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2005 and within hours, the government

decided to impose a ban on Virasam

along with other organisations (of
course, with separate GO Ms Nos). The
notification lists nine offences of Virasam
and argues about the need to declare it as
In fact, there lies a fine line between
banning an organisation and declaring it
as unlawful. The APPS Act, indeed, doesnt
talk about a ban or prohibition or proscrip-
tion. It only provides the government an
authority to declare an organisation unlaw-
ful and take necessary action. However,
ANDHRA PRADESH while Section 3 provides the power of the
government and Section 8 talks about

Where Writing Becomes penalties to the persons associated with the

organisation, Sections 4 to 7 elaborate on
the procedure that spreads over to three

Unlawful months to confirm the notification. Even

after that period, Section 12 of the act
provides scope for the association to move
a court of law. Though the act is ambigu-
Ban on Virasam ous on whether the process is concurrent
or sequential, there is ample room to
The recent clampdown on the Naxalite groups by the government interpret it as sequential. For, there are
provisions, in Sections 4, 6, and 12, for
of Andhra Pradesh was soon followed by a ban on the states the office-bearers of the organisation to
35-year-old writers association, Virasam. Although Virasam has represent to the government, to seek a
undergone such harassment earlier, the question that needs to be personal hearing before the advisory panel
answered is why a writers association, which has done so much constituted by the government, and to move
for the development of Telugu literature, should be declared the court during the process and hence one
can interpret that the representatives of the
unlawful. association cannot be arrested during the
process. Arresting them during the process
N VENUGOPAL till July 22, 2004 on the then CPI (ML) amounts to the denial of their right to
Peoples War which subsequently represent themselves.

any times in the history of became the CPI (Maoist) and its seven But even before the official gazette
humanity, creative writing has front organisations under the Andhra notification declaring Virasam as unlaw-
been perceived as a potential Pradesh Public Security (APPS) Act, 1992. ful was published in newspapers, police
threat by the powers that be and writers All the seven organisations could not have swooped down on Virasam leaders and
have been subjected to persecution, been bundled as front organisations of a began arresting and intimidating them.
harassment, restrictions on liberty and right political party when at least one organi- In the early hours of August 19, mufti
to express, attempts on life, physical elimi- sation Virasam has its own indepen- policemen descended on revolutionary
nation, and more perilously forcing the dent manifesto and constitution and has poet Varavara Raos house and tried to
writers to denounce their own writings. It been operating in the public domain, take him away without any warrant. His
may now be the first time that an associa- particularly in the fields of art and lit- family immediately alerted the media and
tion of writers has been declared un- erature for over three decades. Virasam after two hours uniformed policemen
lawful and for all practical purposes has been refuting the same allegation by arrested him. Even then, he was not served
banned from conducting its business. the police of allegiance to the Naxalite a warrant despite his protests and the only
Andhra Pradesh claims this dubious dis- party consistently time and again. piece of paper from which the inspector
tinction and the writers organisation that of police read out was a photocopy of
is subjected to this unenviable predi- Government Orders Section 8 of the APPS Act. On the same
cament is the 35-year old Viplava day Virasam held a press conference to
Rachayitala Sangham (Revolutionary On August 19, the government pub- denounce the notification and give a
Writers Association), popularly known as lished its notification with regard to the rebuttal to the nine offences charged
Virasam, its acronym in Telugu. supposed ban on Virasam, along with other against the association as well as to
K Jana Reddy, home minister of six notifications, in a Telugu newspaper. condemn the arrest of Varavara Rao. In
Andhra Pradesh, at a press conference on The GO Ms No 373 mentioned that the fact, Virasam pointed out the legal impli-
August 17, announced that his govern- government received a letter from the cations and argued that they cannot be
ment was reimposing the ban that existed director-general of police on August 17, arrested until the advisory panel gives a

