In April 2018, at least 39 Maoist were killed in an “encounter” with Indian security forces in district Gadchiroli on the north bank of Indravati river that divides Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. Many social activists and human right organizations termed it a fake encounter and called it a planned mass murder. Apart from Kashmir, the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency is another serious ongoing struggle in India.
High-intensity conflict zones like Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur seem safer than the Maoist strongholds of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh or Orissa, where security personnel and tribesmen are killed on daily basis. In all insurgency-affected areas of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian official death toll in the year 2017 was 327 but in the same period, 3,123 tribal civilians and security personnel were reported killed in Naxalite-Maoist insurgency. Naxalism originated in India as a rebellion against poverty and ill-treatment by upper caste Hindus at the local level in the rural parts of eastern India. Maoists on the other hand fundamentally wanted to transform India towards socialism. Now, Naxalite also follows Maoist’s theory to achieve the same.
Currently Naxalite work mostly under the influence of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M). It is labelled as a terrorist organization by the India government for fighting against security forces and preventing development in the area. In April 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the Maoists as the “single biggest security threat” – and advocated a purely military solution to the conflict. He also coined a new term to describe all resistance group of Naxalite and Maoists as Left Wing Extremism (LWE).
Thereafter, Singh allocated a special budget to crush the movement. The history of blood social movement of Naxalite and Maoists goes back to British era of colonization in India. When the British through East India Company established its rule in India. They created a loyal group of landlords/zamindars who supported the British in their rule in India. They were given large tracts of land.
These people were hardly involved in the cultivation of crops and agricultural activities themselves. They instead employed a large number of labourers and tenant farmers who worked for them. This originated under the British but unfortunately continued once India (Bharat) became independent. The shrewd landlords exploiting the loophole present in the Land Reforms Act of India-1955, which stated that farmers/tenants had permanent rights on leased land but under certain conditions, these rights could be forfeited if the landlord wanted to take the land back for personal cultivation. Using this route, many landlords evict their farmers/tenants regularly and keep them on a leash in West Bengal, with the local administration working to the benefit of the influential landlords.
When Mao Zedong, the main leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), became the ideological powerhouse of the movement it was alleged that he encouraged Indian landless tribal to revolt against the Indian government which was only protecting the interests of upper caste Hindus. Although in Bihar unlike in other states, it was not so much tribal but Dalits who were foot soldiers of Maoists and had been oppressed by upper castes under the caste system which has prevailed in India for centuries. The famous event occurred on 25 May 1967 when in Naxalbari, West Bengal, 9 adults and 2 children were killed when police fired on a group of protesters who were demanding their right to crops grown on a particular piece of land. And this changed the direction of the movement in many ways.
It was a movement more to ensure fair distribution of land among all. So it was a Communist movement, but not necessarily directed against the Indian state or government to overthrow it. The slogan of the Naxalbari uprising was “land to the tiller”. However, the Naxalbari rising was met with a strong reaction from the police. Tribal has been living on forests for generations but they are gradually being disposed of by ‘timber mafia’ in the name of development and mine exploration missions.
“At the behest of the mining corporations, the government takes away the land and the forests of the tribal people and thereby their livelihoods,” A tribal explains. “But when the corporation set up shop, they don’t even employ the local people! There is nothing in this for the tribal!” India’s mining industry has, in fact, is known for systematic corruption. With little to no government oversight or regulation. The influential with political clout have pilfered iron ore at prices far below market rates and above legal quotas and ever faced legal action. When it comes to unemployment and low wages, the regions in the Maoist conflict zone are some of the worst affected. Farmers are even charged for cutting branches of dead trees to lighted their stove for cooking meals.
BJP is fully aligned with the upper caste Hindus and rich corporate firms and therefore, there is absolutely no hope that it will solve the problem of Tribal or Dalits. Indian officials are also comfortable that the Indian security forces are winning against insurgents. Their main argument that Maoists are on the run. They are short of arms and ammunition and afraid to attack high profile targets for fear of reprisals. Naxalite-Maoist movement is social movement and it only evaporates if its grievances are addressed. Indian govt should refrain from staging state-sponsored massacre scripted as ‘Maoists Encounter’ in Gadchiroli and Bijapur’. This is gross human rights violation and amount to genocide.
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