Naxalite movement in India

Indian security forces have begun a major offensive against Naxalites. Using satellite technology large areas of India have been mapped . Altogether more than 80000 security forces are deployed to recapture Naxalite areas including their jungle bases in Mard. Indian government has ordered number of sophisticated UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) from U.S to spearhead the operation. Two months ago Indian security forces started a major operation in West Bengal state  to recapture hundreds of villages  occupied by Communist Party (Maoist) also known as Naxalites. After nearly three weeks of fighting Indian security managed to occupy only half of the villages. Home minister has banned Communist Party (Maoist) and called Naxalites as the biggest threat to Indian State. During the recent elections , Naxalites called for a boycott and this was successful in number of Eastern and Central states. Who are naxalites and how did such a movement end up controlling nearly 25% of districts in India.

Naxalite movement has it's origins a place called Naxalbari in West Bengal. On May 25th  1967 a section of  Communist Party (Marxist)(CPM) cadres rose in revolt against the oppression of peasants in Naxalbari. They were led by CPM leaders Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal. CPM which advocated parliamentary politics did not support the rebellion. Rebels who were then known as Naxalites broke away form CPM and formed Naxalites movement. Naxalite movement based itself on the principles of Mao (Late leader of Chinese communist Party) and Che Guevara. Many University graduates in India joined the rebels and the rebellion spread to rest of West Bengal and Kerala. Rebellion also benefited from the ongoing drought in India which affected peasants.

However Indian ruling class reacted to the rebellion with heavy armed tactics. Government of India led by the prime minister Indira Gandhi employed the security forces in large numbers and by 1971 the rebellion was largely crushed. Indira Gandhi also carried out populist nationalist measures to win the support of general public. She also went to war with Pakistan , broke up Pakistan and managed to wipe up nationalist fervor.  Naxalite support base which was petty bourgeoisie and peasants easily succumbed to nationalist fervor. By 1972 the movement was literally dead . Leadership was arrested and killed in fake encounters with security forces. Naxalite movement also broke up into several groups. Survivors went into jungles and start working amongst the adivasis (tribals) and so called lower castes. These two sections of the community are the most oppressed communities in India.

In early 1980s naxalite group in Andhra Pradesh state called People's war group started operations against state police in adivasi areas. They were trained by LTTE from Srilanka in the use of landmines and other ambush tactics. They were successful in their attacks using land mines and ambushes. Most of the time arms were captured from police and was the primary supply of arms to naxalites. Slowly operations extended into the neighboring states such as Madhya Pradesh. At the same time another naxalite group called Maoist Communist Center carried out operation against state police in Bihar state.  Two groups later joined together to form the Communist Party (Maoist).

Now Naxalites are active in 40% of India's land area. They are active in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal states. Out of these states they control more than 40% of the land area in Chhattisgarh and  Jharkhand states. Central government and state government has embarked on violent suppression using central government forces known as Central Reserve Police force (CRPF) , Border security force (BSF) and specially trained anti naxalite forces called Cobras. However the violent repression has only intensified the struggle. Last week in a series of attacks more than 30 CRPF personnel were killed in single day. As central government intensifies the repression ordinary masses in these areas are suffering and turning more and more towards Naxalites. Unlike in 1970s Naxalites have a very strong bases among adivasis and so called lower caste communities.They have defended these communities against oppressive landlords and corrupt state officials. Among these communities Naxalites are known as dadas : elder brothers.

Today Naxalites have approximately 20000 well armed cadres. In addition they have more than 30000 cadres committed to the movement active in the states mentioned above. They have also have sophisticated weapons including mortars. Success of Communist Party (Maoist) in Nepal has encouraged Naxalites. Although Naxalite armed wing known as People liberation army is no match to Indian army in a conventional war , it is equally matched in guerrilla and asymmetrical warfare. With people's support it can survive and grow as the economic crisis hits the middle classes and urban areas. Naxalites are building networks in the urban areas such as New Delhi, Calcutta and Bombay. They also have support among the urban progressive intelligentsia.

Data shows that India’s child malnutrition rate is 47 percent (as compared to 30 percent in sub-Saharan Africa). India also ranks 66th among the 88 countries in the 2008 Global Hunger Index.

India has a very large middle class based on service sector. This middle class is slowly affected by the global recession as the demand for Indian software engineers and call centers are being squeezed. At the same time this year due to the delay in monsoon , drought is feared in many states. Only 40% of agricultural land is irrigated. Over the last two decades successive Indian governments focused on service sector to the detriment of agriculture. Already Indian government has banned wheat exports.Drought coupled with global recession will be a disaster to Indian economy. These conditions will only strengthen naxalite movement. It is a matter of time before naxalite movement emerges as major challenge to Indian state.

September 2009