LEFT WING EXTREMISM
Syllabus: Linkages between development and spread of extremism
Table of Content
Evolution of Indian Left Wing
Stated Purpose of Movement
Recruitments by Maoists
Front Organizations and Urban Presence
Where is fault of the government?
Counter operations by governments
- Grey Hound police
- Operation Green Hunt
- Salwa Judum
- Peace Talks with Maoist
- Surrender Policy
Improvement in standard of living is something that everyone craves for and deserves it too. It involves, apart from decent food clothing and shelter, quality education and health and also dignified living. It is the absence of these things that incited masses against colonial government. Independence of India brought with it huge popular expectations for upliftment from poverty, from new democratic government. Our leaders were wisely dedicated to democratic principles for redistribution of resources.
Unfortunately, democratic processes are too slow to observe any tangible results soon. Under this it is to be ensured that, in order to deliver justice to downtrodden people, injustice is not done even with privileged ones. This requires every action to be taken transparently and every effected person be given reasonable opportunity of being heard and also right to recourse to courts.
Land reforms were major plank through which the Congress brought rural masses under its fold. But after independence, this subject went under state’s domain. Politics of every state differed and it was driving force for extent and direction of land reforms. States which failed to deliver much at this front were to bear the brunt of left wing movement in coming times.
Further, from very beginning focus was on development of big industries in backward areas. This development included operation of mines, building of big dams, steel plants, fertilizer plants etc away from urban centers, yet these continued to feed needs of urban India exclusively. So, tribals and farmers were losers in this arrangement as they were frequently displaced. According to an estimate, since independence, about 3-4 crore tribals have been displaced due to various hydro projects.
Apart from this, Indian state repeatedly failed to deliver its services such as maintaining law and order, social infrastructure, relief during epidemics or disasters in the remote areas. These made people indifferent to the democratic principles and some of them even got averse to the state when they were indoctrinated. These places were breeding ground of Naxalism where they established there bases.
Malkangiri district is one of 250 most backward districts of the country. In 1977 a dam was built here which resulted in physically isolating more than 160 villages. This district lies on Orissa- Andhra border. These isolated villages are in Orissa, but are accessible only from Andhra Pradesh side. Since then these areas are practically operating without Indian administration. Consequently, this has become base and a sanctuary for naxalites.
Government’s efforts for preservation of forests and wildlife have also led to some sort of resentment in tribals. Some of their areas came under wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. This made our government appear to be working for animals at cost of tribals.
Evolution of Indian Left wing
Communist Party of India (CPI) was formed in 1920’s under the aegis of MN Roy in Tashkent. At the same time there was wave of Socialism blowing in India motivated from Russian revolution and vagaries of Economic Depression. Colonial government was quite nervous and it frequently cracked any plans of socialist minded people conspiring against it. 1st such crackdown was Peshawar Conspiracy Case, then came Kanpur conspiracy case in 1924, and later Meerut Conspiracy Case in 1929. With all this, people only got more attracted to and aware of socialist ideas. Meanwhile, numerous small and regional organizations came under mainstream Communist Party of India in 1925.
After, 1929 broke away from mainstream politics which was led by congress and took its own course. This was due to decision taken at Congress of Communist International, which branded congress as party of Bourgeoisie, which is colluding with imperialists to further its own ends. Later they opposed Quit India Movement because Britain was with Russia against Germany in World War.
Extremist Left wing movement was present at time of Independence mainly in Hyderabad and Patiala princely state. Communists affiliated by CPI, here came to rescue oppressed peasants from Jagirdars and biswedars. In Hyderabad they fought against Islamic militia, the Razakars. When Indian army liberated Hyderabad in 1948, communists who were deeply influenced by Russian Revolution, decided to continue their struggle against bourgeois Indian government. They were soon pursued by Indian forces and by 1951, movement’s back was broken. Similarly in Punjab, a small band of militia was formed to protect farmer from oppressive biswedars and soon it got eradicated.
After brutal repression by state CPI gave up armed struggle and joined democratic politics. In 1957, it emerged largest opposition party and in same year it came to power in Kerala and EMS Namboodiripad became chief minister. It was 1st democratic government under a communist party all over world.
