In the first of the two part interview with Varavara Rao, founder member of Virasam (Revolutionary Writers’ Association), by playwright Ramu Ramanathan, the Maoist ideologue and Telegu poet reaffirms the role of an intellectual and reflects on the history of repression of the Indian state, and on the issues surrounding the statehood of Telangana
A poet against the state
Ramu Ramanathan (RR): What is your assessment of today’s Hyderabad and Telangana?
Varavara Rao (VVR): The Telangana government is a father-son government of the Chandrashekars. The father talks about agriculture and irrigation in a kind of old developmental model and he promises a Bangaar Telangana. The farmer suicides continue, and he speaks about that. The son speaks about industrialisation. Tata is the brand ambassador for Telangana. Total 5,000 acres near Hyderabad have been handed over to the aeronautical industry.
RR: And Chandrababu Naidu is the third face?
VVR: Chandrababu has attracted more industries to Andhra Pradesh. But bear in mind, the Maoists are trying to re-enter Telangana because our leadership is intact.
RR: Last year (2014), the Telangana state government prevented the hosting of a conference. Is this the face of the new government?
VVR: Yes. The best example is the manner in which our meeting on 21 September 2014 was cancelled. It can be compared to what transpired after the killing of Dr Ramanatham, wherein a meeting in Saraswatha Parishad in Hyderabad was held, the speakers were allowed, but no member of the audience was allowed. Paramilitary forces were waiting outside, and they did not allow the audience to enter the hall. On 21 September, the government cancelled the meeting in Sundarayya Vignan Bhavan, a private hall run by a trustee. They arrested 700 people. After that, even a students’ meeting of Telangana Vidyardhi Vedika was not allowed. Simultaneously, you see the killing of people like Vivek, Suryam, and the encounter killings of Adivasi girls.
RR: 700 people were arrested…
VVR: They say these people are disturbing the industrial policies and if you allow these people to conduct these meetings, it will dissuade corporate investments. The bad precedence is cancelling a meeting in a place like Sunder Vigyaan Bhavan and turning the park in front of the Sunder Vvigyaan Bhavan into a jail.
RR: And so, 43 people were put in the police station…
VVR: Yes, it was the same place where Sri Sri (the epoch-making poet) was put in 1975. A day after the incident, our secretary, Laxmi, penned an article for a Telegu daily saying, “Who said the meeting has not taken place?”
RR: Why, what happened? How did the meeting transpire?
VVR (laughs): Since all of us were together in prison. We could conduct our meeting peacefully and without disturbance.
RR: What about TSR’s Harita Haraam programme?
VVR: The government has taken up the programme of Harita Haaram to grab the land being cultivated by the Adivasis. Today, K Chandrashekhar Rao can be compared to Chandrababu Naidu plus YS Rajashekhara Reddy, as one of the best agent of the World Bank. The only difference is he is a very articulate man. You must understand he has come from the movement of 15 years. So he knows the pulse of the people and how to silence them.
RR: Today, what is the status of organisations like Virasam (Revolutionary Writers’ Association) which was formed in 1970?
VVR: Virasam has completed 45 years. Sri Sri, Kutumba Rao (fiction writer and literary critic), Rachakonda Viswanatha Sastri, popularly known as Raavi Sastri (fiction writer and dramatist), K V Ramana Reddy (known as KVR, poet, literary critic and historian), Jwalamukhi, Nikhileswar, Nagna Nuni, Cherabanda Raju (earlier popular as Digambar poets) Chalasani Prasad, Krishna Bai and myself are the founders of the Revolutionary Writers’ Association (Virasam). The newer generation, especially students from Dalit background, have been joining it in the past decade.
RR: What are the reasons for Dalit mobilisation?
VVR: There are two reasons for this. One, the Dalit movement that started after Karamchedu massacre in a militant way, slowly started disintegrating by the time of Chundur massacre in 1992. The main reason for the disintegration is because the leadership has seen it as only a movement for self- respect. They did not relate it to the question of land. Today, they are demanding their share only through vote. So the Dalit creative youth who looks towards the Dalit movement after Karamchedu started getting disillusioned after 1992. Again, the forces of globalisation started to trickle into the revolutionary movement.
