Discord over an accord

Published : Aug 27, 2004 00:00 IST

Ghadar, balladeer and the People's War's emissary, at the first rally by the organisation, at Enumamula near Warangal, on July 28. - MUSTAFA QURAISHI/AP

Ghadar, balladeer and the People's War's emissary, at the first rally by the organisation, at Enumamula near Warangal, on July 28. - MUSTAFA QURAISHI/AP

The prospects of a compromise between the People's War and the Andhra Pradesh government seem bleak as the naxalite group refuses to disarm cadre visiting villages, violating the agreement.

THE peace process involving the Andhra Pradesh government and the People's War (P.W.) group of the Communist Party of India - Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML), is heading for a stalemate with both sides remaining firm in their positions on the issue of naxalites carrying weapons while visiting villages for political work.

The impediment, which appears insurmountable judging by the tough stand taken by the P.W. leadership, pertains to a clause in the agreement signed between P.W. emissaries and the government to ratify the unofficial ceasefire that came into effect on June 16. It stipulates that P.W. cadres should not carry weapons when they organise meetings in villages.

The government insists that the P.W. areas adhere to this clause but the P.W. has declared that it would rather pull out of the peace process than accept the government's condition.

The stalemate, especially when the two sides were in the process of finalising the modalities for holding talks, is threatening to jeopardise the historic peace effort, undertaken under intense pressure from the Committee of Concerned Citizens (CCC) and various sections of people. As part of this effort, several meetings have been held between State Home Minister K. Jana Reddy and P.W. emissaries P. Varavara Rao, Gadar and Kalyan Rao in the presence of the CCC representatives.

In an effort to convey a message to the people that the government entered the talks process from a position of strength, the Home Minister wrote a letter to the P.W. leadership clarifying that the government insisted on implementing the disputed clause 7 because the movement of armed naxalites would make it difficult for it to control anti-social elements who also use weapons.

This clause was part of the document the P.W. emissaries had signed listing the guidelines for observing the ceasefire. It said: "Political campaign can be taken by any political party including People's War without carrying weapons during the ceasefire period and without affecting the peaceful atmosphere."

The document was signed on July 21, a day before the ban on the P.W. and its front organisations came up for review. Informed sources said the government had made it clear that it would extend the ban for another two months, if not a year, if the agreement on the ceasefire was not finalised on that day. Apparently, the government was worried that even a month after the unofficial ceasefire came into effect, a formal agreement was not arrived at. It did not want to be seen in public as bending over backwards to please the P.W. leadership.

The P.W. emissaries had signed the document in the presence of S.R. Sankaran, of the CCC and ten other observers, including civil liberties leader K.G. Kannabiran. Subsequently, the government allowed the ban on the organisation to lapse. Sources say that the government and the P.W. emissaries came to an understanding that Clause 7 would be made public by the P.W. at a later date.

However, even after a week, the P.W. did not disarm its cadre visiting the villages. At the P.W.'s "Martyr's memorial" meeting at Warangal on July 28, Varavara Rao and Gadar launched a diatribe against the government while reaffirming the party's commitment to armed revolution. The government registered criminal cases against the speakers. The P.W., in turn, accused the government of backtracking on the assurance and that it would not suppress freedom of expression.

EVEN as this controversy was raging, another storm was in the making. A day before the public meeting, a former P.W. ideologue, K.G. Satyamurthy, known as Sivasagar in literary circles, made public the July 21 agreement. He accused the P.W. of trying to give up the armed struggle by signing the document that contained the controversial Clause 7, which, according to him, was nothing short of giving up arms. In his speech at Warangal, Varavara Rao rebutted Satyamurthy's criticism by describing him as a revolutionary without popular support. This led to a war words between the two.

Meanwhile, the P.W. leadership claimed that the signing of the document was the result of some communication gap between its leadership in the jungles and the emissaries. It has been reiterating at all public meetings and press conferences that it has rejected Clause no.7 in toto. But there is no convincing answer from either side on why the P.W. emissaries signed the document on July 21.

Analysts feel that the clause which, if implemented, could cause confusion among the naxalites since such a stipulation would question the relevance of the gun in revolutionary politics.

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