In 1962 when Indo-China war broke out majority of CPI leaders viewed it as struggle of a socialist country against Capitalist India. Consequently, they supported China’s cause, due to which Govt. put many leaders in jail. Further, there was growing dissent in party for party’s diversion toward democratic state which was contrary to Communist principle of armed struggle to overthrow the state. It was felt by some leaders that they are getting absorbed into present system. This finally culminated into split in the party in 1964 which resulted in new party called Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Dissent and differences didn’t settle in new party, CPI (M) and it fought elections in West Bengal and came in power by forming coalition ‘United Front’. This ridiculed many party members and among them were Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal.
Naxalbari, a village near Siliguri North West Bengal, became infamous in 1967 as it revived left wing extremism in India. Charu Mazumdar was active leader of the area and was mobilizing peasants against state for an armed conflict. On the other hand there were repetitive incidences of Class conflicts between peasants and zamindars. One such conflict escalated and zamindar was expelled from his land. After this police came to his rescue and was surrounded by about thousand peasants armed with bows, arrows, lathis etc. One Police officer was killed. Police force few days after responded with brutal force and 9 women and 2 children were killed. This was sanctioned by united front government of whom CPI was part.
In response revolutionary leaders fled the area and declared armed struggle against state of India. They formed a new party Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in 1969 and this was motivated and influenced deeply by Communist Party of China. In fact, Charu Mazumdar wrote 8 documents which was sort of road map for his group. He sent these documents to China to be approved by Mao Zedong.
This incident fired the imagination of Bengali Youth and there was popular support for Charu. Many university students joined the organization and became part of its different forms of front organizations, which they use for propaganda.
In 1972, Charu was caught and he died under custody. After this, movement went underground. Heavy state response kept violent incidents under control in 1970’s but it got push in 1980’s. This time it was from Andhra Pradesh. Actually, in 1967 itself movement also started in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh. Here revolutionaries tried to mobilize tribals into armed militias called ‘dalams’, by inciting them against landlords, money lenders and government. They resorted to ‘annihilation of class enemy’ under which people those represented state i.e. government servants, Forest officials and other oppressive characters such as money lenders and landlords, were to be identified and killed. They killed about 100 such targets and this was followed by arrest of its main leaders which brought movement to standstill.
In late 1970’s Kanu Sanyal was released and in 1980 K. Seetharamaiah founded People’s War Group. Original CPI (ML) by this time has changed name to Maoist Communist Center. It was seen that in 1990’s popular support to Maoist movement waned in backward districts. This coupled with disintegration of USSR and diversion towards market economy by China was a big blow to ambitions of Indian left wing.
These two parties/groups merged in 2004. With this, they gave a statement about their aim. It states that the Communist Party of India—CPI (M) is representative of the Indian proletariat (working class/labor) and its ideological foundation is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Its political objective is overthrow of what it calls the semi-colonial, semi-feudal system under neo-colonial form of indirect rule, exploitation and control in India of the oppressed masses. This struggle will be carried out through armed agrarian revolutionary war i.e. the Protracted People’s War with area wise seizure of power. This is old Maoist principle under which base is made in rural areas and more and more people are gradually brought into its fold. Overtime, influence will be extended to urban areas.
Naxalism has spread to 17 states in India, including Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal to name the few main ones, affecting nearly 185 out of 602 districts.
With established base areas in Dantewada and Bastar districts of Chhattisgarh, the movement has shown no signs of abating there. Reports indicate that Naxal armed underground cadres number around 15,000 men and women, with 12,000 firearms, and an unarmed cadre strength of nearly 200,000.
Nearly 60 per cent of the armed contingent of the Naxalites is in Northern Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. In fact, according to the 2008 Internal Security Report, Naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand was as high as 58. 56 per cent and most of the casualties were due to the use of landmines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in these states.
Why Naxalites are concentrated in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand? This is because they run extortion network under which main targets are mining companies and firms. These companies or sites of work are in far off locations which make them easy to be compelled. Also, parts of these sates are quite socio-economically most backward. So, it turns people more vulnerable to their ideologies. Lastly, they give employment to downtrodden people and pay them out of this extortion money.
Stated Purpose of Naxalite Movement
The Naxalites state their main political purpose as establishing an alternative state structure in India by creating a “red corridor” in Naxalite-affected states, stretching from the border of Nepal to central India to Karnataka in the south through violent struggle. This requires local support, Naxalite rebel leaders take up causes like protecting people’s rights of Jal, Jangal and Jamin (water, forest, and land) and providing justice through their committees/ kangaroo courts. Local support is crucial for the Naxalites for cadre recruitment, intelligence, logistics, and territorial control.
