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Naxal Movement in India: Spark of Naxalwari spreads across the Country
"It was the ineffectiveness of Indian communist movement, that started only after the non-cooperation movement was called off by Mahatma Gandhi, and the way communist leaders responded to the issues of farmers and tribals insisted the young radicals break out of the Marxist fold and form their own group on Maoist line of Revolutionary Communism."
Basudev Mahapatra : October 21, 2007
Today, Naxalites have a presence in almost half of India while they have turned into a political force to be reckoned with in some of the poorer, tribal concentrated, forest and natural resource rich states like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
‘Naxal’ – the name of the movement that is run by revolutionary communists born out of a split in the Indian communist movement owes its origin to Naxalbari, a small village in West Bengal where 49-year old Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal of Communist Party of India (Marxist) led a militant peasant uprising in 1967. Their aim was to promote and build a "revolutionary opposition" in order to establish "revolutionary rule" in India. Largely influenced by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) – father of the modern republic of China, Charu Mazumdar advocated that the peasants and lower classes must overthrow the government and upper classes that pursues a capitalistic culture in India and put the proletariat class of the society in a state of plight.
Under the leadership of Charu Mazumdar, the naxalite cadres defined the objective of the movement as 'seizure of power through an agrarian revolution'. Their strategy was to replace the old feudal order with one that would implement land reforms and free the poor from the clutches of landlords. They adopted guerilla warfare as the tactics to achieve their objective. They visualized 'liberation' of territories and they thus hoped to set up 'liberated zones' gradually in different parts of the country that would eventually coalesce into a territorial unit under Naxalite hegemony. These basic principles that are believed to be the principles of Naxalism are all drawn form the idea of revolutionary socialism set by Mao Zedong of China.
It was the ineffectiveness of Indian communist movement, that started only after the non-cooperation movement was called off by Mahatma Gandhi, and the way communist leaders responded to the issues of farmers and tribals insisted the young radicals break out of the Marxist fold and form their own group on Maoist line of Revolutionary Communism.
Born in a small village of West Bengal, the Naxalite ideology gained popularity among youth and intellectual circle in many parts of India within a few years. The Naxalites organized the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) and peasants' uprisings were organized in several parts of the country. On April 22, 1969 the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) was formed by AICCCR to give the radical factions believing in the Naxal ideology a political platform to highlight various issues for political mobilisation. By the early 1970s, Naxalite movement had its presence in many states like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab etc. For some time the naxalite guerillas had virtually set up alternate administrative machinery in Srikakulam of Andhra Pradesh, to which they referred to as `liberated zone'. In parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the Naxalites succeeded in mobilizing the peasantry to recover lands they had lost to the moneylender-cum-landlords whom they had mortgaged their properties in lieu of money. In Punjab rich landlords and policemen were targeted by bands of Naxalites. In Midnapur and Birbhum of West Bengal armed peasants' struggle broke out. In Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal, the Naxalites found their main support among the peasantry and the aboriginal tribal communities, who had been the most oppressed and marginalized segment of Indian society.
The popularity of naxalbari movement and growing strength of Naxal groups alarmed the government of India to set up a committee for looking into the matter. The committee, in its report revealed that the basic cause of unrest was the defective implementation of laws enacted to protect the interests of the poor farmers and tribals. But, instead of taking measures to safeguard the rights of farmers and tribals and make them believe the democratic system of governance, government, worried over the law and order situation in the areas of naxal influence, took reactionary steps by raising strong police action against the Naxalites. Through this, the government succeeded in weakening the Naxalite rebellion to some extent. Charu Mazumdar was captured from a Calcutta hideout in July 1972 who died in police custody 12 days after his arrest. This incident raised suspicion about the treatment meted out to him by the police in the custody and the allegation of the ill-treatment meted to the detainees was made by intellectuals across the country, left wing politicians and scholars. However, these developments had a great role in carrying the naxal message to people at the grassroot level of Indian society.
The next hammer on naxal movement and its cadres was the emergency imposed on India in 1975. Most of the elite members as well as grassroot level leaders of the movement were either put in jails; many veterans went underground to escape arrest. For some time, it seemed, naxal movement would die in India. But it entered a new phase with the lifting of Emergency and a new government came into power at the center after 1977 general elections. The new and first non-congress government released naxalite leaders from jails following a wide scale movement organized by various human rights groups in the country and abroad.
During the past years, the armed naxalite groups have emerged as the main challenge to the governance in India. These groups have largely expanded their influence area and modern manifestations of naxal movement have gone the international way. Hence, the organizations like, PWG, MCC etc. have established a network with similar revolutionary organizations in Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lnaka under the aegis of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCMPOSA). Moreover, all these South Asian Maoist organizations and parties are also members of an international organization called the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM).