Economic and Political Weekly October 1, 2005 4307

verdict in favour of the government. (Contrarily, there were more than 100 not want to lose that position. In fact, the
However, Virasams president and popu- killings of Telugu Desam Party activists Telugu press widely reported the loss of
lar novelist G Kalyana Rao was taken into by Congress activists in Anantapur district money and power on the part of the police
custody from the gates of the Press Club, alone in three months during the same during the so-called relaxation period
where he addressed the press meet. Needless period.) That was the time when Naxalites between June and October 2005. Thus the
to say, he was also not served any warrant. announced a unilateral ceasefire for the police top brass has again managed to
first two months which was followed by a humble the political class in the state by
Killings and Encounters bilateral ceasefire for the next three months. reversing the peace process.
That was the time when the first round of However, this can only explain the ban
It is generally believed that a gruesome talks between the CPI (Maoist) and the on the CPI (Maoist) and its supposed, or
incident in which 10 persons lost their CPI (ML) Janashakti on one hand and the basically non-existent, front organi-
lives at the hands of the Naxalites was the state government on the other took place. sations like Radical Students Union (RSU),
immediate reason for the ban. Two days That was the time when Naxalites were Radical Youth League (RYL), Raithu Cooli
prior to the ban, an armed squad of the CPI treated as state guests with all parapher- Sangham (RCS), Singareni Karmika
(Maoist) killed C Narsi Reddy, a sitting nalia and police and politicians were freely Samakhya (SiKaSa), Viplava Karmika
ruling party MLA, his son and eight other visiting the countryside. That was the time Samakhya (ViKaSa), and All India Revo-
persons at a meeting on Independence Day when peoples democratic spirit blossomed lutionary Students Federation (AIRSF). The
at Narayanpet in Mahabubnagar district. with over two dozen public meetings across question that still seeks an answer would
The Narayanpet killing was condemned by the state and a number of publications and be why should a writers association be
all political parties, mass organisations and writings in newspapers. declared unlawful. The police would have
intellectuals. In an edit-page article in But, that relaxation was short-lived. everyone believe that Virasam is not a
Andhra Jyothi, Varavara Rao criticised the Within three months of the Naxalites leav- writers association and only a front
killings for its indiscriminate nature and ing Manjeera Guest House on October 18, organisation of the CPI (Maoist). This
the snatching away of lives of some 2004, both sides began accusing each other allegation is being repeated ad nauseam by
innocent people. of violating the ceasefire agreement. The the state police for the last 35 years, but
Given the prevalent feelings against first loss of life came in the form of a fake they could not prove the charge in any
Naxalites in the wake of Narayanpet kill- encounter in Warangal district on January court till now after foisting more than
ings, the police establishment of the state 6, 2005, after a respite of seven months, two dozen criminal cases against Virasam
seems to have thought that it was the right followed by a spate of such fake encoun- members and inflicting punishment before
time to launch an onslaught on Naxalites. ters killing more than 100 activists and trial and considerable harassment.
Thats why the SIB prepared a note asking sympathisers. The state and police were to
the government to ban the CPI (Maoist) be blamed more for these violations of the Writers in Conflicts
and its alleged front organisations and the ceasefire agreement, but for the want of
government acceded the demand at once. a neutral agency that monitors and tabu- The police cite the functioning of
In fact, if at all a major killing were to be lates respective violations, people had Varavara Rao and Kalyana Rao as emis-
shown as a provocation to ban, the their own assessments. Though the gov- saries of the CPI (Maoist) during the talks
Narayanpet killing is not the first such ernment had created a monitoring between the state government and the
violent incident in the history of the Naxalite committee with 20 prominent intellectuals Naxalite parties in 2004 as a proof of
movement in the state. Earlier also the CPI and public personalities just before the Virasams relations with the Naxalites.
(Maoist) had caused at least two major first round of talks, it could not take up Even a cursory look at the history of civil
incidents of violence, in Vempenta where any monitoring activity. conflicts all over the world shows what
eight people were done to death and in The spate of encounter killings put an role writers played in finding a solution
Chilakaluripet where two policemen and end to the idea of talks. After a series of to those conflicts. In tune with that tradi-
four civilians were killed. In contrast, the encounters in which more than 10 cadres tion, Varavara Rao, Kalyana Rao and
police are also credited with equal and were killed within a week, the CPI (Maoist) Gaddar were chosen as emissaries by the
brutal incidents where they killed 10 ac- announced that it was pulling out of the CPI (Maoist) since the former were in the
tivists in Manala in Nizamabad district and peace talks process. Its statement said it public life and renowned intellectuals
killed Riyaz, a representative of the CPI would not consider a second round unless and cultural personalities for the last
(ML) Janashakti at the talks, and three the government stuck to the ceasefire couple of decades. In any negotiations, it
others along with him in fake encounters. agreement and stops encounter killings is common that the contending parties
On the whole, during the eight-month immediately. The government did not choose their own emissaries to settle any
resurgence of violence and counter-vio- respond and the Naxalites began retali- dispute. In fact, the duty assigned to these
lence, both police and Naxalites have ation in their own way. emissaries was evolving modalities of the
killed over 100 persons each. Thus the political atmosphere in the state has talks only. Though it is common knowl-
This spiral of violence stands in contrast turned into one of apprehension, mistrust, edge that these three individuals share a
to the relative peace that existed between intolerance and violence from that of peace, common political belief with the Naxalites,
June and December 2004. Not even a talks, and democratic expression within no that does not amount to their being a party
single death on account of Naxalite- time. The state police machinery, which to all the activities of the Naxalites. For
police-informer-landlord conflict was has been enjoying unlimited and unques- that matter, there are thousands of
reported during that time, after a nine- tioned power in the name of anti-Naxalite organisations and lakhs of individuals
year period of unabated violence. operations for a couple of decades did who share a common belief in Gandhian

