Category Archives: Naxalism

LEGACY OF DENIAL  

By BAPPADITYA PAUL  

IN April through early May, Naxalbari was in news for BJP president Amit Shah’s visit and an adivasi couple joining Trinamool within a week of having hosted lunch for Shah in their hutment.

Irony, this happened close to the 50th anniversary of Naxal Movement on 24 May. Fifty springs ago, it was an uprising of the working class in hitherto unknown Naxalbari village that stemmed from an unflinching belief in Communist ideology to bring about social and economic equity.

This time it has been about drawing media attention for injecting a religion centric politics that has historically failed to make headway in Bengal, and a counter tactic for grabbing people’s allegiance by hook or by crook.

That, over the past near one month, Naxalbari has been in the news more for Amit Shah episode than the Naxal Movement turning 50, is ironic but not surprising! Such thing happens when the proponents of a landmark uprising hesitate to claim ownership of its history and hesitate to tell people the real story, leaving it to the ruling class to concoct a propaganda by publicising half-truth.

In all these years since its birth in 1967, Naxal Movement has been riddled by state suppression, factionalism, and the branching into Maoist Struggle that considers guerrilla warfare the only means to achieve social and economic equity, as against the core Naxal ideology of dependence on mass movement and using arms only as an enabler.

Factionalism and the Maoist deviation robbed the proponents of Naxal Movement an opportunity to tell people that the uprising did make some remarkable achievements for the exploited and the toiling masses.

These include putting an end to a cruelty named Hattabahar wherein tea garden managements in northern Bengal used to literally out throw ‘disobedient’ workers and their family anytime of the day or night without notice; abolishing Zamindari wherein a handful of wealthy individuals used to own huge tracts of cultivable land, and effecting land reforms that gave ownership of farmland to the peasants who tilled them.

In contrast, an overzealous ruling class kept on feeding the media about the collateral bloodshed of Naxal Movement. There has been a conscious design to bury every single piece of history that has got anything to do with Naxal uprising, and rather portray it as a misguided venture by some savage populace.

The net result: by and large the people in India, especially those in urban areas, consider Naxal Movement to be anti-development and anti-India. The perception gets reaffirmed every time the Maoists carryout a guerrilla attack on State forces, which get huge publicity in the media, while the issues that they fight for take a backseat.

The moderate Communist parties ~ CPI and CPI-M are equally responsible for the legacy of Naxal Movement getting overcast by relentless misinformation campaign by the ruling class and for being overtaken by the Maoist deviation.

This is despite that the foundation for CPI-M’s coming to power in Bengal and then ruling the state for 34 years was laid by the Naxalbari uprising and the years of struggle preceding that.

Until coming to power, both CPI and then CPI-M used to talk of a people’s revolution and made the Communist foot soldiers in northern Bengal strive hard to achieve the goal. Once in power, they watered down the idea of a revolution, leaving the foot soldiers in a state of disgruntlement and confusion.

It was almost akin to Mamata Banerjee distancing herself from Chhatradhar Mahato and Maoist leader Kishenji as soon as she assumed Bengal’s power seat in 2011. In the preceding 4-5 years, she had shared dais with Mahato and participated in protest against the killing of Maoist leader Azad in a 2010 police encounter in Andhra Pradesh.

The only difference between CPI-M’s stance during Naxalbari uprising and Mamata’s in 2011, is that she has been quicker in making the volte-face. The ‘politically conscious’ people of Bengal neither spoke out then nor they are speaking out now.

Given that Mamata Banerjee has consolidated her grip on Bengal’s vote bank, and BJP is gradually taking over the slot of the main opposition, CPI-M and its allies in disarray are now desperately looking for shortcuts to reinstall the politics of status quo that they practised for better part of the 34-years.

Even on the 50th anniversary of Naxal Movement, there is no sign of getting into introspection. There is hardly any effort at claiming the legacy of what had been the first “spring thunder” over India.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN and author of The First Naxal: An Authorised Biography of Kanu Sanyal (2014) and Pehla Naxali (2017) published by Sage Publications. This piece first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 25 May 2017)

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Naxalite vs Maoist

Why one is not the synonym for the other

By bappaditya paul

It is quite often than not people say Maoists to denote Naxalites and say Naxalites when they are actually referring to the Maoists.

