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The Rediff Interview/ Ganapathy

'Unification is the only way to advance the cause of the Indian revolution'

Muppalla Lakshmana Rao. Infamous as Ganapathy, head of the banned Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist People's War The dirty golden rays of the candle, stuck crookedly on top of an inverted flash-light, glinted off the Naxalite's glasses as he prepared to answer yet another query from the visiting journalist. In the shadows, his gaunt face looked more strained. He responded characteristically, softly, in Telugu, a hand on the hip, the other cradling his stengun.

This is Muppalla Lakshmana Rao. Infamous as Ganapathy, head of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist People's War.

In person, Ganapathy -- wiry, medium height, thinly moustached with specks of grey in his hair -- comes across as unassuming, unimpressive and utterly harmless. There is no hint that this is a man whom the Bharatiya Janata Party considers one of the most dangerous in the country. No hint that this is one for whose head the Andhra Pradesh government would gladly pay over a million rupees.

A bit shy, a bit unsure, he looks and behaves like the school teacher he once was.

One of the few to have risen in ranks without serving in a dalam (guerrilla squad), the 48-year-old revolutionary has been with the movement since the 1970s. For the last 20 years, the forests have been his refuge. He took over as PW secretary in 1992 after the ouster of the legendary Kondapalli Seetharamaiah.

People's War Guerrilla's The PW, with ideology firmly rooted in Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thought, has today emerged as a powerful force in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. So much so that Home Minister L K Advani is taking an active interest in trying to wipe it out.

The revolutionaries' strategy for expansion is through mergers with like-minded organisations. As part of this, it merged with the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist Party Unity, mainly operational in Bihar, recently.

Senior Feature Writer Chindu Sreedharan rendezvoused with the Naxal leader deep in the forests of Andhra Pradesh after a gruelling five-hour night march. An excerpt from a rare interview recorded soon after Ganapathy, together with the defunct Party Unity's secretary, Prasad, announced the unification of their parties:

How did the merger come about?

In April 1994, our unity talks with the Maoist Communist Centre broke down completely. But even while those talks were on, we had fraternal relations with the PU. A central committee delegation had met with the PU in 1993 to understand their basic line of thought. We had informed our MCC comrades about this primary level meeting. At the next meeting with the MCC, it became clear that it was not possible to unify with them at present. We started unity talks with the PU. There were many differences when we began, but over discussions we have solved all the fundamental questions. There are a few minor issues that remain to be settled. These will be settled in the next party congress.

What is the political significance of this unification?

There are many oppressed nationalities in India fighting the imperialist government. For instance, in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East. We expect the merger to have a positive impact on their fights.

In our agenda for a new democratic revolution, there are two aspects -- the agrarian revolution and fight for nationality. For the development of a new democratic revolution, the unification of the two is needed. Our merger is a cue for such unification.

In India there are several movements now cropping up under the leadership of the petty bourgeoisie. They are of several social groups. Our merger will act as an inspiration for them. It will give them the necessary impetus to struggle. It will rejuvenate them. Likewise, there are many revolutions developing in semi-colonial, colonial and capitalist countries due to imperialist exploitation and oppression. The merger will give them inspiration and strength to fight on.

How will your merger help movements in other countries?

Our merger will put the task of unity before the revolutions of the world. Everywhere, the oppressed people are fighting against the same enemy: Imperialism. Our merger will convey to them that without unifying against the common enemy, the revolution cannot succeed. Thus, our unity will help the unifying process world-wide.

Does the merger have any military significance? Will it translate into military prowess for the PW in Bihar, in Telangana or Dandakaranya (a PW guerrilla zone spread over AP, Maharashtra, Orissa and MP), where the party is badly in need of personnel?

People's War guerrillas Despite the unity, our party is very small. The enemy is much stronger. The PW is still confined to a small area. In our areas, we require revolutionaries and guerrillas. Even in areas where we are not present, we require revolutionaries and guerrillas. In such conditions, the merger might not translate into military prowess there or here. We will not be able to transfer men from one place to another.

