Open Letter to the CPIML Peoples War

Reproduced below is a part of the correspondence of the committee of concerned citizens which was formed two years ago to initiate a debate in Andhra Pradesh on the question of state repression of the communist movement and the approach of a section of the communist movement to the annihilation of select individuals. The committee consists of S.R. Sankaran, Indian Administrative Service (Retired); K.G. Kannabiran, National President of the People's Union of Civil Liberties; Professors G. Hargopal and D. Narasimha Reddy of the University of Hyderabad; Potturi Venkateswar Rao, Senior Journalist; and Professor K. Jayasankar, former Vice-Chancellor of Kakatiya University.

Dear friends,

It is more than a year since we met you. We have documented all our earlier discussions in the booklet, In Search of Democratic Space, Moodo Gonthu Kosam in Telugu. We have also held discussions with different cross sections of people in the last few months and what we write reflects the public perception as expressed by various people. We feel that there is a need to continue the process of debate that was initiated by us and welcomed by you as well.

You will agree that today more than ever before the issues of public concern are being relegated to the background due to the exigencies of the immediate circumstances. These concerns need to be brought back into public discourse if we are to move forward towards a democratic society. That is why we are writing to you through the newspaper columns.

We also wish to mention that the State has failed to respond to our demands for humane governance. In this regard, we have addressed a letter to the Government expressing our concerns.

We are fully aware that you have suffered a very large number of casualties in the recent past. Despite that, we have noted that there has been a commendable decrease in the use of landmines and in the destruction of public property.

At the same time, we feel concerned to find a shift in the direction of your movement and the thrust seems to be more on the military objectives rather than mobilisation of people for social transformation. These trends are reflected in various incidents and events that are taking place. This militarisation of approach to social change has its own inherent limitations. This, we are afraid, stifles the democratic expression of peoples aspirations. It also aggravates violence in the society and sidetracks the question of social transformation. Revolutionary change in our view is a qualitative alteration of the existing social relations and creating new human beings who are superior in material and moral terms. It is the moral responsibility of any emancipatory movement to preserve all that is humane in the existing society. The neglect of this aspect could be the cause for degeneration of the surrendered Naxalites including important leaders who have spent their prime life as part of the movement. We also think that the behaviour of most of the militants is part of this process. We emphasise the fact that in several instances, sheer physical force has come to replace the democratic methods of spreading the movement.

We feel that your entire approach to the policy of targeting elected representatives need rethinking. We consider that this practice is unwarranted and is essentially power oriented. The public representatives are not your representatives nor are they of your persuasion. The accusation you level against them most often is that they have not effectively intervened against encounter killings. We have been condemning these killings on moral, political, legal and constitutional grounds. These are public issues and it is for the people to question the representatives about their indifference to this grossest form of human rights violation. We feel that you have converted what essentially is a people's issue into your private party issue and therefore, the people have got reduced to play the role of mere spectators.

We think that you are also not able to understand that people in a constituency face several problems in their interaction with the Government and some of the elected representatives do mediate and try to resolve these problems. In electoral politics, the peoples representatives with all their limitations try to retain adherence of the constituents by addressing the issues brought before them. Sripada Rao and such other people whom you have targeted or propose to target fall in this category. You should understand that the unjustified killing of Sripad Rao which we also condemned, brought public resentment against your action.

You may be aware that there is a judgement of the High Court and there is also a report of the National Human Rights Commission on encounters and the State Government never honoured them. Surely, you cannot expect an elected representative to be effective where the Courts and the Commission miserably failed. By no stretch of logic can we find the ineffectiveness in stopping encounter killings a valid reason to do away with a political representative. We are sure you will reconsider your position on political targets and desist from such actions.

When you are working for the overthrow of an entire exploitative order, there is no point in singling out a particular representative of the order as a target. If the entire system is to be transformed, the annihilation of a few select individuals is not going to bring about a qualitative change. During our earlier discussions, you did agree that the society cannot be changed merely by exterminating individuals and promised that the issue as to how to reduce loss of lives is receiving the attention of the party. The policy of individual annihilation is as flawed as the policy pursued by the Government which has come to believe that liquidation of activists individually will lead to the liquidation of the movement.

We have an impression that the movement has become somewhat insular, that it is unable to perceive that there is a specious logic circulating that the silence of the people against the wanton killings in encounters is projected as a social sanction for them. We feel that without compulsion, there can never be an abatement of these brutal killings. This context calls for building a strong mass movement against these undemocratic and inhuman practices of the Government.

We fear that your actions are often replicating the State violence. As an instance, we may mention that your refusal to hand over the body of a Sub-Inspector of Police in Khammam district is replicative of the State behaviour. The appeal of the police to the civil liberty activists in this connection was similar to the situations in which we had to appeal to the police to hand over the bodies of Naxalites killed in encounters. The recent kidnapping and killing of a homeguard visiting his native village is yet another instance of this nature.

We are not aware of your methods of mobilising resources. Several cases of extortion by all kinds of anti-social elements in the name of the party have come to our notice. It is the responsibility of a movement not only not to resort to inhuman extortion but prevent such undesirable practices.

It is necessary for you to review some of your political practices over the past one and a half decades. You will find the blowing up of property and acts of violence in response to encounter killings by police and the tremendous repression let loose by the State have severely constricted the role of the people and stifled the emergence of democratic movements on issues concerning the people. The Naxalite movement has come to mean essentially a confrontation between the police and the Naxalites. We do feel that you should revise your policies so as to permit the emergence of forces willing to work for democracy. Such forces do exist and will grow if opportunities for public protest are not so constricted by a climate of violence. We would like to say that your creativity must lie in allowing the unhindered and uninterfered enlargement of democratic space.

We are also concerned about the forthcoming general elections. We have always been holding that it is open to anybody to canvass for boycott of elections. This is not forbidden even by the election law. But when we met you last, we also emphasised that boycott of elections cannot be enforced by physical violence. We reiterate our earlier stand that you should observe restraint and do not use any force in the coming elections. The periodical democratic processes like elections with all their limitations will enable the masses to assert and articulate their aspirations to a certain extent. In the growing authoritarian culture, this would also in the long run contribute to the enlargement of democratic space. We have also been observing over the past decade that despite your call for election boycott, the people have not responded for different reasons. There is also a perception that in certain constituencies, you have soft-pedalled the boycott call. This leads to duplicity and will not contribute to the creation of an alternative democratic culture.

Circulated by S.R. Sankaran For the Committee of Concerned Citizens

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