This mistake is not peculiar to laymen. The media in general, including several prestigious mastheads in print and broadcast, make this goof-up every time they are reporting an incident of Left Wing Extremist violence anywhere in India.

An Indian Express page one lead news attributing an attack by the Left Wing Extremists (LWE) in Chhattisgarh to the Naxals. The same attack was attributed to the Maoists by Indian Express the very next day (See below).

The gaffe emanates from a partial-knowledge or, complete ignorance about the origin, history and present status of the Naxalite Movement. Lack of knowledge and understanding of the Maoist Struggle only add to the misconception.

The Naxalites:

One of the most prominent among Communist revolutionary struggles in India, the Naxalite Movement, began in 1967 with an armed peasant Uprising in a rural pocket called Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal.

The Uprising was the culmination of years of hard work put in by Communist activists, who wanted to usher in a revolution in India. Such was the intensity of the Uprising; the Communist Party of China adored it as the “Spring Thunder over India”.

But consequent to the anarchy that a section of the rebels unleashed across West Bengal and the corresponding massive suppression by the state forces, the Naxalbari rebellion was stubbed by 1972.

That, however, was not the end.

The Uprising at Naxalbari had by then given birth to a distinct form of Communist revolutionary pursuit in India, which was based on the Marxist-Leninist principles. Largely because of the media’s affinity for coining popular tongue, it began to be known as the Naxalite Movement. Activists associated with the Movement are identified as the Naxalites or the Naxals.

Right from the days of the Naxalbari Uprising, there was a dispute among the rebels over the strategy of individual annihilation of the so-called class enemies.

Charu Majumdar, the ideologue of the Naxalbari Uprising, favored it. But Kanu Sanyal, the man who was leading the struggle at the ground, was vehemently opposed to individual annihilation. However, prior to his death, Majumdar had moderated his stand to some extent.

In later years, the Naxalites denounced the strategy of individual annihilation and instead, adopted a multi-pronged tactics to realise the goal of a Communist revolution in India. These include ~ mass movements, participation in electoral politics and the armed struggle.

In furtherance of this strategy, several Naxalite groups, as distinguished by the adjectives suffixed to their parent party nomenclature ~ the Communist Party of India – Marxists-Leninists (CPI-ML) formed in 1969, have been fighting elections in several states across India.

Prominent among these groups are ~ the CPI-ML (Liberation), CPI-ML (Kanu), CPI-ML (Jan Shakti), CPI-ML (New Democracy) etc. Some of them exist as unrecognised but registered political party with the Election Commission of India; others get into the electoral fray by putting up Independent candidates.

Going by the activities of such Naxalite parties in the recent years, they are clearly focusing more on mass movements and electoral politics, than on the armed struggle.

An Indian Express page one lead news attributing an attack by Left Wing Extremists (LWE) in Chattisgarh to the Maoists. Just a day ago, Indian Express had held the Naxals responsible for the same attack (See above).

The Maoists:

When the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) was born out of the Naxalbari Uprising in 1969, a section of Communist rebels retained a distinct identity. They remained outside the ambit of the parent party.

One such group, Dakshin Desh of Amulaya Sen and Kanai Chatterjee, was later rechristined as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in 1975. Dakshin Desh differed from the CPI-ML over the issue of individual annihilation ~ then a predominant trait in the party primarily due to the patronage by Charu Majumdar. MCC was particularly active in Bihar.

Ironically, with the change in leadership, in later years, MCC took to the very line of individual annihilation that once made Amulaya Sen and Kanai Chatterjee to distance themselves from the CPI-ML of Charu Majumdar.

On occasions, the MCC also targeted other Naxalite groups, as manifested by the 1994 brutal killings of five CPI-ML (Liberation) activists at Jehanabad in Bihar.

By 2003, through permutation and combination with some other like-minded factions, MCC assumed a new name ~ the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI).

