Maoism: Problem and Solution

Introduction: Guerilla warfare targeted towards establishment of peoples’ governance based on the ideas of Mao had been taking place across the world; China being the 1st success. Ideas central to these warfare are collectively called Maoism.

Maoism in India: Maoism is a type of violent communism/socialism which is based on principles of Mao. Understanding Maoism requires a historical overview of the Socialist and Communist movements in India.

History of Socialist movements in India

Freedom movement of India was led by elite parties (like Indian National Congess, Swaraj Party) or Communal parties like Muslim League or Hindu Mahasabha. In both of these political groups, aspirations of farmers, workers, tribals and backward sections of society were greatly ignored. Contemporarily, workers and farmers were successfully doing revolutions (USSR, Eastern Europe) or forcing their governments to take pro-people stand (Western Europe). Inspired by ideas of Marx, Lenin & many more socialists, frustration due to oppressive British Rule and ignorance by mainstream political groups, socialist movements started in India. Many movements like Anusheelan, Jugantar, Republican Association, Hindustan Socialist Republic Association, Tahrek E Reshmi Rumal, Gadar Party etc. started across the country and even outside the country. These movements were led by energetic youth and eminent leaders who tried for pro-people movements, often involving violence against ‘only’ British. Some of the notable leaders of these movements were Tilak, Aurobindo Ghosh, Jatindra Das, Bhagat Singh, Azaad, Asfaqullah Khan, Bismil, Sanyal, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Lahiri, Batukeshwar Dutt, Phanindranath, Surya Sen, Subhash Cnadra Bose…..list has thousands of names.

Socialist movements were banned in India, but still these movements were very powerful and had immense public support. Their popularity was a direct threat to M K Gandhi (father of nation), mainstream political parties especially Congress & Muslim League, British Govt., landlords, independent Riyasats, pro-congress intellectuals and anti-people industrialists. So, all these entities colluded together and violently suppressed these movements by brutal violence and treason. All major leaders of these movements were deliberately killed. One can recall murder of senior leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, executions in Lahore Conspiracy Cases 1&2, Kakory Case, fake-death of Subhash Chandra Bose and many more. By 1935, most of the socialist leaders, literature and infrastructure were destroyed by the abovementioned collusion. Even, to suppress the socialist movements, the role of M K Gandhi was against the ethos of the nation (his role during Lahore Conspiracy Case-Gandhi Irwin Pact 1931). He was shown black flag and gifted black rose when he visited Lahore after execution of Bhagat Singh. Meanwhile mainstream political parties started mass movements on social (Congress) or communal (Muslim League) lines which led to mobilization of masses in favor of these parties. (Recall Puna-Pact 1932 between Gandhi and Ambedkar, Communal Award 1932 after Gandhi-Irwin Pact 1931) The elections of 1937 were conclusive in this context as by the time of this election, Indian masses shifted their interest completely to these mainstream parties.

Now let us explore the history of Communist parties in India which were communist by their names but they were confused, incompetent, anti-India and anti-people parties for a large part of their history before and few decades after independence.

Inspired by the events in USSR, Communists Party of India CPI was formed in 1924. Due to its excessive intellectual dependency on USSR, this party took more than necessary time to form its India-centric agenda. Due to its negligible grassroot connections, it was not known to masses. In fact, it went against populist Quit India Movement of 1942 which made it highly unpopular among masses; however, it won large number of trade union elections in the same year.
Between 1942 and 1948, CPI supported many armed movements across the country, against monarchs. The most notable one was rebellion against Nizam in which revolutionaries freed a large area of Hyderabad province comprising a population of 3 million. These movements were also structurally suppressed by collusion of British and local monarchs. Another movement led by Subhash Chandra Bose was not completely a socialist movement, but yes, it was intended towards ending British Rule in India. Painfully, this movement was also opposed and suppressed by the collusion of British, Congress and Muslim League. This movement was such a great movement that discussing it under this context may not sound well.

