IN­DIA

The Nax­als of In­dia rep­re­sent the de­prived classes com­pris­ing trib­als, dalit and land­less work­ers. Their goal is to dis­man­tle the cur­rent sys­tem of gov­er­nance and es­tab­lish a true peo­ple’s gov­ern­ment and a class­less so­ci­ety.

Southasia - - Front page - By Rizwan Zeb

The Nax­alites are Coming!

The Nax­alite move­ment is get­ting stronger by the day.

Are the Nax­alites ex­pand­ing into the In­dian Pun­jab? This ques­tion is be­ing heat­edly de­bated in var­i­ous In­dian think­tanks cur­rently. Kobal Ghandy, a known Naxal leader who was ar­rested by the In­dian se­cu­rity forces in 2009, ad­mit­ted that the Nax­alites con­sider Pun­jab a fer­tile ground and that in 2006 they con­ducted a de­tailed re­con­nais­sance of the In­dian state. Var­i­ous In­dian me­dia re­ports voiced this fear and a com­men­ta­tor stated that with sev­eral ar­rests in the past two years, these fears have been con­firmed. A se­nior In­dian Pun­jab Po­lice of­fi­cial has been quoted as stat­ing that Nax­alites have estab­lished around 17 front or­ga­ni­za­tions. It is also be­lieved that there is an on­go­ing at­tempt to re­vive the Khal­is­tan move­ment and that there might be a link be­tween the two. To address these con­cerns, it is re­ported that a Naxal cell has been cre­ated which is headed by a SP rank of­fi­cer.

The Nax­alite-in­sur­gency is one of the old­est, if not the old­est, ac- tive con­flict in the world. The In­dian Prime Min­is­ter, Man­mo­han Singh, in one of his state­ments has de­clared it as the big­gest in­ter­nal se­cu­rity chal­lenge to In­dia.

The Naxal, Nax­alite or Nak­sal­vadi move­ment has its ori­gins in the vil­lage Nax­al­bari in West Ben­gal. It was started by Charu Ma­jum­dar, Kanu Sanyal and Jan­gal San­thal in 1967. In­spired by Mao Ze­dong’s teach­ings and writ­ings, the move­ment aimed at unit­ing the In­dian peas­ants and lower class cit­i­zens and over­throw­ing the gov­ern-

ment and en­forc­ing the Mao ver­sion of com­mu­nism. Ma­jum­dar pro­duced a num­ber of writ­ings, in­clud­ing ‘The His­toric Eight Doc­u­ments,’ which is con­sid­ered his mag­num opus and an important doc­u­ment of the Nax­alite move­ment. How­ever, dif­fer­ences emerged within the lead­er­ship in 1971 when a group led by Satya­narayan Singh ques­tioned Ma­jum­dar poli­cies and parted ways. In 1972, Ma­jum­dar was ar­rested and died in jail. At present, there are many fac­tions of the Nax­alite move­ment. The prime amongst them is CPI (Maoist) which was cre­ated in 2004 by two groups, the Peo­ple’s War Group and the Maoist Com­mu­nist Cen­tre.

It was es­ti­mated that by the 1980s, al­most 30 Nax­alite groups with an ac­tive cadre of al­most 30,000 guer­ril­las were ac­tive in var­i­ous parts of In­dia. To­day, although no au­thor­i­ta­tive and re­li­able fig­ure is avail­able, sources close to New Delhi claim that there are 9,000-10,000 armed fighters, with ac­cess to about 6,500 firearms. They also claim that there are a fur­ther 40,000 full-time cadres.

Even to­day, Mao­ism is the driv­ing force of the Nax­alite move­ment. Although it is not clear how Mao­ism is taught to the re­cruits and how much of the lit­er­a­ture they ac­tu­ally read. It con­tin­ues to be a highly dis­ci­plined, mo­ti­vated and well-or­ga­nized move­ment. It is re­puted for con­duct­ing ex­ten­sive and com­pre­hen­sive home­work of the tar­get area be­fore launch­ing an op­er­a­tion.

