Thursday, September 6, 2007

Who are Naxalites

Thursday, September 06, 2007 12:32:18 IST
What they are and what they do. CHARUL SHAH takes us into the grim world of Naxalites

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The Naxalites, also sometimes called the Naxals, is a loose term used to define groups of people, waging a violent struggle on behalf of landless labourers and tribal people against landlords and others. The Naxalites say they are fighting oppression and exploitation to create a classless society. Their opponents say the Naxalites are terrorists oppressing people in the name of a class war.
The Naxalites claim to represent the most oppressed people in India, those who are often left untouched by India's development and bypassed by the electoral process. Invariably, they are the Adivasis, Dalits, and the poorest of the poor, who work as landless labourers for a pittance, often below India's mandated minimum wages.
The most prominent area of operation is a broad swathe across the very heartland of India, often considered the least developed area of this country. The Naxalites operate mostly in the rural and Adivasi areas, often out of the continuous jungles in these regions. Their operations are most prominent in (from North to South) Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, the Telangana (north-western) region of Andhra Pradesh, and western Orissa. It will be seen that these areas are all inland, from the coastline.
The criticism against Naxalites is that despite their ideology, they have gradually become just another terrorist outfit, extorting money from middle-level landowners (since rich landowners invariably buy protection), and worse, even extorting and dominating the lives of the adivasis and villagers who they claim to represent in the name of providing justice.
The earliest manifestation of the movement was the Telengana Struggle in July 1948 (100 years after the Paris Communes were first set up, coining the word Communist). This struggle was based on the ideology of China's Mao Zedong, with the aim of creating an Indian revolution. Not surprisingly, the ideology remains strong in this region of Andhra Pradesh.
The Naxalite movement took shape after some members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) split to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), after the former agreed to participate in elections and form a coalition government in West Bengal. Charu Mazumdar led the split. The peasant uprising against the oppressor landlords was organised and led by Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal. Mazumdar was the chief ideologue of what has been described as the first authentic Maoist phenomenon in India.
The Naxalite movement takes its name from a peasant uprising, which took place in May 25 1967 at Naxalbari – a place on the north-eastern tip of India situated in the state of West Bengal. A section of the CPI (M) leaders and cadres having disagreement with the politics pursued by the party magnified the movement. It started with a movement on the demand for recovery of benami land, that is, land held under false names unlawfully and distribution of the same to the landless and poor peasants. At that time, the First United Front Government of which the SUCI was a constituent was in power in West Bengal. Under the leadership of their ideologue, a 49-year old Communist, Charu Mazumdar, they defined the objective of the new movement as 'seizure of power through an agrarian revolution'. The strategy was the elimination of the feudal order in the Indian countryside to free the poor from the clutches of the oppressive landlords.

How do they operate?
Naxalism has survived in India since the late sixties in one form or the other. In the early seventies it had gripped Calcutta city and a reign of terror had prevailed. Much blood was shed before it was firmly crushed, just before the Bangladesh (liberation) war. However, the movement survived on Mao's tactics- "Retreat when the enemy attacks, rest and regroup when the enemy is strong and attack when the enemy rests". Thus while they retreated in West Bengal, they gained strength in Andhra and Bihar and grew roots in Orissa, Maharashtra and in the new states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. They have established Regional Bureaus in all the southern states as well as in U.P, Delhi and Haryana. They aim at crippling the economic centres, the political and technological centres, the minerally rich pockets and at overthrowing the established system of governance. The professed aims and objectives as well as the means are similar to that of any extremist organisation. The Naxalites feed on neglect and ignorance, and the only means to counter them is through knowledge, action and constant vigil.
In the whole organisation structure, one can find a clear distinction between the political and military wings of the outfit.

The administration:
On the political side, the organisational hierarchy consists of the Central Committee at the top, and then follows Regional Bureaus, Zonal or State Committees, District or Division Committees and Squad Area Committees respectively. Apart from that bellow the Central Committee there is a polite bureau, which consist 13 members and they are the people who make policy decisions.

The armed force:
The military functions under a single operational command, the Central Military Commission. In the Indian State where it has a presence, there is a State Military Commission and in special guerrilla zones, there is a Zonal Military Commission. A Regional Military Commission supervises a group of State Military Commissions or Zonal Military Commissions. Each Regional Military Commission reports to the Central Military Commission.

