[News] India Wages War Against the Maoists - But Who Are They?
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Dec 21 10:49:02 EST 2009
War against the Maoists: But who are they and what do they want?
The Indian government is launching a full-scale
war against the Maoist rebels and the people led
by them in different parts of the country. The
initial battles, without any formal announcement,
have already started. For this purpose, they
intend to deploy about 75,000 security personnel
in parts of Central and Eastern India, including
Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand. The
government will organize its regular air-force in
addition to paramilitary and specially trained
COBRA forces. The air-force has begun to extend
its logistic support. Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram have
declared the Maoist rebels to be the biggest
internal security threat to India and a
hindrance to development. The mainstream media
seem to have taken them at their face value.
Their publications and television programmes seem
to be building a war-hysteria against the Maoist
rebels regardless of the fact that this attack by
the government will be directed against some of
the most deprived of the Indian people. Indeed
this is turning into a war of the state against its own people!
While paying lip service at times to the notion
that the current peoples insurgency led by the
Maoist rebels has its root in decades of vicious
exploitation of the poor, especially the dalits
and tribals, the blare of government propaganda
tries to convince us that the Maoist rebels are
dangerous, blood-thirsty terrorists determined to
establish their areas of influence. The
Government is preaching that the Maoists can go
to any extent to maintain their influence in
these areas by either preventing the government
from undertaking development activities or using
the power of their guns, killing disobedient
individuals. Their ideology is to terrorise the
common people, wrest power from the
democratically elected governments and destroy
the entire fabric of the society. The government
and the media want us to believe that the only
people, apart from a few romantic misguided
intellectuals, who willingly support Maoists are
the poor, ignorant, uneducated, uninformed tribal
people. They seem to claim that no sensible,
intelligent person living in a society like ours
would support them voluntarily. But is this a true picture?
Could it be that the Maoist rebels are supporting
and organizing the poor, exploited people to
fight oppression, to establish a more egalitarian
society where the wealth of our growing economy
will be spread among all, not merely among a very
small minority? Could it be that in the name of
suppressing the Maoists, the state is going all
out to break the backbone of these poor peoples
fight? Could it be that the government is
planning to wage a war, in our name, against our
own sisters and brothers to help line the pockets of the rich?
In this hour of crisis, we must ask those
questions that the government seeks to suppress.
What do we really know about the Maoist rebels,
their ideology, their plans and programs? Why
does the government need to go to war against its
own people and inside its own territory? Are the
Maoists really blocking development? Who are
these Maoists anyway and what do they want?
Let us take one question at a time.
Who are these Maoists?
The Maoists are revolutionaries mainly consisting
of the extremely poor people including a large
number of dalits and tribals. They come mainly
from the toiling masses of India and they are
trying to organize the vast population of such
masses of this country. They seek to arm and
train them so that these masses can resist the
onslaught of the rich. In this effort they go
beyond the idea that mass movements should focus
on some specific issues like increase of wages,
better health care, more honesty of public
servants and so forth. The view of the Maoist
rebels is that the poor and exploited people must
first and foremost establish their own democratic
political power and their own state power in
various places. This is because without
controlling state power, the poor and the
exploited can at most hope for only limited
improvements in their living conditions, i.e., so
long as it does not inconvenience the rich who
usually control the state power. So, the Maoists
mobilize the poor to fight against the existing
state, even armed fight if possible, as they
consider the existing state to be a set of agents
acting for the big multinational corporations,
rich landlords and the wealthy in general. The
fight is an extremely challenging and unequal one
as the rich are aided by the government
bureaucrats, the police and even the military.
Also, contrary to what the Government and the
mainstream media are propagating, the Maoist
rebels are actually completely opposed to
individual killings, they openly denigrate such
stray terrorism-like acts. What they have been
attempting to build up is a mass movement, even
armed, to take on the violence of the ruling
classes and its representative state machinery.
The Maoist movement was born in India in the late
1960s, after a radical section of political
workers broke away mainly from the Communist
Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) because they felt
the CPIM and other such parties like CPI, RSP,
etc. had discredited themselves with their
opportunist politics of placating and
compromising with the rich. The movement has a
long history of development. The present party,
CPI (Maoist), came into being in 2004 by the
merger of a number of fraternal organizations.
