Re-reading history

Re-reading history

Re-reading history

For close to three decades, naxalites held sway in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, especially of the backward, under-developed, feudalistic Telangana. Violence by the police and by the naxalites was a daily phenomenon. Lalgarh, therefore, is not new for the Telugu people; they have seen it all. In several villages of Karimnagar, Warangal, Nizamabad and Adilabad districts, the writ of the government did not run; police did not dare enter them. Naxalites ran schools, constructed dams and appointed teachers in government schools and paid their salaries.

For the last five years, all is quiet in Andhra Pradesh. A combination of state strategy, use of its superior fire-power, infiltration into naxalite ranks, ‘mistakes’ committed by the revolutionary parties as they went about consolidating their hold - all contributed to naxalites being put on the run.

Dr K Jayashankar, former vice-chancellor of Kakatiya University, Warangal believes that the Maoist party has not disappeared completely. “It can pick up any moment,” he asserts. Regarding the legacy of the M-L movement in AP, he said a major achievement was to bring about an “awakening” among the rural youth and elimination of the remnants of feudal elements. This awakening led to several movements of “identity assertion”, including those of Dalits, tribals and even the separate Telangana movement. Besides, this period saw a “renaissance” of rural and folk culture with the revival of songs and music, tapping into the huge talent among the oppressed communities.

Revolutionary poet Varavara Rao agrees. In the last three months, as many as 102 anthologies of poetry have been published. A re-reading of history is happening. For instance, tribal groups are ‘re-building’ their 3000-year history in Telangana. “The oppressed have discovered their voice…even illiteracy is not a barrier to youth in expressing their anger in the form of songs against injustice and exploitation,” he said.
Two other achievements that the revolutionary movement is proud of is that it eliminated the entrenched servitude and facilitated the assertion of people in more ways than one. For instance, the huge influx of OBCs and SC into mainstream politics in post-1983 days may be attributed to the glamour of N T Rama Rao and the formation of Telugu Desam Party, but the momentum for it was provided by the revolutionary movement. Earlier, only Velama doras and Reddys, the feudals of Telangana, were elected as Congress candidates. The situation changed beyond belief in the 1980s.

Importantly, the Dalits were no longer treated or shunned as untouchables nor were their women raped at will as under the feudal set up. No collective attacks or massacre of Dalits took place in Telangana as in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, nor were there any social boycotts.

Naxals & terror
But are the naxalites terrorists? Do they have relations with the Lashkar-e-Toiba as alleged by the Centre? “It is out of question,” said Varavara Rao. “Earlier they said we had links with ISI. Since that is now seen as a weak instrument of a weak (Pakistani) government, they are crying Lashkar..this is mainly to arouse Hindu sentiment against the Maoists,” he said.

If indulging in meaningless violence is the only criterion to be branded as a terrorist, says Dr Jayashankar, then Rayalaseema factionalist violence too should be branded as terrorist violence and the factionalists as terrorists. “In fact,  factionalist violence is worse because its perpetrators and practitioners have made inroads into politics and begun to dominate them,” he said.