Maoism in India – a brief report

The latest issue of Monde Diplomatique (English edition) has given extremely useful information about the successes of the Maoist movement in India, about which one generally hears very little – as indeed one heard very little about the Nepalese Maoist movement until it had effectively conquered 80% of the country.

Many people assumed that the Naxalite movement of the late 1960’s simply died away, but far from it.  Inspired by the Naxalite uprising in Bengal, “armed Maoist groups sprang up in the jungle and remote countryside.  Their military activities were sporadic until September 2004 when the two main movements – the People’s War Group in central India and the Maoist Communist Centre of India, which is active in Bihar – joined forces to create a single, banned, Maoist party …

Since then Naxalites have spread to 16 of 28 states.  By this August they were active in 192 administrative districts out of 602, along a red corridor of 92,000 km2 from the Nepalese border to India’s southwest coast …”  (Cedric Gouverneur, ‘State-backed militias versus communist Naxalites – India’s undeclared war’, Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2007).  And further:

Naxalite fighters are estimated to number 10,000 to 20,000.  They receive logistical support from 40,000 more” (ibid.).  They are also able to manufacture arms in various hidden workshops, including rifles and rockets.

The Maoists were able to gain support from the masses because the government and local authorities completely ignore the interests of the poor. Ajai Satni, director of the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi, explained the Maoists’ methods:  “They study the social conditions in a given area.  Through sympathetic organisations they mobilise the masses around specific causes and raise their political consciousness.  Then they identify the most highly motivated people and turn them into fighters.  When the violence begins, it’s already too late for the state to do anything.

An example of a Maoist-controlled area is Chhattisgarh, which “is in the middle of the red corridor.  Here 3,000 rebels control some 25,000 km2.  The population in the south of the state is 80% Adivasi, poor, mainly illiterate ‘tribals’ whose only contact with the state has been the arbitrary power of corrupt civil servants.  The Naxalites filled the void…

Adivasi peasants and hunter-gatherers, who had suffered extortion at the hands of the police, forest rangers and money lenders, were grateful to the Naxalites for ridding them of their tormentors, sometimes with punishment.  The Naxalites also get them a better price for the leaves they gather from tendu trees, to make bidis (hand-rolled cigarettes)…”

It is no wonder then that the Maoist movement in India is growing rapidly and is expected by the Indian government to spread to Gujerat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.

Indian government response

The Indian government in dealing with the Maoists is resorting to methods copied from British imperialism.  It is herding up villagers and transferring them to heavily guarded concentration camps to make it impossible for them to provide support to the guerrillas.  “The head of the administration in the Dantewada district in the south of Chhattisgarh, K R Pisda, said: ‘the district has a population of 700,000 who used to live in 1,153 villages.  Today 644 villages are deserted and their 53,000 inhabitants are in 27 camps’ …

“The camps – strategic centres – are ringed with barbed wire and protected by machine gun nests …” Conditions in the camps are appalling, with malnutrition being rife.  Furthermore, there is a “police state atmosphere” as anyone thought by the authorities to be sympathetic to the Maoists is likely to face summary execution or worse.  Meanwhile the land which villagers have been forced off is being sold off to developers:

Several local journalists and commentators believe that the Chhattisgarh government´s policy of clearing the countryside goes beyond defeating the Naxalites: it also favours large-scale industrial projects.  The population of the state may be poor, but under the ground lie riches.  A fifth of India’s iron ore reserves are in this region, but the Adivasis know from experience that they will not benefit from industrialisation. The Bailadillci mines, which contain 1.2 bn tonnes of ore, won’t employ Adivasis as they say they are under-qualified.  … Since India gained independence in 1947, millions of ‘tribals’ have been displaced to make way for developments which have brought them no benefit.

“In Kalinga Nagar in the neighbouring state of Orissa, the Adivasis blocked a road for a year to prevent the sale of their land to the Indian industrial group Tata.  On 2 January 2006 13 protesters were killed in a confrontation with the police.  ‘We made uncultivated land fertile’, said the protesters’ spokesman, Ravinda Jarekar. ‘No amount of compensation will make up for that, and we know that Tata will not give us jobs’ …”

The Indian government is also taking a leaf out of the book of South American dictatorships which create militias to go round killing people suspected of sympathising with the rebels.  In Chhattisgarh the Salwa Judum militia was created in June 2005 from a handful of degenerates willing to sell their neighbours for a few paise (100paise = 1 rupee).  While these people harass the villagers, burning down their homes and murdering them at will, they are no match for real Maoist guerrillas.  The police openly admit that they will take the bus rather than travel in a police car in order to avoid being ambushed.

These vicious tactics on the part of the authorities might seem unbeatable, but in fact they have the opposite effect, forcing villagers to support the Maoists if they are to defend their right to remain in their villages and have protection from depredations on the part of the Salwa Judum.  Even Le Monde Diplomatique has to admit that despite the use of all these despicable tactics in Vietnam, the US imperialists still lost.  “Indian economic growth needs industrialisation.  But industrialisation, for which ordinary people pay the price, can also cause fear.  And injustice fuels the Naxalites’ cause …”  Le Monde Diplomatique then makes the seemingly wise observation that “The best response to rebellion is a well-run state which observes the rule of law.  A counter-terrorism policy that is undemocratic and morally dubious merely plays into the rebels’ hands”.   This advice, so self-evidently true, however, the exploiter elements – in India or even in Britain for that matter! – are never willing to follow.  Capitalism would not be capitalism if it did not strive for the maximum of profit, and the maximum of profit is something totally incompatible with caring for the welfare of the masses of people whom the capitalists regard as just so much inconvenient vermin, deserving of nothing other than eradication.

The Maoist movement offers the vast masses of the people of India, ever more impoverished despite India’s increasing economic strength on a world scale, a real opportunity to fight for a better life – and not only that: India’s economic growth under conditions of capitalism may be quite extraordinary at present, but it is as nothing compared to what it would be under a socialist planned economy.  Moreover the latter would ensure that those who had the benefit of that massive economic growth would be the masses of Indian workers and peasants, not the exploiting classes.

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