Maoist supreme commander Ganapathi on the Naxal push into urban spaces, Rahul Gandhi's role in Vedanta’s Niyamgiri project and more
During a recent trip to a Maoist base in Dandakaranya, Rahul Pandita had left a questionnaire for Maoist Supreme Commander Mupalla Laxman Rao alias Ganapathi, who had given him exclusive access last year for an interview (see ‘We Shall Certainly Defeat the Government’, 23 October 2009), his first ever. This time, Ganapathi has sent his replies in writing, covering a vast range of issues from Maoist leader Azad’s death and Rahul Gandhi’s role in Vedanta’s Niyamgiri project, to Maoist violence, their push into urban spaces, middle-class fears of their agenda, and chances of talks with the Centre. Excerpts:
Open: At present, your movement is confined to remote forest areas, operating among Adivasis. You are also not attracting youth from urban areas as you used to in the past. Your critics say you cannot extend to urban areas and that you will never be successful in Gurgaon as you have been in Giridih, Jharkhand. Does this worry you?
Ganapathi: After merger [of two major Maoist groups in 2004], we have emerged stronger in some areas and weaker in others. Among the areas where we have become weaker, there are some plain areas and some urban areas. Among the areas where we strengthened ourselves, there are some remote areas and some plain areas. Such ups and downs may be inevitable in a protracted war. It is not true that we have been completely eliminated from the urban areas and plains.
We have gained many experiences in urban areas. It is true that at present we are not able to mobilise workers, students and intellectuals as we had done in the 1970s and 1980s. There have been some considerable changes in those conditions. It has become very complex to work in areas where the enemy is strong and in the trade union movement, where revisionists have entrenched themselves. But [true] revolutionaries will definitely overcome this. In order to liberate this country, we have to concentrate on organising the peasantry.
All the riches between Giridih and Gurgaon have been produced by people from poor areas like Giridih. It is the poor, Dalit and Adivasi labourers who are spilling their sweat and blood for the construction of huge mansions and infrastructure by Indian and foreign corporate lords. The majority of the workers and employees who work in the shopping malls and companies are from these areas. Either in terms of social, economic and cultural ties, or in terms of movement relations, Gurgaons and Giridihs are not two unconnected islands as such. They are both influencing each other. This is creating a strong base for our extension. If Giridih is liberated first, then based on its strength and on the struggles of the working class in Gurgaon, Gurgaon will be liberated later. This means one is first and the other is later.
Open: In urban India, the middle class has many doubts and apprehensions about the Maoist movement. They fear that if Maoists grab power, they would be annihilated and that their properties would be confiscated. Would you like to allay these fears?
Our very revolution is concerned with the proletariat, peasantry, middle classes and national bourgeoisie. Among these classes, we consider the middle classes to be a reliable ally of the proletariat. They are completely affected by the pro-imperialist policies of the Government. They are in fact facing great insecurity. The lives and livelihood of the middle classes are seriously threatened by these policies of the ruling classes and by the economic crisis shaking the world, and not at all by us. The properties we would confiscate as part of the new democratic revolution belong to landlords, the comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie and imperialist corporations, and none other.
Only a very small percentage of the upper crust among the middle classes join the upper classes and turn anti-people. But the entire middle bracket, the majority of intellectuals and democrats who belong to the middle classes, would either join the movement or stand in support of it. Not only during the revolution, but in a post-revolutionary society too, the role of intellectuals in building a new society would be excellent. When they join hands with working people, we will be able to complete the revolution sooner and also build the new society at a rapid pace. Due to prejudices propagated by the ruling classes and some of their stooges who lick their boots, a negligible number of them may have some fears, but we want to clearly say that it is not at all the truth.
Open: After Rahul Gandhi intervened in Vedanta’s Niyamgiri plans, it is being said that there is no need for violent movements like the Maoist movement and that problems can be solved by exerting pressure through peaceful and legal activism.
The success on the Vedanta issue is a result of the determined, united struggle of the Adivasis of Niyamgiri Hills, and a result of the impact of the struggles at Kalinganagar, Singur, Nandigram, etcetera. The Central Government had to cancel permission [to Vedanta’s bauxite mining project] in an inevitable situation, and now they are falling head-over-heels to portray Jairam Ramesh, Rahul Gandhi and the likes as saviours of the people. In fact, they should have arrested and punished the Vedanta management for gross violation of rules and regulations and the political leaders and government officials for their patronage. On the other hand, this same Government had given permission to the massive Polavaram project at the same time that [Vedanta’s] permission was cancelled. This is one of the biggest multi-purpose projects in the whole world. This would lead to the biggest displacement in the whole of India. After permission was cancelled to Vedanta, the very next day Rahul Gandhi went to Kalahandi and said that he was on the side of Adivasis. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
If the Adivasis of Niyamgiri Hills think that they have won complete victory with this, it would be a mistake. They have to stand on their own feet and prepare themselves for a protracted armed struggle in a united and consolidated form. Instead of that, if they place their hopes and trust in Rahul or NGOs and have illusions about them, then another company may replace Vedanta, or we need not be surprised if Vedanta is given permission in some other form.
Open: Maoists have also been criticised for killing police and paramilitary personnel who clearly belong to poor and middle-class families. You say that you fight for the poor and yet you kill poor police personnel.
Any politically thinking person should understand that the State and its machinery are the means of the ruling classes for carrying out exploitation and oppression. The crucial components in these are the police, paramilitary and military. The number of exploiters is always very limited. They would not even constitute 5 per cent of our population. But they hold the means of production… and have built up the police and military to exploit and suppress the vast masses that constitute the majority.
