Gautam Navlakha is a journalist and human rights activist. In 2014, he published a series of articles on the living conditions, the struggles, the resistance and the repression in Bastar. The Bastar is a tribal area of the state of Chhattisgarh where the CPI(Maoist) entered in 1980 and created a powerful movement that New Delhi now terms as “India’s biggest internal security threat”. Let us note that today, Bastar is still occupied by the Maoists and the state’s repression is intensifying day after, both towards the guerrillas, their sympathisers and the tribals.
“The spate of surrender of Maoists in Bastar witnessed in the past three months is quite encouraging for us”, said an unnamed Police officer to Asian Age (7th October, 2014). “But at the same time we are puzzled as well as disappointed that Naxals preferred to surrender without weapons”. It is intriguing. What does “preferred” imply? Especially, when the state government doubled the monetary reward. Money which fixes everything and everyone somehow did not work so well here. Why? Did they have a choice, to not do so and they “preferred” that course? Could it mean that that those who voluntarily surrendered retained some vestige of loyalty for the Party? Or was it meant to raise a question whether those surrendering were as “hardcore” as made out? Laying down weapon by a soldier means to give up. If Maoists are all armed why do so many ostensibly surrendering voluntarily do not lay down their weapons ? Whatever the meaning, this contradicts Shivram Kalluri, IG (Naxal) who told the Hindu (15/09/2014) that 140 Maoists had “surrendered” with arms! And even the MHA accepts this, going by what the official has been quotedas saying by the media on 14th October. Who is being parsimonious with truth? The un-named police officer appears more credible because he is questioning the official version about Maoists surrendering with weapons in hordes and when the prevailing mood is hostile to any interrogation of official version. Few raise questions in the media about the genuineness of the claims that officials make in any case. Considering all this the un-named police officer in the process raises questions regarding “surrender” itself.
Union Ministry of Home Affairs claimed that 395 Maoists have surrendered up to September 30, 2014. Out of which 221 surrendered in Bastar (Chattisgarh) alone! Until end of May only 11 “surrender” took place whereas between then and October 8, 2014 210 “surrenders” were effected! Also both Bihar and Jharkhand reported 4 and 17 surrenders while Andhra Pradesh reported 76! The remarkable feat in Chattisgarh was achieved starting end of May when a new IG, was made overall in-charge of all the forces engaged in anti Naxal operations.(1) Furthermore in just Sukma and Kondagaon districts 50 and 67 “surrendered”.
The drama of “surrender” is nothing new. We saw it in Kashmir and North East and in central India over past decades, and more recently in Jharkhand.
Writing in Sunday Express [July 20,2014; CBI must probe ‘fake’ Naxal surrenders] Deepu Sebastian Edmond reported that a former official of Military Intelligence and some CRPF officers “falsely projected” that 150 Adivasi youth had surrendered in 2011 in Jharkhand. Investigation carried out revealed that the youth were lured by promise of jobs in the para military forces and had paid Rs 55,000 to Rs 1.5 lakhs to the touts representing the officers and for this also asked to pose as Maoists in a “surrender” ceremony. They were then kept in illegal detention at old Ranchi jail, not in use since 2006 when the new jail was built. They were guarded by 203rd COBRA batallion. The youth also narrated that 500-550 youths from Ranchi, Khunti, Gumla and Lohardaga were in jail with them. The FIR was filed on March 3, 2014 at Lower Bazaar police station and provides these details. That personnel of several agencies were involved also brings out that multiple agencies are sat work. Since then pace of surrender dropped drastically. So much so that MHA lamented the poor number of surrenders in Jharkhand and Bihar! Flip side of this is that spurious surrenders stopped and number of actual surrenders remain very modest in Bihar and Jharkhand.
In the case of Bastar the Congress, CPI and Aam Aadmi Party have publicly claimed fake surrender in past two months and highlighted how their members or ordinary villagers are being picked up on charge of being Maoists or working for or with them and then shown as “surrendered” Maoists. In August the Congress party claimed that Chetram Sahu and Manjula shown as Maoists were ordinary villagers. Then CPI said that Manjhiram Kashyap is secretary of Tahakwada unit of their party and and Sukhdev Nag is elected member of the janpad panchayat who have been shown as “hardcore” Maoists. And then Soni Sori of AAP pointed out that an alleged Naxalite, Gali from village Bade Gudra was a villager who despite the alleged surrender was put in jail!
Whether or not all the 221 surrenders were fake what is certain is that numbers of fake could be very high. Exaggerations are a recurring phenomenon in war zones.
On July 30, 2014 this is what the Hindu reported quoting an official: “On Monday, an encounter took place near Ramaram village in Sukma district. It was carried out by a joint team of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the COBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) and the district police, led by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of CRPF, Mr. Upadhyay. Today, we have received information through our reliable sources of that area that ten more Maoists were killed in that encounter (apart from the one confirmed dead earlier),” said Mr.S.R. Kalluri, the Inspector General (IG) of Police, Bastar range. “However, we could recover only one body because our men were also injured and the villagers had also started surrounding that area.” The last part is pregnant with meaning. Unarmed villagers do not start “surrounding the area” when encounter takes place unless it’s a fake encounter. Besides note discrepancy over numbers of those killed. The IG, Bastar range, claimed 11 Maoists were killed in a joint operation by the CPRF, COBRA and district police near Ramaram village on July 28. H.S. Sidhu, CRPF IG (Operations) in Chhattisgarh, said “10 to 12 Maoists” may have been killed in the encounter. Sukma District Superintendent of Police (SP) D. Shrawan stated that “at least five to six Maoists were killed in Ramaram” on July 28. Imprecision does not enhance official claim only weakens it. But most of all there were no bodies to display!
