History has been a witness to several instances where nations have just disintegrated because of schisms within. A nation mauled by dissidence and centrifugal forces falls easy prey to external aggression.
If you turn over the pages of history, you would find that warring chieftains on the Malabar Coast made it possible for the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English to have an easy foothold on this part of India. Haven't we learnt enough from history to prevent divisions from within from eating into the vitals of the nation?
We have enough of troubles from within: the unceasing terrorist strike in Jammu and Kashmir; the insurgency in the North-East and the snowballing violent naxalite movement in as many as 13 States. No doubt, we have been tackling these trouble spots in our own way with security forces tackling the determined way the terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir, the Government dealing with the deep-seated problems in the North-East the spasmodic way, and on top of all, the naxalite problem: an uncoordinated way.
While it is understandable that there is an 'extern; element in the growing terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, you can't ferret out that kind of excuse in the case of the insurgency in the North-East. But here too, one finds that the insurgents have set up bases in Bangladesh Nepal and Myanmar. Once we let a small spark assume the uncontrolled proportions of a conflagration, it is very difficult to put it out. Now they are reports that the naxalites in India are having close links with the Maoist in Nepal.
It has been the noble motive of the States affected by the naxalite problem and of the Centre to bring the disenchanted citizens around round table for heart to-heart discussions on what makes them drift aw from the mainstream and take to arms. Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, survived deadly attack mounted by the War Groups in his State and his successor Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy extended an olive branch to the Maoists, but with. success.
Overwhelmed by the violence triggered by extremists in differ: parts of the country, the Union Home Minister, Mr. Shivraj Patil too, has recently declared that he wouldn't have any dialogue with naxalite leaders unless they give up violence.
How did the naxalite movement grow? The word 'naxalite' comes from Naxalbari, a hilly area in northern Bengal where peasants forcibly occupied lands in an anti-landlord movement in 1967. Soon the term 'naxalite' was applied to the radical Indian communists led by Charu Mazumdar who called for a protracted struggle by peasants.
The movement had an echo in Kerala where there were stray cases of naxalite violence in the form of attack on police station, but the movement soon died out owing to the several socioeconomic measures introduced by different governments in the State.
The movement petered out in West Bengal in course of time only to come back with all infernal fury after it spread to Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and a few other States. In 1969 the naxalites broke away from both the CPM and CPI to form a new outfit called Communist Party (Marxist- Leninist). The party was banned during the Emergency in 1975.
Sometime ago the National Security Adviser had warned about the growing threat from the naxalites to India's security and integrity. It is indeed a guerilla war the Maoists-or call them People's War Groups or naxalites are waging against the State. The elements of precision and surprise in their operations invariably catch the security forces napping.
They spare none when it comes to killing-security forces or civilians who have formed Self-Defense committees in tribal belts. And*they produced high voltage drama quite recently when they could even "hijack" a train. They could have done anything with the poor passengers; and one should thank God that they spared them. It is a wake-up call to both the Centre and the States that the naxalites still call the shots where they have a dominating presence.
That a lot of planning and coordination goes into their assaults is evident from the way the Maoists stormed a prison in Jehanabad in Bihar in November 2005 and a sub-jail in R. Udayagiri town of Gajapathi district in Orissa on March 24, 2006.
In Jehanabad, in 2005, hundreds of Maoists converged on the district headquarters and killed six persons and set free 250 of their cadre from the Jehanabad prison. While blasting their way out of the town, exploding bombs, they announced through loud speakers that they had nothing against the people and they were only against the police and administration.
On March 24, 2006 Maoists stormed a sub-jail in Orissa freeing 40 prisoners. They also attacked the local police station and an armed police camp killing three policemen before fleeing with a large cache of arms.
More than200 extremists along with an equal number of supporters raided the town from all sides after snapping telephone lines and disrupting electricity. They simultaneously attacked State Armed Police camp, jail police station, treasury, tehsil office and a telecom tower spreading terra in the town.
Three years ago, the naxalites raided the district headquarters tow of Koraput in Orissa and looted arms and ammunitions from the district armoury.
The naxal problem cannot be treated as a mere law and order problem That extremism is rampant in only certain States like Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal, must provide food for thought. Why does such a problem not exist in States like Punjab Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Rajasthan, needs a study?
