Naxalism In India Perception And Responses Politics Essay

Widespread discontent apathy among the common populace has plagued the Indian polity since independence. This discontent has often led to unrest and resentment sometimes resulting in violence also. Since independence various statutory enactments and institutional mechanisms for addressing the aspects of deprivation and neglect have been brought into being but the irony is that discontent and unrest continue to surface inspite of the measures undertaken. Today, even after six decades of independence, for a large section of the populace, basic survival and making the two ends meet is still the biggest challenge. “As 58 per cent of the Indian labour force is still engaged in agriculture and allied occupations, landlessness is an important root of poverty. The Indian State recognized the vital link between land and livelihood soon after independence and launched land reform measures which included three components: abolition of intermediaries such as zamindars, security of tenancy and a ceiling on agricultural holdings for distribution of the surplus to the landless. However, as time passed the commitment to land reform has weakened and it remains an unfinished agenda of governance.” [1] The poor population in order to meet their livelihood had to depend upon common property resources such as forests, pastures and water sources. The government having

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realised such resources as sources of profit started exploiting them, thus resulting in the poor being deprived of the access they had to these resources .

2. Today the nation is boasting of an above 9 per cent growth rate and is aspiring to become an economic powerhorse. But the fact of the matter is that the inequalities between the rich and the poor is increasing. With globalisation, awareness of opportunities and possible lifestyles are spreading but the entitlements are receding. The directional shift in Government policies since the early nineties towards modernisation and mechanisation, export orientation, withdrawal of subsidies and exposure to global trade has been an important factor in hurting the poor and increasing their miseries. Equal status and equal dignity is not only a Constitutional right but also a basic human right. The inherited institutions of caste, gender, religion and unequal property have been depriving the majority of the society of this right. The continued practice of social discrimination, untouchability and atrocities against the weaker sections truly reflects the failure of the promises made to the oppressed people of this nation by the government.

3. This has led to a situation where in a large section of the people have lost faith in the polity and institutions of this country. However the irony is that there has been no sustained effort to eliminate the causes and reduce the discontent of the masses. It is these causes of discontent among the people that has led to the meteoric rise and spread of the Naxalite movement in the country. The Naxalite armed movement which has been challenging the Indian state since more than four decades is based on Maoist ideology and gains its strength through mobilising the poor, underprivileged, discouraged and marginalised especially in the rural and underdeveloped parts of the country. The Naxalite movement are a serious threat to the Indian state and is fast threatening to engulf almost the whole nation under its influence. The dreams of the nation of becoming a regional superpower and economic giant in the near future seems to be a distant reality with Naxalism challenging the inherent ideals of the state.

4. The menace of Left Wing Extremism after making a modest start in 1967 from remote village named Naxalbari in West Bengal plagues almost 235 districts [i] across the country in 2011. In some of these districts, the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that the writ of the government cease to exist and can be termed as liberated zones. The Maoists run a parallel government in these areas and are located in most underdevloped parts of the country. Despite being referred to as the most serious internal security threat faced by the nation by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself in 2006, not much has translated at the grass root level to address the issue. On the contrary, the Maoists have been able to strike at targets with impunity and at will causing panic amongst the state and central security forces.

5. The Naxalites with their control over certain areas and their armed fight against the security forces, are challenging the inherent ideals of the state, namely soverignity and monopoly on use of force. In order to fight this menace, the state is focusing on re-establishing of law and order by encountering the Naxalites violently by use of force. However, this approach of the government seems to lack foresight, since the roots of Naxalism are located within the Indias numerous social and economic inequalities. Without addressing the root causes merely use of force will not help the state in solving the problem.

“If the country does not belong to everyone, it will belong to no one.”

Tupamaro Manifesto

17. The nation as a concept is universally recognized and .internationally valid for soverign aggregate of human beings in a modern state. If modern states are nation states, then the territorial integrity, political stability and the legitimacy of the state is a basic prerequisite for political and emotional integration of the citizens. [2] The collapse of the communist states in the early nineties point to the truth about this statement. It is the collective will of the population of the state that is the sole and most important determinant of contours of a state. India is a nation with vast cultural diversities and geographical.landscapes. The quote from Gitanjali written by noble laureate RabindraNath Tagore aptly sums up the importance of a nation wherein the true values of nationalism can take root:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;


Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action;

Into that heaven of freedom my father, let my country awake.