Another offshoot of the Naxalbari Uprising, the People’s War Group (PWG) took shape in Andhra Pradesh in 1980. PWG totally renounced participation in electoral politics and instead, upheld the legacy of Charu Majumdar by concentrating only on armed struggle.

The MCCI and PWG merged in 2004 to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The cadres of this unified party are known as Maoists.

CPI (Maoist) is dominated by the policies and strategies of the erstwhile PWG. It does not take part in elections and often indulges in individual annihilation of the “class enemies”.

As on today, the Maoists have noticeable presence in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Odisa, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.

Summing up:

Both the Naxalite Movement and the Maoist Struggle traces their origin in the Naxalbari Uprising of 1967. But while the Naxalite Movement thrives on the original spirit of Naxalbari by focusing on mass organisations and movements; the Maoist Struggle, at best, is an aberration of the 1967 Uprising as it relies mainly on arms.

Simply put, there are two fundamental differences between the Naxalites and Maoists.

First, the Naxalites take part in elections and many of them are duly registered parties with the Election Commission of India. The Maoists on the other hand, abhor electoral politics and are proscribed both by the Union of India and several other state governments.

Secondly, the Naxalites may or may not have an armed wing; whereas the existence of the Maoists depends entirely on their armed militia.

In fact, it is the Maoists who are often getting into direct confrontations with the security forces in various Indian states and are also indulging in individual annihilation of the so-called class enemies.

Hence, the next time there is a violence perpetrated by the Communist rebels, it will be appropriate to attribute the same to Left Wing Extremists or simply, to the Left Extremists. Naming the Naxalites for such acts, in most cases, will be a blunder.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India)

Kanu Sanyal: Rebel ~ who did not return home

By bappaditya paul

Kanu Sanyal, the firebrand Naxalite leader who committed suicide this Tuesday (23 March), had lit the fire of a violent revolution along with two other Comrades ~ Charu Mazumdar and Jangal Santhal ~ of the Naxalite trio out of a peasant uprising at Naxalbari in northern West Bengal in the late 60’s, although in later years he openly denounced the anarchist deviations that the insurrection had suffered.

Krishna Kumar Sanyal ~ more popularly known as Kanu Sanyal, was born to the third wife of Court clerk Annada Govinda Sanyal ~ late Smt Nirmala Devi ~ at Bhalu Basti in Kurseong in 1930.

There is no authentic document available which mentions his date of birth, though the matriculation certificate issued by the Calcutta University puts his age at 16 years 8 months as on 1 March 1947.

Third among five brothers and two sisters, Kanu received education at the Kurseong Primary School and the Kuserong Pushparani Roy Memorial HE School from where he passed the matriculation examination in 1947.

He then got admitted in the Intermediate of Science (ISc.) course at the Ananda Chandra College in Jalpaiguri. It was around this time that he developed an inclination first towards the Forward Bloc and then towards the Communist Party of India (CPI).

Enmeshed in political quest, Sanyal appeared for the ISc exam in 1948 but failed. He then gave up studies and later that year got appointed in the Kalimpong SDO office as a revenue collection clerk.

In 1948, the Communist Party was banned in India, opposing which Kanu teamed up with student activist Rakhal Choudhury of Babupara in Siliguri and floated the Jana Raksha Samity. The Samity undertook a pro-CPI campaign across Siliguri and created quite a furore by organising a protest rally in the town in 1949 ~ coinciding with the visit of then chief minister Bidhan Chandra Roy.

Consequent to this, he was arrested by the police in January 1950 and spent three months in the prison. Coming out of jail, he became a CPI member in April that year and did not report back to official duty.

Early in 1951, he got introduced to Charu Mazumdar and because of his motivation, became a CPI whole-timer in October that year. Following this, he left his family and started living in a party office at Matigara near Siliguri.

Finally, from 1952, he started living at Naxalbari among the Adivasi farmers and tea workers. He gradually got assimilated among his hosts and began organising the exploited masses under the Communist ideology.

Sanyal was specifically assigned the charge of organising the Kishak Sabha in Terai and he successfully carried out a serious of movements to establish the rights of the sharecroppers on the land they tilled.