Their Strategy as per writings of Mao Zedong should be –
- Organization, consolidation, and preservation of regional base areas situated in isolated and difficult terrain.
- Progressive expansion, which includes attacks on police stations, sabotage, terror tactics, elimination of persons with alternate viewpoints.
- Destruction of the enemy through conventional battles and capture of power.
In initial phases they wage guerilla warfare and inflict surprise attacks. This is to make enemy weaker and project their claim over an area. This is also used by them to make common people under their influence believe that state is not all mighty and it is possible to defeat the state. They keep a strict vigil on people under them and suspected detractors or people with different views are brutally killed or tortured.
This strategy is long one, and they believe that it will take decades to achieve their objective. Till they prefer to silently strengthen their network and build capacity. Some leaked official documents of CPI (M) suggest that they plan to bring down Indian State by 2050 or 2060. Obviously, this is outright impossible, but we’ll have to agree that they can inflict substantial damage and State’s responsibility and focus is to minimize this damage. Perhaps they know that under present designs and capacity they can’t withstand might of state, so any aggressive act can possibly uproot them.
It is said that, Indian forces has so far just faced 5% of Maoist cadres, that too of second rung. They possibly have more sophisticated, better armed and trained elite force, which they are yet to brandish. Further, it is suspected that they might be receiving some support from retired armed forces personnel or some foreign powers. This is apparent because many documents has been seized which assimilates procedures and practices adopted by professional state armed forces. One arrested Maoist commander also revealed that they have elaborate training programme in place which stretches from 4 to 6 years.
Worse is that they are amicable to any anti-India force which serve their purpose. Whether they are terrorist organization, organized crime mafias, Human/animal traffickers, smugglers or any foreign state enemy of India, all have some or other nexus with Maoists. They can make use of counterfeit notes, provide passage to illicit materials, give refuge to anti national elements and carry out contract killings to get what they want in return. This way they can arrange for money or modern weapons.
They have openly declared their support for Kashmir and North east separatists. Linkages between the Naxalites and the People’s Liberation Army in Manipur (PLA) came to light when PLA and Maoist cadres were arrested in Delhi in 2011 while making elaborate plans to form a “strategic united front” with the Naxalites in India. Following their arrest, it was also revealed that the PLA had trained and armed the Naxalites in Jharkhand and Orissa in 2009 and 2010 respectively. There were plans to train Naxalite cadres in the PLA camps in Myanmar in 2012.
In normal course they take up social and economic causes against the government, without being identified as naxalites. They try to obstruct every developmental project. Any mishappening and state negligence is big opportunity for them to provoke people. For e.g. recent tragedy with 13 women in sterilization camps in Chhattisgarh or poisoning through Mid-day meal food, will be used by them against state. Further, they few years wowed to obstruct creation of any Special Economic Zone in India, which they consider foreign enclaves in India which are made to grab agri lands. Singur protests in West Bengal few years back is another example. Also, they are believed to have support of anti-dam protestors of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
(The general concern of police sources is that the anti-talk faction of the ULF A may try to establish strong linkages with the Naxals and provide them with arms from its base in Myanmar and China. The small arms network is one of the strongest in the Northeast running all the way from Thailand, China, and Cambodia via Myanmar to Manipur and Nagaland.)
Having said this, they operate their own medical and education services under the areas controlled by them. Similar confidence building exercise by state is not liked by them, so they have in past attacked government schools and hospitals.
Recruitments by Naxals
Naxals often use coercion for employing new cadres. They introduced compulsory service of one member from every Adivasi family. This caused much resentment in Adivasis which decreased their influence. Once on rebellion by people against this practice, 70 villagers were killed by Maoists.
Apart from this they use every possible mean including political indoctrination, promises of better future, remuneration, alliances with other violent groups etc.
Ethnical, tribal and religious identities also propel recruitment. Shared identities and social networks work to a great extent in collaborative efforts. Also some rich recruits who are highly committed to ideology become financer of their operations.
and Urban Presence
Maoists have ultimate objective to capture the cities and Mao in a statement said that this is not possible without ‘adequate work’ on ground in urban areas. This is part of long term strategy and for this Maoist have Front Organizations active in Cities.