18. The Constitution of India guarantees the protection of all states against external aggression and internal disturbance by the Union of India, however the security being a state subject is rarely given the importance it requires till the situation blows out of proportion and many a times this turns out to be too little too late for the masses which suffer due to these security problems. The nation has faced numerous internal security problems since getting independence in 1947. These have been mainly due to secessionist movements initiated by a certain section of the population, wherein the government failed to provide solutions to their long pending issues. Since independence the country has faced problems in states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura, Punjab and J&K. Though, as on date these states have not been posing serious existential threat to the worlds largest democracy but before coming to some serious resolution of these conflicts a new danger of Naxalism has plagued vast areas of the country.

19. The Naxal movement presently having its influence over some 231 districts in 21 states of our country has been identified as the single largest internal security threat to the nation by the prime minister. [3] The Naxal movement as it is known is essentially an ideological movement and not an ethnic or a religious one. It gets its sustenance from social evils such as poverty, unemployment, exploitation of the poor classes and social discrimination. It has drawn vast support of population from the tribal belt into the movement. Before we can find the ways of tackling this issue, there is a need to understand the reasons why this


problem has come into existence. This will not only help in finding the real cause of this problem but also the ways and means to eradicate it.

20. To understand the spread of Naxalism in the country, we will have to analyse communism and its evolution in India. The communist Party of India came into existence on 26th Dec 1925 based on the thought that communism was ideally suited for the country with such vast demographic diversity and difference between the have’s & have not. However, the ban on communist ideology during the British rule prohibited the rise of the party and its ideology. Two notable movements led by communists during the pre independence era needs a mention are, firstly, the “Tebhaga Movement” led by peasants front of CPI “Kisan Sabha” in 1946, with the aim to increase the share of peasants in crops from half to two-third and second being the “Telangana Uprising” against the brutal repression of peasants by feudal landlords during the regime of Nizam in the Telangana region. [4]

21. The birth and rapid rise of Naxalite movement can also be traced to the development which took place around the globe during the decade of 1960. This was a period in Europe, Asia and America when new radical struggles were breaking out, marked by the reading of Marx. These trends were reflected in the national liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people; the civil rights and anti-war movements in USA; in the students agitations in Western Europe; Che Guevara’s self sacrifice in the jungles of Bolivia; and in China’s cultural revolution. The Naxalite movement was part of this contemporary, worldwide impulse among the radicals to return to the roots of revolutionary idealism. [5]

22. The year 1967 marks a turning point in terms of the revolutionary armed struggle in India. On 24 May the persistent social and political tensions in the


small village Naxalbari in the Darjeeling District of the West Bengal unloaded after a landlord was attacked which led to a full-scale peasant riot. This event has its deep roots in the socio-economic conditions, namely unequal land distribution and forced labour that had persisted since the British rule. At that moment, the general perception of people in these regions remained that the level of economic development, social justice and quality of governance in the states was plagued with a variety of maladies and there was complete lack of concern of the government towards these downtrodden people of the society .

23. The Naxalites, as they are called today emerged on scene as CPI(ML) after splitting from CPI(M). Their pronounced agenda has been to capture political power through an armed and violent revolution. Within a few years of its formation, the organisational network of CPI(ML) and its propagated violence spread in the whole of West Bengal. The campaign spread to parts of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. In 1971 there was maximum violence with killing of 850 so called class enemies – landlords, moneylenders, police informers, political activists [6] . However, joint operations launched by the state police of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa quickly curtailed the movement, leading to serious decline in capabilities and influence of the Naxalites. By mid 1970s, the belief was that the movement was dead in totality. During this phase, however, the ideological motivation was existing in top leadership and middle level activists. The supporters consisted of the political class as well as the student base of Delhi University, who were motivated by their ideology. There were large number of journals in English and vernacular languages which were published periodically during that period to increase the ideological fervour in the common populace. The leaders of the movement were provided training, financial support and guidance by active support from China. However post 1972, the arrest and subsequent death of Charu Majumdar led to the total collapse of the movement.


