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Political Situation In The Regions Affected By Lwe History Essay

1. Causes of the Birth of the Movement . The possible causes of the emergence of movement in India can be summarized as follows :-­

(a) Ideological Inspiration. The success of the communist revolutions in Russia under Lenin and in China under Mao which aimed at creating a classless society and providing equal opportunities to all citizens motivated their followers in India to bring about such a revolution. The communist ideology provided the underprivileged hope of empowerment, of a new dawn and a better life for them and their future generations. The Naxalbari uprising was heralded by the communists in China as the ‘Spring Thunder’ [6] with the prediction that it would spread like a wild prairie fire and bring about communism in the country.

(b) Leadership. The emergence of revolutionary leaders like Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal in West Bengal and C Pulla Reddy and Seetharamaiah in Telengana boosted the movement and provided it its initial direction. These leaders were successful in mobilising a mass movement of the so called oppressed and backward classes. After an initial active phase the movement ebbed and flowed but has of late picked up momentum again. The Left Wing Extremists still refer to the eight point charter of Charu Mazumdar for guidance.

(c) Need For Land Reforms . The areas of West Bengal and Telengana were famous for big zamindars [7] exploiting the landless workers. Absence of land reforms provided the perfect motivation and fuel for the movement. The prospect of liberation from years of oppression and exploitation was the driving force fuelled by promises of the communist ideology.

(d) Absence of Development. These areas had been neglected for years and did not share any of the benefits of development and modernisation as also the basic facilities any citizen of the country was entitled. Virtual absence of civic amenities like health care, education, employment opportunities, drinking water and electricity alienated the people from the govt machinery. In their perception and not entirely unjustified, the state had betrayed their interests and a violent protest to wrest their rights seemed the only logical alternative. The apathy of government functionaries at the local level further reinforced their conviction and successive governments chose to ignore the issues and did nothing substantial to alleviate the situation.

(e) Social Inequalities. The caste system perpetuated social injustice towards the ‘Lower Castes’ and decades of freedom also did nothing much to change their lot. Oppression, atrocities and discriminatory treatment of dalits and lower caste peasants by the upper caste landlords was by far the single most important factor contributing to the rise and sustenance of the movement.

Factors Sustaining the Movement

2. In order to find a response to the problem of LWE, it is essential to understand the fundamental causes and the factors which are sustaining the movement. It is very evident that the socio – economic and socio – political situation in regions affected by LWE is the primary reason for its sustenance and growth. They are stark facts which can not be wished away , nor do they have a quick fix solution. However the unfortunate aspect is that even after five decades of independence we have not been able to ameliorate the condition of the people in regions where Left Wing Extremism thrives.

3. The origin and growth of Naxalite movement could be attributed to a complex mix of economic, social and political factors. The economic factors which are not easy to define, would perhaps vary from state to state. Broadly speaking, these would include extreme poverty, glaring economic inequalities and exploitation, and persistent unemployment or under employment. Social and economic exploitation together constitute a highly combustible mixture. However what ignites this explosive combination is when people lose faith in the established political processes and administration, when they find that justice is not available to them through the normal processes of law which are long drawn and much too complicated. The Socio- Economic and Political factors an be summarised as follows:-

(a) Economic Factors .

(i) Poverty.

(ii) Issue of “Land Rights”.

Rights to common property.

Housing.

Tribal and Forest Policies.

Socio – Economic Factors .

Social and Economic inequalities.

Economic Deprivation – Minimum Wages.

Breakdown of the old Social order.

Basic Political Rights .

Economic and Social rights.

Right to vote.

Lack of Infrastructure and Development and poor governance..

Economic Factors

4. Poverty . A very large percentage of the Indian population continues to live below the poverty line . Poverty is multi- dimensional, reflecting not only an inadequate intake of food grain, but also the inability to obtain other essentials like food and clothing, a minimum level of acceptable housing and an access to basic medical and educational facilities. The macro- economic indicators point to the fact that income inequalities have increased in India. The benefits of economic growth have not trickled down to reach the masses of the people. There is evidence to suggest that the pattern of development is skewed in favour of the affluent sections of the society, and the relatively disadvantaged have not been able to improve their position to any significant extent [8] .

5. The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes constitute the poorest of the poor sections. Most of these families do not own any land or other productive assets. They constitute the bulk of agricultural landless workers, construction workers and workers in unorganised sector . Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe families have often not been able to derive full benefit of development programmes. Wrong identification of beneficiaries, poor selection of projects, unrealistic and simplistic assumptions in regard to their viability have been other problems compounded by a largely unresponsive administrative infrastructure. The dwindling resource base of the tribal people in the shape of land, restriction on access to forest produce, and lack of opportunities for reasonable wage employment have caused financial hardships to the tribal people. The dissatisfaction of Tribals arising out of their exploitation and oppression has led to their taking up arms in several areas. In fact Tribal insurgency has over the years become the predominant strand of Naxalism.