The Nax­alites are ac­tive in at least 200 districts in In­dia. Their area of con­cen­tra­tion stretches from Kar­nataka to Nepal. They are op­er­a­tionally ac­tive in what is known as the Red Cor­ri­dor which in­cludes Jhark­hand, Bi­har, Andhra Pradesh, Ch­hat­tis­garh, Mad­hya Pradesh, Ma­ha­rash­tra and West Ben­gal. How­ever, Ch­hat­tis­garh could be con­sid­ered its area of grav­ity or the epi­cen­ter. They are in con­trol of al­most 92,000 square kilo­me­ters which makes 40 per­cent of the to­tal In­dian ter­ri­tory. This area is mostly poor de­spite hav­ing an abun­dance of re­sources. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that although the Nax­alites’ claim on the one hand that the gov­ern­ment is not de­vel­op­ing the area and con­sid­ers them sec­ond class cit­i­zens, hence the armed strug­gle, on the other, when the gov­ern­ment at­tempts to start any de­vel­op­men­tal project, it is claimed that the pur­pose is not to im­prove the lives of the com­mon peo­ple but to rip them off of their re­sources.

To counter the Nax­alites in Ch­hat­tis­garh, New Delhi has estab­lished a ri­val mili­tia group, Salwa Judum. While New Delhi strongly denies any in­volve­ment in the cre­ation of Salwa Judum, the fact-find­ing mis­sion of the Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion of In­dia (NHRC) claims that it is a re­sult of a spon­ta­neous re­ac­tion by trib­als against Maoist atroc­i­ties per­pe­trated against them. Whether New Delhi’s cre­ation or a lo­cal re­ac­tion, it has done noth­ing ex­cept in­creas­ing the mis­eries of the lo­cal peo­ple.

Last year, in a show of force, Nax­alites con­ducted what has been de­clared the big­gest and the most dar­ing at­tack of the move­ment when, on April 6, 2010, al­most 1,000 Nax­alite guer­ril­las at­tacked and killed 76 CRPF per­son­nel and wounded 50 in the jun­gle of Dan­te­wada in Chat­tis­garh.

Over the years, the In­dian gov­ern­ment has taken sev­eral steps to elim­i­nate the Nax­alite threat which has failed. How­ever, a closer look at the mea­sures taken by In­dia to address this prob­lem makes one won­der whether these at­tempts were se­ri­ous or were just for pub­lic con­sump­tion. Cre­at­ing and sup­port­ing mili­tias like Salwa Judum has cre­ated more prob­lems than it has solved. It is busy con­duct­ing its own war and loot­ing and plun­der­ing. In fact, Salwa Judum has pro­vided the Nax­alites a rea­son to jus­tify their ac­tions. Polic­ing is be­com­ing an overly dif­fi­cult pro­fes­sion in the Nax­alite con­trolled area. Un­like the nor­mal av­er­age of 55 po­lice­men for ev­ery 100 square kilo­me­ters, in Chat­tis­garh, there are only 17 po­lice­men for 100 square kilo­me­ters. An­other ma­jor prob­lem is the pro­vi­sion in the In­dian Con­sti­tu­tion that se­cu­rity is a provin­cial or state mat­ter and not that of the cen­tre. And the state has, over all these years, failed to solve the prob­lem.

While In­dia has failed to elim­i­nate the Nax­alite threat, the Nax­alite move­ment has its own lim­i­ta­tions. Many in New Delhi and else­where in In­dia are con­cerned with the pos­si­bil­ity of a Nax­alite pres­ence in Pun­jab and Kash­mir. Nax­alite sources have also hinted upon ex­pand­ing their area of op­er­a­tions though the fact of the mat­ter is that this is eas­ier said than done. Mov­ing away from their power base will re­quire a new strate­gic mind­set and out­look. It would be away from its sanc­tu­ar­ies and sup­ply lines and the In­dian re­sponse would be much dif­fer­ent in these ar­eas than in those where the Nax­alites are cur­rently op­er­a­tional. This is not to un­der­es­ti­mate the ca­pa­bil­i­ties or re­solve of the Nax­alite move­ment, which has over the years demon­strated on so many oc­ca­sions that it is a se­ri­ous, well-equipped and dis­ci­plined in­sur­gent force, yet, whether it can achieve a sup­port base in the new ar­eas which are be­yond its com­fort zone re­mains to be seen.

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