Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Interview with Ganapathi, Leader of India’s Growing Maoist Revolution

Posted by Ka Frank on October 16, 2009

Maoist_rebels_IndiaIn this interview, taken from the October 17, 2009 issue of Open, Ganapathi, General Secretary of the CPI (Maoist), talks about the party’s work in Lalgarh, its response to the government’s upcoming military offensive, the political situation in Nepal, the defeat of the LTTE, the contradictory nature of Islamist movements in the world today, and the role of the new chieftain of US imperialism.

“We Shall Certainly Defeat the Government”

The supreme commander of CPI (Maoist) talks to Open in his first-ever interview.

At first sight, Mupalla Laxman Rao, who is about to turn 60, looks like a school teacher. In fact, he was one in the early 1970s in Andhra Pradesh’s Karimnagar district. In 2009, however, the bespectacled, soft-spoken figure is India’s Most Wanted Man. He runs one of the world’s largest Left insurgencies—a man known in Home Ministry dossiers as Ganapathi; a man whose writ runs large through 15 states.

The supreme commander of CPI (Maoist) is a science graduate and holds a B Ed degree as well. He still conducts classes, but now they are on guerilla warfare for other senior Maoists. He replaced the founder of the People’s War Group, Kondapalli Seetharaamiah, as the party’s general-secretary in 1991. Ganapathi is known to change his location frequently, and intelligence reports say he has been spotted in cities like Hyderabad, Kolkata and Kochi.

After months of attempts, Ganapathi agreed to give his first-ever interview. Somewhere in the impregnable jungles of Dandakaranya, he spoke to RAHUL PANDITA on issues ranging from the Government’s proposed anti-Naxal offensive to Islamist Jihadist movements.

Q Lalgarh has been described as the New Naxalbari by the CPI (Maoist). How has it become so significant for you?

A The Lalgarh mass uprising has, no doubt, raised new hopes among the oppressed people and the entire revolutionary camp in West Bengal. It has great positive impact not only on the people of West Bengal but also on the people all over the country. It has emerged as a new model of mass movement in the country. We had seen similar types of movements earlier in Manipur, directed against Army atrocities and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in Kashmir, in Dandakaranya and to some extent in Orissa, after the Kalinganagar massacre perpetrated by the Naveen Patnaik government.

Then there have been mass movements in Singur and Nandigram but there the role of a section of the ruling classes is also significant. These movements were utilised by the ruling class parties for their own electoral interests. But Lalgarh is a more widespread and more sustained mass political movement that has spurned the leadership of all the parliamentary political parties, thereby rendering them completely irrelevant. The people of Lalgarh had even boycotted the recent Lok Sabha polls, thereby unequivocally demonstrating their anger and frustration with all the reactionary ruling class parties. Lalgarh also has some distinctive features such as a high degree of participation of women, a genuinely democratic character and a wider mobilisation of Adivasis. No wonder, it has become a rallying point for the revolutionary-democratic forces in West Bengal.

Q If it is a people’s movement, how did Maoists get involved in Lalgarh?

A As far as our party’s role is concerned, we have been working in Paschim Midnapur, Bankura and Purulia, in what is popularly known as Jangalmahal since the 1980s. We fought against the local feudal forces, against the exploitation and oppression by the forest officials, contractors, unscrupulous usurers and the goondaism of both the CPM and Trinamool Congress. The ruling CPM, in particular, has become the chief exploiter and oppressor of the Adivasis of the region, and it has unleashed its notorious vigilanté gangs called Harmad Vahini on whoever questions its authority. With the State authority in its hands, and with the aid of the police, it is playing a role worse than that of the cruel landlords in other regions of the country.

Given this background, anyone who dares to fight against oppression and exploitation by the CPM can win the respect and confidence of the people. Since our party has been fighting uncompromisingly against the atrocities of the CPM goons, it naturally gained the confidence and respect of the people of the region.

The police atrocities in the wake of the landmine blast on 2 November [in 2008, from which West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had a narrow escape] acted as the trigger that brought the pent-up anger of the masses into the open. This assumed the form of a long-drawn mass movement, and our party played the role of a catalyst.

Q But not so long ago, the CPM was your friend. You even took arms and ammunition from it to fight the Trinamool Congress. This has been confirmed by a Politburo member of CPI (Maoist) in certain interviews. And now you are fighting the CPM with the help of the Trinamool. How did a friend turn into a foe and vice-versa?

A This is only partially true. We came to know earlier that some ammunition was taken by our local cadre from the CPM unit in the area. There was, however, no understanding with the leadership of the CPM in this regard. Our approach was to unite all sections of the oppressed masses at the lower levels against the goondaism and oppression of Trinamool goons in the area at that time. And since a section of the oppressed masses were in the fold of the CPM at that time, we fought together with them against Trinamool. Still, taking into consideration the overall situation in West Bengal, it was not a wise step to take arms and ammunition from the CPM even at the local level when the contradiction was basically between two sections of the reactionary ruling classes.

Our central committee discussed this, criticised the comrade responsible for taking such a decision, and directed the concerned comrades to stop this immediately. As regards taking ammunition from the Trinamool Congress, I remember that we had actually purchased it not directly from the Trinamool but from someone who had links with the Trinamool. There will never be any conditions or agreements with those selling us arms. That has been our understanding all along. As regards the said interview by our Politburo member, we will verify what he had actually said.

Q What are your tactics now in Lalgarh after the massive offensive by the Central and state forces?

A First of all, I wish to make it crystal clear that our party will spearhead and stand firmly by the side of the people of Lalgarh and entire Jangalmahal, and draw up tactics in accordance with the people’s interests and mandate. We shall spread the struggle against the State everywhere and strive to win over the broad masses to the side of the people’s cause. We shall fight the State offensive by mobilising the masses more militantly against the police, Harmad Vahini and CPM goons. The course of the development of the movement, of course, will depend on the level of consciousness and preparedness of the people of the region. The party will take this into consideration while formulating its tactics. The initiative of the masses will be released fully.

Q The Government has termed Lalgarh a ‘laboratory’ for anti-Naxal operations. Has your party also learnt any lessons from Lalgarh?

A Yes, our party too has a lot to learn from the masses of Lalgarh. Their upsurge was beyond our expectations. In fact, it was the common people, with the assistance of advanced elements influenced by revolutionary politics, who played a crucial role in the formulation of tactics. They formed their own organisation, put forth their charter of demands, worked out various novel forms of struggle, and stood steadfast in the struggle despite the brutal attacks by the police and the social-fascist Harmad gangs. The Lalgarh movement has the support of revolutionary and democratic forces not only in West Bengal but in the entire country. We are appealing to all revolutionary and democratic forces in the country to unite to fight back the fascist offensive by the Buddhadeb government in West Bengal and the UPA Government at the Centre. By building the broadest fighting front, and by adopting appropriate tactics of combining the militant mass political movement with armed resistance of the people and our PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerilla Army), we will defeat the massive offensive by the Central-state forces. I cannot say more than this at the present juncture.

Q The Centre has declared an all-out war against Maoists by branding the CPI (Maoist) a terrorist organisation and imposing an all-India ban on the party. How has it affected your party?

A Our party has already been banned in several states of India. By imposing the ban throughout the country, the Government now wants to curb all our open activities in West Bengal and a few other states where legal opportunities exist to some extent. The Government wants to use this draconian UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] to harass whoever dares to raise a voice against fake encounters, rapes and other police atrocities on the people residing in Maoist-dominated regions. Anyone questioning the State’s brutalities will now be branded a terrorist.

The real terrorists and biggest threats to the country’s security are none other than Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Buddhadeb, other ruling class leaders and feudal forces who terrorise the people on a daily basis.

The UPA Government had declared, as soon as it assumed power for the second time, that it would crush the Maoist ‘menace’ and began pouring in huge funds to the states for this purpose. The immediate reason behind this move is the pressure exerted by the comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie and the imperialists, particularly US imperialists, who want to plunder the resources of our country without any hindrance. These sharks aspire to swallow the rich abundant mineral and forest wealth in the vast contiguous region stretching from Jangalmahal to north Andhra. This region is the wealthiest as well as the most underdeveloped part of our country. These sharks want to loot the wealth and drive the Adivasi people of the region to further impoverishment.

Another major reason for the current offensive by the ruling classes is the fear of the rapid growth of the Maoist movement and its increasing influence over a significant proportion of the Indian population. The Janatana Sarkars in Dandakaranya and the revolutionary people’s committees in Jharkhand, Orissa and parts of some other states have become new models of genuine people’s democracy and development. The rulers want to crush these new models of development and genuine democracy, as these are emerging as the real alternative before the people of the country at large.

Q The Home Ministry has made preparations for launching a long-term battle against Maoists. A huge force will be soon trying to wrest away areas from your control. How do you plan to confront this offensive?

A Successive governments in various states and the Centre have been hatching schemes over the years. But they could not achieve any significant success through their cruel offensive in spite of murdering hundreds of our leaders and cadres. Our party and our movement continued to consolidate and expand to new regions. From two or three states, the movement has now spread to over 15 states, giving jitters to the ruling classes. Particularly after the merger of the erstwhile MCCI and People’s War in September 2004 [the merger between these groups led to the formation of the CPI (Maoist)], the UPA Government has unleashed the most cruel all-round offensive against the Maoist movement. Yet our party continued to grow despite suffering some severe losses. In the past three years, in particular, our PLGA has achieved several significant victories.

We have been confronting the continuous offensive of the enemy with the support and active involvement of the masses. We shall confront the new offensive of the enemy by stepping up such heroic resistance and preparing the entire party, PLGA, the various revolutionary parties and organisations and the entire people. Although the enemy may achieve a few successes in the initial phase, we shall certainly overcome and defeat the Government offensive with the active mobilisation of the vast masses and the support of all the revolutionary and democratic forces in the country. No fascist regime or military dictator in history could succeed in suppressing forever the just and democratic struggles of the people through brute force, but were, on the contrary, swept away by the high tide of people’s resistance. People, who are the makers of history, will rise up like a tornado under our party’s leadership to wipe out the reactionary blood-sucking vampires ruling our country.

Q Why do you think the CPI (Maoist) suffered a serious setback in Andhra Pradesh?

A It was due to several mistakes on our part that we suffered a serious setback in most of Andhra Pradesh by 2006. At the same time, we should also look at the setback from another angle. In any protracted people’s war, there will be advances and retreats. If we look at the situation in Andhra Pradesh from this perspective, you will understand that what we did there is a kind of retreat. Confronted with a superior force, we chose to temporarily retreat our forces from some regions of Andhra Pradesh, extend and develop our bases in the surrounding regions and then hit back at the enemy.

Now even though we received a setback, it should be borne in mind that this setback is a temporary one. The objective conditions in which our revolution began in Andhra Pradesh have not undergone any basic change. This very fact continues to serve as the basis for the growth and intensification of our movement. Moreover, we now have a more consolidated mass base, a relatively better-trained people’s guerilla army and an all-India party with deep roots among the basic classes who comprise the backbone of our revolution. This is the reason why the reactionary rulers are unable to suppress our revolutionary war, which is now raging in several states in the country.

We had taken appropriate lessons from the setback suffered by our party in Andhra Pradesh and, based on these lessons, drew up tactics in other states. Hence we are able to fight back the cruel all-round offensive of the enemy effectively, inflict significant losses on the enemy, preserve our subjective forces, consolidate our party, develop a people’s liberation guerilla army, establish embryonic forms of new democratic people’s governments in some pockets, and take the people’s war to a higher stage. Hence we have an advantageous situation, overall, for reviving the movement in Andhra Pradesh. Our revolution advances wave-like and periods of ebb yield place to periods of high tide.

Q What are the reasons for the setback suffered by the LTTE in Sri Lanka?

A There is no doubt that the movement for a separate sovereign Tamil Eelam has suffered a severe setback with the defeat and considerable decimation of the LTTE. The Tamil people and the national liberation forces are now leaderless. However, the Tamil people at large continue to cherish nationalist aspirations for a separate Tamil homeland. The conditions that gave rise to the movement for Tamil Eelam, in the first place, prevail to this day. The Sinhala-chauvinist Sri Lankan ruling classes can never change their policy of discrimination against the Tamil nation, its culture, language, etcetera. The jingoistic rallies and celebrations organised by the government and Sinhala chauvinist parties all over Sri Lanka in the wake of Prabhakaran’s death and the defeat of the LTTE show the national hatred for Tamils nurtured by Sinhala organisations and the extent to which the minds of ordinary Sinhalese are poisoned with such chauvinist frenzy.

The conspiracy of the Sinhala ruling classes in occupying Tamil territories is similar to that of the Zionist rulers of Israel. The land-starved Sinhala people will now be settled in Tamil areas. The entire demography of the region is going to change. The ground remains fertile for the resurgence of the Tamil liberation struggle.