24. After the period of emergency, the remnants of the Naxalite groups made discreet attempts to revive itself primarily, through an agrarian agitation movement, supporting their woes and highlighting the issues plaguing the poor and the downtrodden. In 1980, Peoples War Group(PWG) was formed in Andhra Pradesh under the leadership of Kondapalli Seetharamaiah with a violent agenda. The group clandestinely established underground dalams, operating apparatus in North Telangana and Dandakaranya region. Even Bihar was under revival phase with three naxal groups on the forefront. [7] These groups had a sizeable ground level base of revolutionary peasants taking part in violent actions. The groups operating in Bihar were Maoist Communist Centre, Unity Party and anti-Lin Piao group. This concerted effort led to revival of the movement in Andhra Pradesh, Dandakaranya and Bihar. However, these groups were affected by dissentions and splits on one side and unification processes occurring simultaneously. This process of splitting though a setback in the intial stages but however it ensured increase of mass support at ground level as each entity tried its best to gain more and more support of the population in the area, thus ensuring organizational progress. The Naxal violence continued to increase from this period and finally reached its pinnacle in 1991 for a second time when they were able to eliminate sucessfully large number of class enemies. Since then, the organized killing of selected targets has continued. [8] The targets of Naxal violence also included those people whose agenda differed that of the Naxalites. Since, this has been a ground level movement, the solution too lies in dealing at that level and conceptualizing strategies at higher levels are of little or of no significance. At the moment every year there are more than 1500 Naxal violence incidents from the affected states involving killing of more than 500 class enemies. There has been a sophistication in the means employed by them in detonating the landmines negating their vulnerabilities to electronic countermeasures. The daring means employed by them to attack police posts and patrols has brought out the vulnerabilities of security forces in the area and the growing might of Naxals. The Naxalites have been running a parallel government in these areas by holding jan


adalats wherein they resort to on the spot dispensing of justice. These are notundertaken in any covert manner but in full public view and with advance warnings of a few days. This state clearly highlights the failure of govt at the grass root level. The present strength of armed cadre stands at 8000 excluding 15000 cadres of peoples militia who carry on their routine work, but are ready to serve when the situation demands. [9]

25. The Naxalites have a design of establish a Compact Revolutionary Zone, from Nepal running across Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. These areas will be under their total control with administration and governance of their own. Unlike the first phase of the movement, the present phase entails unification and consolidation. In 1998, Unity Party and PWG merged to form CPI(ML)(PW), thereafter, RCCI-Maoist merged with MCC & MCCI came into existence. Later, PW and MCCI came together to form CPI(Maoist). This gave the org a backing on ideological front from the Communist Party of Nepal(Maoist), thus complicating the problem and making it trans-border and trans-national. The party has got international linkages through Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisation of South Asia which includes the Communist parties of Sri Lanka, Nepal Bangladesh and India. The spread of Naxalism has been phenomenal in the recent years. Starting from the peasant movement, the Naxal issue today has a large spatial spread and much better resistance capability. The initiatives undertaken by the Centre and the to contain the movement & prevent violence has been a failure. It has not been able to rein in the movement and lower the violence levels.



26. Poverty and lack of development extract terrible prices and the glaring example of this has been the rapid rise of Naxalism. Naxalite violence in India has claimed thousands of lives till date and the graph is on the upward swing with each passing year. In his address to the nation on 15August 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed Naxalism as a threat to India’s national security. Less than a month after this pronouncement, one of his predecessor former Prime Minister V P Singh came up with a completely different viewpoint. He saw no option but to embrace Naxalism in the present model of development, where forceful acquisition of land and displacement of thousands by the State are the order of the day. Both these statements, however, made in their respective contexts, but , both of them are revealing. They clearly indicate towards the rise of Naxalism as a movement that is giving sleepless nights to the highest echelons of governance of this nation. They clearly indicate towards the acceptance of the fact among our leaders of the strength and undisputed popularity of this movement.

27. Naxalism started as a peasant movement in 1967, in the tiny and remote hamlet of Naxalbari in West Bengal. The main demand was that of radical land reform and land to the tiller. The only means of realizing this was seen as the violent takeover of power. However, the govt was completely unwilling to yield to the demands, and the movement was brutally crushed. The character of Naxalism has changed with the times. Forced out of West Bengal, it has now regrouped itself outside the state. The movement is threatening to engulf whole of the nation and has got strong presence, largely in heavily forested areas dominated by tribals in the states of Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh,


Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

28. “Today,around 42% of India’s total population, lives under the poverty line. One third of the global poor lives in India, 75% in rural areas . The increasing high numbers of farmer suicides because of indebtedness, harassment and discrimination, particularly in the Naxalite affected areas, potrays the miserable condition of large parts of India’s rural population.The lack of human development causes anger and resentments amongst the people. They feel alienated and excluded. In addition often local elites are engaged in exploiting, harassing and even torturing the tribal population [10] .