As a culmination of the series of movements, the landmark Naxalbari Movement broke out on 24 May 1967, wherein the armed Communist activists led by Kanu gave the call for “Land to tillers” and forcibly occupied the lands held by the zemindars above the ceiling limit.

In the course of the Movement, he also went to China through Nepal-Tibet in late 1967 and received armed and political training there for three months. He also met Mao Tse-tung, Chou En Lai there.

By the time he returned to India, the state machineries had quelled the Naxalbari Movement to some extent, but Sanyal and his Comrades continued to regroup themselves.

On 1 May 1969, together with Charu Mazumdar, he announced the birth of the CPI-ML at the Monument Ground in Calcutta, calling for a continuous armed struggle to effect a revolution in India.

However, there did exist a difference of opinion between Mazumdar and Sanyal since the late 50’s over the modus operandi for the revolution. While Mazumdar insisted on carrying out the struggle through small combat groups, Sanyal wanted to further the cause through mass organisations and gradually equipping all cadres with arms.

As a result of the intra-party conflicts and the state suppression, the Naxalbari Movement collapsed in 1971. Late in 1970, Sanyal was arrested from Naxalbari and in the summer of 1971 he was taken to Vishakapatnam Jail in Andhra Pradesh in connection with the Parvatipuram (Srikakulam) Conspiracy Case.

He was shifted to the Alipore Jail in Calcutta in 1977 and was released in 1979. Following his release, Sanyal started living at the CPI-ML party office at Sebdella Jote, Naxalbari till his death.

In the 60-year long political career, he has spent at least 16 years behind the bars. In the post-1979 period and until his aberrant tragic death on 23 March 2010, Sanyal earnestly worked for the unification of the splinterd Communist revolutionaries in India.

He is one of the rare politicians, not only in India but also in the world, who sacrificed his entire life for the cause of Communism. He did not marry and lived a Spartan life amidst the impoverished and exploited Adivasi tea workers and farmers, whose cause he used to champion. Sharing the same underprivileged life of his people, he lived in a humble one-room mud-house that also catered as his party office and commune.

There are many Communists, who once swam along the undeniable current of the Naxalbari insurrection but resultant to the state repression, later returned to the fold of their comfortable middleclass life.

But Kanu Sanyal was an extraordinary Communist. He was a rebel ~ who did not return home.

(The author is a journalist with The Statesman, India. This piece originally appeared in The Statesman on 24 March 2010 under a different headline and is now being reproduced here with some additions.)

YES, MR CHIDAMBARAM

Killing own people can never be a matter of pride for any nation state ~ writes Bappaditya Paul in an open letter to the Union Home minister, as the Centre prepares for Operation Green Hunt against the Maoists.

Dear Sir,

I am no man whose personal letter should matter to the Home minister of the Union of India.

But as the scheme of things often are, a typically marginalised postman is found to be carrying important messages in his tattered sack ~ for which he neither has any credit to claim nor any role to be blamed.

As I just allegorised, here the matter is far more serious than that of a young journalist, which is I am, and an experienced politician, that you are. Hence, I pray your attention, if you may please.

Sir, the other day I saw television footages of your public meeting somewhere down the South of India.

As the subtitles read (sorry, I don’t follow the language you were speaking in), you were pledging ~ as long as you have the last drop of blood running down your vein, you would not allow a revolution to succeed in India.

Needless to mention, you were speaking in reference to the ever-growing Naxalite or Maoists surge in across the Indian state and, being the Home minister of the Union, you were iterating the government’s firmness to crush the menace.

That, you don’t talk tall but mean serious business, was evident from your recent visits to Jharkhand apparently to oversee the preparations for an impending military offensive against the Maoists ~ being widely publicised as the Operation Green Hunt.

I know not, if the filmy name is the produce of the hard work of some of my colleagues in the media or the administration has indeed opted for this! Anyways, that’s not the issue.

Those of us who live in urban hubs ~ small or big, shop at towering shopping malls and seek entertainment at extravagant multiplexes, have every reason to feel heartened by your moves. After all, whoever wants to get interrupted midway on a cosy Rajdhani Express ride?