Even if it takes time, the war for a separate Tamil Eelam is certain to revive, taking lessons from the defeat of the LTTE. By adopting a proletarian outlook and ideology, adopting new tactics and building the broadest united front of all nationalist and democratic forces, it is possible to achieve the liberation of the oppressed Tamil nation [in Sri Lanka]. Maoist forces have to grow strong enough to provide leadership and give a correct direction and anti-imperialist orientation to this struggle to achieve a sovereign People’s Democratic Republic of Tamil Eelam. This alone can achieve the genuine liberation of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka.

Q Is it true that you received military training from the LTTE initially?

A No. It is not a fact. We had clarified this several times in the past.

Q But, one of your senior commanders has told me that some senior cadre of the erstwhile PWG did receive arms training and other support from the LTTE.

A Let me reiterate, there is no relation at all between our party and the LTTE. We tried several times to establish relations with the LTTE but its leadership was reluctant to have a relationship with Maoists in India. Hence, there is no question of the LTTE giving training to us. In spite of it, we continued our support to the struggle for Tamil Eelam. However, a few persons who had separated from the LTTE came into our contact and we took their help in receiving initial training in the last quarter of the 1980s.

Q Does your party have links with Lashkar-e-Toiba or other Islamic militant groups having links with Pakistan?

A No. Not at all. This is only mischievous, calculated propaganda by the police officials, bureaucrats and leaders of the reactionary political parties to defame us and thereby justify their cruel offensive against the Maoist movement. By propagating the lie that our party has links with groups linked to Pakistan’s ISI, the reactionary rulers of our country want to prove that we too are terrorists and gain legitimacy for their brutal terror campaign against Maoists and the people in the areas of armed agrarian struggle. Trying to prove the involvement of a foreign hand in every just and democratic struggle, branding those fighting for the liberation of the oppressed as traitors to the country, is part of the psychological-war of the reactionary rulers.

Q What is your party’s stand regarding Islamist jihadist movements?

A Islamic jihadist movements of today are a product of imperialist—particularly US imperialist—aggression, intervention, bullying, exploitation and suppression of the oil-rich Islamic and Arab countries of West Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, etcetera, and the persecution of the entire Muslim religious community. As part of their designs for global hegemony, the imperialists, particularly US imperialists, have encouraged and endorsed every war of brazen aggression and brutal attacks by their surrogate state of Israel.

Our party unequivocally opposes every attack on Arab and Muslim countries and the Muslim community at large in the name of ‘war on global terror’. In fact, Muslim religious fundamentalism is encouraged and fostered by imperialists as long as it serves their interests—such as in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan.

Q But what about attacks perpetrated by the so-called ‘Jihadis’ on innocent people like it happened on 26/11?

A See, Islamic jihadist movements have two aspects: one is their anti-imperialist aspect, and the other their reactionary aspect in social and cultural matters. Our party supports the struggle of Muslim countries and people against imperialism, while criticising and struggling against the reactionary ideology and social outlook of Muslim fundamentalism. It is only Maoist leadership that can provide correct anti-imperialist orientation and achieve class unity among Muslims as well as people of other religious persuasions. The influence of Muslim fundamentalist ideology and leadership will diminish as communist revolutionaries and other democratic-secular forces increase their ideological influence over the Muslim masses. As communist revolutionaries, we always strive to reduce the influence of the obscurantist reactionary ideology and outlook of the mullahs and maulvis on the Muslim masses, while uniting with all those fighting against the common enemy of the world people—that is, imperialism, particularly American imperialism.

Q How do you look at the changes in US policy after Barack Obama took over from George Bush?

A Firstly, one would be living in a fool’s paradise if one imagines that there is going to be any qualitative change in American policy—whether internal or external—after Barack Obama took over from George Bush. In fact, the policies on national security and foreign affairs pursued by Obama over the past eight months have shown the essential continuity with those of his predecessor. The ideological and political justification for these regressive policies at home and aggressive policies abroad is the same trash put forth by the Bush administration—the so-called ‘global war on terror’, based on outright lies and slander. Worse still, the policies have become even more aggressive under Obama with his planned expansion of the US-led war of aggression in Afghanistan into the territory of Pakistan. The hands of this new killer-in-chief of the pack of imperialist wolves are already stained with the blood of hundreds of women and children who are cruelly murdered in relentless missile attacks from Predator drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And, within the US itself, bail-outs for the tiny corporate elite and attacks on democratic and human rights of US citizens continue without any change.

The oppressed people and nations of the world are now confronting an even more formidable and dangerous enemy in the form of an African-American president of the most powerful military machine and world gendarme. The world people should unite to wage a more relentless, more militant and more consistent struggle against the American marauders led by Barack Obama and pledge to defeat them to usher in a world of peace, stability and genuine democracy.

Q How do you look at the current developments in Nepal?

A As soon as the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)] came to power in alliance with the comprador-feudal parties through the parliamentary route in Nepal, we had pointed out the grave danger of imperialist and Indian expansionist intervention in Nepal and how they would leave no stone unturned to overthrow the government led by CPN(M). As long as Prachanda did not defy the directives of the Indian Government, it was allowed to continue, but when it began to go against Indian hegemony, it was immediately pulled down. CPN-UML withdrew support to the Prachanda-led government upon the advice of American imperialists and Indian expansionists. We disagreed with the line of peaceful transition pursued by the UCPN(M) in the name of tactics. We decided to send an open letter to the UCPN(M). It was released in July 2009.

We made our party’s stand clear in the letter. We pointed out that the UCPN(M) chose to reform the existing State through an elected constituent assembly and a bourgeois democratic republic instead of adhering to the Marxist-Leninist understanding on the imperative to smash the old State and establish a proletarian State. This would have been the first step towards the goal of achieving socialism through the radical transformation of society and all oppressive class relations. It is indeed a great tragedy that the UCPN(M) has chosen to abandon the path of protracted people’s war and pursue a parliamentary path in spite of having de facto power in most of the countryside.

It is heartening to hear that a section of the leadership of the UCPN(M) has begun to struggle against the revisionist positions taken by Comrade Prachanda and others. Given the great revolutionary traditions of the UCPN(M), we hope that the inner-party struggle will repudiate the right opportunist line pursued by its leadership, give up revisionist stands and practices, and apply minds creatively to the concrete conditions of Nepal.

Q Of late, the party has suffered serious losses of party leadership at the central and state level. Besides, it is widely believed that some of the senior-most Maoist leaders, including you, have become quite old and suffer from serious illnesses, which is also cited as one of the reasons for the surrenders. What is the effect of the losses and surrenders on the movement? How are you dealing with problems arising out of old age and illnesses?

A (Smiles…) This type of propaganda is being carried out continuously, particularly by the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) of Andhra Pradesh. It is a part of the psychological war waged by intelligence officials and top police brass aimed at confusing and demoralising supporters of the Maoist movement. It is a fact that some of the party leaders at the central and state level could be described as senior citizens according to criteria used by the government, that is, those who have crossed the threshold of 60 years. You can start calling me too a senior citizen in a few months (smiles). But old age and ill-health have never been a serious problem in our party until now. You can see the ‘senior citizens’ in our party working for 16-18 hours a day and covering long distances on foot.As for surrenders, it is a big lie to say that old age and ill-health have been a reason for some of the surrenders.

When Lanka Papi Reddy, a former member of our central committee, surrendered in the beginning of last year, the media propagated that more surrenders of our party leaders will follow due to ill-health. The fact is that Papi Reddy surrendered due to his loss of political conviction and his petty-bourgeois false prestige and ego. Hence he was not prepared to face the party after he was demoted by the central committee for his anarchic behaviour with a woman comrade.

Some senior leaders of our party, like comrades Sushil Roy and Narayan Sanyal, had become a nightmare for the ruling classes even when they were in their mid 60s. Hence they were arrested, tortured and imprisoned despite their old age and ill-health. The Government is doing everything possible to prevent them from getting bail. Even if someone in our party is old, he/she continues to serve the revolution by doing whatever work possible. For instance, Comrade Niranjan Bose, who died recently at the age of 92, had been carrying out revolutionary propaganda until his martyrdom. The social fascist rulers were so scared of this nonagenarian Maoist revolutionary that they had even arrested him four years back. Such is the spirit of Maoist revolutionaries—and power of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism which they hold high. When there are serious illnesses, or physical and mental limitations to perform normal work, such comrades are given suitable work.

Q But what about the arrests and elimination of some of your senior leadership? How do you intend to fill up such losses?

A Well, it is a fact that we lost some senior leaders at the state and central level in the past four or five years. Some leaders were secretly arrested and murdered in the most cowardly manner. Many other and state leaders were arrested and placed behind bars in the recent past in Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Haryana and other states. The loss of leadership will have a grave impact on the party and Indian revolution as a whole. We are reviewing the reasons for the losses regularly and devising ways and means to prevent further losses. By adopting strictly secret methods of functioning and foolproof underground mechanisms, by enhancing our mass base, vigilance and local intelligence, smashing enemy intelligence networks and studying their plans and tactics, we hope to check further losses. At the same time, we are training and developing new revolutionary leadership at all levels to fill up the losses.

Q How do you sum up the present stage of war between your forces and those of the Indian State?

A Our war is in the stage of strategic defence. In some regions, we have an upper hand, while in others the enemy has the upper hand. Overall, our forces have been quite successful in carrying out a series of tactical counter-offensive operations against the enemy in our guerilla zones in the past few years.

It is true that our party has suffered some serious leadership losses, but we are able to inflict serious losses on the enemy too. In fact, in the past three years, the enemy forces suffered more casualties than we did. The enemy has been trying all means at their disposal to weaken, disrupt and crush our party and movement. They have tried covert agents and informers, poured in huge amounts of money to buy off weak elements in the revolutionary camp, and announced a series of rehabilitation packages and other material incentives to lure away people from the revolutionary camp. Thousands of crores of rupees have been sanctioned for police modernisation, training and for raising additional commando forces; for increasing Central forces; for training Central and state forces in counter-insurgency warfare; and for building roads, communication networks and other infrastructure for the rapid movement of their troops in our guerilla zones. The Indian State has set up armed vigilante groups and provided total support to the indescribable atrocities committed by these armed gangs on the people. Psychological warfare against Maoists was taken to unheard of levels.

Nevertheless, we continued to make greater advances, consolidated the party and the revolutionary people’s committees at various levels, strengthened the PLGA qualitatively and quantitatively, smashed the enemy’s intelligence network in several areas, effectively countered the dirty psychological-war waged by the enemy, and foiled the enemy’s all-out attempts to disrupt and smash our movement. The successes we had achieved in several tactical counter-offensive operations carried out across the country in recent days, the militant mass movements in several states, particularly against displacement and other burning issues of the people, initiatives taken by our revolutionary people’s governments in various spheres—all these have had a great impact on the people, while demoralising enemy forces. There are reports of desertions and disobedience of orders by the jawans posted in Maoist-dominated areas. Quite a few have refused to undertake training in jungle warfare or take postings in our areas, and had to face suspension. This trend will grow with the further advance of our people’s war. Overall, our party’s influence has grown stronger and it has now come to be recognised as the only genuine alternative before the people.

Q How long will this stage of strategic defence last, with the Centre ready to go for the jugular?

A The present stage of strategic defence will last for some more time. It is difficult to predict how long it will take to pass this stage and go to the stage of strategic equilibrium or strategic stalemate. It depends on the transformation of our guerilla zones into base areas, creation of more guerilla zones and red resistance areas across the country, the development of our PLGA. With the ever-intensifying crisis in all spheres due to the anti-people policies of pro-imperialist, pro-feudal governments, the growing frustration and anger of the masses resulting from the most rapacious policies of loot and plunder pursued by the reactionary ruling classes, we are confident that the vast masses of the country will join the ranks of revolutionaries and take the Indian revolution to the next stage.

4 Responses to “Interview with Ganapathi, Leader of India’s Growing Maoist Revolution”

  1. CPSA said

    Revival plan

    REVIVING the Maoist movement in Andhra Pradesh will be crucial for the ultra-Left party in the current situation where different States are getting ready to launch an all-out offensive against it with the full backing of the Centre. The Maoist leadership is preparing for a showdown and appears to be all set to reclaim lost ground in Andhra Pradesh, especially in the north Telengana districts. This is evident from the increased movement of armed cadre in Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam districts. In the last three months Maoist hit squads killed two people in Karimnagar and one person in Warangal, and robbed a bank in Khammam.

    However, the revival of the movement will not be that easy. As the activity at mass organisation activity is almost zero in the State, the party will have to depend exclusively on violent acts such as attacks on politicians, civilians branded as informants, and the police. But it was this overdependence on the military activity that led to its downfall in Telengana. In effect, the party is not in a position to organise partial struggles on any people’s issues, an essential component of the Protracted People’s War (PPW). That the Maoists had earlier failed even to take advantage of an emotive issue like a separate Telengana State speaks volumes about the people’s support to the causes taken up by the Maoists.

    They did indeed try to take up the proposal to start an open-cast coal mining project in Karimnagar and called a bandh, but it did not evoke any response. Interestingly, after killing a villager, Ramlal of Yatnaram village in Karimnagar, on October 12, the Maoists left a letter listing several demands, including the supply of 50 kg of rice a month and Rs.1,000 as pension to every household, 10 hours of power supply, and fee waivers to all students.