RR: How so?
VVR: In 1992, when Nedurumilli Janardhan Reddy was the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, the same Dalit movement saw a different form. The chief minister announced that if the Reddy landlords, accused in Chundur massacre, do not surrender, the government would confiscate their land. Catching onto that comment, making the CM answerable, the revolutionary movement and RWA demanded that the land be distributed among the victims to start with. We formed a committee and one of our members, PJ Vardhana Rao was the convener and B Tarakam was the chairman. The speaker of the state assembly had threatened PJ Vardhan Rao who lives in Tenali near Chundur by sending the mafia to kill him.
RR: Today, a major constraint of the autonomous Dalit movement and identity movement is in its understanding the character of the state. Do you think Virasam is the only organisation which has always exposed the state’s character?
VVR: In a way, yes. When you say ‘state’, it is not an abstract thing. It represents the character of the ruling class and the conflict of productive forces. When we say that the society is semi-feudal, semi-colonial and comprador, the state is ruled by these forces. And so, the other classes are oppressed and repressed by this system. After Naxalbari, these classes under the leadership of peasantry and working class are waging a people’s war on this system. So ultimately, the struggle of the people for land and liberation is to seize power from the state. Writers with Marxist worldview alone can propagate this state character among the people to arm them with the revolutionary ideology. RWA with a manifesto, having MLM as its world outlook, is very clear in this aspect.
RR: In the present context, why has 1991-92 become a turning point in the movement?
VVR: Three things have happened. After 1991, there was a collaboration of neo-liberalism and the forces of Hindutva, plus a steady ebbing of the democratic ethos in India. For instance, 1991 was the first formal onslaught by the forces of globalisation, 1992 was the Babri Masjid demolition. The early signs were clear in the eighties with the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 and then the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, plus Rajiv Gandhi’s dramatic entry into the Congress with a promise to take the country into the 21st century. The third is the official ban on Peoples War and the revolutionary mass organisations like RSU, RYL, AIRSF, Rythu Coolie Sangham, Singareni Kaarmika Samkya and DAKMS.
RR: You are suggesting that this ruling class vision of the 21st century has been sustained by the present ruler?
VVR: Virasam is in a position to explain the political background while narrating the modern history of India. There is a pattern between the Gujarat riots in 2002; the rigorous implementation of globalisation by Dr Manmohan Singh; and state governments which have been serving imperialism, be it Raman Singh, Navin Patnaik and even Buddhadeb in West Bengal.
RR: So it includes everyone from Congress to BJP to BJD to CPI (Marxist)…
VVR: We explain this background in our public meeting and songs. The reason is this onslaught has had its impact on three major social groups, particularly the Adivasis in the eastern and central India, Muslims all over the country and Dalits. In the plains, the major programme is land to the tiller and ownership of workers on the factory on the whole power to the productive forces. In the forests, the program is jal, jungal, zameen, izzat and self-rule for Adivasis. The thirst of the market is to grab cheap manual labour from the same social groups and to plunder the natural resources.
RR: What about women? They seem to have no voice.
VVR: When I speak of these groups as the oppressed, women are more than half of the groups. By these globalisation policies, the biggest victims are women. As Mao se Tung has put it, they are the bearers of fourth yoke that is patriarchy. As we see today in the semi-feudal semi-colonial comprador system, the brahminical Hindutva and the patriarchy have become a part and parcel of the state and the state is the agent for imperialist globalisation. So women in general, plus the women among the toiling masses are at the receiving end. For example, the liquor policy of the state, even the household man plays a dual role as master and slave. He turns the women into a slave leaving no option except to resist and revolt.
RR: How does Virasam talk about all this?
VVR: We link this to the character of the state and explain it in the form of stories, poems, plays and conceptual articles. Particularly after the 2009 elections in Maharashtra, the government initiated the Operation Green Hunt. From then on, we have concentrated on opposing the Operation Green Hunt and also explaining the alternative to the single-point development model. During the Emergency, I read an abridged translation of Fanshen in Telugu titled Vimukthi. At that time, I realised the importance of the mass line as implied in the Naxalbari struggle. Virasam was formed by taking inspiration from the Naxalbari and Srikakulam struggles.
