40th anniversary of police firing on tribals in Indravelli

Indravelli Firing

On 40th anniversary of police firing on tribals in Indravelli in Adilabad let us rekindle their spirit with the ascendancy of proto –fascism today. It was one of the blackest days in the history of the third world proving the utter farce of democracy in India which is morally resurrected in other forms today.

All genuine democrats dip their blood in memory of the 40th anniversary of the massacre of Adivasis in Indravelli in Adilabad,on April 20th in 1981. .It carved a permanent niche in the history of opression of the police force in the entire world. Such an incident gave a fitting blow to any vestiges of democracy left in the country. A merciless attack was launched on the Girijan Rytu Collie Sangham, which was formed to defend rights of the peasantry. The Sangham had launched a sustained resistance confronting forest rights against moneylenders. The organised peasant movement struggle mobilised many a poor peasant and landless labourer into the fold of the Rytu Collie Sangham.The conference was to be a landmark event in the self defence of the Indian peasantry. It took place in the background of the rectification campaign of the C.P.I. (M.L.) Peoples War Group which corrected the earlier line f rejecting formation of mass organizations. The gathering reflected the intensity of the magnitude of an inferno. I recommend all cadre to read about the formation of mass Organizations in Andhra Pradesh after 1977 and the Karimnagar peasant struggle in 1978.

The firing was ample proof how the Rytu Collie Sangham was a thorn in the flesh to the ruling classes in Andhra Pradesh, threatening the very social base of the landlord class. Its crystallization was virtual resurrection of earlier uprising sin Naxalbari and Sikakulam.The attack was perfect illustration ho win essence democracy only existed on paper and morally no genuine rights existed for the tribals and peasantry. It was virtual continuity of the colonial days. It also confirmed whatever the aberrations the Peoples War Group was genuine revolutionary democratic force .One may be critical that it violated massline but any democrat must recognize its role in organising the opressed peasants and tribals .It was one of history’s most glaring lessons of how semi-bourgeois democracies or semi-colonial states ruthleslessly trample down on any organised resistance challenging class opression.Significantly by 1983 morally all the mass organisations voice was stifled, and in May 1985 the state political conference of Rytu Coolie Sangham was obstructed .It had no become imperative for the mass organisations to go underground. The Indervalli firing was no doubt one of the most defining moments of neo-fascism of the state ,like a Jallianwala Bagh of it’s time. Till this day it shimmers like flame in the minds of all revolutionary activists. The monument built in memory of Indravelli martyrs touches the core of your soul at deepest depth, igniting intensity of coal fire burning .

The massacre in Indraveli was like a first chapter in a series of mass repressions in Andhra Pradesh or Telengana for almost two decades. The relentless spirit and death defying courage of the Peoples War Group enabled the red flag to flutter in many an area facing brutal police repressions. It would ressurect even from the depths of despair to ignite spark of revolution. I can never forget the conference of Rytu Colie Sangham of 1990 in Warangal where over 10 lakh peasants participated, literally creating the impact of an inferno.

It was market day in the roadside village of Indravelli in the Gond tribal heartland of Adilabad. But this was a market day with a difference. The tribals were to stay on for a rally and the district conference of the Girijana Rythu Coolie Sangham, a front organisation for the Peoples War Group led by old-time Naxalite Kondapalli Seetharamaiah.

Reports testify that the police had pre-planned preparations to launch an attack and in the very preparations for the conference were creating barricades or obstructing activists. In the post-mortem of firing the police lied by stating that the Adivasis were launching an offensive. The activists were only sympathetic to the Peoples War Group and not waging any armed action. The fury in the tribals had the scale of intensity of an inferno. A crusader for social justice could have made a film illustrating the death defying courage of the tribal’s in launching self defence and the sheer spark igniting that turned into a prairie fire. The branding of the event as sedition or terroristic act is a perfect testimony how rights are the sheer privilege of the ruling classes.

Quoting Adivasi Resurgence “The tribals began coming in small groups early in the day only to find the police turning them back. Those who hesitated or asked questions were beaten up and chased away. And some non-tribal Naxalite sympathisers who had come from far away to attend the conference were whisked away and detained at the zilla parishad school in Indravelli.”

“As the day wore on more people arrived and many were turned back. But even late in the day many more were still coming. They gathered in a field outside Indravelli with their tudums (drums) and kalicoms (pipes) and marched in procession for the conference. But almost immediately the police led by the District Superintendent M.V. Krishna Rao stopped them, “to find out their intentions.”

“Police version: The police claim that the tribals turned violent at this point and the police opened fire. Recalls Krishna Rao: “As we went forward they rained stones and came menacingly towards us.” He displays a dented helmet and says: “I could have been killed. There were only about 20 constables with me. Some had rifles and some helmets. The attack continued and then we fired teargas shells. They did not stop or disperse. One of the tribals covered a shell with mud to prevent the gas from spreading as soon as it fell. For any man in uniform it is not a matter of pride to run back. We had to retreat and then open fire. I emptied my revolver. Even as some dropped dead others kept coming as if those in front had only slipped and fallen. The tribals obviously did not know the power of a .303 rifle. They came like a whirlwind.”

A martyrs column was constructed at the site of the police firing in 1983 by the then president of Andhra Pradesh Rythu Coolie Sangham, Ganji Rama Rao, whose organisation had spearheaded the movement for regaining the lands lost by aboriginal farmers through its unit in the agency areas, the GRCS. Rama Rao even travelled to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to study a martyrs memorial column based on which the Indervelli structure was designed.

The Indervelli column built by Rama Rao was demolished allegedly by the police in 1986 in retaliation to a naxalite raid on a police camp at Kadem in the same district, which raised a hue and cry from Advasis. The government then came forward and rebuilt the present day martyrs memorial in 1986.


It is ironic that history has repeated itself today with a ban imposed even on the Civil Liberties Commitee in Telengana for the first time. a few days ago. This is simply neo-fascism at a crescendo. Earlier we heard of banning of fronts like Radical Students Union, Radical Youth League, Rytu Colie Sangham, Revolutionary Democratic Front etc by t never the Civil liberties Commitee.Ironically even the Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights was not banned during emergency.Neverthless morally if you remember police assassination of APCLC activists like Dr Ramanadham,Jappa Laxma Reddy ,Gopi Rajanna,Prabhakar Reddy or T,Purshottam one gets a perfect illustration how unofficially it was banned. When I attended the conferences of the Civil Liberties Commitee in Hyderabad in 2018 the rally was not permitted. I attended many programmes of Virasam who heroically defied formal ban .

No doubt the work of mass organizations backing the Maoist party must be commended but one must be critical of trends that attaches mass organisations to the revolutionary party as a front organisation. Today groups sympathetic to Maoist trend obliterate Maoism from manifesto but still do not award independence to mass organisations. In the 1970’s and 80’s there was defect within the civil liberties movement which allowed the democratic rights platform to be one where armed struggle could be propagated. This is what divided the APCLC and the OPDR. Of course most gallant sacrifices were made by APCLC who made the biggest contribution from mid 1980’s.Perhaps it is weakness in the democratic rights movement and weakness of the strength of the general democratic movement that has facilitated even a civil rights organization to be banned. From the 1990’s there was general lull in the civil liberties movement after the All India federation of Organizations of Democratic Rights became defunct .No doubt in the last 25 years no organization has ignited the spark of democratic rights at the magnitude or consistency of the Civil Liberties Committee also admire the consistency of the work of the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights. I would recommend readers to read the history of the Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights in the 1970; s,which was example of most correct practice in democratic Rights Movement. It defended the concept that the most fundamental right was the one to wage struggle. It ideologically refuted the trend that converted the democratic rights platform into a party forum. Even the Association for Democratic Rights of Punjab did sustained work in the 1980’s representing correct trend. The decline of these two groups caused a severe reversal to the civil liberties movement. I also recommend readers to read about the formation of the All India Federation of Organisations for Democratic Rights formed in Guntur in 1982.It became defunct from 1998 which caused a major setback. In a qualitative sense Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana of Maharashtra too was a fitting example of correct approach towards democratic rights, integrating work with the working class. It held many a street corner or public meeting in working class areas on a wide range of issues, be it communalism. black laws,police firing,supression of strikes etc.

Today it is significant that the mass fronts that are banned are those that back the armed revolutionary movements but morally they are not front organizations of the C.P.I.(Maoist).Even amongst urban intellectuals there quite a few who were never part of a Maoist mass organization and any democratic constitution cannot debar activities of any of the activists arrested. No doubt quite a chunk of them defend the Maoist ,movement, but only a proto-fascist state can supress that. The attack on such forces reflect two tendencies. One is that the Maoist movement serious threatens the autocratic Social order. The second is there is to much intervention of Maoist party politics, which denies mass organizations sufficient democratic identity or rights to take its own decisions. It could also be stated with subjective factors not prevailing to launch an armed struggle today in India, an armed struggle waged today could invite attack on democratic forces .Experiences earlier in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar and now Orissa are enough to illustrate how armed squad actions had severe repercussions on democratic movements with many mass fronts banned. The Indravelli massacre or such incidents makes one contemplative on the aspect of armed squads or actions which may be imperative to defend rights of oppressed people, but on the other hand can invite the wrath of the state machinery.

I also reccomend readers to read about the formation of the All India Federation of Organisations for Democratic Rights formed in Guntur in 1982.It became defunct from 1998 which caused a major setback.

The massacres of the Maoist forces in Orissa border,Malkangiri and Gadricholi in recent years have even surpassed the barbarity of the Indravelli incident. In the non -maoist camp the suppression of the Chattisgarh Mukti Morch after assassination of late Shankar Guha Nyugi and repression on Maruti workers was comparable.

I recommend readers to read an assessment about practice of democratic rights movement by Rajani X Desai. in June 2017 issue of Aspects of India’s Economy, titled ‘Political Economy, Democratic Rights and Democratic Rights Movement.’

Never in the history of post-1947 India have democratic intellectuals been such a thorn in the flesh to the rulers. There is no doubt even if one disagree most the Maoist movement still is the one that has challenged the might of the rulers at the highest magnitude.

In the manner of the Communist Party Re-Organisation Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist) or the C.P.I.(M.L) Ned Democracy one may differ with the line of the C.P.I.(Maoist) but it is improper to openly condemn them, as it is only because of the work of the Maoists any rights have been won. Mass line is a moot point in practice but it is absolutely imperative the Adivasis are armed to protect or win any genuine rights.

Revolutionary intellectuals must devise new methods of preserving the hard won democratic rights. The example of the Democratic Front against Operation Green hunt in earlier years of Punjab is an ideal model. Today the democratic rights organisations seen unable to defend their own existence, let alone the revolutionary democratic movement.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist. Toured India, particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com. Email- [email protected]



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