    Broadly, the Maoist’s strategy is simple. They expect that the security forces withdrawn from Kashmir will be redeployed in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand, where the revolutionary movement is intense. Their counter-strategy is to strike in newer areas just to “divert the attention of the enemy [state]”, as stated in the July 12, 2009, politburo document. The document was issued two days after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram announced the phased withdrawal of the Central Reserve Police Force from Kashmir.

    The Maoist influence is relatively strong in Bastar bordering Khammam, Warangal and Karimnagar districts of north Telengana, and in Malkangiri, Koraput and Ganjam districts of Orissa, bordering the north coastal districts of Andhra, and Gadchiroli, abutting the forest areas of Adilabad. This enables its squads to dart into the State, strike and retreat into the relative safety of Orissa, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

    The revival plan is not just part of the overall strategy of the Maoists. On a different plane, the central leadership representing the erstwhile CPI(ML) People’s War (PW) in the unified CPI(Maoist) feels ‘slighted’ in front of comrades from the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI). In the post-2004 merger phase, there has been a severe setback in Andhra Pradesh, where the PW was strong. But in MCCI-controlled areas such as Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, the movement has been growing stronger. Another embarrassment for PW leaders in the united Maoist party is that they outnumber their MCCI counterparts in the all-powerful Central Committee and the politburo. At every meeting, MCCI leaders make it a point to express their reservations about the capability of Andhra leaders to lead the movement.
    K. Srinivas Reddy

    Brothers in arms?


    The Nepalese Maoists refused to apply Marxism in a mechanical and dogmatic way and earned the wrath of their Indian friends.

    THE Nepalese Maoists have fraternal relations with the Indian Maoists. This is an open secret, and neither of these parties ever concealed this fact though both have always denied any tie other than ideological. India also knows this although on some occasions in the past 10-12 years, especially when there was a monarchy in Nepal, intelligence sources claimed the involvement of the Indian Maoists in some of the armed actions inside Nepal. Nonetheless, they could not produce any evidence to substantiate their claim. From the very beginning, the Maoists of Nepal were in a position where they did not need material support from the Indian Maoists. Their closeness was reflected in the formation of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), a loose-knit organisation of South Asian Maoist parties. But this organisation has not made any impact in the current political situation.

    Since the formation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or the CPI (Maoist), with the merger of People’s War and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in 2004, there has been a qualitative change in the Maoist movement in India. Immediately after the formation, many armed actions took place in Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and in some other places, where the pattern of attacks were the same as those witnessed in Nepal. Maoist guerillas now stopped attacking police stations or jails in the dead of night with a small band of armed persons. Instead, they came in big groups, shouting slogans in full public view, sometimes with public address systems, and announced their reasons for the action. After capturing arms and ammunitions from police stations, they carried them away, paralysing the administration – a lesson they learnt from their counterparts in Nepal.

    The unity congress in which the CPI (Maoist) was formed was reportedly prompted by the advice and achievements of the Nepalese Maoists. Some important delegates of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or the CPN(M), attended this congress.

    However, there are major differences of opinion between the parties on the question of accomplishing a revolution in “semi-feudal and semi-colonial” countries such as Nepal and India. The differences were there from the very beginning but came to the surface as the Nepalese Maoists drew closer to capturing power. The Indian Maoists do not agree with the concept of multiparty competition propounded by the Nepalese Maoists. They consider it an ideological deviation and say that as long as the bourgeois parties are in existence, this practice will be suicidal and will eventually result in degeneration.


    MEMBERS OF THE CPN(M)’s Mechi-Koshi regional bureau participating in the first public performance by Maoists, at the Biratnagar Shaheed stadium, some 400 km east of Kathmandu, on May 20, 2006.

    CPI (Maoist) spokesperson Azad accused Prachanda of “bringing a dangerous thesis to the fore – the thesis of peaceful coexistence with the ruling class parties instead of overthrowing them through revolution”. The party is critical of the overall policies of the Nepalese Maoists, particularly after the beginning of the peace process, and thinks that “it could lead to a reversal of the gains made by the people of Nepal in the decade-long people’s war”.

    The Indian Maoists do not think that any basic change in the social system can be brought about without smashing the present state, no matter how democratic the new Constitution may seem to be. In their view, the goal of a new democratic revolution cannot be achieved by just writing a new Constitution.

    Both the parties believe in the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), but surprisingly, on most issues, such as building a new type of state, class dictatorship and proletarian leadership, democracy, integration of armed forces, and a united front, there is a great divide between them.

    Prachanda’s February 2006 interview to The Hindu added fuel to the fire. When he was asked what he would say if he were to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prachanda replied that he would say: “If you release our comrades [from jail] and we are successful in establishing multiparty democracy in Nepal, this will be a very big message for the naxalite movement in India. In other words, the ground will be readied for them to think in a new political way.” This statement infuriated the Indian Maoists. They were expecting Prachanda to demand that the “the expansionist ruling classes” stop all interference and meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs, but he talked of how their tactics would bring about a change in the outlook of the Maoists in India. Later, there were many occasions when, asked to comment on the tactics of the Indian Maoists, he said that it was up to them to decide what path they wanted to adopt. But it was perceived as a damage-management exercise.

    This year, on May 20, the politburo of the CPI (Maoist) wrote an open letter to the Nepalese Maoists, which it made public on June 28. What prompted the party to make this letter public was also enunciated in the document: “It was only when some of the ideological-political positions stated by your party publicly had deviated from MLM, or when open comments were made by your Chairman Prachanda on various occasions regarding our party’s line and practice, or when open polemical debate was called for on international forums, that our party had gone into open ideological-political debates.” This document has compared the tactics of the CPN(M) with the arguments put forth by the “Khruschovite clique” in the Soviet Union and concludes that “in the name of fighting against dogmatism or orthodox communism the leadership of CPN(M) had landed into a Right opportunist line”.

    The trouble with the Indian Maoists is that they often forget that the CPN(M) is spearheading a revolution in Nepal – not in India. The strategy and tactics adopted by it are in accordance with its assessment of the concrete situation of Nepal. CPN(M) leaders studied deeply the various revolutions and counter-revolutions of the 20th century and drew some lessons for Nepal. One cannot ignore their uniqueness in striking a balance and coordination between political and military interventions. Because of their ability to handle strategic firmness and tactical flexibility, they could use peace talks and ceasefire against the enemy in a new way. While doing this, they always placed their revolutionary political line at the centre. In 2005, when they made a 12-point understanding with the bourgeois political parties known as the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) against the monarchy, they were following the road map that was prepared by the historic central committee meeting in Chunwang (Rolpa).

    The logical development of that line was the April 2006 mass movement, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the formation of Interim Government, and the election of the Constituent Assembly. They had launched the armed struggle to get these demands fulfilled, particularly that for an elected Constituent Assembly. The Indian Maoists had no objection to these demands. In Constituent Assembly elections, the CPN(M) emerged as the single largest party and was entrusted to lead the government. What was wrong with that? Was it proper to expect the CPN(M) not to accept the responsibility of leading the government? The Constituent Assembly result was shocking for India, the United States and many Western countries as well as the feudal and reactionary elements of Nepal, but they had no option but to accept the verdict. India had to welcome Prachanda as Prime Minister.

    Interestingly, the open letter, while criticising Prachanda’s “opportunism”, could not differentiate between Prime Minister Prachanda and Prachanda as chairman of the Communist Party or Prachanda as Commander-in-Chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Can a party that is spearheading the Indian revolution be so unaware of the intricacies of protocol? As a Prime Minister, he met many leaders of different political parties. The document describes these meetings in a very nasty way. “During Prachanda’s official visit to India,” it says, “he also used the occasion to hobnob with comprador-feudal parties like JD(U) [Janata Dal-United], Nationalist Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD [Rashtriya Janata Dal], LJP [Lok Janshakti Party], etc., besides informal meetings with Sonia Gandhi, Digvijay Singh, and some BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] leaders like L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Murali Manohar Joshi. Perhaps his strategy was to cultivate good relations with the fascist BJP in case it wins the next parliamentary elections.”

    On the question of integrating the two armies in Nepal and disarming the PLA, the document builds a logic based on misrepresentation of facts. Citing the example of China, the document says that the Communist Party of China had kept intact its PLA and base areas in spite of repeated pressure by the Kuomintang, but Prachanda has disarmed the PLA and abandoned the base areas. Should we think that the politburo of the CPI (Maoist) has no knowledge of how Prachanda thwarted the conspiracy of international players to bring the PLA under the much-tested DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) scheme of the United Nations? He insisted that the DDR formula applies to defeated armies, which is not true in the case of the PLA. The party did not even agree to hand over to the U.N. the keys of the containers in which the guns of the PLA were kept in cantonments.

    As for abandoning base areas, Prachanda recently said in an interview, published in the October issue of a Hindi journal: “Our base areas are intact and the people in those areas are firm. The organisation in those areas is also strong. I in fact believe that we have succeeded in expanding our base areas.” But the Indian Maoists hastily drew the conclusion that the CPN(M) “deviated from the principle of proletarian internationalism and adopted a policy of appeasement towards imperialism, particularly American imperialism, and Indian expansionism”.

    No doubt, Nepal is passing through a transitional period and the party is confronting a situation that was never before witnessed by any revolution. The Nepalese Maoists refused to apply Marxism in a mechanical and dogmatic way and earned the wrath of their Indian friends.•

    Anand Swaroop Verma is a freelance journalist.

  2. CPSA said

    ‘Flawed programme and practice’


    Interview with Prakash Karat, general secretary, CPI(M).

    AS a party based on the Marxist-Leninist ideology, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has serious differences in theory and practice with the Maoist groups in the country. In an interview to Frontline, party general secretary Prakash Karat explained why the tactics of the Maoist groups will never help solve the problem of poverty. Excerpts:
    How does the CPI(M) assess the spurt of Maoist activity? Politically, how do you view the approach of the Maoist groups?

    The Maoists claim to be a revolutionary force. But they are far from being an organisation based on a Marxist outlook. Though they call themselves a communist party, their ideology and practice go against the basic principles of Marxism and what a communist party should be. Their programme and practice are flawed; they do not even recognise the realities. They harp on India being still a semi-colonial country; their politics is based on the gun and the use of violence, which essentially disrupts the working class movement and mass mobilisation. By indulging in senseless violence mainly directed at its political opponents, the Maoists end up helping the state to come down heavily on the people they claim to champion.
    The Left Front government in West Bengal has been at the receiving end of such violence for some time now. How has the character of such activities changed over the years?

    The Maoists have been trying to organise and be active in West Bengal for quite some time now. They have failed to acquire a mass base. Where they are active is mainly in the border districts of Paschim Medinipur, Purulia and Bankura, all bordering Jharkhand. Here we have seen how, in the past few months, they have systematically targeted the cadre and supporters of the CPI(M). Though they claim to have popular support, the Maoists are not willing to put it to the test. The CPI(M), which has a large mass base among the tribal people, is opposed to the disruptive politics and violence of the Maoists. That is why they are indulging in targeted assassinations and killings. Some of the people they have killed have been executed in a brutal fashion, in front of their family members. How can the killing of CPI(M) workers, most of them poor tribal people, be considered a revolutionary activity by any standard? It is now well known that the Maoists collaborated with the Trinamool Congress to fight the CPI(M) and the Left Front. This is a feature of the Maoists elsewhere too. Their squads have no hesitation in backing one bourgeois party or the other. It can be seen in Bihar and in other States too. Most of the people killed by the Maoists, apart from policemen, are poor peasants, agricultural workers or the rural poor.

    There has been a palpable change in the Central government’s approach to these Maoist groups. It now views them as a serious threat. At the Chief Ministers’ conference on internal security in Kolkata recently, Home Minister P. Chidambaram described naxalites as the biggest threat to internal security. Do you think that just stepping up police and other paramilitary support is enough to quell the activities of these groups?

    As far as the CPI(M) is concerned, we think that the Maoists have to be fought and countered politically and ideologically. Wherever they are active and try to mobilise the tribal people and poorer sections, they must be combated politically. When they indulge in violence and terrorising of political opponents, administrative steps have to be taken to curb them. It is not possible to deal with them only politically when they are resorting to large-scale killing. In Lalgarh alone, in the past few months, more than 60 CPI(M) supporters were killed by the Maoists.

    The Central government has announced it will deploy more paramilitary forces in some of the Maoist-affected States. This alone is not sufficient. In those areas, the government must embark upon socio-economic development; there have to be immediate measures to execute land reforms and provide basic services to the people. Without a comprehensive approach that deals with people’s problems in backward and tribal areas, the Maoist threat cannot be contained. The government should identify such areas and plan concrete measures, which is not being done sufficiently at present.