29. Dalits and Tribals form the major support base of Naxalism. The Dalits and tribals together amount for nearly one fourth of India’s population and most of them live in rural India . Their reasons for supporting the Naxal movement are manifold: there is low degree of employment and qualification, new forest policies posing restriction for their livelihoods, cultural humiliation, lack of access to health care, education and power, restriction on access to natural resources, numerous forms of exploitation, social discrimination, frequent displacements, political isolation and suppression. The states which are the most affected have a huge number of people facing deprivation and a high record of crimes that are committed against them as well as displacement owing to economic and development projects

30. In fact 80% of the total displaced persons within the period of 1947- 2000 were tribals. A large number of tribals remained neglected from the various governmental development projects. Attempts by the government to increase its influence in these backward areas resulted in repression of the inhabitants by the various state authorities, such as by the forest department resulting in the destruction of their traditional social bonds. The era of globalization with the liberalisation of Indian economy gave new life to the conflict. There are numerous


Indian and foreign companies that are operating in the mineral rich areas of Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Orissa which are among the poorest states in India and show a high degree of Naxal affection. Several of these companies have signed memoranda of understanding with the government worth billions for exploiting the mineral resources. However, the irony is that the inhabitants of these areas generally do not benefit from the mineral wealth of their areas. Besides mining, the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and construction of huge dam projects results in the displacement of thousands of people.

31. Today, the focus of Naxalism has changed from being an agrarian movement to that of fighting for the attainment of tribal self- determination, control over local resource issues and continued neglect of governmentt towards these areas. This cause of theirs has found ready sympathisers among local communities. In tribal-dominated areas development is largely synonymous with the exploitation of forest resources for commercial gains, primarily controlled by the forest department and other govt agencies. This has almost obliterated traditional community control over forests and forest resources. The successive Government policies have made the very existence of tribals in their own areas difficult, and displaced them from their lands. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 has barred tribals from using the forest resources, thus forcing them to be termed as encroachers on the land they have inhabited for centuries. However, this tribal alienation from land is not only the outcome of the country’s conservation policy only but also the development projects including mining projects. The Naxal movement cleverly tapped and exploited the often justified tribal anger and frustration against this oppression of the government.

32. With India’s major mineral resources concentrated under tribal dominated forestlands, mining and related projects have naturally come into the crosshairs of the Naxals. Today, five of India’s top mineral-producing state Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are fighting the rise


of the red brigades in most of their mineral-rich districts.”It’s not development. It is an express highway to speed up exploitationaˆ¦ What they have left for the local people is just air and water pollution,” says Communist Party of India (Maoist) central committee member Kosa, while referring to the mega mining projects in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. The Naxal opposition has unnerved the mining industry in this part of the country. According to a report by the risk management consultancy, Hill and Associates based in Hong Kong the viral spread of Naxalism in India has an adverse impact on the development and has termed it as a “grave operational risk affecting investment climate in the core extractive sector”. The report also points that Naxalism is likely to impact foreign direct investment in the country. It further says “The risk exposure would be greater in pockets where Naxalites have joined the tribals in opposing project-induced human displacement. Areas where industrialisation is in the initial stages of development are more prone to stiff opposition by Naxalites”. Traditionally, the Naxals have been targeting the govt symbols and its institutions but with the present trend Industrial establishments are likely to bear the brunt in the future. In fact, at their ninth congress held in the beginning of 2007, Naxalites clearly expressed their intention of intensifying their operations in areas where mega development projects including special economic zones, irrigation projects and mining enterprises are coming up.

33. The Naxals have used varied tactics for opposing this industrial investment. The rise of Naxalism can be directly linked to the crisis of faith: India’s marginalised population, the poors including its tribals, have lost their trust on governmentt for their livelihoods. The development projects coming in these areas are threatening the very existence of locals and have become synonymous with poverty and insecurity. With no alternative left, these communities have started believing that the only way they can fight for their survival is by adopting the violent ways of the Naxals. The rapid rise and popularity of Naxalism is not only a crisis of political empowerment but also that of sheer economic backwardness of these areas. The irony is that the marginalized have


started believing that it is one of the rare opportunities still available to them to

express their aspirations.