Active groups
Maoist Communist Centre (MCC)
The outfit came into existence, in its earlier version, on October 20, 1969, as Dakshin Desh. When the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) was formed with the merger of several Maoist groups in 1969, one left-wing extremist group, Dakshin Desh, did not join and decided to retain its independent identity. In 1975, the outfit was renamed as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). Like other left wing extremist groups, the purported objective of the MCC is to establish a 'people's government' through 'people's war'. It traces its ideology to the Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse Tung's dictum of organised peasant insurrection.

People's War Group (PWG)
The People's War Group was formed in Southern Indian State of Andhra Pradesh on April 22, 1980 by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, one of the most influential Naxalite leaders in the State and a member of the erstwhile Central Organising Committee of the Communist Party of India––Marxist-Leninist, (CPI-ML). The PWG's operations commenced in Karimnagar district, in the North Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh, and subsequently spread to other parts of the State as well as in other States. The PWG traces its ideology to the Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung's theory of organised peasant insurrection. It rejects parliamentary democracy and believes in capturing political power through protracted armed struggle based on guerrilla warfare. This strategy entails building up of bases in rural and remote areas and transforming them first into guerrilla zones and then as liberated zones, besides the area-wise seizure and encircling cities. The eventual objective is to install a "people's government" through the "people's war". In short, as the PWG claims, it wishes to usher in a New Democratic revolution (NDR).

People's Guerrilla Army
The military wing of the People's War Group (PWG), the People's Guerrilla Army (PGA) was reportedly founded on December 2, 2000 in Bihar and Jharkhand and a month later, on January 2, 2001, in Andhra Pradesh, somewhere in dense Dandakaranya forests in the North Telengana Region, by reorganising its guerrilla force.

Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist)
The Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War (also known as the People's War Group or PWG) merged to form a new entity, the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) on September 21, 2004, somewhere in the projected 'liberated zone'. Officially, the merger was announced on October 14, 2004, by the PWG Andhra Pradesh 'state secretary', Ramakrishna, at a news conference in Hyderabad, on the eve of peace talks between the PWG and the State Government.
The CPI-Maoist intends to carry on the new "democratic revolution, which would remain directed against imperialism, feudalism and comprador bureaucratic capitalism." The new party believes that the merger would cause "fear among the ruling classes" and would fulfil "the aspirations of the masses" for a strong revolutionary party that would usher in a "new democratic society" by advancing towards socialism and communism.

Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) Janashakti
Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) Janashakti or CPI (ML) Janashakti was formed on July 30, 1992 with the merger of seven communist groups. The seven groups were the CPI (ML) Resistance, one faction of the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India (Marxist-Leninist), CPI (ML) Agami Yug, Paila Vasudev Rao's CPI (ML), CPI (ML) [Khokan Majumdar Faction], Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (CCCR) and Communist Revolutionary Group for Unity (CRGU).

Maharashtra Foot prints:
According to the State Government, out of the 35 districts, Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Bhandara, Gondia, Yavatmal and Nanded have been described as 'Naxalite-prone'. All the six affected districts are located in the eastern belt of the State, lie contiguous with the Maoist-affected districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar and Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh, Rajnandgaon, Bastar, Kanker and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, and Balaghat in the State of Madhya Pradesh. Apart from such close proximity that has triggered a spillover effect in Maharashtra, the topography and the sheer economic backwardness of these districts have provided a fertile ground for Maoist operations. Fifteen Maoist dalams (squads) reportedly operate in Maharashtra.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs Annual Report 2004-2005 notes: "In Maharashtra, while the level of Naxal violence increased by 15 per cent during 2004 as compared to 2003, the CPI ML-PW (Communist Party of India - Marxist Leninist - People's War) continued to dominate the forest and mountainous tracts of Gadchiroli and Gondia Districts and made efforts to extend its influence to the districts of Chandrapur and Yavatmal." Seven fatalities in Naxalite violence were recorded by the MHA Report in 2001; 29 in 2002; 31 in 2003; and 15 in 2004 (incidents of Naxalite related violence, however, rose from 75 in 2003 to 84 in 2004). In 2005, according to the Institute for Conflict Management database, 21 persons, including 15 SF personnel, 4 Maoists, and 2 civilians have died.

