People's Union for Civil Liberties

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The Rediff Interview/ K G Kannabiran

April, 2000


&;Naidu&;s utterances only show the duality in his approach to Naxalism&;

K G Kannabiran, civil rights activist and prominent lawyer with leftist leanings, has been advocating a dialogue between the government and the outlawed Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist People&;s War for a lasting solution to the 33-year-old Naxal problem. 

He headed the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee before he became the president of the People&;s Union for Civil Liberties. Though he has been labelled a "frontman" of the Naxalites, successive state governments have utilised his services whenever in trouble. 

Kannabiran had successfully negotiated the release of seven IAS and other top officials who were held hostage by the PW extremists in East Godavari district in December 1987. Again, in May 1991, he secured the release of then Congress MLA P Sudhir Kumar, kidnapped by the PW from Hyderabad. In January 1993, it was he who returned then Congress MLA P Balaraju, IAS officer D Srinivasulu and six other officials in Visakhapatnam district from the PW.

In an exclusive interview to Syed Amin Jafri, Kannabiran talks about the "duality" of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu&;s approach to the extremist problem. Excerpts:

How do you view Chief Minister Naidu&;s offer to Gaddar and Varavara Rao to participate in the all-party meeting on Naxalite issue?

This is not something new. We [in the PUCL and APCLC] have held talks with two chief ministers earlier -- N T Rama Rao and Dr M Channa Reddy. We also had talks with the present chief minister as well. We had made the same proposals. We told all these chief ministers that as the first condition for you to negotiate, you have to stop all encounters. Unless that is done, the ground will not be clear for candid talks.

But what was your initial reaction when Naidu made the offer?

When he made this call I was surprised. Because, just before the death of Panchayat Raj Minister A Madhava Reddy [ in a landmine blast last month], we had met the cabinet sub-committee on peace and harmony headed by present [AP] Home Minister T Devender Goud. We spent two hours on this issue but there was no response. 

I am really happy that the chief minister has invited Varavara Rao and Gaddar, as this is an admission by Chandrababu Naidu of the failure of his approach to treat the Naxalite issue as a law and order problem. It has come because of the realisation in his party and government of the futility of his policy of annihilation of Naxalites. We welcome any such moves for talks. If he negotiates, we will be happy, because we must encourage the dialogue to find a solution to this problem.

Do you lay any preconditions for talks?

Apart from this dialogue, the government must take four basic steps. Firstly, it must revive all the welfare schemes. Secondly, it must create sustenance for marginal farmers. Thirdly, it must distribute the lands to the poor to sustain themselves. And fourthly, it must create tremendous opportunities for employment for the rural and urban poor. Unless these pre-conditions for tackling the socio-economic problems are met, nothing much can be achieved. If these conditions are fulfilled, adherence to violence will be reduced.

I have been saying it for the last 33 years that there cannot be any abatement of violence in the radical movement as long as the state creates and uses the repressive machinery against the Naxalites. The radical movement by itself does not resort to violence. But the state creates conditions wherein radical violence occurs.

What happened in the past when you interacted with N T Rama Rao and Channa Reddy?

We had appeared before a cabinet sub-committee constituted by Dr Channa Reddy. We had presented a paper to the committee. In its report, the committee also appreciated our suggestions and made its recommendations. Nothing happened. 

NTR too invited us for talks but nothing much happened. What is going to happen with Naidu&;s meeting? Nothing.

Will the proposed all-party meeting yield any results?

For negotiations to be free and effective, you have to create an atmosphere where the state&;s use of force should be totally pushed to the background. Naidu&;s utterances at the CMs&; conference in Delhi only show the duality in his approaches to the problem. One day, Naidu says "I want to ban trade unions." By saying so, you are only inviting the radical movements to occupy the political space in the urban areas.

It is unfortunate that both the central and state governments are totally unconcerned with the people&;s problems. They are playing with the lives of millions of people. They have reduced politics to a big circus. Chandrababu Naidu thinks that information technology can solve all problems. But IT can hardly help tackle complex problems.

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