Maoist Insurgency in India

“If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience”-Mao Zedong

Maoism originated in China as a version of the Communist theory formed from the teachings of the Chinese political leader, Mao Zedong. It was developed during 1950s and 1960s, and was widely applied as a political and military guiding principle of the Communist Party of China until 1977-78. It focused on the advancement of social and economic life of people by creating a classless society through armed revolution.

In India, it is widely believed that the roots of Maoism are in the Naxalite movement born from the ideological conflicts in the Indian communist movement, which culminated into splits in the Communist Party of India in the 1960s. The presence and growth of the Maoist movement in India is essentially due to the dire socio-economic situation of people living in the backward parts of the country, where they had the bitter experience of exploitation, iniquitous socio-political environment, artificially depressed wages, a lack of employment opportunities, a lack of access to resources, underdeveloped agriculture, geographical discriminations and a lack of land reforms. Basically, it was a consequence of increased oppressions against the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and widespread tribal turmoil due to commercialization of forest resources.

Maoism views the agrarian peasantry not as the working class, but as a revolutionary force which can fundamentally transform capitalistic society into a socialistic one with the philosophy that “Power flows from the barrel of the gun”. So the fundamental question that arises here is this. When the Constitutional rights are neglected for a community, a cultural group, a tribe or an area, is it justifiable to question or demand the government, using arms and violence? Has it become a popular insurgency, winning widespread support and attention? Can equality be claimed by the use of arsenal? Can equality be neglected to a particular section? When such questions challenge the meaning of a democracy, it becomes important to explore the reasons for the strength of the Maoist insurgency across different parts of a ‘democratic’ India, where equality is considered as the most important fundamental right of an individual.

According to the Union Home Ministry, around 125 districts spread over nine States in central India, and neighboring areas have come under the influence of Leftist radical groups—both Naxalites and Maoists. On 22nd June, 2009, the Government of India declared the Communist Party of India (Maoist) as a terrorist organization, and banned it immediately. The Expert Group (which included the Planning Commission) declared that the focal point of the upsurge is—region with high concentration of the tribal population, geographically hilly regions and undulating terrain. They pointed out that though all the states had passed land ceiling legislations by 1955, till date only three states did enforce the land ceiling laws. These were Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Kerala. No other states in India took the effort to enforce the Land Ceiling Laws that they had legislated.

On the contrary, the CPI (Maoist) which considers the ‘Marxism-Leninism-Maoism’ as its guiding ideology and proclaims that it is committed to completing a “new democratic revolution” in India, gained convincing popularity when the affected people started losing belief in the fortunes of the democracy. As per the CPI (Maoist) Party Programme published in Hindi by the Central Committee in 21st September, 2004, the Maoist programme assured a reallocation of lands among the landless poor peasants and agricultural labourers once a new people’s democratic state is established by accomplishing the Indian revolution.

The programme also promises to ensure all facilities for agricultural development, guarantees a remunerative price for agricultural produce and wherever possible, stimulates the development of agricultural cooperatives. The party also supports people’s struggles for self-determination and for the fight against social oppression, particularly ‘untouchability’ and ‘casteism’. It also pays special attention to mobilizing and organizing women as a mighty force of revolution.

However, despite Maoists’ tough ideological foundations, political programmes and a tendency to glorify violence instead of treating it as a necessary evil, these promises cause mobilization which is not much visible to the outside world beyond its core area. This is because, none other political party in the country has taken up the cause of the rural poor with such single minded zeal, dedication and devotion. Although, it has spread its influence to 12 states, its real strongholds are in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa particularly among the Adivasi peasantry and Dalit labouring classes. It is not a shocking discovery that the tribal belts of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, are the most active areas. They are also among the areas in the country that have the lowest development indicators. The land and other agrarian issues of the rural poor are much more alive in these comparatively backward regions. These are the regions where the local powerful cliques respond with pure violence to even most innocuous and lawful demands of the powerless poor.

However, the major left parties functioning within the parliamentary framework have chosen not to concentrate on such areas. They have decided not to develop sustained and militant struggles on agrarian issues concerning the poorest of the poor. In some regions of the country, the rural labouring classes of OBC or Dalit origin could use the parliamentary space to strengthen themselves to an extent to stand against the traditional rural overloads. However, in many other regions and states, they could not do it.

When it comes to situation of the Adivasis, the picture is indeed much more unpleasant. And here, the CPI (Maoist) and some other Naxalite organizations have come to play a vital role in partially filling this void. Here again, the Maoists are adamant on armed resistance to counter the violence of the oppressors. This has indeed influenced a large section of the impoverished and oppressed population. The Maoist efforts to help the Adivasi peasantry or the Dalit labouring classes to rise as an independent political power from the influence of the landowning classes, does reflect a step forward and closer in the democratic Indian society. However, taking into consideration India’s vast population, such Maoist experiments cover only a small portion of it.

As one can see, the major Maoist contribution to Indian politics is in keeping alive the demands of the agrarian rural poor through persistent, but not always successful struggles at the ground level.

It is important to stress on the fact that the Maoists do have a good political agenda, including an agrarian programme which they seek to implement by armed struggle. This needs to be emphasized because a media that thrives on sex, violence and crime has succeeded in projecting the Maoists as armed bandits without any political and socio-economic programme for the future. However, the Maoists themselves are no less responsible for such a projection as they too seem to be more eager to propagate their armed path of revolution than their revolutionary aims. And it goes without saying that the political adversaries and those in charge of counter-insurgency operations will eventually realize that the Maoists are denied all legal and open opportunities to publicize their immediate and long-term objectives.

Therefore, it may be anticipated that Maoism would continue to remain an attractive proposition to tens of millions of the impoverished and oppressed masses, so long as the unfinished business of agrarian reforms and solution to elementary livelihood problems remain incomplete. The massive transfer of forest and agricultural land done for developing industry, mining and infrastructure facilities, as well as for agribusiness, may only add fuel to the fire. The signs of an impending land transfer from peasant ownership to the corporate sector are very explicit.

Clearly, when the authorities neglect or exploit the existence of a class of people who are equally deserving of the constitutional rights, the temptation to adopt a non-peaceful means can only grow more vigorous in future. It is not true only in the case of Maoism, but when the idea is to secure one’s livelihood, any means, whether brutal or not seems fair because survival is the greatest instinct of mankind.

Picture Credits : indiandefencereview.com

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