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The Maoist Surge in India
   
 
 
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The Maoist Surge in India

 
Friday, 11 December 2009 12:16
 
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by Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra (EPOS)
EPOS Insights

The Maoist violence in India has recently been a matter of serious concern with the government searching for different options to tackle the menace. The following data bring forth the gravity of the matter. Out of 29 states in India 20 and out of 600 odd districts in India 223 are affected by the Maoist violence. From January to August 2009 there have been more than 1,400 cases related to Maoist violence in which about 600 civilians have lost their lives. Reportedly, the Maoists have killed about 1,200 people since 2008. Some of the recent media reports have indicated the threat posed by these groups is even more dangerous than the threat posed by the menace of terrorism.

With the reports that Maoists are getting arms from mafia having links in China, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh the picture has become further complicated by assuming an international dimension. The home minister of India told the media on 22 October 2009 that these forces are getting arms from mafia with links with China though he ruled out any direct role of Chinese government in this affair. Similarly, there are reports that they are supplied arms from China via Myanmar and Bangladesh. The possession of sophisticated weapons such as AK-47s and UMGs by the Maoists goes against their argument that they get these weapons by targeting and seizing police stations.

The origin of the Maoist movement can be traced to late 1960s, in the north of West Bengal province of India, particularly to a place called Naxalbari (that is why the movement is also labeled Naxal movement). Led by the leaders like Charu Majumdar and Kanhu Sanyal, the movement questioned the very basis of the system, the hierarchical social structure, and the exploitation by the rich of the poor. Moved by the Marxist ideology of the achievement of a communist, classless society, the movement was also influenced by Mao Tse Tung, and particularly his belief that ‘power flows from the barrel of the gun.’ The movement sought to alter the whole social structure by targeting the exploitative system and its perpetrators.

Initially the movement targeted the land owning class, and orchestrated the selected killing of the landlords and government officials towards achieving its objectives.In a sense, the movement aimed at genuine restructuring of the society. It raised the fundamental question of exploitation in society, more visible in hinterlands of India characterized by stark poverty and underdevelopment.


Its championing of an equal society drew into its fold hundreds of people including the educated. However, its policy of using violent methods to achieve the goal may be questioned.Particularly in later years, the movement appeared corrupted by the dilution of its ideology and also corruption of its leaders. In fact it is the innocent civilians who suffer the most due to the violence, as most of the times they are targeted by the Maoists as informers, by the governments as the Maoist accomplice, and at times they are caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and government forces.

As reported, at times while targeting the government officials, the Maoists have also killed their poor brethren who join the state as police personnel or otherwise. However, another section of the intellectuals argue that the violent movement cannot be traced back to the Maoist agenda alone, but also to the apathetic attitude of the government in addressing the poverty and alienation of the poor people particularly the tribal people in the interiors of the country. The Maoists are very active in poor belts of India endowed with natural resources like forests and mines. The Maoists argue that it is the rich which exploit the resources, and the poor get deprived as always.

The movement assumed a radical proportion with the Indian state turning a blind eye to its spread and penetration. Only in the recent years the Indian state woke up to the Maoist surge and found that the group has established a Red Corridor of influence that passes through the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The writ of Indian state does not run in the Maoist controlled areas. In these areas, the Maoist rule prevails with their own system of administration and Kangaroo courts, which also deliver the verdicts of summary executions.

They challenged the might of the Indian state. For about three decades the state turned an ostrich eye to these rising forces and woke up to horrific reality by banning the Maoist organization on 22June 2009. On 30 October 2009 the home minister of India gave a call to these forces to abjure violence and get ready for talks, only to be rejected by the Maoists as ‘ridiculous’. Under the code name Operation Green Hunt, the government of India is planning to launch a massive offensive against the group, comprising about 22,000 members. The offensive against the Maoists who are well trained in guerrilla warfare would likely lead to protracted bloodshed in the distant forests of India.

The Maoist forces are gaining strength day by day with media highlighting their ideology and their activities. But as the recent Lalgarh episode indicate, the Maoists are difficult to be controlled by mere force as they have support of the poor tribal people. While the Maoists might have a genuine cause to fight, their justification to kill innocent people cannot be supported at any cost. Hence, the state needs to apply a dual strategy. First, to address the genuine grievances of the poor people, and second, to target those leaders who advocate violence and challenge state sovereignty. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted recently while addressing chief ministers of states that there had been a systematic failure to provide the tribal people the benefits of economic development.

In fact India has never been so concerned about the Maoist menace earlier. Labeled ‘Red terrorism,’ ‘home grown terrorism,’ ‘Red menace,’ the Maoist violence has spread to many parts of India. It is now increasingly getting a wider space in Indian policy as well as public discourse. Besides, their alleged links with India’s neighbouring states have added a new dimension to the whole scenario. India has perhaps has not much time to tackle this issue that has emerged the biggest internal challenge to its sovereignty.

 



Last modified on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:26
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