Three stages of revolution
According to the first scenario, Maoists would be strong in their traditional areas and government would make sure that they do not spread their influence to other places. Regular battles between Maoists and police forces would take place just like today. Mostly the Maoists would have great influence in three states: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and pockets of influence in other states.
In this kind of scenario, the Maoists would consolidate their hold in the newly acquired regions and may expand into new areas. Inevitably, the armed forces have to be used to tackle this problem. This would weaken the nation on the external front. Instead of taking advantage of the economic opportunities, India would be busy fighting for its stability. The most important cause for this scenario would be the neglect of the government(s) in creating nation wide
strategy to tackle Maoists. The current scenario is that we still do not know much about them and to some extend it is being neglected by the government.

Ideologically, the Naxalites claim they are against India, as she exists currently. They believe that Indians are still to acquire freedom from hunger and deprivation and that the rich classes —landlords, industrialists, traders, etc — control the means of production. Their final aim is the overthrow of the present system, hence the targeting of politicians, police officers and men, forest contractors, etc. They strongly believe that the power will only flow from the battle of guns.
To achieve their goals, the Naxalites have invariably targeted landlords in the villages, often claiming protection money from them. Naxalites have also been known to claim 'tax' from the Adivasis and landless farmers in areas where their writ runs more than that of the government.
What started as a movement questioning and protesting against inequality and disparity has slowly degenerated into one surviving on extortion, torture and ill gotten wealth. Till date all the naxal victims have been police personnel, forest guards and in large numbers, the impoverished tribals. None of the contractors, businessmen or moneylenders have been targeted. The naxals have opposed roads, bridges and other public works in the villages saying that it would benefit the police more by providing access. They discourage the local boys from studying beyond class 9 and insist that each family sends one boy and one girl to join the dalam.

Naxalism In Maharashtra
The naxalite problem originated in Maharashtra when the Peoples War Group (PWG) from Andhra Pradesh entered bordering Sironcha taluka in the then Chandrapur (it is presently with the Gadchiroli district which was carved out of Chandrapur in 1983) district in 1980.The naxals played up the local grievances and exhorted the people to join the "Nav Janvadi Kranti". They appealed to the people and exhorted them through song and dance groups termed as Jan Natya Mandals. Soon armed dalams appeared. With their Olive green uniform and their guns, they attracted some of the local youth to joining them.
There were voices of protest and one of the first acts of the armed dalam was to cut off the hand of Raju Master, a local school teacher for opposing them. Raju master was not killed so that he would serve as a living reminder of naxal brutality and terror .Till date the naxals have been using this method to spread fear and to procure recruits from the local populace.
At present, two districts, viz Gadchiroli and Gondia are declared completely naxal affected while parts of Chandrapur and Bhandara are also declared affected. As of date 17 dalams are active in Gadchiroli, 3 in Gondia and 3 in Chandrapur.The districts of Nanded, Yavatmal etc have their presence while Thane, Nandurbar and Nasik have their influence. Regular meetings by the overground support organizations are held in each of these districts as well as in Nagpur, Pune and Mumbai.
The ultimate aim of naxalism is to gain power through the barrel of the gun. Their desired centres of power in Maharashtra are not Gadchiroli and Gondia, but the big cities of Mumbai and Pune. The groundwork for this is being done with the naxal supporter and sympathizer, balladeer Gadar holding meetings among the slum dwellers of Pune. The topic for the meeting was the Khairlanji (caste) killings in distant Bhandara!.

Government Action
In Maharashtra a two pronged strategy of Police Action and Development has been used to counter naxalism. The State has a Surrender Policy which also entails a Rehabilitation Program. Public Contact programs like Jan Jagaran Melawas and Gram Bhets are held by the Police, village to village to create awareness among the population. These programs are participated in by the different Govt. Departments so that in effect governance moves closer to the masses. The State Government is also giving Rs.3 Lakh to each village in the affected area which declares Naxal Gaon Bandi, a kind of declared non-cooperation with the naxals. As a result Maharashtra has succeeded in curbing the spread of at least the violent part of the movement beyond the border districts of Gadchiroli and Gondia though the naxal movement here had started almost at the same time as it had begun in Andhra before encompassing almost ninety percent of that state.

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