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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Celebrating 50 Years since Naxalbari : Part 5

By Harsh Thakor

-reminding cadres of the outstanding role played by the ertswhile C.P.I.(M.L.) Peoples War group in budding the roots of the armed agrarian revolutionary struggle in Dandakaranya today and earlier in North Telengana.

Before the formation of the C.P.I.(Maoist) the Peoples War group made the greatest political contribution to the Indian Communist movement from 1980,taking the movement to a higher political level than any other group.
Gross errors but still made a remarkable achievement. The PWG brilliantly blended open and secret functioning possessing the planning of an architect with the creativity of a poet.
It has it's roots on the self criticism of 1977 written by Kondpali Setharamiah and the outstanding mass work of the erstwhile C.P.I.(M.L.) Peoples War group. From 1980-98 the PW group traversed the hardest barriers to practice armed struggle and most creatively created students, youth, peasant and cultural organizations.
Without doubt ,in spite of later being crushed; they sowed the seeds for emergence of revolutionary democracy like in Karimnagar or North Telenagana and Dandakaranya.
No doubt major mistakes occured like anarchist armed actions, incorrect approach towards mass organizations or insufficient democracy within them, not sufficient mass movements, big brotherly or incorrect approach towards other groups, inter-group clashes. inadequate involvements of masses in actions etc 
I don't agree with the insistence of Mao Zedong thought in the manifesto of Virasam and Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union and feel there was not enough independent awarded to mass organizations. Strong tendencies of functioning as party front organizations prevailed Some wrong actions took place against cadres of other groups and against class enemies like landlord Satyam in Srikakulam 
Even if vitiated by left adventurist or anarchist tendencies it would be historically wrong to dub their practice as 'left-adventurist' or 'terrorists' in many respects they incorporated important aspects of mass line and protracted peoples war.
They proved in many ways the role of armed squads for a movement. They displayed genius by turning a tiny armed squad force  in Bastar  into a strong army, like a stream turning into an ocean. Who can deny the great mass mobilizations they launched on peoples causes and their overall political influence.
The Karimnagar peasant movement and rytu coolie sangham conferences of 1985 and 1990 are a testimony to this, where 10 lakh people were mobilised. The Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union also wrote a new epoch in the history of the student movement initatiating go to village campaigns and with the Radical youth League resurrecting the flame of Naxalabri movement and Chinese revolution; The APRSU staged 9 state conferences and could mobilise around 10000 delegates.
Another achievement was the formation of the All-India Peoples Resistance form in Kolkata in 1994 and the 1 lakh rally. The 1999 all India campaign of A.I.P.R.F. opposing state repression in Bihar, Dandkaranya and Andhra Pradesh was  a historic event in the annals of Indian revolutionary movement. Major conferences were led in districts of Bihar ,Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. It was the 1st all-India sustained campaign against state repression by a front of revolutionary groups. Another remarkable event was the staging of event on the 50th anniversary of Independence in Mumbai in 1997, where the face of the true character of the  independence we achieved, the nature of the state and the revolutionary movement was painted to perfection.
No organization before 2004 after Naxalbari made such a great contribution to the Indian Communist Movement.
It literally moved like a fish in water displaying creativity at it's highest zenith. It developed mass-political movement and armed struggle to a level no revolutionary group did. Gross errors made but still had outstanding achievements virtually writing a new epoch.
Displayed death defying courage defying state repression particularly from 1991 to 1995 and earlier in 1985 reminiscent of how the Vietcong fought the American enemy decades earlier, and the Chinese red army against the Kuomintang and Japan.
Resisted like a boulder withstanding a gale and resurrected themselves often like a phoenix from the Ashes. It also displayed the innovation and creativity of a great musical composer.
Even comrades from other streams like Amolak Singh of Punjab and Sunder Navalkar of Maharashtra spoke volumes of the work of this group. 
Professor Amit Bhattacharya is convinced that no organization played a great role  in the post-Naxalabri phase of Indian Communist Movement as it created a level of mass –political movement no revolutionary group could.
In his view both the M.C.C. or the PU groups did not reach the heights of the PWG. In 1992 -93 I remember even St Xavier’s professor and a student colleague not associated with any movement or group admiring the Organization.
Writer Srigendu Bhattacharaya . an author of a book on the Lalgarh movement felt it was only because the PWG arrived was  a shape and direction  given to the Lalgarh movement Carved a permanent niche in the glorious history of people combating the oppressors.
Sadly it received a major jolt when 3 central committee  members were assonated namely Murli, Sham and Mahesh and were virtually wiped out in North Telenagana.
It made a self-critical review in 2001 conference and 2007 plenum. This exposed it’s practice of  the correct military line ability to replenish losses and have sufficient development of peoples democratic and mass  revolutionary movement .
Heroic retaliations  but still not sufficient mass mobilization. In this context a through study of Devullapali Benkatsewar Rao’s ‘Telengana armed Struggle’ and ‘Basic Documents’ in regard to protracted peoples War has great relevance.
There was a strong tendency to publically be critical of their actions by the then Chandra Pulla Reddy and Pyla Vasudeva Rao’s groups in the early 1990’s who openly in mass meetings  propagated that their actions acted against the revolutionary trend and openly dubbed them as terrorist. UCCRI(M.L.) sections too propagated this ,but at a lower level. Fasinatingly the Red  Star group  of K.N. Ramchandran was one of the most vocal in defending them.
Pages of journal Red STAR upheld their heroic retaliation in 1989-90. One sided phenomena in the early 1990’s was the group classes between the Resistance C.P.Reddy group and the PWG and fact finding tyeam wa ssent for this purpose.PWG sympathiser  felt that it was a strughgle on class lines but mnay democrats s were critical of the clashes.I wa spresnt in ameeting in Nanded when 2 speakesr of C.P.Reddy group called for the Adivasis to reject ‘terrorist’ line of P.W.G.This was uncalled for.

