30 years of Naxalbari

An Epic of Heroic Struggle and Sacrifice



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 PART — 8



Tasks in the New Conditions of Repression

Struggles Continues

Growing Armed Resistance


Till 1991, police operations were run separately by the respective state governments. But now the Central government set up a ‘Nodal Cell’ directly under the Home ministry, and a Joint Command of Operations came into being for the ongoing war of suppression. In December 1991 it rushed battalions of the BSF (Border Security Force) and ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) to Telangana to reinforce the already existing large force of CRPF, CISF and APSP. In May 1992 the AP government imposed a ban on the CPI(ML) (PW) and seven other revolutionary mass organisations (including RSU, RYL, RCS, JNM, SIKASA). Thus, what was earlier an undeclared war, was now turned into full scale counter-insurgency operations. Mass scale horrors, ‘encounter’ killings and forced ‘surrenders’ became the dominant feature for the suppression campaign. Within ten months about 160 encounters were staged killing over 200 persons. Thousands of people were arrested and tortured, houses were ransacked and crops and properties worth millions destroyed.

The method adopted was to encircle villages and then attack. The BSF, CRPF and the local police would gather forces ranging from 200 to 600 men and would suddenly swoop down and encircle a village or a group of villages, ransack all houses, destroy property and molest the women. Then, some suspect youth would be tortured and humiliated in front of all. All villagers, and especially the relatives of activists, would be served ultimatums to surrender the wanted persons. Some youth would be whisked away. In some villages this would be repeated a number of times in a single month.

Together with this suppression they combined vile propaganda, ‘reforms’, and set up their own rival ‘mass’ organisations. (eg. Janjagran Abhiyan in MP, and Shanti Sena in Maharashtra). The police officers themselves brought out handbills in the name of ‘praja vani’ (people’s voice), printed books, did propaganda through video films and through cultural troupes. The ‘reforms’ undertaken by a host of bodies (govt and semi-govt), involved giving grants varying from Rs. 20000 to Rs. 3 lakhs in the name rehabilitation, allotting house sites, granting land to chosen peasant youth - all with the aim of building a network of police informers in the villages. All these ‘reform’ schemes were run under direct supervision of the police. The police began setting up various organisations in the villages to try and isolate the revolutionaries, or, at least, build some support for their anti-people campaigns - the ‘village protection committees’ to gather information on squad movement, liquor prohibition committees, to create a network of informants amongst women, the so-called ‘Citizens forum’ to rival the village committees utilising the Sarpanchs and village elders and the Rajiv youth brigades to sponsor sport, drama, etc to wean away the youth.

The bulk of these organisations withered away with time, for lack of cooperation in the villages. But, during this period, through their informer network, they were able to apprehend and kill a number of leading party members. In January 1993 Com. Balanna, Warangal party district committee secretary and regional committee member, along with squad member Padmakka were murdered; on January 26, 1993, Com. Sankar, district committee secretary of Nizamabad and regional committee member was killed; Com. Vishwanath, of the Hyderabad city committee was murdered; also squad member Yerra Prasad and squad commander Naganna. But now, with each killing the funeral processions were turning into big political events. Breaking prohibitory orders, thousands and thousands would join the funeral procession, where hundreds would pledge to continue the work started by their heroic martyr. Between June 91 and end of 92 over 300 comrades had been killed.

This time the masses did not become frightened as in 1985....they were being steeled in armed struggle and slowly being drawn into the armed struggle against the state. But, with this new round of suppression, new tasks had to be formulated.

Tasks in the new conditions of Repression

The party had already declared that the Dandakaranya and North Telangana movements had reached the primary level of a guerilla zone. A guerilla zone is an area where both the revolutionaries and the ruling classes contend for power. In order to consolidate the primary level of guerilla zone reached by the movement in NT and DK, face the increasing state repression, and move to a higher level of guerilla zone, the party outlined the following tasks :

(i) To build two to three local guerilla squads under the central guerilla squad functioning at present, to gradually develop them into platoons

(ii) To separate political and military tasks in the squad area committee and to develop political and military leadership

(iii) To develop a military command from bottom to top

(iv) To consolidate the party organisation at the village level

(v) To establish the united front of revolutionary classes at the village level with the aim of establishing their political power through building the Gram Rajya Committees and to destroy the state power of the comprador bourgeoisie and landlord classes.