In our areas, some individuals from the police and paramilitary forces meet us. They help us and we help them too in various forms. Only when government forces come to attack us with guns do we attack them in self-defence. Our repeated appeal to lower-level personnel in the police and paramilitary forces is—please do not betray your own class, don’t serve the exploiting classes, don’t attack the people and revolutionaries on your own consciously in a revengeful manner, join hands with the masses and turn your guns against the real enemies and not on your class brothers and sisters. What you are doing is not service to the people, but service to the exploiting classes. So stop serving the exploiting classes like slaves. Don’t just think of your livelihood, please think about the people and the country.
Open: After Azad’s death, is the CPI (Maoist) still willing to engage in a dialogue with the Indian Government?
In fact, you should put this question to Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh. For the past one-and-a-half years, Comrades Azad, Kishenji and I have been stating our party’s stand regarding talks. The Government has been hiding the endless brutal violence it has been perpetuating on the people, and has been announcing each time that talks would be held only if Maoists abjure violence. Chidambaram has been shouting these words from rooftops.
People like Agnivesh are asking us not to retreat from the dialogue process and to come forward for talks even after the cold-blooded murder of Comrade Azad. We want to ask them if they would be able to stop such conspiracies and plots the Government is hatching to kill our party leaders! Doubtless, Comrade Azad was killed by the Government in a conspiracy. The post-mortem and forensic reports too prove this beyond doubt. So we request all democrats, peace-loving intellectuals and human rights organisations to come forward with a firm demand that a judicial enquiry be conducted on Azad’s murder.
It is crystal clear that there is no conducive atmosphere for talks. In spite of this, we request the people and democrats to demand that the Government proves its commitment to the process of talks by coming forward to implement the following steps:
1. Stop Operation Green Hunt. Withdraw the paramilitary forces. If the Government stops its offensive against the people, then the counter-offensive of the people would also stop.
2. Lift the ban on the CPI (Maoist). Ours is a political party like many other parties in this country and the world. Our party has an ideological and military line and aim, and also correct, clear-cut policies on matters relating to culture, caste, gender, nationality, ecology, etcetera. Even according to the laws formulated by these ruling classes, democratic rights would apply to our party. So the ban on our party and mass organisations should be lifted. Absolute democratic opportunities should be created for mass mobilisation. We can come forward for talks only under conditions where we could work democratically.
3. Release party leaders from jail. In Andhra Pradesh, Comrade Riyaz who had participated in talks with the Government in 2004, was caught and murdered after brutal torture. Others who participated in talks were targeted and attempts were made to assassinate them. Now Comrade Azad, who was working to facilitate talks, was murdered. So, it is not possible to believe [the Government’s offers] and send underground comrades for talks. Therefore, if the Government releases our leadership comrades from jail, then they would directly represent our party in the talks.
We want to make it clear once again that any questions regarding talks should be put to the Government first and not to us.
Open: But the Government denies the existence of Operation Green Hunt outright!
If we look at the number of police forces deployed in nine or ten states against our movement, it would be nearly 300,000–400,000. What is the reason for deploying such a huge contingent of forces? What are these forces doing on a daily basis? Why are they increasing carpet security and the construction of base camps, special training units and jungle warfare schools? Why are the police budgets of states increased to such huge amounts so rapidly? Why did the Government release a package of Rs 13,500 crore all at once? Why was a huge sum of over Rs 1 lakh crore allotted for internal security? Why are the Central and state governments spending thousands of crore annually with the evil design of eliminating our movement? Why is the Government carrying out mopping up campaigns in our strong areas like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orrisa Maharashtra, North Andhra and North Telangana? Mopping up means destroying everything. Anybody can be killed, arrested, raped—and property, houses, harvests and everything can be destroyed. All this is nothing but fascist rule.
It is as part of this war that the enemy is concentrating on our leadership and killing them in the most brutal manner, and putting them in jails by arresting them in an undemocratic and illegal manner. The Government has chosen armed repression as the main form of carrying out this war. It is carrying out its offensive in all other spheres—political, ideological, psychological, cultural spheres—as a multi-pronged attack.
Open: The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) has repeatedly accused the Trinamool Congress of close relations with Maoists. Mamata Banerjee had even demanded a judicial probe into Azad’s killing.
We are not at all surprised that Mamata Banerjee had demanded a judicial probe into Azad’s murder. Anybody who is familiar with the political situation of Bengal would not be surprised by this. Democratic organisations and renowned personalities are demanding a judicial probe and that Azad’s murderers be tried for murder and punished. This demand represents the people’s aspirations. She demanded a judicial probe by taking this into consideration. Why would she have any respect or affection for Azad? Who would feel that Azad had been murdered in the most unjust manner? Only people who think that the political aim for which Azad had fought is justified, only those who support it, and only those who are committed to genuine democracy would sincerely condemn his murder. Others may condemn it for various reasons. Mamata is also one of them.
Even if Mamata Banerjee comes to power, she would not seize the land of landlords and distribute it to the poor peasantry, nor would she seize the industries of imperialists and the bourgeoisie. People would not have a chance to participate freely in elections. This means that even if she comes to power, there won’t be any fundamental change. However, if the Trinamool comes to power after a long rule of social fascists, it would definitely try hard to gain a tight grip over the administration. During this period, keeping in view the election promises, she may temporarily stop attacks on the people. But this would be only temporary. Later, people would have to fight against her government too.