But the unification will definitely have a positive military impact in the long run. In the short-run, the PW have gained in experience. Between the old PW and the PU, we have vast experience in conducting class struggles. This has now been pooled together. We will gain a lot from these. The unification will also see a combined military leadership and more military camps.

How much has the PW's strength gone up by the merger?

That's a technical question I don't want to answer.

What kind of impact will this have on the MCC? Wouldn't this kill any chance the PW has of unifying with them in future?

We believe the MCC will take it positively. They are the only genuine revolutionary party in the country besides the PW. Our party has great desire to have unity with them. And we are confident that we will achieve it. Through unity of action, we will achieve unity with them. The merger will lead to maturity of conditions for unification. This is the first step in the unification of all revolutionary forces. The MCC would welcome it.

Isn't that a bit too optimistic? Chances are that the MCC would feel threatened now and try to wipe out the PW from Bihar. After all, the merger hasn't changed anything for it. The differences it had with the PU still remain...

People's War guerrillas We admit there were clashes between the MCC and the PU. But the clashes were confined to those two parties. Now there's no PU. It will be the PW that will be operating in Bihar from now on. Taking into consideration the interests of the Indian revolution, the MCC now has to define its relation with the PW. We expect comradely relations, not violence, from them. Our central committee will make serious efforts to solve the troubles that existed between them and the PU. We expect the talks to transform the physical clashes into political debate.

To advance the cause of the Indian revolution, unification is the only way. As a serious and sincere revolutionary party, the MCC also understands this. Which is why we feel that they will take this merger positively. The truth of this expectation will be proved in practice.

This is your expectation, but which may prove completely wrong. In case the MCC steps up its violence, how will you protect yourself? As you admitted, it is not possible to shift personnel from here to Bihar.

That question does not rise because we are expecting positive results.

The question is, how can you be so confident about that?

Like I said earlier, no serious revolutionary party will be against the unity of revolutionary forces. No serious revolutionary party will feel threatened by the unity of revolutionary forces. And the MCC is a serious, sincere revolutionary organisation. They will take the merger positively.

What exactly will be the PW's plan of action for Bihar with regard to the MCC?

The first step is to rectify the mistakes committed by our comrades and the MCC. The second is to hold talks about these with them and arrive at a permanent solution. We are sure that these will give definite results. Now let the MCC comrades speak out. Let them make their stand on the merger known. Let them show in practice what type of reaction they have.

Does this mean that you don't rule out the possibility of a clash?

There's no point in discussing that now. We are confident about the MCC's reaction. We will discuss it if there comes a stage when we are not confident about them.

You said the MCC was the only genuine revolutionary group in the country. Does this mean that you consider the other splinter ML groups as not worthy of joining up with?

People's War guerrillas The PW invites all genuine revolutionary organisations to unify. We welcome the comrades in the other rightist and leftist groups to fight against their leadership and join the revolution. At present, we do not plan to hold unity talks with any other party other than the MCC. Some of the left groups reject the parliamentary process and support the protracted people's war -- but they practise this in a sectarian manner. If they are ready to rectify this mistake, we will definitely hold talks with them, even with the smallest.

Which are these groups with whom you would like to unite in future?

Groups like the Second Central Committee.

How do you think such splinter groups would react to this merger?

I think it will trigger off more interest in unifying with us. Small sections of many splinter groups have been joining our party since 1992-93, mainly in North India, Srikakulam and North Telangana. This process of unification of genuine revolutionaries, from rightist or leftist parties, will gain momentum from this merger. After the 1972 split, many revolutionaries and sympathisers were spread far and wide. We expect the merger to prompt them to join us. More than unification talks, the party will concentrate on bringing such people into the movement. What we want is to rebuild 1972 on a higher plane. What we want is to rejuvenate the dormant revolutionary spirit and potentialities in these comrades.

'A voluntary federation of nationalities with the right to secede is what we want'

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