By Teesta Dasgupta
II. LEADERS SPEAK
For this section of the article I am honoured to have interviewed Dr. Abhijit Majumdar, son of the legendary Naxalite leader Charu Mazumdar, member of the CPI-ML (Liberation’s) central committee and party secretary of Darjeeling, West Bengal. He has been projected as the party’s future leader and teaches English at Siliguri College.
The interview however, does not fall into the realm of conventional interviews. With an eye to the readership of the TIE, Dr. Majumdar has spoken in his capacity as a professor and should be read as such. His desire is not to make any political statements but to help the majority of the readers grasp various concepts pertaining to Naxalism and Telangana.
The biggest conceptual error I see students making is the clubbing of all communist outfits as Naxals/ Maoists. How would you go about clearing this misconception and what would you label the groups functioning in Telangana?
To tackle this question I need to delve a little into the history of Communist Upsurge in India. In spite, of the similarities in the movements in Andhra and West Bengal – they cannot be clubbed together. P. Chidambaram is known for labelling the warring factions in Telangana as ‘Naxalite’ nuisance but all things considered ‘Naxal’ is a misnomer for them. The struggle against the ruling classes in Telangana precedes the Naxal uprising in Bengal by decades. There is evidence of sporadic and unorganized rebellions by peasants (communism was a term unheard to them) even before the First Struggle* of Independence in 1857.
Around Independence, it started as an armed uprising against the Nizam by the deprived peasants. Their points of contention were – exploitation of the workers and the substitution of Telugu as opposed to Urdu as the official language of the state. The drives were ethnic but not necessarily separatist. Undivided communist party or the CPI (Communist Party of India) took the reins of the movement and together with the peasants and the Andhra Mahasabha* came into conflict with the Nizam’s henchmen – the Razakars*. On the pretext of supressing the Communist movement, the Indian Union launched ‘Operation Polo’ under General Jayanto Nath Chaudhuri and annexed Hyderabad to India thereby, delivering a blow to the rising Communist movements in the country.
After Independence, the ‘Girijan Uprising’ in Telangana under Satyanarayan gave rise to a similar movement in Bengal – the ‘Naxalbari Uprising’. By this time the CPI (M) broke into the CPI (ML). The CPI (ML) pressed for more radical actions and felt that the CPI had in some way failed to champion the cause of the deprived peasants. The newly formed CPI (ML) garnered the support of the poor and landless i.e. the rural proletariat. Even so, separate ideologies emerged some who placed their beliefs in the electoral process, some that didn’t and the party broke up into smaller and smaller factions. All these factions in some way or the other are operative in present day Telangana.
But the majority of the movement is led by a coalition of PWG (Peoples’ War Group led by Kondapalli Seetharamiah) and MCC (Maoist Communist Centre) that merged back in 2004. Together they controlled most of Northern AP so much so that the police lost control over these places.
What is the difference between the earlier movements and the current separatist movement in Telangana?
Ever since the early days of CPI – the focus has always been the abolition of Zamindari and implementation of the Land Ceiling Act (which falls under the 9th Schedule of the Constitution*) Al though, some improvements have been introduced the state of affairs in AP is far from ideal. The current Movement in Telangana however is not entirely based on these factors. There are more issues that need attention. Some of them are as follows:
1. Krishna and Godavari water sharing disputes – the Bachawat Commission set aside 298 tmc (thousand million cubic feet) from Krishna and 900 tmc from Godavari which is much less that what it should have received in all fairness and will receive now as a separate state.
2. Generation and Distribution of Hydroelectricity – Seemandhra has an edge over Telangana with respect to the power generated by the joint projects Nagarjunasagar, Sri Sailam etc.
3. Economic, Political and Social Hegemony of the Seemandhrians – AP has never seen a CM who hailed from the Telangana region. All the important cabinets were held by them and there was an obvious dominance of one region over the other.
The TRS have promised to promote the “Naxal Agenda” once they come to power – what is your take on such promises?
When the Congress came to power there was a truce between the Maoists and the State. A number of peace talks were organized but fake-encounters all over the State and combing of Maoist areas soon caused the AP Maoists to pull out and accuse the government of being insincere. History was repeated again when Mamata Banerjee established ties with the Maoists, via the ‘Bondi Mukti Committee’ led by Sujato Bhodro mediating, in the ‘Jongol Mohol’. She made promises of landslide change but little has changed and later Kishanji was killed in a fake encounter. The region is now in a state of apparent peace.
Although the Maoists are not involved in the electoral process they have in the past tacitly supported one ruling party or the other – usually one that has agreed to grant their demands. Rajashekhar Reddy who now accuses the TRS of being in cahoots with the Maoists was himself at one point supported by them in his ascension to power.
TRS’s alliance with the Maoists in the respect that they have their support to some extent may be true but in the end it is but an “Articulation for Manipulation”. By supporting the legitimate demands of the Maoists TRS will rise in stature and gain a greater and wider support base – people that the Congress has by now alienated in spite of their desperate attempts at appeasement.
Everything considered there is no saying that once in power the TRS will not continue to overlook the Naxal Agenda as those before them. After all, threat to internal security is an almost infallible card played by every ruling party. The incessant propaganda that there is a threat to your life, we will protect you in return for your support and votes – is as old as the country itself. As such the ‘Naxal Terror’ card is still profitable enough to be relinquished.
