Hello defence lovers! We hope that you must have read the previous article Understanding Naxalism: The ideology (part 1). This article is the continuation of that article. In this article, we are going to discuss the rise of Naxalism in India. We would learn how it spread like wildfire and then how it was controlled.
The Rise of Naxalism in India can be broadly classified into three stages. which are given below
- The first stage: 1967-1975
- The second stage: 1975-2004
- The third stage: 2004 – present
The First Stage: The Uprising
Charu Majumdar was a communist revolutionary from India. Born in a progressive landlord family in Siliguri in 1918, he later formed the militant Naxalite cause. He also authored the historic accounts of the 1967 Naxalbari uprising and his writings have become the ideology that guides the Naxal movement. He is also known as the Father of the Naxalite movement in India
It all began in a small village in northern West Bengal, called Naxalbari in the spring of 1967. At that time India had been free for 20 years, but there was still the colonial system of landlords and their regimes based upon the exploitation of the poor. Inspired by the communist ideologies, the peasants revolted. The uprising spread like a fire in the nearby districts as well. Years of exploitations and discriminations of the poor peasants added fuel to this fire. Charu Majumdar emerged as the leader of this Naxalbari uprising and eventually became the father of the Naxal movement. At that time Sino-Soviet split was at its peak. Following the Chinese Revolution of 1949, the Vietnam War and the Cuban Revolution, Charu Majumdar found the time perfect for launching a people’s armed revolution in India.
Later in 1967,all the left-wing extremists from the country formed the “All India Coordination Committee” In kolkata, West bengal. One year later in 1968, this committee was renamed as “All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries” (AICCCR). AICCCR declared the following ideological aims:
- Protracted people’s war in accordance with Mao’s teachings
- Adapting to guerrilla warfare tactics
- Establishment of rural revolutionary base areas
- Encircling the cities as well as abstaining from parliamentary elections
AICCCR founded the revolutionary party CPI Marxist-Leninist (ML) in 1969 that was based on Maoist ideology. Soon, the Naxalite movement spread to many parts of the country, especially West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh like wildfire. Their main followers were peasants and Adivasis, or tribals, who often experienced discrimination and exploitation from state authorities or wealthy landlords. Also, several young unemployed people and students got attracted to the Naxal ideology.
The period 1970 to mid-1971 was the peak period of violent activities by Naxalites. The government also responded violently and brutally. A joint operation of police and army in 1971 in the worst affected areas in West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha led to the arrest and death of almost all top leaders of the movement. Charu Mazumdar was caught and died in 1972 in police custody. The movement faced a severe blow during the emergency when around 40,000 cadres were imprisoned in 1975. This marked the end of the first phase of the rise of Naxalism.
The Second Stage
The Naxal movement arose again in a more violent form after the Emergency. It continued to widen its base as per the strategy of ‘protracted war’. Their base grew from West Bengal to Bihar to Odisha and also to Andhra Pradesh
and Chhattisgarh. The CPI Marxist-Leninist (ML) was converted into the People’s War Group (PWG) in 1980 which had its base in Andhra Pradesh and struck heavy causalities among police personnel. The PWG was banned by Andhra Government in 1992 but it continued its activities. Simultaneously, the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) grew in strength in Bihar and carried out large scale attacks on landlords and other upper caste outfits. The Naxal movement continued to grow at a steady pace. By 2004, the Naxalite movement entered its most dangerous phase- the third phase.
The Third stage
The third stage is the most dangerous and bloodiest stage of the Naxalite movement in India. It is when the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency started showing the government its actual strength. The PWG operating in Andra Pradesh and the MCC operating in Bihar and other adjoining areas merged together to form CPI (Maoist).
After the formation of CPI (Maoist), Naxal violence has been on the rise since 2005, to the extent that in 2006, the Prime Minister had to declare Naxalism the single biggest internal security challenge being faced by India. Estimated to be 40,000 strong, the Naxalites have been a strain on the country’s security forces and a barrier to development in the vast mineral-rich region in eastern India known as the ‘Red Corridor’. It is a narrow but contiguous strip passing through Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Naxalites influence roughly a third of the geographical spread of the country. As of 2007, the worst affected areas of the Maoist influence include approximately 51 districts of 7 states namely Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Most of these areas fall in the Dandakaranya Region which includes areas of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Local panchayat leaders are often forced to resign and the Maoists hold regular Jan Adalat. They have been running a parallel government and parallel judiciary in these areas.
The movement took the bloodiest turn in 2010 when Naxal guerilla attacks caused the death of hundreds of security forces personals. In response, the government launched an all-out offensive on the Naxals which is continuing even today. This was given the name “operation green hunt” by the media. So far the government appears to be successful in wiping the Naxals out of the areas and thus liberating most of the red corridor.
It is estimated that so far in this conflict, over 8000 civilians and 3000 security personnel have lost their lives. On the other hand, over 4000 Naxals have been neutralized.
This was all about the rise of Naxalism in India. It is still one of the biggest threats to the internal security of the country. We will understand the operation Green hunt in details in the next article. We will also discuss how Naxalism can be eradicated from the country in the upcoming articles in the series.