    The Maoists have to understand that they won’t be able to accomplish anything by their sectarian and adventurous approach of resorting to arms and violence. They should learn from the experience of the Maoist party in Nepal. Building a mass movement on a political platform and relying on the people for political change can be the only correct perspective.
    There have been expressions of support for the Maoist cause, sporadically of course, from a section of the intelligentsia. It confers a certain degree of legitimacy to the Maoist approach and acceptance of their tactics.

    Some intellectuals and civil liberties organisations refuse to see the enormous damage being done by the Maoists by their senseless and indiscriminate violence. For some of these intellectuals, it seems as if they do not want to get into the hard work and grind of building a genuine mass movement but take vicarious satisfaction in supporting such pseudo-revolutionary activities.

    Poverty can never be eliminated by such violent tactics as it only disrupts the possibility of developing a powerful and united mass struggle against exploitation and the iniquitous order. By at the Errabore camp at the Errabore camp at the Errabore camp targeting a few so-called enemies of the people, one cannot bring about any change in the system of injustice existing today.

    ‘To establish a liberated area’


    Interview with Koteswar Rao, CPI (Maoist) leader.

    KOTESWAR RAO, alias Kishenji, is a politburo member of the banned CPI (Maoist) and is in charge of the party’s operations in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa. He was drawn into the revolutionary movement when he was doing his B.Sc. (Mathematics) in Karimnagar, Andhra Pradesh. He became a full-time member of the CPI-ML (People’s War) in 1974.

    “We plan to spread our movement to north Bengal, the plains of Bihar, the central districts of Orissa and eastern Chhattisgarh,” he told Frontline in an exclusive telephonic interview in which he talked about the Lalgarh movement, the Maoist programme of individual killings and future plans of the Maoist movement. Excerpts:
    Do you think the movement in Lalgarh is the fallout of the Singur and Nandigram movements rather than a heritage of the Naxalbari movement?

    The movement in Lalgarh is the fallout of the Naxalbari movement, but the movements in Nandigram and Singur also had an impact on the Lalgarh movement and the people of Lalgarh. Such a long and sustained movement on a political issue has never taken place in the history of independent India. The main reason for this is the increase in political awareness among the masses.

    At the same time, there is, on the one hand, a worldwide economic crisis and, on the other, Indian multinationals seizing the land and property of the common people. These, too, had a role to play in the eruption in Lalgarh.

    And of course the Nandigram and Singur agitations, in which we were also present, are certainly big factors. At present, it is not possible to carry out just a peaceful agitation in West Bengal; along with peaceful agitations there must be huge rallies and meetings involving the direct participation of thousands of people.
    There is a view that the Lalgarh movement is a spontaneous tribal movement that became so big that the CPI (Maoist) had to get on to it or be left behind. Your comments.

    It is not as if we started doing our groundwork in the region yesterday; we have been doing our groundwork for a long time. The Maoist role and leadership in the area has been a continuous process. But, at the same time, the PCPA [People’s Committee against Police Atrocities] and the Maoist movement are not the same, and it would be incorrect to say that the people of the region have been influenced only by Maoists; they have been very much influenced by the PCPA, too.
    But if there were no arrests following the assassination attempt on Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on November 2 last year, would you have been able to build such a strong movement?

    Not something like this. It would have developed in a slow process. But the reaction of the people worked to our advantage – much more than it did in Nandigram or Singur. We didn’t have any demand other than that the police apologise to the people, but the State government did not agree to it. We were left with few options.
    Did you at any point think that the movement might not need you?

    Yes, I did. We expected a movement after November 2, but nothing so big. I expected the strength of the movement to be around 50 per cent of what it eventually became. But the movement itself has undergone a qualitative change over the months. Earlier, when the villagers protested, they assembled in large numbers with their traditional bows and arrows. Then the combined forces entered the region and many villagers fled.

    Subsequently, they all returned and now they are not fleeing anywhere. They are standing their own ground and collecting weapons to strike back. So tell me, where do you think this spirit to retaliate is coming from? Whom do you think the villagers are supporting now?
    In 2007, it was decided that the CPI (Maoist) would broad-base its activities and not focus only on individual killings like the earlier naxalite movement. But Maoist killings are being reported almost every other day. So in what way is it different from the old programme?

    At that time, annihilation of the class enemy was the only form adopted to bring about the revolution. We have changed that. We say that annihilation is one of the forms. This was not invented by Maoists; we have seen in history that the masses have always allowed it. To us, annihilation is one aspect of our total movement.

    It was not a regular feature earlier as you claim. It became a regular feature only after the combined forces entered the region. If you recollect, before the deployment of Central forces, we held a Jana Adalat [people’s court] for 30 CPI(M) people in Madhupur [near Lalgarh].

    More than 12,000 villagers attended the trial. The public wanted the death sentence for 13 of those under trial. But Bikas [the Maoist commander of operations in Lalgarh], after hours of persuasion, finally managed to convince the public that the time was not right to mete out such a punishment. Finally, the public agreed that those 13 people be just made to wear garlands of chappals and apologise. The other killings took place only after continued disregard of repeated warnings that were sent to the victims both by us and by the people of the region.

    The victims were not just police informers, they practically marched with the combined forces. It is not that we killed only CPI(M) people, we killed members of the Jharkhand Party, too, for helping the combined forces and for joining the Gana Pratirodh [People’s Resistance] Committee; and I would also like to add that there is no difference between the Salwa Judum and the Gana Pratirodh Committee.

    We killed the main leaders of the committee. Of the six main leaders of the Gana Pratirodh Committee, three were from the CPI(M) and three from the Jharkhand Party. Here again, we killed them after repeatedly requesting them to desist from forming such a committee. They did not listen to us and we had no other alternative.

    The annihilation policy of old and what we do today are not the same. Along with individual assassinations, there are also other forms of actions that we undertake – different kinds of mass movements, social boycotts of culprits, and various developmental works.

    In fact, recently, in Shankabanga village [in Purbo Medhinipur], we dug a seven-kilometre canal for irrigation. We have done similar work in many villages.
    The CPI (Maoist) had announced that it will spread the movement to new areas following the general elections this year. Which are the areas that have been identified?

    North Bengal, the plains of Bihar, the central districts of Orissa and eastern Chhattisgarh. All these are backward areas where multinational companies are trying to penetrate, and the State governments are signing memorandums of understanding with them. The strategic location of these areas will also help us in our movements.

    The movement in Orissa is one of the most upcoming movements by our party and it will facilitate a combined consolidation of our movements in the neighbouring States of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, bringing as many as 15 districts under our control.
    Tell us something about your plans in West Bengal.

    Very simply, to establish a liberated area. We decided in 2007 that this [the Jangalmahal] would be a guerilla area. Since then we have progressed a lot, we have already reached out to more than half the population of the region and made it politically aware. I can tell you only so much. Our politburo does not allow us to divulge the tactical aspects of our programmes.
    But is there widespread recruitment into your movement from the region?

    There has to be recruitment, or else how will the movement grow?
    There are reports of fresh plans by your party to try and assassinate the Chief Minister, and even storm Writers Buildings. Your comments.

    The media need sensational news, and the police need to justify their fat salaries. Do I really need to elaborate? As I have repeatedly said, to kill Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was not my decision. It was the decision of the people of Nandigram, the people of West Bengal, and even sections of the liberal bourgeoisie.
    Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who earlier extended her support to the PCPA’s movement, seems to have distanced herself from it. Your comments.

    I have been asking Mamata Banerjee for the last three months to make her stand clear. After the general elections her fortune has soared, but what about the fortune of the “Ma, Mati, Manush” [Mamata’s political slogan of Mother, Earth, and People]? Their situation remains the same. What Mamata Banerjee is doing is indulging in opportunistic politics.
    With the State and the Centre now planning to launch a much stronger attack, do you not think that your movement, as it stands today will endanger the lives of thousands of innocent and apolitical villagers?

    The state should think about that. People like Manmohan Singh, [P.] Chidambaram and Buddhababu are responsible for the situation as it stands today. Ultimately, they are the ones responsible for the killings. We still want peace, it is the government that does not.

    So are you willing to sit for dialogue with the government for the sake of peace?

    You are probably the 210th person to ask me this question. Chidambaram and Buddhababu have clearly said there will not be any dialogue; they have already arrayed their forces for war, and still you people from the media keep harping, ‘You will all not survive this’. This is clearly to break the spirit of the common people. I do not understand why you all are continuously asking me this question. It really is not possible for me to provide routine answers to such routine questions. I am standing in a battlefield here.

    Any strategy has to be a five-year plan’


    Interview with Ajai Sahni, Executive Director, Institute of Conflict Management, Delhi.

    AJAI SAHNI, Executive Director of the Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management and Editor of South Asia Intelligence Review, is known for his in-depth study and analysis of the security implications of left-wing extremism in India.

    In an interview to Frontline in the context of the recent initiatives of the government to counter such extremism, Sahni emphasised that there could be no short-term solutions to any problem in the field of security. He says the model being followed by the government vis-a-vis left-wing extremism is replete with limitations and is unlikely to be effective even in the medium term. Excerpts from the interview:
    The recent initiatives of the government to counter left-wing extremism have been seen as marking a structural change in approaching naxalism at the policy level. One part of it is what is called the Operation Green Hunt. How do you analyse these new developments?

    I see a complete change of orientation. This does not, however, alter the capacities that the system has as a whole. Both the Central and State forces that are supposed to play a role in it are altogether deficient to deal with this problem. My understanding of it is that they are planning to put in around 70 battalions in the Maoist-affected areas. When I say 70, it seems to be a tremendous number. But when you talk about the actual deployment, each paramilitary force’s battalion yields only around 400 men. So, you are basically talking about 28,000 men across the whole naxalite belt in thousands of square kilometres. Bastar alone is 40,000 sq km.
    But the plan, apparently, is to deploy the forces in specific, selected areas according to sensitivity and not over the entire stretch under Maoist influence.

    That has always been the strategy, but the point I am trying to make is that the Maoist is not going to confront you in your areas of strength. I believe that Lalgarh is the best example you have had of this. So much was said about it that it is going to be the decisive battle with the Maoists but they simply walked away from you. And then when they figured out where the actual deployments of forces were, they started walking back in.

    Basically, you have to understand that if you squeeze, you also have to contain. If you only squeeze, they will simply squeeze out or overflow into other areas. If you read the June 12 document [CPI (Maoist) politburo statement], long before these operations started they had declared that the state at this juncture did not have the capacities to fight them in all their areas. Consequently, they decided to prepare themselves to widen their areas so that the state has to divide its forces. If you do not attain a certain saturation of forces, then there can be no rational deployment of forces. If you spread your present force evenly across the whole affected area, they will have to be on the defensive and cannot launch an offensive as was the case in the past. And if you concentrate your force, they will move out and try to increase the violence and conflagration in your peripheral areas.

    Today the Maoists will only create situations where there will be significant loss of lives. You have no significant intelligence inputs, no idea of the environment. Thus, when you get a piece of information, you will send a troop of 40 people and they will attack you with 200 men, as in Gadchiroli where you lost 18 lives.

    Unless you saturate, you are only sending these boys to their death. You do not have the capacity to fight them, and your surrender policy will not work at all. So, any strategy needs to be a five-year plan. It cannot be achieved in a night.
    Is this what you have termed as the government’s “Rambo model” in many of your papers?

    It is the Rambo model. The idea that I can send very good fighting men like trained Cobras and Jharkhand Jaguars is nonsense. First of all, I find the entire nomenclature of this discourse offensive.

    Green Hunt, Cobra, Jaguars, and the mildest of these is Greyhounds. Is this what we want the state to be seen as – predatory animals, and hunters? There is some fundamental problem in our conception. I will train a special group of commandos, and they will go everywhere because, after all, who can beat a Rambo?

    Everyone talks of the Andhra Pradesh model and then about Greyhounds. The Andhra Pradesh model is not Greyhounds. It is a model where there is a radical improvement in general policing to create an environment where Greyhounds can be effective. They created a system of general policing where 100 to 200 Maoists could not assemble in the State without the knowledge of the local police. Even the most traditional wisdom says that if you have to eat a plate of rice, you start eating it from the periphery. Do we have to relearn even the most rudimentary tactical wisdom, forget strategic wisdom?

    Prepare your ground, get a smoke-screen up and then get to the beehive. This is a five-year plan on a very conservative estimate. And if you are killing a larger number of Maoists even now, you are probably killing the wrong people because you are killing without intelligence inputs and they are always poorly located without any local knowledge. Around the year 2000, when I used to talk to some very wise men sitting in the security establishment, everyone used to dismiss this as a problem of Telangana.

    The contention was that it cannot go to coastal Andhra Pradesh and south Andhra. They used to give me a lot of sociological analysis for this argument. Now see, the Maoists are everywhere. As I said, you squeeze and they will overflow into other areas. It was your squeeze in Andhra Pradesh that made it necessary for their lead teams to go not only to Chhattisgarh and Orissa but also to Punjab, Delhi, Kashmir and Nepal. You are forcing them to adopt a more efficient technique and making them understand that they cannot remain concentrated in one region.