As MCC is banned in Bihar and Jharkhand and PWG is banned in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Chhatishgarh, all the groups believing in naxal ideology of liberation through guerrilla warfare have been united under one banner ‘Communist Party of India (Maoist) since September 2004. Now operating in West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in full force, they have come out stronger. Now, the red cadres are trying to intensify their activities in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttranchal and the already affected states.
After the merger into CPI (Maoist), naxalites have consolidated their front organizations into 'Revolutionary Democratic Front' (RDF) to intensify their mass contact programme. Creating new fronts and banners frequently and merging the groups into their fold has been the major instrument of the Maoists to escape from police action and political aggression. This has put the Police and the governments in confusion and a net of troubles on the way of curbing the Naxal movement. On the other hand, under new banners and fronts, the naxal groups are making regular recruitment of cadres as armed naxals, techie Cadres, informers etc. on salary basis. As it comes to hearing, an armed cadre joins at a monthly remuneration between 6000 and 10000 rupees whereas a qualified techie cadre starts at a salary between 8000 and 15000 per month depending on their qualification, expertise and area of operation. Unlike other regular jobs, they have set an effective and lucrative system of incentives and cadre promotion basing upon the performance and capability in handling different operations. As the rumour (may be true also) goes, initial salary goes double in only three years for a cadre with a good performance record. Even, they have engaged number of children and women as cadre messengers.
The US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism, 2006 says that Communist Party of India (Maoist) has a significant cadre of women. And, its important leaders include Ganapati (the PWG leader from Andhra Pradesh), Pramod Mishra, Uma Shankar, and PNG alias Nathuni Mistry, (arrested by Jharkhand police in 2002). The report also says, “Although difficult to assess (its strength) with any accuracy, media reports and local authorities suggest the CPI's (Maoist) membership may be as high as 31,000, including both hard-core militants and dedicated sympathizers”. As entry into the fold is a regular process in the cadre groups, the number would have gone up to a considerable mark by now.
Since their merger into the Maoist fold, the naxalites are now better organised under different zonal committees with effective coordination machinery. For example, they have three zonal committees in Orissa like Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), Jharkhand-Bihar-Orissa Special Zonal Committee (JBOBSZC) and Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DSZC). In Andhra Pradesh, three special zonal committees look after the Maoist operations. Likewise, special zonal committees are formed in every naxal affected states.
Naxalites raided Jails, government armouries and police camps almost every year to display their strength and loot arms and ammunitions for their cadres. Some 1000 Naxal cadres staged the “Operation Jailbreak” in Jehanabad on November 13, 2005 to rescue the Maoist followers and leaders who were kept in the Jail. Two days before this incident, on November 11, over a hundred Maoists attacked a Home Guard training centre at Pachamba in the Giridih district of neighbouring Jharkhand, killing five persons before decamping with 183 rifles, two pistols and 2,500 cartridges; the Maoists had carried out a similar attack on the Koraput District armoury in Orissa on February 6, 2004, killing four security force personnel and looting more than 2,000 firearms.
In 2007, till date, naxalites killed JMM MP Sunil Mahato in Jharkhand and a local congress leader Gangaram Kohrami, (50) in Bijapur district of Chhatishgarh. Earlier they made an attack on Chandrababu Naidu who was then the CM of Andhra Pradesh and the house of Aravind Dhali in Malkanagiri of Orissa when Dhali was a minister in the state.
This year, they have also been staging dreadful attacks on police force as their primary target and tribal as well as dalits who are opposing the naxalites. On March 15, 2007, group of Maoist Guerrilla Cadres attacked a camp of cops in Chhatishgarh at around 2 AM in the dark early hours and put 55 cops into death; on April 5, Maoists took 3 members of civil militia from a government-run relief camp, again in Dantewada, and killed them; April 10 - Maoists blew up a school building in Munger district of Bihar; April 24 – Maoists beheaded 2 brothers of Tamba Village, Jharkhand suspecting them to be Police Informers; April 30 - nearly 200 Naxalites raided the construction site of a river over-bridge in Bihar's Sheohar district exploding bombs, opening fire and setting ablaze a few huts of labourers; May 28 – Maoists killed 9 policemen by triggering a series of landmine blasts; May 29 - Naxals blew up a State owned 24 MW hydel power plant at Donkarayi in Andhra Pradesh; June 01 - Naxalites blew up three high tension electricity transmission towers in Dantewada, plunging a major part of the state into darkness; July 9 - 24 securitymen, including 16 CRPF personnel were killed in a gun-battle in the dense forests of Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh; August 01 - Maoists opened fire on a passenger bus, injuring 12 people in Garwah district of Jharkhand and, also, blew up two railway stations in Latehar district; Aug 29 - 12 policemen who went missing after a fierce shootout with Maoist militants were killed by Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district; the list goes much beyond the given figures as almost everyday, there is a case of naxal attack in some part of the naxal affected India.
