Vivek Agnihotri, the author cum filmmaker has been rather vocal about the Urban Naxal phenomena that have come to the fore recently. In his book, Urban Naxals, Vivek talks extensively about how the Naxals have an entire urban network that often goes unnoticed because they are disguised as activists, lawyers, etc.
With the recent arrest of several urban Naxals who were working actively as conduits for the Naxal terrorists, his book gained even more popularity and relevance.
Recently, Agnihotri was approached for an interview by Times of India but for some reason, the interview was never published. Vivek says he never got a forthcoming answer and he was just told it was against ‘policies’ of Times of India, which he found rather strange.
Following is the interview that Times of India considers against its policies.
1. What is urban Naxalism and how does it spread its wings?
Urban Naxalism is the fourth generation (4G) war. It is complex and long-term. In 2004, Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) People’s War, usually called People’s War Group (PWG), merged the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC) and formed Communist Party of India (Maoist) pledging to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. The party became a member of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA).
This new entity drafted five vision and strategic documents under an urban perspective plan — a blueprint for their urban movement/activities. It is believed that Kobad Ghandy alias Rajan, who was arrested in September 2009 in New Delhi, played a major role in the preparation of this urban perspective plan.
These five, ‘Strategy and Tactics’ document and ‘Urban Perspective Document’ admits that enemy (Indian State) is very strong in urban areas and therefore never to engage with the enemy until the conditions are favourable. And to make them favourable, it suggests, exploring and the opening of opportunities, organize people through frontal organizations (FOs). Target the ‘vulnerable group’ of minorities, women, Dalits, labours and students through influencers who work as under-covers for a long time and accumulate strength. The document stresses uniting industrial proletariats, weak and students and uses them as vanguards who can play a direct role in the revolution.
The strategy is to make a direct attack on the enemy’s (Indian State) culture, including genocidal acts against civilians and wage a highly sophisticated psychological and cultural warfare, especially through media manipulation and lawfare. To create a state of unrest chaos and conflict leading to a civil war. For this purpose, legal professionals are required, media professionals are required, creative people, varied intellectuals and academicians are required, and civil society leaders are required, especially those who are connected with NGOs for smooth transaction of funds and to hide behind compassionate human rights causes. It begins with low-intensity conflicts where all the actors attack from different platforms.
So, an invisible Naxal-intelligentsia-lawyers-media-academia-NGO-Activist nexus works as strategic fortification with the ultimate aim of taking over Indian State to achieve Maoist rule. They have identified Pune-Mumbai-Ahmadabad as Golden Corridor. Delhi-Kanpur-Patna-Kolkata as Ganga Corridor. And KKT’s (Kerala, Karnataka & Tamilnadu) Chennai-Coimbatore-Bengaluru as Tri-junction. The key universities like JNU, JU, Osmania, HCU, Tiss etc work as R&D of Urban Naxalism.
Anyone who directly or indirectly works to accomplish these objectives is an Urban Naxal. Anyone who sympathizes with them is a potential Urban Naxal. But I always insist that the critics of the government, anti-establishment activists or dissenters of the system must not be confused with the real enemies – Urban Naxals.
The following chart illustrates the Urban Naxalism network.
2. According to your experience, how do urban Naxalites communicate and remain in touch with the Naxalites on the field in forest areas?
This is a very well-structured operation. You can blame them for anything but never for their organizational abilities. While the Naxals in jungles engage the security forces, the Urban Naxals engage the government and legal system. They infiltrate into the enemy camp (Indian state) in critical departments like finance, military, police, power, IT, defence production and disrupt the activities from within by gaining control over the workers. Slowly, passive protests and continuous grievances lead to a domino effect in an already disgruntled nation.
They create a network of doctors and hospital attendants sympathetic to their cause who shall treat their injured cadres with utmost secrecy.
They create cadres in urban areas who are technically qualified to handle the modern communication with their cadre spread in jungles. They possess drones, satellite phones. There are technical teams which handle latest arms and ammunition.
They have formed groups of highly motivated individuals who constitute what the Maoists call as ‘City Action Teams’. These members are entrusted with the destruction of high-value targets or the annihilation of individuals of importance. The identity of such members is unknown even to the local urban party structure.
Their most critical arm deals with the collection of centralised intelligence and cyber-warfare. The party tries to use modern electronic means to infiltrate into the enemy’s networks and collect vital information. For this, they need to have individuals with requisite skills, who can only be found in urban areas and who, because of the nature of their job, need to be based therein. Such persons are under the direct control of the highest party echelons.
Then they use various FOs like Kabir Kala Manch which travel all across for propaganda and in the garb of events they communicate between the cadre and Urban Naxals.
3. Why does Naxalism spread – is it because of the ideology or due to something else?
When the armed Naxal movement began, the gun became a symbol for land redistribution and the end of an oppressive and corrupt system. A lot of young tribals were fascinated by this quick form of justice and they also picked up guns. They attacked the policemen who always sided with the influential and powerful. They used violence to demand better wages and rates for their produce. And they got it. Insurgency spread and soon the area became the theatre of a new kind of warfare. A parallel government started taking shape. Personal justice became the order of the day.
‘Apni Satta, Apna Kanoon’(Our governance, our laws) became the motto. Kangaroo courts got set up. Naxalism became the new establishment.
The establishment has to survive. Survival requires funding and an ecosystem. Therefore, it becomes a compulsion to form a nexus with the politicians, police, and the middlemen. They also started looting contractors, trucks, and godowns.
