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In Memory of Comrade S. A. Rawoof

Central Organising Committee, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) NAXALBARI

February 20, 2014

In Memory of Comrade S. A. Rawoof

Comrade Sheik Abdul Rawoof (Viswam), who was Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) NAXALBARI till he retired in 2006, passed away on the 9th of February, at the age of 89. He was suffering from age related diseases. Before laying his body to rest on the 11th evening at his home village of Kuttagulla (Kadiri Taluq, Anantapur District, Andhra Pradesh) it was kept for public viewing for two days. Thousands of people came from far flung areas to see their dear comrade one last time.

Comrade Rawoof, popularly known as ‘SAR’, leaves behind inspiring memories of a life wholly dedicated to the cause of the people, to revolution. While a student he was attracted to the Communist Party of India.  Those were the tumultuous years of the anti-colonial struggle and, most importantly, the great Telengana peasant armed struggle led by the communist party.   Soon enough comrade Rawoof became a party member and remained a communist throughout. He was dissatisfied by the CPI’s deviation to the electoral path. But, under discipline, he had to contest local elections and unwillingly became the first communist municipal chairman of Kadiri. True to his revolutionary character that post was transformed by him into one of a fighter. He refused to be cut off from the masses by the pomposity of office and, even more, firmly resisted all attempts to make him a tool of anti-people acts sought to be enforced through the local body.

When the rebellion within the CPI led to the formation of the CPI (Marxist) he immediately joined it. Soon enough he realised that this was nothing more than a disguised version of that old revisionism. Then the great peals of Naxalbari thundered in the Indian sky. Rawoof immediately rallied with the new revolutionary polarisation. Yet, confusion was being created by the centrist stand of Nagi Reddy who was then the most prominent leader seen as a supporter of the Naxalbari armed rebellion in Andhra Pradesh. This was quite a problem in the Rayalseema region, from where Nagi Reddy came, and, which was then Rawoof’s center of activity. Yet the comrade’s steadfast revolutionary convictions soon lead him to unite with those struggling against Nagi Reddy’s rightism. He linked up with the comrades in Srikakulam who were already carrying out armed struggle guided by comrade Charu Majumdar and became a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Following the directive of the party he left his occupation as a lawyer and became a professional revolutionary. He remained that till the very last years of his life; until he was forced to live under continuous medical supervision.

Rawoof was elected a member of the Andhra Pradesh State Committee of the CPI (M-L) in its State Conference in 1970. Though elected as a member of the delegation from AP to the 1970 Party Congress he couldn’t participate due to some technical glitches.  He remained a member of AP State Committee till his arrest in 1973. While in jail two significant developments led to a new chapter in Rawoof’s political life. The AP State Committee led by Kondapalli Seetharamiya (KS) openly called for a ‘suspension’ of armed struggle arguing that this was necessary for a reorganisation and re-launching of the armed struggle by utilising the new opportunities given by the post-Emergency situation. This was not consulted with Rawoof, though that was quite possible in the relaxed atmosphere existing after withdrawal of Emergency. As accounted by Rawoof in his summation, even while being in jail he made all efforts to contact KS and raise his objections to this proposal. They were not accepted. This was also a period when the international Marxist-Leninist movement was also grappling with the capitalist coup in China by the Teng-Hua clique and the Albanian Party’s efforts to utilise the emerging opposition to this as a means of attacking and rejecting Maoism (then termed as Mao Tsetung Thought). Except a few parties and organisations, most in the M-L camp either capitulated to one or the other of these anti-Marxist camps. The AP State Committee supported the Communist Party of China usurped by the Teng-Hua clique and upheld the Three Worlds Theory falsely attributed by them to Mao Tsetung. In view of these factors, Rawoof decided to rebel, break out and lead the formation of a new organisation, known as the AP Reorganisation Committee, CPI (M-L). The correctness of this step remains a matter of debate within the Maoist movement in India. Yet his determination to persist on the path of armed struggle and ideological sharpness in immediately grasping the full import of international developments can never be belittled. It was inspired by a great tradition set by Charu Majumdar. Its basic correctness is confirmed by history, even if certain aspects underlying that decision to rebel and the practical course he subsequently followed may be controversial.