Is development in India arrested because the Maoist rebels are blocking it?
What is the state of the people of India at
present? With its current high rate of growth,
this is also a country of abject poverty and
extreme inequality. Home to 24 billionaires
(second largest in Asia
Forbes), India can also boast of 230 million
people who go to bed on a half empty stomach (Source: World Hunger Report).
A country whose economy grows at 9% cannot feed
its own population at least 50% of the people
live below the official poverty line and 47% of
children below the age of three are underweight
[World Bank report; Undernourished children: A
call for reform and action]. In this so called
hub of knowledge economy, only 11% of the total
population can afford higher education and 50% of
the students drop out before class eight to start
living as casual labourers (Source: Education
Statistics, Ministry of Human Resource
Development). This is true of most of India not
just the areas where Maoist influence and control
is high. Then how can we say that development in
India is being blocked by Maoists?
Maoists do not oppose `development at all, they
only oppose the `pro-rich development at the
expense of destitution or often total destruction
of the poor. For example, in Dandakaranya region
of Chhattisgarh they oppose setting up of
helipads but there, the poor themselves, led by
the Maoist rebels, have built irrigation tanks
and wells for help in agriculture something the
Indian government did not bother to do. The
Indian government routinely blames the Maoist
rebels that they blow up schools! But what the
Government tries to suppress is that these
blown-up school buildings were actually being
used or requisitioned to become camps for security personnel!
And what changes do they want? Why do they want these changes?
(1) Overhauling the entire structure of oppression instead of piecemeal reforms
In addition to all the woes described above,
India is also a country, where thousands of
Muslims can be butchered in broad daylight by
fascist Hindu forces (the most widespread and
gruesome such pogrom in recent times happened in
Gujarat in 2002), while the ministers and police
look the other way. And these features are not
stray results of the misdeeds of a few villains.
The existing socio-political system in India has
a built-in mechanism which ensures that the
common masses would be oppressed by a rich and
powerful few. Widespread systemic violence is
required and is routinely applied by the Indian
state so that common people remain disciplined
and do not revolt in the face of oppression.
(2) Land to the tillers and destruction of the landlord class
About 60% of the Indian population is still
dependent on agriculture. However the primary
input, land, is predominantly concentrated in the
hands of a few landlords and big farmers. Close
to 60 percent of rural households are effectively
landless [NSS report]. The elite in the villages,
by their collusion with the corrupt politicians
and bureaucrats have blocked any meaningful land
reforms. In the last four decades the proportion
of households with little or no land (landless
and marginal farmer households) has increased
steadily from 66% to 80%. On the other hand the
top ten percent rural households own more land
now than in 1951 (Source: NSS report).The Maoist
revolutionaries want to change this to ensure
equitable distribution of land. They do not deter
from collective armed fight of the landless and
poor peasants and the poor rural labourers
against the existing state power for achieving this goal.
(3) Freedom from moneylenders and traders
Indebtedness in rural India has been increasing
by leaps and bounds especially in the recent
decades. Public rural banks are closing down due
to relaxation of government regulation.
Therefore, instead of securing credits from
public institutional sources, rural folk are now
being forced to approach the village money
lenders (who are often big landlords or rich
farmers as well) on a larger and larger scale.
Unscrupulous traders are adding to the misery of
the poor peasants. They sell spurious inputs to
small and marginal peasants at exorbitant prices.
They also make huge profits by buying their
harvest at throwaway prices and selling them in
urban areas at a premium. Not-so-well-off
peasants, in this no-win situation, of course end
up needing substantial credit. Private
moneylenders and various for-profit financial
companies take advantage of this situation by
extracting enormous sums from peasants. Interest
rate could be as high as 5% per month. The BBC
News reported that more than 200,000 farmers have
committed suicide in India since 1997 under the
pressure of such indebtedness. The Maoist rebels want to change this.
(4) End of caste system and eradication of untouchability
It is well known that the caste system is still
thriving in India. Economically it keeps the
overwhelming majority of the people in dire
poverty and politically it suppresses their
fundamental democratic rights. Often the lower
castes are robbed of their human dignity. They
are even denied access to public facilities like
some sources of drinking water, schools etc. An
expert group of the planning commission reports
that in 70% villages lower caste people cannot
enter places of worship and in more than 50%
villages they dont have access to common water
committee report to the Planning Commission).
