Born out of the
1967 militant peasant uprising of Naxalbari, West Bengal, the Maoist groups
follow the classic Mao strategy to propagate their ideologies. First they build
base in remote forested areas and then establish parallel non-governmental
administration. However, a movement started with the original objective of
helping the oppressed has turned on its own base. Its violent tactics have
reached such proportion that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called it the biggest
threat facing India.
An enormous country
with more than a billion people means that it is too big and too complex to
govern, manage and administer without problems. Over the past sixty odd years
since independence, the major thrust of India’s policies has been to
industrialize, urbanize and raise the economic level of its population. These
policies have worked well and India has developed – some regions more than
others. However, India
is huge and has gigantic problems, not the least of them is the uneven
development of the country. While most of us see airports, tall metropolitan
buildings, industries and roads there are wide swathes of the country which are
still black-spots. That’s where the biggest challenge for
lies. There we find the termites hidden inside the big banyan tree, the
insidious hollowing out of the state and the biggest danger – much bigger than
the various terrorist campaigns in the North East or Kashmir – namely the Maoist
Almost 19% of
India’s territory is now considered to be under the control of Maoists. The word
Maoist covers a multitude of groups operating in a swathe of territories ranging
from Nepal, Bihar,
West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
These groups follow the classic Mao strategy of building up bases in densely
forested and remote areas, then creating guerrilla zones and finally
implementing a parallel or dominant non-governmental administration. Once the
countryside is taken over, the urban areas are surrounded and slowly squeezed.
going back forty years, to the time of the Naxalbari movement in
the Maoist movement is spreading rapidly across the least developed parts of the
country. Originally the movement started against the landlords and low level
government agents, who were seen as oppressing the landless, poor, tribal
people, dalits and inhabitants of the remote under-developed areas. The
movement’s original objective was the removal of landlords and redistribution of
their land among the landless.
is with all ideologies, the movement soon turned into a war on its own base of
tribal people, landless agricultural laborers and the poor peasants. They were
terrorized, forced to give money and support or be killed by landmines. Whenever
the government tried to increase its spending and implement development projects
in the areas infested by Maoists, its vehicles were blown up, its armories were
looted and its officers, police and bureaucrats were killed. This generally did
not allow local governments to function well, which made already incompetent and
corrupt governments more inept and crooked. Desperately poor, the people of
these regions are faced with an implacable foe in the Maoists on one side, and a
rather ineffectual, uncaring and heavy handed government on the other. The
situation is so dire that it has turned into one of the most dangerous threats
facing the country. It is something that even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
admitted not so long ago.
movement consists of many radical organizations including, the Maoist Communist
Centre (MCC), Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), the Communist Party
of India (Marxist Leninist) or Janashakti and the Communist Party of India
(Marxist Leninist) or People's War Group (PWG) whose armed wing is called as the
People's Guerrilla Army (PGA). They are generally known as the Naxalites, a term
that comes from a small West Bengal village, Naxalbari, where the radical wing
of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal
started a militant peasant uprising in 1967. Since then the Naxalites have
splintered into many groups that operate interchangeably across a number of
states in central-east India.
Their strength is estimated to be ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 comrades across
India, led by a highly professional leadership. They have even set up a
coordination forum called the Coordination Committees of Maoist Parties and
Organizations (CCOMPOSA), where Maoist groups from Nepal, Bangladesh, India and
Sri Lanka join in to coordinate their activities.
targeting is a specific strand in the Maoist strategy. For example, in April
2001, the PGA arsonists set on fire a bauxite mine owned by Hindalco in
Jharkhand. In May 2001, the same group imposed an economic blockade in
Jharkhand. In March 2003, the Maoists exploded a warehouse owned by Pepsi Foods
of India and destroyed facilities owned by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism
Department. One month later, they targeted a cement plant of ACC and blew up its
heavy machinery. In October of the very same year, they targeted the Chief
Minister of Andhra Pradesh with a landmine, but failed to assassinate him.
Systematically, the Maoists are targeting major companies, sabotaging their
facilities and warehouses with the aim of inflicting serious financial damages.
economic attacks on large businesses, the Maoists also target the local
government officials. Kidnappings and killings by them of senior bureaucrats and
police officers are quite rampant. So are the destruction of communication
towers, electricity substations and power grids. Police stations are attacked
and trains are stopped and looted. In 2005, they attacked a jail in Bihar
releasing more than three hundred prisoners. In March 2006, an entire train
filled with security personnel was stopped and held for almost eight hours in
protest against the killing of a Maoist commander. Even opponents in the local
population are assault very frequently. In 2006, nearly five hundred Maoist
foot-soldiers attacked villagers suspected of being police informers in
Bansaguda village in Dantewara district of Chhattisgarh.
These are not
some isolated events, rather they are part of a very rigorous and violent
guerilla campaign to change the form of government and impose their Maoist
ideology on India through armed struggle.
What has been the reaction of the government?
The response of
Indian government to this menace leaves a lot to be desired. Consistent with its
typical response, the government left it to fester and become more cancerous
before it paid any concentrated attention to it. This was compounded by the
issues of inter-state governance and coordination, which meant that the
terrorists could move easily between state boundaries and draw out the teeth of
the local police without being bothered by a single law-enforcement entity that
could cross the state-borders in pursuit.
corruption of local governments at district and tehsil levels also did not help.
Funds allocated for developmental projects like land development, irrigation,
roads etc. are routinely siphoned off by local officials. Not only are they
corrupt, but also many government officials do not speak local languages and
dialects. The final challenge is who should the government fight? It is a
diffused movement and even if the leaders are arrested, the issues of
under-development, poverty, corruption and class warfare will still remain.
What can be
governance issues in the remote and rural parts of India are too structural and
too wide-spread to be resolved easily. Poverty, bad governance, corruption and
lack of economic opportunities are the primary reasons for the rise and
continuation of the Maoist movement. The Indian Government is trying to address
this in a piecemeal fashion, such as by raising special task forces, national
rural poor employment schemes, etc. Unfortunately, these efforts are too small,
too limited in scope and are still riddled by corruption and mismanagement to be
opinion of just retired Inspector General of Police of Chhattisgarh, A.N. Singh,
what is needed is a strong cooperation between central and state governments.
Singh, who has had more than thirty years of experience handling Maoist
insurgency, concurs with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that this
is the biggest threat facing the country. He suggests that a multi party group
should be established with a clear mandate to eradicate corruption, ensure clean
elections and implement local development. He also suggests that an elite
multi-state police force with authority to cross borders should be put together
and specially trained for fighting in jungles, the usual hideouts of Maoists.
No doubt the
Naxalite movement poses one of the biggest challenges to the security and
stability of India that only the concentrated and well synchronized efforts of
central and state governments can address. Given the centre–state relationships
it remains to be seen whether such a coordinated action against Maoist groups is
possible or not.