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Home > Dissident Left Archive > India: The Rising - Naxalbari to now | Amrith Lal

India: The Rising - Naxalbari to now | Amrith Lal

1 May 2005

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The Times of India, December 19, 2004

In Andhra, both the state and naxals are talking peace, while in eastern UP they have promised to fight it out. Even as the ceasefire lapses this week, Sunday Times looks at the changes in Naxal politics and the state’’s outlook towards it.

Two developments have brought Naxalites back into limelight. One, the decision of People’’s War Group, now the CPI (Maoist), to agree for talks with the Andhra Pradesh government and two, the killing of 18 police and forest officials in two incidents by Maoists in Chandauli near Varanasi a few weeks ago.

They both involve the same group yet the fallouts are so dissimilar. In Telangana, both the state and naxals have sued for peace, while in eastern UP the parties have promised to fight it out. Even though the informal ceasefire between the government and maoists lapses this week and there is tough talk on both sides, it is early to predict a return to violence.

The changes in the Indian polity in the last two decades have left an impact on Naxalites as well. The movement began as a peasant uprising in Naxalbari, a north Bengal village. In the ’’70s, it gained cadre in urban India. Since the ’’80s, it has retreated to rural India, while spreading across Telangana in Andhra Pradesh, parts of Jharkhand and Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Vidarbha, and pockets in eastern UP and West Bengal, all the way upto Nepal. These areas are home to some of the poorest people in India.

In the process of spreading its base, the movement has also undergone a change in character. Naxal politics is no longer merely an articulation of agrarian concerns but have come to represent dalit and tribal identities, and even support regional and ethnic concerns. It supports the demand for a separate Telangana state while representing the rights of dalits in Bihar. The movement now is willing to consider every political option a" from Parliamentary democracy to talks with state governments to armed struggle. What unites the various groups is perhaps their uncritical belief in the politics of terror and violence.

The state too has changed its outlook towards Naxal politics. It is now willing to go beyond policing and para military operations to understand the economic and social causes for politically-aware people resorting to violence. It is no longer willing to talk about a "co-ordinated police action against naxals in all violence-prone states".

In Andhra Pradesh, the CPI (Maoist) is talking to the state government.Unthinkable a few months ago, when the state police was on an aggressive man hunt after the ultras tried to kill then chief minister Chandrababu Naidu. Why then this about-turn?

Even before elections, the Congress had promised to hold talks with the PWG. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy sued for peace immediately after he took over as chief minister. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in June. With police and the ultras holding fire, the last six months has been peaceful in Telangana, Palanadu and other areas. Talks commenced in September in Hyderabad. According to home minister K Jana Reddy, the state government might have the second round of talks in January next. He said the government was considering distribution of land to the poor, as sought by the naxalites, and a commission to identify excess land is on the anvil.

CPI (Maoist) emissary Varavara Rao says the Maoists are willing to discuss all issues concerning the people. "Peace, self-reliance and land to the tiller are the focal points of the agenda for the talks," he says. Rao adds that the second round of talks would focus on such subjects.

This, in fact, marks a big change in maoist politics. Peace, all this while, was to be achieved through the gun. Over 5,000 people have been killed in naxalite-state violence in Andhra since 1968. It may be too early to say that a critique of violence is on in the maoist circles. But, a fatigue of mindless, and often gruesome, violence seems to have set in, forcing ultras to probe other political options.

The positive aspect about the talks, according to political scientist Manoranjan Mohanty is that the government has acknowledged that there are socio-economic reasons behind the three-decade old violence and the maoists have accepted that there are spaces within the state to address these problems.

Unlike in Andhra, the maoists are still a marginal force in eastern UP. The Chandauli-Mirzapur-Sonbhadra belt have seen over 100 deaths in naxal-related violence in the last decade. The MCC which is active in this region draws its support from tribes and castes like Kohl and Musahar. When Mayawati came to power, there was concerted attempts to develop this region. The government had rightly construed that the violence was a fallout of economic deprivation. The plan, obviously, did not take off. Political analysts attribute the failure of the state to the presence of a parallel economy and politics. "The privatisation of the state apparatus in eastern UP which runs the system with private goons gives a kind of rationale to those taking the gun in the name of the people. When large segments of your economy is illegal how can you expect politics to be entirely within legal framework," a senior leader of CPI-ML said. Even those who refuse to condemn the violence agree that attacks on police only lead to more violence.

There is, obviously, no chance of a political reconciliation in the immediate future. But, if some positive politics emerges out of Andhra Pradesh, it could change the course of the movement as well as the state for the better.

1967: Peasants’’ uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling. Many cadres and leaders from communist party state units support struggle. All India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) set up.

1970: First CPI (ML) congress is held in Calcutta. Charu Majumdar elected party general secretary. Revolutionary Writers Association (RWA) formed in Andhra Pradesh.

1972: Majumdar arrested in Calcutta. Dies in lock-up.

1980: People’’s War Group formed in AP. Later, CPI (ML) Red Flag is formed.

1986: Bihar bans PWG and MCC. CPI (ML) organises a national women’’s convention in Calcutta.

AP bans PWG 1995: A six-member CPI (ML) group is formed in Bihar Assembly. N T Ramarao relaxes ban on PWG for three months.

1996: Five members of ASDC make it to Assam assembly; another member elected to Lok Sabha.

1999: CPI (ML) Party Unity merges with PWG. Naxals kill MP transport minister to avenge the death of three top PWG leaders in police encounter.

2000: PWG kills AP minister Madhava Reddy; blows up an MP police vehicle killing 23 cops.

2001: Naxalite groups all over South Asia form a Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA).

October 2003: PWG attempt on AP CM Chandrababu Naidu

May 2003: Chandrababu Naidu loses elections. Congress government calls for talks with Naxal groups

September 2004: PWG and Maoist Communist Centre merge to form CPI (Maoist)

October 15: AP government begins talks with CPI (Maoists)

December 16: Ceasefire agreement between AP govt and Naxals lapses

(With inputs from T Sunil Reddy in Hyderabad and Binay Kumar Singh in Varanasi)


The above article from The Times of India is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use