CPI was absent among masses even after India got independence, except few pockets where it supported armed revolution. Since Indian society was greatly a feudal society where people were very religious, so imported ideas of Marx did not work here. Interestingly, in 1948, for the first time, the new generation communist leadership tried to frame India-centric agenda by declaring that caste discrimination is analogous to class struggle. This 1st idea resulted into massive support for communists in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura where triabls and lower castes were extremely suppressed. This idea created mass-based leaders like Nambupirad which formed first elected communist govt. (also 1st non-Congress Govt.) of India (and world) in 1957 in Kerala. These developments created a mass base for CPI, but still its affiliation to USSR mattered more than anything.

China fell to PLA in 1949 and Mao became the new Ruler of one fifth of humanity. Now, there were two Communist leaders in the world: China and USSR. Initially, both were together, but very soon, they differentiated which led to differentiation in CPI itself. By beginning of 1960s, CPI divided into two groups: one with pro-USSR India-centric ideologies (remained CPI) and another with pro-China sentiments (CPI-M). The second group which was pro-China was more powerful in Bengal while pro-Russia was powerful in Kerala. Now, during 1962 Indo-China war, the pro-China group passed a resolution against India and supporting China. It was a desperate attempt by CPI-M to frame its ideology. It did not work well for it. However, due to its firebrand leaders like Jyoti Basu who enjoyed great public support in West Bengal due to his anti-feudal outlook, CPI-M became partner to the next state govt.

Let us have an instant look of West Bengal of late 60s and early 70s. We will discuss the structure of WB politics at later stage.

In west Bengal, major issue right after partition and thereafter was immigration of Bangladeshis, especially Hindus due to atrocities of Western Pakistani rulers (before creation of Bangladesh) and majority Muslim community. West Bengal, an industrially rich state, almost took all burdens of these immigrants; consequently, it became a home to millions of poor people – a pre-requisite for a strong communist revolution. Also, it had a large number of refugees who wanted a political asylum; of which communist parties took the advantage. Communists emerged as the guarantor of immigrants and provided them with support system to settle down.

Naxalbari Movement

India is a flawed democracy with inequality of laws, resources and opportunities. In 1967, villagers of Naxalbari (a village in Jalpaiguri District, West Bengal), started armed violence against the suppression by feudal lords and state. Initially, it got support of the masses as they got instant relief from oppression of thousands of years. Very soon, this movement spread up-to Calcutta. But by 1970, CPI-M in association with Congress, brutally suppressed this movement. Though this movement was temporarily suppressed, it got wide support across tribal and backward areas of the country and spread out to one fifth of the country by end of 70s.
Now let us discuss about the Root Causes due to which Maoism started in Naxalbari and later spread across the country:
1. Big Culture – Small Culture: Culture is a way of individual as well as collective life. Society has been always divided into two extremes: one being extremely powerful and other being controlled (powerless). Powerful are those who control most of the resources of a state; it includes merchants, ruling elites, priests and a large section of artists. Their culture is called Big Culture. The other section of society, claimed to be dependents or powerless or controlled, do not have the control over resources of the state; in Indian context, it includes backward castes, tribes, lower caste people and nomads. Their culture is called Small Culture.

There had been good relations between Big and Small cultures and they never came into conflict with each other for most part of Indian history. Both cultures exchanged ideas and coexisted. Yes, it may be claimed that coexistence was based on exploitation of Small Culture by Big one. Lord Jagannath- deity at Puri: one of the four most important Hindu centers is the most important example. Jagannath is basically a tribal deity belonging to Small Culture which had been accepted by the Big Culture and today we know Jagannath as one of the Avatars of Lord Vishnu. Similarly, Ramayana and Mahabharata: the two most important epics of South Asia and South East Asia had incidents like Lord Rama eating berries tested by Shabari, a tribal woman. Lord Gautama Buddha died of taking spoilt food offered by a blacksmith. Similar traditions had been existing in all parts of India for last many millennia. Many of the leaders during Indian freedom struggle have advocated these kinds of exchanges baring a few who have taken extremist positions. Though there were differences, but there were a number of eminent people who were working for cultural bridging. So, everything was going towards positive direction till mid of 20th century. But recent decades have seen the delinking of these two cultures. Big Culture increasingly became more and more dominant and Small Culture became the symbol of backwardness. No attempts have been made/are being made at cultural level for integration. Consequently, all symbols of Big Culture became a symbol of oppression. Maoists mobilize masses in name of neglect of Small Culture.