They needs to be a thorough research by NGOs headed by sociologists and economists as to why certain sections of people in India-mostly draw from tribal’s and other poor groups-want to stay away from the mainstream and take to use of force to make the authorities understand that all is not well with a chunk of India and its people. None would like to take to a course that endangers his life without any compelling reason.
Such measures as forming people's resistance groups to fight arm< extremists, is only a half measure. We have seen that such measures have been counterproductive in the Kashmir Valley where such people's group has been mercilessly killed by terrorists. We have found this happening in the naxalite-infested tribal regions too. We have heard of the onslaught of the Maoists on Salwa Judum activists-local resistance groups Chhattisgarh.
Though Salwa Judum was launched by a Congress legislator in Dantewada district, it had the full backing of the BJP Government Chhattisgarh. Despite this, more than 60 tribals were killed in the last two months alone by Maoists in reprisals against Salwa Judum activists. When this is the reality, what is the meaning of the recent announcement by Centre that they would make greater efforts to set up local resistance groups against the naxalites?
One can draw comfort from Government's assurance that such an effort would be taken up “in a manner that the villagers are provided adequate security cover and area is effectively dominated by the security forces.” Without adequate security cover, the resistance group would turn out to be cannon fodder for the extremists.
At a meeting held in September 2005 the Union Home Mini mooted the idea of a joint task force to deal with naxalites. The Home Ministry sized up the gravity of the problem when it revealed that 75 districts in nine States are hit by naxalite activity.
It also said that the CPI (Maoist) has been attempting to carve out a "compact Revolutionary zone", from Nepal through Bihar and the Dandakaranya region, to Andhra Pradesh. The Home Minister suggested a two-way approach to deal with the naxal problem-police action to deal with violence and spurring economic development in the affected areas.
The billion-dollar question one must ask oneself is: What happened to the plethora of antipoverty schemes and tribal development plans of the last five decades and more? Is this revolt a response to the abject failure of our schemes?
A leading daily of Bihar commented on the incidents of jailbreak in 2005, "The jailbreak has only reinforced Bihar's anarchic image there is an urgent need to go beyond law and order concerns and place the State's endemic caste and class violence in a larger socioeconomic context. The uprising in the naxal belt of Bihar is a product of social unrest engendered by decades of upper caste dominance. Stories of bonded labour suffering hardships at the hands of landowning upper castes are legion..."
The problem of the threat to internal security by the fast-spreading naxalite movement needs to be tackled on a war footing. The Government needs to take a hard look at what went wrong with regard to the schemes for the development of the most backward regions in the country and how to mainstream these regions with fast-track socioeconomic scheme giving no room for corruption at the different implementing stages.
Build up confidence with the aggrieved while having no compromise with challenges to state authority.
As all our readers must be aware, in one of the deadliest attacks on security forces, Maoists killed 25 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injured seven in Sukma district of south Chhattisgarh on 24th April 2014.
Despite efforts from the government to reduce Maoist violence in the country, Naxal attacks have persisted. The number of attacks or fatalities have fluctuated over the last decade but there has not been a significant result to show continuous drop in the violence.
Indeed, Naxalism poses the biggest internal security threat to India. The complex and structural causes of the problem support this proposition. Naxalism is the biggest threat because it affects several areas including the economy, security and foreign affairs, its citizens and rule of law.
In this 4-part detailed write-up, we are going to examine the issue in detail and explore the options available before the nation.
In this 1st part, we are tracing the genesis and evolution of naxalism in India.
A brief overview
India, having one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and being the most populous democratic country, has great potential to become a future superpower. However, in this increasingly globalised environment, India faces several threats to its security. Naxalism has been identified as the biggest internal security threat to India. The complex and structural causes of the problem support this proposition. Naxalism is the biggest threat because it affects several areas including the economy, security and foreign affairs, its citizens and rule of law.
The term ‘Naxal’ derives from the name of the village Naxalbari in West Bengal, where the movement had its origin. The Naxals are considered far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology. Their origin can be traced to the split in 1967 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), leading to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist).
Initially the movement had its centre in West Bengal. In later years, it spread into less developed areas of rural southern and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist). For the past 10 years, it has grown mostly from displaced tribals and natives who are fighting against exploitation from major Indian corporations and local officials whom they believe to be corrupt.