RR: How so?
VVR: Naxalbari inspired many writers. The writers who are a part of the progressive movement like Sri Sri, Kutumba Rao, Ramana Reddy Raavi Shastri etc. were disillusioned by the CPI politics in 1964. These writers and many people expected that the split in CPI was to take up the class struggle, which was abandoned in 1951. After they were disillusioned, many rebel groups were formed in different parts of the country. “Digambar kavulu” in Telugu, Bhooki Peedi under the leadership of Samar Sen are some of the literary movements.
RR: Was this the time, the poets in Warangal found their voice? And the radical movement was at its height?
VVR: Yes. In Telugu society and literature, the Digambara movement had a big impact. Those poets along with the poets from Warangal were called Tirugubadu(poets of revolt). These groups of writers and poets came together to form Virasam and our inspiration was Subba Rao Panigrahi. The Naxalbari path and the immediate inspiration from Srikakulam lead to the formation of RWA.
RR: How do you view the setback in the Srikakulam Adivasi Peasant struggles?
VVR: Though we were talking about the protracted armed struggle and achieving the New Democracy, which is similar to the Chinese path, the movement failed in implementing a mass line. With this self-criticism, the party’s re-organisation has taken place forming different mass organisations and rigorously implementing mass line resulting in the Jagityal Jaitrayatra in 1978. The Mass Organisations’ campaign to go to villages and the formation of CPI (ML) PW in 1980 has provided a direction to the NDR program of the revolutionary movement. Finally, by 2006, the DK perspective to give people an alternative development model under Janatana Sarkars has been realised.
RR: What is the sense you get on the ground regarding Telangana? Is the idea of ‘them’ and ‘us’ still prevalent?
VV: Whenever any kind of identity movement is started, we face a challenge. If you mean the word “them” as delta (the four districts of The Godavari, Krishna delta) upper class and upper caste ruling class my answer is “yes”. For “us” my answer is broad masses of Telangana supported by oppressed people of Rayalaseema and Andhra. Seperate Telangana movement as we perceived and participated in the struggle was never against the people of Andhra.
RR: What about the claims of having achieved statehood for Telangana without bloodshed?
VVR: It has no basis. There are more than 1000 suicides recorded. All the university campuses have become a part of the Operation Green Hunt. All the universities have BSF forces on the campus. Particularly from 29 November to 9 December, the Osmania University was a base camp for the para-military.
RR: Recently when the Telangana Praja Front had organised classes in Manchiryal, the classes are disrupted by the police.
VVR: Absolutely right. Since 2004, KCR (chief minister of Telangana), is saying that the Front will recruit Maoists through their agenda. And so, they are repressing us and trying to scare the people.
RR: What do the people say?
VVR: There already has begun unrest among the people due to these moves of the government, whom they have chosen. Particularly for Virasam, we don’t mince words that we are in support of the Maoist movements or the Naxalbari path or the alternate path. This of course, as Mao says, rather casually that revolution is like washing your face, sweeping your house and facing a trial every day. To propagate this politics, we must choose, we must know the politics, we must improve the art forms, learn more from literature. However, more than anything we should learn from people and people’s forms. To adopt the visual and more often the oral forms to pass the message to the people. That was one of the reasons why Basaguda was penned.
RR: What is your ultimate aim?
VVR: Our main aim is: We shall counter the developmental model with our vision of an alternate politics, alternate culture, plus an alternate value system.
A history of repression
RR: You have spoken about the intellectuals in Maharashtra. What happened to them after the formation of the Telangana state?
