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Terming CMAS as Maoist frontal organisation is conspiratory: Gananath Patra

 

Monday June 09, 2014

NARAYANPATNA, CMAS, NACHIKA LINGA, TRIBAL LAND RIGHTS, MAOIST MOVEMENT, ODISHA  
 

"A science post graduate of his time, the veteran revolutionary of Odisha Gananath Patra left his job as a lecturer and joined people's movements to protect the rights of the oppressed and downtrodden class of Odisha. From the anti-displacement movement in Baliapal to the kashipur movement and the kalinganagar movement against corporate conspiracy, Gananath Patra has been a common face to stand with the people fighting for their rights.”

 

An interview by Basudev Mahapatra

 
 

Basudev Mahapatra (BM): Many do not know about your childhood and how a revolutionary evolved. Can you please throw some light?

Gananath Patra (GP): My ancestral native place, where I still got a house there, is Banida in Balasore district. I am a native of that place. There was no school in my village. I had been to a chahali (privately run pre-school). A private teacher was there. I was taken almost here lifted by other elderly boys. I found a man sitting there on a tool with a stick, I got very much frightened. Such schools, no further I went.

A school was constructed in my village, my village, centre of the village there was a jungle like view. That was a fort of our ex-zamindars. There, a house was constructed, that was the school.

 

I went there and from there I got my primary education. So, I started bit late, rural village, no school only Chahalis (traditional non-formal village schools), One day experience of my Chahali... So this atrocious education - beating the pupil, boys and girls and compulsorily letting them learn something – I very much disliked it then itself.

And, then about my identity - who am I – My mother died when I was just 4 years old. So, that is an identity loss. One day, my elder sister brought a mirror before me. Told, ‘See, you are not cleaning your teeth, the teeth is so much dirty. You see your face!’

‘Oh! This is then myself! My teeth is like this!’ So, that was the first identity I built up. If I remember correctly that was the first identity.

Two, in the nearby village there was an ME School. I joined there. All landlords – boys and girls – Elites were also reading there. I came from such family, a peasant’s family. My father was, to start with, an agricultural labourer. And, my maternal uncle died. So my maternal grandmother had some property and that joined with our property. So, we then had some land were not poor as earlier. This is my class background.

I went to school, class IV. One day my cousin, who was not talking to me for some quarrel, came to me secretly on the day when the result was declared. He said, ‘You stood first when all these elite students were there!’ Here my second identity built up.

What is identity, now people don’t define. If I review myself from that angle, this was my identity.

Then I went to Jaleswar High School from a small village walking 5 Km to go and again the same to come back home daily. My teachers used to tease me – ‘from your village, nobody got educated; nobody has any standard.’ It was shocking me. My science teacher used to tell like that.

So, I taught him lessons also. In the class, I used to question him whatever came in my mind. At times, he used to answer with much difficulty as well.

I was the first science graduate of my village.

Then after my M.Sc., I met the science teacher once, by chance. He recalled – ‘you were putting such questions those days that stunned me! I felt that you would be great.’

One of my school friends, Dr Janardan Mohanty, a senior to many professors, came to me when I was in medical (recently).

The other people there asked him, ‘Sir, you are here?’ He said, ‘He is my friend, my classmate. He was a rebel then and now a revolutionary. I have come to meet him.’ So, that is also sort of my identity.

BM: Any interesting childhood memory?

GP: We had some land and my uncle who was serving the railways in Kharagpur had also bought some land. But my father stole all the lands.

However, there was a young Santal boy Chuniram in our house as a servant. I learnt Santali language from him. I also learnt archery from him and could hunt only one bird by that.

BM: How did you come across Marxism or Communism?

GP: From high school I was recruited to Student Federation. Then, student federation was under CPI, which is now divided.

I did my pre-university science in Fakir Mohan College, Balasore which is now FM University. I always used to support anything just and oppose anything unjust. You can say, this was the first thing I learnt.

I came to Ravenshaw College for B.Sc. Actually I was interested in Physics honours. As I didn’t get it in first selection, I didn’t wait for the second selection and took Chemistry as my honours subject.

Studying science helped me a lot in understanding opposing factors like heredity and adaptability – one talks of the root characters and the other about change according to situation! Here I got attracted towards dialectics and, being a science student, thought how to apply these dialectics to the society.

BM: A science post-graduate of your time, there must be ample opportunities? What drove you to join or mobilise people’s movements?

GP: I got selected in the PSC (Public Service Commission) and joined as a lecturer. I taught the college students but found what is more essential for a change in the society is to serve people directly. Living in Paralakhemundi, I saw tribal people coming with head-load of firewood and sell them for a meagre amount. I went to their villages and saw their children. I decided to teach those children. Then, every Sunday I went to teach them.

One day, my principal called me and asked me about it. He said, ‘People are talking that your lecturer is teaching like this even on the streets.’ I then decided to leave the job. One day, I asked for leave, returned the books to the library and left the college.

BM: How did you start working with people, or tribal people to be specific?

GP: I learnt what their life was, what was their economy. I also gained direct knowledge from them. From the masses I learnt unsystematic things. I systemised them, theorised them and again taught it to the masses. This is what the Marxist philosophy talks about.

BM: Did you, or do you even today, see elements of communism or Marxism in the socio-economic structure of the tribal communities?

