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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Book: Understanding Maoists

Notes of a Participant Observer from Andhra Pradesh

Any observer of contemporary Indian politics in general and people's movements in particular can easily recognise that Andhra Pradesh continues to be the hotbed of radical people's movements for the last four decades. It is also well known that most of the current Maoist leadership as well as thousands of those killed in `encounters' during the 45-year old Naxalite movement in India came from Andhra Pradesh. The region, particularly Telangana part of it had a long history of people's struggles including the first ever peasant armed struggle in India under the leadership of Communists in the 1940s. Again it was this area that immediately reverberated Naxalbari's `Spring Thunder' in Srikakulam tribal struggle in the late 1960s. Later it was again Telangana which resurrected the spirit of Naxalbari and Srikakulam struggles within a couple of years after their suppression and setback. The movement thus revived in the mid 1970s not only survived and gained strength in the area for more than three decades, but also contributed thousands of cadres who spread the message of revolution all over the country. It was the leadership from this area that extended their activity to the central Indian forests of Dandakaranya as well as to eastern and northern parts of the county culminating in the formation of the CPI (Maoist) in 2004 – "the gravest internal security threat to the country" as perceived by the powers that be and expressed by the prime minister himself. Even today presence of Maoists from Andhra Pradesh is felt and reported from all parts of the country. Both the important leaders killed in recent times Azad (Cherukuri Rajkumar) as well as Kishenji (Mallojula Koteswar Rao) hailed from Andhra Pradesh.
However, though Andhra Pradesh occupies such a major place in the Maoist movement, there is not a single commensurate, reliable, comprehensive account in English on the origin and growth of Maoist movement in the region, except a couple of books on fragmented separate issues or areas of the struggle. There has been a felt need for such a comprehensive narration of the multi-layered movement for a long time. As a step in the direction of developing such a work, here is a volume of collected essays published over the last thirty years chronicling various aspects of the Maoist movement in the state. Read together these twenty nine essays, from 1984 to 2012, present a connected story and provide a reasonable picture of various aspects involving the movement, as perceived contemporarily. The essays, published in Economic and Political Weekly, Frontier, The Economic Times, Deccan Chronicle, Andhra Pradesh Times, and MeanTime as well as chapters commissioned by `Fifty Years of Andhra Pradesh (1956-2006)' and `A Comprehensive History of Andhra Pradesh' and papers presented at national and international seminars, have both academic and activist lines of analysis and presentation.
The book is organised, not essentially in chronological order of publication, into five thematic sections – Context, People's Movements, Repression, Culture and Departed Friends.
The first section Context sets the social, economic, political milieu that provided the basis for the origin, growth and sustenance of the movement and it consists of five essays – Fifty Years of Development – Light and Shadow;
Social Movements as Motive Force; Impact of External Funding; Chandrababu Naidu's Myths and Reality; and Pests on a Farmer's Life – Suicides of Cotton Growers in Andhra Pradesh.
The second section People's Movements consists of eight essays dealing with various phases of the movement: Growth of Naxalite Movement (1967-96) – Nature and Impact; Studying the Subject in Motion – Maoist Analysis of Agrarian Transformation in Andhra Pradesh 1970s to 2010s; The Dream for `Land, Livelihood and Liberation'; Social Movements and Radical Questions; Tendu Leaf Labourers of Telangana – Working Conditions and Struggles; Politics of Nuclear Power; Impact of Naxalite Movement on Labour; and Talks and People's Consciousness – Rejoinder to K Balagopal.
The Maoist movement in the state had witnessed severe onslaught, including fake encounters, attempts to assassinate key personalities, arrests, from the powers that be and the third section in the book Repression presents various phases of the repression: Fake Encounters – Story from Andhra Pradesh; Singing about Dark Times; Attempt on Gaddar's Life; Vakapalli – Impunity of the Grey Hounds; Where Writing Becomes Unlawful - Ban on Virasam; and Dilemma between Carrot and Stick - Critique of Prakash Singh.
The Maoist movement in Andhra Pradesh inspired a widespread cultural and literary activity, which in turn helped the movement grow. Thus it would be impossible to study the history of the movement without sufficient understanding of its impact on literature and culture. The fourth section on culture therefore includes Revolutionary Rhapsodies; Literature from Underground; Literature from Dandakaranya; and Telugu Revolutionary Literature – Growth and Patterns.
The author, in his association with the movement for over thirty five years, had moved closely with a number of activists and leaders of the movement as well as with intellectuals sympathising with the movement. He wrote essays on many of them and the fifth section Departed Friends includes obituaries on Cherabandaraju, KVR, K G Kannabiran, Cherukuri Rajkumar (Azad), R S Rao and Mallojula Koteswara Rao (Kishenji).
The author of the essays, N Venugopal, is a keen observer of the movement since 1970 and a student of the movement's history. A poet, literary critic, social scientist, journalist and public speaker, he published 15 original books and as many translations from English into Telugu, besides editing a number of volumes. He is currently editor of Veekshanam, Telugu Monthly Journal of Political Economy and Society, Hyderabad. He can be contacted at
The book is published by Setu Prakashani, Kolkata and Delhi.
Priced at Rs 700 (hardbound) and Rs 375 (paperback), the book can be had from Setu Prakashani, 12/A, Shankar Ghosh Lane, Kolakata – 700006 or Setu Prakashani, A-43, Mahendru Enclave, Galli No. 3, G T Karnal Road, Azadpur, Delhi – 110033.

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