By T S Sudhir
“I hope you will top up my prepaid card if I run out of charge,” said Gudsa Usendi and laughed when I asked for his mobile number. I understood what he was trying to say. This former spokesperson of the outlawed Maoists, who surrendered to the Andhra Pradesh police on January 7, was referring to a conversation a couple of years ago when he had called to share some information from inside the forests.
“My phone does not have charge so can you call me back,” he had said then. An amused me had expressed my surprise in my blog that a person who was the voice of India’s “biggest internal security threat” did not even have adequate balance in his cellphone SIM. Usendi obviously had read whatever was written about him.
Today when I met him, his first request was not to be called Usendi. “I am G V K Prasad,” he said softly, with a demeanor and body language so unaggressive, that this once dreaded Maoist could easily pass off as a college professor.
With Santosh Markam, his live-in partner, by his side, the 46-year-old rubbished the Union government’s propaganda about the Maoists. “It is an exaggeration to call it the biggest internal security threat. The very fact that Raman Singh came back to power and there was heavy polling in Chhattisgarh despite our boycott call is evidence that Maoists hardly hold that kind of sway over the people,” he reasoned.
By any standards, Prasad was a big catch for the Andhra Pradesh police. Now the more difficult job is to keep him safe. But Prasad shrugs off a possible threat to his life by his former friends. But he cannot be so sure given that Maoists are clearly unnerved by his surrender and one of his ex-colleagues Ramanna released an audio tape, criticising his move and casting aspersions on his character.
Prasad was the one who communicated with the world after the Darbha Ghati massacre in which 26 people, most of them Congress leaders, were killed in May last year. “Once you are in the party, you have to defend whatever the party does. But I was totally against the killing of people like PCC chief Nandkumar Patel,” he explained. On being asked if there was any truth to the rumours about Congress leaders like Ajit Jogi passing on information to the Maoists about the movement of the convoy, Prasad denied any such collaboration.
“It will be difficult for the Maoists to move into more areas. I am not saying Maoist activity will be completely finished but in ten years, it won’t be anything like what it is today,” said Prasad, clearly disillusioned with the way of his former organisation.
A staunch Telangana supporter, he is still mulling what to do. How well he is able to get back into the mainstream, will be a test both for police and civil society as well as surrendered Maoists like Prasad. India will be watching.