Rise of Maoist Militancy

Posted on November 15, 2010


The Central Government has banned the CPI(Maoist) on 23.6.2009. This belated action came three days after the Central para-military forces had to go to Lalgarh area of West Bengal which is still virtually under the siege of Maoists.

Not only West Bengal, every state Government today is not in a position to face this insurgency. In Chhatrtisgarh many security personnel were killed by Maoists till now. During the same civilians lost their lives. The situation in Jharkhand and Bihar is no different.

The merger of the Peoples War Group (PWG), with the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) is September 2004 has completely changed the internal security scenario in the country. The merger was able to establish the so called Compact Revolutionary Zone or Red Corridor connecting the Dharmapuri forest area of Tamil Nadu with Nepal, covering the entire forest tracts in between. Home Ministry reports say that the dreadful insurgency has spread to 165 districts in 16 states.

This development should also be viewed against the upsurge of Maoists in Nepal. The Maoists have won 220 out of 601 seats in the Constituent Assembly of Nepal in 2008 and Prachanda became Prime Minister in August. (It is a different matter that he has resigned in May 2009).

The illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is also a source of enormous strength to the Maoists. Bangladesh serves as a sanctuary to the Maoists as well. They are also fully exploiting the strategically situated Chicken Neck for moving freely into Nepal and Bangladesh. The ISI supplies arms to north-east insurgents and asks them to pass on them to naxals.

Taking the cue from LTTE regarding the advantage of overseas support, the PWG made determined efforts to enlist the support of Indians settled abroad who have a soft corner for Maoist ideology. Several students of JNU, who joined Berkeley campus, University of California, formed a cell of CPI (Maoist) in the US. This cell is providing the logistical support in establishing linkages between CPI (Maoist) and International Maoist groups.

It is a misconception that the CPI (Maoist) functions totally underground. Many of its front organizations (or fractions) function openly. The Viplava Rachayitala Sangham (Revolutionary Writers Organization), has been functioning in open since 1970 in Andhra Pradesh. Most of its activists are teachers and lecturers. Buddhijivi Silpa Lekhan in Bihar is another one. Other states too have similar bodies working in literary fields. Taking shelter under freedom of expression and intellectual activity writers associated with these organizations spread naxal ideology. In fact they were the first to sow the seeds. Naxals only step in to reap the harvest. Tej Singh Lodha promotes naxal ideology in Rajasthan. Siddali Nagaiah, H. M. Panditarahya and Manohar Sardesai write about armed revolution in Kannada, Chandra Kakaty in Assami etc.

The most powerful over ground front organizations of naxals are civil liberties and human rights platforms. They go under different names in different states.

Media’s role in building respectability to Maoists and their ideology is very significant. Under the mask of ‘fair reporting’ Press and TV channels glorify the naxals. The media is reluctant to report the glory crimes of the Maoists in proper perspective.

Bengal Events: Beginning of Naxalism
Towards the end of March 1967, a section of Bengal Marxists led by Charu Majumdar took up arms in Naxalbari and called it ‘agrarian uprising’.

Six months after the outbreak of violence in Naxalbari (a small town close to Nepal border in Darjeeling district), a delegation comprising Kanu Sanyal, Souren Bose, Jhangal Santhal, Deepak Biswas, Khadam Mallick, Dulal and six other marxists visited China clandestinely in September 1967. The travel arrangements were made by the Chinese Embassy in Katmandu. The group received political and tactical training for about 3 months.

These and other comrades who were expelled from the CPI (M) formed the CPI (Marxist-Leninist). Announcing this at a Kolkata rally on 1 May 1968, Kanu Sanyal proclaimed: “State power could be seized only through armed revolution. Guerilla war alone expand the small bases of armed struggle to large extensive arease and develop the people’s army”.

The resolution adopted by the CPI (ML) stated: “No other path exists before the Indian people but the path of armed revolution… the first and foremost task of our Party is to rouse the peasant masses in the countryside to wage guerilla war, unfold agrarian revolution, build rural base, use the countryside to encircle the cities and finally to capture the cities and to liberate the whole country. Thus, in the present day phase of Indian Revolution, the center of gravity of our work has to be in the villages”.

In May 1970, naxal students has raided the Gandhi Center in Jadavpur University (Kolkata) and burnt Gandhi literature and destroyed his portrait. They indulged in similar destruction in Sibpur village. In Calcutta University they attacked an exhibition on Gandhiji’s Books. Cinema halls of Kolkata showing Prempujari were attacked by the naxalite hoodlums because the film depicted China in a bad light.