In a significant development in 2004, the People’s War (PW), then operating in Andhra Pradesh, and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI), then operating in Bihar and adjoining areas, merged to form the CPI (Maoist) Party. The CPI (Maoist) Party, is the major Left Wing Extremist outfit responsible for majority of incidents of violence and killing of civilians and security forces and has been included in the Schedule of Terrorist Organisations along with all its formations and front organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) have been attacking police establishments and infrastructures such as public transportation, causing insecurity and instability to the area. From the period 2006-2010 alone, there were nearly 10,000 incidents with Naxalites with over 4,000 civilians killed.
The LWEs are active in approximately 40 percent of India’s geographical area. They control large portions of remote and densely forested areas and are concentrated in an area called “Red Corridor”. This area is also the tribal belt where the tension between economic development and aboriginal land rights is most apparent.
Background of Naxal Movement
The naxalite movement in India traces its origins to communist movements and is particularly liked to the Telengana Movement (see Box 1) – a guerrilla-style uprising by farmers of Telengana. The Telengana Movement was the first large-scale attempt at establishing a Maoist society in India.
Box1: The Telengana Movement
Starting in July 1946, communist-led guerrilla squads began overthrowing local feudal village regimes and organizing land reform in Telugu-speaking areas of [erstwhile Kingdom of] Hyderabad, collectively known as Telengana (an ancient name for the region dating from the Vijayanagar period).
About 3,000 villages and some 41,000 square kilometers of territory were involved in the revolt. Faced with the refusal of the Nizam of Hyderabad to accede his territory to India and the violence of the communist-led rebellion, the central government sent in the army in September 1948. By November 1949, Hyderabad had been forced to accede to the Indian union, and, by October 1951, the violent phase of the Telengana movement had been suppressed.
The effect of the 1946-51 rebellion and communist electoral victories in 1952 had led to the destruction of Hyderabad and set the scene for the establishment of a new state along linguistic lines. In 1953, Telugu-speaking areas of Madras state were separated from to form Andhra, India’s first state established along linguistic lines.
The Naxalbari episode
The Naxal movement, however, had its first big moment at a small hamlet named Naxalbari in West Bengal (hence the name) in March 1967.
A tribal youth named Bimal Kissan was attacked by local landlords while attempting plough a plot of land he had been allotted under the land reforms. This sparked a tribal retaliation that soon started to resemble an insurrection, leaving one police sub inspector and nine tribals dead.
The state government [United Front headed by CPI (M)] crushed the uprising in a ruthless manner, indulging in large-scale violence and repression. However, the movement soon acquired great visibility and tremendous support from cross sections of leftist politicians and activists from across India. Naxalbari thus came to symbolise the class-struggle in India and related left-wing violence soon acquired the name of Naxalist Movement.
Militant communists had a formal meeting in November 1967 and consequently formed the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) in May 1968. ‘Allegiance to the armed struggle and non-participation in the elections’ were the two cardinal principles that the AICCR adopted for its operations. However, ideological differences soon led to a split, and the movement broke into two streams – the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (M-L)] and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).CPI (M-L) was the more powerful of the two.
The CPI (M-L) held its first congress in 1970 in Kolkata and Charu Mazumdar was formally elected its general secretary. Charu Majumdar soon became the undisputed leader of CPI (M-L) and with help of Kanu Sanyal, was able to increase the reach of the movement to large parts of India. However, the government tackled the left wing violence with an iron hand and Charu Majumdar’s death in 1972 left the CPI (M-L) virtually rudderless.
Later developments till 2004
The group suffered a number of splits in this period of time. One of the most important ones was the People’s War Group, formed by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, with its base mainly in Andhra Pradesh. For a long time since then, Naxalite movement was dominated by CPI (M-L) and PWG. While the different strands had their ideological differences (and this led to numerous incidents of internecine violence), all were virtually unanimous in denouncing the parliamentary democratic system of governance and vowed to wage ‘people’s war for people’s government’.
In 2004, MCC and PWG merged into the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a watershed event that has resuscitated a moribund movement and led to increased violence.
Major naxal incidences in India since 2008
The following timeline present a brief account of major incidences related to rise of the naxalite movement in India.