4308 Economic and Political Weekly October 1, 2005

principles in India and elsewhere, but that the achievements of Virasam in book more than its share of prosecution and
doesnt make them part of a single party publication and literary forms as highly harassment. The government proscribed
or somebody doesnt become a front for remarkable. Virasam had published the Virasams poetry anthologies Jhanjha
somebody else. collected works of Sri Sri, in 20 volumes (1970) and Le (1972), but the Andhra
spread over 5,000 pages, Kodavatiganti Pradesh High Court had quashed the ban
History of Virasam Kutumba Raos non-fiction writings order. Varavara Raos poetry collection
ranging over 10,000 pages in eight Bhavishyathu Chitrapatam (1987) was
Here, it would not be out of place to volumes, launched the five-volume project banned by the government, but later that
recount the history of Virasam as given by of Cherabanda Rajus collected works and ban was revoked. In 1971 Virasam mem-
the association as part of its representation has already published four volumes. bers M V Ramana Reddy, Jwalamukhi,
to the government: Virasam was founded Virasams founder general secretary K V Nikhileshwar and Cherabandaraju were
on July 4, 1970 in Hyderabad. The great Ramana Reddy had written over 30,000 arrested under the Preventive Detention
Telugu poet of 20th century Mahakavi Sri pages of poetry, literary criticism, bio- Act, but it was quashed by the Andhra
Sri was its founder president and graphy, history and socio-political Pradesh High Court. The historical judg-
Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao (a novelist, commentary. ment said, nobody should be arrested for
short story writer and literary critic) and Virasams first poetry anthology Jhanjha political beliefs. Political beliefs cannot
Rachakonda Viswanatha Shastri (a novelist (1970) edited by Sri Sri carried the poem be curbed by arrest. In 1973 Virasam
and short story writer) were its founder Narudo Bhaskauda and it was a path- members Varavara Rao, Cherabandaraju
vice presidents. Noted literary critic and breaking attempt in Telugu poetry. This and M T Khan were arrested under the
poet K V Ramana Reddy was its first attempt paved the way for reviving the due Maintenance of Internal Security Act
general secretary. Along with these respect for song and oral art forms in (MISA). But they were released by a high
doyens of Telugu literature, a number of Telugu literature. Virasam members have court order which said writers cannot be
renowned as well as budding writers, poets penned more than a thousand short stories arrested for giving expression to their
and cultural activists joined the and portrayed almost all facets of Telugu imagination unless there is a direct link
organisation. Its first conference was held social life. Virasam writers have mastered between a piece of art and an armed action.
in Khammam in October 1970. Since then, the form of novel and presented the rich- In 1974, police foisted the Secunderabad
till the state-level literary workshop held ness of life and ups and downs in the Conspiracy Case on Virasam member
in Visakhapatnam in January 2005, the struggle of life in most realistic, reliable, K V Ramana Reddy, T Madhusudana Rao,
organisation held its conferences or creative and emotional way. Cherabandaraju, M T Khan, Varavara Rao,
state-level literary workshops every year, Literary criticism in Telugu had a strong and Ranganatham who were implicated
except for the two years during the tradition even before Virasams forma- in the case along with some political
Emergency, legally and openly. Apart from tion. But Virasam has placed literary activists. This case was under trial for over
these state-level annual programmes, criticism on a solid foundation of philo- 15 years and in 1989 all the writers were
Virasam has been conducting meetings, sophical, historical, and political economy acquitted as not guilty. The government
seminars, conferences, workshops and perspective. It is a recognised fact that had wasted lakhs of rupees of public money
orientation classes both at state and local Virasams literary criticism is far ahead in on this case but could not prove even a
level for discussing various literary the analysis of relationship between soci- single charge against any Virasam
forms and contemporary social and literary ety and literature, form and content as well member. Cherabandaraju died during
developments. as making this relation intelligible in a the trial of this case. In 1979, the Chittoor
In Virasams 35-year old history of dialectical way. Another achievement of Conspiracy Case was foisted against
meetings, conferences and seminars, Virasam has been developing speech into Virasam members T Madhusudana Rao,
one cannot find even a single theme that an art form and a powerful tool of analysis. Jyothi and Samvarta under the same
was accused by the police for breaking A number of Virasam members have charges. However, Chittoor Sessions
the law. Moreover, the issues discussed become popular and famous public speak- Court acquitted all the writers in 1985.
at the meetings pertained to literature, ers through their oration and analysis. In 1986, the same charges were foisted
culture, history, philosophy, political Any literary critic would agree that it is against Virasam member Varavara Rao as
economy and ideology. Between 1970 and impossible to write the history of Telugu part of Ramnagar Conspiracy Case but
1978, Virasam had used its own annual literature of the 20th century without any the prosecution could not establish even
numbers and fraternal literary magazines reference to Virasam. The reason for this a single charge. After 17 years of trial
to propagate its literature. In 1978, Virasam prominence and this recognition is be- Varavara Rao was acquitted as not
had launched Arunatara as its official cause of Virasams consistent adherence guilty in 2003. Apart from these infa-
literary and cultural quarterly and con- to peoples literary and cultural tra- mous and big cases Virasam members all
verted it into a monthly in 1980. Arunatara ditions and creation of literature with over the state were implicated in about two
is an open and legal literary and cultural highest standards, but not due to its asso- dozen cases and charged with the same
magazine. ciation with some political party as the accusations.
During the last 35 years Virasam has police allege. This recapitulation shows that there is
published hundreds of books averaging 20 no case for declaring Virasam unlawful.
per year in various literary forms. These Wrath from Powers Indeed, reinforcing this point, there was
books are published openly and legally a widespread protest from a cross section
and sold in all the bookstalls in the state. Virasam had also earned a great deal of of Telugu society. Almost all political
All lovers of Telugu literature regard wrath from the powers that be and received parties condemned the action. Ironically

