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The Rediff Interview/Dr Vara Vara Rao

'Parliamentary politics is not suitable for a country like India'

Dr Vara Vara Rao Despite the authorities's efforts to contain it, the Naxalite movement is on the rise in several states. And ahead of all such is the Telugu Desam-ruled Andhra Pradesh, where the late chief minister Nara Taraka Rama Rao raised the slogan 'Naxalites are patriots.'

NTR's soft corner for the Marxist-Leninist rebels helped the spread of their movement in the state, especially in Telangana. Today, a war-like situation prevails in the state, with the revolutionary People's War Group and the state police locked in bloody combat, making Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu think of reimposing the ban on PWG.

Thirty years after the Naxalbari uprising in West Bengal's Siligiri district on May 23, 1967, Naxal writer and PWG leader Dr Vara Vara Rao -- or VV, as he is known in extremist circles -- speaks his mind about the movement and its future to Sandesh Prabhudesai.

The 56-year-old editor of Srijana (a literary magazine), who founded the Viplav Rachayital Sangham (Revolutionary Writers Association) in 1970, has seven anthologies of Telugu poetry to his credit. An impressive orator, he spent over six years in jail for revolutionary writings and speeches, and has over 20 cases against him since 1973.

Three decades after it started, the Naxalbari movement seems to have lost its fire. It is limited to just West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra and parts of Tamil Nadu.

PWG violence That's not true. It is a fact that the movement came to a standstill by 1971. Naxalbari laid down a path of rejecting parliamentary politics, taking up agrarian armed revolution, and forming the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

But because of Parliamentarism and trade unionism, the party took a wrong decision -- it adopted armed struggle as the only path of revolution. That's why there was a setback.

Taking lessons from this, the ML movement then adopted a mass line. In AP, the Revolutionary Writers Association was formed in 1970, while the Jana Natya Mandali was founded two years later. The Radical Students Union was formed in 1974, and was followed by the Radical Youth League in 1977. The students and youth, along with the JNM, took up 'Go to Village' campaigns and formed Raytu Coolie Sanghams (peasant organisations).

This led to mass upsurges in several parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Haryana, Delhi. The whole tribal belt of Dandkaranya, which include parts of AP, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa was seized by it.

Compared to the '190s, today's position is very strong. In fact, in north Telangana and Dandkarnya, it has reached an advanced stage of forming guerrilla zones. We visualise Dandkaranya as a base area for forming a people's army, with platoons of 200 red guards each. In such a situation, how can you say the fire is dying out? It's advancing on a strong footing.

You claim the movement has grown because of educated people and intellectuals. But the majority of such people today reject your movement, calling it mere militancy.

I don't claim all the educated people accept our movement. In fact, the press is giving a wrong picture of it, wherever the movement does not exist. But where it is strong, the whole socio-political scenario depends fully on Naxalite politics.

True, there are educated people who do not join the movement -- that might be because of their bourgeois mentality. But the middle class and the intellectuals at large approve the Naxalite line. Today, they are witnessing corrupt parliamentary practices, degenerated politics and scams all over and they say ours is the right path.

Now, even people who left the movement following the severe repression of the 1970s admit this is the only hope for our country. In West Bengal, they are slowly shading out their cynicism and welcoming the PWG.

You talk about uniting the oppressed masses all over the country. But your movement itself has split into many groups in the last 30 years, despite the common language of new democratic revolution. Isn't that a failure of the movement?

You are talking about the situation in 1972, when the CPI-ML was split into various groups. But the efforts of reunification which started during the Emergency gained momentum after the Jagityala struggle in AP's Karimnagar district. The number of ML groups has substantially reduced in the last 20 years.

But you are still a divided force.

There is a difference. The ML parties which owe allegiance to Naxalbari are coming together. The concrete example is that of the PWG, CPI-ML Party Unity and the Maoist Coordination Centre forces. They are now taking up joint programmes. ML groups which practice parliamentarism claiming to expose it by being part of it are also coming together.

Why don't you take them into your fold?

It's not true what they claim. Their experiment was a total failure. On the contrary, we achieve more by our boycott election slogans. You can't expose parliamentarism by becoming part of it.

What about the allegation the PWG plays a double game? That, even while you call for boycotting elections, you support one or the other party?

Why should we do it? If we wish, the PWG can also take a parliamentary line.

In today's politics of unprincipled alliances and scams, many people see the Left parties like the CPI and the CPI-M as sincere ones. Why?

PWG violence I don't know why you get the impression that the CPI and the CPI-M are sincere. Tomorrow, if the Jyoti Basu-led CPI-M government falls in West Bengal, I am certain Basu's scams will be made public. And in four or five years, you will also hear about CPI involvement in scams.