    This is precisely what you are doing again, except in this case you are going unprepared. Andhra Pradesh had a long period of training, preparation and methods. Yet, the whole orientation in Delhi today is towards a special force. A special force can be efficient only in an environment conducive to its operation.
    What about all this talk of deployment of the Army and the Air Force?

    That is completely ludicrous. They should never be involved. The debate is taking place because some people are sucking up to the Ministers saying, ‘we will do it’. Ministers want results and something that can be achieved within a time frame of not more than six months. We are always in such a hurry that all our problems take decades to resolve. You never initiate fundamental and structural changes that are necessary. So, what happens is that after 15 years you find that you have become worse in your capacities and the enemy has grown. From 56 districts in 2001 to 223 districts now, according to the Home Minister’s own statement.

    Your police population in this period has been continuously declining. Orissa has 207 IPS officers sanctioned but currently only 84 officers are placed. In most of the States, DSP rank officers have not been recruited for a decade.

    In addition, you are shutting down police stations or disarming policemen. In this situation, local policemen have worked out a deal with the Maoists as they have no other option. So, now the target areas of the Maoists are special forces.

    The question is whether Pakistan and Afghanistan have become our models for counter-insurgency. Look at what they have done to their own countries? Why don’t we learn from Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura? Why has the government not studied this and prepared a document? Unless you create general force capability, no special force can be effectively deployed because the first responder is the general police. K.P.S. Gill always says that whether it is terrorism or insurgency, it is a small commander’s war. It is the job of the leadership to empower the small commander. He should have the capacity to respond to a threat.
    You have been on record repeatedly asserting that no terrorism in the world has been countered by an approach that stresses on socio-economic development. The new government initiative, however, lays emphasis on advancing a development-oriented approach after a particular area has been cleared militarily.

    I have no theoretical problem with this approach. What I am trying to say is that development cannot be a counter-insurgency strategy. It is the duty of the government to carry out developmental activities. But it is a much-longer-term programme than counter-insurgency.

    People who are talking about this are basically saying that good health is a solution to disease. But when you look at India demographically and its cumulative developmental deficits, 836 million people (77 per cent of the population) are living on less than Rs.20 a day. More than half of them live on less than Rs.10. They are living on the edge of survival, and are you telling me that the government has the capacity to bring this section to middle-class prosperity in 18 months?

    The model of development here is also not unidirectional. Even as it is benefiting many, it is actually harming many people. Rural distress has increased in the past decades. Why don’t you develop your areas where there is peace? In Delhi, the Maoists are recruiting students, retailers affected by the ceiling drive and multinational retail companies, people displaced or affected by SEZs, unorganised workers. If you have cancer, you have to treat it first. I cannot tell a cancer patient to go home and try to be in good health.
    What is your view on holding negotiations with the Maoists? If you look at history, it is evident that giving indiscriminate powers to the security forces and using such security measures have often resulted in more chaos than good. Negotiations, on the other hand, have yielded results. For example, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), demanding a separate Nagalim in the north-east or, say, the Meiti National Movement in Manipur, has only grown in stature since a security-centric approach was adopted in the 1950s by the Indian government. The antithesis of it is the case of Mizoram, where the Centre went for a peace treaty, granting the people some autonomy.

    Mizoram’s was among the most brutal military campaigns, using methods that no police officer would ever recommend. When the movement was destroyed completely, when 80 per cent of the population was forcibly relocated, then the negotiations happened to buy the rebels out. It was not a civilised negotiation at all.

    One must understand that no insurgent group has ever negotiated in good faith when they are on the ascendant. They negotiate only when they are faced with near-complete annihilation or when they have been trapped in the war of attrition for decades and they see no gains and there are sufficient gains available at the negotiating table.

    The third situation is Nepal, where the insurgent group believes that it can secure its objectives more efficiently and with less loss of lives through a negotiating process. What they engage in is tactical negotiation and not efficient negotiation as they did in Andhra Pradesh. Use negotiation as a tactical ploy to consolidate, recruit and build more ground. It is a different thing that the A.P. government used this period better than the Maoists.
    There is a feeling that there is a distance between the state’s understanding of violence and that of the masses in the rural hinterland. A lower-ranking Maoist cadre would say that he had no option but to take up arms to survive the exploitation. How do we resolve that?

    The only way to address these people in a reasonable time frame is to eliminate mobilisation of grievances. You must understand that the Maoist leadership is not trying to resolve these grievances. It is harvesting them. It is not concerned whether the people of Lalgarh are more secure in the post-Lalgarh agitation phase. In fact, the leadership is happy if it is able to provoke sufficient repression from the state in order to alienate more people. In one of their documents, they say explicitly that any partial struggle of the United Front that does not advance the war is irrelevant. So, if you eliminate this mobilisation, you will be able to resolve the problem of mass violence.

    As for these grievances, we have to reach out with governance. Given the virtual decay of governance, it is not an easy task. But commit yourself to that and begin to act in good faith, not with the kind of endemic neglect and corruption that characterise the government. In most of the States when people try to raise funds because of the naxalite activity, they are mostly corrupt because they see this as preferred areas for capital disbursement as there is hardly any accountability in the naxalite-affected areas.
    Finally, how do you see the police-capacitating process in isolation with the political culture you talked about? If this remains the political culture, police excesses could grow with increasing force.

    Police capacitation itself alters the political culture. If we bring in elements of modernisation and retraining, you will see that there will automatically be a more accountable police force. With greater efficiency, there will be a better system of checks and balances with greater autonomy. It can happen only with greater political will. But at present the political community is deeply criminalised. •

  3. CPSA said

    Taking on Maoists


    The conflict between the Indian state and the Maoists is entering a crucial phase with the Central government planning a major offensive.

    THE longstanding tussle between the Indian security establishment and the Left extremist Communist Party of India (Maoist) is all set to enter a crucial and perhaps decisive phase in the next few months. This is the unmistakable message one gets from the developments over the past two months in New Delhi and different parts of central and eastern India.

    Central to these developments and the projections that have emanated from them is the new strategy (and initiatives related to it) advanced by the Union Home Ministry and the Maoists’ own plans to impart a concerted thrust to their activities and spread to new areas.

    Historically, the battle with the Maoists has raged since 1967 when the first Maoist rebellion erupted. The battle intensified over the last five years following the formation of the CPI (Maoist), in 2004, through the merger of two prominent naxalite groups, the Peoples War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).

    Over the past two months the government has pressed new battalions of security forces into anti-Maoist combat operations and many of them have been deployed. There have also been discussions about involving the Army and even the Air Force in the operations.

    The CPI (Maoist), on its part, has intensified its attacks in different parts of the country. They include Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, which are the organisation’s strongholds, the Gadchiroli region in Maharashtra, where it is apparently recapturing lost space, and parts of West Bengal, where it has made forays in the past two years.

    Officials in the Home Ministry coordinating the new combat initiative say the government has ventured into this with some spectacular successes. The reference, obviously, is to the arrest of Kobad Ghandy and Amitabh Bagchi, senior politburo members of the CPI (Maoist). According to security agencies, Ghandy was arrested in New Delhi on September 21 and Bagchi in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, on August 24.

    The Maoists responded to these “captures” through a series of attacks across central and eastern India. Perhaps the most daring among these was the killing of 18 members of a police party in an ambush in Gadchiroli district on October 8, five days before polling in the State Assembly elections. The brutal beheading of abducted Jharkhand Police Inspector Francis Induwar two days earlier also captured widespread attention.

    While these incidents evoked strong condemnation from several quarters, many senior Maoist activists who interacted with Frontline said the purpose of the attacks was to prove that the strike power of the Maoists remained undiminished despite the capture of some leaders. “All these forays have asserted that the party is moving forward in fulfilling the organisational tasks laid out by the politburo in its historic circular of June 12,” said CPI (Maoist) politburo member Koteswar Rao alias Kishenji to Frontline over telephone (see interview).

    The June 12 intra-party circular titled “Post Election Situation – Our Tasks” etched out a number of immediate and long-term tasks for the cadre. Kishenji’s contention was that the Gadchiroli attack and the Ranchi killing showed that the party was on course to fulfilling these tasks.

    According to Union Home Secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai, the arrests of Ghandy and Bagchi signify remarkable improvement in terms of intelligence gathering vis-a-vis Maoist operations. “The series of inter-State meetings the Union Home Ministry organised over the past two years at different levels of political and administrative authority resulted in better coordination among the security forces in different States and that contributed to improved intelligence gathering,” Pillai told Frontline.


    AT A MAOIST training camp in the forest area of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh.

    The new Home ministry initiative is also broadly based on the confabulations that took place over the past two years under the auspices of the Ministry and involved Chief Ministers, State Home Ministers and senior officials in government and the police departments.

    The discussions essentially centred on the rising Maoist influence across the country. According to informal estimates that came up in these discussions, the CPI (Maoist) has more than 20,000 armed cadre, apart from lakhs of supporters. The number of armed cadre is supposed to have doubled in the past five years. Home Ministry officials say this is an unprecedented number for an insurgency and point out that the militant groups in Jammu and Kashmir had only 3,000 armed cadre even at the peak of the militancy. The estimates also highlighted that Maoist activity had spread to 231 of the 626 districts in the country, or 37 per cent of the districts.

    According to a number of Home Ministry officials involved in the anti-Maoist operations both at the Centre and in States like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, the theoretical framework of the new initiative is one that has been repeated for many years and involves aggressive thrusts by the security forces, followed by the implementation of pointed development schemes for the overall socio-economic development of the local population in these areas. Where it differs from earlier plans is in the detailing and the drawing up of specific action programmes.

    Union Home Ministry officials pointed out that as part of the new initiative a detailed study of the Maoist-affected areas was done and the most sensitive and difficult areas were mapped. The study identified 11 areas as most sensitive, spread over 40 districts.

    According to the Home Ministry’s own figures, overall Maoist influence has spread from 56 districts in 2001 to 223 in 2009. It rated approximately 70 of these as worst–affected, and the 40 identified districts in the 11 mapped areas qualify as the worst-affected among these. An additional 70 battalions of security forces have been earmarked for operations in these 11 areas. The 40-odd battalions already deployed in Maoist-affected areas would not be withdrawn even after the induction of the additional forces.

    Significantly, operations would be concentrated in one or two of the 11 areas at any given point of time, thus ensuring intense mobilisation in the selected area. All the forces would be under a unified command of the special task force trained at the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Kanker, Chhattisgarh.

    The forces deployed in an area would be followed by a back-up team that focuses on socio-economic development. Specialists in various fields, including socio-economic index researchers, development workers, health professionals, educators and others have also been recruited for the operation. “Overall it is a comprehensive operational strategy that would first seek to clear an area of Maoists, occupy it militarily and follow it up with socio-economic development activity. The understanding is that it would take 18 to 4 (?) months in each of the phases to operationalise the strategy and implement it successfully,” said a senior Home Ministry official to Frontline.

    A number of Maoist observers agree that this is one of the best laid out plans as far as anti-naxal operations are concerned. However, there is little agreement on the vital question whether the country and its security forces have the political and the administrative system to carry out the plan efficiently.

    According to Ajit Sahni, one of the country’s foremost security analysts and executive director of the Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management, all well-laid-out plans can come a cropper if intense efforts are not made to enhance and improve general policing and remove political intervention in, and political corruption of, the security establishment (see interview).

    According to experts, the shortage in terms of police personnel in the country is to the tune of several lakhs and that, too, as per the old proportion of having an inspector and six constables in a police station. As per modern police manuals, a police station requires as many as 20 policemen in a vastly populated country like India.

    Sahni and many other security specialists also pointed out that the debate on involving the Army and the Air Force in the operations was an unwanted distraction. Talking to Frontline, Sahni indicated that such discussions are ludicrous and are symptomatic of the deep malaises that afflict the system .

    The debate was taken to such levels, and that too by some senior Defence officers themselves, that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself was forced to issue a clarification on the issue. It was the IAF vice–chief, Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, who maintained that the force had asked the government to be given the authority to open fire in self-defence if fired upon by the Maoists during operations. Manmohan Singh made it clear that the government was not considering any such plan. Notwithstanding the clarification, the confusion created by the debate remained, including in some segments of the media.

    Maoist leaders also believe that the government is planning to involve the Army and the Air Force in the offensive in spite of the Prime Minister’s denial. According to a number of senior Maoist activists, they can see the signs of this on the ground, particularly in Chhattisgarh. “The senior Air Force officers let out the truth when they raised the issue. Now the effort is to cover up,” said a senior Maoist leader from Jharkhand.

    Several Left-wing social activists are also of this view. Talking to Frontline, G.N. Saibaba of Delhi university said that though the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister maintained that the military would not be used in the offensive, the military was involved for several months in intelligence gathering and in training the police and paramilitary forces in jungle warfare tactics and in the processes of planning the war. “The Army is also involved in constructing vast roads across the jungles for the free movement of vehicles of the security forces. The construction of a major Army base near Raipur also indicates that soon the deployment of soldiers will also happen,” he said. Saibaba is of the view that for all practical purposes this is a full-scale war by the government on its own citizens.