I am reproducing an excerpt from Amit Bhatacharya's 'Storming the Gates of heaven.'

Jaggtiyal yatra Praja Panchyats,or peoples courts, were set up as parallel bodies to the landlord dominated ones which had hitherto ruled the village.The landlords were physically brought to public meetings and made to apologize for crimes and injustice they ad committed on the people.
The peasants moved in big rallies with red flags ,occupied wastelands and government land sunder landlords occupation.
This was accompanied by the strikes of labourers at beedi-leaf collection centres in many taluqs of Karimnagar and Adilabad.' Panchayat' is a traditional village institution of the Telengana region where any petty dispute is publicly adjudicated wit the landlord presiding judgement .
This symbol feudal authority over the village was overturned and replaced by the peasants. Over 800 acres of land was occupied and lakhs of rupees collected as refunds by the landless peasants in 30 villages of Jagatiyal itself.
In the end on 7th September 1978 35000 people marched to Jagatiyal town painting it red.
The mass upsurge forced the landlords to retreat to the cities, while others retaliated with the connivance of the police. A situation erupted where 3000 peasants from 75 villages were implicated in false cases and Sircila and Jagatiyal were declare as disturbed areas.
The revolutionary forces learn through their long experience of struggle against state repression that some basic change in perspective was the need of the hour and in 1979 the AP state committee presented a plan for development of military perspective for the movement which came to be known as the 'guerrilla zone perspective.' The party drew lessons from history and came to the conclusion that it was imperative to develop some work in the forest areas surrounding these regions so that mass base created by the forests could serve as a rear area for the squads to retreat in the face of severe enemy attacks in plains. To progress, the revolutionaries had to make necessary preparations to combat not only the landlords but also the police and paramilitary forces. Thus the need of the hour now was need of military preparation by the party It implied not only acquisition of weapons ,but also political, organizational, and military consciousness that enhance the party's striking capacity. In June 1980 7 squads of 5 to 7 members each, entered the forests from different directions. The work began in Gadricholi in Maharashtra, Bastar in Madya Pradesh and Koraput in Orissa. To begin with it was an extension of the Karimnagar and Adilbad struggles. The response to the Adivasis was quick and positive, leading to the creation of vast guerrilla zone in the Dandakaranya region. The Maoists drew another important lesson about the ability of mass movement to sustain itself.

Prior to 1978,peasant movements always broke down in the face of severe repression.

