Aditi Nandanwar analyses the Naxal Movement in India and it being a huge threat to the security of our country.
Whenever people come to know that I study in Chhattisgarh, the first question that they ask me is whether I am afraid of the Naxals and whether or not I have seen them. The Naxalite movement has become one of the biggest internal terrorist threats to India. According to the former government, it is India’s “single biggest internal security threat”. In the past, the government has tried to come up with certain provisions and counter insurgencies but have failed to curb this menace.
Naxalism is the name given to the Maoist movement in India. Maoists are people who want to overthrow the democratic system and bring dictatorship. These people follow the principles of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Mao, unlike the Communist revolutionaries thought that the revolution should be rural based. He believed that these rural people should later join the urban public and form a “classless paradise” (Koerner, 2004).
The term “Naxalism” comes from the place Naxalbari where this movement originated in India. Back in the 60’s, there were differences in opinion among the Communist Party of India during the Indo-China war over a few issues. Hence, the first split of this party occurred in 1962 and two parties were formed; the CPI, and the radical leftist half of it, CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist). The movement in the Naxalbari village was headed by the radical leaders of the CPI-M party who, unlike the CPI members believed that the only way to a better condition of the oppressed was the end of democracy. The uprising consisted mostly of peasants and farmers and was aimed at the landlords.
The Naxal movement is concentrated in the central region of the country. This mainly includes the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Most of the people living in this belt are the dalits and the tribals. These people have been under constant oppression of the landlords, the government, the industrialists and entrepreneurs. Their household completely depends upon the income they incur from their lands which are usually captured by the capitalists and they are left with nothing. Hence, this movement was the upsurge of the misery and atrocities of the oppressed.
The ideology of the leaders of this movement is very simple, “it is a battle between democracy and all that it stands for versus a dictatorship involving the suppression of the very freedom democracy believes in” (Katoch, 2012). However, for the people joining this movement, it is a completely different struggle.
Usually, the people, who join the Naxal movement, are the oppressed people, the dalit, the adivasis and the backward class people. And hence, there is a large difference between the ideologies of the leaders and the people joining the movement. For them, it is a struggle for their basic rights, their land and against the corrupt system. It is a struggle against their exclusion and discrimination. Most of the people joining this movement are uneducated and have hardly seen the outside world. They don’t know what Maoism is and who Mao was. All they know is that there is a group of people fighting against the government. They don’t know why such violent struggle, but all they are told is that this will bring back their land.
The reason that Naxalism is a big threat to the Indian political system and is the “biggest internal security threat” is the lack of awareness among the people joining this movement. They hardly know what they are supporting and that what they are supporting, is not the correct way to solve their problem.
The Counterinsurgency Challenges
The responsibility of dealing with the Maoist problem is usually of the state government. However, seeing the severity of the attacks and the movement in the past, the central government took over the task of controlling it. The government has ever since taken a military-centric approach. The government sends the trained para-military forces to these areas on the counterinsurgency missions. However, there is a big problem with such an approach. The military personnel are trained to kill the enemy and not take care of the people and protect them from danger. This leads to gross violence by such deployed people against the common people living in the area. This, in turn, triggers an opposite mindset amongst the common people and the youth hence, end up joining the Naxal movement, usually to take revenge. This makes these people hate the government even more.
Not only this, the other challenge is the strength of the contingent that is sent to such counterinsurgency missions. For eg., a troop of 70,000 soldiers cannot be sent to battle against millions of Naxals using guerrilla warfare technique. And since, the naxals use the guerrilla technique; it becomes very difficult for the troops to know where such insurgencies are going to take place over a land covering a substantial number of states. Hence, the naxals have the advantage of strength and picking up the location of insurgencies.
The communication between Maoists is incredible. They have well planned and well-co-ordinated attacks. Such attacks have been successful in penetrating the most secure areas too. The Maoists, in general, use the guerrilla warfare techniques. Maoist guerrillas have the tactical advantage over Indian security forces and have demonstrated the ability to conduct sophisticated large-scale operations. For eg, the 2010 Maoist ambush in Dantewada killed 76 soldiers of the 62nd CRPF Battalion, the single largest loss of life in Indian history of counterinsurgency missions (Vira, 2011).
The military personnel serving this region lack a major amount of attention from the government. They do not have proper basic facilities including ration and hospitality. They do not have enough medical support. This has aggravated their sufferings in the region. The inadequate attention and funding from the government are yet another causes that the counterinsurgency missions have failed in the past.
The other, most important problem in counterinsurgency missions is that one cannot differentiate between the villagers and the naxalites. Not all villagers are naxalites. Hence, killing of innocent villagers becomes bait for the naxalites to lure the village youth into joining this movement.
A better way to deal with the naxalite problem would have been for focusing on the needs of the tribal and backward people living in this area and helping them economically and socially. The Constitution has numerous provisions which could aid the government in doing so. The constitution provides setting up of tribal advisory council under Schedule 5 and under Schedule 9, the Constitution gives the power to acquire land from the rich and elite and distribute it among the poor landlords and landowners equally. However, except for three states, no other governor has set up any such board to regulate forest land of the tribals. This is thus another cause of aggravation for the tribal people.
The Panchayats [Extension to Schedule Areas] Act is another work of the legislature which, if implemented and regulated properly may yield positive results. Other legislations include the Tribal Bill, Tribal Rights Act, Tribal Lands Act, Forest Rights Act, etc. Apart from these statutes and legislations, the government has set up the Indian Reserve (IR) battalion. This, along with providing additional security provides youth with employment (Dixit, 2010).
The state governments of naxal affected states have also come up with different schemes to slow down the movement. For eg, the government of Chhattisgarh provided houses worth Rs. 1 lack and employment to the relatives of the ones who got killed in the Maoist insurgencies, the government of Jharkhand increased the amount of insurance to be given to the families of the military men working in the Maoist belt, the Karnataka government allocated funds for the development of the naxal affected villages, states like Orissa and Jharkhand gave incentives to the naxalites who surrendered on their own and provided them employment.
In the last few years, the naxal movement had aggravated in the heartland of the country. However, in 2015, there was a major decline in the number. The year 2015 saw the lowest number of naxal activity in the past six years. This is an indicator of the efforts of government being successful. However, there still is a long way to go. The tribes and dalits living in the naxal region are still facing the same situation as before. They are still oppressed and harassed by the government and capitalists. And unless and until this problem is solved, there is no way in which we can put an end to the naxal movement.
The naxals might seem to the general public as terrorists. But, the public doesn’t know their plight and sufferings. They don’t know what struggle these sect of people go through and the reason they joined the movement. Naxals have never attacked the common people. They only cause harm to the state officials. Yes, they are a threat because they keep attacking the statutory authorities. However, if there was better implementation of laws and their needs were fulfilled, they might not remain as big a threat as they are today.
Dixit, R. (2010). Naxalite Movement in India: The State’s Response. Journal of Defence Studies, 21-35.
Katoch, D. C. (2012). Naxalism in India: Prognosis and Cure. CLAWS Journal, 10-22.
Koerner, B. (2004, February 5). What’s a Maoist, Anyway? Slate.
Vira, V. (2011). Counterinsurgency in India: The Maoists. Small Wars Journal, 1-13.