By the standards of Leninism- each and every communist or socialist believes that a state structure is based on class struggle. The fight in AP and West Bengal is also to some extent very literal. Geographically, Hyderabad is the centre of power, and Adilabad the periphery; Kolkata is the centre of power and Darjeeling the periphery – as such being at the periphery of governance places separatist movements on thin ice. They can be supported or crushed as situations dictate.
So, you are saying that Maoists do not believe in the electoral process so have to tacitly support a ruling party leaving them at the mercy of the State. If so, then why do Maoists not enter the political arena?
“We participate in parliamentary democracy but we don’t believe as CPM and the other Left Parties do that total and necessary change can come through participation in parliamentary process. Ours is a tactical position, not a strategy.”- Abhijit Mazumdar, TOI
This was what Dr. Mazumdar had said in an interview with the TOI earlier. He held on to it and added that he himself being a Communist who subscribes to the electoral process has the same question to Maoists.
Would you subscribe to the view that the Maoist must make a shift from guns to ballots?
The Armed movements fail in a couple of ways. Mao and Charu Mazumdar both held the belief that – “Politics must be in Command not the Gun.” You cannot sustain a movement on arms alone; you must sustain it with politics. In India however the arms trumped the politics and there is only so much political sustenance you can do from your hide-outs.
Let me narrate an incident that supports my convictions in this case. In the 2009 elections, the PCPA (People against Police Atrocities) was led by Chhatradhar Mahato. The State Election Commissioner was to hold talk with the leader of the Jongol Mohol or Jangal Khand and review their 13 point charter of demands. The means where peaceful and no police were allowed entry. The first 6 points were even agreed upon – which was a staggering achievement. Mahato was more a social democrat than an arm wielding Maoist. Yet, he was booked under Sections 16, 18, 20, 38 and 39 of the UAPA* for his links with a terrorist organisation and raising funds for a terrorist organisation. The state called for joint action and marched against the people. The resistance being local failed and thus what could have been a pact for peace was crushed by State Repression under the pretext of guerrilla warfare.
What would the condition of Telangana and Seemandhra be in 5 years from now?
TRS’s goal is not unlike those of any other political party in the country. Now that they are a state party and a formidable one at that with a more or less defined vote bank, their eyes are on the Lok Sabha. There are 17 seats in the Lok Sabha from the Telangana Area. Dominance over these seats goes without saying. The Congress might have tried very hard to appease them but now that its own position seems questionable, the TRS has ditched them to hitch a ride with the BJP. The Seemandhra/ Telangana divide like the Gorkhaland issue is a major political agenda – one that will not be allowed to sink just yet. The emotions on both sides are high and ripe to be swayed as such the rivalry can buy the TRS much wanted bargaining power in the State and at the Centre. In 5 years we cannot expect the two sister states of Telangana and Seemandhra to be co-habiting the region peacefully and having an amicable arrangement with regard to the Water and Hydro-electricity Disputes. Uneasiness is to continue as long as it seems politically rewarding. In 10 years, though the situation may be worth giving a thought.
What is wrong with guns?
Well, in the Naxal Movement the guns were grabbed from the policemen. But technology has progressed by leaps and bounds. Armed rebellions need funding. Artillery is expensive hence there is always a look-out for sponsors. And guess what? In some places they are being supported by the ‘Corporate’ world in exchange for permission for excavations in certain areas. It is a cruel irony. These groups are unwittingly or knowingly selling out. The Corporates now control the state and the anti-state. The disputes are staged so that some people on both sides can continue to possess the power and respect that they have demanded till now. It is therefore, a vicious circle.
What is the bigger picture?
The big picture is dominated by the Crises of Capital. There will always be people who will be on the hunt for new markets, new people to exploit. By bringing someone to power and promising development, education, jobs and 3 whole meals a day much can be earned. By harping on age-old myths and fears – people can be coerced into submitting to someone else’s view on an agenda. The agenda of the power-hungry thereby takes precedence over the real agenda of the people. As long as one is trapped in this cycle it is impossible to hope for a radical change economically, politically and socially.
Is there a way out?
I am aware that students often lament over the futility of the whole exercise but it is really not Futile. The manipulative techniques will not work in the long run. In spite of all its deceptions the Congress could not hold on to power. People must in some way find the means to maximize profit from capital. The unholy nexus between the states and the corporates must be shunned. There is a need to join forces with the Social Democrats to envision a better if not ideal future. There is a great vacuum in the Left Movement and students, workers, peasants and people from all walks of life should take up the baton. There is need for a consolidation of the Left Parties and organization of a movement that will in time engage in Radical Politics (Radical but not Armed) to expose the roots of exploitation and nip it in the bud.
* Struggle – it was not won by any side. So I shy from calling it the War.
*Andhra Mahasabha – people’s organisation in erstwhile State of Hyderabad.
* Razakars – private militia led by Qasim Razvi to support the Rule of the Nizam
* 9th Schedule of the Constitution – dealt with the equitable distribution of the cultivable land by enacting Land ceiling laws and restricting ownership of cultivable land.
* UAPA – Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act , 1967
Any mistakes and clarifications should be directed to me and not Dr. Mazumdar as I cannot rule out the possibility that there might have been a difference in the way Dr. Mazumdar envisions it and the way I conceptualized it.