Earlier, the Naxalites responded by guerrilla attacks and annihilations both of the class enemies and police forces. However, the events of karimnagar and Adilabad made it clear that the mass movements and even some level of mass organization should be sustained and effectively used to combat police attack. In the new stage, guerrilla attacks were not initially part of Maoist tactics. In the plain areas, attacks on aggressive landlords and police informers took place but the primary task of the party was carrying out the mass movement.
Excerpts from an article defending the achievements of the peoples war group in Voice of the Vanguard. in Nov-Dec 1997 from a strong criticism of their practice of mass line by New Democracy Group.

The most important achievement of the party is the land occupation struggle in the guerrilla zones. Struggles for the occupation of WATS lands, temple and endowment lands, tank beds, and forest lands resulted in takeover of more than 3 lakh acres The party successfully prevented the sale of the land by landlords since early 1980's. The Patta land of landlords were seized in a big way since 1990. Around 40000 acres of Patta land were occupied by the people of North Telengana in 1990 alone. It inspired the masses throughout AP. They also shattered the base of landlords in the villages of North Telengana and landlords fled to the cities or surrendered themselves to the committees.

1.AP-DK movements are based on the line of armed agrarian revolution as the axis of NDR, and protracted war is the only path to reach that goal. It is the same as that of Telengana armed struggle.

2.The anti-feudal struggle was taken to a higher stage in Karimnagar and Adilabad in 1980. By mid-1988 five districts of North Telengana namely Karimnagar, Adilabad and Warangal, Nizamabad and Khammam were turned into a preparatory guerrilla zone area. Intensification of anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggles and the formation of mass organizations; armed struggle becoming the main form of the struggle, guerrilla squads becoming the main form of organization, people's active support to armed struggle and guerrilla squads and mass struggles in a wide contiguous area were the features.

Our party wields considerable influence in an area covering about three lakh square km with a population of around 60 million.
The intensification of the land occupation struggles shook the ruling classes and paramilitary forces were used to defeat the struggle. Even with the aid of the police and the paramilitary the landlords could not regain the land due to resistance of guerrilla squads and the people. In the past 2 years people have been cultivating at least half the occupied land by offering collective resistance.1500 acres of land in other areas of AP have been occupied.

4.Village development Committees Education committees Cooperatives etc are being formed to take up several developmental activities through active involvement of people. Schools were run by gramrajya committees.

5.Village courts which served to defend the political hegemony of the landlords were converted into peoples courts .A classic example was in Jagatiyal.

6.We combated the police and paramilitary forces in spite of ban imposed in May 1992 and losing about 1300 members. We defeated the enemy offensive ,developed armed resistance and increased the number of our armed squads.

By staging relentless resistance to the police and paramilitary forces we have not only advanced the path of New Democratic Revolution in our country, but also instilled revolutionary confidence amongst various sections of the oppressed masses. We proved in practice that we could counter the enemy offensive by intensifying armed struggle through guerrilla methods based on revolutionary mass line.
We have committed some mistakes in political, organizational and military spheres in course of building guerrilla zones but these errors were reviewed in the plenums and conferences. On some occasion we made open self-criticism which was a feature in the 1995 All India Conference. Consistently rectifying and learning lesson from the past we have resurrected Telengana, Naxalbari and Srikakulam struggles to a higher plane.