GP: In the community agriculture of the Adivasis, the primitive communism is still there. Even though it has been largely affected by the commercial competition and the green revolution formula, some of it still remain in some parts. I wanted to preserve that and make it an element of new democratic revolution. We say the Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, they are our guide to action. To apply them to the local conditions of India, we have to study the local conditions as it varies from place to place.

BM: How and when did the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) come up and how you got associated?

GP: Before joining the CPI-ML since it was formed in 1969, I had some contacts with the great Telengana movement. There was Naxalwari movement for occupying land and distribute them among peasants. But there was clash and many people died. On the other hand, 10 lakh acres of land has been occupied and distributed among peasants in the Telengana movement.

The CPIML was formed on annihilation line. Annihilation is the highest level of clash struggle. It was the beginning of guerrilla warfare. Subsequently in 2003, we repealed CPIML on mass line giving proper recognition to the Telengana struggle. We had to organise movements on the mass line.

That was implemented in Narayanpatna as well to organise the tribals for a new democracy. New democracy is the economic democracy, the cultural democracy and building up of the political superstructure. So, there are three components. But what our Maoist friends say is, they will capture power by gun and after that only they will establish new democracy. But, this won’t work. One has to follow the new democratic principles from the beginning.

The CMAS was found in 1994 with me as its advisor from the beginning. The movement was initially led by Kondagori Paidama who dismantled a series of liquor production centres on the banks of Jhanjabati River. She, also, took a lead in resolving the disputes in the tribal community.

As dismantling of distilleries upset the liquor dealers, police was upset for no cases were coming from the tribal communities to the Police station. So, Paidama along with other tribal people were put in jail being termed as a Maoist. We, somehow, bailed her out and she was elected as a member of the Panchayat samiti. Then Paidama was then disowned by our Andhra Counterpart. But now, she has become an instrument against CMAS and me!

I met Nachika Linga in a meeting of the tribals. Nachika’s whole family lived as bonded labourers because of the wine habit of his father. This fact motivated Nachika to lead the movement to liberate the tribal people from this wine habit, end the system of bonded labour and free land from Sahukars.

On these three objectives, Nachika evolved to become the leader. I used to call him modern Spartacus. He organised villagers. In between he was also jailed for one and half years! However, while making him free, the judge stated that a tribal raising his voice to recover his land can’t be termed a Maoist. It was an historic judgement. Even after that the police is still behind the movement and is continuing it activities to suppress the movement.

BM: How CMAS is connected with CPI (Maoist) groups? Is it a Maoist frontal organisation as mentioned by many?

GP: Government and part of Maoists also say CMAS as Maoist frontal organisation. This is conspiratory. I condemn it.

Our form of action is mass form. But because of the violence organised by the Maoists, the tribal movement in the name of CMAS is facing the brunt. Like, the Maoists are killing some wine traders and cases are being imposed on CMAS members. This is harming the movement a lot. We want to keep CMAS committed to the mass form only.

BM: It’s believed by many that CMAS was behind abduction of the MLA Jhinna Hikaka!

GP: They are all lies. I believe, the abduction of the MLA was done in nexus with people in the government. Then the common interest was NCTC to which the government of Odisha and Maoists, both were opposing. And, the government knew it very well that there was absolutely no danger to MLA Jhinna Hikaka in the Maoist camp. When they decided to set the MLA free, they offered Nachika to hold the praja court. But, Nachika denied to hold it as no CMAS demand featured in the demand list. So, the Maoists had to cancel the first date for praja court and held it later. However, some CMAS members were present there. So, whatever was done was by Maoists and CMAS didn’t have any role.

BM: It’s said that to fulfil his political interests, Nachika wanted Jhinna Hikaka to resign!

GP: Nachika was never interested in Politics. It’s not that he has never been approached. He has been approached and I have also asked him if he is interested in Politics. He always denied to join politics and, rather, wanted to concentrate in the tribal movement. He is provoked even today to join politics.

BM: Working in the same area on almost similar causes, how do you differentiate CMAS from Maoists?

GP: Maoists killing police informers or someone who doesn’t support them is going on since long. They are killing the parasitic landlords. But CMAS is not doing that. CMAS is rather stopping their parasitic livelihood, not killing them because we have no right to kill anyone. We check the parasitic livelihood. This is the position of CMAS.

BM: What do you want to achieve through CMAS and the movement running by it?

GP: My dream is to make it a part of the new democratic revolution. The families given with lands will work with their own labour, not hired labour. Then we will get rid of the hybrid seeds and the chemical fertilisers. There will be no use of tractor but plough and bullocks. So that the cattle will grow and the tribal people would get both milk and manure at their home. So, it will be a self sustaining community where human and other resources shall get equal importance.

BM: My last question, don’t know if you will reply to it or not. What is your opinion about the recent development with Sabyasachi Panda and his differences with AOBSZC (Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee) of CPI (Maoist)?

GP: AOB has taken up a dogmatic line. They have no flexibility or creativeness. Rather, I find in Sabyasachi Panda some flexibility and creativity.

Sabyasachi Panda, probably he wants to adopt mass line. Probably he wants to take up the land issue. At the same time, whatever guerrillas and armed forces he has, perhaps he wants to preserve for the future.

BM: You mean to say, there will be another tribal movement for land rights under his leadership?

GP: I said ‘Probably’.

 
 

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