    As for the Maoists, their leadership asserted that the government initiatives would not detract them from going ahead with their plans as laid out in the June 12 circular. The 14-page note, apparently drafted by Kobad Ghandy, analyses the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in detail and terms it as a sham verdict meant to legitimise neoliberal reforms and state oppression. In the background of this analysis, the document stated that more and more people belonging to the poor and oppressed sections of society would get attracted to Maoist activities and that this needed to be strengthened.

    Under a specific subheading, ‘immediate tasks’, the circular states as follows:

    “In order to defeat the new offensive by the enemy and to protect the gains of our people’s war it is very essential to rouse the masses throughout the country to stand up in support of the struggles in Dandakaranya, Bihar-Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and other places and build a broad-based countrywide mass movement against the fascist offensive by reactionary rulers with active assistance and guidance for imperialists. To defend our guerilla bases in Dandakaranya and Bihar-Jharkhand and to advance the armed struggle in guerrilla zones we have to carry out the following immediate tasks: prepare the people, the party and the PLGA [People’s Liberation Guerilla Army] politically to confront the brutal enemy onslaught; educate the people regarding the scale and intensity of the enemy offensive, its cruel nature and the need for enormous sacrifices on the part of the party, PLGA and the masses; take initiative unite with other struggling organisations and forces to forge strong united fronts in various parts of the country and prepare them to undertake similar operations; enhance the initiative and involvement of the mass in fighting and defeating the superior enemy forces. The manner in which we had defeated the Salwa Judum should be projected as role model to be emulated elsewhere.”

    The document further stated: “[P]repare and mobilise the entire party, People’s Liberation Guerilla Army and the people for carrying out tactical counter-offensives and various forms of armed resistance and inflict severe losses to the enemy forces; attacks should be organised with meticulous planning against the state’s khaki-and-olive-clad terrorist forces, SPOs, police informants and other counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the people; these attacks should be carried out in close coordination with, and in support of the armed resistance of the masses; these should be linked to the seizure of political power establishment of base areas.”

    It also pointed out that “any mistake on our part will be utilised by the enemy to isolate us, rally a section of the masses and also justify his attacks on us by pointing [to] our mistakes, magnifying them and branding us as anti-people and terrorists; hence we should take extra precautions not to cause damage to people’s property or cause inconvenience to people by our actions, and to apologise for our mistakes promptly assuring the people that such mistakes will not be repeated in the future”.


    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with Director, Intelligence Bureau, B. M. Mathur, and Home Minister P. Chidambaram during the All India Conference of Directors General/ Inspectors General of Police in New Delhi on September 15. The Prime Minister has clarified that the government is not considering using the Air Force in its combat operations against the Maoists.

    According to Maoist activists in Jharkhand, the areas specifically earmarked for advancing the party are North Bengal, the plains of Bihar, central districts of Orissa, east Chhattisgarh and regions in Maharashtra and Haryana that are coming under a fresh wave of industrialisation through special economic zones (SEZs). Retailers affected by multinational retail companies, people displaced or affected by SEZs and unorganized workers are special targets for recruitment in Maharashtra and Haryana. The CPI (Maoist) has also devised its own detailed plans though its emphasis on building a broad-based movement has suffered on account of brutal assaults such as the beheading of Inspector Francis Induwar in Jharkhand.

    Still, Maoist cadre point out that, by and large, their activities havereceived greater acceptance among the poorest of the poor. A case in point highlighted by a senior Maoist activist of Jharkhand was the story of over two dozen tribal hamlets in the Kanker district in south Chhattisgarh, where they physically prevented the State government from setting up police stations. People of the area apparently said the village as a whole, and particularly their women, would be safer without a police force “establishing the rule of law” in the area.

    While this is the case in a rural centre where the party is deeply entrenched, activists point to the gains made in a semi-urban centre such as Yamuna Nagar in Harayana. The town, which has a number of sugar mills, wood industries and wine mills has seen a spurt of Maoist activity in recent months. So much so, as many as 30 naxalites have been arrested since April 2009 and a large cache of ammunition and volumes of propaganda material were seized.

    Talking to Frontline over telephone about the party’s growth plans, CPI (Maoist) politburo member Koteswar Rao said the original aim of the party at the time of the 2004 merger was to fill the ideological vacuum in terms of Leftist, people-oriented politics. “We are steadily reaching there, especially because all mainstream parties have given up on core issues of the [article cuts off here.]

    The war zone

    The state’s writ hardly runs in large parts of India’s Maoist heartland stretching from Gadchiroli in Maharashtra to the western districts of West Bengal.


    Venkitesh Ramakrishnan

    “FROM what was a one-sided affair, we have moved to a see-saw battle now. It still cannot be said that the balance of power is in our favour, but it would not be out of place to claim that the Maoists are a bit rattled. Of course, there is a long way to go if we need to tilt the scales decisively in our favour.”

    This is how a senior Home Ministry official in Delhi summed up the situation in Jharkhand and Bihar with respect to the tussle between the security forces and the Communist Party of India (Maoist). He added that this change had come about essentially over the past four months and that it would indeed be a trying task even to hold on to the present situation. “Especially because the Maoists are trying every trick to wrest back the advantage they had on the ground,” the officer said.

    Any neutral observer of the two States would find merit in this observation. It was indeed a one-sided affair in favour of the Maoists for long in the two States. In Jharkhand, the Maoists virtually dominated life; they even influenced vital administrative and police functions in as many as 20 of the 24 districts. They had significant presence in large parts of Bihar. The Maoists in the two States always shared their strike power and this resulted in daring attacks such as the “Jehanabad jailbreak” of November 2005.

    The most notable signal of the “one-sided affair” changing into a see-saw battle came when the Maoists called an indefinite bandh in five States, including Jharkhand and Bihar, in the third week of August. The bandh was called demanding the release of two Maoists who, party spokespersons claimed, had been under the illegal custody of the Bihar Police since mid-August. The two activists, who were initially referred to as Anil and Karthik, turned out to be two of the senior-most leaders of the CPI (Maoist) in Jharkhand and Bihar. The 55-year-old Anil is actually Amitabh Bagchi alias Sumit-da, a politburo member of the party, while 35-year-old Karthik alias Tauhid Mula is a central committee member. Bagchi was the founder of the erstwhile CPI (ML-Party Unity) in Bihar and had worked among the landless in both Bihar and Jharkhand right from the 1980s. Significantly, Bagchi was also a member of the central military commission of the CPI (Maoist), which coordinates guerilla acts in different parts of the country.

    On August 25, two days into the Maoist bandh, which witnessed widespread violence and arson across Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal, Bagchi and Mula were produced in the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court in Ranchi and remanded to the central jail there. The police version in the court was that the duo had been arrested on August 24 from Ranchi. CPI (Maoist) spokespersons, however, claimed that the two leaders had been in police custody since August 19 and that they were detained in blatant violation of the democratic norms that the Indian state was supposed to follow. Whatever the merit of these arguments, the fact is that the capture of the two leaders has been a major blow to the Maoists.

    The days following this did indicate that the CPI (Maoist) was indeed rattled by the turn of events. The party carried out a series of small attacks across the two States, many of which were not in keeping with the normal style of functioning of the organisation. As a rule, the party cadre do not attack women or children and refrain from targeting educational institutions or making a gory display of their victims. Normally, the institutions that are attacked are police stations, railway stations and other government establishments. But, following the arrest of Bagchi and Mula, reports from several parts of Bihar and Jharkhand indicated that the attacks had become somewhat indiscriminate. There were a couple of cases of attacks on educational institutions, including primary schools.

    The Taliban-style execution of the police inspector Francis Induwar on October 6 was indeed out of character for the CPI (Maoist). The inspector, who worked in the intelligence wing of the Jharkhand Police, was abducted on September 30.

    Highlighting his abduction, various committees of the Maoists made several demands, including ones for the release of Bagchi and Mula as also that of Kobad Ghandy, another politburo member of the party who was arrested in Delhi in the third week of September. Neither the State governments nor the Union government responded to these predominantly informal demands. Ten days after the abduction, Induwar’s body was found on a road in Ranchi, with the head chopped off.

    A Maoist poster that was found near the body did not make any reference to the demand to release the leaders but said that the “execution” had been carried out to avenge the “encounter killing” of a party activist by the State police in September.


    The panel cabin at Bansipur railway station after the Maoists ransacked it during the bandh they called in Bihar on October 13.

    This brutal killing sent reverberations through the lower echelons of the State police. So much so that Ram Sarek Rai, president of the Special Branch Police Association, asserted that police constables and other lower- and middle-level officers would not work in rural areas if sufficient protection was not provided. Clearly, with this killing, the CPI (Maoist) has also rattled sections of the State police.

    The senior Home Ministry official in Delhi who spoke to Frontline was hopeful that the battle in Bihar would gather greater momentum, especially because the State had a fairly streamlined administration with a number of dedicated officers. However, he was not that hopeful about Jharkhand, where, he said, almost every politician had some connection or the other with local Maoist leaders.

    “Many of them are dependent on Maoist clearance even to carry out their day-to-day political activity, and this is indeed difficult for the security personnel and administration officers to take their tasks forward,” he said.

    G.N. RAO

    Special Police Officers to fight the Maoists training at the police grounds in Konta in Chhattisgarh. They were drawn mainly from the Salwa Judum movement.

    Obviously, the see-saw cannot be expected to tilt in favour of the government in the immediate future.

    Purnima S. Tripathi in Raipur

    OCTOBER 1. Muchaki Handa of Bhandarpadar village in Chhattisgarh is on his way back home from Andhra Pradesh after earning Rs.30,000 to buy a pair of bullocks and a plough. He is hacked to death by the police and Special Police Officers (SPOs). Six others are killed with him. October 1. Tomra Mutta of Chintagupha village is killed by the police and SPOs.

    September 17. Madvi Deva, also of Chintagupha village, is picked up and killed by the police and SPOs and his mother, Dudhi Muye, is assaulted brutally and killed.

    September 17. Kawasi Kosa’s 70-year-old father, who can walk only with support, is killed at Gachchanpalli village by the police and SPOs.

    These are taken from a long list of incidents in which the police killed innocent citizens in Chhattisgarh in the course of their anti-naxal operations, compiled by a fact-finding team of intellectuals and academics working with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram. The names they have listed, the team claims, are of people who had nothing to do with naxalites. The police dispute the claim saying every villager killed was a naxalite.

    Human rights groups describe these killings in so-called encounters as cold-blooded murder. The police, admitting to a few of these instances, say some collateral damage cannot be ruled out in a war.

    This unfortunate state of affairs arguably had its genesis in Salwa Judum (people’s peace movement, in the local Gondi language), which was launched in 2005 with government support. The movement, led by the then Congress legislature party leader Mahendra Karma, was described initially as a spontaneous uprising of people who took up arms to defend themselves against naxalites. Later, the government moved in to give these people shelter in camps in order to protect them from counter-attacks by naxalites and provided them with free rations and other logistic support.

    Thus began a period of virtual civil war in the tribal, forested areas of Chhattisgarh, and it soon sucked everyone in. If you were not with the naxalites, you were with the police and Salwa Judum, and vice versa.

    This mindless war is set to enter its most crucial phase now as the State prepares to launch a more concerted onslaught against the naxals. Since 2005, when the BJP government supported Salwa Judum, the tribal-dominated forested areas of Chhattisgarh have resembled a battlefield, with security personnel and naxalites engaged in pitched battles.


    A relative of one of the policeman killed in the Maoist attack in Gadchiroli on October 8.

    The violence has so far claimed over 1,000 lives and led to a massive exodus of tribal people from over 644 villages. Of the 3.5 lakh displaced tribal people, around 70,000 took shelter in the Salwa Judum camps of the government, while the rest went deeper into the jungle or to Andhra Pradesh or Orissa to escape police repression. Even in the camps they were not safe, as borne out by the July 2006 massacre by naxalites at the Errabore camp.

    Though Salwa Judum was well-intentioned, it soon degenerated into yet another instrument of harassment, extortion and torture as its activists started indulging in loot, murder, rape and arson. Now most of these camps have been abandoned as people returned to their villages to try and piece together their broken lives.

    But can normalcy ever return to this region? When a mere uprising by people against naxalites resulted in such massive destruction in the tribal areas, imagine what an armed offensive in conjunction with other States can do to the people, ask human rights activists.

    But it is a war that cannot be avoided, says State police chief Vishwa Ranjan. “For far too long we have been in a state of denial. Initially, we did not even admit that there was a problem. Then, when the problem grew, we described them [naxalites] as deviant tourists who had wandered in from other States. When the problem worsened, we described it as a law-and-order problem, and still later we described it as a political/ideological problem, and now, when it has reached its climax, we realise that this is a national problem and a big threat to internal security. Now is the time we must fight to the finish,” he told Frontline.

    With seven of the 20 police districts being badly affected, the State can no longer overlook the problem, he said. He admitted that past injustices led to massive deprivation and disparities, which provided a fertile ground for the naxal ideology to take root in these areas, but said “that cannot be an excuse for not fighting the naxalites now”.