The Student Movement

Once the left line was rectified, students who had been inspired by Naxalbari and Srikakulam and the RWA and JNM, surged forward in their thousands. Initially the students of the CP Reddy group and those with the AP State Committee worked under one banner – the Progressive Democratic Students Union or PDSU. But, as the differences grew sharper and working within one organisation became difficult (with continuous contradictions) the revolutionary students left and formed the Radical Students Union or RSU. This organisation grew with such speed and gained such support that even today activists are popularly known as Radicals.
The Radical Students Union was formed on October 12, 1974 and the first State Conference was held in February 1975. This first conference released a manifesto exposing the various revisionist tendencies and holding aloft the banner of a revolutionary student movement. Hundreds of students inspired and Mao Ze Dong Thought attended the conference. The biggest contingents were from Telangana, specifically form Karimnagar, Warangal, Khammam and Nalgonda. Large numbers also came from Ananthapur, Tirupathi and Vishakhapatnam.
After the conference and before the next academic year, the Emergency was declared and the RSU had to face the full brunt of the repressive machinery. More than 500 students were subjected to inhuman torture, and 70 were thrown into prison. Four young students, Janardhan, Murali Mohan, Anand Rao and Sudhakar were taken to the Giraipally forests and shot dead by the police. Student activist, Nagaraju, was also arrested and shot. Yet RSU re-organised secretly and continued agitations specifically in their two strongholds – the Regional Engineering College of Warangal and the Osmania University in Hyderabad. They also started a magazine ‘Radical’ which was widely distributed amongst students.
After the lifting of the Emergency student agitations swept the state around a number of issues : In Hyderabad it was around the Rameejabi rape (in police custody) case, in Kakatiya University it was against the Hindu fundamentalists, in Bellampally in support of the workers strike, in Mahaboobnagar in support of the hotel workers – also there were state-wide agitations on ITI and Polytechnic students’ issues and a state wide strike for students demands for better social welfare benefits.
The second conference was held in Warangal in February 1978. In preparation to this conference a big debate took place as certain units said that mass organisations should confine themselves to partial demands and not propagate revolutionary politics. The two views were debated in all units, and finally the second conference rejected the proposed changes. Lenin’s writings on the nature of a revolutionary student movement were widely circulated to educate students and activists on this issue.
The mass upsurge of students throughout 1978 and the active ‘boycott election campaign’ to the state Assembly culminated with the third state conference of the RSU held in Anantapur with 2000 delegates. This was preceded by district conferences in 13 districts. With the sweep of the revolutionary student movements RSU (jointly with PDSU) began winning all the student union elections. The 1981 RSU state conference at Guntur was preceded by 16 district conferences. Prior to this conference RSU had organised a meeting of 10,000 to condemn Soviet Aggression of Afghanistan.
From 1981 the ABVP (student wing of the Hindu fundamentalist BJP) organised systematic assaults on RSU activists and even killed some leaders.
The police stood by and watched. The RSU replied – first with a systematic exposure of the ABVP; and then they also resisted the physical assaults and wherever necessary retaliated. With this resistance campaign the movement spread to the High Schools.
In the 1982 student elections the RSU achieved unprecedented victories in Osmania University (Hyderabad) and in the towns of Warangal, Karimnagar, Nalgonda, Mahaboobnagar, Adilabad, Guntur, Chittoor, Kurnool, Cuddapah and Khammam districts. The student union election victories further facilitated the spread of revolutionary politics in the educational institutions. The inaugural functions, cultural events ….. all became centres of revolutionary enthusiasm spreading the movement to every corner of the state. By the time of the 5th.
State conference, RSU had spread to 18 out of the 21 districts of AP. In 1984, 25000 polytechnic students from 47 colleges went on a 104 day strike and achieved their demands. Even high school students went on an indefinite strike to get their syllabus reduced. In February 1985, at the initiative of the RSU the All India Revolutionary Students Federation (AIRSF) was established at a conference held in Hyderabad. But by mid-1985 the police launched its massive attack on the party and a chief target was the RSU. Police raided schools, colleges and hostels, arresting students and brutally torturing them.
Since then, the RSU has been pushed underground and had to change its style of functioning from large open meetings to small secret meetings, class room meetings, etc. In 1985/86 a number of students leading the RSU were killed in cold blood – Nageshwar Rao, Shyam Prasad, Sreenivas, Yakaiah, Ramakanth, Muralidhar Raju and Satish fell to enemy bullets. Nageswar Rao was the state vice-president of RSU. Since then all conferences of the RSU have been held secretly.

