Dialog with the People's War
[Early in 1997 a group of 15 citizens came together
to form the Committee of Concerned Citizens. It was an attempt to reflect
the voice of a large democratic section of the society which is tired
of being side lined in the game with people's lives being played between
the state and the 'revolutionary' parties. The moving spirit behind this
Committee is S.R. Sankaran, a retired IAS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre,
who has held several posts in the welfare and rural development areas
in the State and at the Centre (he was amongst the eight IAS officers
who were abducted by the PWG a few years ago. The State government requested
Shri K.G. Kannabiran to try to contact the PWG to get them released. He
walked long distance in dense forests searching for them and ultimately
succeeded in negotiating their release). The group has started a process
of open dialogue with the CPI-ML-PW on various issues. We have been publishing
excerpts their documents, now and then since December 1998. The CCC has
recently brought out its third Report in a book form. We have already
published excerpts beginning with February 2002.(Also)
Correspondence, press statements, and appeals in this three corned scenario
went on. There were unilateral ceasefires from the side of the PWG, more
then once, and there were talks between the emissaries of the PWG and
the State Government. Varavara Rao and Gaddar were the nominees of the
PWG. In the meanwhile 'encounters' continued. The PWG withdrew from the
table as a protest. We continue in this issue the last installment of
the report by the CCC. - Chief Editor]
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Committee of Concerned Citizens
Press Statement on furtherance of talks between Government and Peoples
War Appeal for breakthrough in talks
On the eve of the forthcoming talks on the 20th June 2002, the Committee
of Concerned Citizens reiterates its appeal to the Government and the
Peoples War to continue the talks in a spirit of give and take, as, people,
especially in Telangana, are anxiously looking forward to the outcome
of talks with high hopes and expectations. The Committee would urge that
the deliberations should be guided by the concerns and aspirations of
The Committee considers that ceasefire should be strictly observed by
both sides and peaceful conditions should prevail in the State till some
reason agreement between both the parties is reached. There should be
no fear or harassment from either side. It should be specifically ensured
that there is no loss of lives.
In this context, the Committee deplores the encounter near Govindaraopet
in Warangal district on 13 June 2002 with Prathighatana group in which
two people were killed and the incident in Dachepalli Mandal in Guntur
district on the 15 June, resulting in the death of one person reportedly
caused by Janashakti Group. The Committee once again urges all sides to
refrain from such inhuman actions as well as any utterances which will
hinder the process of talks. Notwithstanding these unfortunate incidents,
the Committee notes with a sense of satisfaction, the welcome change in
the overall atmosphere and the sense of relief among the people.
The Committee would like to emphasise that the present phase of talks
on modalities should lead to the emergence of a favourable atmosphere
and building up confidence for the next stage of talks. For this purpose,
the Committee urges both the sides to focus upon and agree on the essential
issues relating to modalities and continue the dialogue on other matter
at the later stages. Committee would strongly appeal to both the parties
that the talks should not be allowed to break down and must result in
a break through in the larger interests of the people of the State. --
S. R. Sankaran, Convener, Committee of Concerned Citizens, 17 June 2002
*** *** ***
The representatives of the PWG also issued a statement on June 18:
Press Statement By PW Representatives
Whose Demands Are Unrealistic? Who Has Been Flexible?
When the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War announced
both of us as its representatives, we held a press conference on June
1 and accepted that responsibility. In that press conference we recollected
the Chief Minister's wish, on the floor of the State Legislature on April
3, 2000, to talk to us. Since the negotiations would include political,
economic and social issues, we thought it fit to talk to the Chief Minister
and thus we reminded him of his own wish.
"Me? With them? They will ask unrealistic demands," commented
the Chief Minister in Adilabad. We didn't insist. We let it pass without
even raising it again. We offered our willingness to talk to political
representatives (though the nominees' political life hasn't even completed
probation). Even as we aspired that the talks should be held openly in
Lal Bahadur Stadium, we have come down to discuss in camera within the
four walls of the Commercial Taxes Minister's chamber, amongst four of
us. We asked for observers for the sake of transparency and we reminded
that the People's War strongly suggested the presence of the CCC members.