34. The government and its planners have described Naxalism, as an internal security threat and are of the opinion that Naxalism and its sympathisers must be to be stamped out decisively by use of the State’s police and army. On one hand the govt claims that the path of violence is not the solution of the problems of the poor. On the other hand, it strongly advocates use of force to suppress the movement and solve the problems of the govt. It is precisely this myopic vision of the govt and its planners which is the real cause of the problem. Poverty, starvation, malnutrition, unemployment, lack of access to basic necessities like health and education, forced eviction of people from their lands in the name of developmental projects do not qualify as threats to internal security for the government. However, reactions and resistance and protests against them raise the hackles and eyebrows. A prime reason for the spread of Naxalism has been the acute failure of the State to provide remote and underdeveloped areas with facilities for health and education, and the prospect for dignified employment. People in these areas have had to cope with an administration that is indifferent, corrupt, an brutal. Meanwhile, the economic development in these areas has been powered by wood, water and minerals found on these lands, and for whose profitable exploitation the locals are forced to make way involuntarily or by force. It is important to understand the fact that the forced eviction of people from their land and livelihood for projects like mining will only bring more poverty and not prosperity as our planners think.

35. Governments need to be sensitive about these issues. They must work to make people in Naxal-infested areas true partners in the development process – by assuring them titles on lands cultivated by them, by allowing them the right to manage forests sustainably, and by giving them a solid stake in industrial or mining projects that come up where they live and at the cost of their homes.Thus the locals are not interested into the so-called development projects by the


government and even resort to attacking the employees of these companies.

These processes create conducive conditions for the support of Naxals and give them ready cadres and recruits. The Naxals only need to exploit the prevailing frustration .

36. Although the nation is enjoying a steadily solid economic growth during the past two decades but the distribution of these benefits is uneven among various social groups and geographic regions. Income disparities have increased and there is huge distinction between living conditions of the people in the rural areas and the metropolis in India. But these contradictions not only exist between rural and urban areas but also within the cities. The Naxals taking advantage of the situation and have started building up popular support in the cities through infiltrating labour unions and targeting the unemployed and students as well as exploiting the socio-economic disparities. Today, big cities like Delhi, Patna and Kolkata have come up as big hubs for Maoist sympathising intellectuals.According to Ernst Bloch the development of Modernity and capitalism can create contradictions within a society. These contradictions are often a consequence of social progress that is not shared by the whole population. Bloch calls this asymmetric development “the simultaneity of the nonsimultaneous”. This process can be conflict-promoting especially when the contradictions are exploited by a political force. This concept can be well applied to the Naxalite conflict.




37. The spread and influence of Naxalism has almost captured half of Indian territory. The speed with which this menace is spreading its tentacles, the day is not far when the whole of the nation will be under its firm grip. Today, the violence related to Naxalism is a real cause of concern which is degenerating the security fabric of the country. The under mentioned paragraphs highlight the direct and indirect effects of the menace on the nation.

Security Implications

38. Shift from ideology. The facts clearly indicate the rising menace of Naxalism and bring to fore that Naxalism in its present form fail to tow their novel ideology conceptualized in the native years, ie, working with a determined and undivided aim of establishing social equality. In fact Left Wing extremists are transforming the movement from “menace” to “serious threat”. [11]

39. Increasing Influence. The viral spread of Naxalism is a growing concern. The Naxal threat seems to have surpassed all other insurgencies in the nation at least from the geographical point of view. Today the Naxalites are dreaming of establishing a red corridor and are putting all their energies towards fulfillment of their goals in this concern. Going with the present pattern they might soon gain a continuous presence along the length and breadth of the nation.


40. Virtual Control. The situation today is such that If partial the Naxalites ever plan to launch coordinated, simultaneous attacks, they would not only be able to drive a wedge through the vital areas of the country but will also give them complete control over huge deposits of minerals, oils and industrialised territory and put them at a position from where they can bargain on their terms. Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury former Army Chief had this to say “The Naxalite movement is the main threat which is affecting the states today. It is more dangerous than the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or the situation in the North-East.