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Archive for March 27th, 2009

Growing again in the shadows

Posted by ajadhind on March 27, 2009

The giant statues loom large over the lush green paddy fields. An epitaph is engraved on a pillar adorned with the hammer and sickle of communism along with four stars. Nearby stands a giant hoarding with images of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.
This is Nayakankottai in Dharmapuri district, the only village in the whole of Tamil Nadu to have statues of its Naxalite leaders, L Appu and Balan. The epitaph marks their contribution to the movement.
It was in their time the late 1970s that the movement reached its peak. Says Siddhanandam, one of the pioneers of the movement: “We were successful in doing away with the double tumbler system (one for Dalits and one for other castes), which was discriminatory. ”
The 54-year-old, who has eluded police for the last 24 years, has been witness to the transition of communist China and the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the recession has brought a smile to his face. “American capitalism has lost. Everybody believed in it. Now look what it has brought. It is the victory of socialism.”
The Maoist movement in Dharmapuri was disbanded in 2003 after many of their leaders were either killed or arrested. These days,
however, the party is positive about regaining its base in the state. Its leaders believe current neo-liberal policies that have led to an “increased socio-political polarisation” favour it. “More and more people are joining the movement,” says a Maoist source. “The party may have gone underground, but there has been a shift in strategy.”
These days the Maoists focus on urban areas instead of the traditional rural pockets. The reason, again, is the same. They believe the new economic policies have created a divide within the urban population. The special economic zones have displaced millions of people in the urban (and rural) areas, spawning slums and deepening poverty. A late surge in the number of unorganised labour due to growing infrastructure activity gives the Maoists an ideological tool to win over people deprived of any guarantee of a dignified life.
Says a Naxal source: “Tamil Nadu has more than 40 cities with large numbers of migrants. A majority of them are poor. Besides the financially backward in the urban areas, we are targeting the middle class. They are fed up with corruption and failure of the state machinery in resolving their woes.”
And then he adds. “Do you know Tamil Nadu is a state that has attracted huge investment, most of it in the rural areas? Multinational companies and Indian conglomerates have invested nearly Rs 3 lakh crore in the state, buying rural land for export-based trade. This has affected small-scale farmers and industries.”
But why the sudden shift now? Has the movement failed to penetrate the rural areas? Some naxals agree. The say it could not penetrate the hinterland partly because of the Dalit movement and parties. “Recruiting cadres is tough due to the presence of Dalit parties who consider them their vote-bank. There have been many instances where they have turned police informants,” says a party cadre.
The other reason is the failure to attract youth they constituted the mainstay of rebel activity in the early 1980s. “For every movement to succeed,” says the cadre, “you require the support of youth. However, the rise in rural unemployment and lack of pro-farmer schemes has led many to migrate to the cities. This has affected our movement.”
Some Naxalites believe the lack of proper planning crippled the movement in the last few years. “Even before it strengthened down south, the high command moved the whole cadre to Dharmapuri. Initially, the plan was to form a triangle linking the rebels in Tamil Nadu with Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka,” says a Maoist-turned- sympathiser of the movement.
“But a lack of proper training and foresight saw the movement crumble as the police crushed it decisively,” he says. “Even Maoists in Karnataka were forced to move their base to Shimoga from where they operate successfully. ”
The Maoists admit to links with other separatist movements in South Asia, though they say the LTTE doesn’t figure. All these movements come under one umbrella — the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and the Organisation of South Asia. They include parties from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Balochistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Kashmir. In fact, the Maoists have developed a variety of fraternal and non-fraternal ties with militant groups, including United Liberation Front of Asom, within India, the South Asian region and beyond.
A senior Naxalite says ULFA does provide arms to the Maoists, but not the LTTE. “Their arms are too sophisticated. They aren’t suitable for our kind of operations.” Another ultra says most of the weapons are of indigenous make. And sometimes they steal arms from the police. The seizure of parts of rockets and launchers from Ambattur near Chennai a few years ago provides some evidence that the manufacturing units are located in the state. But with police hot on their heels, the Maoists refuse to provide any information on training camps.
Crucially, a few years back, police successfully busted an arms training camp near Periakulam in the southern Theni district. “The party allocates nearly Rs 15 lakh for operations in Tamil Nadu. Most of it is through nidhi (fund-raising) and through funds allocated by the central committee,” he says.
“Most of it is spent on party literature and payment of wages for full-timers, who number around 60,” he adds.
What is the reason for the movement, which was completely crushed in the 1980s and 1990s, regaining its vitality? “It is mostly due to economic policies, failure to stem corruption and also failure to implement land reforms,” says a Naxalite in a cocksure tone.
Even the report of an expert group to Planning Commission highlights similar reasons for the spread of the Maoist movement in India. “Naxalites typically operate in a vacuum created by inadequacy of administrative and political institutions, espouse local demands and take advantage of the prevalent disaffection and perceived injustice among the underprivileged and remote segments of the population.’ ‘ The paper goes on to add that Naxalism “is not merely a law and order problem; it has deep socio-economic dimensions.”
So far, the Central government has released Rs 3,677.67 crore to the Naxal-affected states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jhar­khand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. In 2006-07, nearly Rs 434.61 crore was allocated.
According to an Empowered Group of Ministers, the police alone cannot resolve the problem. States should address socio-economic issues such as land reforms, employment generation, healthcare, economic development and poverty alleviation.
As Siddhanandam points out, “For every action, there is a equal and opposite reaction.” And it may be true. As Mao Zedong stated, “Fish were the militants, and the disgruntled peasantry constituted the water. So long as there was dissatisfaction among the peasantry, militants could operate freely.”
Focus now on the masses
The Maoists are increasingly deploying their female cadre to expand their base in semi-urban and industrialised areas. The non-implementation of labour laws and the plight of unorganised sector workers and farmers in various parts of the country have helped the Maoists. “The female cadres are not involved in violent activities. They take jobs as labourers and through their interaction with the people, try to bring them into the Maoist fold,” says a senior Naxal leader.
In the southern districts, the Maoists are making their presence increasingly felt. This area includes Theni, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Coimbatore and Ramanatha-puram. They are also trying to use the Sri Lankan Tamil issue to broaden their appeal. They feel nobody can do politics in the state without the issue. “If you can back Palestine, Kosovo and other separatist movements, then why don’t you back the Tamils in Sri Lanka for a separate Eelam?” one of their leaders asks. Their pro-Tamil stance has enabled the Maoists to recruit more people.
But do the Maoists have LTTE connections? “The Tigers don’t back any movement waging an armed struggle against the Indian state,” says a senior Naxalite. But he adds that some ex-LTTE cadre did give them arms training. “These people came to India after leaving the organisation, and formed communist groups,” he says.