A press statement, issued by the South Bastar Divisional Committee of the CPI (Maoist), instead claimed that security forces “attacked” Ramaram village in the morning of July 28 and destroyed a ‘martyr memorial’ built in the village.”The security forces then opened indiscriminate fire on the villagers who were busy with their routine chores. They (security forces) fired mortar shells on the villagers killing Vetty Adme, a villager of Ramaram and Madkam Idmal of Pidmed village,” said the press statement signed by Ganesh, the secretary of the South Bastar Divisional Committee. Police took away Madkam Idmal’s body and passed him off as a Maoist.
They were not present in the village. “But after receiving information about the attack on the village, a team of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) reached the spot and forced the security forces to flee from the spot. We also managed to hurt three policemen,” and appealed to journalists and intellectuals to come to the spot for verifying facts. So which version appears credible? Why is it that Indian military prevented reporters, social activistsand civil liberties group to visit the alleged encounter site. Newspapers carried news fed to them.
Take another example. Over the past seven years, more than 150 persons were arrested in Maharashtra by the anti-Naxal force/agency. In 2008, the total strength of the “Naxal barrack” in Nagpur Central Jail, where the “Maoist prisoners” are held, was 168. But now “only 37 Naxal prisoners are left in the Naxal barrack”, according to advocate Surendra Gadling, who has been representing those accused of having Maoist links. Most of these people have been charged with involvement in “Maoist violence” in the State’s Gadchiroli-Gondia area and acting as “the urban front” for the Maoists. They are getting acquittal after suffering torture and long incarceration. But bringing out how false cases have been foisted on people and social activists. “Police slapped multiple cases on all these people, most of whom were activists fighting for tribal or dalit rights or against displacement. At times, the accused faced 60 to 70 cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA] or for waging war against the state and sedition charges”.
So, if you cannot get real rebels why not create one is the name of the lucrative game. Maharshtra shows one variant. Jharkhand story shows how adivasi youth can be lured by offers of jobs against consideration or people made to pose as surrendering Maoists with or without weapons (this is a routine happening in all armed conflict areas). If this does not work there is direct approach of catch, implicate, jail them illegally and bring them out for surrender drama. Or else there is always faking encounter and displaying body of an alleged Maoist.
We should recall the “bold” statement of the new Home Minister. Speaking at the 33rd symposium of police training institution in Jaipur on 3rd September, 2014 he said that “(a)s UP CM, I had assured police force of full freedom from hassle of human rights commission while dealing with Maoists”. [Mail Today 04/09/2014]. The message was clear. He did not care for either rule of law or the constitution. Soldiers and officers are told to do what they want as long as it provides results, never mind how it is brought about. That it can back fire does not bother rulers because Indian State is considered omnipotent.
What lends further credence to this scenario is the report of the High Level Committee set up under chairmanship of Virginius Xaxa, in August 2013 to look into socio-economic status of the adivasis and suggest policy initiatives. Apart from proposing that for all land acquisition, including by the government, gram sabha’s consent be made mandatory and that fraudulently acquired “consent” should be punished, the committeepointedly referred to the fact those who resist corporate projects for acquiring forest and land often face charges of being Maoists. They note that there is no legal basis for something like “Naxal offence” under which thousands of Adivasis and activists are implicated. And argued for government engaging with “grassroots” movement rather than crushing them. (2) Rest assure nothing will come out of it. But the official report confirms our worst fears and provides fodder for us to chew on.
So what does it mean? Are the fake ‘surrenders’ meant to boost the flagging morale of the military force? Rahul Pandita, writing in the Hindu on 14th June [Soldier Turns into a Powder keg] wrote that there are “thousands of jawans and officers who are looking for an opportunity to make their exit”. Why? Because apart from service related issues they “dread” being deployed against the Maoists. Around the same time villagers in Sukma were complaining about CRPF patrols who beat up villagers and accuse them of “harbouring” Maoists and slap cases on them as well as humiliate women by stripping and slapping them. The Hindu reported that the District Collector told them that the only way to restrain the military from misbehaving is if the villagers ensure that Maoists do not commit any “untoward incident” (30/06/2014). In other words villagers are now held responsible for actions of Maoists.
This is not all. The MHA asked a new committee comprising two former DGs of CRPF to revamp the military force. No one asked why the forces needed “revamping” when it was said in the past 14 years that the forces are being modernized and upgraded! What does revamping mean then? Well to buy AK 47s instead of INSAS rifles and to ensure that each company of 125 soldiers have at least 20 motorcycle for their use. Meanwhile, the 7th Pay commission is looking into their “grievance” that they have “unattractive service environment” and inadequate compensation! Importantly, 20 more battallions of CRPF are to be raised and in 23 “worst affected districts”, 4-5 “development hubs” be set up with “modern” buildings (official term institutions) will come up with medical, educational, social and security apparatus. In addition to 400 police stations being fortified 250 more police stations will be built and fortified. Fortified police stations are armed camps just as police here means the military.
All fanciful plans have to be brought down to earth. Chattisgarh sanctioned Rs 150 cr for 75 police stations in “Maoist hit areas of Chattisgarh”. None got completed; 58 are said to be under construction and a proposal application for change of place is pending with government for 15 police stations.
In July a “massive operation” was launched in four districts of south Bastar with “an objective to flushing out Naxals from Darbha valley area”. [Asian Age 12/08/2014] It failed. A indirect evidence of its failure is brought out by a reporter who accompanied a convoy carrying “rations” for villagers. In fact this grim fact would not have come to light but for a public realations exercise which went horribly wrong. It reveals how much the Indian ruling class and their minions care for ordinary Indians especially Adivasis in whose name development is being bandied.
