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The Growth Of Naxalism In India History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

“Maoists demand humanity for the poverty stricken masses, not the dirty politicking of the mainstream. Maoists demand decent life for all, not just for the elite and their hangers on that thrive on the mainstream. The vultures of the system demand that the Maoists give up not merely their guns, but their self-respect, humanity, sense of justice and the struggles for a decent existence. They want the Maoists to join the gutter mainstream.”

Maoist Campaign Material

1. That Gentlemen is an extract from a Maoist Campaign Material. You would agree with me that this kind of talk not only has a special appeal but also finds tremendous support, both financial and ideological in rural India. The result is for all to see: Superintendent of Police of Munger in Bihar killed in a Maoist attack,15 policemen killed in landmine blast in Uttar Pradesh, 15 civilians gunned down in broad day light in Jharkhand, 38 CRPF and State Special Forces killed in Dandakaranya Forest, 38 Grey Hound Special Task Force personnel killed on AP Orissa border, the list just goes on and on. The menace of naxalism has entirely engulfed the nation and is perhaps the biggest single challenge staring us right in our faces. The rise of naxalism may not have been spectacular, but its steady consistent growth can not be denied and needs to be analysed in its right perspective. In the next 18 minutes or so, I will talk to you on what I call the rise of the red, growth of naxalism in India. Coming from the region I do, the state of Bihar, no other issue is closer to my heart. I will cover my talk under the heads of

2. Origin and Expansion. I will then take a peek at the naxalite ideology before moving on to the causes for support of naxalism. Here I will lay special emphasis on the central issue which is that of land ownership and land reforms. I will then touch upon the security challenges that the problem poses before enumerating my proposals and the measures and initiatives of the govt for solving the problem. After conclusion I will answer any questions that you may have.

Origin and Expansion

3. The term naxalism, comes from Naxalbari a small village in West Bengal on the tri junction of India, Nepal and Bangladesh, where a section of CPI (Marxist) led by Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal led a violent uprising in 1967. The insurrection started on May 25 when a group of peasants encouraged and supported by the local communist leaders forcibly lifted the stock from their landlords’ granaries. The movement soon spread to adjoining areas and was widely hailed in Chinese mass media as the spark that would ignite a prairie fire and soon engulf the entire Indian nation.

4. While naxalbari was in the making in West Bengal, one Vempatapu Satyanarayan was organising guerrilla squads called dalams in Srikakulam, a heavily forested area of Andhra Pradesh. There were developments happening elsewhere in the country, landless tribals the santhals, oraons and lodhas against jotedars in West Bengal, Tharu tribals against their oppressors in Palia, Lakimpur in Uttar Pradesh, landless peasants led by Satyanarain Singh against their landlords in a number of districts in Bihar. Roughly 4000 incidents of Naxalite violence were reported from the middle of 1970 to middle of 1971. Op Steeplechase was launched by the central and state governments using CRPF, state armed police and army during Jul Aug 71. The movement was suppressed with force but only temporarily. It was to resurface with more vigour in the eighties with the formation of PWG by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, an associate of Charu Mazumdar. The PWG moved from strength to strength and emerged as the most formidable naxalite formation in the country. It still is one of the most potent ones along with others like MCC.

5. The latest phase of naxalite violence commenced with the holding of the ninth congress of the PWG in 2001 in which it was decided to give more sophisticated arms to the Peoples Guerrilla Army. On 21 Sep 04, Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and CPI (Marxist-Leninist), popularly known as the Peoples’ War Group merged to form the CPI (Maoist). With the active support of Nepal Maoists, the party has developed a multi layered op network. A wide network of armed cadres has been put into existence, who take guidance from ideologues and both get unflinching support from ordinary villagers. Let me wrap up the process of expansion by giving you an example to illustrate the magnitude of the problem. Since the creation of Jharkhand in 2000, some 200 policemen and 1000 civilians have died in Naxal violence. The naxal affected areas today span across 13 states and more than 150 districts forming a near continuous belt referred to as the Red Corridor are as shown. But the question is, “Where do they draw the strength from, is the ideology foolproof and strong or are the causes enough to support the movement?” lets first take a look at the naxalite ideology.

Naxalite Ideology

6. The Maoists adhere to violence as the decisive tool of socio-economic transformation. Their contention is that the existing system is basically rotten and that it can be destroyed by violence alone. The crux of the Naxal stand on violence is that violence is imposed by the ruling class. Naxals feel that it is the land lords and the state administration who keep violence on their agenda. It is they who perpetrated it on the people. In such a situation the option left to Naxals is either to surrender to the violence let loose by the state or to counter it by violence. Naxals feel forced to take the latter course in order to achieve radical reforms- agrarian, social, economic and political to which they seem to be whole heartedly committed.

7. In theoretical terms, naxalites justify their actions as the political programme to overthrow the Indian state, comprising the big landlord-comprador, bureaucratic, bourgeoisie classes and the imperialism that backs them. They aim to achieve this through armed struggle and establish a people’s democratic state under the leadership of the proletariat. Taking a leaf from the movement of Mao Zedong in China which resulted in the formation of a formidable Peoples’ Army, naxal leaders in India have also dreamt of a spontaneous rebellion by the peasants and the working classes, if provided with the right spark. While the ideology itself would seem to be unsustainable, the prevailing socio-economic-political conditions provide a fertile ground for it to take roots and grow. So what are these factors.

Causes for Support

8. Land Ownership. As I mentioned earlier, the central agenda at the very heart of the movement is that of land. The core issue is, “Who owns the land?” The man who inherits it or buys it or the man who claims it on the strength of the Marxist principle that “the land belongs to all as nobody has created it.” In India, the land holding pattern has been extremely lopsided in favour of certain sections of the society and the debate over its ownership as also on the split of its produce between the landlord and the tiller has been unending. The issue is clearly emotive and has been exploited by the naxalites to further their ideology.