6. Land Reforms/Rights . India is predominantly an agricultural country with 67% of its population dependent on agriculture, yet this sector has remained neglected. Land reforms are essential to any long term improvements in the agricultural sector. It encompasses abolition of intermediaries, tenancy reforms with security to actual cultivators, redistribution of surplus ceiling land, consolidation of holding and updating of records. The intermediaries were done away with in the early fifties with abolition of the Zamindari system. Tenancy laws provide for acquisition by tenants on payment of reasonable compensation, security of tenure and payment of fair rent. However on the whole, tenancy reforms have not achieved the desired results as the incidence of informal, oral or concealed tenancy is very high . Ceiling legislations have also had limited success due to poor enforcement.

7. Landless Tillers . The Green Revolution of 1960s concentrated only on increasing productivity. Majority of the people employed in agriculture are landless and poor, who aspire to own and possess land and this has resulted in a struggle against the rich and powerful landlords. LWE has exploited this sentiment and hence has found favour among the landless. In Naxal affected areas, one can see Red Flags erected by the Left Wing Extremists. Bloodshed follows if the landlords contest and land is distributed to the poor and landless. This increases the hold of the Naxalites over the poor.

8. If the days of government intervention for land reforms are virtually over, the pressures from below for agrarian change are not too strong either on an all­ India plane. This is partly because peasant unity against landlordism is not viable any more as also growing unavailability of sur­plus land, particularly in relatively deve­loped areas of agriculture, limits the scope for land struggles. But the land and other agrarian issues of the rural poor are much more alive in the comparatively backward regions. [9] 

9. Rights to Common Property . The Naxalite movement has also fought for the rights of the poor to common property resources. In doing so, the movement has asserted the identity of the poor as equal members of a village. These struggles are over gairmajurwa [10] land as well as full access to the village pond. Used for washing clothes, bathing buffaloes, etc, these ponds are also an important source of fish. The question of who has rights over the fish has never been settled to the satisfaction of all the villagers. The general government policy has been to auction the fish to the highest bidder. Often, the local landlord gets the fish for a low price since his bid goes unchal­lenged. This system is considered unfair by the poorer sections of the village, for whom fish is a much needed food supplement. [11] The Naxalite movement has challenged the landlords’ monopoly, established control over ponds on behalf of the poor and devised a fairer system of distribution.

10. Housing . Another economic issue often taken up by the Naxalite movement relates to housing. Owning a residential plot is very important for the poor, since it means tangible security. Living on homestead land belonging to the landlord (the standard arrangement in earlier days) increased the dependence of labourers on their employers. This was allowed for free earlier by the land lords which gave them moral ascendancy over the poor, however this is no longer in vogue due to the changed social equation. Now with the help of Naxalite groups, labourers are sometimes able to resettle on reclaimed gairmajurwa land.

Tribal and Forest Policies

11. It is of interest to know that the British Anthropologists in 19th and 20th centuries adopted the policy of “Isolation of Tribals” in order to preserve their uniqueness and cultures. This seemed to be a noble thought but since then we also continue to follow their policy in the name of preservation. This in effect has led to neglect, underdevelopment and exploitation of the Tribals. [12] The following are indisputable facts :-

(a) The Tribals deserve all the rights and privileges due to an ordinary citizen of India but unfortunately the situation on ground is quite different. They do not have access to veen the basic amenities which is the duty of the government to provide for.

(b) The continuous exploitation at the hands of govt officials, jungle mafia, forest officials and so called civilized population has led to their alienation and bred discontent and disillusionment.

12. New Forest Policy . The forest areas have been notified under the Forest Regulatory Act thus denying the tribals their traditional means of livelihood and their means of survival. These having been taken away from them in the name of our forest policies without realising that for the tribal people, the forest is part of their lives. It is therefore pertinent that they should be properly convinced about the rehabilitation package. Therefore proper communication with them was of utmost importance, which obviously was lacking leading to mass tribal unrest and dissatisfaction. [13] 

Socio - Economic Factors

13. Social and Economic Inequalities. The areas in question are severely affected by disparities in economic and social terms:­-

(a) The rich Thakurs and Zamindars considered poor people and tribals as people with no dignity and hence socially exploited them. The low caste people were not allowed to sit outside and entertain guests. The women and girls of poor classes were treated as commodities to be used and exploited. These inequalities in society forced them to take recourse to violence and join LWE. In some regions of the country the rural labouring classes of OBC or even dalit origin could use the parliamentary space to strengthen them­selves to an extent against the traditional rural overlords. But in many other regions and states they could not. And as for the adivasis, the picture is indeed much gloomier. Thus, if the battles of the rural wretched of the earth in the plains of Bihar or Telangana target both class exploitation and caste oppression, struggles in Dandakaranya or those in the Jharkhand forests seek to combine class demands with that of self­ identity, dignity and autonomy for the marginalised minority nationalities.