VVR: We see the same situation in Telangana. Most of the intellectuals, writers in Telangana are either co-opted by the government or silenced. Those who are with Virasam or with the revolutionary movement are isolated and there is repression. You can see the recent repression on public meetings, and not allowing public meetings, and rallies in Hyderabad. This kind of repression started during 1984. I was referring elsewhere that we are seeing today began in 1984 with Indira Gandhi sending an army into the Golden Temple. After Indira Gandhi was killed, 3,000 Sikhs were killed. Rajiv Gandhi came to power with the slogan that Hind Karegaa Hindu Raj. In 1984, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy transpired. Meanwhile, Rajiv Gandhi was promising in Bombay in 1985, the same Bombay whose mill workers provided a backbone to the anti-colonial struggle, that he would take the country into the 21st century. This is the period when NT Rama Rao introduced TADA in Andhra Pradesh. He said that aata, maata, paata bandh. This meant, he would not allow any kind of performances, particularly of Jana Natya Mandali’s cultural performance. NTR said he would not allow any public meeting and speech from 1985 to 1989. This was the phase in Andhra Pradesh, particularly Telangana, where the repression could be compared to Latin America. Total 75 persons went missing. This means neither an encounter nor custodial arrest. There were encounter killings. There were 16,000 TADA cases. It was the first time that the leaders of the APCLC or leaders of mass political organisations, were killed in retaliation for the killing of a police officer or a landlord by People’s War Group. All of it began with the killing of Gopu Rajanna in Jagityal on 18 January in 1985 by the RSS goondas. This was followed by the police in the mufti killing of Dr Ramanatham in his clinic, after Yadagiri Reddy was killed. Likewise, Lakshmareddy was killed. Leaders of APCLC like Narra Prabhakara Reddy, Purushottam, Azam Ali were killed in retaliation of People’s War actions on the police and the landlords.
RR: The NTR phase ended with a conference in Warangal in the 1990s. More than 14 lakh people attended it…
VVR: After five years of repression, the Rytu Cooli Sangham conference transpired in Warangal. Total 14 lakh people attended it and took a decision about the distribution of land. This was the second phase of the land distribution after Jagityala. This meant no family could have second source if they are having land. This was the sealing implemented by the Party. However, on cue, there was repression. In 1992, the party was officially banned. This was the beginning of the new economic policy, globalisation abetted by Hindutva, the demolition of Babri Masjid. Then in 1995, to implement this globalisation policy, Chandrababu Naidu replaced NT Rama Rao and the ruling class. To abolish the subsidies, Naidu had to ban the People’s War party, he had to lift the ban on liquor and so on. He retracted on all of NTR’s election promises. From 1995 to 2004, in almost nine and half years, Andhra Pradesh (and particularly Telangana) has seen bloodbath. There were encounter killings, there were missing cases, plus he started organising the surrendered Naxalites and the mafia under the leadership of a DIG police to retaliate or kill the leaders of the people’s movements either underground or overtly in the name of tigers, in the name of cobras, and so on.
RR: In 2001, K Chandra Shekhar Rao formed a new party, which was created with a goal to achieve the statehood of Telengana in a parliamentary way. Did this affect the movement?
VVR: During this period because of the repression, thousands and lakhs of acres of lands in the forest area were occupied by the people under the leadership of the People’s War, because of the police camps, because of the repression. All this land became fallow. So in the interest of the people, in the interest of the society, in the interest of the real development of the state, a few good people under the leadership of Shankaran as the Convener formed the Concerned Citizen’s Committee (CCC). They placed a demand for talks between the government and the revolutionary parties, particularly the CPI (ML), (People’s War) and the other M-L parties. During 2004, the talks with the Naxalite movement became one of the agendas in the elections. So except Chandrababu Naidu, all the other parties including Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM said that if Naidu is defeated and Congress comes to power, YS Rajasekhara Reddy will go for talks sans condition with the revolutionary parties. As Chandrababu Naidu himself said that it is a referendum for these three issues i.e., talks with Naxalites, World Bank programme and Telangana, that he lost the elections. Later, Rajasekhara Reddy comes to power and since he made it as an election promise, the talks were held in October. The demand was distribution of land, restoration of democratic rights and the third issue was self-reliance, which was not discussed. However, democratic rights and land reforms were thoroughly discussed. By then CPI (ML) (People’s War) merged with MCC and the party as the Maoist Party had come forward for the talks. It said, that one crore tweny lakh acres of surplus land exists in the state, and it has to be distributed. Of course, the government, which promised to restore democratic rights and distribute land, was not sincere about it. By January 2005, instead of inviting the Maoist Party for talks, the repression and encounter killings started. During YS Rajasekhara Reddy period, we saw similar repression, as we saw during the Chandrababu Naidu period. The mafia was operating under the name Tigers in the Chandrababu Naidu period. It started operating under the name of Cobras during the Rajasekhara Reddy period.
