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Know the Naxals : A brief look at the history

There have been many debates of late on the television, in the wake of the arrests of those who are now increasingly mentioned as the ‘Urban Naxals’. I am both shocked and amused at the same time to look at the audacity of the sympathizers of Naxal terrorism, in all their starched Saris and handloom Kurtas, when they hide behind the same constitution, that they want to overthrow.

They are shrill, sophisticated, eloquent and deriding. They hate the common folks, and their disdain for those who work, create and make a living, peeps through their elitist smiles. They are mostly ideologues (yes, that is some work for sustenance in the modern scheme of things), academics and well, ostensibly, writers and poets. The fact remains that when communism is the scheme of things, Naxal notices mentioning Jan Adaalats in the villages of Chattisgarh too become work of art, and corpses hanging from the electricity poles, become equivalent of artwork on the roof of Sistine Chapel.

The other day, Ms Aruna Roy, came on NDTV to defend those who were arrested by the Government on the charges of conspiring against the state, planning the murder of the Prime Minister and attempting to engineer the riots. Ms Roy’s primary argument which I could gather in the shrill rhetoric of hers was that these commoners have no idea about Naxalism and Communism and therefore are driven by a co-opted media to create a Quixotic windmill out of the kind and benevolent Naxals.

Ms Roy is the daughter of a Government officer, has been herself privileged to be driven in a red beacon vehicle as an Administrative officer and is married to Mr Bunker Roy, a Doon School and St. Stephen’s Alumni. I wonder why all those fighting for the tribal and downtrodden never come from the poor society and are always having a pedigree school, a prized professional background of either an IAS or an IRS and a privileged childhood lurking behind their carefully-crafted “Oh, I do understand poverty” faces.

She was later made the chairman of National Advisory Council, which advised the Government run at the behest of Ms Sonia Gandhi for almost a decade. This was the closest the Maoists came to the seat of power, under the kind guidance of Ms Sonia Gandhi of Congress. This also meant that the outrage they express today was largely muted when UPA Government went about arresting many Naxal sympathizers in the UPA regimes, some of the current ones being the same as those arrested earlier.

Ms. Roy sat through it when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a conference of Chief Ministers in 2006 and said that the problem is Naxalism is the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.  She sat through it conveniently when UPA Government went about arresting 7 members of Kabir Kala Manch in 2011. She did, however, resign in 2013. She might have expected to be brought back, as was the case in her earlier resignation attempt. As things turned out, Neither she returned nor Sonia Gandhi after 2014 elections. However, what stood out in her debate in the current outrage on the arrest of people for alleged charges of association with Naxal terrorists, is her claim that people who are justifying the arrests know nothing of the Naxal movement. This is true. We do not know and those who play around with lives of useful idiots capitalize on our ignorance. While in her anger, she might be cursing us for our lack of knowledge; it is the same ignorance which has helped the shrill shape of sophistication which lives in these privileged princes and princesses whose perfumed hearts bleed for the poor, project the terrorists as some kind of Robinhoods and angels. Let us, therefore, learn.

Although Congress under Jawahar Lal Nehru made necessary fashionable noises of socialism, for the poor and downtrodden, all along the years, before independence as Communist Party of India, struggled since formation on December, 26th, 1925 in Kanpur, under the guidance of Soviet Socialists.

This CPI was wound up in 1951. The founder, MN Roy lived a disenchanted man through Indian independence and died in 1954, another founder Abani Roy died in Russia, under the Communist, in a strange twist of times, during the Great Purge. Official figures of the people killed by the Communists during the great purge is around Six-Hundred And Fifty Thousand people, unofficial number hovers around one million people who were put to death by the Communists in the Great Purge of 1930 in Russia.

Not surprising that one of the founders of Communism in India, fell victim of the Communist state he held as his ideal. The independence of India in 1947, not only saw religious bloodletting across the country; it also witnessed a slowly-simmering discontent among the farmers being used by the Communists lamenting having been reduced to “mere appendage to the Congress” to leverage themselves into a prominent role, often failing due to internal conflicts.

