NAXAL PROBLEM AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
Author: Tejaswini Kaushal, I year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow
A discussion on Naxalism has arguably become of growing importance now more than any time before. This is because of the growth of this movement and its impact on the country, be it social, economic or political, internally or in the international domain. Recently in April 2021, India endured the impact of this violent ideology when 22 soldiers were killed and 31 sustained injuries in the deadly encounter between security forces and Naxals in Tarrem, along the Sukma-Bijapur border in Chhattisgarh. It has become essential to appropriately and critically analyze the role, development and impact of Naxalism in various states and on India as a whole, and what needs to be done to counter it.
The Naxalite movement, which started in the 1960s with a group of people whose motto was freedom from the corrupt and dominant Government and local administration, reached its pinnacle in terms of large-scale propagation of its ideology in coming years. The Naxalite movement did not just limit itself to West Bengal, from where it had started, but rather kept on increasing to spread to various other states in India.
The experience of India in this account thus has many lessons to teach about how and how not to deal with the problem of Naxalism. For the sake of controlling this violent movement, a three-step approach has been adopted by the government. Further many other steps have been adopted by the government to regulate this violent movement aimed at securing the rights of the people against Naxalites’ force and anarchy.
For understanding the very concept of Naxalism and its development in India, we need to trace the roots of Naxalites, from where and how the Naxal movement started, and how the term Naxalite came into existence. The pros and cons of the emergence of this movement also need to be analyzed, as well as the reason due to which this movement emerged.
The roots of Naxals can be traced back to the state of West Bengal where there is a village named Naxalbari. The Naxal uprising began approximately 50 years back, in the year 1967. Etymologically, the word Naxalism derives from the name of this village, ‘Naxalbari’. The story behind this origin involves a much-known core to almost every story of revolution, good or bad, which is banal to every corner of the world since time immemorial: a clash between the oppressed and the oppressor. In this specific case, it all began with a group of landlord’s men thrashing a peasant over a local land dispute on 2nd March 1967.
Subsequently, peasants expressed their discontent against this injustice and oppression. Against this, the police began persecuting the peasants and not the landlords. What it resulted in was a dominos effect, leading to a systemized rebellion with Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santal leading the movement for equitable distribution of land amongst peasants, who make use of such lands. On May 25 1967, Charu Mujumdar and Kanu Sanyal commenced an armed assault on the police. Hence, the year 1967 saw a large-scale movement, inspired by communist forces, against the feudal system in land distribution. In its roots, the communist movement developed in India due to the failure of implementation of the 5th and 6th Schedules of the Indian Constitution which secure tribal rights, privileges and autonomy.
The ideology reached the zenith for large-scale idea propagation under the efficient leadership of Charu Majumdar, of the Communist Party of India, who was greatly influenced by Mao Zedong. His political writings and commentaries attracted not only attract those who were oppressed but also those who had wished to bring change. Charu Mazumdar called the 1970s the ‘decade of liberation’ or ‘the decade of freedom’ i.e. the time when people strive to be free from the clutches of an overbearing government. The movement spread to include local tribal groups and other socially and economically downtrodden masses and took an ugly violent turn after Majumdar delivered his “annihilation of class enemies” theory. The state and political counter-measures led to large-scale killings, torture and blatant human rights violations.
In the initial stages, when the Naxalite movement had just begun, the government assumed at the time that the Naxalite movement is not a severe issue and is a simple bread test that may take place for a certain period, either peacefully or a bit violently but with time it will come down. Even if the situation aggravates up to some extent, military forces will be used and the Naxalite issue will be made to calm down. The home minister, Mr. Yashwantrao Chavan, who was governing during 1967, assumed that this Naxal problem is nothing more than mere lawlessness, where people are raising voices for amenities that could not be provided by the State. Naxalism was being seen by the Government as being a minor issue, but with the passage of time and growth of the Naxalite movement, the government went on to realize that Naxalism was not to be taken lightly. The Government then appreciated the fact that Naxalism is a major movement that needs to be controlled and regulated.
State opposition to the forces of Naxalism is not uncommon, to an extent that the Government of India under Indira Gandhi’s leadership during the imposition of the infamous Emergency in 1971, launched a dedicated operation, Operation Steeplechase, to do away with individuals involved in the movement, with clear instruction of no official records to be left. It led to the killing of hundreds of Naxalites and imprisonment of more than 20,000 suspects and cadres, including senior leaders.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) dates even back to 1920, however after the Sino-India War of 1962, the party split into two, leading to the birth of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1964 and later the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) in 1969. The group saw many more offshoots in the years to come. Other prominent groups that have mushroomed in recent years and have associated themselves with the Naxalite movement are the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Marxist Communist Centre (MCC).