Sukma administration sent a convoy of 20 trucks from Dornapal to Jagargunda in third week of September 2014 with a press party in tow. The trucks carried 1603 quintals of rice, 182 quintals of pulses, 8096 kgs of potatoes and 8096 kgs of onions. They took 30 hours to cover 54 kms. They passed eight camps and the base camp of CRPF. There were innumerable road opening parties and extensive de-mining exercise. When the convoy finally reached its destination and press was capturing the “heroic” moment they discovered that pulses had worms and perishable items were rotting. [Indian Express 04/10/2014 “Villagers in Bastar wait six months, get rotting rations”]. Apparently last time rations reached this village of 5000 persons was on March 2, 2014. According to a local reporter who accompanied the convoy to Jagargunda, Maoists domination was palpable in the area and that they did not hide their presence from the forces inside the camp. According to him the Adivasis living inside the camp were on the verge of starvation. They lived in fortified camp under the watchful eyes of the 270 and 201 Cobra battalions backed by state armed police toting their LMGs and their AK 47s. Gates close at 6 pm and entry and exit is strictly regulated. CRPF had been sharing their ration with the villagers but that too was running short. It is significant that the person in-charge of the food convoy was the former district collector of Dantewada, KR Pisda whose major contribution was in being one of the key officials of the state administration in engineering Salwa Judum in 2005. [See When the State Wages War against its own people, 2006, on pudr.org]. With such display of ardent love for people Adivasis need no propaganda to convince them that State is of rulers and Maoists are their own.
The above story is only to bring into focus the difference between make-believe claims and ground reality. It is like the Indian military sending a large force into Abhuj Maad in September from three different directions equipped with sophisticated weapons and gadgets including drones and helicopters . The objective was to catch top leadership of the CPI(Maoist) by surprise while they were holding their tenth party congress or better still while they were returning from it. The military came back empty handed. Many hawks made up for the unsuccessful foray by declaring that Indian military had entered Abhuj Maad, the central bastion of the Maoists. True. But Abuj Maad is 4000 sq kms of jungle. Maoists abode is not fixed it is mobile. Besides, if the Maoists are allegedly on the run why would they be holding their party congress at such a juncture? And if they were holding one or held one, then failure to ensnare the top leadership in one surgical strike means that military had poor intelligence. For the guerillas the most important thing in such situations is to ensure that the Indian military fails in its objective and the “subjective” forces (party leadership and the cadres) are not harmed.
A Resilient Movement?
From the above one gets a mixed picture, devoid of clarity over which way the Party is headed. However, what it does is knocks a lot of air out of the balloon floated by the officials about Maoists being on the run.
Ashutosh Bharadwaj noted in the Indian Express [11/06/2014] that on January 22, 2014 MHA wrote to top police officers in ten states engaged in centrally coordinated war on Maoists and shared their assessment. It said that “Ganpathy (general secretary of CPI(Maoist)) has managed various factions well in difficult times”. It noted that after suffering setbacks this year the Party has “notch(ed) some success.” This does not square with the projection of Maoists on the run. And is indeed a salute to its resilience. But this lends strength to what CPI(Maoist) itself claimed ten months later. Before delving on this let us note that killing and arrests of senior leaders and cadres can be severely debilitating for any movement. Loss of leaders has seen many a struggle fall by the way side. Loss of territory too is a setback. However, if the pullout from a territory leads to organizational decimation only then. Not otherwise. So hallmark of a sustainable movement or resilience exhibited by a movement reveals itself in moments of crisis. It is how they recover, if they can replace the killed and arrested with younger middle ranking cadres, and if they have identified the weaknesses and corrected them or even moving towards doing so… all this counts.
A Raipur datelined story by Asian Age correspondent called “Female Naxals get Combat role” [October 15, 2014] quotes intelligence sources as saying that there has been remarkable shift in composition of the PLGA. The headline is of course misleading because women have been active in combat for nearly two decades. But it is true that their numbers began rising in DK since 2005. Be that as it may. According to the reporter up until 2008 top hierarchy comprised only 25% women. In 2014 they comprise 60%! The head of State Military Committee is headed by Sujata. South Bastar Division is headed by Niti and north Bastar by Madhavi. And it goes on to say women occupy “significant places in the lower rung positions”. Since this information is attributed to intelligence bureau, and it debunks the theory of sexual exploitation of women in Maoist party, there is no reason to doubt its veracity. In other words years of work is paying off with higher intake of women cadres, their appointment as commanders and political heads etc. It also means that party has a pool of middle ranking cadres to replace seniors, as the need arises.
This is a phenomenal development. The most oppressed section of the Adivasi society, and comprising 50% of humanity, today dominate the guerrilla force. It signals that women consider the Party as their own. One, where they are safe not because the “party” protects them. But because they are more than equal in sharing power. It is their party. Why else would women join in relatively larger numbers, and today occupy leadership position, if they were subjected to sexual exploitation or not considered equal. Is this a mark of a Party on the run or a hall mark of a vibrant, robust organization which despite losses has cadres to replace seniors! And not just any cadre, but replace them with armed women cadres at that.
This is quite remarkable. Let us take a closer look to appreciate it.
In 2007 when the unity congress or the ninth congress was held world looked different. The setback suffered in 2004 in united Andhra Pradesh soon after the merger and formation of the party as well as Salwa Judum in Chattisgarh and Sendra in Jharkhand around 2005 was replaced with advances made by the party in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand and Odisha and especially in Lalgarh in Jangalmahal area of Bengal. By 2006-07 they looked to have blunted the worst of the Salwa Judum and emerged even stronger after that. Prospects appeared bright. But between 2009-2011 Party suffered major losses; they lost their stronghold in Jangalmahal, assassination of two of the top leaders of the party and arrests of several senior members, withdrawing from Saranda area in Jharkhand where they had established parallel administration from 2002 onwards and the split in Odisha with a senior party leader walking out of the party etc set the movement back. In 2012 conditions were grim. I myself wondered if party’s strategy of area wise seizure of power can be sustained when the party was losing strongholds and senior leaders. It appeared that they had reached limits of their expansion and the movement was on the retreat. Their area of operation had shrunk. Subjective forces saw depletion with killing and arrest of dozens of leaders. It was thought to be matter of time before they were eclipsed completely. That is where the statement below becomes significant.
