“Of all kinds of dangers, internal dangers should be got rid of first, for it is internal troubles, like the fear from a lurking snake, that are more serious than external troubles.” — Kautilya( 321—296 BC )
Left Wing Extremism ( LWE ) in India, now over four decades in existence and spreading alarmingly, derives its maniacal inspiration directly from Communist Maoist ideology which blatantly propagates the use of violence to capture political power. The principal advocate of this ideology and a India-hater, China’s ‘Father of the Revolution’ Mao Tse Tung, in the late 1940s, had succinctly expressed that “ Revolutionary warfare is never confined within the bounds of military action because its purpose is to destroy existing society and its institutions and to replace them with a completely new structure.”
In the last 10 years, LWE violence has been instrumental in causing nearly 6500 fatalities to 2677 innocent civilians, 1697 security forces personnel and 2115 Maoist terrorists themselves.
Maoism popularly known as Naxalism— both terms falling under the ambit of LWE in India — constitutes today the most grave internal security threat to India besides being a formidable socio- economic and political challenge to the nation. That this scourge has spread and now covers over 180 districts across 20 states with some areas under the Red influence totally bereft of governmental control and are referred to as ‘liberated zones.’ The Naxal/Maoist influence traverses a wide swathe running in the centre of the Indian hinterland, from the porous Nepal-Bihar border to the Karnataka and Kerala borders in a south-west orientation referred to also by some as the “ Red Corridor.” That these Indian Maoists are constantly and successfully pushing the boundaries of this corridor to create a “Compact Revolutionary Zone” and wage a “Protracted People’s War(PPR) and bring forth a” New Democratic Revolution” (NDR) is not surprising and these insurgents have managed to make their presence felt in some of the NE states, Assam in particular, and even in the deep south of India. LWE elements have in the recent past penetrated in urban centres like Delhi, the National Capital Region ( Gurgaon and NOIDA), Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, industrial belts of Jamshedpur, Surat, Ahmedabad, Rourkela and the cities of Chandigarh, Guwahati, Patna, Hyderabad, Raipur among others.
In the last 10 years, LWE violence has been instrumental in causing nearly 6500 fatalities to 2677 innocent civilians, 1697 security forces personnel and 2115 Maoist terrorists themselves. The majority of civilian casualties are tribals and villagers who are often branded as ‘Police informers’ before being brutally tortured and killed by the Naxals. That these terrorists are now armed with more modern weaponry and equipment clearly indicates their extra-territorial linkages and the varied forms of support they are getting from their foreign mentors.
Naxalism, as a violent creed, erupted in 1967 as an agrarian rebellion, by the Santhal tribes of an unknown small village, Naxalbari( Darjeeling district of West Bengal) allegedly to fight for their basic rights usurped by rapacious and exploitative feudal landlords of the region. That this village was selected to commence the Red struggle, owing to it being located at the tri-junction of India, Nepal and then East Pakistan ( now Bangladesh) was not merely an innocent coincidence. The movement rapidly spread to many parts of the nation where tribals, peasants and workers were being exploited and the poverty and unemployment levels were high. During its earlier stages, even some educated youth joined the movement romanticizing the struggle for a new social order for bringing succour to the exploited and the downtrodden. Most got disillusioned within a short period of time when they confronted its violent ideology.
The Naxals ensure that no governmental presence even at the panchayat level or government schools function, or even allow any electricity or telephone towers to operate, thus keeping the locals totally separated from any state developmental activities and isolated from the national mainstream.
The Naxal uprising was initially spearheaded by Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) ( CPI-ML)—– an organization which derives its ideology from the thoughts of Mao Tse Tung. The former, one of its leading ideologues, summarized the mission of this party as “ the physical annihilation of class enemies.” Initially this movement spread to some districts of West Bengal and also the Telengana region of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, but it was kept well in check by the state governments. The death of Charu Mazumdar in 1972 also led to the Naxal movement losing its initial momentum. However, the insurgency resurfaced in the 1980s with the rise of the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). These two organizations merged in 2004 to form the CPI( Maoist) and the movement thence onwards picked up momentum and a pan India orientation. In addition, this merger has augmented the military capabilities, organizational and technological skills and thus the offensive reach of the Naxal movement.
The CPI (Maoist) has established linkages with the Maoist groups of 13 nations under the aegis of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). The RIM was formed in 1984 by Maoist cadres from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iran ,Nepal, Peru, Turkey, Italy, Tunisia, Colombia, USA and Afghanistan. Earlier, some media reports also had indicated the linkages of Indian Naxals with the erstwhile Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka. The latter allegedly trained and equipped some Naxal cadres some years back. In addition, the Naxals have also received active support from other insurgent groups like the ULFA in Assam, Maoists in Nepal and militant groups based in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The Maoists have also established a fair number of front organizations which carry out subtle propaganda on their behalf extolling their movement as one fighting for the legitimate rights of the tribals, peasants and other oppressed sections of society. Some of these NGOs also display a propensity of being critical of the efforts of the state machinery in combating the Naxals and tend to paint the state as indulging in human rights violations. Some of these NGOs are led by left leaning intellectuals who constantly harp on ‘corporate exploitation’ and ‘displacement of tribals’ to tarnish the image of the State. The funding of some of these NGOs remains suspect and needs monitoring by the government.
Naxal Strategy and Organisational Structure
The Naxal movement has its own peculiar dynamics unlike the insurgencies in J&K, North East or earlier in Punjab which, generally speaking, were confined to a single state or area. Currently, 20 states of the nation with Chattisgarh, Jharkand, Odisha, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are gravely affected. This geographical spread in inter connected under developed terrain, also hilly and forested at places, assists the movement of the Naxals in striking at governmental targets at will and eluding the state police and the para military forces easily by moving from one state to the other. These Naxals also draw sustenance from sympathetic villagers including those intimidated by them and thus in some of these regions, the insurgents virtually run a parallel government. The Naxals ensure that no governmental presence even at the panchayat level or government schools function, do not allow even postmen to enter or even allow any electricity or telephone towers to operate, thus keeping the locals totally separated from any state developmental activities and isolated from the national mainstream. A well established network of informers keeps them warned in advance of any counter actions being taken by the security forces who invariably, frequently, fall to successful ambushes and take in many casualties caused by innovative planting of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by well trained audacious Naxals. The latter constantly target bridges, culverts, police stations and posts, health infrastructure and even remotely located railway stations to keep the State infrastructure totally non-existent in their areas of control.
Young children, instead of being given education, are being indoctrinated with Maoist ideology and given military training and groomed as potential recruits for the PLGA.
The Maoist organization currently comprises a Party, a United Front and the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army( PLGA) which is guided by the CMC at its apex. The apex structure consists of the Central Committee, Higher Committee, Sub Committee and a few other departments.
In states like Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand, Maoists have formed children militias known as ‘Bal Dastas’. Young children, instead of being given education, are being indoctrinated with Maoist ideology and given military training and groomed as potential recruits for the PLGA.
Likely Causes of Naxal Emergence
The phenomenal spread of LWE in many parts of the nation can be attributed to the dismal record and performance of the State to ensure a minimum acceptable standard of living to its poor citizens especially in the rural and tribal belts. This insensitive and poor governance of the State has been fully exploited by the Naxalites who offer an alternative programme albeit violent to all the exploited and oppressed to obtain their basic rights. Some of the major reasons, among others, for the exponential emergence of the Naxal movement are as follows : –
- It is a well established fact that, for centuries, there exists exploitation and oppression of adivasis, dalits and the landless attributable to our antiquated feudal system. The Adivasis solely depend on the forest for their livelihood and sustenance but have been deprived of even picking rights and minimal forest produce owing to archaic forest laws and the practice of caste and class discrimination in these areas.
Nearly 80 percent of India’s coal reserves and 20 percent of rich mineral resources abound in Naxal affected tribal areas.
- In most remote areas of India, there exists poor network of roads, healthcare, education facilities, drinking water or electricity and the Naxals fully exploit the lack of development in these areas promising better alternatives for the poor.
- Nearly 80 percent of India’s coal reserves and 20 percent of rich mineral resources abound in Naxal affected tribal areas. However, as mining rights are given to big mining barons, mostly on corruption infested deals owing to the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and the mining mafias, hardly any money is ploughed back on raising the living standards of the original inhabitants of the land namely the tribals and the adivasis.
- In the interiors, the state police forces are numerically inadequate, ill trained and ill equipped with virtually no intelligence inputs to back their endeavours in confronting the Naxals. Para military forces sent as knee jerk and reactive reaction to combat Naxals also suffer from the same maladies to successfully take on the highly motivated Maoist cadres.
- Importantly, the Fifth Schedule of our Constitution lays down that all Scheduled Areas of the nation which are the Forest Reserves and that are inhabitated by Scheduled Tribes are to be administered by the Governors of the States by appointing Tribes Advisory Councils from among the local tibals. Amazingly, no Governor of any State in India has felt it essential to do so, leaving the Chief Minister of those states to lease forests for mining to private companies who thence evict these poor tribals with impunity from their land.
- The Ninth Schedule of India’s Constitution lays down that cultivable land, in excess of the land ceilings held by the rich farmers, has to be acquired by the State government and distributed to the landless farmers. However, only three states namely West Bengal, Kerala and J&K have implemented this Act so far. Such lethargic implementation of the nation’s laws naturally will contribute to movements seeking economic and social justice for the oppressed.
- According to a study by D Bandopadhay, Chairman, Expert Group of the Planning Commission on “ Development Issues to deal with Causes of Discontent, Unrest and Extremism ”, because villagers in the Maoist dominated areas lost trust in successive governments as nearly 5.5 crore of the rural population was displaced between 1951 and 2005. The numbers would have gone up considerably by now causing further alienation and giving an opportunity to the Naxals to exploit the situation and widen the chasm between the populace and the state machinery.