Sabyasachi Panda, one of the top commanders of CPI-Maoist, makes explosive disclosures about the wars within and its authoritarian, ruthless and duplicitous leadership as he walks away protesting against the policy of indiscriminate violence
Prasanna Mohanty | August 14, 2012
"In one joint meeting of BSD and GHSR, one DOC woman com (comrade) had cried against the decision to arrest 3 women squad members, those were wishing to go home during Christian festival. In my presence there, Com Manoj/Bhaskar CCM (central committee member) said that ‘all these are needed for revolution and if needed one member and leader can be killed’…
“In this period Ravi along with one militia com went for local ayurvedic medicine for one com. They were sent by local commander. Com Manoj had arrested both of them before village people and killed Ravi after interrogation, kept another militia person in custody for one month. Ravi had become enemy agent through Susant. His dead body has not been handed over to his family. CCMs (central committee members) had done it without informing or discussing with local coms (comrades) and even without informing me, done it secretly…”
These are some of the chilling accounts of life as Maoists, revealed for the first time, by one of their top commanders, Sabyasachi Panda, in two letters to his chief (general secretary Ganapathy) and other comrades on June 1, 2012, just as he walked out on them. Panda, who had spread terror in Odisha by looting Nayagarh armoury (15 cops were killed, more than 1,000 weapons taken away in 2008), killing VHP leader Laxmananand Saraswati that led to communal riots in Kandhamal in 2008 and more recently, kidnapping two Italian tourists, is a hunted man now. A bounty has been announced on his head and more than one death squad are out to get him for daring to oppose (thereby becoming a ‘revisionist’, the worst crime for a comrade) party policies, particularly the use of violence, rather than political mobilisation, as the means to achieve their goal of overthrowing the state.
His letters (under the assumed name of Suman) and an annexure, running into 60 pages, lay bare the ruthless and arbitrary manner in which the Maoist leadership runs their underground outfit and pursues its goal of overthrowing Indian state through “protracted people’s war” with a view to establish “democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the proletariat”, as their constitution adopted in 2004 declares.
In fact, his parting letters are a fervent appeal to the Maoist leadership not to kill him because he is going his own way. He reveals another way of eliminating dissenting voices – by exposing comrades to the ‘enemy’, that is, security forces and gives the example of comrade Sitru. He fears a similar fate may befall him. Several other instances mentioned show how on mere suspicion comrades are ‘arrested’, taken from one camp to another tied with ropes, beaten up severely over days and weeks, tried in kangaroo courts and if considered guilty, killed.
They don’t treat outsiders differently. The letters give many examples of moneylenders, sarpanchs, tribal chiefs, religious leaders and others being killed, their houses torched without clearly establishing their guilt – either as police informers or evidence of their anti-Maoist activities. “You want an autocratic system in the name of proletariat dictatorships. If not right now, then it will happen after some day. The policy in practice of the present party is to suppress or eliminate the opposite voice by force, either inside party or outside in society. This we are also declaring openly…”
Just how mindless such killings are is revealed in a conversation quoted in which central committee member Balraj alias BR (arrested in Kanpur in 2010) runs down Kishenji (killed in Bengal in November 2011) for hogging too much limelight in 2009: “He is not doing anything, not killing a single police and giving statements.” Recall how special branch officer Francis Induwar’s headless body was found in Jharkhand the same year.
CPI-Maoist’s constitution may talk about their dream of bringing about a “New Democratic Revolution” against “semi-colonial, semi-feudal system under neo-colonial form of indirect rule, exploitation and control and the three targets of our revolution – imperialism, feudalism and comprador big bourgeoisie”, in practice, the Maoist leaders are no different from those they condemn. “Leaders are thinking them as masters and cadres have no courage to oppose the leader’s mistakes…” The promise of promoting “criticism and self-criticism” in the party committee “at all levels” are mere words in their constitution.
Just like the mainstream political parties, they also “nominate” and “promote yes-men” to higher positions within the party. Financial irregularities (instances of profligacy and misappropriation of Rs 15 lakh by a guard of a senior leader) and moral degradation (the letters give several cases of sexual abuse of women cadre by leaders at all levels, including the central committee members who have been named) are quite common but their judicial system works like ours – the powerful and well-connected get away while small fries get punished.
Parochialism and factionalism are equally rampant. There is a constant tussle: Party Unity vs People’s War Group (CPI-PU and CPI-PWG), Andhra cadre vs Odisha cadre, tribals vs non-tribals, MCC (Maoist Communist Centre) vs PWG. Incidentally, “local” Maoist squads are not allowed to even meet or cross the path of the “main force” that accompanies top leaders including central committee members who “remain most time in secret camps” in jungles. There is widespread resentment against the Andhra cadre because they overwhelmingly dominate the central committee and dictate terms in matters ranging from strategic planning to lifestyle (food and language).
