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Note

50 Years of Virasam

Paani

Revolutionary Writers' Association (Viplava Rachayitala Sangram, popoularly known as Virasam, in Telugu speaking states of India), is celebrating 50th anniversary.

Inspired by the Naxalbari and Srikakulam peasant uprisings in the late 1960s, some eminent Telugu writers and poets established Virasam in 1970. Since its inception, Virasam has been working in the socio-cultural sphere against the dominant ideology of feudalism and imperialism. It strongly believes that literature and art are part of social production, and they, in turn, should be used for progressive transformation of society. With this broad political outlook, Virasam has become an influential force in Telugu literature and literary criticism. On its fiftieth anniversary, Virasam reaffirms that it would continue its fight against all oppressive and exploitative forces including the rising Hindutva fascism and the ongoing domination of imperialism.

Openly proclaiming Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as its world perspective, Virasam defends all oppressed people's struggles including nationality movements, anti-caste and indigenous people's struggles, and civil rights movements of religious minorities, women and oppressed genders. In the wake of the rise of Hindutva fascism,  Virasam stands with the people of Kashmir and Northeast Indian nationalities, and firmly opposes the Indian state's expansionism and military aggression. Virasam vigorously campaigns in support of Adivasi (indigenous people of India) struggles in  Central and East India for their rights over jal (water), jangal (forest), jameen (land) and ijjat (self-respect). It also exposes Indian state's ongoing atrocities against Adivasis, including the state's efforts to dispossess them from their land to serve the interests of comprador bourgeois and imperialist forces. Virasam has published about 30 books covering field reports and political analysis of the Adivasi movement.

Over the last fifty years Virasam has produced dozens of poets, short story writers, and some of the best novelists and literary critics in Telugu. Through its literary work, spread over to all genres and over a thousand books in five decades as well as its social justice activism, Virasam has emerged as a momentous public intellectual force, which encourages writers and poets to take a progressive, revolutionary, pro-people stand. With annual literary meetings, frequent workshops and seminars, Virasam engages with progressive writers of various ideological streams and facilitates discussions in a democratic and friendly atmosphere. It is not an exaggeration to mention that there is not a single progressive writer in the Telugu literary world that hasn't spoken on Virasam. Renowned writers without borders such as Ngugi wa Thiongo, William Hinton, Jan Myrdal, Mahaswetha Devi have spoken at Virasam more than once.

In 1977, Virasam launched its official journal, Arunatara, meaning Red Star in Telugu. Since then, Virasam published thousands of literary features and conducted numerous important debates on literature and politics.

Since its inception, Virasam has been facing state repression for taking up the cause of the oppressed. The state has been trying to criminalise Virasam's activities by implicating its members in fabricated cases. In 2005, the then Andhra Pradesh state government even imposed ban on the organisation. However, with the support of people, fellow writers and intellectuals, Virasam won the legal battle and continued its work with an uncompromising and unflinching spirit.

[Paani, Secretary, Revolutionary Writers' Association (Virasam)]

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Frontier
Vol. 52, No. 34, Feb 23 - 29, 2020