Tag Archives: Naxal

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)

Advertisements

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)