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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
India rebels vow to fight on
By Omer Farooq
BBC correspondent in Hyderabad

More than 6,000 people have died in nearly 25 years of violence in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The BBC meets the rebels.

"The United States is the number one terrorist and the World Bank is the enemy of the poor."

A woman member of the PWG
The PWG say they are active in 14 Indian states
This was the opening onslaught by a senior leader of the Maoist rebel organisation, the People's War Group (PWG).

Malkapuram Bhaskar alias Chandranna continued: "The right-wing BJP government in India is dancing to the tune of these forces and trying to crush all the people's movements in the country - but they will not succeed."

We listened to him as we sat on the ground in a hide out surrounded by dense forest.

Chandranna is the most senior leader of the PWG in its stronghold in the North Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh.

The PWG has been banned twice by the federal government and is regarded as one of the most powerful and feared Maoist rebel organisations in the world.

Surrounded by gun-toting guards, Chandranna was with Sheshu - alias Jagan - the commander in chief of the military wing of the PWG, the People's Guerrilla Army.

Following orders

"They tried twice in the past to crush our organisation but failed and now a third attack is underway but we will over come it and defeat them", said Chandranna.

He was referring to a series of operations by the Andhra Pradesh government in which several senior leaders of the 23-year-old Maoist group were killed.

This is not a real democracy. It is a fake democracy, in which the power of money decides every thing
Chandranna
Chandranna said the latest attempt to destroy them were taking place on the orders of the US and the World Bank.

I was invited to meet the PWG after the leadership had not spoken to the media for more than 18 months.

Chandranna and Jagan said they were not worried about the increased police activities.

"The death of a few leaders does not mean that the entire organisation is wiped out," said Chandranna.

When I set out on the long, tedious journey by foot through the jungle to meet the two men I was wondering about reports of PWG links with the Maoists in Nepal.

"Yes, we have established links with Maoist party of Nepal. Together we and ten other Maoist parties of south Asian countries have set up the Confederation of Maoist Parties of South Asia (Composa)," said Chandranna.

Humble

Apart from India and Nepal, the Maoists of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also members of Composa.

PEOPLE'S WAR GROUP
PWG members meet in a forest hideout
Launched by teacher turned Maoist leader Kondapalli Seetharamaiah in 1980
Stronghold is the North Telangana region
Early targets included landlords
Now targets politicians and police
Banned in 1991. After a brief reprieve, ban reimposed in 1996

The PWG started off in the Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh in 1980.

Within a decade the organisation had set its sights on an independent Maoist state from the forest area of Andhra Pradesh to the state of Bihar north-eastern India.

"Today our organisation is no longer restricted to Andhra Pradesh," said Chandranna dismissing the government claims the group is becoming weaker.

"Today we are active in 14 states of the country."

He said they had thousands of members and close relations with the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) of Bihar.

He also confirmed the Indian Government's claim that the PWG was setting up a corridor from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh through Bihar, Orrissa and other states.

But Chandranna strongly refuted suggestions that the PWG is linked with the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence agency.

Blame

"This is all baseless propaganda. We communists have different ideologies and we do not have relations with governments and spying agencies," he said.

He blamed the Andhra Pradesh Government for the failure of peace talks last year.

"They were never sincere about talks. The police are the real rulers in the state and the government is acting at their behest," he said.

"We had declared unilateral ceasefire but they kept killing our leaders clearly indicating that they do not want peace talks to succeed."

He said that for future talks to succeed the state government should first declare a ceasefire and withdraw the police from rural areas of the Telangana region.

So how does Chandranna justify the killing of civilians?

"This is not a real democracy. It is a fake democracy, in which the power of money decides every thing. Let the people be given the right to choose who they want to choose and then it will become a true democracy. Till then we will have to keep the gun to protect the people against the state violence."

The atmosphere at the forest hideout suggested that the PWG has not weakened.

'No shortage'

There were nearly 50 young men and women moving around in the camp area surrounded by sentries and protected by land and claymore mines.

Young members of the PWG
Young members of the PWG relax near their forest hideout
"There is no shortage of weapons. Some of these were looted by us from the police stations and some have been manufactured by us," said Jagan.

Only a few days earlier the PWG men carried out an attack on a police station and took away 24 guns and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

The attacks have continued since.

Chandranna said the PWG has no hesitation in targeting the leaders and workers of the Andhra Pradesh's governing Telugu Desam party and its ally the BJP.

He showed me a list of state ministers and leaders of the two parties and said: "We will kill these people whenever we get a chance because they are responsible for efforts to wipe us out."

The Maoist fighting and counter-violence by the police during the last two and a half decades has claimed more than 6,000 lives. And it appears as though the state will see much more bloodshed in the future.


SEE ALSO:
Rally boosts state campaign
01 May 03  |  South Asia
India's Maoist revolutionaries
20 Nov 02  |  South Asia
Nagaland gets new government
06 Mar 03  |  South Asia
BJP upset in India state polls
01 Mar 03  |  South Asia
Indian state amends bigamy law
02 Apr 03  |  South Asia


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