“I Have Faith In The Law," Says Poet, Orator & Lecturer Varavara Rao
On Tuesday, five prominent social activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Arun Ferreira had been arrested by the police on a myriad of charges. Reportedly, the searches and detentions were carried out under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Sections 153A, 505(1)(b), 117, 120(b) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.
Activists across the country and noted public intellectuals like Romila Thapar, Arundhati Roy, Ramachandra Guha and several others have filed a public petition condemning the arrests. Many have taken to the streets protesting the arrests.
One prominent name among those arrested, that is dominating the headlines is Telugu poet, public speaker and renowned communist, Varavara Rao. 78-year old V V Rao was arrested following a raid in his house in Hyderabad by Pune Police on August 28.
Rao’s Life And Work
Known to be an ideologue of revolutionary Maoism, Varavara Rao has been a professional lecturer in Telugu literature for over 40 years, apart from being an orator, journalist, literary critic and eminent poet. He has taught in different colleges and served as the principal of Chanda Kanthaiah Memorial College in later life. His literary genius is reflected in over fifteen poetry anthologies, most of which have been translated into English and major Indian languages.
Rao’s landmark thesis ‘Telangana Liberation Struggle and Telugu Novel – A Study into Interconnection between Society and Literature’ (1983) – is considered the best Marxist critique in Telugu. He founded noteworthy literary organisations like Srujana, a public forum for modern Telugu literature, and later Virasam (Revolutionary Writer’s Association), that served as the platform for young writers and artists of rebellion. Virasam actively glorifies Naxalite ideology.
His poems, most of which carry the undertone of a rebellious voice of the marginalised, are considered masterpieces.
Arrests and assaults have not subdued his rebellious spirit
In 1973, the Andhra Pradesh Govt took action against Varavara Rao’s communist activism, citing that his writings and speeches were directly influencing revolutionary violence across the state. His arrest was questioned by the High Court, but later the government convicted Rao and his associate activists in the Secunderabad Conspiracy Case. Rao was bailed in 1975, and acquitted of all charges in 1989 after 15 years of prolonged trial.
Just a day after the proclamation of national emergency in 1975, Rao was arrested and detained again under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). Unlike other prisoners, he was barred from meeting in family members while in jail, and even his personal letters were subjected to stringent scrutiny. Even when other MISA detainees were released after Emergency ended, Rao was arrested again under the pretext of a new MISA warrant.
In the post-emergency days, V V Rao spearheaded several mass movements in Telangana against the oppressive affluent class. He faced brutal mental and physical harassment by the landlords. Several attempts were made to kill him. In 1979, a police official publicly beat him.
When N.T. Rama Rao of the Indian National Congress was elected to power in Andhra Pradesh in 1985, he allegedly tried to suppress the Naxalite movement by all means. Six cases were filed against Varavara Rao in 1985 alone, following which the activist set out on an all India tour to spread nationwide awareness about governmental repression in his state. Reportedly, his close friend activist Dr Ramanatham was killed by the police, who had openly threatened to kill Rao as well. His family home in Warangal was raided several times, following which he volunteered to go to jail. He was acquitted from most of the charges later.
Acting as a peace mediator for CPI(M)
In 2001, Varavara Rao was chosen as one of the emissaries to supervise peace negotiations between the ruling Telugu Desam Party and the Naxalites, but he withdrew from the position following reports of encounter killings. Later in 2004, the Congress Government again appointed him as a peace mediator and after several rounds of discussion, he pulled out again and a ban was imposed on Virasam and CPI. Rao was arrested within a day after the ban. Rigorous trials continued on numerous charges against him, finally releasing him in 2006 until his rearrest in 2018 over an alleged conspiracy to assassinate PM Modi.
V V Rao has also lent his support in the Telangana movement demanding a new state.
His comments after the latest arrest
Pictures have surfaced all over the media showing a smiling Rao being taken away by the police. He was quoted by NDTV as saying, “If the fight against fascist policies is called a conspiracy, then there cannot be a bigger conspiracy than this (calling the fight a conspiracy).” After the SC order for his house arrest, he added, “I have faith in the law.” He has continued to refute the charges against him claiming them as false.