The CPI(Maoist) celebrated the tenth anniversary of its formation (when CPI(ML) (PW) and MCC merged in 2004) on 21st September, 2014. In a message to the international solidarity conference held in Milan, Italy in September, 2014 it said:
“In the first quarter of 2013, assessing the situation we face, the Central Committee had noted that the weaknesses in our subjective condition were uneven. It assessed that our countrywide movement is facing a very difficult condition. The reasons for this situation to arise are both objective and subjective. The Indian ruling classes, with the complete support and guidance of the imperialists, have launched an unprecedented multi-pronged countrywide strategic offensive to suppress our developing movement. We suffered some losses, lost some ground temporarily while withdrawing in the face of superior forces. The other reason for this is subjective, the mistakes we made in rising up to the demands of changing conditions of the revolutionary war and leading the PLGA and people, continuing remnants of non-proletarian tendencies in ourselves and failure in avoiding serious loses.” And then pointed out that in the next fifteen months they have striven hard to “preserve the movement and the leadership”. And then asserted that “we are opening up a new war front in the Sahyadri (Western Ghats) border region of Karnataka-Keralam-Tamilnadu.”
The merger of CPI(ML) Naxalbari with the Party announced on 1st May 2014 has apparently opened up this possibility.
Although, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is banned, the Maoists control territories where they run a parallel administration. For instance in Dandakaranya (DK), all development is now the responsibility of the people’s government, i.e., the Janatan Sarkar. The established administration is being replaced by the strengthening of the people’s government. The Revolutionary People’s Committees (RPCs) are elected by people above the age of 18 every three years. Fifteen villages with population anywhere between 500–3000 make up an RPC. These RPCs elect members to Area RPCs which comprise between 3–5 RPCs. In turn, 3 ARPCs constitute a Division RPC.
Recall, for a guerilla force expanding the battle zones and breaking encirclement is of critical importance. It provides them with mobility to engage and disappear. It allows them to operate keeping forces clueless. In Darbha valley, a flat plain, without much of a forest cover, the Indian military with all the resources at its command and trained by Israeli and US military found it difficult to get “actionable intelligence” which speaks of the support the Maoists enjoy among people. Statement issued on the 10th anniversary of formation of CPI(Maoist) dated 1st September pointed to several “successes” notched by them:
“The annihilation of whole company of the CRPF at Mukkaram (Dandakaranya) by the PLGA was a resounding rebuff to the Indian state’s ‘war on the people’. In a protracted people’s war, it is not only the control of territory but the preservation of the revolutionary military force too is of great importance. Grasping this principle, the PLGA has evaded efforts of the Indian state to pin it down and destroy it. It has broken out of heavy encirclements by attacking small units of the enemy and breaching its circle. Withdrawing in the face of massive forces it circles around to hit back with all force when an opportunity arises. The Tongpal ambush (Dandakarnya) in which 15 mercenaries were annihilated, and 20 weapons and a large quantity of ammunition were seized and the Farsagaon (Jharkhand) ambush where 5 mercenaries were wiped out and 5 weapons seized testify to the strengths of a protracted people’s war, a war that is led by a Maoist party and draws in the masses in their thousands. It is significant that these ambushes came in an area claimed to be ‘cleared’ by the Indian state. From January till June of this year, in the midst of two intense country-level suppression campaigns, covering 9 States, carried out during December-January 2013-2014 and in March, 39 actions were carried out by the PLGA.”
Then they go ahead to speak of what masses inspired by the war also managed to achieve:
“There are many instances where the masses have braved repression to seize back the bodies of martyrs and give them a befitting funeral. On some occasions they have collected all the goods distributed by the enemy forces and burnt them in bonfires. In Minpa the people joined with the PLGA and waged continuous struggle for more than a week forcing the enemy to close down its military camp. In Herrakoder masses mobilised from surrounding villages and forced the closure of a newly established camp through peaceful, but resolute, agitations. Women played an exemplary role in this. Broad sections of intellectuals, progressives and democrats have also come out in large numbers, in India and abroad, to protest the Indian state’s ‘war on the people’ and expose its atrocities.”
That villagers pressure forced closure of military camps is no small achievement. That PLGA has managed to defeat after getting pinned down by superior force or encircled shows their combat skills. It reflects how on the ground situation is more dynamic than given credit. Armed resistance combining with open mass politics is quite an achievement in an area crawling with military forces.
An encounter in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra in 2013 had shown that 25–30 Maoist guerrillas led by a woman commander could hold off a 250-strong paramilitary force for ten hours and then escape. With far less ammunition and fewer weapons than the security forces, minus the massive logistical backup, it shows the discipline and training of the guerrillas. (3)
Therefore, if the women dominated and led guerilla force is read together with the physical expansion of the movement into a new area these two developments by themselves make for quite a feat for a movement which only two years back was reeling under one setback after another. However, there is a risk of over reading this if we dismiss breaching of their central bastion, augmentation of force deployed there against them, and attempt to decimate unarmed resistance. If control of territory is important then its breaching can not be under-played. True, if the choice boils down to preserving territory or the subjective forces, it is latter which matters more. But such a choice itself shows difficulties for them.
