‘I Am the Real Patriot [Desh Bhakt]"
Tusha Mittal, Tehelka, November 13, 2009
In this interview, underground Maoist leader Kishenji speaks on issues such as peace talks, armed struggle, the party's sources of funding, the difference between people's democracy and India's formal democracy, and the goals of the CPI (Maoist).
With unmistakable pride, he says he’s
Tell me about your personal journey. What made you join the CPI (Maoist)?
I was born in Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh (AP). In 1973, after a BSc mathematics degree, I moved to
My father was a great democrat and a freedom fighter. He was also vice-president of the state Congress party. We are Brahmins, but our family never believed in caste. When I joined the CPI (ML),my father left the Congress saying two kinds of politics can’t survive under one roof. He believed in socialism, but not in armed struggle. After the Emergency ended in 1977, I led a democratic peasant movement against feudalism. Over 60,000 farmers joined it. It triggered a nationwide peasant uprising.
The Home Minister has agreed to talks with CPI (Maoist) on issues like forest rights, land acquisition and SEZs [Special Economic Zones]? Why did you reject his offer? He’s only asking you to halt the violence.
We are ready to talk if the government withdraws its forces. Violence is not part of our agenda. Our violence is counter violence. The combat forces are attacking our people every day. In the last month in Bastar, the Cobra forces have killed 18 innocent tribals and 12 Maoists. In Chhattisgarh, those helping us with development activities are being arrested. Stop this; the violence will stop. Recently, the Chhattisgarh DGP [Director-General of Police] called the 6,000 Special Police Officers of Salwa Judum a force of pride. New recruitment continues. These people have been raping, murdering and looting tribals for years. Entire villages have been deserted because of the Salwa Judum. The government can say whatever it likes, but we do not believe them. How can they change policy when they aren’t even in control? The World Bank and
On what conditions will you de-escalate violence?
The PM should apologise to the tribals and withdraw all the troops deployed in these areas. The troops are not new, we have been facing State terror for the last 20 years. All prisoners should be released. Take the time you need to withdraw forces, but assure us there won’t be police attacks meanwhile. If the government agrees to this, there will be no violence from us. We will continue our movement in the villages like before.
Before it agrees to withdrawing troops, can you give the State assurance you won’t attack for one month?
We will think about it. I’ll have to speak with my general secretary. But what is the guarantee there won’t be any attack from the police in that one month? Let the government make the declaration and start the process of withdrawing. It shouldn’t be just a show for the public. Look at what happened in AP. They began talks and broke it. Our Central Committee member went to meet the AP Secretary. Later, the police shot him for daring to talk to the government.
If you really have a pro-people agenda, why insist on keeping arms? Is your goal tribal welfare or political power?
Political power. Tribal welfare is our priority, but without political power we cannot achieve anything. One cannot sustain power without an army and weapons. The tribals have been exploited and pushed to the most backward extremes because they have no political power. They don’t have the right to their own wealth. Yet, our philosophy doesn’t insist on arms. We keep arms in a secondary place. We faced a setback in AP because of that.
The government says halt the violence first, you say withdraw the troops first. In this mindless cycle, the tribal people you claim to represent are suffering the most.
So let’s call international mediators then. Whether it’s Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal or
You say violence is not your agenda, yet you’ve killed nearly 900 policemen in the past four years. Many of them came from poor tribal families. Even if it is counter violence, how is this furthering a pro-people goal?
Our battle is not with the police forces, it is with the State. We want to minimise the number police casualties. In