RR: After the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash, the movement for a separate Telangana state gained strength. After 60 years of a legitimate democratic struggle for Telangana, the statehood of Telangana was achieved on 2 June 2014. How has one year of Telengana been?
VVR: It is not a democratic Telangana which we have achieved, it is a bourgeoisie government which has come to power. K Chandrasekhara Rao who promised that after coming to power he would implement the Maoist agenda, has started repression. He did not lift the ban on the Maoist Party. Not just that, he did not lift the ban on the Revolutionary Democratic Front, which was imposed in Andhra Pradesh. So when I was talking in Mumbai and Wardha about intellectuals, I was talking about the present situation in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh too, that in both the states, intellectuals and writers are not playing that role they used to play during the Telangana movement and during the Srikakulam struggle.
RR: During the launch of Arun Ferreira’s Colours of the Cage: A Prison Memoir, you spoke about custodial torture and solitary confinement of activists and how it would not happen in Andhra…
VVR: What disturbed me after reading Ferreira’s book was that the democratic movement is being curbed by torture, particularly a man like Ferreira is being tortured not only mentally but physically for months together. Arun Ferreira and Ashok Reddy had to undergo narcotic tests. This was very disturbing for me. It is not that such tortures are not prevalent in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It exists, but mostly for underground activists, even if they are intellectuals. So someone like Mahesh was tortured in the Warangal jail and was kept in a single cell. That I know. During the Telangana armed struggle, a leader of the party, Cherravu Lakshmi Narasaiah, was chained in Warangal jail, for years. I heard about him, much later, after he became a municipal chairman in Khammam and later, a state leader. It is not that such instances are not there, but this impact is due to the democratic rights movement in Andhra Pradesh, particularly under the leadership of the APCLC.
RR: What about the impact of UAPA, the draconian law?
VVR: Things are not as grim as the jails in Maharashtra, Kerala, Bihar, etc. There are instances where people like Sugunatham, a tribal APCLC leader from Paderu who was arrested under UAPA, could get out of the jail within a week. As I have mentioned, there were 16,000 TADA cases in NTR period. But again, in TADA cases, one of our APCLC leader, Narra Prabhakar Reddy, could procure bail for 900 people at District Court. Likewise, Balagopal could get bail for 90 Adivasi tribal people in Adilabad Court. We have other instances too where someone like Ganesh is in jail for the last 20 years. In general, however, the democratic movement is better, particularly in Telangana, as compared to Maharashtra, Odisha and other states. Our friend CV Subbarao used to say that if you could speak English, you could get away with killing.
RR: What the mainstream middle class society wants to know is why so many Maoists are in prison?
VVR: Since the Maoists are leading the movement, they are being arrested, and being placed in jails. For example, you find about 20 central committee members of the Maoist Party in jail for years. But, we have to understand that these 20 members of the Central Committee are in jail because they were spearheading the movement of the Adivasis in East, Central and Southern India of lakhs and crores of people for their rights for the land and a kind of self-rule in places like Dandkaranya. So it has to be seen not only to defend the Maoist Party but it is to defend the genuine Adivasi movement in the forest, peasant movement outside and the working class movement also outside. This is one thing. Broadly, we can analyse into three kinds of movements today. The national liberation movements in Kashmir and Northeast where the Armed Special Powers Act is being implemented and virtually Kashmir and Northeast states are under the army rule today. So a movement for decades to remove the special powers to the army exists, and that has to be taken up. The second kind is the revolutionary movement under the leadership of the revolutionary movement. This includes the struggles of the Adivasis and peasants. The third is the democratic movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan movements.
RR: Is that why the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) has been formed, to protect the members of these groups?