(vi) To establish peoples’ power by building village development committees, village defence squads, panchayat committees etc., under the leadership of the Gram Rajya Committee.

But once again during this period of severe repression the party was plunged into another internal crisis, this time led by the secretary of the CC KS and Company. While fighting KS’s opportunism and disruption within the party, it successfully faced the enemy onslaught by implementing the above guidelines. Though the movement faced problems, it was not as severe as in 1985. Though the peoples movement receded temporarily, this time there were no problems of food or providing protection to the squads.

Struggles Continue

In the initial phase of the repression a lot of the land occupied lay fallow. But slowly, due to the efforts of the local organisation, cultivation of these lands once again began. By end of 1994 land occupation struggles also picked up. Many landlords also began surrendering before the peasant associations. During this period the party worked out a policy on how land distribution should be done and the political and ideological criteria for this was set.

On peasant issues, a big movement developed for the reduction of fertiliser prices. With the government bowing to World Bank pressure the subsidy on fertilisers had been reduced and prices shot up. As the government did not restore the subsidies, merchants began selling fertilisers at exorbitant black market prices. Thousands rallied under the leadership of the sangams, raided fertiliser and pesticide shops and seized large stocks of fertilisers and pesticides. The peasants resisted the police lathi charge. Due to these movements blackmarketeering was reduced. In some areas peasants also refused to pay back bank loans and the hiked electricity charges. Besides, there had been big movements for the regular supply of electricity which was essential for running the water pumps.

On the workers front, besides the coal miners, RTC (bus transport) workers and bidi workers were organised in a big way during this period. Between 1990 and 1995 SIKASA had organised 1, 825 strikes which reached a new peak on April 14, 1995 when one lakh workers went on a twenty day strike demanding settlement of the 5th wage board agreement. Though the strike was opposed by the official trade unions over 90% of the workers struck work. This strike forced the wage board agreement on April 28 in Calcutta. But as the agreement was a sell-out, the strike was revived from October 16 to November 14, 1995. Big successes have been achieved through these struggles. The RTC drivers and conductors have been facing humiliating conditions of work under the establishment unions. Slowly, the workers have been shifting towards revolutionary politics and in some districts, like Nizamabad underground unions like AKASA (APSRTC Karmika Samakhya) have been established. In 1996 this union formed a front which led a series of agitations around a 60-point character of demands of which many have been granted. Bidi workers, mostly women, have also been organised around their demands.

Another unique struggle that took place during this period was the struggle of the prisoners. On the eve of the TDP’s electoral victory in 1994, the revolutionaries in jail sent an open letter to NTR, placing a charter of 54 demands, of which eleven were political, while the rest related to jail conditions. On December 26, 1994 revolutionaries lodged in the central jails of Secunderabad, Chanchalguda, Vishakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Warangal and district jails of Cuddapah, Nellore and Karimnagar jointly launched an indefinite hunger strike. The hunger strike received immense support from the other prisoners particularly the Muslim TADA detainees. Outside the jail, democrats swung into action in support of the prisoners movement. On January 4, 1995 the Home minister accepted 42 demands. Later the government back-tracked. On January 12, 1995 12 life-convicts in Hyderabad jail went on a fast-unto-death. The revolutionaries organised the prisoners for relay hunger strikes. From February 1, the prisoners went on an indefinite hunger strike, supported by relay hunger strikes outside prison. The movement gathered momentum outside the jail. The government reacted arresting intellectuals, writers, artists and other democrats. On February 9, prisoners resorted to a ‘Jail Bandh’ boycotting all daily duties. On February 15 a statewide bandh was called by the CPI (ML) (PW) in support of the struggle. On February 21 a ‘Chalo Secretariat’ rally and public meeting was organised. Finally, the government bowed down accepting, in writing, 40 of the demands.

Till today the masses continue their struggles. They have their ups and downs, depending on the intensity of repression....but already they have won large benefits to the oppressed masses.

Growing Armed Resistance

It is September 1993. Village Padkal in the Sirnapalli area of Nizamabad district. Meetings and discussions are just over. It was getting dark and just as the squad was preparing to leave the shelter on the outskirts of the village, all of a sudden hundreds of police surround the house and begin a barrage of fire on the house. Two of the women comrades are caught, mercilessly beaten and kept hostage by the police. The squad returns the fire but a burst of fire from the window of neighbouring house kills Sanjeev, the Deputy Commander. Now the police are also on the terrace, lobbying into their room tear-gas shells. It becomes unbearable and the bullets are running out. In spite of the heavy firing by the police, the squad stops the return of fire. It is 4.00 a.m. The police hearing nothing from the house decide to enter. As they rush up the stairs one policeman is shot dead. Others retreat, and as an act of vengeance they brutally kill the two women comrades.

