These days Naxalism is more complex than its original form, taking in a network of neighbouring states like Nepal and Bangladesh. Its character is changing from a predominantly rural to a more urban orientation.
1) The Naxalbari movement was launched by Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal in the summer of 1967. They attacked the police in Naxalbari village in north Bengal after a farmer was killed over a land dispute. Charu Majumdar is considered the ideologue of the Naxal movement. Kanu Sanyal its organiser.
2) In 1949, Kanu Sanyal was jailed for waving a black flag at Bidhan Chandra Roy, the Congress chief minister of West Bengal, as a mark of protest against the banning of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in 1948. It was while he was in prison that he met Majumdar. In 1952, Sanyal became a full time member of the CPI, and when the party split in 1964, he, along with Majumdar, sided with the breakaway faction, the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
3) In 1965, Charu Majumdar came out with his historic ‘Eight Documents’ which advocated following the example of Mao Zedong’s China and taking up an armed struggle against the state. Later these came to form the basis of Naxalite ideology. In 1968, Kanu Sanyal led a team of five revolutionaries to a trip to China where they received a warm welcome. It is believed that in their two-and-a-half month stay in China they even took military training.
4) The leaders of the Naxalbari uprising broke away from CPI (Marxist) in 1969 to form the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) — the Maoists, or Naxalites. This party advocated armed revolution and denounced participation in the electoral process. Soon the Maoists had created vast guerrilla zones stretching from West Bengal to Bihar to Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. But within a few years their fortunes began to wane because of internal splits, Charu Mazumdar’s death in 1972, and major crackdown by the government. Since then there have been many communist revolutionary groups operating in different parts of India.
5) One of the most significant of these is the People’s War Group, formed in 1980 by Kondapally Seetharamaiah, a schoolteacher. The People’s War Group promotes an armed revolution targeting the state and the security forces as well as oppressive landlords. It began in Andhra Pradesh and spread to the states of Chhattisgarh and Orissa. The party merged with the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist Party Unity) in 1998. Partly as a result of such mergers, the Naxalite movement has grown much stronger in recent years. The Maoists now have a presence in more than 223 of 600-odd districts across 20 states.
6) However Sayal, the man who gave this extremist form of communism a permanent place in Indian history, committed suicide on 23 March 2010 by hanging himself at his residence in Hatighisa village near Naxalbari.
7) On 6 April 2010, Maoists launched the biggest assault in the history of the Naxalite movement by killing 76 security personnel in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. The attack is believed to have been carried out in retaliation for the government’s Operation Greenhunt, launched to crush the Maoists in Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
8) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoists as the ‘country’s biggest internal security challenge’. According to government data, approximately 600 civilians have died in Maoist violence over the last one year. Official figures show that 317 security forces personnel and 217 Naxals were killed as a direct result of Maoist-related violence in 2009.
9) In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Naxalite movement was popular. There were reports of brilliant students from Presidency College, Jadavpur University and so on dropping out of college to join the struggle for the rights of the tribals and landless labourers. However authorities mounted a fierce crackdown on the ultra-Leftist movement across the country, particularly in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, which climaxed during and after the 1971 Bangladesh war with the killings of many key ultra-Leftist leaders. The Naxals work on small-time development issues like running some schools, health centres, foodgrain banks, and so on. This gives them local level support, without which they would not be able to survive.
10) On 29 November 2009, Chhattisgarh director general of police Vishwa Ranjan claimed that the Maoists annually extort up to Rs2,000 crore across India. Earlier, documents and hard disks seized from Misir Mishra, a central committee member of the CPI-Maoist, who was arrested in Jharkhand in March 2008, had revealed that the CPI-Maoist collected over Rs1,000 crore in 2007 through their state committees and had set a target of Rs1,125 crore for 2008. Another major source of funding for the Maoists is poppy or opium cultivation. The Ghagra area of Gumla district in Jharkhand and parts of Gumla, Kishanganj and Purnia districts in Bihar are reported to be the principal pockets of poppy cultivation exploited by the Maoists.
Buoyed by their inflated coffers, the Maoists are attempting to attract more unemployed youth into their ‘armed struggle’, paying out Rs3,000 to each cadre as salary, and a cut in the monies extorted, according an Outlook report.