Economic and Political Weekly October 1, 2005 4309

enough the president of Pradesh Congress and prominent personalities in exposing acted so swiftly within hours to follow
Committee and the chief minister himself, anti-people policies of the state govern- up a letter from the police in banning
in their personal capacity, said they did not ment and extra-judicial killings of the some mass organisations has shown no
like the ban on Virasam police, are on these lists. To put it in other desire to initiate any action on these
words, the killers sword dangles above killer gangs. In fact, the DGP, in a typical
Role of Mafia Groups the heads of all those who have a voice Modi way described the actions of
and are willing to lend it to the peoples the killer gangs as a proof of Newtons
Virasam began its legal efforts to oppose cause. The state government which Third Law! - 2 9
the notification and has already filed a
number of petitions and representations
with several authorities including the
government, the AP High Court, the state
human rights commission, etc. However,
within weeks of the notification, things
have become worse with three mafia groups
calling themselves Narsa Cobras,
Kakatiya Cobras and Nallamala Cobras
raising their ugly head. It is not new to
have this sort of vigilante groups and
mafia in Andhra Pradesh. During the
last two decades at least a dozen such
groups, formed basically from the surren-
dered Naxalites, have emerged and
their single-point programme is to threaten
and kill the Naxalite sympathisers and
leaders of mass organisations. The killer
gangs include Fear Vikas, Praja Bandhu,
Green Tigers, Red Tigers, Kranti Sena,
Nalla Dandu, Nallamala Tigers, Tirumala
Tigers, Palnadu Tigers, etc. The mafia dons
have amassed hundreds of crores of
property through unaccounted money
siphoned from anti-Naxalite operations as
well as settling property disputes and
As part of the two-pronged onslaught on
the revolutionary movement, the police
have managed to impose a ban on Virasams
activity on one hand and made use of these
mafia to create terror among those who
question government and police on the
other. Thats how these killer gangs were
used to liquidate Kanakachary, a teacher
and a former co-convenor, of Telangana
Jana Sabha in Mahabubnagar on August
24 and Manne Daivaprasad, district sec-
retary of Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samithi
in Singarayakonda, Prakasam district on
September 10. While Narsa Cobras claimed
responsibility for the first killing, it was
Nallamala Cobras for the second one. In
both cases the killer gangs announced their
killing lists beforehand, but neither the
police nor the intelligence department had
taken any preventive action, exhibiting
their complicity in the crime. As of writing
this, at least 30 names including
G Haragopal, K Balagopal, Varavara Rao,
Kalyana Rao, Gaddar, Pinakapani, Punna
Rao, Padmakumari all of them leaders
of different mass organisations in the state

4310 Economic and Political Weekly October 1, 2005

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