More especially, after how the deadly armed foreign militants rampaged Mumbai on 26/11, it really feels good to see our Home minister talk tough on mindless violence.

Yet sir, due to some inherent malady etched on our psyche or for some other unknown reasons, I am not quite sure of, some of us are extremely troubled by the quests that have cropped up as your military gives a final touch to the blue print for Operation Green Hunt.

You have clarified, the aim of any impeding military offensive was to put an end to the ruthless violence of the Maoists ~ blowing up of Railway installations, telephone towers, brutally killing the security personnel and so on and so forth.

Sir, ~ to end violence ~ did u say?

Well, then, may I ask, does the scope and definition of violence remain confined only to the inflicting of direct physical injury on living beings or property?

What is it called when Mukesh Ambani buys his wife a Rs 242-crore Airbus as birthday gift; while around the same time, in some remote corner of Bharat, some poor lad was giving up education for want of only a few hundred bucks?

Is this not an act of violence?

What you call it when Vijay Mallaya does a Delhi – Mumbai almost every evening on his private aeroplane, for he wants not to spend a night in the otherwise dull national capital of India; whereas, at the New Delhi railway station every dawn, scores of poor men and women queue up for hours to make it just to the general compartment (yes, believe you me!) of some train heading to UP, Bihar or some other destination in the periphery?

Such instances are endless!

I know, you would say, these enterprising tycoons have made money through apparent fair means and that the Constitution and laws of the land of this largest democracy in the Globe permit them to spend their hard-earned money, as they might wish.

Albeit, they are not allowed to buy governments, as yet!

The Constitution guarantees equal opportunity to every single citizen of India to prosper, you would argue. However, it’s another issue that only one in millions get to become a White Tiger!

Constitution, democracy ~ did you say, sir?

Whatever happens to the Constitution when Irom Sharmila Devi of Manipur continues her hunger strike for nine long years (that’s must be a world record, many Indians would be delighted!) and yet you, the custodians of democracy sit over her demand?

And what her demand is? Just take back from your Army, the free license to kill anyone on suspicion! In other words, Sharmila Devi wants the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to be repealed from her home state Manipur.

By not paying heed to her peaceful-democratic agitation, is not the government violating the basic tenets of the Constitution? Is not the government, in other words, indulging in violence?

This is not a philosophical debate, but is much more practical when we talk of democratic values.

But I know, in this season of blind war, protecting democratic values is the least of priorities. The task at hand is to obliterate every single rebel, every single Maoist from this great socialist-democracy called India.

Only that I wonder, wherefrom so many Maoists have cropped up at Lalgarh, in Orissa, in Jhrakhand, in Andhra and so on?

They surely don’t look like the Chinese ~ I saw them on the television! The batons, the sharp weapons like hansua, dao, kudul etc that they rally with, also seem not to be Made in China and imported illegally through the porous borders with Nepal or Myanmar!

But some of them, especially the Maoist leaders, are getting sophisticated firearms from China; your Home secretary was reported as saying. Without even being privy to the necessary details, I do not rule out the truthfulness of this statement.

But what I only wonder is, how come these Chinese-arms wielding Maoist leaders have so many indigenous followers carrying household weapons? Why the Adivasis and other rural populace are lining up behind the Red flag?

We need an answer, Mr Home minister sir! We need an answer.

These rebelling Adivasis or the rural peasants might stay far from the Shining India, but they are as much citizens of this country as you and me are. And believe you me, under no circumstances; killing own people can be a matter of pride for any nation state.

Yet, if you still want to go ahead with the proposed offensive, I would suggest, don’t launch the military operations in the jungles of Jharkhand alone.

Instead, simultaneously launch an umbrella offensive across the slums of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other blooming cities. For, languishing under the towering high-rises as they are, these slums across the length and breadth of India would eventually become the breeding ground for more and more Maoists.

As they say, it’s always better to prevent than cure!

(The author is a journalist with The Statesman (India), currently posted in Siliguri, West Bengal.)