Today Naxalism is a big enterprise. People have to be fed. Arms to be procured. Ammunition to be replenished. And above all, the terror to be maintained so that the government officials don’t dare enter the area and therefore they block all kinds of developments. Terror has a quality –its virality can’t be controlled. Naxals become service providers for interpersonal rivalries and start facilitating revenge on the condition that the person will join them and become a Naxal. Kangaroo courts are used for this purpose. ‘Adha foot kam kar do(Shorten the man by six inches)’ means ‘Behead him’. Extortion is used to feed this mafia. They kill those who don’t subscribe to their ideology. They kill to create a power and governance vacuum and soon they fill up this space. They attack schools because education promotes awareness and empowers youth with skills for a livelihood other than farming and forest-related jobs. This is how they keep the population in their area of influence out of the mainstream milieu and spread their terror and grow from localized movement to a pan-Indian shape, in the form of urban Naxalism to accomplish its real goal– to wage a full-fledged war against the Indian State.
3. According to your research, how long do you think will Naxal movement last in India?
This is not a 100-metre race. It’s a marathon. Naxal movement in jungles is already on the decline. I think post-2019 elections it will further get diluted. But the Urban Naxalism is on the rise. A lot of funding from vested agencies is being pumped into the system. Sometimes even actors don’t know that they are part of this ant-state theatre. There was a time in Bollywood when the producers weren’t aware of the mafia money being pumped through legal routes. For example, you have a digital media platform and you need funding, you start publishing articles which promote Naxal objectives, the funding will present itself to you through the legal route. As long as we have competitive democracy with identity groups, vote banks and ambiguous laws on such activities, it is very difficult to eliminate them. The nexus will be formed by the vested interests. It’s a money-making enterprise with powerful middlemen.
4. It is believed urban Naxalites undertake detailed planning and strategizing of many Naxal activities an also raise funds for their cause, is it true and how can this menace be controlled?
A wrong narrative has been created that Naxals extort big business houses to help the poor tribals. In fact, Naxals extort poor adivasis. This movement survives on terror funding which is being used to buy arms & ammunition, intelligence devices, drones, training, infrastructure etc. This terror funding comes from Communist terror organisations from the east and from Islamic terror organisations in the west.
Then a huge amount of money is collected through extortion of the poor. You will be surprised to know that they extort poor Tendu leaves sellers to the tune of 60 cr in one season. There was a case in Maharashtra last April/May when tendu leaves contractors were arrested with crores of cash. Any major construction like roads in the area is charged at 15%. Minor construction and other works at Panchayat level -10 to 15%. Levy on vehicles and any business based on four wheelers or passenger bus etc at 5-10% of earnings. Salary of one month of Govt servants like teachers, ashram staff, hostel staff etc. is taken as extortion. Operators of tractors and machinery in agriculture – usually one month’s earnings or 10%. Commission from all funds granted to panchayats in the affected area is extorted. Mining is charged at 10-15%.
On an average 1 km road in Bastar is built at around 2 to 2.5 cr if it’s NH and 1 to 1.5 in other cases. In 2016, more than 230 km of roads were completed in Bastar. So estimated extortion is around 65-70 cr on roads.
It is estimated that 1100cr-1500cr is extorted every year from the affected area and most of it is used for the Urban Naxal activities.
5. What are the top steps that the law enforcement agencies have to take to eradicate Naxalism from India?
- Fast-tracking building infrastructure, with a focus on solar lights, mobile towers with 3G connectivity, and road-rail connectivity.
- Cut their lifeline completely, i.e funding. Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) must be reviewed to ensure effective choking of fund flow to LWE groups. NGOs must be vetted and thorough scrutiny of foreign funding,
- A complete overhauling of our education system with a focus on meritocracy aimed at a positive and constructive approach to nation-building. Zero tolerance approach to ‘Naxal sympathisers’ in academia. Direct legal action against anyone who is directly or indirectly connected with Naxalism like the USA did with communism.
- Ban political party/politicians which even remotely work with Naxals or Urban Naxals.
Is Naxalism a sign of a failed government?
When India found freedom, many fundamental issues remained unaddressed. Naxalism grew because of social disparity, oppression and the state’s indifference to certain sections of the society and certain regions. This has caused wide disparity in society. Naxals take advantage of this. The only way to defeat them is to fill this disparity. Sadly, no government in the past focused on development. In a democracy of India’s size, there are huge groups of alienated and angered people with no real idea of the perceived sense of injustice, oppression, and loss of dignity. Naxals are cleverly exploiting this sentiment to their advantage – caste conflicts in Bihar, resentment against landlords in Andhra, discontent against forest laws in tribal areas, unemployment amongst youth and radicalism among Muslims are all given the prescription of capture of power through violence as the ultimate solution of all their problems. While the local grievances need to be effectively addressed through improved governance and ruthless accountability, there is also a need for creating mass awareness of the ultimate designs and consequences of what the extremists stand for.
Good news is that in the last few years due to the increased pace of development in Bastar, Naxalism is getting diluted.
6. Or is it driven by political goons or terrorists?
Today, Naxalism is well connected with international terror organisations. They have the common enemy – Indian State. Recent studies say that the Naxals have well-established linkages with other insurgent groups and a few Muslim Fundamentalist Organizations (MFOs). These links provide the movement not only with psychological support but also material support in the form of money and weapons. If police and other sources are to be believed, the Naxalites, with the help of Dalit youths and the Islamist terrorist group Indian Mujahideen (IM), want to have their own government in the country. The revolution is believed to emerge from the conflict of Hindus on one side and Dalits and Muslims on another. Two consolidated rebellious, energetic forces pumped with raw adrenaline, will go for each other’s blood. And then it will be opportune to hijack and change the narrative to oppressed, the proletariat, and marginalized vs bourgeoisie, elites, and Brahmins. This attracts poor and intellectuals both. In this case, the Adivasi, Dalits, Muslims, and other “forgotten people”, united under one common red flag, will demolish the State. That’s the ambition. And they also have a plan.