2. Climate Change and increasing population: Climate change has greatly affected natural resources globally making them unproductive. So forests, rivers, lakes, grasslands etc are no more productive enough to sustain the population dependent upon them. Also, increased population aggravated the problem to a higher level. Not only this, economic processes like agriculture which is of sustenance type in India is highly dependent on rain. Irregular precipitation patterns have made agriculture highly unprofitable. These two processes made living of the bottom of the pyramid highly challenging.

3. In some areas like Lalgarh, tribes generate their livelihood through selling Kendu leaves, which is used in manufacturing Beedi. Tribes sell their Kendu leaves to local Sahukaar or Baniya at very low rate which has been marginally increasing for decades. Individual and unorganized efforts of tribes to increase their selling price failed due to nexus among Sahukaars. However, Maoism as an ideology, brought all tribes together and they started violent assertion of their rights to increase their selling price. With their efforts and ideological support of Maoism, price of Kendu leaves increased multifold (up to 400 % increment from 2001 to 2008). It boosted their faith in Maoism and violent assertion of their rights. In other words, they found Maoism as a better tool to achieve better life and dignity.

4. Neoliberal globalization: Globalization has made most of the individuals dependent on market beyond his/her control. It has greatly marginalized unorganized sector reducing their ability to generate livelihood and surplus to sustain an organized life. So, forest and farm products have increasingly became low surplus generating; and population dependent upon them became more and more economically challenged. Advent of neoliberal globalization made bottom of pyramid more and more dependent upon market; hence forcing them to join the market processes. So now, they are bound to remain in the market system, and at the same time, neoliberal policies have been designed in such a way that market generates negligible economic opportunities and surplus for them. So, they are becoming more and more economically challenged with every passing day. This structural problem has been deliberately created by Govt. to transfer even the smallest fraction of wealth possessed by bottom of the pyramid and evacuate them from their ancestoral lands so that mining companies, builders and corporate can make their way-in.
5. Inflation: Inflation in Indian economy in recent past has made it nearly impossible for bottom of pyramid to live a minimum life even with the help of the little surplus generated through any means. So, getting a minimum food has become everyday challenge for most of the Indians.
6. Land acquisition policy of government of India had been borrowed from imperial era (Land Acquisition Act 1894) when British unethically captured land for different purposes. These policies recommend extremely low or nearly negligible compensation for those who have to lose their lands in the name of development, mining, industrialization, infrastructure development etc. Most of the tribal and dalit areas in our country are rich in minerals; so local habitants have been displaced on a large scale even without taking their opinion & paying them appropriate compensation and future dividend.
7. Pollution: Pollution resulting from mining, construction, industrialization has created a number of health and livelihood related problems. Forests and lands have increasingly become more polluted and less productive threatening livelihood of millions.
8. Undemocratic governance: Indian democracy is a flawed democracy and governance is supporter of empowered sections of society. Tribes and socially backward being most socially and politically challenged, are harassed by Police (Indian Police system is based on English Law: Indian Penal Code 1860, meant to harass common Indians), cheated by corrupt burocracy & polity (all major political parties never tried to make governance neutral and transparent, thus making it impossible for unorganized tribes and socially backward to get appropriate economic and social compensation due to their loss), neglected by market (market is based on the idea of consumption; since economically challenged people are poor consumers, so market never found it worth to invest upon them) and unnoticed by media (which never finds anything glamorous or sensational or important about problems of the bottom of the pyramid or about Small Culture). Also, none of the governments have ever tried to accommodate tribals and socially challenged sections in the decision-making process regarding mining, industrialization or development involving threats to them in form of pollution or displacement or unemployment.