Lalgarh is not a Communist Movement: Kanu Sanyal

With heavily armed state forces marching fast to end Maoist dominance at Lalgarh, a major bloodshed could be in the offing in the tribal hinterland.

Kanu SanyalIn an exclusive interview with Bappaditya Paul, founder of the Naxalbari uprising, Kanu Sanyal, expresses his views on the Lalgarh turmoil

Excerpts:

Q Do you support the Lalgarh agitation spearheaded by the People’s Committee?

A No, we don’t. Because the Lalgarh agitation is strictly an ethnic insurrection by the Adivasi community and it is not inclusive of other communities living in there. It is easy to name an organisation as “People’s Committee” but that does not necessary mean it represents all people cutting across the various communities.

Q Given that the Maoists are actively participating in the Lalgarh agitation, do you consider this a Communist struggle?

A I just told you that Lalgarh agitation is confined within the Adivasi community alone. How can an ethic uprising be termed a Communist struggle? Lalgarh is certainly not a Communist uprising. The Maoists are only exploiting the situation by using the Adivasis as stooges to carry forward their agenda of individual terrorism.

Q Activists of the People’s Committee are now taking to arms to resist the police and paramilitary foray into Lalgarh. Do you think they are doing the right thing?

A See, the Adivasis hardly have access to sophisticated arms. Whatever arms they might be equipped with now, have been supplied selectively by the Maoists. But the handful of arms and ammunitions can barely resist the march of the state forces. The resistance will be crushed in no time.

Q How do you weigh the Centre and the state’s role on the Lalgarh turmoil?

A No one is wiling to take charge of the situation. Rather both the state and the Centre are trying to pass the buck on each other.
The CPI-M-led state government allowed the Lalgarh crisis to escalate by not addressing the genuine grievances of the Adivasis on time.
And now the Congress and Trinamul are on the look out to exploit the situation to dislodge the Left Front from power either immediately or in the 2011 Assembly election in the state.

Kanu Sanyal

Q What would be your suggestion to end the siege at Lalgarh?

~ Both the People’s Committee and the state government must instantly launch an unconditional dialogue.
The People’s Committee should place their demands in clear words and the state will have to address them earnestly.

Q Should they keep the Maoists out of the process?

A It’s for the local people to decide.

Q Would you support a ban on the CPI (Maoist) in West Bengal?

A State suppression can never be the answer for tackling any sort of terrorism. You ban one outfit today and another would crop up tomorrow.
Thus, the need is to alienate them by going close to the poor people and address their grievances fast.

(The interviewer is on the staff of The Statesman, India / This piece orginally appeared in The Statesman on 20 June 2009)

‘Nandigram can excel Naxalbari’

Interview ~ Kanu Sanyal / Founder Naxalbari Movement

by Bappaditya Paul

kanu-sanyal

Founder of the landmark Naxalbari Movement, Kanu Sanyal was born in 1929, at Kurseong in Darjeeling. His father, the late Annada Govinda Sanyal, was a court clerk and posted at Kurseong at the time of his death. The youngest but one among five brothers and a sister, Mr Sanyal went to Kurseong ME School (renamed Pushparani Roy Memorial High School) and became a matriculate in 1946. He did not complete the intermediate course in science at the Jalpaiguri College.
In 1949, Mr Sanyal got recruited at the Kalimpong court as a revenue clerk, only to continue in the service for six months until his transfer to the Siliguri court. He was arrested on the charge of waving a black flag at the then chief minister of Bengal, the late Bidhan Chandra Roy, in Siliguri. The agitation was in protest against the Centre’s ban on the undivided Communist Party of India in 1948.
At the Jalpaiguri Jail, where he was lodged during the brief imprisonment in 1949, Mr Sanyal met his future comrade, the then CPI district secretariat member, the late Charu Majumdar. Immediately after his release, Mr Sanyal joined the CPI, and became a whole-time member the following year. In 1964, when the CPI split on the issue of the Sino-Indian conflict, he sided with the new faction, the CPI-M.
A revolutionary at heart, Mr Sanyal could not concur with the “revisionist” stance of the CPI-M and soon stood out as a prominent activist of the party’s “radical faction”. In 1967, it was Mr Sanyal, who practically led the famous peasants’ uprising at Naxalbari village in West Bengal, leading to the birth of “Naxalism” ~ which till date is the most prominent form of armed Communist struggle in India.
Mao Zedong had largely influenced Mr Sanyal’s political philosophy. In September 1967, he went to China via Kathmandu and met the Chinese Communist leader to brief him on the developments at Naxalbari. In the 59 years of his life as a revolutionary Communist, Mr Sanyal has spent 14 years behind bars. With an ever-deteriorating health, he now leads the CPI-ML as it general secretary. In an interview with BAPPADITYA PAUL, he speaks about the Naxalbari Movement’s relevance in the context of farmers’ struggles. Excerpts:

Q: As per popular perception, the late Charu Majumdar was instrumental in initiating the Naxalbari Movement and you assisted him as a trusted comrade. How far is this true?

This is a wrong perception. Charu Majumdar was never directly attached to the Naxalbari Movement. When the Naxalbari uprising took place, Charuda was bedridden at his Siliguri home, with a severe heart ailment. I must refer to the difference of opinion we had over how to bring about a Communist revolution by “radical Communists”.
Charuda and his followers believed a revolution can be materialised by raising small groups of armed Communists and killing the individual “class” enemies. He also rubbished the idea of trade union practices. But a majority within the “radical Communists”, including myself, was opposed to such views.
While we, too, believed an armed struggle was inevitable for waging a revolution, we wanted to materialise it by involving the entire working class, especially the peasantry. We never subscribed to the idea of targeting individual “class” enemies and instead, were in favour of marching forward by forceful possession of farmlands owned by zamindars and big landlords.
When the differences with Charuda grew deeper, without any sign of either group budging on its stand, a way had to be worked out. It was agreed that Charuda would experiment with his ideas in the Chathat area (on the outskirts of Siliguri), while we would go ahead with ours, at Naxalbari. The ideas that proved successful would be adopted as an undisputed strategy of the “radical Communists”.
We began work in earnest at Naxalbari and the peasant uprising became a reality in 1967. But Charuda failed to ignite any such movement at Chathat and was summarily proved wrong.

Interviewing Kanu Sanyal at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district

Q: But outside Naxalbari, it was Majumdar’s “individual terrorism” line that was by and large adhered to. Those who spread the Naxalbari Movement elsewhere in the state, took the same to be the true spirit of Naxalbari?

That’s true. It happened primarily because of two reasons. First, as I was enmeshed in the struggle at Naxalbari and underground, I was detached from the outer world. Second, despite his ways being proved wrong, Charuda did not shun his strategy of “individual terrorism” and was always on the lookout to press it into action.
When the news of an armed peasant uprising at Naxalbari spread, “radical Communists” from across the state and from other parts of the country started showing their eagerness to join the fray. As Charuda was based in Siliguri then and was accessible, they looked to him for guidance. Charuda never missed the opportunity to preach his line of “individual terrorism”, labelling it as the spirit of the Naxalbari Movement.
The Press helped spread Charuda’s strategies, by referring to his comments in news coverage published on the Naxalbari uprising at the time. It was also because the Press could hardly access anyone else.

Q: Are you suggesting that in reality, Majumdar hardly played any role in the Naxalbari Movement?

Not exactly. Rather, what I am saying is, his role was limited to providing the philosophical base for the Naxalbari uprising, to a certain extent. But I would reiterate, Charuda was never directly involved in the Naxalbari Movement, nor was he aware of the day-to-day developments taking place in the field of struggle.

Kanu Sanyal

Q: Then why is it so that Naxalism, as perceived and practised in several parts of India now, seem to be adhering to the “individual terrorism” strategy, which Majumdar spoke of?

So far as perception is concerned, I think, I have already answered that question. With regard to the preference for “individual terrorism”, I would say, the “romanticism” of an armed revolution is luring “radical Communists” away. Particularly, with arms in hand, youths tend to believe they can bring about a revolution by using bullets alone. But the reality is, they simply can’t. Without a solid mass base, all efforts will be futile.