In other words they face a grave threat. That the terror unleashed by Kalluri for instance in Sarguja district (North Chattisgarh) did significantly weaken the movement there from which the Party has yet to fully recover shows that countering a ruthless force enjoying legal immunity is no easy task. In addition their own mistakes in the past have contributed much to their setbacks. It is here that their response to their critics is important. In a long interview (4) given by Abhay the spokesperson of the CC of the CPI(Maoist) on March 24th, 2014 he referred to criticism by organizations such as PUDR, of a number of crimes committed by them and then concluded by saying:
“Whatever maybe the arguments of the ruling classes, the ongoing war in our country is nothing but a civil war. The party which is leading it for building a new society and the people’s army, how much ever maybe the pressure under which we are working in the midst of war, should choose the appropriate forms of struggle to fight against the enemy. When seen from such a point of view, though such mistakes are occurring rarely, it is very much necessary to avoid them. When weapons like IEDs are planted with the aim of inflicting damages to the enemy forces, any methods that have the possibility of causing damage to the people and those who are not directly participating in the war like employees in civil administration, medical personnel and civilians should be avoided.”
Have the Maoists not admitted their mistakes in the past too? So how do we know they mean what they say? For that we have to wait. However, what we can note is that the self-criticism has gone farther than before and bereft of arguments of reciprocity and other rationalizations such as “the nature of resistance is decided by the war imposed by the ruling classes” or the argument about ‘”pent up fury” of the oppressed. Instead the emphasis is on “the people’s army, how much ever maybe the pressure under which we are working in the midst of war, should choose the appropriate forms of struggle to fight against the enemy.”
Does this mean that there is no such thing as “pent up fury of the oppressed”? Should a party ignore what the people demand? These are no easy answers. There are times when party resists demand for retribution and there are times when people are chary about it. If a news story in Asian Age (October 16, 2014) attributed to Sukma SP is to be believed then 2000 villagers prevailed on the Party to release 40 persons who were to be tried by Jan Adalat. Of course the Sukma SP played it up as mark of revolt against the Party. Whereas it is also likely that 2000 villagers went to attend a Jan Adalat and may have interceded on behalf of the 40 accused who were freed then. But what is worth noting that people do not demand blood revenge, unless it is someone who is hated for his heinous crimes. The point is also that Party too learns from the people. Learning and unlearning, teaching and being taught are part of the same process. It is a mark of good health and not weakness if the views of 2000 prevailed over the Party’s in the instance cited above.
Point is also that class war demands that the revolutionaries, through their own practice, mark out their difference from the reactionary classes. They must fight their battles honourably, keeping in mind the need to mobilize the masses and to inspire them to organize themselves. Winning popular legitimacy for their armed struggle pushes the political to the forefront.
Recall that in a presentation to the MHA, the Intelligence Bureau claimed that there are 6000 armed Maoist cadres and 36,000 militia. It also claimed that the Maoists possess 4000 regular and 6000 country made weapons. The size of the Maoist weaponry is hardly an issue for the heavily armed Indian military. And since most of weaponry is “looted” from the armouries or soldiers and explosives from mining companies it is obvious that the Indian military knows the size of their arsenal. So what makes this force with relatively modest firepower send a chill down the spine of India’s rulers? Because, such a modestly armed force has far greater resonance than acknowledged. That is what war can do. A single bullet aimed well can go a greater distance than a fusillade of argument. Because, their modest fire-power notwithstanding they are able to evade and engage a superior force at will. And thus their sheer presence acts as a deterrent to corporate takeover of forest, land and water resources and from realizing their plans. So if they continue to survive this phase of war, and do not inflict damage on civilians, then the political impact will not only boost the morale of other struggles across India but enhance Maoist appeal beyond their area of influence.
We tend to forget that Protracted People’s War is not just military combat but also to spread popular consciousness, a form of empowerment , to question, critique and defy authority when oppressive. Consciousness rises during period of war because everything is experienced acutely. Friend and enemy reveal themselves more sharply and issues throw up sharp polarization. This happened during Salwa Judum when elite of the Adivasi society and non-tribal commercial interests became the cat’s paw for corporate interests. The class hatred and bloodletting during SJ taught the Adivasis what the Party had been warning them about. Just as continued use of coercion against villagers by the Indian military in the name of fighting Maoists as well as popular resistance to corporate takeover , shows them who is their savior and who the destroyer.
So the government too faces some problem. In war zones middle ground has all but disappeared. IN Bastar Congress, CPI, Aam Aadmi Party all complain that their members engaged in grass root struggles are either threatened with being arrested for hobnobbing with Maoists or actually arrested and charged thus. Since Indian rulers want to annihilate Maoists, that is totally wipe them out, they cannot afford to allow any voice of restraint to gain ground. They can not countenance that lawyers defend Adivasis accused of being Maoists. Because they fear that acquittals will undermine their claims and demoralise the soldiers. Also the Government is going ahead tweaking laws and rules and clearing “bottlenecks” for industry. But, implementation was not the main problem even under UPA II because implementation of FRA rests on Centre as it’s a central act and Union Tribal Affairs Ministry the nodal agency for policy issues. And the final authority over forest right claims lies with the district level forest committees under Forest Rights Act . Besides, FRA cannot be implemented until Indian Forest Act 1927 and other laws amended. So as the laws are being tweaked to make implementation faster and easier for industry there is a tendency to dismiss people’s concerns.
A High Level Committee has been constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramaniam. What is proposed and what “public hearing” means to “pracharaks” of corporate India became evident in Bangalore on 27th September; the entire committee walked out half way through the meeting because they did not appreciate the questions posed to them. Flight is an admission of guilt. Is it not?
