30 years of Naxalbari

An Epic of Heroic Struggle and Sacrifice



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 PART — 5



By the end of 1979 itself it became apparent that the government and landlords would resort to much more brutal repression for snuffing out the peasant struggles of Karimnagar and Adilabad. In order to face this situation it was imperative that, apart from extending the area of operation, the peasant movement be raised to a higher level.

In the course of any revolutionary movement critical moments are reached, when hard decisions have to be taken to advance the movement to a higher stage, or, get pushed back by the enemy forces. At such critical

moments any faltering, any hesitation to advance, leads to the loss of initiative on the part of the revolutionaries and can lead to confusion and disarray in the ranks. The movement in AP by 1979 had reached such a critical stage. To advance, now meant, making necessary preparations to take on, not only the landlord classes, but also the police and para-military forces. Preparation for such an eventuality, meant not only adoption of new forms of struggle, not only new methods of organisation, but also the military preparation of the party. Military preparations not only implies acquisition of weapons, but the political, organisational and military consciousness which enhances the Party’s striking capacity. Above all, it meant, that the people had to be mentally prepared to take on such a struggle.

To take a correct decision at such a crucial moment was a key factor to determine whether the movement would advance or retreat. It was, infact, at such crucial moments that the Indian Communist movement has faltered. On a number of occasions the anti-feudal, struggles had reached a high pitch, but when the Indian state machinery intervened with all its might the movements were either crushed, or, the leadership beat a hasty retreat. During the earlier Telangana movement (1948 to 1951) the leadership betrayed the movements, while the numerous anti-feudal struggles in the wake of the Naxalbari uprising were brutally crushed. It is in this context that the Party’s document ‘Perspective for a Guerilla Zone’ has a historical significance. The general line of taking the movement towards a guerilla zone and liberated base areas already existed in the tactical line. What was more relevant was to work out the concrete political, organisational and military details to take it in that direction. The guerilla zone document fulfilled this task. That too, at the right moment.

Guerilla Zone Perspective

Though the movement in Warangal and Khammam districts was at a lower level than that in Karimnagar and Adilabad the document combined all four districts in the proposed Guerilla Zone. The districts were closely interlinked and had a contiguous forest area. In order to take the movement towards a guerilla zone the document first and foremost, focussed on building the party deep amongst the masses. It outlined that not only all the mass organisations should be built at the village level and made functional, but also the village-level party cells should be built with part-timers. It also focussed on the chief party organisers, now called Central Organisers or COs, who were to move as a sort of mini-squad 1CO+2 Squad members) all of whom would be armed. Each CO group was to be allocated a fixed number of villages (15 to 20) to develop.

The document foresaw the fact that, when the government repression intensifies in the four districts it would become necessary to build a rear in the forests on the other side of the Godavari river - i.e. in the Dandakaranya forests. Given this reality, the document pointed out, that it was necessary to immediately make proper arrangements for such an eventuality.

Having said this, the document right away went on to outline the tasks of the squads that were to enter the Dandakaranya forests. It said, that these squads should take on the following tasks :

1) To provide protection to squads that temporarily retreat from the four districts of the guerilla zone and to help them to counter-attack the enemy.

2) To organise tribals in the forest areas and to extend the struggle, building the Party and revolutionary army from among them.

It also added, that as the prominance of point (2) increases, the task of the Dandakaranya movement would move in the direction of taking it to a higher plane.

Finally the document concretely suggested, that one-third of all organisers and committee members from North Telangana should be organised into squads and sent to the forests.

In accordance with this document, which had been thoroughly discussed throughout the Party in 1979 itself, in June 1980 seven squads (of about five to seven members each) entered the forests. Initially they faced immense problems in getting roots amongst the tribals, specifically in the light of the police repression and combing operations, that started immediately. Yet, before the enemy’s first suppression campaign began in 1985, the movement spread like wildfire, even beyond the Party’s expectations.

Movement’s Extension

In North Telangana, the movement extended to all the talukas of Karimnagar and Adilabad district, except one taluka in each. In Warangal district the focus developed from an urban to a rural movement. The movement in Khammam during this period faced some losses but that of Nizamabad saw big gains. The working class movement saw big gains amongst the one lakh and ten thousand coal miners in the Singareni coal belt.

