‘In time, everyone will pick up the gun in India’

What’s your role in the Communist Party of India (Maoist)?
To fight the Salwa Judum and bring back the people they have displaced. To those who went to Salwa Judum camps, we say, “Come back to your villages, homes and fields. Raise your children here.”

Why have the people gone to the Salwa Judum camps?
[When the Salwa Judum began in 2005] the Naga battalion went from village to village, burning houses, raping women, slashing people’s throats. The people ran to the camps in fear.

So why aren’t they coming back from the camps?
The Special Police Officers (SPOs) tell them, “If you go back to your villages, we’ll come and kill you.”

You should know that the government and the media portray Naxals as bloodthirsty gun-wielding insurgents with no popular legitimacy.
That’s a wrong image. The people don’t have guns in their hands. The people are in abject poverty and in terrible distress. They have nothing to eat. They have no cattle for farming.

Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar told TEHELKA that the government wants to bring development to Bastar, but the Naxals don’t allow government agencies in here.
Is that so? Then why haven’t they brought development to the villages and the towns along the roads? If they aren’t able to enter deep in the forests, no one is stopping them from bringing development to the accessible parts.

What exactly is the fight between you and the government?
The people elected [local Congress leader] Mahendra Karma as an MLA. But he began terrorising them. He would be paid off by village sarpanchs [council chief] from development money. The people opposed this and cut off the money to him. In retaliation, he raised the Salwa Judum against us, filling it with young boys and giving them guns, which were used against the villagers.

The government says the Naxals have killed more than four times policemen than the police have killed Naxals.
That’s false. In Bastar alone, more innocent people than policemen have been killed.

When I spoke to Varavara Rao, seen as an overground Naxal ideologue, he justified killings, calling it revolutionary violence. Do you to agree?
If the government doesn’t understand [what we want], then we have no option but to take to the gun. The people are totally ready to bring the Revolution.

Do you think you can defeat the Indian state with the gun?
We will win, because millions are poor and they are ready [for the Revolution].

One can appreciate the need for a revolution to bring relief to the poor. But those who picked up the gun in Punjab, Kashmir and the northeast were brutally put down. How can you win against the state?
If the people buckle under, then it would be the fault of the leadership and point to a lack of preparedness by the people.

The Chhattisgarh Government says the state’s natural natural resources should be harnessed for India’s benefit. What do you say?
The government should first answer for the Bailadila hills. When it began mining the iron ore there, it had promised to employ the locals. Did that happen? No. The iron ore is shipped from Bailadila to Vishakhapatnam, from where it is sent to Japan. The locals go far and wide for livelihood. Because of that experience, people elsewhere refuse to part with their lands.

A Jungle Warfare School has come up in Chhattisgarh where military officers are training SPOs to take you on. By contrast, you live in the forests and know little else. Do you fear they will finish you?
After all the training, they’re still humans, right? The Naga battalion had similarly been trained. The people fought and defeated them.

In the name of the people you kill policemen. Why?
The police are also poor; they are Adivasi boys and girls. But they take up the gun for the government and oppress the people. That’s why we kill them.

Would you respond if the government calls you for talks?
We have seen in Andhra Pradesh that the government deceived us in the names of talks. It cannot be trusted. We won’t meet it.

Why do you say that Salwa Judum was set up to protect the projects of the Tatas and Essar in Chhattisgarh?
How will the Tatas work here without police protection?

If the government winds up Salwa Judum, would you stop police killings?
Whether or not we stop killing the police is for later. The government must first let the people in the Salwa Judum camps go back to their villages. We killed them because they terrorised people, destroyed crops, and stole Rs 1 lakh from villages.

Dantewada SP Rahul Sharma says that the government will finish you off.
How does it matter what Rahul Sharma says? Can he come in here?

Gandhi won freedom by nonviolence. Bhagat Singh picked up the gun.
Bhagat Singh chose the right path. He was a revolutionary from childhood and had a great fervour to fight on behalf of the people. It was because Gandhi refused to take a stand that Bhagat was hanged.

The Taliban have picked up the gun.
Pakistan’s is a religious strife. Our struggle is class conflict.

If you have the people’s support, then why don’t you fight elections?
We don’t believe in elections. For so many years politicians have won elections. Did they bring any freedom to the people?

But you aren’t those politicians.
Once we sit on the chair, we will become like those politicians.

But when the Revolution comes, you will have to sit on the chair, right?
But that will be the people’s government.

Mao won in China with the gun. Will Indians really pick up the gun?
They will. It might take years. But everyone will pick up the gun in India.

Do you oppose schools and hospitals?
We are fine with schools. But the government builds a school block and uses it for the police. So the people don’t want schools. We want hospitals, too.

And electricity?
We don’t need electricity. We’ve never had it. The wood in the forest is good enough.

Development is seen as roads, electricity, jobs. How about you?
But electricity is not free. And the people don’t have money to pay.

Would you agree to an autonomous administrative unit?
No, we won’t accept any such thing.

Is Bastar a part of India?
Bastar has no connection with India.

Do you want independence for Bastar?
Not just Bastar. Slowly, all of India will become independent.

Is India free or subjugated — ghulam?