The term ‘Naxalite’ is derived from Naxalbari which is the name of the West-Bengal town from where India’s Maoist movement began. It was a revolutionary movement of the peasants and the labour class. This movement was hacked by the Communist Party of India (Marxist and Leninist) and Charu Mazumdar had led the first uprising of Naxalites. Initially, it was a mass movement of the peasants. Later, the peasants were taught new military strategies and guerrilla warfare. The peasants were trained for armed struggle against the rich and influential land owners. In initial years, Naxalites were active in West Bengal. This movement got strengthened with the aid from China and spread in the regions of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The area in India where support for Naxalism runs highest has been called the red corridor. The States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are considered affected, although in varying degrees.
The movement was a result of the exploitation and ill-treatment of the peasants by the landlords and tea-garden owners. These peasants were treated like bonded labours by the rich and were living a pathetic life. The backward population wanted their share of land which was denied to them for years. Landless farmers and peasants felt cheated for being denied cultivable lands. Naxalite groups had capitalised on this resentment. However, there was a time when the Chinese Communist Party decided to cut off their funding to the Asian Maoists groups. There were brutal encounters by the police and the leader Charu Mazumdar was captured and kept captive by the police under life imprisonment. All these led to the weakening of the Naxalite movement. This happened in the 1970s. However, the movement regained strength in the beginning of 2004. This was when the two largest Naxalite groups joined together to form a Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). The creation of CPI-Maoist was a watershed event, ending the era of interfactional violence among the Naxalites and paving the way for Naxalite resurgence.
The Naxal movement is coordinated by the apex body of the CPI (Maoist), that is, its Central Committee, which is a 32-35 member body. Out of the Central Committee, a 13-member Politbureau is formed. Like any national political party, the state committee secretary of every state and the secretary of a special guerrilla zone is automatically a member of the Central Committee. Of the total money collected by the State Committees and the Special Zones, 30 per cent goes to the Central Committee. The rest is retained for local expenses incurred by the State Committees. The procurement of arms is done at the central level and then distributed to states as per their needs. The main source of weapons continues to be means of looting them from the armed forces of the country.
The Naxalites have however achieved technological superiority over the years and have been found using AK-47s, pushing the government forces also to upgrade their weapons. The Peoples Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), the armed wing of CPI (Maoist), has been created with this purpose in mind. In the first stage of insurgency, the PLGA resorts to guerrilla warfare, this primarily aims at creating a vacuum at the grass-roots level of the existing governance structures. This is achieved by killing lower-level government officials, police-personnel of the local police stations, the workers of mainstream political parties and the people’s representatives of the Panchayati Raj system. After creating a political and governance vacuum, they coerce the local population to join the movement.
A strident propaganda is also carried out against the purported and real inadequacies of the existing state structure. In areas under Maoist domination, the absence of governance becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy since the delivery systems are extinguished through killings and intimidation. This is the first step in the strategy of the Maoists to seek to control the countryside. In the meanwhile, many Front Organisations are created to facilitate mass-mobilisation in semi-urban and urban areas through ostensibly democratic means. Most of the Front Organisations are led by well-educated intellectuals with firm belief in the Maoist insurgency doctrine. These ideologies function as masks to cover the violent nature of the CPI (Maoist) ideology. They also form propaganda machinery of the party. The Front Organisations also skillfully use state structures and legal processes to further the Maoist agenda and weaken the enforcement regime. The important functions of these organisations include recruitment of ‘professional revolutionaries’, raising funds for the insurgency, creating urban shelters for underground cadres, providing legal assistance to arrested cadres and mass- mobilisation by agitating over issues of convenience.
The Front Organisations aim to provide short-term democratic subterfuge to cover-up the totalitarian and oppressive nature of the Maoist ideology. The CPI (Maoist) also have a strategic game-plan to create a ‘United Front’ with all like-minded insurgent outfits in India. Many of these outfits are supported by external forces opposed to India and the CPI (Maoist) consider such alliances as strategic assets, Both Maoists struggle and the Naxalite movement trace their origin to the Naxalbari uprising of 1967. But while the Naxalite movement thrives on the original spirit of Naxalbari, the Maoist struggle is an outcome of the 1967 uprising. Maoists work with an agenda and use weapons to achieve their aims. There are many differences between Naxalism and Maoism. Naxalism focuses on mass organisations while the Maoism relies mainly on arms. Naxalism originated as a rebellion against the marginalisation of the poor forest dwellers gradually against the lack of development and poverty at the local level in rural parts of Eastern India. Maoism originated in China as a form of communist theory derived from the teachings of Chinese political leader Mao Zedong.
The Naxalite movement highlights the internal weaknesses of the country. It hampers the economic development of the country, as the resources that must be used for the development of the country are diverted towards the management and control of naxalites and their activities. The conflicts between the armed forces and naxalites are the biggest threats to the common man. When the Naxal uprising began in 1967, the Indian Government looked at it as a law and order problem. It did not analyse the causes of the movement and the extent of mobilisation of people. Hence, it believed that it could and would put an end to it in short span of time using force. But now government’s approach is to deal with Naxalism in a holistic manner, in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities, improvement in governance and public perception management. The Police and Public Order fall under the jurisdiction of States, action on maintenance of law and order lies primarily in the domain of the State Governments.
The Centre aims at enhancing the capacity of the State Governments to tackle the Maoist menace in a concerted manner. The Central Government closely monitors the situation and supplements and coordinates their efforts in several ways. These include
- Providing Central Armed Police Forces (CAPs) and Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA),
- Sanction of India Reserve (IR) battalions,
- Setting up of Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism (CIAT) schools,
- Modernisation and upgradation of the State Police and their Intelligence apparatus under the Scheme for Modernisation of State Police Forces (MPF scheme),
- Re-imbursement of security related expenditure under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme
- Filling up critical infrastructure gaps under the Scheme for Special Infrastructure in the affected States providing helicopters for anti-Naxal operations
- Assistance in training of State Police through the Ministry of Defence, the Central Police Organisations, and the Bureau of Police Research and Development
- Sharing of Intelligence
- Facilitating inter-State coordination
- Assistance in community policing and civic action programmes etc.
Operation “SAMADHAN” is the recent initiative on the part of the Union Government to deal with the problem of Naxalism. The acronym “SAMADHAN” stands for Smart leadership, Aggressive strategy, Motivation and training, Actionable intelligence, Dashboard based KPIS (Key Performance Indicators) and KRAS (Key Result Areas), Harnessing technology, Action plan for each theatre and No access to financing. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also suggested the use of trackers for weapons, and bio metrics in Smart Guns. The Union Government has also introduced the policy of “Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation” to usher in peace and development in the disturbed regions. Its objectives are many fold, which include efforts to bring back the youths and naxals who found themselves trapped in the network, to prevent the naxals, who surrendered, for joining the naxal movement again, and to prevent youths from joining the naxal groups. This policy has been evolved, keeping in mind the specific geographical and social landscape to help those naxalites who want to abjure violence, surrender and join the mainstream.
Undoubtedly, Naxalism is a serious threat to the security of the nation. It becomes imperative for the government to increase the connectivity to the affected areas. This will be beneficial in creating strong ties and links between the outer world and the affected areas. The police force is still not capable of providing security. The government needs to provide better training and arming to the police forces. The civilians and media can play an important role in making the Naxalites realise that India is a democratic country and it offers legitimate forums for grievance redressal. An ideology based on violence and annihilation hampers the progress of the civil society. It is through a holistic approach focussing on development and security related interventions that the problem can be successfully tackled.