The poet P. Varavara Rao, a member of the All India League for Revolutionary Culture (AILRC), was one of the People's War Group (PWG) representatives who participated in the preliminary rounds of negotiations. He is committed to the cause of revolution and is known to speak with irrefutable logic. Varavara Rao held negotiations with the State government representatives thrice, paving the way for a direct interaction between the PWG and the government. Excerpts of the interview he gave K. Srinivas Reddy:
What made the PWG come out for talks, its strength or its weakness?
As far as I understand, the PWG is ready for talks because of its strength. The very fact that it is willing to send its members for talks irrespective of whether the government creates an atmosphere that is conducive to talks shows its strength. If it was weak (as the government would believe it is), it would not have come out with such an offer. It is beyond doubt that the PWG is respecting the popular demand for a cessation of the spiral of violence in the State.
The government insists that armed struggle as part of any political philosophy is not acceptable in a democracy. The PWG, on the other hand, has asserted that giving up of armed struggle is not part of the offer of negotiations. Are the two sides not heading for a stalemate?
The government is changing its stand from time to time. The list of objectives prepared by the government for talks does not include the issue of armed struggle. But if the government wants to discuss this, it can do so when the PWG members come for talks.
But I would like to point out that all over the world, be it in Nepal or in Sri Lanka or in the ongoing negotiations with the NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagalim), the basic understanding is to sit across the table and discuss while observing a ceasefire; not after the withdrawal of armed struggle. The change in stand came after the Chief Minister held a review meeting to take stock of the situation. I may also point out that the PWG criticises all programmes of the government, but it did not put forward a precondition that the government withdraw all or some of these programmes before holding talks.
There is suspicion that the PWG may use this let-up in anti-extremist operations to its advantage?
What we should understand is whether the objection is to the PWG getting politically strengthened or to offences (being committed by the PWG) during the ceasefire period. The PWG had clearly defined what its unilateral ceasefire meant. No attacks on the police, politicians or informants.
If the government is taking objection to the offences, it can go by the rule of law, but it cannot certainly object to political propaganda. What is wrong if a political party takes political advantage? Isn't it the case of a government stifling political activity in the name of curbing violence?
Will the killing of two PWG activists in Khammam on June 24 hamper the peace process?
It is clearly a provocative act and it shows that the government is not keen on continuing talks. I appeal to the people and to democrats, particularly the Committee of Concerned Citizens (CCC), to intervene and pressure the government to stop these encounter killings and create an atmosphere that is conducive to talks.