to the Spy Chief. They are estimated to have close to 100 ak 47 rifles, and have tested a rocket launcher in January 2004 on the borders of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

So who’s paying for the revolution? There’s a superstar in Andhra Pradesh. He is believed to charge Rs 7 crore a film. He has immense social clout. The Maoists approached the superstar. He is said to have given Rs 3 crore. An aide to the superstar explained that this was no big deal. The aide said the superstar had to survive and if the Maoists wanted money, so be it. Film distributors in Andhra Pradesh often face a similar situation. There is one company in the construction business that belongs to a famous film producer with Congress connections. This company needs detonators to blast its way past hillocks. It has given the Maoists detonators when needed.

Early this year, a merchants association in an Andhra Pradesh district with Maoist activity was asked to pay up. The merchants collected Rs 70 lakh in small denomination. The money was stuffed into gunny bags and the Maoists found it difficult to carry them into the jungle. They offered the merchants an interest of Re 1 for keeping the money safe, or investing it wisely. It still lies with the merchants.

It isn’t all about money and weapons though. The Balladeer says nowhere in the world have weapons succeeded on their own. People need to back revolution for it to work and the Maoists have plenty of support, he adds. Popular support has kept the Naxal movement alive for 35 years. Will it last another 35?

March 19, 2005
 

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