The formation of the APROC under Rawoof’s leadership soon enough led to establishing ties with the Kerala State Committee which was holding similar positions. This led to the formation of the Reorganisation Committee, CPI (M-L) in 1979 (later renamed as Central Reorganisation Committee, CPI (M-L) in its 1st All-India Conference held in 1981). This party played an instrumental role in the struggle to defend Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought (as Maoism was then termed) at the 1st International conference of 1980 and later in the 1984 conference that led to the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. In all of this Rawoof played an important role as a member of that party’s leading body. He was a staunch internationalist.

During this period Rawoof gave leadership to the development of armed struggle in AP, facing up to savage state repression which took the lives of many comrades. Rawoof himself was arrested in 1983 and jailed for 3 years and later for 4. (He was imprisoned for a total of 12 years during his plus five decades long revolutionary life.) Meanwhile he took up the struggle against the rightist positions being advanced by the CRC leadership. In 1985, while still in jail, he led a split against it when it formally launched itself on a disastrous course of liquidation. Later in 1989 he joined the CPI (M-L) Red Flag since it was accepting the 1970 program of the CPI (M-L). When it started deviating from these positions he struggled against this, finally leading to comrades of two States, AP and Karnataka, breaking off and forming the CPI (M-L) Naxalbari. They and the Maoist Unity Center, CPI (M-L) then merged in 1999, as CPI (M-L) Naxalbari. Rawoof was its Secretary till 2006.

Rawoof was a staunch follower of Charu Majumdar. His firm adherence to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and loyalty to Charu Majumdar’s positions were his ideological mainstays, tempered with an intense hatred towards the oppressors. While firm in his ideological orientation, he was also critically aware of the shortcomings in his grasp and application. He frankly admitted in his summation report, “We failed to correctly implement the line of area wise seizure of political power…annihilations, which were not linked to the seizure of political power turned out to be only militant economism and the whole activity was roving guerrilla activity…”.  He accepted his own role in the setbacks and admitted that he “was given to spontaneity to extend the movement without preparing the cadres ideologically and organisationally and on questions of military line.” For various reasons, some beyond his control, this awareness could not be translated into a timely and deep going rectification.

If Rawoof had a track record of rebelling against what he saw as wrong line and leadership, this was never given to a narrow group mentality. That much is well proven by his efforts for unity, for building a unified all-India party. It was also proven by his keenness to value and learn from the revolutionary experiences of other Maoist parties, even when disagreeing with them. In a letter written to the CPI (M-L) Red Flag leadership he wrote, “CRC never discussed about the revolutionary movement led by different ML organisations, particularly PW, MCC and Party Unity, which are in armed struggle. It is very unfortunate that CRC is taking a very negative attitude towards PW… Is it not necessary that we should learn from both the positive and negatives aspects of the revolutionary movement led by that party, which has become the main target of state repression?” This broad heartedness, this steadfast Maoist attitude of learning even from those with whom one disagrees, will always shine as an example for generations of communists.

His communist qualities, capacity to integrate with the people, simple living, willingness for hardship and absolute faith in the party and the people have forever endeared him. Rawoof was amazing in his capacity to effortlessly bridge the age-gap and win over the young to the cause of revolution. For all the signs of aging so visible on him, his was not the ‘wrinkled gaze of the elderly’. There was never a distance, the aloofness of ‘seniority’, with them. If he was affectionately called ‘Thatha’ (grandfather) by young comrades, this was one who was quite the opposite in his relations with them.

Comrade S.A. Rawoof is no more with us, now physically. Already for the past few years, debilitated by growing dementia, he was in disconnect – unable to recognise his close associates, unable to meaningfully communicate with them. In the initial stages, the intense struggle he was waging to resist the advance of that condition could be seen in flashes of political terms in his broken conversations. But that too would soon end. It was cruel to stand witness to this communist fighter’s plight, his gaze now made vacant by disease. It was painful to recollect that sharp look and decisive voice, so stark in contrast to the dullness now seen. It was difficult to relate this indifferent person to that bundle of energy, that empathy and concern for the people and his comrades.

We honour this great communist revolutionary by dipping the Red Flag!

We honour him by dedicating ourselves even more to the realisation of the revolutionary aims he lived for, for his long cherished desire to achieve the unity of Maoists in India into a single party!