    Why did the State allow the problem to fester for so long? Why did the political leadership look the other way for so long, and what has changed their perception now? “In our democratic set-up, the issue involved arriving at a consensus because there are other state players involved as well. It took time, but now all political parties, all States concerned, are on board and hence this concerted effort to fight them with a joint, coordinated operation,” he says.

    The operation, called Operation Green Hunt, is likely to begin in November once the Centre sends more troops. The coordination among the States will be taken care of by the CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) force commander, Vijay Karan. In the respective States, the Chief Minister will be the supreme commander and the DGPs will oversee the operational aspect.

    Vishwa Ranjan, who has over 20 years of operational experience in tackling naxalism, believes this is the “final assault” on naxalites. But “it could be a prolonged one”, he cautions.

    With the government having made its intention clear, there is palpable fear among people in the Bastar region. Manish Kunjam of the Communist Party of India (CPI), who unsuccessfully contested the last Lok Sabha election from Bastar, says the exercise will only make matters worse. “Only poor, innocent people will die, nothing else will be achieved,” he said.

    The Communist Party of India (Marxist) agreed with this assessment. The party’s leader Balsingh, who lost from Sarguja in the last Lok Sabha election, said there was a great sense of fear among the people that the massive military operation would unleash unprecedented violence in the area. He added: “The lives of the common people have become miserable. They cannot even run away; where will they go? There is pressure from both sides.”

    Human rights activists have launched a campaign to drop the plan for a military operation. The Bharat Jan Andolan, the National Front for Tribal Self Rule, the Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti of Maharashtra, the Adivasi Mahasabha of Gujarat, the Madhya Pradesh Jangal Jeevan Adhikar Bachao Andolan, the Jan Shakti Sangthan (Chhattisgarh), the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, the Orissa Jan Sangharsh Morcha, the Campaign for Survival and Dignity and the Adivasi Aiky Vedike (Andhra Pradesh) have jointly issued an appeal against any such operation. Even the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) has issued a statement demanding immediate withdrawal of the proposal for a military operation. “The only road to peace in Bastar… can be for the State and Central governments to immediately put an end to the war on the people by private militia (Salwa Judum) and paramilitary, to ensure the return of the displaced Adivasis to their villages and guarantee them their rights to land, livelihood and life,” it said.

    Human rights activists point out that the police took five hours to reach the site when the son of Baliram Kashyap, Bastar’s Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament, was killed by naxalites, when the police station was only half a kilometre away, and that they took 12 hours to reach the house of CPI(M) activist Shakti Dey, in Kanker, where he was brutally killed, when the police station was only 500 metres away. Can such a police force actually mount an effective offensive against naxalites, they ask. There is cynicism all over. “In order to justify the hype that they [police] have created, they will pick up the old and vulnerable as they are doing now and kill them,” said CPI(M) State secretary M.K. Nandy. “There has been no evidence to show that they are better prepared now, so I wonder whether this exercise will actually achieve anything.”

    But it has been a long time since such views mattered in Chhattisgarh. “This is exactly what we have been saying for the last four to five years. Now the Centre and other States have come on board, and we are happy that a coordinated offensive is being launched against naxalites. Our stand has been vindicated,” says State Information Commissioner Baijendra Kumar.

    Thus, while the State government pats itself on the back for being proved right and the police are polishing their weaponry, people are waiting with bated breath. Said Balsingh: “We are living in a war zone and cannot do anything about it.”


    Venkitesh Ramakrishnan in Gadchiroli and Mumbai

    The CPI (Maoist)’s recent activities in Maharashtra are a classic example of the organisation’s capacity to introspect on its organisational failures, overcome reverses, regroup and reassert its control. The outfit’s activity in the State covers five districts. In Gadchiroli and Gondia, which have areas contiguous with Chhattisgarh, it has a more militant and structured presence.

    Five years ago, when the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) merged to form the party in its present form, Maharashtra was viewed, by both the Maoists and the security forces, as a State where the Maoists were suffering reverses.

    The party suffered desertions from its ranks in the Gadchiroli-Gondia region, both from its armed cadre as well as from its front organisations, with some sections of the predominantly tribal population becoming disenchanted with it. When the Maoists first got a foothold there, they were perceived as “fighters” who had helped the Madi Gond tribals of the region to secure higher wages for collecting tendu leaves and cutting bamboo. With their strong-arm tactics, they had also checked corruption among forest staff. As the movement gathered momentum through the 1980s and 1990s, there was a period when the naxalite influence spread to almost all parts of Gadchiroli.

    However, there was no serious developmental activity in the region, and propaganda by the authorities, including the police, blamed the naxalites for it. This campaign reached the remotest parts of Gadchiroli and Gondia, making cadre desert the CPI (Maoist), which in turn discouraged potential recruits.

    Many of the former Maoist cadre were provided government employment, particularly in the State police. Their inputs were useful for the forces in combing and detection operations. Consequently, the armed wing of the party had problems organising offensives against security forces or in laying improvised explosive devices (IED). The party, which once had large tracts of the region under its control, found its influence restricted to a clutch of 25 villages on the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border.

    In early 2007, the CPI (Maoist) held its first “unity congress”, and, by all indications it was decided that the reverses in the Gadchiroli-Gondia belt should be overcome. By the end of 2007, Gopanna alias Kosa, a senior CPI (Maoist) leader from Andhra Pradesh, was deputed to the region to rebuild the political and military organisation. Kosa’s introspection report in mid-2008 pointed out that the party had failed to strengthen its grip over Gadchiroli division and make any significant fresh recruitment in five years. It had also failed to launch serious attacks in this period. It also asserted that this situation could be changed with new military and political strategies.

    At the military level, new tactical jungle training was imparted to the cadre. A separate military command was formed for North and South Gadchiroli regions as part of the Dandakaranya sub zonal committee. Developmental imbalances between the semi-urban and rural areas of the region were exploited effectively in the renewed organisational initiative. To give leadership to the new moves, motivated and well-trained leaders were brought in from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

    The net result was a resurgent cadre, particularly in Gadchiroli. Their morale got a boost with the accumulation of nearly 5,000 firearms including self-loading rifles (SLRs), light machine guns (LMGs) and AK rifles. Soon, this started reflecting in fresh offensives against the security forces. In 2009 alone, the CPI (Maoist) cadre launched five assaults on security forces, killing 39 security personnel. The last attack, on October 8, near Lahiri police station in Gadchiroli, was the most lethal; 18 policemen were killed in the attack on a patrol party. Earlier attacks by naxalites had targeted policemen in Karepalli, Markegaon, Mungner and Hattigota.

    Following the October 8 attack, the Union Home Ministry has identified the Gadchiroli-Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border as the area to launch the first major offensive against the Maoists. It remains to be seen how the CPI (Maoist) will respond to this move and whether the government forces will be able to advance decisively. By all indications, the Maoists are likely to disperse to other regions and continue with their activity on a reduced scale. Already there are intelligence reports that the Maoists are recruiting cadre in several villages where people have been displaced for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). These are not villages in the faraway tribal districts but close to the commercial capital of the country. Maharashtra, it seems, will develop as an important point vis-a-vis the tussle between security forces and the Maoists.

    K. Srinivas Reddy in Hyderabad

    JUST a decade ago, Andhra Pradesh was a beacon for the revolutionaries in India. The Maoists showcased it at international fora as a model that could be replicated not only by the revolutionaries in other Indian States but also by their brethren elsewhere in South Asia. Today, the State stands as the best example of the success of counter-revolutionary strategies of a government. The Maoists were forced to switch to self-defence, roll back their operations and move their armed cadre into the Bastar forests in neighbouring Chhattisgarh.


    The body of naxalite leader Patel Sudhakar Reddy at the encounter site near Lavvala village in Warangal district, on May 24.

    The Maoist movement now appears to be getting consolidated in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa and is making rapid strides in 16 other States. At every meeting called by the Centre to discuss the vexatious issue, Andhra Pradesh is singled out for lavish praise and other States are asked to follow the awe-inspiring “Andhra model”. It is acknowledged even by the Maoists that the revolutionary movement in Andhra Pradesh has suffered a “setback”. But contrary to popular belief, what enabled the Andhra Pradesh Police to turn the tables on the Maoists is not just the military superiority of Greyhounds, an elite commando force raised in 1989, but various other social and administrative factors.

    The seeds of the naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh were sown way back in 1969 as the Naxalbari movement was shaping up in West Bengal. A crackdown by the then Congress government crushed the armed struggle, which was mostly confined to the north coastal district of Srikakulam. But the post-Emergency period saw Maoist ideologues such as Kondapalli Seetaramaiah rekindle the revolutionary embers.


    If the Srikakulam movement closely followed the class annihilation theory of Charu Mazumdar, Kondapalli Seetaramaiah adopted a different strategy. The idea was to seize power area-wise, starting from the ill-administered and inaccessible forest areas, and then encircle towns and cities. The second phase of the naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh took birth mostly in the plains of north Telangana districts, which later spread to the forest areas.

    The epoch-making decision to suspend the armed struggle in the post-Emergency period marked the beginning of the current form of Maoist movement. The August 1977 declaration, as it came to be known, took into consideration regional, national and international political situations and called for the launch of mass organisations without which no revolutionary movement can survive. The Kondapalli Seetaramaiah group formed the Radical Students Union (RSU), the Radical Youth League (RYL) and the Rytu Coolie Sangham (RCS). This was when the party launched the “Go to Villages” campaign, which received instantaneous support from students, youth and the peasantry.

    The historic Sircilla and Jagtial jaitra yatras in 1978 spoke much about the success of the mass movements. Riding on the crest of this success, the ideologues announced the formation of the CPI(ML) People’s War (PW). The blueprint for the spread of the underground party beyond the Godavari basin was finalised at this stage in anticipation of a crackdown on the movement. An interesting aspect of the Maoist movement in Andhra Pradesh is that it got massive support from different sections of society when it depended more on mass organisations rather than on armed squads. (Much later, the Maoists termed the suspension of armed struggle as a “historic blunder”.)

    A People’s War document, which chronicles the rise of the naxalite movement, notes that the “Go to Villages” campaign began with just 200 students, but the strength swelled to 1,100 in six years. “There were 150 propaganda teams working in villages, and 2,419 villages were covered in north Telangana between 1978 and 1984,” the document says.

    Noted human rights activist K. Balagopal observed: “Unlike the rest of the State where naxalites spread through armed squads, in northern Telangana there was a clear period in the late 1970s and the early 1980s… when it was the mass organisations, mainly the agricultural labourers’ associations and the student and youth fronts, that were the instruments for the spread of Maoism as an ideology and a political practice.” However, the mass organisation activity was soon to give way to armed action. People, too, began to depend on the armed squads for “quick justice”.

    The mass organisations began to bring more and more villages under their control in north Telangana districts – Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam. At the same time, with the idea of creating a retreat zone to which armed cadre could escape in the face of an imminent crackdown, six underground squads were formed in the forest areas of Eturu Nagaram (Warangal), Mahadevpur (Karimnagar), Bhadrachalam (Khammam), Sironcha (Maharashtra), and Adilabad and East Godavari districts (abutting Maharashtra and Orissa respectively).

    Ironically, while the Maoist movement lies in a shambles in the place of its birth, the support structures established by these six squads beyond Andhra Pradesh’s borders – Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Bastar in Chhattisgarh (formerly in Madhya Pradesh) and Malkangiri/Koraput in Orissa – are now Maoist havens.

    The north Telangana districts provided a perfect “climate” for them to ignite the passions of the downtrodden against the oppressive features of society – the atrocities perpetrated by upper-caste landlords, insensitive public officials, and so on. Hence, when the armed activity began, people literally welcomed the annalu (brethren, as the naxalites were addressed) to their villages. It was a case of people becoming willing tools of revolution.

    Their enthusiastic participation did indeed bring about some social change. The system of begar (bonded labour) faded out; untouchability was controlled to a large extent; atrocities by usurious businessmen and upper-caste landlords got reduced drastically as they fled the villages; peasants took over large tracts of lands though they were unable to cultivate it; and daily-wage workers started getting minimum wages. On the whole, a generation reaped the benefits of the Maoist movement.

    The careful application of area-specific military strategies brought about a distinct change in the armed activity all over the State. North Telangana was declared a guerilla zone by 1995; and the south Telangana districts, the south coastal districts of Guntur, Prakasam and Nellore; and the Nallamala forests were regarded as prospective guerilla zones. The underground armed cadre took the shape of a proper military and the armed resistance against the police intensified as the squads mastered the art of laying landmines and carrying out ambushes.

    Ideally, the naxalite movement should have grown from strength to strength in Andhra Pradesh, particularly in the north Telangana districts. But a decade later the movement began to fall apart and the aura of invincibility around the legendary naxalite leaders vanished. So much so that they had to abandon the battleground and take shelter in the Bastar forests. The retreat zone, which was felt necessary in the early 1980s, was to come in handy for them two decades later.

