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The Maoist movement, which began 50 years ago in the name of fighting exploitation, has lost its way. Photo: AFP
The Maoist movement, which began 50 years ago in the name of fighting exploitation, has lost its way. Photo: AFP

Maoist war: For the right cause in a wrong manner

Fifty years into the violent Maoist uprising of Naxalbari, which milestones has the red revolution crossed?

One morning, while going to school in Allahabad, I read a slogan in Bengali reading: Aamar badi, tomar badi, Naxalbari Naxalbari. It means, “my home, your home, Naxalbari." Many years later, while passing through Almora, I again noticed slogans propagating the message of rebellion. What was common both times was the symbol of hammer and sickle next to the slogans. A question came to my mind: Down the generations, which milestones has the Maoist revolution crossed?

It is the right time to discuss this subject because 25 May will commemorate 50 years of the violent Maoist uprising of Naxalbari.

Let me inform the younger generations that during a meeting in West Bengal’s Naxalbari area in March 1967, a decision was taken to embark on an armed rebellion in order to bring in a regime that would uphold the rights of peasants and workers. The brain behind this rebellion was Charu Mazumdar. On 23 May, during a meeting called with this objective, the police and the revolutionaries clashed. A policeman was killed in the violence. This was just the beginning of the turmoil.

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Two days later, on 25 May, the police laid siege to a mammoth farmers’ gathering in which nine women and children lost their lives. Jyoti Basu, who was the state’s home minister those days, asked the police to strictly carry out the orders.

Earlier this month, after the killing of 26 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel on 24 April, some people thought the Maoist movement was still going strong. But the truth is that the movement, which began in the name of fighting exploitation, has lost its way. On 17 March 2017, Union home minister Rajnath Singh told the Lok Sabha that the number of districts affected by Maoist violence had reduced from 106 to 68. Before that, its influence was spread over 20,000 sq km. It has now shrunk to one-fourth of this. It has been an incremental decline over the years. In 2009, the then home minister told Parliament that around 223 districts of the country were affected by Maoist violence. In 2011, this number stood at 203. Of these, 84 districts were witnessing violence and 119 districts were influenced by Maoist ideology. Three years later, 80% of Maoist-related violence was taking place in only 26 districts. Still, seven states of the nation were affected. At present, just six districts are said to be extremely affected by Maoist depredations.

Some experts give the credit for this to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Also, some state governments assisted by the Central government paid attention to development, along with launching anti-terror operations.

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Maoists appear to oppose all kinds of development work. Apart from inflicting damage on all projects carried out by the government machinery, they consider roads to be their greatest enemy. The CRPF personnel attacked in Sukma were supervising road construction.

The way the imperial Roman armies did it, Maoists, too abduct innocent children. The Romans used to train children to be gladiators even as Maoists glorify them by anointing them “soldiers of the people’s revolution". Those innocent children, who are oblivious to the theories of “people’s awakening" and “people’s war", are made to indulge in violence and carry out spying work. Beating up people, in a way, is part of the training regime of Naxalites. The boy who first participates in a massacre is applauded. The advocates of a violent struggle provoke these children to become bloodthirsty: If you don’t have the instinct to kill enemies of the class, then you are not fit for the movement, they are told.

No wonder the number of comrades disenchanted by this movement is rising. If 394 Maoist extremists surrendered in 2011, the number rose to 1,442 in 2016. Similarly, 1,840 people associated with Maoist organizations were arrested last year.

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A surrendered Maoist militant told the police that he wanted to get married, have children and lead a normal life. He said his dreams had been shattered and he was disillusioned by the leadership. Just this month two area commanders have given up arms. This is the other face of the Maoist slogan: Jal, jangal, zameen, izzat aur adhikaar (Water, forests, land, respect and rights).

That is the logic which gives peaceniks the assurance that despite Sukma-like attacks, violence is the last stop in a one-way street. Why don’t the Maoist guerrillas understand that they are waging a war for the right cause in a wrong manner?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan.

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