It is disheartening, unfortunate and distressing to encounter the current sorry state of affairs in the Naxal hit states of the country. The gore killings, from the Naxal’s side and from the government forces, are pathetic and saddening. It should, however, be brought to the notice of the general public and the concerned authorities that Naxalism is not a new problem. It has been with us since decades now, ever since we got freedom, and it is the very neglect of the authorities in charge that has brought it to this unimaginable and unmanageable magnitude.
Background and History
The Naxal movement came into shape in 1948, but because of the lack of public support it failed to gain momentum. However, in 1967, it spread into a full fledged violent movement under the leadership of Charu Majumdar. The word Naxalim finds its origin from the small village of Naxalbari in West Bengal where Charu started the uprising through armed means, to redistribute land to the landless farmers from whom the landlords snatched their lands. Charu Majumdar’s movement ideology was inspired by Mao Zedong and hence more than often Naxalism is interchanged with the word Maoism. It would be significant to note the proponents of the movement are poor peasants and tribal people, who have been deprived of the basic necessities of life. This has happened basically because of the exploitation of poor farmers by the zamidars and rich farmers in the area. Over the years the insurgent group has forked into several offshoots and it is estimated that at least 30 insurgent groups are currently functioning, all tracing their origin to the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).
As of today, some of the fractions of the 30 insurgent groups have become legal organizations while others are engaged in guerilla warfare. The legal organizations appear in parliamentary elections and try to meet their demands through that medium. Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation is the most important group in the country working that way. The prominent groups involved in the armed war play are the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Janashakti and the Communist Party of India (Maoist).The movement in the later years extended to the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Orissa. By 2009, the movement spread across 20 states of the country. The worst ever attack by the Naxalites was a well planned attack launched on the security personnel of the CRPF in April 2010, wherein 76 policemen were killed.
Ever since the movement has started, the demands of the people fighting there have been to have a decent life, to be able to earn just enough to feed the family and not to die of starvation, to have the basic human right-The right to live. Our government has time and again told people that the Naxalites aim at overthrowing “democracy” and are against the current government system. To justify the argument I am going to give, let me first put across a recent fact. According to a new measure called the Multi Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by UNDP, eight Indian states, that include Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal, are in abject poverty. These states, along with five other states, account for more people than in 26 poorest South African nations combined. Striving to live in such adverse and deplorable conditions, to say that Naxals want to “overthrow democracy” or assume absolute power in state would not be right and is certainly not on the top of the priority list of the agitators. And it will also be understood that it is not a mere coincidence that these are the very states where Naxalism has cropped up. As a matter of fact, this poverty is the very reason and cause of it.
Let us here look at the bigger picture by stepping into the shoes of a random Naxalite. There is a peasant from whom his only means of livelihood, his land, is snatched away by zamidars, the reason being that he could not pay taxes over the loans his ancestors had taken and could not pay in their lifetime. When his begging and rushing for “government help” did not prove successful, he protested in a mild manner, which resulted in the abuse and harassment of his wife, children and himself. Bruised, in and out, he now watches his children cramping with hunger and dying of starvation. All those promising faces that came to ask for his vote by now have vanished into some closets, so much so that even their traces are not to be found. At this very moment, this man finds a way out to all his miseries. He finds a promise that if he agrees to kill, if he dedicates himself to the movement, his family will be restored to peace and health again. What is the man suppose to do? An Illiterate man who knows nothing but farming, who does not have enough money to feed his family let alone fleeing to a city and start afresh, what is left at this man’s disposal? Should this man or will this man understand what is in best interest of the “nation” that betrayed him of his right to a decent living or understand that taking up arms will help his family survive? Should he silently see his children die and do nothing about it or otherwise? Everyone knows what course of action our poor peasant is going to take. And from that moment onwards, he becomes a terrorist who, in the hugest democracy of the world, faltered by dedicating himself to the cause of his family. More or less this has been the story of every single Naxalite in the country.
Consequences and Implications
The consequences of Naxalism are already in front of us. But what our government is not able to see is the implication of force being used to curb the problem rather than by way of dialogue. Poverty breeds filth but such mindless and reckless killing of insurgents would breed nothing else than hatred, contempt and thereby more bloodshed. The government should take lessons from world history. As a parallel example, about a decade was first invested to create Taliban, and now another decade has been invested to demolish Taliban but the menace of Taliban is still alive. It is high time that the Government realized that war is not peace, otherwise battalions over battalions will be induced into this fire only to fuel it more rather than extinguishing it.
Solution: Hate Naxalism Not The Naxalites
Does the above example say that the path chosen by the Naxals to meet their demands right? Does this imply that the gore killings of innocent people who have nothing to do with the problem of Naxalism justified? Certainly not. But given the condition and situation of those Naxalities, I do not expect them to understand a thing. What I expect is though, that the authorities be more mature about their decision making policies. That the authorities realize, killing these people would only prove to be lethal. It will create monsters out of the children of their terrorist fathers and mothers being killed. And we will be stuck in that vicious circle of an internal war that is impossible to curb. Apart from this who is to stand responsible that those being killed are not civilians but militants? Who is to tell the good from bad? It is an un-uniformed army we are after to kill. It is sad that the country is forgetting its father’s principle- the principle of Non-Violence. Steps, for example, tracking the supply of arms and ammunitions to these Naxalites and thereby curbing it should be followed. Land Reform measures, on an ongoing basis, should be applied practically through measures like redistribution of land and a constant vigil by authorities so that it is not taken back by the landlords. Bhoodan Movement of Vinoba Bhave kept the menace of Naxalism on the down low. Poor should be provided with work, food security and honorable living in the villages and doors for talks must be open even at worst scenarios. That is the essence and purpose of democracy.
The dire need today is that the government does not take shelter of just profound statements like “we will teach Naxals a lesson” or “I am performing to the best of my ability” but exercise profound and prudent actions. War and violence is the answer to nothing. It could be expected of the learned ministers to understand the concept.
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