However, we are not saying we will go back on talks just because of that.
Initially the CCC recommended that both the parties should announce "cease-fire"
and implement their suggestions (six each), and if the ensuing conducive
atmosphere prevails for three months, the talks would begin. The People's
War categorically announced its "cease-fire" and implemented
it form on January 19 to March 12 Tupakulagudem "encounter",
and again from May 10 to June 10. The People's War had explained what
was meant by "cease-fire" and stuck to it by letter. On the
other hand, the government not only not announced "cease-fire",
but also went ahead with encounter killings on March 11 and June 5. In
fact, the government never stopped its encounter killings except for a
brief period from May 10 to June 5. As if to provoke, the government indulged
in encounter killings against different revolutionary organisations. Encounter
killings took place in Guntur, Vijayawada and Hyderabad in the name of
dacoits and robbers. There was no respite in combing operations and attacks
on villages as suggested by CCC. Even then the People's War has not obstructed
Mahanadu in Warangal or Janmabhoomi programmes elsewhere.
Even without waiting for three months conducive atmosphere, the People
War unilaterally declared its second "cease-fire" on May 8 and
announced its representatives on May 31. The negotiations began on June
5. The time and place were decided by the government itself.
Though we were supposed to decide modalities and withdraw and the first
meeting was supposed to be courtesy call exchanging pleasantries, government
invited us into the Secretariat with the encounter killing of Balanna,
a legal activist of Janasakthi. We never thought that encounters would
form part of the discussion on modalities. But that became inevitable.
The minister said they didn't know about the encounter. They said they
were embarrassed. They promised us that it would not happen again. We
trusted them. We believed that the government was unable to control the
police officers. We shared same feeling with press. However we told the
ministers that neither the encounter killings nor the deaths in the hands
of police (like encounters, lock-up deaths and firing on people) would
stop without booking each case under Sec. 302. In saying this we were
only echoing the recommendations of bodies like the National Human Rights
Commission to the Cabinet Sub-committee. The ministers responded that
it would be suffice to have magisterial enquiry.
Similarly we believed that the lifting of the ban would only be apart
of the agenda and we didn't want to discuss it under modalities. But we
said, if the People's War leadership were to come out to discuss the agenda
and demands charter, the ban and the cash rewards on their heads would
be obstacles and it would be a life threat for them. We put forth limited
demands of partial lifting the ban till the talks process ends and withdrawal
of cash rewards on at least the delegates for the talks. In fact we asked
the government to reconsider its decision on the ban in the light of the
demand of the opposition parties in the All Party Meeting to lift the
ban. We also clarified this not only as the People's War demand, but also
as the demand of the opposition parties. In this context we reminded PUCL,
National Prescient K.G. Kannabiran's suggestion to partially lift the
ban during the talks. We also reminded the People's War state committee
secretary Ramakrishna also suggested the same in a press release. The
ministers, at least in June 5 meeting, said they would reconsider the
lifting of the ban and it would not be difficult to withdraw the cash
prizes on the heads of delegates.
But, within a couple of hours, the Home Minister categorically said that
there was no question of lifting the ban. The Chief Minister, from New
Delhi or on arrival from New Delhi, went a step further and said there
was no question of lifting the ban until cessation of armed struggle and
coming back to the main stream. He asked whether there wouldn't be encounters
if they face each other with guns. This was a signal once again to the
police that "cease-fire" does not mean restraint on the use
of arms but cessation of arms on the part of the People's War. Thus encounter
killings have become a daily affair from June 5. Again, the government
wanted to show the seeds of despicable prejudice and doubt by killing
activists of other revolutionary organisations excepting the people's
Because of this in our second meeting on June 9, we could not go into
modalities and registered our protest on encounters and had to raise the
issue again. This time round we told them that these have to be seen not
as acts of uncontrolled police officials but as a government policy. We
demanded judicial enquiry into all the encounter killings between June
5 and June 8. More important than that we demanded the government to spell
out its policy on encounter killings. We told them that there would not
be any encounters if there was a government will and that was demonstrated
in several instances in the past as well as between May 10 and June 4.