The non-stop firing, tear-gas continues. It is 8.00 the next morning. Three comrades are left. But Com. Gopi gets hit by a bullet and is seriously injured. Squad commander Swamy and Com. Kranti continue the battle. It is now 1.00 p.m. in the afternoon. The DIG arrives and calls out the Swamy and Kranti to surrender, promising safe passage. Kranti decides to surrender, Swamy tries to persuade him of the futility. He hesitates, but after half an hours discussion (under continuous fire) he surrenders. Meanwhile, as Swamy is fighting the enemy single handed he finds Gopi trying to shoot himself. He prevents him. Gopi says that anyway he will fall into the enemy’s hands, so it is better to die. Swamy, consoles him and pervades him to fight to the end. Some time later, Gopi pulls the trigger with his foot and dies.

It is now 7.00 p.m. on the second day. The police set fire to a part of the house. He walks towards the staircase and finds the dead policeman’s A.K-47. He picks it up. Suddenly, sending a burst of fire, Swamy jumps over the broken walls of the house, and makes a drive for the bye lanes of the village. The police, stunned fire in his direction. But swamy has escaped into the lanes. The village is surrounded. No chance of getting out. He hides in a haystock. But soon thirst is killing him. Over 24 hours and not a drop of water. He comes out towards the nearest house. They give him water, but, terrified, ask him to go. He finds a garbage dump, covers himself with cowdung, and hides there the whole night. Meanwhile the police are searching every corner of the village, particularly the haystacks.

It is morning of the third day. The mother of the house comes to wash the vessels. As she throws the waste water on the garbage heap, it moves. She yells with fright. Swamy come out, explains that he is ‘anna’. He tell the frightened mother, he will go. She runs after him, saying, wait, they will kill you. After much hesitation, fear, she keeps him in a safe place. During the whole day she gives him food. She gives him the information that they have killed Kranti and cremated all five comrades. She asks him to leave at night. He does not, as he would be caught in the uniform. The next day the mother brings him a dress, she plans a disguise and leads him through a safe path into the forests. A few days later, militants come and take away the A.K-47 hidden in the village.

And so the Padkal encounter has become a landmark in heroism and courage. But Swamy is not alone. Last year the SIKASA DCM, Com. Sammi Reddy (alias Ramakant, Ashok) was similarly surrounded by over 500 police while he was taking shelter in the heart of the coal mining colony in Mancherial. In broad-day light, in front of thousands a nine hour gun battle ensued. In it, Ramakanth killed CI and a constable. Finally, the police burnt the house down, killing him and the lady sympathiser.

And so, the squads are learning to fight back. The government has been getting more and more ruthless. In the 1985-89 period 250 comrades were killed; in the 1990-94 period 500; and in the two years upto mid ’96 another 210, in the last eight months about 100. These include leading comrades like Puli Anjanna, AP State Committee Secretary, Comrades Venkataswamy, Reddappa and Sudarshan - AP State Committee members; Regional Committee member Com. Shankar, District Committee members Comrades Sammi Reddy and Allam Manohar, a number of leading lady squad members like Swarupa, Rukma bai, Lalita .....

With such a brutal offensive of the government, the Party has also been giving experience to hit back. In just the nine months between March 1996 and November 1996 the guerilla squads have conducted four raids on police camps - on Potkapally PS in Karimnagar district, on Yellavaram PS in East Godavari district, on Manpur PS in Rajanandgaon district of MP, and on Sirpur PS of Adilabad district - seizing 97 weapons of which 26 were semi-automatic SLRs. This was followed by the Karakagudem raid in Khammam district in January 97 giving a further cache of weapons. Besides these major raids, several Sparrow actions were conducted in North Telangana resulting in a further 20 weapons in 1996 and killing of 25 policemen in October/November ’96.

In any guerilla war, it is the enemy that is the main source of weapons. In the unequal war between the poorly-trained, ill-equipped guerillas with an inferior numerical strength on the one hand, and the well-equipped, highly-trained, overwhelmingly superior enemy force on the other, it is only by means of innumerable guerilla attacks, that the people’s armed forces can gradually accumulate strength.



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