Keeping pace with the technological development, Naxalite groups have gone equally hi-tech to face the CRPF and police forces of the states. According to reports, the Maoists have set up specialised technical wings, which employ IT experts on monthly payment, to draw up plans to develop more potent explosives, tap governmental messages and get the latest on techniques on guerrilla warfare”. The experts also draw maps of different government installations and sketches of jails. The Maoists have developed technology to prepare dangerous landmines by mixing 80 percent aluminium nitrate with 20 percent diesel. Their technical wing is equipped with the latest technology. They have computers, laptops and experts and they possess the technology to intercept the wireless messages of police, decode them and pass it on to their red squad. It is expected that they have spent Rs.2 million on their technical wings.
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As huge financial resource is required for survival of naxalite groups with such a vast cadre base and for running the armed movement, the naxal groups have created their own economic zones. They have a better control of the thick dense forests stretching from north Bihar bordering Nepal to north Kerala passing through Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. They have mapped this long forest strip as the red corridor with the plan to make it the liberated Maoist Zone. They have control over the Teakwood and timber trade in the forests of Vidarbha region in Maharastra and they have almost complete control over the forest produce marketing. Besides, they have set a parallel administrative system in the tribal dominated pockets of Chhatisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, wherefrom they collect all the taxes from people. Even, in many parts of Orissa, they undertake large scale Ganja cultivation and illegal trading of Ganja to generate revenue for their survival and operations. Now, being ambitious to have a greater control over the national economy, the naxals have eyed upon the iron ore mines in Chhatisgarh and Orissa as most of the iron ore mines are easy approachable from their Red Corridor boundaries.
Looking at the aggressive as well as violent activism raised by the naxalite groups, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described Naxalism as the biggest internal security problem. Much before this, on October 14, 2006, Congress president Sonia Gandhi expressed her concern over naxal menace and advised the state governments to take it seriously. Even, as mentioned in the US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism, 2006, the US has designated the Communist Party of India (Maoist) as a Group of Concern.
In order to curb the naxal movement and end the naxal menace in India, 13 platoons of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed in the naxal affected states. State governments are extended support by the centre to reorganise and upgrade the police forces in the state in order to make them equipped to deal with the danger of naxalism. Government plans to use the Media and NGOs in the best manner to make the tribals, dalits and other oppressed people aware of their rights and know various government programmes exclusively meant for their development. But, as it seems, the remarks made in the report of the committee formed in early seventies to look into the issues behind growing naxal movement are yet to be taken seriously. The report entitled ‘The Causes and Nature of Current Agrarian Tensions’ clearly said that the basic cause of unrest was the defective implementation of laws enacted to protect the interests of the tribals. Acute poverty and exploitation by the affluent outsiders were the reasons why the tribals, dalits and agrarian communities supported the naxalite movement.
When people in power are excited with India’s nine per cent economic growth and vast consumer potential, do they truly think about the millions of Indians who do not have food or, the thousands that have killed themselves because they could not pay their farming debts? Or the scores that die every day because they cannot afford doctors and medicines? Or the children those are still not in school and are instead at work? Or the educated youth who becomes a liability to the old parents because of no employment guarantee in the country? Do the Politicians and Policy Makers ever realise that major benefits of various programmes implemented for the poor are snatched away by the government employees and contractors? Do they ever believe that deep rooted corruption has made this country the worst place for the poor?
When the government is almost callous about all these issues, the Maoists use these issues for making a place for themselves in the community as the protector of peoples’ right and the saviour of the proletariats. These basic issues bring the unemployed youth of India into the Naxal or the Maoist fold. With regular entry of cadres and growing strength, Naxal movement is taking shape of a well networked widespread militant operation against Indian democracy.
However, the naxalites are no more the messiahs of the poor, dalits and tribals. Rather, they have become intolerant to people who, in any way, oppose the acts of the naxals – be it genuine or vague. As per New York based Human Rights Watch, recent criminal acts by the Naxalites, such as politically motivated killings and the use of landmines and bombings, have placed the central and state governments under enormous pressure to maintain public safety and security. The leftist Naxalites say they are fighting on behalf of lower-caste Indians. They have imposed illegal taxes; demanded food and shelter from villagers; abducted and killed “class enemies,” government officials, police officers and others whom they consider to be opponents; and hampered the delivery of aid to the isolated countryside, adversely affecting the lives of the people they claim to represent.
Even on ideological front, Indian Maoists have, considerably, failed in practicing the gospels of Mao Zedong. The best contribution of Mao Zedong to the communist movement of Asia is his strong anti-Western and anti-imperialistic views which gave the Asian Communist movement a continental perspective that differed from the soviet lines in many ways. His communist ideologies were like putting Marxist and Leninist theories on a Chinese canvass. Indian communists and Maoists have not yet been able to come out of the bias and influences of Chinese and European communists. Unlike Mao, they are yet to realise that India needs the kind of socialism where the socio-cultural fabric of the nation is given a proper place. Instead, the naxalite movement has become an imposed movement targeting economic control and political supremacy.