VVR: Yes, all the people fighting in these movements can be considered as political prisoners. This means, to achieve the political demands, either they are part of the democratic movements or nationality movements or the revolutionary movements. All these movements can be defined as political movements for a kind of political and social change. That’s why these are the people, whether they are Muslims and treated as second-rate citizens in the country, particularly due to the onslaught of the Hindutva, are in jails. Particularly all the Preventive Detention Acts like the UAPA, NSA and sections 120 to 128 of CrPC, those people who were arrested under these sections are considered as political prisoners. So there is a need for a committee to deal with political prisoners. In addition, there is a need for demanding release of such kind of political prisoners all over the country. At the moment, the CRPP has been formed, but it has to be strengthened.
RR: How are the jails in Andhra Pradesh?
VVR: Jails in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are not as heavenly as the parliamentary committee described it. Everything is relative. If we see the jails in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, they are better than jails outside these two states. This is also not because of the government policies. It is not that there are well-meaning people in government today. But this is because of the long history of the struggles, particularly Communist Party’s movements, right from the Telangana Armed Struggle and since the communist revolutionaries were in jail right from 1940s, it is a continued legacy because of the struggles in the movement. There are examples such as struggles under the leadership of Sundarayya during Telangana armed struggle in Jarna jail, in Warangal jail, in Hyderabad jail, and in the anti-Nizam struggle and anti-colonial struggles and later in the Naxalite movement and in People’s War movement. In the last 30 years, in Telangana or for that matter, all over the Andhra Pradesh, jails cells and the conditions in the jails have improved. An important struggle has to be mentioned is from December 1994 to March 1995. For the first time not only the Naxalite prisoners but also the lifers, under the leadership of the Naxalite prisoners Patel Sudhakar Reddy and Sakhamuri Apparao were a part of historical struggle in Andhra Pradesh. This movement attracted writers, intellectuals and middle class people outside. So there was continuous struggle for three months for the political rights of the Naxalite prisoners and also for the fundamental rights of the prisoners. This is the first time it has come to the knowledge of the even middle class people that when one is in jail only his right to mobility is denied. All other fundamental rights should be protected, even when one is in jail. Traditionally, in the erstwhile Hyderabad state, every lifer, one with life-imprisonment will be released after six and half years or seven years, based on the good conduct in the jail. It was a convention which the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh J Vengala Rao violated in 1976. This is why this struggle could take place and it could succeed. Today, particularly after Supreme Court has taken a different view that life means life itself, and the treatment given to the political prisoners after the ban of the Maoist Party, we could see many deaths in the jails in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They are committing suicides, because of malnutrition, no medical care, no good food.
RR: From Chandrababu Naidu to Prime Minister Modi, what is your strategy?
VVR: You know the strategy of the Maoist Party. Its strategy is protracted armed struggle. To achieve the New Democratic Revolution, taking the mass line and the main form of the struggle will be an armed struggle supported by different kinds of mass movements under the leadership of the mass organisations. The basic struggle will be for land. Land to the tiller is an economic struggle. As Charu Mazumdar said, providing that land to the tiller is the basic economic struggle and to protect that land from the henchmen of landlords or the police or the State, one has to take up the Guerilla Armed Struggle. This is a military form of the struggle and finally the seizure of the power, all power to the people as all power to the Soviets in Soviet Russia, all the powers to the Communes in China. If you look at the Janatana Sarkar in Dandakaranya, it is a political struggle. So as Charu Mazumdar puts it: the economic struggle is land, the military form of struggle is guerilla war and the political strategy is the seizure of power. That will be the strategy of the Party. For a mass organisation like The Revolutionary Writers’ Association, we don’t have any strategies or tactics. We have a programme of the literary and cultural movement to support the struggle for New Democratic Revolution. As Mao Tse Tung puts it, for every revolution we need two kinds of armies, the land army to wage the basic struggle, and a cultural army to support it. As Premchand says, ‘hum toh kalam ki sipahi hain’. That much I can say.
