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(Article) CSM - August 2013: Naxalism in India

Naxalism in India

The attack in southern Chhattisgarh this past May 25 has again raised questions — and some bogeys — about India’s internal conflicts and the place Maoist rebels occupy in this universe. What’s the situation? And what is likely to happen? The short answer is that over the past three to four years, Left-wing rebels led primarily by Communist Party of India (Maoist) have been severely depleted by the surrender, arrest or death of leaders and cadres. Pressured by the onslaught, often knee-jerk, of both central and various state governments, the Maoists’ effective area of combat has shrunk to southern Chhattisgarh and adjacent areas of western Maharashtra and southwest Odisha (known as Danda-karanya), Bihar, a few pockets in Jhark-h-and, a sliver of Andhra Pradesh. While it is an emphatic weakening, the area is still vast, and cadre numbers and abilities enough to inflict severe damage in areas of strength. The Dandakaranya zone, where the attack on May 25 took place, is both major Maoist sanctuary, and core laboratory for administration, education, healthcare and way of community living and economic activity run by the Janatana Sarkar, or people’s government. This remains among the most inaccessible and forbidding policing and combat terrains in the country. This is where top Maoist military leadership shelters. This is where some of the most battlehardened cadres are.

Naturally, this is also where most government forces combating Maoists are located. For Maoists, this region is also quite different from the rough and tumble in Bihar and Jharkhand where Maoist rebels have for long been less concerned with trying to provide an alternate grassroots model; because of what can be called ‘objective conditions’ of rebellion, more engaged in retribution and survival. The Maoists’ duress is manifold. Among other things, they appear to be increasingly hard-pressed to communicate issues. There is a core hard-Left-leaning pool in urban India that will continue to provide recruits for on-ground action and eventual, ideological leadership. As ever this core is driven by angry intellectualism, and can move easily, generationally, from farmers’ rightsrelated land issues prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s to, say, land-related issues of tribal rights, and callous, often-corrupt land acquisition for various projects.


The term Naxalites comes from Naxalbari, a small village in West Bengal, where a section of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) led by Kanu Sanyal,and Jangal Santhal initiated a violent uprising in 1967. On 18 May 1967, the Siliguri Kishan Sabha, of which Jangal was the president, declared their support for the movement initiated by Kanu Sanyal and readiness to adopt armed struggle to redistribute land to the landless. The following week, a sharecropper near Naxalbari village was attacked by the landlord’s men over a land dispute. On 24 May, when a police team arrived to arrest the peasant leaders, it was ambushed by a group of tribals led by Jangal Santhal, and a police inspector was killed in a hail of arrows. This event encouraged many Santhal tribals and other poor people to join the movement and to start attacking local landlords. These conflicts go back to the failure of implementing the 5th & 9th Schedules of the Constitution of India. See Outlook India comment by E.N. Rammohan ‘Unleash the Good Force’ - edition July 16, 2012. In theory these Schedules provide for a limited form of tribal autonomy with regard to exploiting natural resources on their lands, e.g. pharmaceutical & mining), and ‘land ceiling laws’, limiting the land to be possessed by landlords and distribution of excess land to landless farmers & labourers. The caste system is another important social aspect of these conflicts.

Mao Zedong provided ideological leadership for the Naxalbari movement, advocating that Indian peasants and lower class tribals overthrow the government and upper classes by force. A large number of urban elites were also attracted to the ideology, which spread through Charu Majumdar’s writings, particularly the ‘Historic Eight Documents’ which formed the basis of Naxalite ideology. In 1967, Naxalites organized the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR), and later broke away from CPM. Violent uprisings were organized in several parts of the country. In 1969, the AICCCR gave birth to the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI(ML)). Practically all Naxalite groups trace their origin to the CPI(ML). A separate offshoot from the beginning was the Maoist Communist Centre, which evolved out of the Dakshin Desh group. The MCC later fused with the People’s War Group to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). A third offshoot was that of the Andhra revolutionary communists, mainly represented by the UCCRI(ML), following the mass line legacy of T. Nagi Reddy, which broke with the AICCCR at an early stage. During the 1970s, the movement was fragmented into disputing factions. By 1980, it was estimated that around 30 Naxalite groups were active, with a combined membership of 30,000.


The Naxalism is spreading through following groups in the following names :-

(1) CPI (ML): Communist Party of India.
(2) MCI: Moist communist centre.
(3) PWG: People war group fused to CPI(Moist)
(4) UCCRI (ML): Termed as Andhra communist.

Target of Naxal to Raisenaxalism

They basically cover:-

(a) Landlords.
(b) Teachers.
(c) Businessmen.
(d) University Teachers.
(e) Police officers.

Cause of Naxalims

The causes of the Maoist movement in India are structural. Economic, political and cultural dimensions are closely linked. The first is the economic situation which is exploited by Naxalites and their extreme left ideology. It seems much like a catch-22 situation. The basic rise to the naxalism is the one and only one reason of poverty. The Naxals do not consider themselves to well furnish in nature, in terms of amenities, which should be provided by the state. They consider themselves the weaker section of the society. Hence, to raise their power, and to prove the society they are supreme, and independent in nature. They started mobilising the poor, underprivileged, and discouraged and marginalised in the rural areas of India. Futher to raise their power and strength and to make their own government they started damaging the property, and, the people who are against them.

On the one hand, India has experienced relatively fast economic growth, which has led to increased levels of national wealth. To facilitate and continue this development, businesses need more land and natural resources such as minerals. On the other hand, this economic growth has been uneven among regions, and has widened the disparity between the rich and the poor. Proponents of these businesses argue that these regions need economic development, if they are to catch up with their richer counterparts.

The Indian aboriginals, known as adivasis, live these richly forested lands, which are wanted for development by businesses. The conflict between economic progress and aboriginal land rights continues to fuel the Naxalite’s activities. Their strongest bases are in the poorest areas of India. They are concentrated on the tribal belt such as West Bengal, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh where locals experience forced acquisition of their land for developmental projects. Second, the alienation that is being exploited by the Maoists has a social, communal and regional dimension. The battle can also be described between India’s most neglected people and the nation’s most powerful industrial businesses. The adivasis make up about 8.4 percent of the population and live in severe poverty. They live in remote areas where government administration is weak and there is a lack of government services. These indigenous people have the lowest literacy rates in the country and highest rates of infant mortality. Given this socio- conomic alienation, it is easy to see how the Naxalite’s ideology is popular among the rural poor and indigenous tribes, and why the adivasis view the guerrillas as their “saviours”. The adivasis do not feel like they have any political power to voice their grievances legitimately, and therefore the alternative of subversive, illegal groups seem attractive.

Some argue that Naxalites are not concerned about the social or economic welfare of these people and are simply using them as a means to its end goal of seizing political power. The spread of Naxalism reflects the widespread alienation and discontentment felt by large parts of the country who are systematically marginalised. Dr. Subramanian, a former Director- General of the National Security Guard and Central Reserve Police Force notes that Naxalism exists in these tribal areas because of the dissatisfaction of the people against the government and big businesses, the terrain is suitable for guerrilla tactics, and there is no existence of a proper and effective local administration mechanism. In these areas, the conditions are conducive to warfare and extremist ideologies. Even if Naxalites are simply exploiting the adivasis’ situation for their own ends, their popularity indicates the power of the root causes to create such an environment for insecurity and violence.

Saket Singh