However, this time round we didn't even see any embarrassment on the faces
of the government's nominees. They just said they would give directions
to the police.
We have added two more issues regarding the lifting of the ban, with additional
understanding we gained during June 5-9.
The ban on the People's War and the consequent implementations of the
AP Public Security Act is endangering the lives of millions of common
people. On the allegations of links with the People's War and being sympathisers,
thousands of people in Telangana have been arrested under the AP Public
Security Act. Bind-overs and harassment are daily occurrences. Thus, in
Telangana and North Andhra, common people are experiencing a terrorised
atmosphere where they are unable to raise their voice on simple issues
like water, electricity tariff hike, and drought. The ministers said that
a screening committee could be appointed on this but did not elaborate.
The government of Sri Lanka not only lifted the ban on LTTE before the
talks, but also seeking the government of India lift the ban and create
conducive atmosphere in the neighbourhood also. We meant that it was the
responsibility of the state government seek lifting of the ban under the
POTA as it was the state government which insisted to impose the POTA
on the People's War. Even then we did not want to insist on our point.
More over we wanted to register our protest only on that day. We brought
the issues of the interests of a large majority of the masses as a peace
initiative in the ongoing political history to the notice of the government
and the people.
Once again we reminded the ministers about the observers for the sake
of transparency. "Why do we need them in between" was their
comment. As we felt there was a change, or a demonstration of the change,
of words, trend and attitude. We thought the presence of observers was
Even as we are showing such flexible attitude, the government came out
with its unrealistic demand on June 9. The government handed over a written
note to us for the first time on that day.
As the fourth point in the Objective of Talks, the government mentioned
"to bring members of PW to mainstream by giving up armed struggle".
Even if we think the title of the note, Objective of Talks, is the objective
of the government. We would like to remind all the concerned that never
in the last six years of efforts - in the proposals of CCC and its efforts
in various statements, proposals and efforts by various civil and democratic
rights organisations and individuals - this demand was put forth.
Similarly, as a response to our note of June 5, the government categorically
said: as point No. 2 "Since lifting of ban is linked to armed struggle
it can only be part of a permanent solution" and point No. 3 "Removal
of names from rewards list will also be an outcome of permanent solution".
The point No. 5 "Government has already created conducive atmosphere
to facilitate the process of talks between PW and Government" is
another travesty of truth.
Let alone "already", even after June 9, would the June 13 "encounter"
near Koppugutta under Govindaraopet PS in Warangal district, create conducive
atmosphere for the third round of talks? Since June 5, the encounter killings
are directed against CPI(M-L) Prathighatana, a party that is not banned.
The June 13 encounter is not only against Prathighatana, but there was
also a woman in the deceased this time. She is 24-year old Jamuna hailing
from Mallampalli of Warangal district. She lodged a complaint in police
station against a person who ditched her and went to complain to the squad
the next day. The person was arrested by the police based on her complaint
only. He was an unarmed person. The police now concoct a story that she
became a squad member a week ago. Similarly Manthani Mallaiah, even if
he had Prathighatana politics, was an elected people's representative.
He was a ward member in Machapur gram panchayat. All these issues were
told by local people to the press and reported.
In the past AP Civil Liberties Committee had furnished a list of fake
encounters in the state and the National Human Rights Commission accepted
the prima facie of five cases and directed the state government to enquire
them as cases of murder. The June 13 encounter is also like that five
murder cases. The government very well knows about this.
