Friday, July 09, 2021

The story of Naxal Varghese, retold


Special CorrespondentKOZHIKODE 09 JULY 2021 19:31 IST
UPDATED: 09 JULY 2021 19:32 IST

English translation of a book on the leader gives readers a glimpse of the history

“Immediately someone went over to Varghese and led him to a fissure in a rock, and made him sit there. Now he was visible only up to his chest. Lakshmana ordered, ‘Shoot!’ I held the barrel close to Varghese’s chest. Only the length of the rifle separated us – almost four feet. It was a .303 rifle I had with me. The day was February 18, 1970 and the time, 6.55 p.m. As demanded earlier by Varghese, I made a sound ‘Shoo . . .’ I didn’t check whether others heard me. I pressed the barrel against his chest. As soon as he shouted, ‘Long Live Mao Unity! Victory to Revolution!’ the firing was done. Varghese fell to his right. Thus the very hand that had fed him the last morsel of rice, killed him.” That was perhaps the first encounter killing in the State.

The shocking revelation of constable Ramachandran Nair that he had shot Varghese point blank on orders from his superiors at the height of the anti-Naxalite drive of early 1970s have been retold in reams and bytes. Now a recently released English translation - "Naxal Varghese: Take-Off and Tail Spin" - by Sebastian Joseph is literally taking a reader to the history of the Naxal movement in Kerala.

A former journalist of Malayala Manorama, Mr. Joseph has extended his reportage after retirement to explore the nuances of the revolutionary zeal in his home district of Wayanad. Of the trilogy, all published in Malayalam, only the second one, has been translated to English, he says.

Maybe the episodes of Varghese or Sakhav Varghese and for some Kerala Che Guevara, who fought against the exploitation of Adivasis by feudal lords in Wayanad has a contemporary element in the State polity. “This is more than a sequel to the first book, Spring Thunder, and gives a realistic account of the Thirunelli-Thrissilery riots. Varghese led the riots when all the leaders of Thalassery-Pulpally actions were languishing in jails,” Mr. Joseph says.

Translated by Radhika P. Menon, this research oriented book mostly based on interviews and documents, has been divided into 36 sections tracing the communist movement in Wayanad, milestones in the Adivasi struggles, capture and killing of Varghese.

Mr. Joseph says that the accounts of the participants, the witnesses and the victims of the riots have been recorded in an unbiased, objective manner, and several official documents, interpretations, witness statements marshalled to authenticate them.

Certainly the sacrifice of the Naxalites have to be recognised. And nobody can do a better job than a journalist in telling their stories,” he says.

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