A press release issued by social activists after the public hearing cited TSR Subramaniam, former cabinet secretary to say that “the Committee had the mandate of the Government to propose necessary changes that would help improve the quality of life and environment. But he said the need to ensure development was primary, as the country was very poor (over 80% were poor he claimed) and thereby it is found essential to streamline environmental clearance processes that thwarted growth. Mr. Subramanian also shared that it was a matter of concern to the Government that several development projects were getting mired in litigation on environmental grounds, leading to needless delays. Concluding his introductory remarks he shared that the Committee is not in any manner guided by the Ministry and their recommendatory report would be submitted to the Union Government. The Committee’s proceeding, he clarified, were not open to the public, unless the committee decided to engage with the public. Responding to a question, Mr. Subramanian said that nothing that was submitted to the Committee would be shared with anybody, and that only the report would be submitted to the Government. Mr. Subramanian also said that the Ministry never proposed a public consultation exercise, but he had suggested this should take place.” [See www.esgindia.org for details].
Land Acquisition Act is being tweaked both to reduce compensation for “affected families” which includes “livelihood losers” working for 3 years on affected land. Also the government wants to tweak provisions which deal with development of ‘culturable wasteland’ and lapse of land acquisition if compensation not paid. [ToI 15/07/2014] Moreover, powers enjoyed by state governments under Sec. 40 of Land Acquisition Act, which allows for acquisition of land for national security and defence or natural calamities with just 30 days notice, is to also include road building and Public-Private Power Projects, according to Economic Times [07/07/2014].
Since anyone who opposes these projects or Government’s policy is deemed as an ‘enemy’, something Shivram Kalluri the IG of Bastar has helpfully communicated, then State’s war mongering faces two other obstructions. It creates “us” or “them” divide and seeks to silence those a paranoid security apparatus suspects to be part of “them”. While it helps mute open support for Maoists, empathy/sympathy or silent support is hard to suppress. Secondly, with news content censored, entry into war zones curtailed for media and social activists, there are few independent sources of information to verify claims officials posted on the ground tend to make. Rotting rations for villagers living in fortified camps (strategic hamlet) would not have reached Jagdalpur. The dis-connect between actual reality and projected reality then becomes a problem for the State. In other words while the rulers can succeed in war of perception, that is their propaganda can manufacture image, it cannot replace reality. Because one can’t create facts on the ground through fiction and half truths.
The anti-POSCO struggle has shown that while formal clearance has been given to acquire land for the Korean multinational, the peasantry has not yet been dis-possessed of their land. And they are determined not to part with it without a battle. Same is the case in say Bastar. No matter what the government wants the fact is it has to be realized on the ground where a formidable countervailing force exists to blunt government’s strategy.
Rulers tend to place too much faith on a military solution and power of money to buy silence and loyalty. Decimation of the middle ground in say Bastar does hurt the Maoists but it harms the State even more because there is no independent and credible feedback from war zones for rulers. By the time truth gets revealed it is too late for the authorities to stem the rot. This became evident from Salwa Judum. Point is that war strategy of rulers demands manipulation and distortion by controlling what gets reported and what not. In other words arrogance of the functionaries of State who believe that everything can be manipulated and everything has a price tag works well for the revolutionaries because State is slow to grasp and arrest the fallout. In that sense arrogance of the rulers is a good omen for the movement. But what will count is for the Maoists to reach out to the oppressed outside the war zone and if they are able to stand their ground.
So ten years after formation of the Party, while consolidation and resilience have replaced setback and losses it is still a movement which has not managed to carve out a ‘liberated zone’ and its political appeal is restricted. Legal impediments and draconian laws, especially proscription, debilitate them. But beyond a point law and legality don’t work and real life imposes its own choice depending upon what happens in course of the war. This is a compelling factor to reach out to Left and other democratic forces. Just as Left and democrats have to discard their dogma which blinds them from seeing that ‘politics of bloodshed’ is creating space for them to work. In guerilla warfare if the State is unable to crush the guerillas it is considered their defeat. Similarly, it is considered victory for guerillas if they remain unvanquished. If they could bounce back in 18 months, having sufferred grievous losses of territory and top leadership, by bringing in a major transformation within the organization with women taking over leadership in PLGA, tougher test lies ahead. If they are able to withstand the current onslaught and defeat rulers’ objective of annihilating them in the next three years, as Home Minister Rajnath Singh cockily declared, then all bets are off.
(1) “20 fold increase in Maoist surrender since May end”; Economic Times, 13th October, 2014]. This is what an IB officer told Pavan Dahat of the Hindu (June 12, 2014) that “Kalluri is known for his organization skills and anti-Naxal operations which he planned and executed as Dantewada SSP. As SP of Sarguja district he almost made the district Naxal free”. Kalluri was removed as SP Dantewada after Sarkeguda massacre. His record in Sarguja too saw him accused of custodial killing, rape and torture. Does this constitute requisite skills to fight a “dirty war”?
(2) Indian Express 09/10/14 “UPA panel set tough norms for tribal land”, by Jay Mazoomdar.
(3) A relatively small force with modest weaponry has also combat skills which are rather impressive. At Timliwada of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh in 2013, the firing by the Maoists on an IAF combat helicopter showed that they have developed indigenous propeller and rocket-launch capabilities. Even more significant is the fact that the Maoist combat strategy factored in the possibility of aerial warfare against them way back in 2004 and also the need to develop an ‘air sentry system’. A document reportedly found by security forces from a Maoist camp reportedly asks guerrillas to practise “concealment” by camouflaging their kit, equipment and tents.[i] It then goes on to guide them on how to use their automatic and semi-automatic rifles: “To attack a low flying, slow-moving helicopter/plane, aim at a distance of 50 metres (half of a football field) ahead of the plane.” And then says: “Continuous firing at a definite length in the front of the helicopter will ensure at least that a few rounds will hit sensitive parts like its fuel tank.” At Timliwada, it was the fuel tank that was pierced. (Times of India 3rd February, 2013).