The danger that the fueled movement presents for the country was even recognized by Former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. Till the first decade of the 21st century, the spread of Naxalism in India had accelerated, causing more and more clashes between them and government forces, leading to a piling number of deaths.
To curb such fatalities, the Central Government launched, what turned out to be an extremely successful set of operations, an "Integrated Action Plan" (IAP). These aimed at solving the problems at grass-root levels by pushing for growth and development and resulted in the reduction in the scale of the spread of the movement in just one year of its implementation. Despite, relative amiability developing between the parties and progress happening after the introduction of the IAP, there are many dark blots in the history of Naxalism in India that occurred in the past decade that one cannot turn a blind eye to. These include the 2010 killings of 76 CRPF personnel in Dantewada and the 2013 attack on an INC rally in Sukma which led to the succumbing of eminent State Congress leaders such as Mahendra Karma and Vidya Charan Shukla, both in Chhattisgarh, 2011 landmine blast by Naxalite forces in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli, and the 2016 incident in Andhra Pradesh’s Chitrakonda that led to the killing of 24 Naxalites by the ‘Greyhound’ forces. In 2019, the prohibited Communist Party of India (Maoist), referred to likewise as Maoists or Naxalites, shifted their focus to mining ventures which caused the removal of indigenous clans (or Adivasis) from their ancestral grounds to abuse the mineral-rich soil. In 2021 as well, India has faced the brunt of Left-wing extremism.
Circumstances may be different now but the idea of the Maoists remains unchanged: obtaining the land from oppressors and reassigning it to the common folk. This equipped battle has brought about large-scale infringements of basic freedoms, mass relocation, etc.
Naxalism is considered to be a socialist movement inspired by Karl Marx’s theory of class struggle. The development has gotten the foundation of socialist philosophy in India. The Naxalite development is the background to Mao Tse Tung's perspective that power was made by gunfire. After the Communist Party split between India in 1964, the Marxist Socialist Coalition upheld the Chinese communist ideology.
The leaders of the Indian Naxalite group converted themselves into an armed rebellion force having the objective of achieving a transformation, under the leadership of Charu Majumdar of the Communist Party of India who was highly influenced by Mao Tse Tung of China. The ideology reached its epitome in terms of the scale of propagation under Charu Mujumdar's leadership and perspective of building up the vote-based system through a planned insurgency. The armed rebellion that they dispatched caused them to face the brunt of the brutal police attacks, but they only increased their struggle. Naxalism, in other words, is Majumdar’s method of snatching away resources and providing equitable rights to peasants and labourers using armed rebellion forces since it was unrealistic to obtain the same otherwise in a democratic fashion during that era.
The contention of 1967 disturbed the peace in the state of West Bengal and the local police could not handle the situation. The Naxalites focused their attacks on government offices, representatives, affluent landowners and the police, calling for the government’s attention towards financial deprivation, destitution and abuse of peasants. Charu Mujumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santal helped jobless youth and labourers find a voice and this impacted the whole of India in a brief timeframe.
However, it is important to not confuse the aforementioned movement as the cause for the advent of systemized communism in India. Much before this, soon after independence, it was the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, now split into two, which saw the first set of organized communist activities wherein the lower classes made a series of communes, in what came to be known as the Telangana Struggle. Further communist light was brought in by structured publications made during the same time. In the 1960s only did Naxalism come into existence.
Thinking about the foundation to the ascent of the Naxalite development, both positive and negative levels are talked about, however, human viciousness coming about from it isn't defended. This development won't be a sustainable option to manage the downtrodden masses due to the adoption and utilization of illegitimate and violent methods. While their vicious manner of social change isn't acceptable, the disregard of the State towards them isn't fitting for ensuring social equity.
In the modern context, Naxalist attacks are mostly referred to as Naxalite–Maoist insurgency, officially termed as the Left Wing Extremism (LWE), which is an ongoing conflict between Maoist groups; a group of far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology, and the Indian government.