9. Land reforms: India has never opted for full-scale land-reforms which in turn has kept great degrees of asymmetry in land ownership patterns in rural India. Being an agricultural nation (a large part of Indian population depend on agriculture), lack of land reforms has created millions of Indians who are not having land to sustain even a minimum basic life.
10. External support: Extra-state forces like terrorist groups (and support from China, Pakistan) have made the Maoist problem more complex as Maoists have become more and more violent and powerful. They are now directly targeting civilians which brings them closer to terrorists.
11. Inefficient Communist parties: India is home to millions of economically challenged people; hence there is a golden opportunity for Communist parties to promote Socialism. Unfortunately, Indian communist parties have never been communist or socialist at all and have many-a-times went against the idea of India by supporting China in 1962, denouncing Hinduism, appeasing minorities in the name of secularism, never implementing full-scale land reforms etc. Instead of grass-root level supports, communist parties always banked on immigrants from Bangladesh (in West Bengal and Tripura), minority appeasement (Kerala), coercion (with the help of their crook comrades) or loyalty to USSR & China. All these steps made them more and more away from mainstream India. Getting annoyed of these policies, many firebrand communist leaders initiated Naxalbari Movement which has now resulted into the grave problem of Maoism in India.
12. Politics of West Bengal: Though it is a West Bengal centric problem, but it has wide similarities across the country. WB politics is a big complex. There are 4 groups: Bhadralok (Upper caste, traders), Muslims, OBCs and SC-ST. Among SC-ST, Namashudra is the dominant group. In 1946 elections, SC-ST or Namashudra especially, supported Muslim League for govt. formation in WB which ousted Bhadralok from power. Muslim League wanted to oust Bhadralok from power because it had a communal agenda, while Namashudra wanted to oust Bhadralok because they were socially discriminated by Bhadraloka despite the fact that Namashudra was a powerful community. This event led to acceleration in demand for partition of Bengal and creation of WB. During or before partition, most of Bhadralok were ousted from Muslim areas of contemporary Pakistan or modern Bangladesh. One can recall Jogendra Nath Mandal who was the 1st law minister of Pakistan. Now after partition happened, Bhadraloka became powerful in WB while Muslims in Pakistan. SC-ST got divided in two states and became marginalized in both. Since Pakistan opted for religious radicalism from its beginning, SC-STs were violently targeted and forced to leave Pakistan. At the same time, they were mistreated in WB. The level of discrimination was extreme on both sides of the border.
Bhadralok were dominant in newly formed WB, so all Bhadralok evicted from Pakistan got proper shelter and settlement in the new state. On the other hand migrant SC-ST got a revengeful treatment. One can recall Marichhjhapi incident 1979-1980 in which more than 4500 SC-ST families have been gunned down by WB state, numbering to be (at least) more than 16000 humans!!!! The whole of Big Culture remained silent about it 
Now, the composition of these four groups are: 29% SC-ST, 26% Muslims, 45% Bhadralok + Other castes & OBC communities. Since partition, Bhadralok has been playing a balancing game between Muslims and SC-ST mostly disfavoring the SC-ST. So, most of the SC-ST are extremely poor, uneducated and oppressed both by Bhadralok & Muslims.

Scale of ignorance of SC-ST can be imagined from the fact that north 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas are mostly inhabited by immigrants who settled here before or after partition. They are the districts which contain Sundarbans. Population of these 2 districts is 1.82 crores. North 24 paraganas has population of 1.01 crore with an area of nearly 4300 sq km; half of which is Sundarbans and inhabitable while that of South 24 Parganas is nearly 81 lakhs and more than half of its land is inhabitable and whole of its land is threatened by climate change and killer cyclones.

Illegal immigration has been encouraged by Bhadralok to:
– Contain SC-ST which were once a dominant group in undivided Bengal
– Keep winning the elections
– Corruption

I would rather say that this policy of encouraging immigration was anti-Indian. Current turmoil in WB will continue until we have a strong SC-ST leadership, immigration is checked and Bhadralok make an introspectation about their policies as a community.