(4) The answer reads thus in full:
“On December 27, PUDR condemned this incident (referring to killing of Sai Reddy) citing Article79 of Protocol I of Geneva Convention (1949). A 16-member team of journalists took protest rally in our movement areas of Bastar from 26th to 31st January, 2014 and on the last day held a press meet in Bijapur. Recently our Dandakaranya SZC had reviewed the Sai Reddy incident and all these developments. For about two decades Sai Reddy had been taking up anti-people and anti-movement activities even while being a journalist. So the party’s South Bastar Divisional Committee (DVC) decided to punish him and accordingly a PLGA unit attacked his house once. But he escaped in that attack. In 2008 he was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police under Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act on a false accusation that he was a Maoist supporter and put him in jail for one year. However there were other reasons for his arrest. But with this arrest his image turned into one who opposed the government. In this backdrop the DVC stalled the decision to punish him. However this decision was not passed on to the lower ranks properly. As a result, this happened. The DKSZC reviewed that the SRC should have responded without delay in the Nemichand Jain incident and that the SRC defending the killing of Sai Reddy is not correct. Regarding military actions and particularly regarding journalists, employees and professionals etc when any of them gets involved in anti-people activities or turns into an enemy of the movement and the people, the policy and guidelines formulated by the CC dictate that every unit of our party and the PLGA must adhere to them and follow class line and mass line in such instances. The DKSZC decided to release a letter to the PUDR and the media giving explanation on the Sai Reddy incident. In the past, when our South Bastar DVC decided to punish him, we should have informed the media organizations, journalists and the media houses he worked for, about his anti-people activities. Even though our policy is correct, rarely some errors are occurring in practice. However, our CC feels that the local media and the media in Raipur deciding to impose a ban on publishing any statements from our party is not correct. We feel that democratic organizations should give attention to this undemocratic attitude of the media too. The incident on January 8, 2013 in Latehar where an IED was placed in the body of a slain CRPF jawan is also worrying. After the launch of OGH the ruling classes have resorted to every kind of brutality against the people in the most heinous manner. When the state forces use their superior strength and inflict serious damages to the revolutionary movement, the people and the people’s guerillas are forced to function under intense conditions. Every opportunity to resist the state forces should be utilized by them. In this course, due to lack of experience, due to lack of knowledge about the norms, rules and regulations regarding war/s that are prevalent in the world, our people and our fighters are taking up some actions which are not acceptable even to our supporters. Such instances are paining the well-wishers of the revolution and pro-people forces and they are asking that such incidents be avoided. On the other hand, such mistakes are not only being used by the state to intensify its psychological war but also by it’s apologists to make mountains out of mole hills and to attack the Maoist movement as a whole.”
In the interview the spokesperson had also this to say about talks which goes some way in sharing Party’s critical assessment of their experience of talks and the course correction introduced:
“To conduct Peace Talks with a political movement successfully and with positive results, the governments should firstly recognize our movement as a political movement. It is necessary that they recognize this movement as a movement by the people of our country, as an internal movement and as a civil war. Then only there would be a possibility to at least conduct talks to solve issues that would help in resolving the fundamental issues in order to resolve this civil war. Any mention of Peace Talks in any other manner amounts only to wrong intentions and nothing else. If one has to take a correct stand on the present proposal for talks from the ruling elite, we have to examine similar proposals put by the ruling classes to the communists in our country in the past. We have to see historically with what agenda they came forward with the proposal for talks and how they dealt with any political movement in the past led by the communist revolutionaries or national liberation organizations of Kashmir and the North East. What happened as a result of Talks with nationality movements? The experience of most of the nationality movements is negative due to the expansionist and fascist approach of the Indian ruling classes and the capitulation of the leadership who that led those movements. The talks did not resolve any issues raised by these movements. To this date these movements are still continuing in one form or the other.What was the stand taken by the communist revolutionaries when the proposals for talks were put before them? The first such instance was during the glorious Telangana armed peasant revolutionary movement. The CBB and the landlord classes came to power in place of the British colonialists, and a fascist suppression campaign was being carried on by the Nehru-Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel army and thousands of peasants and peasant guerrilla fighters were being butchered brutally when talks were held between the revolutionaries and the government. The aim of the government in these talks was to destroy the Telangana armed revolutionary movement by bending the revolutionaries. However as basic issues like genuine land reforms, people’s democracy and issues brought forth by the Telangana armed struggle remained unsolved, the glorious Naxalbari peasantry took up arms and fought to resolve the same. A glorious armed peasant rebellion erupted and it spread like prairie fire to all the corners of our country with a correct perspective, program and strategy etc in the light of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM). After Indira’s fascist rule ended, leaders of various rightist ML groups milled around the Janata Party that came to power with the slogan of restitution of democratic rights, for talks. The Talks of those days paved the way for these groups to enter electoral politics and were used to get some of their leaders and cadres released but only after they gave shameful undertakings. Our party had openly opposed and criticized such capitulationist policy and getting bogged down in electoral politics. At that time, the functioning of Bhargava Commission that was formed by the Janata party government for enquiring into false encounter killings was stopped midway by the ruling classes, putting into the dustbin the slogans on which it came to power. And it was on such a government that these groups had such illusions. They did not understand the class nature of the ruling classes and also failed in assessing the concrete political condition at that time. Such groups gradually disappeared from the scene of revolution. Again the revolutionary movement erupted in an upsurge in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar with its basic program, all the while fighting back state repression. The movement extended to some more areas in our country. In AP, once in 1990 immediately after Chenna Reddy came to power, once in 1996 during Chandrababu Naidu’s rule when repression was intensified to unprecedented levels and later on certain occasions proposals for Talks came to the fore either from the governments