It was fifty years ago, 1967, when a break-away section of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Naxalbari village of north West Bengal decide to take up arms under the leadership of Comrade Charu Mazumdar against the exploitative landlords. Jangal Santhal’s Siliguri Kishan Sabha extended its support to the movement on 18th of May. The intensification of movement led to skirmishes between landlords and farmers. The State took it as a simple law and order problem a police party was sent but it was ambushed by a group of tribals led by Jangal Santhal and an inspector got killed in the hail of arrows.
For many sitting in towns it was a new dawn, a new challenge to the Indian State. But as pointed by Biplab Dasgupta in the early period, before the formation of CPI (ML), the Naxalite movement was no more than a collection of individuals and groups who were united in their opposition to CPI(M) and loyal to the Chinese path. And even when they succeeded to attract many College students form Kolkata and other parts, there was a significant presence of ruffians and teenage dropouts who soon replaced the college students as the main activist in the loose organization.
The movement aimed to establish a peasant authority in place of feudal authority in the villages by annihilation of the “class enemies” (read: landlords). Violence was one of its integral parts as annihilation was to be achieved by creating a “red terror” of peasants in place of existing “white terror” of landlords. The actual intentions of Charu Mazumdar cannot be understood as on one hand he sent a delegation to meet Mao and Naxals raised slogans of “China’s Chairman is our Chairman”, on the other as Dasgupta says that Charu expected the poor sections of the rural masses to free themselves from fear and come forward to take over the leadership of the movement.
Now when the Naxal movement has spread to 90 districts across 9 states, the tribals with bows and arrows have been replaced by a regular cadre of more than 50,000 persons equipped with modern weapons which form the armed cadre of Communist Party of India (Maoist). More than twelve thousand people have been killed or annihilated and Left Wing Extremism (LWE) has been termed as the biggest threat to India’s internal security and thanks to the expansion of its literary base carried out by its urban sympathizers that the uprising has become an “ism”, can we say that the movement is moving in right direction?
The answer comes from Nathuram Biswas, a resident of Naxalbari, who said, “the entire revolution has become meaningless. I feel ashamed to call myself a Naxal after seeing what is happening in Naxalbari.” Biswas represents the first generation Naxals, the people who believe that they were not having any way other than revolt. And whatever they did was for the sake of the down-trodden, for the sake of the exploited, for the sake of the country. They consider Naxalbari, leaders like Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal as a people of integrity with first-hand experience of the exploitative system against which they were fighting, and who never ever tried to be benefited personally by the movement.
In contrast, the present leadership of Naxal seems to be running a business of threat, terror and extortion to amass personal property. It is not surprising that Naxal leaders have property in crores as the present phase of Naxal movement is no longer a movement of “have nots”. In 2009, Times of India (TOI) pointed out the nexus between contractors and Maoists where some of the contractors approach Naxals to blow up the roads so that no quality inspection can take place.
In 2014, Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Shri R.P.N. Singh said that the CPI (Maoist) party has been collecting over Rs. 140 crores annually from a variety of sources. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of clandestinely getting foreign funds with the help of certain front organizations. And in 2011, TOI reported that Maoists raise around Rs. 2000 crores every year. It also mentions the role of NGOs and the contribution made by the city-based shadow organisations and sympathizers.
The biggest losers of the fight between the State and Naxals has been the people for whose sake both the parties claim to be fighting. From the very beginning, the State has overlooked the role of urban vultures in abetment of violence but seen Naxal violence as a common crime, coming down heavily on poor people holding arms. When communist ideologues were being awarded with high positions in government and academics, the poor in Siliguri region were facing the brunt of Operation Steeplechase. On the other hand, Naxals were sliting their throats to deprive the State of its ears and eyes. The practice continues till today.
Is it the lack of development or unequal development which is the main reason of Naxalism gaining ground? I say no. The argument that Naxalism took roots because of the under-development or rising inequality is a flawed argument as neither all the LWE affected districts are a backward one nor all backward districts are LWE affected. In Bihar, Patna is a Naxal-affected district whereas Saran, Hajipur and many lesser developed districts are not. It is not the absence of the government facilities, which creates a sense of alienation in the mind of people, that provides fertile ground for the Naxals. It is the presence of Naxalites which do not let the government agencies function. Naxals stall road constructions, bur down equipment, threatened labourers, blow up school buildings, and kidnap doctors employed in Primary Health Centres.
Naxalism took roots in creating a mental rift between people and the State. It gains ground in areas of weak social cohesion. Here they succeeded because of the pool of literature proving the State as draconian, atrocious and exploiters have been created by the Naxals sitting in academics. We must not be surprised that “some sections of the society, especially the younger generation, have romantic illusions about the Maoists and these ultras are being able to float front organisations to facilitate mass-mobilisation in semi-urban and urban areas through ostensibly democratic means” (LWE Division, MHA). These urban guerrillas have not only exaggerated and fabricated the story of high-handedness by counter-insurgency forces but presented the war against insurgents as a war against tribals.
So, we must not be surprised by the revelations of Podiyam Pandu alias Panda regarding the involvement of Delhi University Professor Nalini Sundar and “so called” human right activist Bela Bhatia or when the Gadchiroli sessions court convicted DU professor G. N. Saibaba along with former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University Hem Mishra, former journalist Prashant Rahi and three others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in relation with naxals. These names are just a tip of iceberg whose role is to produce literatures deepening the historical divisions of Indian society and weaken the social cohesion and whenever attacks happen on security forces and national indignation start building against Naxals, deviate the issue from Naxal barbarism to development, procedure of operation, state’s failure etc.
We cannot win the war against Naxal by the gun only. The person holding arms in the jungles are not more than the brainwashed pawns of the people sitting in air-conditioned chambers of urban centres. We will have to recognise that all those who instead of working to build bridges between diverse groups by finding the ways of cooperation while acknowledging differences and coping with them - so that they can coexist to form a coherent entity they - become advocates of the ideas promoting the fragmentation, resegregation, and tribalization of India are creating a fertile ground for the crop of Naxalism.
It’s time that we recognise the real enemies and act against them.