In the Dandakaranya forests, the movement spread to the Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Bhandara districts of Maharashtra; Bastar, Rajnandgaon and Balaghat districts of Madhya Pradesh, and to Koraput district in Orissa. In Andhra Pradesh the movement spread to the East Godavari and Vishakhapatnam forest areas.

(1) Dandakaranya

In Dandakaranya the movement was initiated by fighting against the arbitrary authority of government officials of the forest, revenue and excise department who had been ruthlessly plundering the tribals. Also, struggles broke out against the management of the paper mill and contractors exploiting the forest produce. Big movements were built for enhancing the wage rates for tendu leaf collection. Also, peasants were mobilised for raising the support price of cotton. From the very beginning land struggles was a major issue. Within the very first year the tribal peasantry stopped paying a variety of taxes to the forest department and began occupying forest land for cultivation. Within one year two lakh acres was occupied. Some land, forcefully occupied by traders and moneylenders was taken back. Also lands occupied by middle and rich peasants from the plains (non-tribals) was divided equally (50:50) amongst them and the problem settled. Anti-famine struggles took two forms - first, through the collection of paddy from donations; also paddy banks were started, where the peasants pool some amount of paddy in these banks at the time of the harvest and then draw on the stocks in times of need. Second, through famine raids on the houses of landlords, moneylenders and traders who hoarded grain. Thousands took part in the famine raids. Apart from these struggles, struggles were also taken up to stop the building of roads and cutting of forests and also for the recovery of losses suffered due to bauxite mining in Bailadilla (MP).

In the Dandakaranya region two big mass organisations were built - the Dandakaranya Adivasi Mazdoor Kisan Sangh (DAKMS) and the tribal women’s organisation KAMS (Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sanghatan). The Sangams grew in stature to become symbols of struggle to the tribals. Slowly all disputes began to be settled by the sangam, whether a village dispute, a family dispute, a marriage dispute, a caste dispute or something related to tribal customs or community affairs. Also a relentless struggle was waged against backward tribal customs and traditions like human sacrifice, witchcraft, superstitions resulting in ill-health and disease and against practices which do not allow women to fully cover their bodies.

In 1980, six party members, organised as a squad, crossed the Godavari and entered Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. Squad members recount how the tribals just on seeing them would flee into the hills. When they entered villages there would not be a person left, except may be a few very old and some children. Chatting with the old, playing with the children, sometimes physically catching hold of tribals and forcing them to listen, was how the ‘Annas’ (i.e. big brother as they are known) found their way into the hearts of the tribals.... and came to be loved by them. But, within six months of entering the area the 18 year old Peddi Shankar was shot in the back and became the first martyr on Maharashtrian soil. But, the movement grew, and with it Shankar became a legend........a part of tribal folklore. By the time the Kamalapur Conference was called in 1984 the movement had grown like a tornado. The government banned the conference, sealed all roads leading to the village, arrested the speakers, journalists, students, folk artists-infact anyone who was moving in the direction of Kamalapur. From three days before the conference, police reinforcements combed the forests attacking and dispersing the tribal processions which flowed like streams, from all directions, towards Kamalapur. They encircled Kamalapur. Yet, on the day of the conference, playing hide-and-seek with the police, 10,000 tribals reached Kamalapur

and hoisted the DAKMS flag. The police lathi-charged.....the flag fluttered and then fell......but the conference was held.....not in Kamalapur but in Nagpur jail.

Specifically notable about the Dandakaranya movement was the awakening of women. The Sangam stood against forced marriages, against child marriages, and against all the age-old customs that degraded women. The KAMS became a powerful force with its own organisers, its own structures and its own revolutionary programme linking women’s liberation to the new democratic revolution. When the suppression began in 1985 the KAMS was as brutally attacked as was the DAKMS.

(2) North Telangana

While in this five year period the movement took roots in Dandakaranya, in North Telangana (NT) the movement spread and also grew more intense. In NT thousands of acres of government land (occupied by landlords) were distributed to the landless and in some areas even landlord’s land was seized. When the landlords began fleeing the villagesand tried to sell their land, the party imposed a ban on the purchase or sale of all













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