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Naxals Will Rise Again Like The Phoenix’

Posted by ajadhind on March 27, 2009

Varavara Rao, 68, has been a key Naxal ideologue since the 1960s. A diehard believer that armed rebellion will bring `liberation’ to India like Mao Tse-tung in Communist China, Rao warns of a Naxal upsurge. Rao had led the Naxals in their disastrous dialogue with the Andhra Pradesh Government in 2004, after which the police had decimated the state’s Naxal leadership. Rao has just published his 50th collection of “anti-imperialist” poetry. AJIT SAHI met him at his home in Hyderabad when Rao spoke of the Naxals’ latest campaigns.

What is your information about the killings of policemen by Naxals in Gadhchiroli district in Maharashtra?Initially, it was shown as an encounter and it was claimed that the CPI (Maoist) [the Naxals’ party] had suffered heavy losses. But it was revealed later that a landmine had killed 17 policemen and the Naxals hadn’t suffered any losses. Such lies are spoken only to maintain police morale.
The Chhattisgarh Government says the 19 people killed by the Salwa Judum [police-backed anti-Naxal tribal militia] in Dantewada last month were Naxals and not innocent villagers. That’s a lie. Those killed were innocent adivasis [tribal people]. They belonged to villages that have long resisted government pressure to abandon their villages and move to the Salwa Judum camps. That’s why the Salwa Judum kidnapped and killed them. We expected this after [Chief Minister] Raman Singh claimed his victory in the Chhattisgarh election last year was the people’s approval of the Salwa Judum violence. Of course, now that the Supreme Court has ruled against the Salwa Judum, the state may abandon that and hire one or two thousand from them as regular police and turn it into a paramilitary force like Andhra’s Greyhounds. The BJP is a fascist and a terrorist party and may naturally go this way.
The government says it is the Naxals who have terrorised the people.False. Why do people support the Naxals if they are terrorised? Most people are kept in Salwa Judum camps by force. Many want to go back to their villages.
Hasn’t Naxalism collapsed in Andhra Pradesh since the police began killing Naxal leaders and squads in 2005? We suffered heavy losses in the region of Nallamara forests [in south Andhra Pradesh] as it isn’t contiguous with Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. But the Naxal leadership of Telangana [in north Andhra Pradesh] now works from these adjacent states. The Andhra leadership is guiding the Orissa movement also.
Strategically, the picture is not so gloomy. During the Telangana armed struggle of the 1940s, all the leaders were killed in Warangal and Nalgonda districts. But the struggle revived. In Srikakulam district, where the movement was strongest since 1968, the top leaders were wiped out by 1972. The movement was rebuilt during the Emergency [1975- 77]. During 1978-80, every single district secretary of the party was killed in fake encounters. The movement rose again.
Like the Phoenix, we would rise again from the ashes. Even the enemy can’t say the whole thing is over. For 30 years the armed struggle has been on in one place or the other. The people are overwhelmingly with the Naxals because, if nothing else, the movement has brought them selfrespect after decades of bonded labour, torture and destruction. The Naxals don’t accept the lordship of the landlords.
Would you say holding talks with the Andhra Pradesh Government was a bad idea as the Naxals came out and police got wind of their hideouts?In principle, no, it wasn’t. Karl Marx says you can use any form of struggle. We gained politically from the talks. The middle class is now convinced that if the Naxals take power, they will have a perspective on every aspect, such as democratic rights, land reforms and self-reliance. The greatness of the revolutionary party lies in that it agreed to the talks because the people wanted talks, despite the brutal nine-year rule of Chandrababu Naidu and despite the fact that we had no illusion about the Congress rule since.