It is important to remind you that Bhadralok are one of the most educated people of the world. They have produced all Bengali leaders ranging from Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Rabindranath to Vivekananda to Jyoti Basu to Amartya Sen. Most of them adhere to Marxism which clearly denounces religion or caste-based groups. But in practice, Bhadralok are one of the most unified communities, unified through Communism. Mamta won elections mostly due to SC-ST, Muslims and OBC groups.

All these factors together have marginalized tribals and socially backward to the level that they became enemies of government, police, market and Big Culture. Addition to this, Maoism tends to act as a successful ideology (tested in China and Nepal; latest being Lalgarh West Bengal) to ensure them a dignified life and protection from atrocities of Big Culture, so a large section of society still find Maoism lucrative. In recent years, Maoists have attacked and killed hundreds of civilians and security personnel. Though a number of Maoist groups like CPI-ML have left violence and have opted for democratic means to solve their problems, but still majority of the groups are still resorting to violence which has made them a major threat to internal security of India.

Now, I would like to discuss some possible solutions to the problem of Maoism in India. I have tried to provide the structural explanation to problem of Maoism, but its solution is yet to be structurally modeled. It is an open ended discussion and your inputs are necessarily invited.

1. Providing basic amenities (like food, housing, education, healthcare, sanitation, 24X7 roads) transparently to tribes and socially backward sections of the society
2. Development of basic infrastructure like electricity, telecommunication etc.

3. Amend the Land Acquisition Act 1894, make it pro-people

4. Amend Indian Penal Code 1860 and renounce all cases (based on their social status) against tribals and socially backward people. Along with this, modify these laws so that they ensure security and dignity rather they themselves become oppressive.

5. Create cultural Bridge among Big and Small Cultures. Promotion of Chhau Nritya has been a good step in this regard. Similarly, promotion of Sarna deity in Jharkhand has been a good step.

6. Increasing transparency in governance

7. Involving tribals and socially backward sections in decision-making in decisions related to them

8. Breaking all external or non-state connections of Maoists

9. Massive afforestation and environment restoration programs across the country

10. Promoting appropriate technology, cottage industry and alternative employment. Skill-building exercises and vocational training of economically challenged need to be done on massive level.

11. Promoting land reforms; even digitization of land record and making absolute maps can be a good start. Once land ownership is completely defined, social programs like Bhudaan Movement can be run by government, eminent leaders and social groups

12. Compulsory Vegetative Cover CVC: It is an idea of promoting vegetative cover over extra 14% land area of our country as a counter-climate change arrangement. Cultivation (at least twice a year) and plantation (permanent) are two potential modes of achieving this target, later being more important. According to CVC, anyone cultivating land for at least twice a year (food crops) and opting for permanent plantation shall be provided economic incentives directly in form of cash deposited in their bank accounts.

13. Development policies must be designed in a way that marginal sections of the society are brought to the mainstream.

14. Smart pollution monitoring sensors must be installed across all mining areas of the country in order to have regular monitoring of pollution. Data of these sensors must be made public.


15. Public/social auditing: All government schemes and plans must be put open for public/social auditing

16. Strictly defining property rights regarding economic externalities (like emissions, releasing of effluents in water/air, all kinds of pollution). Charge people for their liabilities.

17. Promoting recycling of all kinds of wastes, goods and other stuffs which are dumped in public space whether air water or land.

18. Change all laws which support inequality of law justice, opportunities and distribution

19. All kinds of mining activities or development activities must ensure future stake of people who are most negatively affected by these processes. Along with this, local habitants must have the final authority to decide over the terms and conditions of these activities.

I invite your inputs.
Problems regarding land acquisition in non-Maoist areas (like Bhatta Parsaul, Nandi Gram, Singur, Jaitpur etc.) have many similarities to that of Maoist areas. I will discuss about them in another document.

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