There have been traditionally, underground urban networks, providing logistic supplies to interior bases, providing shelter in case of medical emergencies etc. But these front organizations keep alive anti state ideology in the media. They condemn government desperately on every stem. They try to mobilize working class against employers and government. They may form underground networks through which they can attempt to sabotage state security by any possible means.
The strategy for urban areas of the country includes mobilization and organization of the working classes, building a Tactical United Front (TUF) of classes similarly placed to the working classes and military tactics involving sabotage actions and select assassinations by ‘action teams’.
The organisations with which the Maoists have formed the TUF include the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), the People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI), the Committee against Violence on Women (CAVOW), and the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), among others.
Time and again, Maoist Sympathizers are arrested from Delhi and found to be aiding activities of the Maoists.
Where’s the fault of government?
Mao Zedong said that –
“Without a political goal, guerilla warfare must fail, as it must if its political objectives do not coincide with aspirations of the people and their sympathy, cooperation and assistance cannot be gained.”
This comes out to be apt statement if we see Indian experience. Movement exists only in those districts where there is administrative and developmental vacuum. If India’s growth had trickled down a bit to these areas, then story would have been altogether different.
As a development strategy the government has stressed on the urgent implementation of development projects/policies of the government including
- Backward Regions Grants Fund –
it is designed to redress regional imbalances in development. The fund will provide financial resources for supplementing and converging existing developmental inflows into 250 identified districts. This aims at filling local infrastructural gaps, strengthening local government institutions and building mechanisms for professional help to these local bodies.
Panchayat (Extension to Schedule Areas) Act of 1996 (PESA)
This act (PESA) exempted scheduled areas (schedule v) from certain provisions 73rd amendment. It also modified certain other provisions. Through PESA certain powers are given to gram sabha, which under 73rd amendment might not have been available to them (because of state’s discretion).
- National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme and
The Schedule Tribes and other traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 – In short Forest Rights Act
The law concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.
This act recognized rights of tribals over minor forest produce. Recently, Forest Minor produce was also covered under Minimum selling price regime.
- New land acquisition act which includes, consent, enhanced compensation, social impact assessment and Rehabilitation & Resettlement of displaced.
With all these efforts in place, reports have indicated towards poor implementation and translation of these schemes to the grassroots, primarily due to conflict prone environment.
It should be noted that Maoist too has their agenda in form of a manifesto, which include almost all those things which State includes, such as addressing caste based discrimination, protection of religious minorities, No displacement by big projects etc.
In order to secure better co-operation, Chief Minister’s Conference on Internal Security is being held since 2009. There has been Prime Minister Rural Fellowship Scheme under Ministry of Panchayati Raj for affected areas. Also, infrastructure spending in these areas is also being promoted, for ex. by Pradhan Mantri Sadak Gram Yojna
Counter operations by Center/State government
Maintenance of law and order is domain of state governments, yet central government has deployed troops of CRPF in these areas. These troops are attached to police station or to district police. They don’t have specific job assigned to them and hence doesn’t have autonomy. They just act as support system to state police. Also, centre has deployed there CoBRA – Commando Battalion for Resolute Actions are also deployed. These are elite forces specializing in guerrilla and jungle warfare
This has time and again created chain and command problems. There have been ego problems and confusion between operations of two forces. Further these forces are commanded by Inspectors who are in their 50’s and don’t have any experience of similar operations, knowledge of terrain and intelligence support.
Recently about 14 members of CRPF were killed in Maoist attack and this was partially due to lapses on part of troops as they compromised protocol. This caused much anguish in public and there was some clamor demanding involvement of army. While army is involve in training of CRPF and State police troops, yet it is not involved in operations.
Experts are overwhelmingly against involvement of Army because of following reasons:
- Army is option for the last resort. Currently problem is not lack of physical capacity of our police/paramilitary forces, but intelligence support is certainly lacking. In absence of this Army will end up achieving very little and deterrent aura of Army reservoir will be lost.
- Further, Maoist will use this deployment and some associated developments as deliberate abuse of power by government against poor tribals. This may earn Maoist sympathy of tribals.
- Our Army is already over stretched and if we start using it internally, our frontiers will be quite vulnerable. This we can’t afford as we know nature of our neighbors.