9. There is also the related issue of land reforms. No state has implemented the provisions in their right spirit. The stipulated ceiling of 15 acres has been treated like a joke and dealt with in a similar manner. You will be surprised to note that the percentage acquisition of over the ceiling surplus land at one time was a mere 0.91 % of what was statistically possible. To elaborate this point, if the govt thought that 1000 acres was the ceiling surplus land in a certain area for redistribution, practically it could only acquire 9.1 acre. While the land issue is at the core of the problem, the social dimension is the most revolting.

10. Social Injustice Let me just quote from the writings of C Lokeswara Rao and the point will be amply clear. While speaking on the landlords of Telengana, called Doras, Mr Rao says and I quote, “The tyranny of Doras in Telengana is unmatched. Tribal girls working on the Dora’s land are forcibly taken in his household and are at the disposal of the master and his guests. She is forced to have abortions when she gets pregnant. She has to subsist on the leftovers passed on by the cook, but has to satisfy the appetite of any male in the master’s household. Naxalite songs are replete with references of rape by landlords and to girls growing up with the knowledge of the inevitability of rape that awaits them. Only few such practices have disappeared and the pace of change is slow.” Do I need to say anymore.

11. Economic Injustice and Caste Factor. In addition to these, there are factors related to economic injustice and the caste.

12. The Robinhood Factor. Another important factor supporting the spread of naxalism is the ideological high ground that the movement has been able to maintain and project, atleast in some areas, something I call the Robinhood Factor. In AP, PWG is believed to have redistributed nearly half a million acres across the state. The modus operandi was to forcibly occupy excess land of the big land owners and give them away to the landless. As per the state govt’s own admission, the radicals had forcibly redistributed 80,000 acres of agricultural land and 120,000 acres of forest land. The question is “What was the govt doing all this while since the land ceiling act came into being.” Why couldn’t the govt do what the naxalites did? Another issue relates to wages. For a long time the revision of daily and yearly minimum wages was pending with the AP govt. The naxalites finally issued a diktat and raised the wages. Similar thing happened in the jungles of Bastar. The poorer sections were particularly happy at these measures. They found that what the politicians had been talking about and the govt promising year after year could be translated into reality only with the intervention of the naxalites. Gorakala Doras, Lord of the Bushes, is how the naxalites came to be known in the interior forest areas.

Security Challenges

13. With such huge mass base and strong appeal combined with a committed cadre, naxalism poses some grave security challenges. I will list some important ones

(a) In keeping with the strategy of ‘annihilation line’ of Charu Mazumdar, class enemies like police, teachers, beaurocrats, businessmen and ofcourse politicians will keep getting mined, maimed and killed.

(b) Politician-naxal nexus will keep robbing the country in many ways.

(c) Full exploitation of the natural and human resources of the affected area will never be possible.

(d) One of the disturbing trends is the emerging nexus between the religious- fundamentalists-external terror org and the naxalites. This could seriously jeopardize our internal security.

(e) Then there is the ultimate goal of the Maoist, overthrow the Indian government and replace by proletariat leadership. In 1981, a little known school teacher joined the underground CP of his country. Even after the restoration of democracy, he continued to live underground and controlled the clandestine wing of the party. Under his leadership, the party launched the Peoples’ War in 1996. On 15 of this month, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, was elected as prime minister of Nepal after his pary won the maximum seats in the general elections. Could a similar thing happen in India. Very much so. The threat, gentlemen is real and we need to move ahead with caution.

Way Ahead

14. For dealing effectively with the naxal problem, I feel an entirely police and security oriented approach is not enough. While it is necessary to conduct proactive and sustained operations against the extremists, it is more important to simultaneously give focussed attention to development and governance issues in the affected areas. Towards this end, there is need to develop short term programmes such as effective implementation of the PDS and some medium and long term measures for overall development of the area.

15. Land reforms must be pursued sincerely. The problem should be realised in its entirety and should not merely become an exercise in political expediency. It is not enough to award the land to landless, but equally important to ensure it is cultivable, remains in their possession and is inheritable.

16. To be fair to the govt, it is apparently trying to do its best. There is continuous and intense monitoring, reviews and discussions at the highest level including the Prime Minister. There are various committees formed at the Chief Ministers level, Cabinet Secy level, Chief Secretary level etc. There is also an Inter Ministerial group headed by Addl Secy (Naxal Management) in the Home Ministry which oversees effective implementation of developments issues in naxalite affected areas for accelerated socio economic development. Under Centre’s direct assistance to states are schemes such as the Modernisation of Police Force Scheme, Security related expenditure Scheme, deployment of central para military forces, scheme for raising ‘India Reserve Battalions’, Backward Districts Initiative, Backward Districts Grant Fund and a host of other development schemes.

17. Great amount of money is being pumped by the government into these schemes. In totality, the various schemes provide an immense opportunity to address the development aspects relevant to the naxalite affected areas, provided the implementation is done in a systematic and qualitative manner and closely monitored.


18. To conclude, it is widely believed that ultimately democracy will prevail. The movement cannot go beyond a point. It cannot reach out to peasantry where new forms of productivity and employment exist. Its ability to spread to urban centres is also questionable. This could perhaps be the reason for the central government’s hitherto almost indifferent approach. But if the GOI plays the waiting game hoping for the democracy to triumph, the cost that India pays as a nation and we pay as its citizens will be very high. In any case I am for one convinced that a waiting game is not the answer. We need to hasten the social and economic changes in an all inclusive growth, may be even sacrifice growth for equitability. I would like to end with a line from the Tupamaro Manifesto, “If the country does not belong to everyone, it will belong to no one.”

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