The Maoist leaders, like our leaders, prefer one-size-fits-all policy and models. Following their success in Dandakaranya (‘DK’), a similar model was tried in Basadara (spanning areas of Rayagada, Gajapati and Kandhamal districts of Odisha) by targeting tribal chiefs and Christian priests. It failed. The letter says the leadership brushed aside reservations of the local cadre about different socio-cultural realities. DK, especially Abujhmad where the Maoist ‘government’ called Janatana Sarkar runs, remained inaccessible to outsiders for 30 years. It was in 2009 that the Raman Singh government lifted the ban. But in Basadara and elsewhere in Odisha, the main exploiters are the non-tribal outsiders who have grabbed land and control the trade. Yet tribal chiefs, Christian priests (Bibles were burnt in many cases), a dominant tribal group of the area (Kui Sanskritik Urnayan Parishad) and trade union leaders (all declared class enemies) were attacked indiscriminately which proved counter-productive and led to establishment of the Salwa Judum-like Shanti Sena there. The Maoists had to abandon and retreat. The mistakes were subsequently admitted during reviews but not avoided.
It is in this connection that the killings of BJD MLA Jagabandhu Majhi, a tribal, in 2011 and VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati in 2008 assume significance. Panda says in his letter that while Majhi was killed by outsiders, the Chhattisgarh comrades, ignoring objections from the local cadre, the VHP leader’s killing (which was carried out by Panda) created a huge turmoil within the group because of the communal backlash. Subsequent review showed the killing of the VHP leader was hasty and without preparing the political ground.
A similar approach led to setbacks in Lalgarh in West Bengal, and its eventual loss, in spite of Kishenji trying to make amends. So also was the case with Kalinganagar and Gudari (in Odisha).
Lip service is common too. For example, the letters quote party documents: “This state (that of Maoists) will ensure various forms of autonomy to all adivasi communities for their full-fledged development and execute special policies accordingly.” But even after 30 years of working among the tribals, Maoists have no tribal autonomy policy. Even the Janatana Sarkar “is not tribal autonomy body or governed by traditional tribal rules even partially”.
“You are destroying tribal culture for your selfishness, for which I can give some examples later. You have no alternate agricultural, industrial, medical, educational policies. So, how can you think about tribal autonomy for a tribal area?” The leaders are still struggling to figure out whether they should support allopathic medicines or homeopathic/ayurvedic medicines, chemical fertilizer or organic manure or what should be the “new democratic alternate industry and (the solution to) the problem of displacement”.
What is the stand of Maoists on elections? The letters quote a recent party document saying, “Hence, we can conclude that boycott of elections, though a question of tactics, acquires the significance of strategy in the concrete conditions obtaining in India as it is not all compatible with the strategy of protracted people’s war.” But what happened during the last round of panchayat elections in Narayanpatna in Odisha earlier this year is exactly the opposite. The Maoists participated and captured the entire Narayanpatna block (Koraput district) and then let the Biju Janata Dal have its own man as head of the zila parishad in return of a promise that anti-Maoist operation would be stopped in the area. All this happened at the instance of central committee members Manoj and Chalpati without wider debate or modification in the party documents. And when the security operations didn’t end, local BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka was kidnapped in March and kept in custody for more than a month. The dual practice has sent confusing signals to the cadre.
There are more serious issues. The letters point out how a hasty decision was taken to intensify fight against the government which was not to the liking of even the CC members belonging to the MCC faction. One CC member (not named) is quoted explaining the charge that the MCC faction is not doing enough: “What is our organisation position in all India other than DK and BJ (Bihar-Jharkhand)? If we start right now direct confrontation with govt, like it was done in AP or later in DK, where we can stay? Again, the movt will be crossed. So knowingly we are not advancing some work in that direction.”
Panda supports this line saying, “…a hasty decision to intensify war everywhere irrespective of people’s condition and consciousness is a fault in our party policy. The decision to build base area in DK or BJ in such a big country, without rear for revolutionary forces, in a country where we are too weak and where our preparation for war is in poor condition (we have no bullets, no explosives, no weapons, no intelligence, no doctors, no drivers, and no strength etc) is left adventurist in nature. And we didn’t review our earlier decision to build GZ and base areas in NT and Nalamala of AP with this outlook…”
Now the ridiculous part. The letters say it has now become a common rule to issue shaving blades to all the party members for cleaning their private parts for health reasons. This had been going on in DK since 2003 but when introduced in Basadara in Odisha, there was resistance. Subsequently “it was reviewed informally and stopped” but “women cadre are regularly advised to do so”. Then there is another weird practice. All members, including women, are asked to “take bath without clothes”. (The armed cadre and leaders live in jungle camps and take bath in ponds and streams/rivers.) Again, this was resisted by Odisha’s women cadre, following which “there was debate and discussion at DVC level” but apparently it wasn’t resolved and was to be taken up at a higher level.
Before that Panda bid goodbye and is now running around in dense forests somewhere in Odisha with his loyal band of comrades trying to dodge the killer squads from his own organisation and the security forces. Odisha’s DGP, Prakash Mishra, has scotched rumours that Panda is in talks with security forces for a possible surrender. Panda too has denied this in his voice mail sent to the media in the last week of July. In his parting letter he promises that he “will not go against revolution and will not support the state in any case”.
His parting has further weakened the organisation which is reeling under the loss of several top leaders in recent times. One of the top commanders, Kishenji, was killed late last year. Top ideologues Kobad Ghandy and Balraj alias BR are in jail and Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad was killed in 2010.
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