The Chhattisgarh Government says Naxal leaders driven from Andhra are creating trouble in Chhattisgarh. Forty percent of the Naxal militia, including the women, in Chhattisgarh is adivasi. The movement has built up in Chhattisgarh since 1980. Its district level leadership comes from within. In Dantewada alone, the Chhatra Natya Manch, the cultural group that supports the movement, has 6,000 members.
Chhattisgarh aims to copy the Andhra `model’ of wiping out the Naxals. The Centre and the state are coordinating on this. No Prime Minister ever spoke on the Naxals. But Manmohan Singh has repeatedly said Naxalism is cancerous and a bigger threat than the threat of terrorism. You must see this in the context of the government’s imperialist policies of globalisation. For the first time, trade organisations are talking about the Naxal `problem’. The Naxals represent the people’s rights to self-reliance against MNC interests.
All political parties support the MNCs. Manmohan Singh and [Union Home Minister] P Chidambaram are World Bank agents. When the Finance Minister becomes the Home Minister, it only means the Home Ministry serves the interests of industry and finance. You can’t reach anywhere if you view this only from the point of view of violence versus nonviolence. There is mass resistance to the Tatas’ steel project in Chhattisgarh, as is to the Posco steel project in Orissa.
But why oppose industrialisation?We don’t. Did we close down the public sector? Lakhs lost their jobs with the closure of IDPL and Allwyn. Did we do that?
The Naxals have massed in Orissa. Is that the next battleground then?The movement is now very strong in Orissa. The government there is creating a Salwa Judum in south Orissa, adjoining north Andhra, and in Mayurbhanj, which adjoins Jharkhand.
What’s the Naxals’ key agenda?Land to the tiller, workers’ rights over the factory, and political power to the people, flowing from the grassroots. The Maoist theory explains that you first occupy the land of the village; the landlord then sends his mafia; you fight back; then the police come in support of the landlord; you then adopt guerilla methods to fight the police and the state. The economic programme is to occupy the land, the military programme is the guerilla struggle, and the political programme is to bring power to the people by organising gram rajya [village rule] committees. In 1995, the party decided to adopt alternative development programmes for drinking and irrigation water and primary health and education, among others, under the gram rajya committees. The party asked people not to pay taxes to the government and not vote in elections. That’s how it defies the state.
The state claims to work for the same issues of water, health and education. It only claims to work on these issues, but doesn’t practice what it says. Uneven development is an imperialist characteristic.
Why do the Naxals reject elections? The 60-year Parliamentary history is a hurdle for the revolution. One has to overcome that to achieve people’s power.
Is Naxalism on an irreversible decline?The people are looking forward to the Naxals’ comeback. They know it is only a lull. In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote these are the worst days and also the best days. All the political parties, from Narendra Modi to Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, are united in their repression of the people. But everyone fighting imperial globalisation — not only the revolutionaries but true patriots, Gandhians, Sarvodaya people, Lohiaites, nationalists, Muslims, minorities, advisasis, dalits and women — have hopes only in the alternative revolutionary movement. They see that only the Naxals can protect our sovereignty, under threat especially from the SEZs.
Why must the revolution kill people?The movement doesn’t believe in killing. It only believes in resistance. Ours is revolutionary violence as against the violence of the ruling class and the state. All the tools of exercising violence are in the hands of the propertied classes. You get a gun license if you have five acres of land. The whole effort of Marxism is to reinforce people to resist state violence.
Is Gandhian nonviolence irrelevant? Even Gandhians realise Gandhi is not relevant. [Former Prime Minister] VP Singh once said if he were 20 years old he would join the CPI (Maoist).
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 7, Dated Feb 21, 2009

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