“They Will Rule a Grand Majority of India”
by J. Bueno - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)
Indian Professor Arindam Chaudhuri recently said the following regarding the Naxalites in India: “These Naxalites in India are there to stay and grow. Mark my words, the day is not far when they will rule a grand majority of India. These 200 districts will become 400 in no time, and inch towards more… And as long as India’s crony capitalism and heartless journey towards being a slave of the rich continues, long will live the Naxalite movement in India.”
Across almost half of India, revolutionary Maoist organizations work with some of the most oppressed people in the country. Unlike most communist parties that participate in Indian elections and hold seats in parliament, the Maoists have chosen to organize a people’s war and have been redistributing land back to the people through force. They organize with landless farmers and tribal peoples located in economically marginalized areas. In a recent interview, Koteshwar Rao, a member of the political bureau of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), described some of their work in villages as follows:
“We play very diverse roles. Because they have lost faith in the administration, villagers approach us with their day-to-day problems. We organize camps in villages so they can voice the grievances. We deal with the villagers with a lot of compassion and kindness, which is why they love and protect us. We also work for women’s liberation. There are many women who are tortured by their (parents) in-law, husbands or parents. But they cannot protest because they are dependent on them. We fight for liberation of such women. Women are very important for our movement. Many oppressed women have joined us in our struggle across the country.”
There are various Maoist parties and revolutionary communist groups, known to the Indian state as ‘Naxalites’, which are active in several Indian states including Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In 2007, the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh called the Naxalites the most serious security threat to the future of the Indian state. The state Singh was talking about was the one controlled by reactionaries and the classes that depend on foreign imperialism for their survival.
Government estimates claim that the Maoists control one fifth of all of India’s forests and are active in 160 of 604 administrative districts in India. Several of the Maoist groups, including the Communist Party of India (Maoist), have been classified as terrorists by the government of India, and this past February the central government launched coordinated counter-insurgency operations across many of the states where Naxalites work with people. The state and rich landowners have also mobilized private armies and para-military groups to fight the Naxalites and terrorize their base of support among the people. One of the most well known of these groups in called the Ranvir Sena in Bihar and Jharkhand states, which has been known to murder and terrorize tribal people, dalits and landless farmers. Another of these anti-Naxalite groups is the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh, a vigilante group built up with the help of the Indian state to hunt down and kill rebels. The Indian state has carried out a scorched earth policy in certain regions of Chhattisgarh and then forcefully recruited people from the refugee camps to join the Salwa Judum. Many members of Salwa Judum are then employed by the government as “Special Police Officers” to help guide the army and other anti-Naxalite forces.
The word Naxalite comes from a village in West Bengal state, Naxalbari, where members of the Communist Party of India led an uprising on May 25, 1967. One of the main leaders of this uprising was Charu Majumdar, who was important in the spread of Maoist ideas in India. The uprising began after a local peasant was attacked by landowner thugs. In retaliation, landowners were attacked and violence escalated. This uprising was suppressed, as would the other uprisings led by Maoists in India that followed. But this was just the beginning of the Maoist revolution in India. Four decades later, the Indian Maoist revolution has grown to encompass one third of India. According to the recent interview with party member Koteshwar Rao: “There is no end to revolution. There is no time frame—it seems it will take time… But, if the war strategy is right, we’ll reach our goal soon. Otherwise, we will have to retreat and change course. But we are strictly against joining mainstream politics.”