Areas impacted by Naxalism in India
The Naxalite group mainly consists of the armed cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the areas where they are located suffer from the greatest illiteracy, poverty and overpopulation. The development, which began in West Bengal, today spreads across 220 areas in 22 states of our nation. The major Indian states impacted by the presence of Naxalism include Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra and eastern Uttar Pradesh states.
The red corridor is the infamous belt of states that sees rampant cases of Left Wing Extremism. It consists of regions in the eastern, central and southern parts of India and experiences considerable Naxalite–Maoist insurgency.
The areas that make up the red corridor consist of individuals that are among the least fortunate in the country. Poverty is widespread over the Naxal-affect areas. Regions like Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, are either impoverished or are victims of significant financial disparity.
A vital attribute of these regions is non-diversified economies that are solely based upon the primary sector i.e. agriculture. Since agriculture is the primary source of both livelihood and income in these areas, it is largely inadequate to supplement the fast expansions in population. The district also possesses a significant amount of natural resources like minerals (Coal, Bauxite, Nickel, and Manganese etc.), forests and potential hydroelectricity generation capacity.
The regions enveloped by the red corridor have highly stratified societies, with caste and feudal divisions. A large part of these areas has a large percentage of Tribal population i.e. Adivasis, like Santhal, Gond etc. The majority of these states are ridden with a deep caste divide with a strict social hierarchical arrangement and significantly impoverished tribal populations.
Naxalite movement- a threat to our security
The Naxalite movement has emerged to be one of the major threats to the growth of our economy. In current times Indian economy is one of the biggest and fastest-growing economies in the world. But along with the burgeoning economic growth rates, one of the biggest hindrances affecting and retarding the growth of the Economy is that of Naxalism. The demands of Naxalites are not wrong but the method; use of violence and rebellion, is affecting the socio-economic structure of the country.
Moreover, this movement is not just a threat of the present times but has long term implications. Even if the functioning of the government goes according to the desires of both government officials and Naxalites, there still exists a possibility of future upheavals as this movement is violent at its core and non-democratic. It will disturb the social pattern and functioning of society. If the demands of the group using violent means are fulfilled once, it’ll act as a green flag for all interest groups to follow in the footsteps of Left-wing extremism. If this tactic is utilized openly by pressure groups to get their demands fulfilled, one of the major principles of democracy will be lost. Therefore, to protect the quintessential essence of democracy, it is necessary to control and restrict the Naxalite movement, because it is not a threat just to the present times but even to the future of the country.
According to the views of the government, they believe that Naxalites are not usual people, rather they are the militant groups. The government labels them as the terrorist societies living in different parts of the country who have, from time to time, kept on increasing their base to establish their structure to disturb the functioning of government. These groups are operating in different parts of the country to control the functioning and to create chaos in the country. These Naxalite and Maoist outfits have therefore been allotted the status of ‘Terrorist Organisations’ under the Unlawful Activities.
Further, the effect of Naxalism is not just limited to the social and economic growth of the country rather it even affects the security of the nation as well as the sovereignty of the country. Moreover, with the people of the country starting a rebellion, the entire functioning and setup of the country may get disturbed and distracted with time. Thus it makes it extremely essential that the security threats imposed by Naxalite movements should be taken into consideration by the government and effective steps to control the same should be ensured.
The foreign and diplomatic relations of the country also get adversely impacted because of these movements. Internal disturbances start degrading India’s relation with other countries because they perceive that democracy is vanishing from the country, which is one of the biggest known factors for which India is globally popular, as due to democracy only India can secure a safe environment for all despite having diversity in terms of caste, colour, religion, race etc. If democracy starts to eradicate because of the Naxalite movement then it will surely impact the foreign affairs and relations of our country, and lesser countries will maintain friendly terms with our nation.
The pattern of State response could be divided into two phases for better comprehension. In the first few years of the initial decade of the formation of the state, the strategy followed by the state to abate Naxal violence was that of receptiveness. The idea was, and it did work to some extent, that the Naxal forces were let to expand their forces. This kept them relatively content with the state and busy in getting together their bearings, and hence there were fewer killings. While this was a more peaceful approach in a way but could not have been the permanent way to go, thus, the second phase could be identified as that which deployed and worked with Central forces to effectively curb militancy.
It was also realized after various experimentations with the kind of forces deployed that the police forces would be the best and most suited to handle such LWE radicalism. Hence, these forces were to train for about a month and a half to equip them with the capabilities to effectively tackle such Naxal-induced militancy. The forces were deployed on first prioritizing areas that required abating LWE radicalism the most. They were to stay in vigilance on a night-and-day basis. Another immensely urgent issue was the usage of advanced equipment of violence such as hazardous bombs and ammunition. The deployed forces were also required to be vigilant in this context as well.
