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Interview with kanu sanyal

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 29, 2007

Even at 78, Kanu Sanyal dreams of a revolution. Age hasn’t mellowed him; neither has his failed attempt at Naxalbari in 1967

He takes pride in the fact that even though the movement was quashed in West Bengal, it has spread to other states. In a free-wheeling interview to Daipayan Halder, he talks about Singur, brutality of the State and the future of Naxalism.

Kanu Sanyal.

The Naxal movement was traditionally restricted to rural areas. But recently some city-bred activists have been arrested in Mumbai for allegedly being involved in Naxal activities. Is the movement spreading to metros?
This was bound to happen. It does not matter where you are. If there is inequality and suffering, you would be affected by it and would eventually want to change the way things are. Even in 1967 when we started the movement at the sleepy hamlet of Naxalbari, it spread to the metros like wildfire. Students from Presidency College and IIT, Kharagpur took to arms. I am sure the movement still attracts the youth in the metros.

But isn’t the youth too caught up with career goals to even bother? Waging a class war would be the last thing on their minds.
I don’t agree. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a crisis in the Communist movement internationally. China also changed track. But the death knell of the Communist movement hasn’t been sounded yet. Look around you. Farmer suicide rates are going up, so-called developmental projects are displacing thousands, MNCs are destroying traditional livelihoods.

During the late ’60s, college and university students from well-to-do families took to Naxalism. They sacrificed promising careers to pursue a dream. Today, the situation is much worse, as there is more inequality. I am sure the youth will not remain cut off from reality for long.

In recent Naxal attacks, the rate of civilian casualty has gone up. In the ’60s the movement strictly tried to avoid this.
Firstly, if there is an armed struggle, there will be casualties. I definitely don’t approve the killing of innocents. But then sometimes innocent villagers get accidentally blown up by landmines that were put to annihilate class enemies. Or maybe they die in crossfire. That is unfortunate.

Mindless violence, though, should be strictly avoided. There have been cases where Naxals have reportedly killed innocent villagers for turning against them. This is unpardonable.

In South Chhattisgarh, ordinary villagers are becoming special police officers. Villages were your strongholds. Today, even villagers are turning against you.
This is a disturbing trend, as villages, truly, are our strongholds. If villagers are turning against the Naxals, it is a major cause of concern for the movement. There is a need to mobilise villagers, to show them the path, not antagonise them. Cases have been reported of villagers being tortured when they have refused to do join the movement. In this respect, I do not approve of today’s Naxals.

In late ’60s, Naxals had no training camps and used hand-made pistols, but captured popular imagination. Now, you have Kalashnikovs and proper coordination, but no popular support. Today, even Naxalbari votes.
I don’t agree with this. It would be wrong to say that Naxals today have no popular support. Yes, at times they commit excesses; there may be individual cases of corruption also. But how can you say there is no popular support? The movement has spread far and wide. Surely, there must be support for the movement.

Why an armed struggle? Why not accept parliamentary democracy like the CPM has?
The CPM has not been able to address people’s issues. The Left Front is in power in West Bengal, yet a Singur happens. There is no difference between them and any other political party. They say West Bengal is making progress. Take a tour of Purulia and you will see the depravation, the abject poverty people are in. There is no other alternative.

China has changed track and you still idolise Mao Zedong…
Our slogan in 1967 was: China’s chairman is our chairman. I accept that the slogan was completely incorrect. Why should we think of Mao Zedong as our chairman? It was coined by Charu Majumdar and voiced by the comrades.

But that’s a minor issue. The problems that gave rise to the Naxal movement at that time were very real. There was a need to take up the cause of the landless farmers. There was a need for an agrarian revolution. Those problems persist even today. And that is what powers Naxalism.

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