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Naxalites resolve to focus on urban areas

Nihar R Nayak is Research Fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • March 06, 2007

    In response to the government-organised National Naxalite Co-ordination Committee meeting held in December 2006 at Bhubaneswar, Naxalites have enunciated their counter-strategy. The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), which accounts for 98 per cent of left-wing extremist violence in India, decided to intensify the people's war by increasing its mass base across the country and strengthening its armed cadres. The decision, taken at a leadership conclave held somewhere in the forests along the Jharkand-Orissa border sometime in January or February 2007, was unanimous. The 9th Unity Congress was attended by about one hundred CPI-Maoist leaders from sixteen Indian states, three Nepalese Maoists, and one Maoist activist each from Bangladesh and the Philippines. The successful convening of the congress, despite heavy security arrangements and intelligence networks on the Jharkand-Orissa border, brings into question the government's counterinsurgency efforts and intelligence efficiency.

    The Naxalite congress resolved to advance the people's war throughout India by strengthening the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the military wing of the CPI-Maoist, and mobilising more cadres through militant mass movements against the neo-liberal policies of globalisation, liberalisation, and privatisation. The conclave also decided to expand the armed struggle from 'guerrilla war' to 'urban and mobile warfare', focusing on industrial areas. The conclave also exhorted Naxalite cadres to use every possible means to free detained activists, including through jailbreaks.

    A particularly noteworthy development at the conclave was reaffirmation of faith in agrarian revolution as the axis of, and protracted people's war as the path for, the new democratic revolution. This had first come on the agenda with the Naxalbari upsurge in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The new context for reaffirming the nearly four-decades-old agenda is the move towards setting up Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and conversion of farmlands into industrial zones. As many as 250 proposals to create SEZs in 21 states are awaiting approval from various state governments, and decisions on these are being delayed mainly due to disputes over the compensation package and acquisition of agricultural land without a suitable relief and rehabilitation package. Recently, Naxalites achieved great success in increasing their support base and reviving the movement by opposing Nandigram and Singur SEZs in West Bengal. They plan to use resistance to the SEZ phenomenon as a means to expand their presence to new areas.

    The conclave also adopted the tactics of the Naxals' Nepalese counterparts, that of extending unconditional support to minorities and their demands. Muppala Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathi, who has been re-elected general secretary, declared:

    "We should support 'just struggles' of nationalities and sub-nationalities that demand a separate state for their development. Kashmiris and various nationalities of the North-East, such as the Assamese, Nagas, Manipuris and Tripuris, have long been waging an armed struggle against the Indian Government for their right to self-determination, including the right to secede from the so-called Union of India."

    Maoists in Nepal had declared eight minority autonomous regions during their armed struggle phase and garnered immense support from these areas. Similarly, the CPI-Maoist has been supporting demands for separate states like Telengana (in Andhra Pradesh), Vidarbha (in Maharashtra), and Kosala (in Orissa). The Maoists believe that small states cannot counter their movement, which would eventually would help them set up a communist state in the subcontinent.

    The congress decided to form organisations such as 'Committee to Release Prisoners', comprising intellectuals, democracy lovers, and members of the families of imprisoned comrades. "Efforts are already underway," the general secretary said. According to the Credential Committee report of the Unity Congress, six top activists in Andhra Pradesh and 26 in Tamil Nadu are detained under POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), while 16 in Karnataka and about 25 in north Chhattisgarh have been languishing in jail. This resolution was earlier passed in the third CCOMPOSA (Co-ordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia) meeting in 2004. Since then India has experienced frequent attacks on jails, as seen in Jehanabad (Bihar), Koraput (Orissa) and R. Udayagiri jail (Gajapati district, Orissa).

    The main purpose of the latest Maoist conclave was to decide upon setting up base areas in new regions to highlight current issues like forcible displacement caused by Special Economic Zones, industrialisation, infrastructure development projects, caste oppression, and Hindu fascism. The outfit also wanted to restructure itself because of fear that the arrests of Sobha, a member of the central committee, in Orissa in November 2006 and technical committee members from Bhopal, Rourkela and Jharkhand in January 2007 might have led to leaking of its vital secrets to the security agencies. The conclave was also intended to evaluate the Naxalites' performance and assess prospects for qualitative development such as turning the guerrilla war into mobile war and guerrilla zones into base areas. Another objective was to explore new tactics amidst the changes taking place in the agrarian situation, especially in Punjab within the semi-feudal framework, and its impact on the Naxalite tactics. The recent success of the Nepalese Maoists seems to have encouraged the Maoist leaders in India to take to violent ways. One media report indicated that a joint training camp of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), Nepalese Maoists and Indian Maoists has been organised on the India-Nepal border.

    The Home Ministry's assessment of Naxal violence in the country, dated February 12, 2007 is that, except for Chhattisgarh, violence elsewhere in the country was well under control. The exception was attributed to the Naxalite attempt to derail the Salwa Judum movement in Chhattisgarh. Earlier on December 29, Union Home Secretary, V.K. Duggal had said that Naxalite violence had declined. The violence may have declined, though not the movement. The Maoists do not abruptly launch into 'armed struggle' or violence, but are known to go for gradual consolidation, including a preliminary study of local social, economic and political conditions and the vulnerabilities of particular populations. They prefer to maintain a low profile in adverse conditions. They also keep violence low in border regions, which will keep away police attention and facilitate intra-state movement.

    Participation of the Nepalese Maoists in the Congress indicates that there is a great degree of co-ordination between the CPN-Maoist and their Indian counterparts. Despite signing the peace agreement with the Seven Party Alliance, it seems the Nepalese Maoists have not deviated from their objective of setting up a communist State in Nepal. In fact, members of the CPN-Maoist have attended meetings organised by the CCOMPOSA and Indian Maoists. The US has been alleging that the Nepalese Maoists were buying antiquated, home-made weapons in Bihar in order to hand them over to UN inspectors while hiding their own more sophisticated weapons. There are also reports in the local press that the Maoists have returned only looted arms. On February 23, 2007 there were reports in the media that hundreds of former Nepalese Maoist armed cadres stormed out of a camp where they had been confined under a peace deal, citing lack of food and government failure to provide materials for proper shelter. Its strong linkages to Indian Maoists and commitment to the armed struggle further reflects in the outfit's recent arms procurement activities. Indian Army intelligence is reported to have proved a close connection between the Nepalese Maoists and the terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The arrest and subsequent interrogation of the Nepalese Maoist, Pasang Lama, on Indian territory has substantiated reports of this link.

    Naxalites follow flexible tactics. If the situation warrants it, they confine the movement at the level of political mobilisation, highlight local issues through front organisations and organise meetings in strongholds. Instead of focusing only on the violent aspects of the movement, the government should monitor the activities of the front organisations as well. In addition, there is a need to strengthen the capabilities of the local police in intelligence collection, and provide them special training as well as socio-economic guarantee to the field staff in order to make them more effective.

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