RR: The other interesting development is the coming together of the traditional Left and the Centrists…
VVR: If you see the present position, the so-called left CPI, CPM – the so-called Left Front have lost power. So it is trying to make friends with the M-L Parties also. Today’s position is that they are not saying that they will shake hands with centrist parties. Of course, there are no centrist parties today. For example, take the regional parties, which can be said as Centrist Parties cannot be branded as the communal parties but today all those parties are in the fold of BJP. That is Akali Dal in Punjab, Assam Gana Parishad in Assam, Anna DMK in Tamil Nadu or for that matter Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP in Andhra Pradesh. All these parties are in either NDA or supporting NDA. Interestingly, even Telangana Rashtra Samiti which is not part of NDA supported the land-grabbing bill in Lok Sabha. Of course, they call it land acquisition bill, but I call it land-grabbing bill, This means today, there is no Centrist party. Of course, today the CPI, CPM and other left parties are saying that they are opposing the World Bank programmes or the Globalisation programmes, but when they are in power, particularly in West Bengal and Kerala, they were also pursuing the World Bank programmes. That means any parliamentary party, when it is in power, has taken up the World Bank programme. It was trying to implement the globalisation policy. You know in West Bengal, the Nandigram movement, the Singur movement, or the Jungle Mahal movement or the best example, you can say the worst example for the Left Front, implementing the globalisation policy was very immediate cause for losing their power and Trinamul Congress opposing this, swept into power. Now, Trinamul is implementing the same programme. Of course, we may take up the programmes together against, particularly in the period of Modi, against the Communism, Hindutva. During Gujarat massacre days, we worked with the CPI, CPM literary and mass organisations. Today too, we work with them. We work on the question of land. But I am not sure that when they come to power through the Parliamentary methods, they will not go the World Bank way. So as long as the so-called Left don’t take out their foot from the Parliamentary path, I don’t think there can be an understanding with those parties.
RR: Why is the traditional Left so confused?
VVR: It is not the question of confusion. It is a question of coming to power through elections. As long as any party works under the framework of coming to power through elections, and if they think that real power comes through elections through vote, it is an illusion. As long as any party or any force or any people’s movement thinks only in the framework of ‘elections’, this confusion, this illusion will remain. So one has to decide to come out of this election politics and to take up the people’s movement and fight against imperialism and against the feudalism. We must be very clear about fighting the semi-feudal, semi-colonial, comprador system in this country. And since, this system is manifested through State, then you have to decide to fight against the State, tooth and nail. Until such times, this confusion shall prevail.
RR: At the local level, wherever I have travelled, from Maharashtra to Gujarat to UP to Kerala, the RSS have put up a number of shakhas and groups in the past two years due to money power and the clout of religion. However, there has been no response to this. What kind of people’s movement can counter the RSS approach?
VVR: You saw the RSS unleash thousands of workers during the 2014 elections to support the BJP. So it relieved them from RSS work and sent them to BJP. Today, we can see people like Ram Madhav, Muralidhar have become part and parcel of BJP. Even Amit Shah was given to preside over the BJP. This is not today’s reality. Right from the 1940s, the RSS is working in this way. The RSS is very flexible while doing this. I have seen during the Emergency, the District President of Congress party of Adilabad was with us in jail. So we asked him, why, as a Congressman, you are in jail. He said he was a RSS man working in the Congress. The government knew this. That’s why it put him in jail. So RSS adopts such methods. When the RSS was banned as the Rashtriya Sevek Sangh, it changed to Ram Sevak Sangh. Since RSS has no philosophy except the philosophy of Hindutva. This is the philosophy of violence and the philosophy of monopolising ideology. It can be flexible. The people’s movements, particularly revolutionary movement run under certain principles and it is difficult to be as flexible. At the same time, we have to carve out new ways and new forms to fight against this. In other way, it has given an opportunity to make a broad united front with all non-Hindutva forces. We have to be very creative about organising Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, women and non-Brahminical classes. We have to make a broad front of these people. Such an effort started during the MR-2004 (Mumbai Resistance), we have organised 300 to 400 organisations into MR, but it could not continue.
To be continued
The interview was conducted by Ramu Ramanathan, activist, print evangelist and acclaimed playwright in three phases between 2014 and 2015. It started with a chat following the launch of Arun Ferreira’s book ‘Colours of the Cage’ on 26 September 2014 at the Press Club, Mumbai. Following this, there were several email exchanges, after which the final Q&A was put into place.
You can also watch the video of the launch