It may be asked that, then why AFSPA is implemented in J&K and North East areas, but not in Maoist affected area? This is because they already are on international borders and anti-state elements there are actively being supported by foreign power.
Grey Hound Police
The Greyhounds are an elite commando force of Andhra Pradesh, India created to combat left wing extremists. It is considered the best anti Naxalite force in the country, even above the CRPF’s CoBRA which has more men, budget and better arms than the Greyhounds. Greyhound is a simple but effective organization and recruits the best of the best from the Andhra Pradesh Police. The Force is also known for its guerrilla approach and its functioning in the field, which is near similar to that of the Maoists. Greyhound commandos often exclaim that their strength does not lie in them being a special force with special training, but it lies in the fact that it is more of a guerrilla force than a special force. The commandos of Greyhounds undergo rigorous training and have a strict day to day combat regime. They are highly paid, motivated and well-armed.
Operation Green Hunt
It was the name used by the Indian media to describe the “all-out offensive” by government of India’s paramilitary forces and the state’s forces against the Naxalites. The operation is believed to have begun in November 2009 along five states in the Red Corridor.
Recent attack on CRPF battalion is said to be in retaliation against this operation.
So called People’s movement was named Salwa Judum, to mean, “Peace hunt” in the local Gondi tribal dialect. The movement was launched by a few villagers angered by Naxal interference in the local trade of tendu leaves (used for making bidis).
However, later on, it was alleged that maintaining law and order in Dantewada and Bastar was outsourced to the Salwa Judum cadres, some of them as young as 15–16 years in age. Some 5000 such cadres were made Special Police Officer s (SPOs), given a rifle each and paid Rs 1500–2000 a month. Poorly trained, ill equipped and immature, some of the Salwa Judum cadres themselves looted many tribal villages. It resulted in civil war like situation in these regions. Last year, Supreme Court ruled that this movement id unconstitutional and only state has responsibility of maintaining law and order.
Peace Talks with Maoists and cease fires
In 2004, Andhra Pradesh government entered into peace talks with the Maoist. Maoist showed unwavering stand and put up strange conditions, like they should be allowed to wield arms wherever they like, state should call back troops from their areas etc. It was clear that Maoist Plan for ultimate overthrow of Indian state is nonnegotiable. They just wanted to buy time to strengthen themselves. During this time their Leader (kishenji) addressed huge rally in Hyderabad (attended by approx. 1.5 lakh people). Soon after this, merger of two parties (MCC & PWG) surprised everyone.
Again in 2009, Home Minister P. Chidambaram called for ceasefire and peace talks, Maoist first accepted cease fire, but within few hours there was an attack on paramilitary battalion, killing them, which belied all expectations of peace with Maoists.
Naxal-affected states have also announced surrender policies. The Jharkhand government offered Rs 50000 to surrendered Naxalites plus a monthly allowance of Rs.2000,one acre of agricultural land, and educational and health benefits to their children. The Chhattisgarh government offered up to Rs.3 lakh for weapon surrender. The Orissa government announced Rs. 10000 for surrender, Rs.20000 for arms surrender, and Rs 2 lakh of bank loan without interest for two years.
But there is no effective intelligence mechanism to identify Naxal cadres .Often, tribal youths surrender as Naxal cadres; many of them even join the Naxal movement to reap these benefits.
Further it is alleged that Police forces pressurize (even coerce) those who surrendered to reveal information, or to join counter-Naxal operations like Salwa Judum. This demotivates rebels who want to surrender.
Lives claimed by Naxalism have come down drastically in recent years due to better center state cooperation. Recent Chhattisgarh and general elections were concluded peacefully and districts of Bastar and Dantewada too voted in reasonably good numbers. This indicates situation is under control for the time being. But as explained, government can’t be complacent until it is uprooted completely. There are still surprise attacks where they inflict substantial damage at our paramilitary forces. Their vigour of attack doesn’t suggest that they are demoralized, but it appears that they are waiting for the right time to raise their head. A time when Indian state is weak or engaged in external conflict, could be most opportune for them. Wait and patience is inherent in policies of Mao. So it is imperative that government instead of being reactionary goes after them proactively. But it has herculean challenge of doing it in democratic way.
It is obvious that there is (and should be) two pronged approach to counter it, one at ideological level and other at physical level. In former case, good governance by government and delivering good results in fields of Education, Health and overall standard of living will be instrumental.