It is not only about the conducive atmosphere where there are no encounter
killings. In the last couple of days there have been lock-up deaths. People
committed suicides due to police harassment. If scuttling the Gujarat
Victims Solidarity meeting in Karimnagar is a case prior to June 5, there
is the case of June 14 when thousands of people from Adilabad, Karimnagar
and Warangal districts were obstructed from attending Telangana Polikeka
Public meeting. Telangana Samanvaya Samithi -- consisting of Telangana
Jana Sabha, Telangana Aikya Vediaka and Telangana Sadhana Samithi organised
Telangana Polikeka rally and public meeting on June 14. The City Police
Commissioner refused to permit the rally and the meeting on the ground
that Naxalites from Telangana districts would mobilise people for attending
The government is yet to make it clear what is wrong in mobilising people
for a rally and a meeting on a specific political demand of a separate
state. When the organisers move the High Court, the meeting alone was
permitted. However, the Police violated the High Court orders and created
obstacles and stopped people from attending the meeting. We are referring
to this as all the obstacles and restrictions to this meeting were raised
on the pretext of Naxalites. In fact the meeting was a legal public meeting
held by three organisations headed by a Member of Parliament, a retired
professor and a government employee, respectively and they booked the
Nizam College Grounds duly paying the necessary charges.
This is the conducive atmosphere created by the government for the talks!
The newspaper reported that there was firing from the People's War also
after May 10 at Ainavolu in Mahabubnagar district. When we gathered the
facts, we came to know that a police officer went to that village along
with Special Reserve Police after knowing that Jana Natya Mandali was
performing in that village. An ordinary bus was stopped in front of the
police station and policemen rushed into the bus. Fearing that the police
were coming to attack them, the squad on the outskirts of the village
fired on the bus. There was an exchange of fire. Two passengers got injured
in the firing. This is unfortunate. It could have been avoided. Some more
care should have been taken.
It is also reported that the Khammam district secretary of People's War
threatened to take action against IAS officers also if the talks failed.
If he really said that, it is an over-reaction to be avoided. Some IAS,
IPS officers are themselves saying how the Gujarat carnage aggravated
due to dereliction of duties by IAS and IPS officers. We hope that government
would exercise that lawful legitimacy.
The political leaders of all parliamentary parties are themselves saying
that they are able to go to villages in relative freedom during the cease-fire
period announced by the People's War since May 10.
But blazing of the house of Narasampet MLA Revuri Prakasha Reddy at Keshvapur
village in Warangal district on June 17, by peoples war squad, in any
way will not help the process of talks. They should have thought a while,
before resorting to this kind of action.
At the same time we would like to remind that there is no loss of life
from peoples war side from May 10 to June 17. Whereas there are at least
10 unnatural deaths in the hands of police in the form of encounters,
lockup deaths and torture during these 40 days. We also request to think
about the declared and undeclared ban and consequent pressures and tensions,
and sense of insecurity that has been an obstacle on the propaganda of
not only the Naxalites but all alternative, opposition and democratic
politics since 1985.
The last to be mentioned but the basic issue is the unrealistic demands
of giving up armed struggle being put forth by the government as a precondition
and demand even before setting up modalities.
We do not want to discuss what is meant by mainstream here. But we would
like to ask whether anybody who proposed cease-fire and talks at any time
raised this issue as basis. We would like to ask whether this was the
basis of talks between the governments and the alternative politics anywhere
in the world. The CCC did not raise this issue as a suggestion or a condition
or a demand. This was not suggested by any democratic body or individual.
Nobody in All Party Meeting raised this. In fact CPI-M once and again
said that it would be irrelevant to seek the talks in the purview of the
Constitution and giving up armed struggle or putting them in the agenda.
Every body said that both the parties should implement cease-fire sincerely
and establish meaningful peace.
The government on one hand has accepted that the Naxalbari line is a social,
political and economic issue, though it has not accepted it as a political
solution for social problems. The solutions for social problems would
be there in the manifestos and practices of the political parties. They
would be there in the respective models of development. People will consider,
watch and find out for themselves in practice.
These are not the issues that would be clarified and settled by the representatives
of both sides and both the parties on a negotiating table.
In that sense, what is an unrealistic demand?
Whether it is the demand of the government that puts forth its condition
of giving up armed struggle even before setting up modalities.
Or our attitude that continues to go to talks despite the government's
such demands and continued encounters as a policy?
We request people and democrats to think over these issues. -- Gaddar,
Varavara Rao, Hyderabad, 18-06-2002
*** *** ***
The incidents of violence and the 'encounters' continues. The Committee
of Concerned Citizens however, is continuing its efforts. It has published
its well documented report covering the development up to November 2002.