According to an NCDHR report, on average, 27
atrocities (including murder, abduction and rape)
against dalits take place every day. The well-off
landed sections in the villages still come mainly
from the upper castes. They use brahminical
ideology to try to keep all other sections of the
population under domination. The same is true for
usurers, merchants, hoarders, quarry owners,
contractorsall mainly come from the upper
castes. In short, the upper castes are still very
much in command in all aspects of rural life.
Often with their own private army of goondas they
run a parallel raj. The Maoists want to break
this stranglehold of the upper castes and ensure
equal rights for dalits and adivasis.
(5) Freedom from exploitation by foreign multinationals and its local partners
Since 1991, foreign capital in alliance with big
capitalists like Reliance, Tata and state
bureaucrats, has penetrated vast sectors of the
Indian economy. Every sphere of our life,
starting from road construction, electricity
generation, communication networks to food
retail, health and education are under direct
control of this coterie. In the name of
development thousands of acres of land are
being transferred to big business and
multinationals. For example, in Bastar,
Chattisgarh, in the name of Bodh Ghat dam, tens
of thousands of Adivasis are being forcibly
evicted from their jal-jangal-zameen
(water-forest-land). In Niyamgiri, Orissa the
land which is the abode of several Dongria tribes
has been handed over to the multinational Vedanta
group which will completely destroy the
livelihood of these tribes affecting more than
20,000 people. The state government and the
mainstream opposition parties of the state are
actively supporting such activities. The Maoists,
over the years, have been resisting such plunder.
(6) Ensuring peoples democratic rights
It is well known that elections are often a sham
in India. The parliament, as we have seen several
times, is a bazaar where the rich and the
super-rich can buy the MPs. According to ADR
(Association of Democratic Reform), the average
asset of an MP has gone up to 5.12 crore in 2009
from Rs 1.8 crore in 2004. In our democracy the
erstwhile rajas and maharajas, like Scindias, are
still proliferating and controlling the local
economy and polity at many places. And we also
know the state of judicial system in our country.
Salman Khans and Sanjeev Nandas can kill by
running cars over common people and still they
can escape the law for very long, perhaps
forever. B.N. Kirpal, the judge, who arbitrarily
ordered that Indian rivers be interlinked,
ignoring the resulting ecological and human
calamity, joined the environmental board of
Coca-Cola after he retired. The Maoists want to
establish peoples court where poor people can
get true justice. In fact, such courts run in
many places where the Maoist movement is strong.
(7) Self-determination for the nationalities
The Indian government ruthlessly suppresses
national aspirations of a number of people. These
people and their land became part of India by
accident because the British raj annexed their
homeland or a despotic king wanted their land to
be a part of India. Lakhs of Indian troops have
been deployed in Kashmir and north-eastern states
to curb such struggles of the people in these
states for their national self-determination.
Since 1958, AFSPA has been imposed in
north-eastern states, which allows armed forces
to conduct search and seizure without warrant, to
arrest without warrant, to destroy any house
without any verification and to shoot to kill
with full impunity. In Kashmir, there is 1
military personnel for every 15 civilian. Cold
blooded murders, like those of Thangjam Manorama
Devi, Chungkham Sanjit, Neelofar and Asiya Jan,
are carried out frequently in the name of
countering terrorism. The Maoist rebels seek to
establish freedom of self determination for all nationalities.
So, to sum up, the new society the Maoists want
to establish will have the following components:
Land to the poor and landless. Later on
cooperative farming is to be established on voluntary basis.
Forest to the tribal people.
End of rule of the rich and the upper caste in
villages and uprooting of caste system. Uproot
all discriminations based on gender and religion.
Seizure of the ill gotten wealth and assets of
multinational corporations and their local Indian partners.
Self determination for the nationalities, political autonomy for the tribes.
Establish a state by the poor, for the poor where
the present day exploiters would be expropriated.
Participation of people in day to day
administrative work and decision making.
Democracy at the true grassroot level with people
having the power to recall its democratic representatives.
In summary: ensuring that all types of freedom,
rights and democracy for all sections of toiling masses.
What have the Maoists-led peoples struggles achieved so far?
