Even at the ripe old age of 82 and in a fragile state of health, her day begins with a brief morning walk. Once back in his living room of his modest house, he takes a book among the many sent by his family and friends. Reading and writing are his two obsessions and he continues to do so, while recovering from poor health and post-COVID-19 complications.
This is the summary of Varavara Rao, the revolutionary poet, teacher, journalist, defender of alternative popular movements and intellectual.
Arrested on August 28, 2018 in the Elgar Parishad case, he was released on medical bail on March 6, 2021, and it was only a few days ago, given the deterioration of his state of health, that the Supreme Court granted him permanent bail on the same grounds. . The love of literature and writing, whatever the language, had come quite naturally to him in his childhood, because being the last of 10 siblings (five sisters and four brothers), he was surrounded by books and of publications. All of his brothers were in some kind of scripture.
Born on November 3, 1940, in Chinna Pendyala of Jangaon district in Telangana to a middle-class Brahmin family, Mr. Rao, from an early age, saw his brothers, who were staunch members of Congress, fight against atrocities of the Razakars under the Nizam. . The idea of socialism was sown deep in him and his first poem ‘Socialistu Chandrudu’ (Socialist Moon) about the Soviet Union sending the dog Laika into space, was published in the Telugu magazine Swatantrawhen he was 17.
He was deeply influenced by the writings of his brother Raghava Rao, Sri Sri and Chalam. Barely a teenager, he was drawn to the Telangana peasant movement, in which one of his first cousins was a squad leader, who later became an MP. This was probably his first contact with communist ideology. After earning a master’s degree from Osmania University, Mr. Rao taught at a few private colleges before joining the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India as a publishing assistant. In 1968, he returned to Warangal to pursue a teaching profession, and this was the turning point in his life, because Warangal was then the home of the Naxalite movement.
Mr. Rao wrote more than 17 books of poems and about 17 books on various other subjects which also dealt with the economic situation of the country and translated two novels. Over 100 of his poems have been translated into Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Bengali and English. When he was hospitalized in 2021, his poems were translated into at least 20 European and other languages.
Inspired by the Naxalbari movement in 1970, he was instrumental in founding two writers’ associations – “Tirugubatu Kavulu” (the Rebellious Poets Association) and the Viplava Rachayitala Sangham (the Revolutionary Writers Association), popularly known as Virasam.
Virasam was first banned in 2005 and the ban was lifted in 2006 when a court panel struck it down. It was again banned by the Telangana government in 2021, but within a month the order was withdrawn. Since his first arrest in October 1973 under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act), Mr. Rao has been arrested at least 16 times, including the August 2018 arrest in the Elgar Parishad case, and has been involved in over 27 cases, including the two while in prison in the Elgar case.
Mr. Rao was acquitted in 13 of the cases and some of them, such as the Secunderabad case and Ramnagar Conspiracy, took more than 15 to 17 years to trial. The courts had quashed or dismissed about three cases and nine had been withdrawn by the prosecution. He spent more than seven years in prison, sometimes in solitary confinement.
Mr Rao also played a key role in peace talks between the Naxalites and the Andhra Pradesh government in 2004. The Maoist party walked out of the talks in January 2006 after a meeting, alleging the state had violated the ceasefire agreement reached six months earlier.
Mr. Rao’s love for books has never failed him, but what hurts him the most now is that he is no longer able to write, as his hands are shaking. Known for having a skill in calligraphic writing, this is what he misses the most, his relatives say.