Because of the recent violent incidents of Naxalites, the need for CRPF personnel and consistent actions against Naxalism has become even more essential. The tide is seemingly turning for the good and the militancy driven violence is perceived to be reducing.
The government has finally come with a sustainable resolution to this Naxalite problem. The government decided that it should tackle the issue of Naxalism by finding proper solutions to their issues, and this can be done with the help of a three-step approach. The three-step approach of the government includes that there should be proper check and balance maintained between the:
functioning of military forces,
the impacts of this movement on socio-economic growth, and
effective dialogue and discussion with these Naxalite people,
All this is to help to achieve solidarity so that a peaceful solution to this movement could be found out and the problem of both the government and Naxalites could be resolved at the ground level without violence in a very peaceful manner.
Naxalites obnoxiously take up severe issues which seem concerned human rights like corporate oligarchy, tribal relocation and civil rights violations by state security forces, and succeed to make fabulous cases for themselves, drawing attention from the Press and thus, attracting traction.
The LWE establishments are being skillfully managed and utilized to effectuate violent activities to bolster the Maoist plan and debilitate the democratic structure of our country. The most significant elements of these organizations involve the inclusion of proficient change-makers to influence the masses, the accumulation of resources for militancy, and the establishment of systemized units for providing a safe sanctuary for those involved.
The most problematic aspect of curbing Naxal-induced militancy is the fact of non-attendance of State established forces for ensuring harmony and amiable conditions of life for the common folks in areas that are most impacted. Thus, the general public is subjected to displaced aggression of the Government and the terror of the Naxals.
There is also a belief, supported by reports from the Ministry of Home Affairs, that there are layers to these forces, wherein the Front Organisation are given intellectual cadre by urban activists and learned people who have a firm belief in the ideology that it tries to establish. They also function to bring popularity and traction to the propaganda. Though, this is alleged by some to be just a means of propagating the agenda of CPI (M) in an organized yet latent manner. These forces are also allegedly supported by countries that India does not share friendly relations. The CPI (Maoist), the principle LWE outfit in India, allegedly intends to destabilize the current vote-based state structure and introduce a “New Democratic Revolution” in India.
To tackle such growing trends of Naxalism, the government has established review groups comprising of the Union Home Minister, Cabinet Secretary, Home Secretary, and the Additional Secretary. This would work on creating a network that would focus on different stages of the strategy. There will be greater sensitization and insights within the executive body, focusing on areas that are more affected by the Naxal forces. With this in view, an itemized investigation of the spread and patterns regarding Left-Wing Extremist brutality has been made, and 90 areas in eleven States have been taken up for constant patrolling to check Naxal activities.
‘Police and Public order’ are state subjects under the 7th schedule of the Indian Constitution. Considering the fact, the activity on the upkeep of peace lies with the State Governments. The Central Government intently screens the circumstance and enhancements and directions their endeavours severally. These incorporate:
Deployment of helicopters/drones to hostile to LWE tasks
Repayment of security-related consumption under the Security-related Expenditure (SRE)
Deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs)
Deployment of India Reserve (IR) regiments
Setting up of Counter Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism (CIAT) schools
Use of Artificial Intelligence devices
Modernization and up-gradation of the State Police
In a nutshell, it is the conviction of the Government of India that through an all-encompassing methodology focusing on security-related interventions, the LWE issue can be effectively handled. In any case, the Left-Wing Extremists don't require drivers like underdevelopment and social inequality to justify their presence. In recent times their aim is no eradication of social backwardness in underdeveloped areas. They are increasingly treating the development of schools, streets, railroads, healthcare etc., in an insolent manner. Naxalites wish to keep the people in their zones away from development and education to propagate their obsolete and violent philosophy. Thus, the cycle of advancement has been slowed down by a very long time in numerous places of the nation under Left Wing Extremists’ influence. The common society and the media, therefore, must attempt to build pressure upon the Left-Wing Extremists to shun savagery, join the standard way of life and function the way that the 21st-century world is functioning. They must be made to see that the economic and political elements of the contemporary world have digressed from the Maoist world-see. Further, a philosophy dependent on brutality and destruction is bound to come up short in a vote-based system.