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PUCL Bulletin, September 2004

Andhra Report:

Peace talks between State and CPI ML-PW

-- By K.G. Kannabiran, 23-7-04

Attempts were made, when I was President of APCLC after NTR and his Telugu Desam Party came to power in the State. It was after his return to power after usurpation through the instrumentality of the Governor Sri Ram Lal in 1984 towards the end of his elected term he was prepared for talks about proposals for abatement of violence on both sides. His sons-in-law Sri Chandra Babu Naidu and Dr. D Venkateswar Rao were sent to me, inviting us for discussions for what can be broadly termed as Peace Talks. At that time we never contemplated bilateral talks between the Ruling Party in the State and CPI ML PW. In the talks we suggested to NTR that land should be distributed to the landless on emergency basis and I recollect having suggested a committee consisting of BD Sharma, SR Sankaran, and Yugandar to ascertain the extent of land available and for monitoring distribution.

This course, we were confident, would lead to an abatement of violence. Instead he followed the short-term measure of withdrawing cases against some of them. Almost all the major cases were more for setting on record the history of the course of the Naxalite movement and thus hold them on short leash than for securing conviction. They were impunity enacted as Rule of law. Right from Parvathipuram Conspiracy case to the Bangalore Conspiracy case they were reframing a conspiracy charge after prosecuting the offenders for overt acts. As Mr. Alfred the investigating officer of the Secunderabad Conspiracy case, deposed before the court he studied the old records pertaining to the Naxalites, wrote out the first information report running into around forty pages. The technique is to draw up a complaint by the investigating officer and address it to himself. This tradition was set up by Veernarayan Reddy a police officer who investigated the Parvathipuram conspiracy case. Venkatreddy the investigating officer admitted quinquineally a conspiracy case was framed to cover the period. Two of them were conferred IPS on the basis of investigation. I do not know about Veernarayan Reddy.

All of them including the police officers that supervised the policy of encounters and participated in these killings were handsomely rewarded from out of the State exchequer and with promotions. Ramnagar Conspiracy case the last to terminate was for the period 1985 and was the first case under TADA.. In this case I was sought to be implicated and Investigation Officer was good enough to fix an appointment to interrogate me. If my memory is correct he came with one Krishnamurthy. It would have been foolish to implicate me. I told them in so many words and they were good enough to respect my advice. When NTR assumed power police had already become a lawless force and a law unto itself The CPI ML PW unleashed violence even against the police. There were abductions added to this sullied atmosphere. The State abducted Balagopal of APCLLC and released two days later. NTR sent his sons-in-law two days later. Our proposal for land distribution was obviously opposed internally and so nothing was done.
In 1989 Congress returned to power and Dr. Marri Chennareddi kept alive the decision to hold talks for peace. He lifted the ban and he suspended the operation of police impunity for a while and we used to carry on our dialogue and he also appointed a cabinet sub committee to the issues raised by Naxalites. Prof. G. Haragopal and I appeared before the Sub Committee. Lakhs of people attended the meetings held at Warangal and in the Nizam College grounds. Freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution were in full bloom for around three months. The Impunity was brought into force in full vigour and the Constitutional provisions recognizing their fundamental rights again stood suspended.

While arguing the case of Shakamuri Appaa Rao a member of CPI ML PW who was prosecuted under TADA a detailed discussion of the movement, the issues taken up by the movement and the brutal response by the State were narrated before the judge and our complaint on encounters was filed. We also produced socio economic analysis by professors in the field. During the period 1981 to 1996 May the Police killed 1140 Naxalites and the causalities among civilian population were 1805, and 242 policemen were killed. Mr. M N Rao who later retired, as the Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh was the presiding judge of Court along with Justice S.R. Nayak heard the case and they felt that something should be done.” Our intention” they said “ is only to highlight the immediate necessity for a solution to the current unrest… Despite its magnitude and menacing dimensions, the problem we think, does not admit of no solutions. A Peace Commission, with a representative character inspiring confidence in all sections of society including the Naxalites and the police backed by the State power and consent, we believe, can bring about a cessation of police encounters and violence by Naxalites and then only in the resultant peaceful atmosphere, a meaningful search for permanent solution possible” (Those interested in the full judgment reference may be made to 1993 (3) ALD 493.)

There cannot be a debate at a theoretical level between an exploitative order and the political forces fighting for its overthrow. Debate following this judgment started and the some who were apprehensive of such a prospect put forth objections about the possibility of such a course. An insistence on Constitutional beliefs and laying down arms were being aired about in all these debates. Around the same time some of us met in Sri S. R. Sankaran’s residence and were discussing the increasing trend of diminishing democracy in the State and were discussing ways and means of restoring and widening democratic space so that people may freely debate public issues without being branded as an extremist supporter. All of us were in search of democratic space and in the process we thought that our main agenda is to reduce political and State violence. We found that search for democratic space has to confront the endemic violence in the State, which effectively suspended governance in accordance with Constitutional value system. We formed ourselves into the Concerned Citizens Committee. Thereafter the entire work of the committee and their interventions with the Government and the CPI ML PW have been systematically recorded. And excerpts have been published in PUCL Bulletin