Naxal uprising inspired a section of CPI (M) cadre in Midnapur district. Santosh Rana, a teacher in Nayanbasan High School, Gopiballabpur took the lead. He started organizing the landless and bargadars to rise in revolt. The first violent incident took place on 27 September 1969, when the Naxals attacked a jotedar Nagen Senapati and killed his brother. During October-November 1969, twelve persons were eliminated by Naxals led by Santosh Rana and Ashim Chatterjee in Bebra-Gopiballabpur area. In Birbhum district attacks began in July 1971. Military (Rajasthan Rifles) was deployed in Birbhum along with BSF to crush the violence.

During March 1970 to July 1971, Naxals annihilated 139 persons in West Bengal including 28 policemen in Kolkata city. A majority of the civilians killed were supporters of political parties. Only a few were moneylenders.

The report also reveals the depths of brutality: “In each case of death by the extremist, the victims were severely beaten in the presence of the villagers to terrorize them and then ultimately kill the victim. Each incident of murder is a saga of gruesome inhuman violence indulged in by the extremists”. The following incident mentioned in the report is self revealing: “In one case, where a couple belonging to the backward class were returning home from their fields in the evening, the extremists caught hold both of them severed the head of the husband and put it in the palms of his wife and his wife was made to parade in the village with the severed head of her husband in her palms. Even in this case no complaint was made to the police. When the police went to record the statement of the wife, she would not depose before them for fear of extremists”.

Inspiration from Mao’s Red Guards
What prompted Charu Majumdar and his comrades to resort to armed rebellion so suddenly in 1967? There were several reasons, some connected with the Chinese factor. The Telangana Arms struggle of the CPI (1946-51) in the erstwhile Hyderabad state collapsed with heavy losses primarily because, according to Stalin, Telangana has no contiguous boundary with China. Naxalbari overcomes this hurdle.

Bengal communists saw a new opportunity in 1962 when Communist China invaded the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Some comrades including Charu Majumdar felt the arrival of Chinese armies into Bengal would facilitate a communist state in Kolkata. That did not happen. But the dream haunted some of them and they visualized a Manchuria of 1930s in Darjeeling bordering Nepal and Tibet.

Another important factor was the “new idealism” projected by Mao’s Cultural Revolution. It was no mere coincidence that the Red Guards began their politics of violence in August 1966 and naxalites inaugurated their insurgency in May 1967. The naxalites did not hesitate to paint Kolkata walls with slogans such as, “China’s Chairman is our Chairman”.

The ‘Cultural Revolution’ in China collapsed in just 4 years, but not before killing 34,000 people and dumping 7,30,000 in concentration camps. In West Bengal too, the Naxalism receded about the same time. Charu Majumdar was arrested in Kolkata on 16 July 1972 and twelve days later died due to asthma in Lal Bazar police station.

However, Naxal Insurgency did not vanish altogether from the country, surged ahead in Andhra.

Tactics and Cover Organizations
Front organizations (or fractions) provide cover to their secret activities and ensure the safety of underground network. They also create avenues for fresh recruitment. The PWG and MCC made inroads into various sections such as students, women, advocates, teachers, writers and labor, who could work for the insurgency in their respective fields, build militant units, provide shelters to the underground cadre and work as secret couries.

Academic Institutions
Marxist thinkers could be grouped into two categories:

  1. Those associated with the two communist parties and their numerous front organizations.
  2. Others like academics, writes, journalists, advocates, artists, civil rights champions, NGOs, IAS officers with left leanings etc.

This second category generally stand by the ideology of naxals. They do not take part in violent activities and hence would not attract any action from the State. Nevertheless, through their participation in seminars, writings, classroom lectures, individual conversations, newspaper columns, movies, TV talks, create respectability for naxal insurgency. They make recruitment easy for Naxal outfits.

Intellectuals’ Faddism

It has become a fashion with some intellectuals to extol naxals, their commitment, and thus indirectly build respectability to the insurgency.

Media’s role in building respectability to Maoists and their ideology in no less significant. Under the mask of ‘fair reporting’, Press and TV Channels glorify the naxals whenever an encounter they meant it or not, that all encounters were deliberate murders by the police. They do not say it directly but their way of presentation of the news conveys the message. While reporting an encounter they tailor the news to depict the dead naxal as great martyr, who died for a great cause.

One of the ways of glorifying Maoists has been publishing interviews with underground leaders. Apart from main subject, the interviewer deliberately writes about the hospitality, gentle manners and simple living of the underground leadership to evoke sympathy.

The print media also publish the hit lists announced by the naxals. They do not think that it was highly unethical to do so. They exhibit least concern for the targeted family and the amount of suffering and agony that it would undergo once its name was published.

There are many persons in the media who secretly pass on the information to Naxals about the editors, correspondents, reporters who are critical of latter and pass on even the movements of the police. There are number of editors, correspondents, who believe in naxal ideology. Some reporters are in fact hand in glove with the Maoists.