Telangana Movement in South and Tehbhaga Movement in the East were the visible tips of the icebergs which were to hit a nation which had just left the port. The Communists always working through various fronts and faces, led the peasants’ movement in Andhra Pradesh under the name of Andhra Mahasabha. While multiple false-faces makes Communism quite confusing and hard to pin, it also causes multiple internal schisms. As we see in this letter written by Andhra Mahasabha to the Central Committee, where they contend that the situation in India is less close to Russia in 1917 and reflects closely to China and therefore, a protracted protest with strikes and demonstrations is less likely to work in India as compared with the Chinese civil war model. It was a fight of Marxist Communism with Maoist Communism.

Well, these are not one and these are not different. If one wants to look at an example of multi-headed hydra and politics, one only needs to look at communism. The then president, BT Ranadive, retorts attacking Mao, “Mao’s formulations are such that no communist party can accept them.”  The then communist party could not resolve and take a clear ideological line. The fountainhead of intellectualism failed and then reached out to the great mind of his time, Joseph Stalin for guidance on existential questions of Communism like who is the enemy? Who are enemy classes? and such. BTR was removed from the Politburo and Andhra Secretariat took over in 1951. BTR was later brought back in the Central Committee in 1956. His nephew Vivek Ranadive is a multimillionaire businessman running TIBCO and another one, Ajit Rangnekar is the dean of ISB. Apparently, those who are a witness of communism from close quarters, refuse to become useful idiots to an anachronistic ideology. Communism in India, leaning at one time on Russia and China at other, makes an interesting history. Unfortunately, history is the biggest sufferer with the communist hegemony of the academia.

Coming back to the Naxal movement. It all began from the farmland of an influential Landlord and a Congress leader in West Bengal, on the foothills of Darjeeling.  The place was a small village called Naxalbari. Tebhaga movement was led by Kisan Sabha. Kisan Sabha was the farmers’ front of Communist party, which had initially started as a non-communist peasant movement under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati.

Their key plea was to increase the share of the landless labourer from half to Two-Third. Bigul Kisan was tilling the land in 1967 as a landless labourer. He was a part of Kisan Sabha. Under the Communists, Kisan Sabha decided to reduce the share of the landowner in the crops to Zero. Bigul Kisan was tilling the lands of an influential man in the area, Ishwar Tirkey. It was then he decided to claim those lands which he worked on. He forgot the fact that the man who owned the land at the time was from the Party in power at the centre, Congress. It did not matter to Shri Tirkey that someday, the daughter of the man at the helm of his party, will someday force the word Socialist into the preamble of Indian Constitution. An entitled and influential Congressman, Ishwar Tirkey, promptly sent across his henchmen to beat up Bigul Kisan on 23rd of May, 1967.

The irony of the ironies, United Front Government (a combine of CPI and CPI-M) ruled in the state of West Bengal. We will soon discover that the multi-headed hydra was also a dual-faced Janus. The Communists pushed the unsuspecting farmers to forcefully acquire the lands from the landowners. On 24th of May, 1967, the same Government sent the Police force to arrest the miscreants. Armed police action was responded by the tribal farmers with bows and arrows. Inspector Sonam Wangdi was hit by the arrows and died. The police under express instructions of Communist Home Minister Jyoti Basu attacked the village on the 25th of May, 1967. As the Police sent in by Bad Communists attacked the villagers, the ‘Good’ Communists forced Women and kids walk in the front – a human shield. The police fired and Nine women and children were killed. This was the beginning of the Naxal movement, the errant brother of the gentlemanly Bhadraloks which would in the times to come have to its credit the deaths of around 7000 innocents in past decade only (The year 2000 onward ).

Naxalbari movement marked the giving up of Soviet ideology by the Indian Communists, in favour of the Chinese one. Here it is pertinent to understand the three things, as there is a tendency of painting Indian freedom fighters and attempting to club them with dreaded Naxal terrorists of today. This is not an innocent mistake when people go on social media and tag someone like Bhagat Singh as # UrbanNaxal. There are three things- Socialism, Communism and Naxalism. Socialism is more of an economic principle, a philosophy, coming from Karl Marx. This ideology was not violent about opposition to Capitalism, rather was even accepting towards the need of Capitalism to make socialism possible. It is an ideal Utopia of a classless society. A beautiful but impossible dream since it ran against the principle of survival of the fittest. Men, said Nietzsche, are not equal and our best happiness, as said by Napoleon, is the complete realization of our potential.