After the earlier talks the CCC has bought out a fresh volume covering from 1997 to 2002, which includes the talks held during TDP Rule. The Government had no interest in carrying on with the talks. As the PW representatives were struggling to formulate the agenda with two ministers one of whom was Retired CBI Director representing the Government. The Police and the CM Naidu made it plain that they are not interested in talks. CPI ML PW stuck to their unilateral declaration of Cease-fire despite continuous violence by the police. On 6th July Gadar and Varavara Rao withdrew officially from the talks making it abundantly clear that as the Government did not create conducive atmosphere they are withdrawing. The talks between the Representatives of PW and the Government on the modalities took place on 5 June 2002, 9 June 2002, and the 30 June 2002.
The CCC thereafter called for a meeting of all political parties on the 30 August 2002 at the New Press Club Hyderabad. At that meeting all the political parties gathered there unanimously resolved that in order to achieve permanent peace and tranquility in the State, the process of talks between the Government and the Peoples War, which was abruptly terminated due to failure of creation of conducive atmosphere, should be resumed and both the parties should respond with greater sincerity for this purpose.

The Congress CPI, CPI-M, BJP and TRS were present and were parties to this resolution. TDP and MIM though invited did not attend.

The attempt to assassinate N Chandra Babu took place on 1 October 2003. The attempt did not change his mind. All along he was committed to putting down the Naxalite movement by the enormous impunity granted to the police and also outsourcing this impunity to private gangs consisting of surrendered Naxalites. They were generally under the supervision of the police. The brutality they employed against the human rights activists of APCLC terrorized the rest of the people and thus assigned the role of silent spectators to the people TDP in the nine years of Rule killed 200 people on an average in encounters and around nine to ten civil liberties activists, four of whom were brutally done to death by the vigilante groups employed by the State. With this record his Party passed a resolution that Naxalites should be put down and this he announced he would make an election issue. He justified the World Bank running the Government and therefore Globalization also became an election issue. Thus World Bank Credit card and total impunity in the exercise of power were his election issues. After Bush he also repeated the imbecile slogan “if you are not with us you are with naxalites.”

The other parliamentary parties made talks as part of their election campaign and the Congress Party won in an unprecedented manner as a part of the election promise the State Chief Minister, Dr. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy started the peace process. The present peace process started from around the last week of May 2004. Home Minister Sri Jana Reddy set about his business earnestly and made phone calls to the human rights persons and started discussion going. CPI ML PW talked about setting up a Monitoring Committee whose job will be to check on complaints about violation of ceasefire agreement. The Home Minister identified a few Civil Liberties organizations including the State PUCL. To take up the job of monitoring identifying people in these organizations region or district wise has to be done.

The CPI ML PW nominated Sri S R Sankaran Convener CCC; Pothuri Venkateswara Rao renowned journalist and former Chairman of the Press Academy, also a member of CCC; Prof G. Haragopal also of CCC; B Tarakam a well known Dalit leader and writer and Senior advocate practicing in the High Court, also member of CCC; and I were nominated as their mediators. Apart from CCC they nominated, Prof G Seshaiah General Secretary APCLC. The CPI ML Janasakthi nominated Sri Keshav Rao Jadhav, a well-known Socialist and the President PUCL AP State Unit.
They requested Pendyala Varavara Rao, a well-known Revolutionary Writer, Gadar, the famous balladeer and Sri Kalyan Rao a fine writer and the President of the Revolutionary Writer to represent the Party for settling the terms of cease fire, the modalities and the agenda

The Government also nominated Mr. S. R. Sankaran as their mediator
We spent around two weeks finalizing the terms of the Cease Fire. It has been finalized and sent for approval to PW.
1. Neither party should act in a way leading to loss of life. They should not fire arms against each other.
2. Peoples War or their squads or cadres or PGA in the areas where they have their presence should not harm the police. Should not harass official police and other politicians and should not assault them. They should not collect explosives or lay mines. The police shall not embark on combing operations for arrest of squads, party leaders or sympathizers.
3. Peoples War shall not harm the person or life of the informers. Similarly the police should not indulge in any act causing harm to naxalites, sympathizers, or persons called militants.
4. Covert operations by introducing coverts into the parry should be stopped forth with.
5. The Government shall not encourage deployment of violence against the PW, their sympathizers or their people’s organizations. The Government shall control antisocial armed gangs and the Government and the police shall be solely responsible for lawful maintenance of peaceful (violence free) environment during the peace talks.
6. CPI ML PW shall not indulge in destruction of either private or public property.
7. With a view to ensure peaceful progress of talks, political campaigning can be carried but any political party members campaigning during the period shall carry no arms.
8. The police forces should not dog the steps of people who would like to meet the PW leaders in connection with the talks. They should not also prevent such meeting or harass for meeting or attempt to meet them.

We got stuck for several days to convince PW to accept the condition that during the peace talks they should not go about armed for addressing meetings. Their point of view is also understandable. They need protection from ambush in self-defence. These eight terms sent by PW and modified by the Government will be acceptable. The hitch is with reference to term eight. This was our proposal.

The step has generated a debate against talks. I have already participated in one.

The other aspect there was intense debate between the Home Minister and us is the question of the Ban imposed on CPI ML PW and its affiliated organization. It was banned under The AP Public Safety Act 1992. By the time some understanding was emerging the period of Ban was coming to an end on 22 July 2004. All the while we, including the Government, were ignoring the ban for holding talks. On 21st there was a four-hour meeting with us all and ultimately the Government announced its decision not to re-impose the ban.

 

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