    What brought about a sea change in the situation was the determination of the police and the politicians to change the conditions on the battleground. The “climate” that proved conducive to the growth of the Protracted People’s War (PPW) changed over a period of time because of social evolution. By this time, there was also a generational change. If in one generation people felt beholden to the naxalites, in the next the movement acquired the characteristics of an insurgency. With this “disconnect” staring in the faces of the revolutionaries and the State’s “panicky” reactions metamorphosing into a readiness to fight through well-coordinated measures, the turnaround was evident from the late 1996. Mass organisation activity decreased as naxalite squads were mercilessly hunted by Greyhounds, closely supported by specific, actionable intelligence inputs.

    Encounter killings became the order of the day as the police, assisted by the paramilitary forces, waged a “do-or-die” battle, which was unreservedly supported by politicians of all hues though they publicly distanced themselves from the counter-revolutionary measures.

    That made the political class the number one enemy of the naxalites, who went on a killing spree. Former Home Minister A. Madhava Reddy paid with his life and other politicians such as N. Chandrababu Naidu and N. Janardhana Reddy (both former Chief Ministers) escaped by the skin of their teeth.

    A decisive victory appeared within the reach of the police by 1999 itself as they brought about a qualitative change in the counter-insurgency strategies. The dreaded “cordon-and-search” operations, which meant torturing and foisting cases on all those suspected to be supporting naxalites, were called off. There were no more instances of midnight arrests, no more destruction of property and displacement of the kith and kin of underground naxalites.

    These measures were initiated even while selectively using the most notorious tool – killing. The police top brass had become acutely aware that it was the indiscriminate use of this that was distancing them from the people, whose participation was essential for changing the conditions on the battleground.

    Large sections of society did not approve of the extrajudicial killings, euphemistically called encounter deaths. Similarly, they were opposed to the killings by the Maoists. The police used this social dichotomy in respect of society’s reaction to the state violence as well as the Red violence to the maximum. They now resorted to selective killing of naxalite leaders while discarding the practice of torturing and falsely implicating naxalite supporters and sympathisers.

    Coincidentally, the sweeping economic reforms introduced in the country too changed the situation. The working class (predominantly coal miners and the farming community), students, women, and the middle class (most of whom had hitherto supported the cause of the naxalites) began distancing themselves from the movement as the relevance of revolutionary activity in setting things right was diminishing fast. It is this change in the conditions on the battleground and to some extent the change in the social climate that contributed to the downfall of the naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh, and not just the military capability of the elite commando force – Greyhounds.

    Prafulla Das in Bhubaneswar

    THE increase in Maoist activities in the forested and backward interior regions of Orissa in recent months is a clear indication of their growing strength in the State. On the other hand, the State government’s plans to thwart them have failed in virtually all aspects, barring the arrest and killing of some of them.


    Roadblocks put up at Malkangiri district in Orissa during the bandh the Maoists organised on October 3 in protest against the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato, leader of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities.

    The Maoists have capitalised on the virtual absence of the administration in areas that do not have roads and other basic facilities, including hospitals and schools. They now have a strong presence in 18 of the State’s 30 districts and are entering newer areas every day.

    The Special Operations Group (SOG), the anti-naxal strike force of the police, has not been able to penetrate the Maoist strongholds deep in the forests. Malkangiri district, which shares its borders with Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, is a good example of this.

    The Maoists obviously enjoy the support of both tribal and non-tribal people in these areas. Faced with neglect by the administration, the local people have turned silent supporters of the extremists.

    The Maoists have won over the majority of the tribal people by taking up their demands with the administration. The extremists have boycotted elections, observed bandhs and put up posters and banners to highlight the people’s demands.

    For the police and the administration, the situation has taken a turn for the worse since the Centre and the State government announced recently the launch of a special operation. The Maoists, who almost routinely targeted railway lines and telecommunication networks, besides attacking policemen, forest staff and “police informers”, recently turned their focus on a member of the political class. In Mayurbhanj district on October 13, they attacked Sudam Marandi, president of the Orissa unit of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and a former member of the Lok Sabha. Marandi escaped under cover of darkness, but the Maoists killed three policemen and took away two AK-47 rifles.

    The State government had announced that top officers of various government departments would visit different districts to review development works. But most of the bureaucrats simply did not go. As a result, development work suffered and the Maoists gained support. Now, the situation has reached a point where bureaucrats are scared of visiting the districts because of the naxal strikes.

    The Naveen Patnaik government is contemplating a special drive to reach out to the people by involving both the administration and the police in it. “We are now planning to adopt a two-pronged approach to deal with the Maoist problem,” said Prakash Mishra, Director-General of Police (Intelligence). The administration would reach out to the people in Maoist strongholds with the help of the police, women’s self-help groups and such other social groups, he said.

    The State government has also not been able to strengthen its police force. The policemen on duty at police stations in the naxal-affected areas face frequent attacks. On several occasions the Maoists have been successful in looting arms and ammunition from police stations and armouries.

    The SOG has been ineffective largely because it does not have enough men – it has only 1,100 personnel. As regards raising India Reserve Battalions, the State government has been able to raise only three so far. For two more IRBs, the recruitment process has been completed and the cadets are to undergo training. Although the Centre has sanctioned another IRB, the State government has not been able to start the process of recruitment.

    The State police have also not been able to coordinate effectively with the police of neighbouring States except Andhra Pradesh. While Orissa and Andhra Pradesh have special forces to deal with the Maoists, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand do not.

    With the administration failing to implement the pro-poor welfare schemes, including the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and the police ill-equipped to take on the Maoists, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik demands additional Central forces whenever there is a major Maoist attack in the State.

    There are six battalions of Central paramilitary forces deployed in different parts of the State for various duties, including the anti-naxal operations. The Centre is yet to fulfil the State government’s demand for seven additional battalions of Central forces for the anti-Maoist operations.

    “The State government cannot fight the Maoists by using the police force or announcing development schemes,” says Janardan Pati, secretary of the Orissa State Committee of the CPI(M).

    When thousands of tribal people sought land rights and agitated against the non-tribal people who had taken away their land in the past, the State government did not arrest even a single non-tribal person on the charge of taking away tribal land, says Pati.

    He was of the view that the armed struggle by the outlawed CPI(Maoist) would not succeed in defeating the ruling class in the country. He, however, said the Maoists should not be treated as an enemy of the country. The problem, he added, could be solved only by ensuring economic development of the poor by providing them land, employment and basic necessities.

    Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay in Kolkata

    THE Maoists continue to hold on to their base in Lalgarh and its surrounding forest areas, known as Jangalmahal, in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district despite the presence of Central forces in the area and the Centre’s plans to step up operations against the banned CPI (Maoist) across the country.

    On October 12, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee discussed the Maoist problem with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. That very day Maoists shot down two people, in Binpur and Belpahari near Lalgarh. On October 10, a Congress worker was shot dead in Belpahari.


    Chhatradhar Mahato, who was arrested on September 26, being brought to Kolkata on October 2.

    A combined force of 50 companies of Central and State Police is deployed in the area. But that has not stopped the killings and abductions. Intimidation, murders and destruction of private and public property have continued unabated. The CPI(M), which leads the ruling Left Front, has been the target of most of the attacks. According to party sources, more than 120 CPI(M) supporters and activists have been killed in Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia, three adjoining districts with a strong Maoist presence, since November 2008. In the Lalgarh region alone, 117 CPI(M) members were killed, and more than half of these murders were committed after the combined forces were deployed on June 18.

    Though the root of the Maoist movement can be traced back to the 1967 uprising in Naxalbari in Darjeeling district, its impact in the State was, until recently, limited to Paschim Medinipur, Purulia and Bankura districts, which share a border with Jharkhand, though there were occasional reports of Maoist activity in other districts.

    But the CPI (Maoist) started making its presence felt in the State from 2007 onwards. The Maoists were involved in the year-long bloody turf battle in Nandigram (Purba Medinipur district) in 2007 between the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress-led Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh (Land Eviction Resistance) Committee, a ragtag consortium of naxalites, the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), the Jamait-i-Ulema-e-Hind and the Congress. They also participated in the violent agitation in Singur (Hooghly district) against the prestigious Tata Motors small-car project. All this pointed to long-term plans, “Nandigram in 2007, Singur in 2008 and Lalgarh in 2009 clearly point to the increasing strength of the Maoists in West Bengal,” a senior police intelligence source told Frontline. However, it is only the Lalgarh movement that the Maoists can take full credit for. The other two agitations were led by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.

    The extent of the Maoist network in the State became clear when an attempt was made on the Chief Minister’s life on November 2, 2008, at Kalaichand near the forested Lalgarh area. The arrests made in the area after the blast directed at Bhattacharjee’s convoy resulted in an unprecedented eruption among the local tribal population and the formation of the Maoist-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) headed by Chhatradhar Mahato. Under the PCPA’s leadership, the tribal people commenced a violent agitation and refused to allow the police to enter the area in a bid to establish a “Muktanchal”, or liberated zone, on the lines of what had been done in Nandigram.

    It now became clear that the Maoists, whose presence was so far thought to be restricted to Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia districts, had for a long time been doing the “groundwork” to bring about the kind of situation that now exists in the State. The unaddressed backwardness of the forested areas of the three border districts and the abysmal living conditions of the tribal people gave the Maoists enough scope over the years to quietly spread their propaganda and present themselves as the “liberators” of the people. They came to be known locally as the “Bon” (Forest) Party.

    A 10-page note submitted by A.K. Maliwal, Director, Security, West Bengal, to the Home Department said: “The militancy demonstrated by the local population and violence unleashed by Maoists indicate that the initial stages of the protracted war, namely, the survey stage, followed by the struggle stage had nearly been completed in Lalgarh Axis by them. Exploiting the opportunity, they scaled up their activity to the resistance stage and the guerilla action stage and temporarily gave impression [to others] of liberated/base area stage, though they themselves must be clear that their job of creating resistance area – guerilla area required much more to be done and required much more time.” The note also said that the heightened Maoist activity in Lalgarh in the months preceding the deployment of forces “appears to be a part of their strategic plan to extend the guerilla action zone beyond Belpahari-Binpur-Barikul-Rani Bandh-Bandwan Axis and attempt to create stretches of corridor to be linked up later to access Durgapur-Asansol–Dhanbad industrial centres and Birbhum-Burdwan-Hooghly strategic interest centres, and from Paschim Medinipur to Purba Medinipur for Nandigram-Haldia industrial centre.”

    The first, and so far the only, police breakthrough was the arrest of PCPA convener Chhatradhar Mahato. The PCPA served as the public face of the Maoists and enabled them to strike root in the State. It was the mask the Maoists used to make themselves more acceptable to a greater number of people. “At the end of the day they are one and the same,” a senior police source told Frontline.

    However, Dr Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri, who was a senior naxal leader in the 1970s, has a different view.

    “In my opinion, the agitation in Lalgarh was initially an autonomous movement, which was not inspired by anything other than the success of the people’s movements in Nandigram and Singur and the Santhal heritage that is repeatedly emphasised in the way of their protest. I feel that the intervention of the state distorted the movement and brought the Maoists strongly into the picture,” he told Frontline. Even if this is true, the line separating the PCPA and the Maoists has long become blurred. This is also clear from the Maoists’ reaction to Chhatradhar’s arrest – they clamoured for his release, called bandhs, warned of dire consequences, and carried out more killings.

    Mamata Banerjee, whose party workers fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the Maoists against the CPI(M) in Nandigram and Singur, has distanced herself from the Lalgarh movement after her success in the Lok Sabha elections and her induction into the Central government. She had at one time extended her party’s unequivocal support to the PCPA’s cause and on one occasion she shared the dais with Chhatradhar. Neither party has ever openly acknowledged being associated with the other, except for sharing certain common concerns, but Mamata Banerjee’s sudden turnaround has stung the Maoists, who have accused her of indulging in “opportunistic politics” (see interview with Koteswar Rao).

    The Maoists have also lost the support of many old veterans of the naxal movement who once believed that annihilation of the class enemy was the only way to bring about a revolution. “We realised later that individual assassination was not a fruitful approach, and I see the Maoists making the same mistake. Our main targets were big landowners,” said Rai Chaudhuri. It is small farmers who are now being killed in Lalgarh for the crime of being CPI(M) supporters. The Maoists say, though, that party affiliation has less to do with the murders than association with the combined forces or membership of the Ganapratirodh Committee, a local resistance group.

    As of now, officially, areas under 18 police stations in Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia districts have a strong Maoist presence. North Bengal is next on the Maoist agenda.

    “With all the crises in north Bengal, the situation is rife for a revolutionary movement there. There is the tea garden crisis, it is a gateway for the north-eastern States, it is on the Nepal border, and Bhutan too. Both Nepal and Bhutan are our friends in CCOMPOSA (Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia). Keeping all this in view, we have decided to extend our movement in north Bengal,” CPI(Maoist) politburo member Koteswar Rao (alias Kishenji) told Frontline.

  4. Telangana…

    […]Interview with Ganapathi, Leader of India’s Growing Maoist Revolution « Revolution in South Asia[…]…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: