The End of the Revolution

A look at the news should tell you how the so called Maoists have embarked on a highway to self-destruction. No, I don’t know enough about their philosophy or why they took up arms struggle. Not because I don’t care. Because it doesn’t make sense. It probably did until the economic reforms started in the early 90s I don’t know. Probably. But now, it doesn’t make sense to blow up rail tracks and kill cops. And civilians.

When I was a school kid in Chittoor, in the early 80s, I was mesmerized by the ‘Annalu’ (as they were referred to in A.P.) I used stop by our school walls and read the Radicals Students Union graffiti. “Viplavam vardhillali” (long live the revolution) was ubiquitous. So was “Dunney vaadidhey bhoomi” (he who plows the land, owns it.)

We never saw them Naxals. They were not as active and brazen in Chittoor as they were elsewhere. We only saw their graffiti and listened in rapt attention to some fantastic stories about how they ran a parallel government in Warangal. About how they never harmed civilians and ensured justice was served to those that deserved it. About those intrepid young men and women that jumped into a train and sang songs of revolution, distributed pamphlets, and urged the passengers to join the revolution.

There was a romantic desperation attached to them. They were outlaws but we kids respected them. They inspired awe, not fear. We sat around while the elders argued about how, when doctors and engineers became naxals, it was a sign that something was terribly wrong. And there were the movies. “Erra Mallelu” (Red Jasmine) (1981) is what I distinctly remember. It made me feel guilty that I was able to eat three meals a day, wear decent clothes, and call something my home. I was eight! Too young to realize that Communism, just like religion, preyed on your guilt. It makes you feel responsible for a stranger’s infirmity. This haunting song from Erra Mallelu, a smashing hit, sums it up pretty well. It attacked the usual suspects: business people, “western” civilization, the rich, and religion. And yes, it made me feel guilty.

Despite a flawed ideology that was based on philosophies that were given up even by the lands that gave them to the world, the “annalu” enjoyed respect. One of the crucial reasons why it was so, was probably because some of the leading writers from modern Telugu literature, including Sri Sri, Varavara Rao, and K.V. Ramana Reddy, stood by them. But I don’t think that kind of support persisted. I don’t think the Maoists of today enjoy or care about such support. To me that’s an indication that these guys lost the plot somewhere along the way. I could be wrong. You may find some answers in history. Or maybe you won’t. I am not an informed, political analyst. I am just trying to understand when I stopped respecting them and started fearing them. And I don’t think I want to know. It doesn’t matter. Does it?

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