By Tabu Agarwal:
“Without taking up the responsibility of organising the class struggle, if you launch an armed struggle, it will inevitably become terrorism. It degenerated into a terrorist campaign. I’ve given it a name; it’s an exercise in socialism in words, and terrorism in deeds,” – Ashim Chatterjee, a member of the original Naxalbari uprising who now mediates between the government and the Maoists.
The Naxalite movement first came to the forefront in the late 1960s, when Naxalbari became famous for the left-wing revolt that took place in West Bengal. Since then, it is perceived as the greatest threat to law and order within Indian. The movement has now advanced to the hilly and forest regions of around eight different states, with more than 150 districts are believed to be under its direct influence. It is mostly active in the tribal areas spreading from Andhra Pradesh to Bihar and Maharashtra, and also covering parts of Karnataka, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu. Naxal violence has resulted in the death of over 10,000 civilians and displaced 12 million people since 1980s with a significant rise in the number of killings in Naxalism-hit states. Additionally, more than 200 of India’s 640 districts are indirectly under Naxal control.
Naxalism signifies a particular kind of militant and violent armed struggle by the peasants and tribals who accept Marxist-Leninist ideology. Inspite of Naxalism being termed as the biggest problem in Adivasi areas, the social problems are actually much wider in the form of unemployment, poverty and an untold number of socio-economic injustices. Here are some points to justify the statement:
1. India’s development paradigm pursued since Independence led to commercialisation of forest resources, reducing the traditional access to forest produce. Besides destroying their natural environment, mining-based industries and the construction of large dams caused wide-scale displacement of the tribals.
2. In the late 1990s, privatisation and economic development were the main agenda for the ruling parties like the BJP and Congress. On the other hand, one of the major wings of Naxalism movement, the CPI-Maoist tried to keep the struggle alive on behalf of workers, rural poor and the lower middle classes who suffered tremendously and, largely, silently in the name of economic reforms. The Communist Party of India (Marxist- Leninist) which was formed in 1969 advocated armed struggle and condemned participation in parliamentary elections and work in mass movements.
3. In spite of the government laying down a clear plan to tackle the left-wing extremism like launching a Police Modernization Scheme in areas affected by Naxal movements, the bill for safeguarding land rights introduced by the UPA, etc which were all modest measures in the right direction, the local elites still continued to manipulate the Panchayati Raj structures, as it was noticed. Such a move gave fuel to the already ignited fire to the tribals to start the Naxalism movement.
4. The police and paramilitary organisations’ approach to the ‘Naxalite’ problem exposed weakness within state governments. Various state governments, from time to time, banned Maoist outfits, without developing any consistent policy to deal with such elements. Without understanding their needs and issues, such bans, along with preventive detention or anti-terror laws that allowed the police to come down heavily on such groups, created a feeling of unrest amongst the Naxals.
Development is, without a doubt, very necessary in today’s age but the Central and State governments should make sure that it is not done at the cost of citizens. Having said that, the Naxalite movement attempted to achieve equity in the society by means of a mass movement and struggle, and they did achieve it to some extent but at the cost of the economic development of the state. There has been a range of violence which has had no direct consequence on the rights of people but invariably ended up harming masses by way of disruption in the elections, destruction of schools, trains and rail lines, etc. A mutual understanding, therefore, should prevail which can end Naxalism.
Naxalites are powerful and effective in some areas in India because of the unresolved contradictions and issues in our society. They have proved effective because they have an ideology that inspires youth apart from having an organisational structure and armed groups. Proper enforcement of land ceiling laws, utilisation of the funds provided to the government to the maximum could be the solution to this problem. The central reason for the advancement of Naxalism is the vast exploitation of the poor and the scheduled castes. People, who have been displaced, should be given proper rehabilitation along with police protection. Security, as well as development, has to run hand in hand.