April 24, 2017: 24 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed on Monday in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district in an encounter with Maoists. A road-opening party of jawans from the 74 Battallion of the CRPF was attacked by Maoists. The attack took place between Burkapal Chintagufa area. The area is part of the worst Maoist-violence affected regions of south Bastar in the state.
March 12, 2017: 12 CRPF jawans were killed in a Maoist attack in insurgency-hit Sukma district in Chhattisgarh. The attack was an ambush. After killing the jawans, the Maoists stole 10 weapons from the dead troopers and detonated an IED explosive. The ambush of troopers from 219 Battalion of CRPF was reported from Sukma’s dense forest areas near Kottacheru village near Bheji village. The location is at a distance of nearly 450 km from state capital Raipur.
March 11, 2014: 15 security personnel were reported killed in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district.
February 28, 2014: Maoists attack police personnel in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. Six police officials including an SHO were killed in the attack.
July 2, 2013: The Superintendent of Police for Pakur, Jharkhand and four other police officials were killed an attack by Naxals in Dumka area in the state.
May 25, 2013: In one of the deadliest attacks by Maoists in recent history, 25 leaders from the Congress party were killed including former state minister Mahendra Karma. Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel was also killed in a Maoist attack in Darbha valley in Chhattisgarh.
October 18, 2012: Maoists kill six CRPF jawans and eight left injured including a deputy commandant in the force. The naxals adopt the method of ambush by landmines followed by a gunbattle with the policemen. The attack took place in Gaya district.
June 29, 2010: 26 CRPF jawan killed in Maoist ambush attack in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district. Attack was part of a string of large attacks in the year which was one of the bloodiest in terms of naxal killings.
May 8, 2010: Naxals carry out an explosion of a bullet-proof vehicle in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. The incident kills eight CRPF personnel.
April 6, 2010: In one of the largest naxal attacks on security personnel, Maoists killed 75 CRPF personnel in Dantewada district. A state police official was also killed in the attack.
April 4, 2010: The elite anti-naxal force Special Operations Group suffers setback. 11 personnel of the SOG were killed in a landmine blast in Koraput district in Odisha.
February 15, 2010: At least 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) were shot dead by Maoists when they attacked the EFR camp in Sealdah in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district.
October 8, 2009: Maoists attack Laheri police station in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. The ambush kills 17 policemen and leaves several injured.
September 26, 2009: The sons of BJP MP from Balaghat Baliram Kashyap are killed at Pairaguda village in Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh.
September 4, 2009: Maoists kill four villagers of Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. The villagers belonged to Aaded village.
July 27, 2009: Naxals triggered a landmine in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. The blast kills six persons.
July 18, 2009: A villager is killed by naxals in Bastar. Maoists also torched a vehicle in a separate incident. The vehicle was being employed for road construction work in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district.
June 23, 2009: A group of motorcycle borne armed naxals opened fire in the premises of Lakhisarai district court in Bihar. They freed four of their comrades including the naxal group’s zonal commander of Ranchi.
June 16, 2009: 11 police officers were killed in a landmine attack carried out by Maoists. The blast was followed up by armed assault. The Maoists, in a separate attack Maoist ambush by naxals in Beherakhand in Palamau district, Jharkhand. four policemen were killed and two others were left seriously injured
June 13, 2009: Two landmine attacks and a bomb blast in Bokaro killed 10 policemen. The attack left several others severely injured.
June 10, 2009: During a routine patrol in Jharkhand’s Saranda forest area, nine policemen including officers and CRPF officials were ambushed by naxals.
May 22, 2009: Police personnel are attacked by Maoists in jungles in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. At least 16 police officials were killed in the attack.
April 22, 2009: Maoists carried out one of the most daring operations. A Maoist party hijacked a train with at least 300 people on board. They then took the train to Jharkhand’s Latehar district but they had to flee later.
April 13, 2009: Maoists kill 10 paramilitary troops in eastern Odisha. The attacks takes place near a bauxite mine in Koraput district.
July 16, 2008: Naxals killed 21 policemen after they blew up a police van with a landmine. The attack takes place in Odisha’s Malkangiri district.
June 29, 2008: Maoists carried out an attack at a boat. The attack takes place at Odisha’s Balimela reservoir. The boat was carrying four police officials and 60 greyhound commandoes. 38 troops were killed in the ambush.
In the next part:
Cause of rise of naxalism – Historic and Immediate
Findings of D. Bandyopadhya Committee