The Communist Part of India (Maoist) was formed through a merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War and the Maoist Communist Centre of India. Their objective is to overthrow the government, usurp power and establish a ‘People’s Democracy’.
The basic problems, many experts proclaim, are the age old ones of poverty and unemployment. The Maoists are concentrated in the forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkand and Orissa, the area popularly known as the ‘Red Corridor’. These areas are primarily inhabited by tribals and indigenous people. Even as India achieves high growth rate figures and climbs up the ladder in international circles, these people have received next to no benefits of the economic prosperity seen in the big cities. They are still oppressed by bureaucrats and exploited by politicians. If anything, they have only faced the negative side of the liberalised economy – land grabbing by private companies, exploitation of natural resources and a further apathy from governments.
It is interesting to note that these areas are rich in mineral deposits. They contribute to a significant chunk of India’s iron, coal, bauxite and a host of other minerals. However, these resources have not brought any sort of development to the tribal people. The minerals are mined and transported to other parts of the country where industries are prevalent. The people living in areas from where the minerals are mined get almost no benefit out of the whole process. Thus, they continue in abject poverty. Lack of public services, rampant lawlessness and despicable standards of living have resulted in the village folk and tribals of these regions extending full support to the Maoist cause. The Maoists have done a bit to alleviate the distress of the tribals. They run a few hospitals and clinics and provide basic amenities, which is far more than what governments have done so far. Thus, the village folk of these states find it much better for themselves to side with the insurgents.
Moreover, the Maoists have been known to use force to recruit personnel to its army. According to certain reports, the Maoists insist that each family from villages in which they have a presence contribute at least one member to their army. In addition, they levy taxes on villagers to finance their offensives and are even known to recruit child soldiers. To add insult to injury, public figures like Arundhati Roy make statements such as this. “I believe in the romance of the revolution. I believe in the romanticism of the forest. We don’t have a government; we only have a corporate state now”. Many other intellectuals and activists have come forward with to speak out in favour of the Maoists. Apparently the Maoist expansion has not just been geographical. It has a social and intellectual dimension as well.
Support Slipping Away
An increased number of civilian deaths have been observed in the latest Maoist attacks. This factor, hopes the government, will erode the Maoist support base among the tribals and village people. Signs to such effect are already visible. In the Dantewada massacre, in which 76 CRPF personnel were killed, has touched a chord with people across the country. The personnel killed in the attack were mostly poor tribals and village people who had joined the paramilitary force as a means to make ends meet. Many of the dead soldiers were young men in their early twenties and they came from poor and underprivileged families. Some were reported to be the sole bread-winners for their family. In fact, the sister of a slain policeman went on record to challenge the Maoists to convince her about the cause they were fighting for. The civilians who died in Maoist attacks were mostly people whom the rebel outfit claimed to be representing – the poor and the downtrodden.
Maoists are not the angels of the poor as some would make them out to be. They are known to suppress with an iron hand any dissidence they can spot. An example of this is the execution of two villagers who let a steel plant commence construction work on their lands. The Maoists brutally murdered twelve adivasis who refused to co-operate with the insurgent plan of action.
Many people have suggested increased focus of development in the Maoist affected areas as a long term solution to the problem. After all, they argue, the root cause is poverty and unemployment. But this solution may not be as feasible as it appears. Although developmental measures have been sparse, a few initiatives were brought to these regions. However, the Maoists guerrillas themselves suppressed any effort by the government to proceed with such initiatives. Maoists often torch schools, buses and other public transport and destroy infrastructure on a large scale. They see any action on such lines by the government as an extension of the so called neo-liberal policy. They are against liberalisation and globalisation and view these as the prime enemies of rural India. Therefore, even if the government did try to bring development it would not bear fruit as the well armed Maoist forces would nip them in the bud.
A military solution is what some others have seemed to suggest. Even though taking up arms against one’s own people is reprehensible, no democracy can tolerate anarchy. The situation in the Red Corridor is nothing short of anarchy. Therefore, a military offensive to suppress and eradicate Maoists is indeed of paramount importance. The CRPF and other paramilitary forces are poorly armed and trained when compared to the rebels. These areas will have to see drastic improvements if military action has to become a success. Once the Maoists have been taken out of the equation, it will be easier to bring the people of the region to the mainstream. A slew of development measures with renewed focus on education and employment will be needed to make sure that the people are happy. Major improvements in infrastructure, education and job opportunities are of utmost need.
It is ironic that at a time when the Indian Government is trying to go one up over the Chinese in every area, an organisation which swears allegiance to a person, who is arguably China’s most famous, is still at large wreaking havoc and threatening India’s stability.
Aju Basil James