Information in this section is taken, purposely,
expert group report to the planning commission, which is available on the web.
Contrary to what the media try to portray, the
governments own report says that the movement
led by the Maoist rebels cannot be seen as simply
blowing up of police stations and killing
individual people. It encompasses mass
organization. Mass participation in militant
protest has always been a characteristic of such mobilisation.
Although the Maoists by their own admission are
engaged in a long term peoples struggle against
the oppression by the present India state, their
movement has already achieved some short term
successes in improving the condition of the poor people.
Maoist movement in India was built around the
demand of land to the tillers. Numerous
struggles, led by the Maoists, have been fought
all over the country especially in Andhra
Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, to free land from
the big landholding families. In many such cases
landlords have been driven away from the villages
and their land has been put in the possession of
the landless poor. But the police and
paramilitary do not allow the poor to cultivate
such lands. In Bihar, landless Musahars, the
lowest among the Dalits have struggled and have
taken possession of fallow Government land. This
has had the support of Maoists.
Under the leadership of the Maoists the adivasis
have reclaimed forest land on an extensive scale
in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the Vidarbha
region of Maharashtra, Orissa and Jharkhand. The
adivasis displaced by irrigation projects in
Orissa had to migrate to the forests of
Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh in large
numbers. The forest department officials harassed
and evicted them on a regular basis. The movement
led by the Maoists put an end to this.
In rural India the Minimum Wages Act remains an
act on paper only. In the forest areas of Andhra
Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, and
Jharkhand, non-payment of the legal wages was a
major source of exploitation of adivasi labourer.
Maoists-led struggles have put an effective end
to it. These struggles have secured increases in
the rate of payment for picking tendu leaves
(used for rolling beedies), washing clothes,
making pots, tending cattle, repairing implements
etc. The exploitation previously had been so
severe that as a result of the sustained movement
led by Maoists the pay rates of tendu leaves
collection have over the years increased by fifty times.
The movement has given confidence to the
oppressed to assert their rights and demand
respect and dignity from the dominant castes and
classes. The everyday humiliation and sexual
exploitation of labouring women of dalit and
tribal communities by upper caste men has been
successfully fought. Forced labour, begari, by
which the toiling castes had to provide
obligatory service for free to the upper castes
was also put an end to in many parts of the country.
In rural India, disputes are commonly taken to
the rich and powerful of the village (who are
generally the landlords) and caste panchayats,
where the dispensation of justice is in favour of
the rich and powerful. The Maoist movement has
provided a mechanism, usually described as the
Peoples Court whereby these disputes are
resolved in the interests of the wronged party.
Why then, does the government need to go to war
against its own people led by these rebels
instead of hailing them as true patriots?
There is a simple answer. Chattisgarh, Orissa are
rich in mineral wealth that can be sold to the
highest multinational bidder. The only obstacle
standing between the corrupt politicians and ALL
THIS MONEY are the poor, disenfranchised tribal
people (and the Maoists leading them). So, this
war. This is not something new in India or for
that matter in other parts of the world. Mobutus
corrupt regime selling off the Belgian Congo
piece by piece to the US, Belgium and other
countries comes to mind. In the sixty years of
independence from direct colonial rule, the
Indian state has been doing the same. It has
systematically impoverished the overwhelming
majority to serve the interest of a powerful few and their foreign friends.
The impending war to evict the tribal people from
their villages, in the pretext of eliminating the
Maoists, will be fought at the behest of big
corporations, who want to control and plunder our
resources such as mineral, water and forest. It
is high time that we recognize this pattern of
waging war which will be fought by the poor on
both sides, but will benefit only the big
capitalists and their cheerleaders in the government.
Note: This is meant to be a simple and brief
exposition of the goals and strategies of the
Maoist movement in India for people who may not
have much awareness about it and are confused by
the propaganda in the mainstream media. This does
not go into the arcane debates about mode of
production in India, the debates among communist
revolutionaries over strategy and tactics etc.
This aims at people who, for example, are
perplexed why the Maoists, instead of trying to
ensure safe drinking water like an NGO, rather,
often resort to violent activities against the
Government. We have deliberately kept references
to a minimum in the body of the text. For an
interested reader, the webpage:
contains an enormous wealth of information about
the Maoist rebels, including their own documents.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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