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‘Golden Corridor’ Turning into Maoist Hub

Dr. P. V. Ramana is Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • May 20, 2011

    The urban presence and activities of Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) [CPI (Maoist], or Maoists, in short, is fast picking pace. On May 13, police arrested 10 Maoists in Pune, though they actually belonged to West Bengal. Nine of them were working as casual labourers while their leader was using the cover of a labour contractor. Four pistols and Naxalite literature running into 300 pages were recovered from their possession.

    Earlier on April 25, 2011, police in Thane, Maharashtra arrested Angelo Sontakke alias Sunita Patil, a former teacher, presently secretary of the ‘Golden Corridor Committee’ of the Maoists and the wife of Milind Teltumbde, secretary of the Maharashtra State Committee of the CPI (Maoist). A sum of Rs 1.54 lakh was seized from her possession. Two days later, on April 27, her associate Sushma Ramteke alias Shraddha Gurav, was arrested from Pune. She was working under the cover of being a marketing executive. A few days thereafter police arrested three more women Maoists –– Anuradha Sonule, Mayuri Bhagat and Jyoti Chorghe. In all, during April-May a total of 16 Naxalites were arrested from various urban and semi-urban centres in Maharashtra.

    The setting-up of a Golden Corridor Committee is a recent development. According to the chief of the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad, it was formed in February 2008. In the Maoist scheme of things, there are eight strategic areas, one of which lies along the western coast. Within this exists the area known as the ‘Golden Corridor’ that extends from the region around Pune and stretches till Ahmedabad and includes Mumbai, Nashik, Surat and Vadodara. Incidentally, this is also the industrial backbone of the country. It is towards this belt that the Maoists have currently turned their attention. The area could, indeed, turn out to be a ‘milch cow’ for the Maoists.

    A number of Maoist leaders and cadres who have either worked in the Golden Corridor area or have been operating there were arrested from various places, including mostly from the Golden Corridor area, in the past few years. Notably, these include:

    • On May 8, 2007 Arun Farreira, an alleged Maoist communications and propaganda strategist, and another cadre, Murali, were arrested from Nashik.
    • On August 19, 2007, Sridhar Krishnan Srinivasan alias Vishnu, a Polit Bureau member and the then Maharashtra State Committee secretary, and Vernon Gonsalves alias Vikram, member of the Maharashtra State Committee, were arrested from Mumbai.
    • On September 20, 2009, Kobad Ghandy alias Rajan, Polit Bureau member who operated in the Golden Corridor area and is believed to have developed the draft blue print for the Maoists’ urban work, was arrested in Delhi.
    • On January 19, 2010, Suryadevara Prabhakar, who had earlier worked in Gadchiroli and Surat, and was propagating Maoist ideology in Mumbai, was arrested in Mumbai.
    • On June 17, 2010, Abdul Shakeel Pasha alias Rahul alias Adil, a former area Commander of Surat, was arrested in Delhi.

    Commenting on the arrest of Naxalites in Pune, Thane, and other places in the past few weeks, a former Director General of Police of Maharashtra, Arvind Inamdar, said on May 16, 2011, “Certainly, it's a matter of serious concern. Prima facie, the Naxalites seem to have succeeded in ensuring the support of tribals and intellectuals in urban areas. As a result of that, their movement is getting support in big cities.” In fact, several years ago, in 1977, he had reportedly arrested the founder of the current day Maoist movement, Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, in Nagpur.

    According to the Maharashtra police the objective of establishing the Golden Corridor Committee was to “seek safe haven[s] for [N]axalites wanted in their home states, [secure] medical assistance for them, raising … funds, procurement of equipment and arms and recruitment of youngsters from the working class, who are employed in small industrial units.” Further, as one officer of the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra reportedly noted: “Naxalites seek shelter in industrial pockets as it is very difficult to identify and nab them as they hide amongst the labourers. Also most of them have some or the other contact with the workers in these areas so it easy to get a job and settle here” at a time when the police are hot on their heels in their respective areas of operation in various affected states.

    Besides towns and cities in the Golden Corridor, the other urban centres that the Maoists have identified for penetration reportedly include Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore-Erode industrial belt, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ranchi (including the Kolkata-Ranchi industrial belt), and other/old industrial towns such as Kanpur.

    In fact, in 2007, the Maoists had constituted a committee known as the Urban Sub Committee (USCO) tasked with preparing an ‘Urban Perspective Plan’, which is sort of a blue-print for carrying forward the urban activities of the CPI (Maoist). According to a senior intelligence official, that Committee consisted of very top Maoist leaders of the apex Central Committee and included Kanchan, Ambar, Ranjan, Vijay and Parimal. Of them, the last is believed to be the Polit Bureau in-charge of USCO.

    Broadly, in the Maoist scheme of things, the objectives/tasks of the Urban Movement could be classified under three broad categories: (a) mobilise and organise the basic masses and build the party on that basis; (b) build the United Front; and (c) military tasks. Within this framework, the scope of activities of the urban movement of the Maoists would include: building and strengthening the working class movement, creating a militant and political working class, founding broad-based mass movements on political issues to build and strengthen the United Front work, and working towards building strong mass organisations which would be expressly and consciously directed towards the goal of strengthening armed struggle and the Strategic United Front.

    Against this backdrop, the Maoists would seek to target and mobilise the urban masses, especially the working class, including in the industrial and unorganised sectors, youth, students, intellectuals, etc. Also, the Maoists would seek to target these groups for recruitment into the underground and groom leaders from among them. In fact, according to an internal document of the CPI (Maoist), “… being the centres of concentration of the industrial proletariat, urban areas play an important part within the political strategy of the New Democratic Revolution.”

    Besides, the significance of the Urban Movement within the military strategy of the Maoists was best explained by Mao Tse Tung thus: “the final objective of the revolution is the capture of the cities, the enemy’s main bases and this objective cannot be achieved without adequate work in the cities.”

    Thus, it is imperative that the police in the various cities, towns and semi-urban centres maintain a strict vigil on groups and individuals who could be potential sympathisers and recruits, before the urban movement catches on.

    All the more, it is essential to maintain such a vigil in the Golden Corridor area because it is the industrial backbone of the country and could provide leaders as well as a large number of recruits and sympathisers, besides huge amounts of finances, for the CPI (Maoist).

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