(5) ‘Go to the Village’ Campaigns

The ‘Go to the village campaign’ was an ingenious method discovered by the AP Party to effectively integrate the students with the ongoing peasant movement. It was also a brilliant method to push ahead the organisation amongst the peasantry with enormous speed. In the summer holidays students scheduled to go on a campaign would first go through an intense one weak political school. In this school the method of conducting the campaign would also be informed. Also in this school they would be informed about the subject to be taken for intense political propaganda amongst the peasants. After this they would be broken up into batches of about seven each and proceed to the villages covering an area as per the party plans. In the village campaign they were also to set up youth organisations wherever possible and keep a note of the names of all potential activists. These names would then be handed over to the local party organiser who would follow up and deepen the organisation.
The first such campaign began in the summer of 1978. In the first campaign 200 students participated. The aim of this campaign was the propagation of the politics of agrarian revolution and the building of RYL (Radical Youth League) units in the villages. The campaign went on for one month and culminated in the holding of the first RYL Conference. The significance of this campaign was that it helped trigger off the historic peasant struggles of Karimnagar and Adilabad.
In the next year, the ‘village campaign’ of April to June 1979 was for the first time jointly conducted by RSU and RYL. This time preparatory classes were held in 15 centres in which 500 students and youth participated. Besides propagating the politics of agrarian revolution the campaigners strived to expose the “Soviet-backed Vietnamese aggression against Kampuchea” – they sold Pol Pot badges in the villages. The campaign focused on “Soviet Aggression against Afghanistan” and also expressed solidarity with the nationality movement of Assam.
The 1981 campaign exposed police brutality in the wake of of the massacre of tribals in Indervelli in Adilabad district. The campaign mobilised support for the tribal movement being led by the CPI (ML) (PW) in the Dandakaranya forests. In 1982, the theme of the campaign was the unconditional release of KS and other political prisoners and demanding a judicial enquiry into ‘encounter’ killings in the state. The teams also helped mobilise workers for the first State Conference of the Coal miners union SIKASA (Singareni Karmika Samakhya). The 1983 campaign exposed the repression being unleashed by the Telugu Desam government and explained that political leaders like NTR cannot usher in all-round development of the Telugu nationality.
The 1984 campaign, the last that was possible before the all-out onslaught unleashed in 1985, focused on government repression and demanded the withdrawal of the CRPF from Telangana.
With each campaign the number of student and youth participants increased, in spite of the fact that in each successive year the police attacks were getting more and more vicious. In 1983/84 it was a virtual hide-and-seek between the police and the campaigners.
In the 1984 village campaign about 1100 student and youth participated, organised into 150 propaganda teams. That year alone they carried the message of agrarian revolution to 2419 villages.
The staging of the 1987 conference has historical significance if you consider the repressive conditions prevalent. Various district conferences were held in preparation. In the 7th state conference held in February in 1987 the expansionist policies of theCongress govt. were condemned, including the Baliapal Missile bae project and Nageshwar Rao’s death was commemorated. Methods of Struggle were devised to combat the repression .
A political resolution was passed in thwarting the attempts of the ruling classes and advancing the movement on the revolutionary path. A report was read out of the role played by the APRSU in  State-wide issues like reservations, Karamchedu massacre, N.GO’S strike and Social Welfare Hostel's students struggle. Political resolutions were also launched against Rajiv Gandh’s national Chauvinism, and war hysteria used to divert the people from their main struggles. Later in 1987 struggles were launched on issues like scholarships. Police were combated in campuses, The New Education policy was also exposed. An Extensive propaganda campaign was also launched against brutal state repression carried out on 50 Girijan villages in Chintapalli agency in March and June 1987. A propaganda campaign was launched in the villages.
In the conference the delegates narrated their experience in overcoming the fascist onslaught. The conference displayed the resilience with which the Radical Students withstood the state’s attempt to liquidate the student movement. As part of the undeclared war of the government on the people .It also described how new forms of struggles were adopted in the changed scenario.
In 1987 Ananthapur high school students agitated for better hostel facilities on 8th July.
In 1988 and 1999 APRSU launched struggles of issues like BC Scholarships, opposing closing of BC hostels, cancelling of loans of peasants, opposing the nuclear plant in Nagarjuna Sagar,opposing the 59th Amendment bill Students converged into Nagarjuna Sagar in August 1988 to oppose the plant, in a joint front with other progressive organizations.
In May 1992 the A.P.R.S.U. was officially banned. What is significant is the way comrades revived the work of the organizations in spite of being banned and still staged state level conferences .From 1992, it heroically held underground conferences. Its major leaders have been killed. In 1996 on December 5th, 6th and 7th the A.P.R.SU. held it’s 10th State Conference. 12 resolutions were passed .Earlier that year in East Godavari district the organization conducted a “Go to Villages Campaign’ in Anantpur, in spite of combing operations the teams were successful, Politics of New Democratic Revolution was propagated and people were urged to organize into Rythu Collie Sanghams. Villagers helping the students were arrested.

For the rest of this article click here,  in Democracy and Class Struggle.

We will also be printing further parts of this series of articles.

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