Naxalism and Maoism became a hot topic of discussion in the country recently, after the Elgar Parishad incident in Pune and also the recent incident in Bastar, where 22 soldiers laid down their lives in the line of duty. Mostly, our society has many misconceptions about both of these topics.
In 2004, CPI and MCC were dissolved to form the “MO” organisation. This led to a huge increase in Maoist power from the “red corridor”, as it exists from Pashupati to Tirupati. Seeing their violence, the central government declared it a terrorist organisation and banned it in 2009, and it remains so even today. This organisation is a crucial link in ensuring the survival of Maoism in Bharat.
The Maoists have clearly stated their aims and objectives and the means to achieve them in their booklet called ‘Strategy And Tactics Of Indian Revolution’. According to this book, the establishment of a total Maoist system by completely destroying the present socio-political, economic, and cultural systems is the end goal. Their aim is to capture political power and gain political advantage through it by utilising the means of armed forces.
The Maoists also mention that this includes the creation of an armed guerrilla force to completely destroy the Bharatiya Armed forces, police and the entire governance system. “We follow the path of chinese revolution and this path is one of a prolonged warfare,” they mention. The Maoists also reject our constitution and governance systems. This is an open declaration of war against the Republic of India. This organisation has spread across many states, including Maharashtra.
Andhra Pradesh, located to the south of Maharashtra, has a long history of socialist movements since pre-1947 times. Thousands had been killed in Telangana and Shrikakulam in violent activities. In 1979, the Maoist Andhra Pradesh State Committee submitted a proposal to create a ‘guerrilla zone’ as per which regions like Telangana, Karimnagar, Adilabad, Warangal, and Khammam were to be included in the ‘G-zone’, and each would have a ‘dalam‘ of armed fighters. Areas to the north of these places like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa were to serves as bases for all activities by creating social organisations. The main idea was to use these areas as a safety base in case the police forces launch a huge counter-attack in southern states. As per the plan, one-third of members of the Maoist party entered the forest areas of the northern states in 1979.
They started working through social activities by engaging farmers, labourers, and Adivasis in their agenda. Thus, a huge social support base was created over many years. Consequently, two groups were formed within Maoism– the forest guerilla fighters and the ‘urban Naxals’, who otherwise remained underground but came up to support as and when required. This included academics, politicians, NGOs, social workers, professional protestors, and many other such people including university students whom you quite often see in the news- for all the wrong reasons. During the same time, 3 well-educated couples entered the village areas of Nagpur and Chandrapur to spread their work. These urban Maoists included members from almost every level of the society. Both served each other well in the longer run.
On 12th December 1969, the famous Maoist leader Charu Muzumdar published his ‘annihilation theory’. This was a theory to destroy all the so-called ‘class enemies’ as he called them. Other Maoists used to call this the ‘khatam theory’. Creating armed groups in every village who would then kill all the zamindars, sahukars, and other rich people was its goal. Charu said that this alone would lead the Maoist revolution to success.
The Maoists in Andhra were in opposition to this, as along with violence, they also wanted to spread their ideology deep within the society. They started targeted campaigns against specific issues in rural areas- which were actually genuine and often neglected by the media and the government. Later on, protests and other forms of voice raising activities were held to get attention and fundings. Huge support in rural areas later led to the creation of ‘mass organisation’ and ‘mass struggle’ (MO and MS).
In the 1980s, the Maoists and the above mentioned three couples started building up social work organisations in urban areas. One of their main issue was tendu patta cultivation and labour exploitation. Tendu leaves are used for tobacco and bidi making, and are sourced from the forests of Maharashtra and neighbouring states. The tribals and labourers were exploited by landlords and other companies hugely by paying low wages, inhuman treatment, etc. All this led to the increasing tribal support to the Maoists who regularly attacked the contractors, government officers, and other ‘class enemies’. The village of Kamlapur in Andhra saw huge public gathering to meetings organised by the Maoists.
All these acts led to increased public awareness and discussion about poverty, tribal areas, and the evils of capitalism as were visible on-ground in these backward areas. This is clear if we do an unbiased analysis of these events. The poor got some relief as the government increased their wages, launched schemes, and punished the corrupt officers working there. Tendu, bamboo, and other forest products got a bigger market and helped increase the economic status of the locals.
Since 1946, violent activities were already going on against the exploitative zamindars in Telangana. Disturbed by all this, Acharya Vinoba Bhave went to these areas and requested the richer classes to give up surplus lands to the poor– and thus started the ‘bhoodaan movement’. Later on, land reforms and ceiling acts were also passed by the government. A rich local landlord voluntarily gave up 100 acres of his land to the tribals.
In all this, the main aim of the Maoists lagged behind– armed struggle and the overthrow of systems. As they saw that the case was going out of their hands, they started recruiting locals and poor people in their armed forces. Many were killed when they refused to join or were accused of being police informers. Locals were harassed for food, water, and other resources. Thus, the cycle of exploitation started once again for the poor people.
This has been going on for the last 40 years. Today also, the Maoists mainly operate from the dense and remote forested areas of these states. One realizes that the top Maoist leadership has mostly Bengali and Telugu leaders. The poor tribals are just cannon fodder for them to die, and are not allowed in the top ranks. So in any case, it’s the tribal or poor villagers who get killed.
The Maoists have killed more local people than the security forces have killed in encounters. Some mistakes on the part of security forces, and human rights violations further worsened the problem. Thousands of others were injured, paralysed, and lost their normal livelihoods. The irony is– Maoists are killing the very same people whom they claim to be working for, and saving them from the evils of exploitation.
After 1990, strong government action led to a huge fall in these activities. Development schemes in these areas also helped to provide relief to the locals. As a combined effect of hard power and soft power, they were able to contain the Maoists to some specific areas of the state. As the political situation changes, one gets to see a change in Maoist activities also. Today, they are also known as naxals or ‘left-wing extremists’– supported by their urban lobbies and liberals.
Now, they also have a good experience of how urban areas can effectively help them to carry on their nonsense without being detected. They also seem to have got ahead in the art of information warfare– with celebrities, writers, journalists, and universities being hijacked. Of course, the central and state governments are aware of all this and it remains to be seen what they do to tackle this dragon. Internal security would continue to remain a big concern for us till then.
As the common Bharatiya, you have the responsibility of deciding to choose between peace-development-stability and violence-bloodshed-anarchy. It has now become every man’s war, and we need to counter both types of naxals- urban and guerillas- as per our capacities.