This reality of the human race, in specific, and life, in general, makes socialism impossible dream. Communism is more of Russian politics. Here the social change comes about with legit social protests, strikes and such political means. Naxalism is more reflective of an evil forceful armed revolution which neither seeks to convert or convince, rather wants to overthrow the current order to come into power. That is the Chinese order of communism. When the Naxalbari event happened, a watchful and happy Chinese media reported that “By integrating itself with the peasants, the Indian Proletariat will be able to bring about earth-shaking changes in the vast countryside of India and defeat any powerful enemy in a soul-stirring people’s war. Armed struggle is the only correct road for the Indian revolution, there is no other road whatsoever. Such trash as “Gandhi-ism,” “parliamentary road” and they are like an opium used by the Indian ruling classes to paralyze Indian people.” (Ref. Editorial in People Daily, 5th of July, 1967).  The leadership of the Naxal movement, then in September 1967, travels to China, meets Mao and the M in the movement had nothing to do any longer with Marx.

Supported by Mao’s imperialistic desired, Charu Majumdar came back with his faith on complete annihilation bolstered. He had earlier articulated it quite eloquently in August 1966, when he said “the meaning of party activists group today is that they will be combat units. Their main duty will be political propaganda and to strike against counter-revolutionary forces. We should always keep in mind Mao Zedong’s teaching that Attacks are not for the sake of attack merely; attacks are for annihilation only. Those who should be attacked are mainly: 1) the representative of state machinery like Police, military officers 2) the hated bureaucracy 3) Class enemies.

This excessively violent idea did not go down well with the cadre which though wanted to fight for their rights, did not see the oppressors as a homogeneous block to be annihilated. We must remember that unlike Slaves in America, India never had such kind of animal oppression in the social sanctions. Ashim Chatterjee who was one of the initial members of Naxal Movement, aligned with the Bihar unit chief and secretary Satyanarayan Singh; the latter sacked the founder of the movement, Charu Majumder in 1970. In a prompt response, he too was sacked by Charu Majumder. Ashim Chatterjee, Student Naxal leader of Kolkata’s Presidency College, behind the poster campaign in Kolkata, making the slogan, Chairman Mao, is our Chairman, is now a member of Trinamul Congress. This was a big fall for Charu Majumdar who is also often called as the father of Indian Naxal movement. By the media and academics who are sympathetic to the communist causes, these internal conflicts have diligently been kept away from public view, lest the group would look nothing but a band of outlaws.

Charu Majumdar was the son of an affluent landlord and a Congress leader. He joined Tebhaga movement early in 1946 and was promptly sent to the prison, not by the British, but the blessed doyen of democracy, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948, for three years after CPI was banned by Congress Government. The same angelic leader again jailed Charu Majumdar in 1962. In 1967, he was at the forefront of Naxalbari’s peasant movement which was to eventually become the Naxal menace, we are struggling with even today.

In 1971, there was Congress government both at the centre and the state. Operation Steeplechase was Launched by Mrs Indira Gandhi government. The nation-wide hunt of Naxals across the country, in which around 8400 Naxals were arrested (compare this with the current arrests made by Narendra Modi government on which there is so much noise and drama in the media), culminated with the arrest of Charu Majumdar on July 16th, 1972 from Kolkata. The man, by then, in his fifties, was declared dead within twelve days of arrest in the Lal Bazaar Lockup. He was allowed brief meetings with the family, twice in the twelve days detention and was not produced in the court. The dead body was not given to the family even for the last rights. The judges in the Supreme court did not take any notice and the democracy was not in danger even when it was thrown under the bus by the all-powerful Indira Gandhi. The voice of protest for the father of Naxal movement was muted, the silence of co-opted ecosystem spoke loudly when we compare it with the so-called brave voices of dissent protesting against the arrest of alleged terrorist sympathizers who are nothing more than courier boys of a failed movement.

Charu Majumdar was no saint. He was the most adamant supporter of the theory of annihilation. Beneath the innocent and cultured demeanor of the Naxal supporters of today, sipping champagne, speaking eloquently in TV studios on the greatness of democracy, invoking Gandhi, there still lies a blood-thirsty supporter of the theory of annihilation of Mao, wanting to gain power by overthrowing the democracy or breaking India, into small pieces to be won over, bit by bit. Another of the initial founding leaders, Kanu Sanyal, was arrested in 1970 after the Congress Government came to power. One of the most prominent ideologues and the one who went into the rough and tumble of the failed revolution was then put into the prison for seven years, in Vishakhapatnam.