(b) Economic Deprivation – Minimum Wages. Though the government has stipulated minimum wages, yet in these areas, the practise by the landlords of giving Half Kachhi Paseri i.e. one Kg 750 gms of coarse rice for one day’s labour or one bag of paddy for every 21 bags of paddy cut was the rule [14] . This was too minimal for subsistence of large families and hence the youth (boys & girls) of poor and lower castes revolted to join the LWE cadres. The Naxalites did achieve a fair degree of success as far as wages are concerned. The landlords started giving remuneration for services in cash which was unheard of earlier. The system of ‘batai’ [15] wherein the tiller was given a percentage of the produce , also came into vogue.

14. Collapse of The Old Social Order . By the 1980s the old social order was on the verge of collapse. The old brahminical ideology was no longer sufficient to preserve the superior position of the upper castes. This led to a naked power struggle, and in this the upper castes ruled the roost due to their better connections in the government and the police, thus marginalising not only the SCs but also the OBCs. There were various ways in which dominance was insured including use of musclemen to suppress the poor.

15. Power Struggles . Thus in the late 1980s there were two types of struggles going on. Firstly a political struggle for control of the state and secondly a socio- economic struggle of the landless lower castes against the land owning forward castes. While the dominant groups amongst the backward classes fought on main stream political platforms, the poor who had no resources joined ultra left wing organisations. Naxalism provided these people a space from where they could challenge the upper castes. Since both the electoral and radical struggles were against the upper castes, this helped the lower castes to unite against the common enemy. The exclusion of the upwardly mobile lower castes from the establishment and the humiliation associated with it has been the main reason for people joining the naxalites.

16. An immediate consequence of the entry of the Naxalites was that the SCs who had already become independent economically could now match the fire power of the upper castes. The support from the Naxalites made it clear the the upper castes could no longer harm the lower castes as in the past. It is also noteworthy that by allowing social change to take its natural course the Naxalites help prevent caste wars. Had they not been present the upper castes would have been tempted to use coercive power against the upwardly mobile SCs leading to violence by both sides. Every aspect of the social system was not contested and there remained areas which were left untouched.

Basic Political Rights

17. Struggles for the economic and social rights mentioned earlier, by their very nature, involve an assertion of basic political rights. For example, when the poor struggle for minimum wages, or land reform, they are asserting their constitutional right to justice. Similarly, women who used to be constantly exposed to arbitrary sexual harassment (even rape), and who now have the power to resist and even punish their aggressors, can be seen to defend their constitutional right to personal liberty and dignity.

18. Economic and Social Rights . Here again, the Naxalite movement has achieved some success. The poor and oppressed who used to be invisible as far as upper classes and the state were concerned, are now a visible – even powerful- political force. Agricultural labourers are able to think of themselves as citizens with the same political rights as the landlords and to a large extent even to assert this equality in practice. Also, their perception of poverty as a matter of ‘fate’ (naseeb) has changed; now they often see it as a matter of injustice. In other respects, too, the poor of these areas strike the observer for their political consciousness. In both rural and urban areas, people take strong interest in political matters, and are well informed about political issues.

19. Right to Vote . Another important political right which had been denied to many is the right to vote. People were often kept away from the polling booths by henchmen of the upper castes and classes who would cast the votes on their behalf in favour of their own candidate. Since Liberation included participation in election as part of its political line, people in Liberated areas have been able to exercise their right to vote. In these areas, the party’s candidates are contesting elections, cadres oppose booth captur­ing, and the party ensures that its supporters are able to vote.

Lack of Infrastructure and Development

20. The areas affected by the naxal movement are very rich in forest and mineral resources and yet have not seen any infrastructure development. The lack of roads, bridges, power, industry etc has left the area underdeveloped and poor. The benefits being enjoyed by the rest of the country have not trickled down to these areas where even now mankind battles for the very basic of needs.

21. It is no coincidence at all that the tribal belts of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattis­garh and Jharkhand, where the Maoists are most active, are also among the areas in the country that have the lowest develop­ment indicators. Though information on the socio-economic profile of the adivasi population in India is quite sketchy, avail­able data shows that maternal mortality (between 8 and 25 per 1,000) among them is more than double the rates in the advan­ced regions of the country. Similarly, the infant mortality rates are between 120 and 150, which is worse than double the all ­India average of 55. [16] 

22. All these adverse health indicators are largely due to inadequate access to the right foods- iron, protein and micronutrients such as iodine and vitamins – and lack of access to healthcare services. A decade ago, the World Development Report observed, “The cycle between hunger- disease- Iow levels of productivity (measured both in terms of absence from work as well as duration)-low wages and indebtedness is reflective of how the development process has largely bypassed the tribals. Therefore understandably the tribals feel neglected and excluded from the benefits of development enjoyed by the rest of the country.

23. Inadequate Governance. It is common knowledge that in many or rather most of these areas, there is no governance at all. The civil administration personnel like, police forces, revenue department and judicial institutions just do not exist. It is common knowledge that the officials do not visit these areas and hence the grants, funds and schemes announced by the govt are never implemented. This has allowed the Naxalites to run a parallel government in these areas. The practice of holding Jan Adalats, Land Distribution, Construction of Irrigation Facilities and Tax Collection by the Naxalite cadres, speak of the hold of the state government as also, explain the reach and writ of LWE.

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