Q: What is the future of Maoist or Naxalite insurgency, active in many parts of India?

They will vanish with time, unless they strengthen their mass base immediately. I have been to an Andhra Pradesh village where Maoists claim dominance. I was astonished that even with arms in hand, the Maoists could hardly generate confidence among the peasantry to cultivate their own lands.
The peasantry there prefers approaching the police camp, to save themselves both from the Maoists and the forces of the landlords.

Q: Coming to West Bengal, what is your view on the latest industry-agriculture conflict? How do you take the ongoing anti-farmland acquisition movement at Singur and Nandigram? Do you find any similarity with the Naxalbari Movement?

See, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t want industrialisation in Bengal. But the question is for whose benefit it is. The industrialisation policy has been adopted and implemented by the Left Front government solely to benefit the imperialists and so, we oppose it. We say, set up need-based industries, keeping in mind the resources of a particular area and drive it for the general wellbeing of the common man. But the government is ruthlessly adamant on setting up industries by trampling farmlands.
The chief minister is harping on industrialisation and believes that everyone, barring himself, is wrong. But my question is, if Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wants to rejuvenate the industrial scenario, why doesn’t he first reopen the nearly 56,000 closed industrial units in the state? Why is there no effort to save the tea gardens in the Dooars and the labourers from starvation?
Singur and Nandigram have unmasked the cruel facets of the CPI-M, which fancies itself to be a party of the underprivileged. The movement that has generated out of Singur and Nandigram, if explored properly, can bring about a sea change in West Bengal. So far as the form is concerned, I find a great deal of similarity between Nandigram and the Naxalbari Movement. The ongoing fight in Nandigram, in particular, has the potential to excel the Naxalbari Movement. The only thing needed is a strong, selfless, political leadership to sustain it.

Q: Why single out Nandigram, when the same fight is on at Singur?

Mamata Banerjee has ruined the movement in Singur. By embarking on a hunger-strike, she spoilt the ignition of the Singur farmers.
I am sure the farmers of Singur will never get back their lands and Miss Banerjee is solely responsible for this. Just take a look at the happenings in Singur, as long as the farmers were battling it out themselves, the state government could not erect a fence on the acquired land.
But soon after Miss Banerjee hijacked the movement and started her fast, the focus shifted to Esplanade and fencing work went on in Singur unabated. Whereas in Nandigram, farmers and locals relied on their own strength and even on the face of a persistent joint offensive by the police and CPI-M goons, they have so far managed to resist the imperialist invasion.


Q: But Miss Banerjee is the one considered capable of throwing out the Left Front? In fact, the Jamait-ul-Ulema-e-Hind leader, Mr Siddiqulla Choudhury, is talking of a grand alliance with the Trinamul and others, to fight the CPI-M?

See, capturing power is one thing and fighting the imperialists is another. For the moment, even if a grand alliance were to pull down the Left Front government, would it make any difference to the poor, the framers? Rather, the alliance would continue in the wake of what the CPI-M-led government is doing now, albeit with a different set of propaganda. I say this because like the CPI-M, the Trinamul, the Jamait and the rest lack the political will to work for the common people. If I am wrong, then let them first make a public declaration what radical changes they would initiate for the benefit of the farmers, if elected to power.

Q: In this context, how do you rate the role of the Left Front allies?

I don’t find their role satisfactory either. If parties like the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc are really opposed to the CPI-M’s ruthless industrialisation agenda, why don’t they step out of the Front? I advised some of their leaders to come out of the government, at least that would have created pressure on the CPI-M. But despite continuous humiliation at the hands of the CPI-M, they seem only too eager to continue sharing power.

Q: If we were to leave out the Trinamul, the Jamait and the Left allies, who then would lead the movement forward?

United Naxalites alone can guide the movement on the right path. I urge all Naxalite factions to form a common platform and take the anti-farmland acquisition movement to every corner of the state. Forget about the elections, just make a collective effort to intensify and sustain the struggle generated out of Singur and Nandigram.

(The interviewer is on the staff of The Statesman, Siliguri, India/ this interview was published in The Statesman dt. 31 March 2007)