In AP, the CPI-M is strongly supporting the Telugu Desam government which is involved in many scandals and corrupt practices. The TDP government has withdrawn subsidies and has lifted prohibition on liquor. The CPI-M, which was always opposing the withdrawal of prohibition, could not withdraw support to the TDP government. It's just a tail of the TDP than a sincere Left party.

Which rule do you prefer at the Centre -- the Congress rule all these years or the new coalition of anti-Congress parties?

The question of preference does not arise at all -- we reject the parliamentary path. But let me make a point. How can you say that the UF is anti-Congress when they are fully dependent on the Congress? The Constitution states the government would be in power at the will of the President. But the present government is surviving at the will of the Congress president. Because Sitaram Kesri wanted H D Deve Gowda to step down, he had to.

Do you think liberalisation and globalisation has changed the face of India? If so, in what way?

Yes, it has. The invasion of imperialism has definitely increased since 1991 due to the new policy. We have realised that we should give equal weight to the anti-imperialist struggles, at par with our anti-feudal struggles.

But which is a major threat -- imperialism or feudalism?

The invasion of MNCs does not change the principal character of feudalism in India. In fact, imperialism is in perfect harmony with feudalism. It encourages feudal practices and feudal values. You can practically feel it in the cultural field, especially with the satellite television channels. What does this advanced technology preach to us? The reactionary philosophy on one hand, and the degenerated Western culture on the other.

Imperialism wants to keep the feudal values and backwardness in the Third World intact, so that it can exploit the cheap labour and resources available there. Imperialism is coming through feudalism and it is inseparable today.

But films, serials and documentaries are being released on Naxalites too.

Yes, but those are not in support of Naxalism. The impact of our movement is so much in AP today that even Naxalites have become a saleable commodity on the box office. The films are all bundles of contradiction. The Naxalite is shown a hero and a saviour while all politicians are shown corrupt. But there would be one police officer who is very sincere. There is no element of class struggle in it; only glorification of the Naxalite movement. Of course, it helps as an outlet, especially to the people of Telangana, where even standing in a group is suspected as a Naxalite activity.

How do you view the recent attempt on Gaddar's life? The police suspects the PWG.

Nonsense. Gaddar has been with the PWG for the last 30 years except for seven months when he was under suspension due to problems arising out of a communication gap. The state government got irritated when Gaddar's suspension was revoked. Another reason is the movement started by the civil liberties groups, writers and other intellectuals, to claim the dead bodies of naxals and demand re-postmortems. Gaddar was in its forefront. Funeral processions can't be banned, and these were used for public meetings with speeches, songs and slogans.

In such a situation, they targeted Gaddar. Initially, they tried to implicate him in false cases. But as Gaddar refused to take bail, the police had to release him following state-wide protests. On April 1, two busloads of police surrounded his house, but he was not there. On April 6, they entered his house in civilian clothes and tried to kill him.

But the PWG also resorts to killing innocent people and policemen. Is it necessary to kill to fulfill your dreams of revolution?

No revolutionary party will kill an innocent person. It's all false propaganda. In fact, even killing the class enemy, the landlord is not done today.

But the problem comes when there is an informer. The party has to decide between the life of a revolutionary and the life of the informer. Suppose this informer is a poor man or a dalit, then the press immediately depicts him as the innocent villager.

How do you view the future of India?

PWG violence Jawaharlal Nehru served the big industrialists and landlord class. But he was not corrupt. He ruled for 17 years, while Indira Gandhi remained in power for 11. But even after coming to power with over 400 seats, Rajiv Gandhi could stay only for five years. P V Narasimha Rao had a lot of difficulty keeping his full term. Now we see every prime minister or chief minister celebrating 100 days, six months, one year. Practically every minister is either directly or indirectly involved in scams. Tomorrow we'll hear a former prime minister is in jail for corrupt practices. It very clearly means that parliamentary politics is not suitable for a country like India.

Are you saying that a whole system should be discarded because of the current situation?

No, not because of the current situation. We have been saying for the last 30 years that parliamentary system does not suit an agrarian society in principle. It is a consequence of certain dialectical development. Capitalism came into England and France by demolishing the whole feudal system existing there and bringing industrial revolution.

In an agrarian society like India, we did not pass through these dialectical developments. Since 1857, colonialism has learnt to live with feudalism. They are happy bedfellows now. So you can't expect capitalist developments here in the true sense. Hence, the parliamentary system does not suit our country. The only solution to it is to follow the path of Naxalbari and free ourselves from these semi-faced, semi-colonial forces, paving way to a real democracy. You can't fight it without taking arms in your hands.

Varavara Rao's photograph: Sandesh Prabhudesai. PWG violence photographs: P Anil Kumar

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