He was first arrested and Jailed for showing black flags to then Congress CM of West Bengal, Bidhan Chandra Roy and his meeting with Charu Majumdar in Jalpaiguri Jail would eventually give birth to the most dangerous extremist movement in Independent India. He was on the forefront of the opposition against the land acquisition for the left government’s industrial drive in Singoor. He was found dead on 2the 3rd of March, 2010 in his house in Naxalbari Village. Another one of Initial activists, Shanti Munda, an Adivasi, who barely escaped death as a 23-year-old in the Police Firing in 1967, still lives in a thatched hut in Naxalbari. The world around them moved on, the generals of the Leftist movement moved forward with kids studying in London, leaders getting treated in the United States. The foot soldiers, on whose bravery and sacrifices, poems were written, stories were scripted in the air-conditioned convention halls, remained stuck in the squalid socialist poverty. Those cultivated by the academia and media to play the foot soldiers, those who get front row seats in Press club meetings in Delhi, neither are aware of nor are qualified to share the ideological dreams of the first revolutionaries. As we compare those who initiated the movement and those who represent it now, we find a failed revolution, and failed soldiers capitalized and utilized for the benefit by the generals and ideologues, in the national and state capitals.

It is their predecessors, the predecessors of those elite crusaders of the poor, who on 17th of March 1970, descended on the Sain residence in Burdwan. Sain brothers were Congress loyalists. The three brothers were killed in the most gruesome manner. The eyes of the eldest one were gouged out and the other two were hacked to death. The eldest one was killed in the following year, blind then. The blood of the slain was mixed with rice and force fed to the women of the family, including the mother. This is the face of the Naxal movement, the failed and deserving to fail movement which is currently people are trying to resurrect. What is most striking is that Congress, now out of power, is standing with the terrorist movement, it gave birth to.

The Bhadralok, ever so eloquent, would come on the television in their beautiful attires, speaking in their beautiful accept, acting surprised at the violence, they would claim they had never seen until Narendra Modi government came into power at the centre in 2014. They are counting on our short memory. That is why Aruna Roy admonishes haughtily “What do you know about Naxalism/ Communism?” She counts on the fact that you would not know that there was once a Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University named Gopal Sen who was killed within 100 meters of his campus residence merely because he refused to give in to the Maoist demand for a boycott in the university.  People like Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Aruna Roy and Prakash Ambedkar would assume that you would not know that in 1997, then Communist party CM of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee admitted on the floor of the assembly, the number of political murders in the years between 1977 and 1997 to be 28000 People. They are the same well-dressed people speaking eloquently how one unfortunate death in one obscure place should be a justified reason for the Narendra Modi Government to call it quits, and for India to be shamed internationally.

Let us not be fooled by their charms, and by the desperation of rootless prince of Congress, who do not know where he stands. Difficult times bring out the best and worse of the people. We are looking at it as the political divisions, the loyalty towards the dead, everything is fluid, confused and filled with the stench of mendacity which is strong enough to even overpower the stench of the dead corpses which are sewn along the last five-decade-long journey which began on an ordinary day, in an ordinary village near Darjeeling. We need to stand by our nation, if not by our Government, as this nefarious conspiracy is being unearthed.

Links and References:

Voices of Naxalbari, Caravan, June 2017 (Click Here)

Naxalbari Revisited, The Times of India, 25th April 2015 (Click Here)

Burdwan Sain Bari Massacre: The Times of India, 17th March 2013 (Click Here)

Census of Political Murders in West Bengal under CPI-M rule. Mainstream Weekly, (Click Here)

Charu and Son, Revisiting the legacy of a revolutionary father 70 years after Naxalbari (Click Here)

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Saket Suryesh
Saket Suryesh
A technology worker, writer and poet, and a concerned Indian. Writer, Columnist, Satirist. Published Author of Collection of Hindi Short-stories 'Ek Swar, Sahasra Pratidhwaniyaan' and English translation of Autobiography of Noted Freedom Fighter, Ram Prasad Bismil, The Revolutionary. Interested in Current Affairs, Politics and History of Bharat.

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