The Naxalites, also called Naxals, are groups who claim that they are waging a violent struggle on behalf of landless labourers and tribal people against landlords and the government. They say that they are fighting oppression and exploitation and are aiming to create a classless society.1 but are they as simple as they portray themselves to be?
The Naxal problem is not just a law and order problem. It started with the genuine grievances of the rural poor. The people generally affected are the adivasis and the peasants. But the grievances revolved around land alienation, land distribution, unemployment, exploitation by government officials and contractors, poor remuneration for forest produce, mindless prosecution for petty forest offences, etc
A Short History
According to Rajat Kujur, to understand the genesis of the Naxal movement, one needs to locate it within the framework of the communist movement in India. To be more specific, any study on the Naxal movement cannot overlook the importance of the rise and fall of the Telangana Movement (1946–1951) since Telangana will always remain the glorious chapter in the history of peasant struggles for Indian communists. In fact, it was the first serious effort by sections of the communist party leadership to learn from the experiences of the Chinese revolution and to develop a comprehensive line for India’s democratic revolution. On the other hand, the experience in Telangana also facilitated the growth of three distinct lines within the Indian communist movement.
The Naxal problem is not just a law and order problem.
The first one was promoted by Ranadev and his followers. The second was propagated by the Andhra secretariat, and the third was the dominance of a centrist line led by Ajay Ghosh and Dange. The line promoted by Ranadev and his followers rejected the significance of the Chinese revolution and advocated the simultaneous accomplishment of the democratic and socialist revolutions based on city-based working class insurrections. This group drew inspiration from Stalin and fiercely attacked Mao as another Tito.
The second line mainly professed and propagated by the Andhra secretariat drew heavily on the Chinese experiences and the teachings of Mao, in building up the struggle in Telangana. The Andhra leadership, while successfully managing to spearhead the movement against the Nizam, failed to tackle the complex question of meeting the challenge of the Government of India. The Nehru government embarked on the road to parliamentary democracy, conditioning it with reforms like the “abolition of the Zamindari system.” All these objective conditions facilitated the dominance of a centrist line put forward by Ajay Ghosh and Dange. This line characteristically pointed out the difference between Chinese and Indian conditions and pushed the party along the road to parliamentary democracy. In 1957, the communists succeeded in forming a government in Kerala, which however was soon overthrown.
While the Naxal movement has mostly been characterised by fragmented groups and innumerable splits, successive governments at the national and state levels were never able to follow a uniform approach to deal with the problem, thus leading to a marked impact in the growth of the Naxal movement.
Following the Indo-China war of 1962, the party split into two in 1964—the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI [M]). While the CPI preached the theory of a “peaceful road to non-capitalist development,” the CPI (M) adopted the centrist line. Though there were serious differences on ideological and tactical grounds, both parties went ahead with the parliamentary exercises and formed the United Front Government in West Bengal. In the backdrop of such organisational upheavals within the Indian communist movement, an incident in a remote area of Bengal transformed the history of left-wing extremism in India. In a remote village called Naxalbari in West Bengal, a tribal youth named Bimal Kissan, having obtained a judicial order, went to plough his land on 2 March 1967. The local landlords attacked him with the help of their goons. The tribal people of the area retaliated and started forcefully recapturing their lands. What followed was a rebellion which left one police subinspector and nine tribals dead. Within a short span of about two months, this incident acquired great visibility and tremendous support from cross-sections of communist revolutionaries belonging to the state units of the CPI (M) in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.