intellectuals or other quarters. However, the then state governments intensified repression and did not show any inclination for talks. Rajasekhar Reddy came to power in 2004 with the agenda of conducting Talks with the Maoists. He came forth for Talks after making all preparations for launching an offensive campaign on us in fascist methods and with a plan for an unprecedented intensification of repression. After one round of talks the government shamelessly stopped the Talks process midway. It did not even let its delegation to officially sign on behalf of the state government on the agenda decided between the delegations of both sides. The YSR government feared the interest shown by the vast masses towards our party and ideology and the rallying of people towards the agenda brought forth by our party and immediately resorted to an offensive on our party. Along with fake encounters severe repression was unleashed all over the state. Thus it sabotaged the Talks process. Seeing the positive response among the various sections of people towards the Talks the government brought forth the demand midway that Maoists should abandon arms and it did not implement the ceasefire even for a single day in the period decided by both sides. The government did not have the aim of discussing on the agenda put forward by our party. Its aim was to disarm the party and make it surrender. Soon after the crooked ploy ended, the AP police brutally killed comrade Riaz, a member of the Maoist parties’ delegation. This was the first bitter experience for our party in conducting Peace Talks. This is an example of the real intentions of the ruling classes and their imperialist masters in Peace Talks. The UPA led by the Congress came to power for the second time and launched the first phase of the War on People – the Operation Green Hunt. Simultaneously it brought forth the proposal for Peace Talks at central level through its Home Ministry and Congress senior leaders directly and indirectly. People like Swami Agnivesh directly entered the arena for facilitating Talks. On the one hand, the central government brought forth the proposal for Talks with Maoist leadership and on the other hand it either killed the top leadership of our party in fake encounters or arrested them and put them in jails. Our CC was to discuss and reach a final decision on Talks but before that comrade Azad, our Politburo member was caught and killed in a fake encounter in July 2010. This murder exposed the conspiracy of the ruling classes behind the proposal for Peace Talks. It became clear as daylight that Manmohan Singh government was not ready for Talks except to deceive. Even while the OGH was being further intensified, some ministers like the home minister and some Congress top leaders parroted about Peace Talks some times. Apart from brutally killing another PBM of our party comrade Kishenji, several of our top leaders were arrested and put in jails. In Bengal too, Mamta Banerji talked about peace before she came to power. Once in power, it did not take many days for her real face to get exposed. Massacres of common people, fake encounters, loot, destruction and all kinds of atrocities on women became the daily routine of the state forces in Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra. When Chidambaram was the home minister and after Shinde took over, both of them and the home secretaries had been declaring openly that there was no question for Peace Talks unless Maoists abandon arms and that the Maoists would not come for talks unless their backbone is broken that is, unless their top leadership is wiped out. They declared that only the government forces have the right to carry arms and even said that the law does not allow conduct of Talks with a banned organization. From the beginning, the aim of the ruling classes in conducting Peace Talks is either disarming Maoists as a precondition for talks or disarming the Maoists as a result of Talks. The government has been asking the Maoists to come into mainstream and that it would rehabilitate them. It declared that if the Maoists put forward the grievances of the people, it would consider and solve those that are possible to be solved. To be precise, all proposals for Peace Talks from the ruling classes are nothing but humbug. Now once again direct and indirect proposals for Peace Talks are coming from the Congress leaders. On the other hand, every kind of preparation for another big offensive-OGH-3rd phase is being concluded that includes further involvement of army and Air Force apart from deployment of paramilitary and Special Forces numbering around 4 lakhs all over the country at present (they have already built up carpet security like in Kashmir in every stronghold of our movement and at every strategic point of movement of our forces). Consolidation and expansion of carpet security and construction of hundreds of attack-proof police stations/camps and dozens of aerodromes and helipads is being done at a rapid pace all over the country in our movement areas. Expanding intelligence network in rural areas, expanding communication network, setting up several dozens of training centres for Special Forces, importing most advanced weaponry and weapon systems, intensifying psychological operations utilizing corporate media and increase in the strategic role of paramilitary, Air Force and Army is being done at an unprecedented level. Vast tracts of rural areas have been transformed into big concentration camps. In all of these areas, there is no civil administration on ground. It is only a police/paramilitary dictated administration. Repression on mass organizations and mass movements including murders of its leaders is on. Large number of our central leaders and several hundreds of party cadres up to the lower levels were put in jails. They are languishing since several years in prisons without any justice. The government forces are intensifying and expanding cordon and search operations in our movement areas on a daily basis. Their model for dealing with Maoists is the Saranda model. This is a model that follows in the footsteps of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The central and state governments had been making all the above preparations on the one hand and on the other hand, some Congress leaders and some chief ministers have been putting forward proposals for Peace Talks even while doing all this at the ground level. In such a backdrop, at present our stand towards Peace Talks would be as follows: I – The government should accept that ours is a political movement of this country. Its program concerns our people and our country. Our party is the vanguard of this just movement. We are leading a national democratic revolution to resolve the fundamental problems before the people and the country which are the reason for the origin and continuation of our movement. Hence, our main agenda is genuine land reforms, democracy, self-reliant development model of economy-agriculture-industry and services and sovereignty and long-lasting peace to develop the country. So they have to understand and recognize the root cause for this movement and if they wish to fulfill the interests of the people they would have to accept that our movement is an internal conflict and a civil war according to international laws also. Only then can Peace Talks be conducted in a genuine manner and be productive. Democratic organizations, progressive intellectuals and the people should understand this clearly and strive for peace. II – Ban on the CPI (Maoist) and revolutionary, democratic mass organizations in our country should be lifted and attacks on their leaders and activists should stop. III – Judicial enquiry should be conducted on Comrade Riaz’s murder and the culprits should be punished. The killers who murdered comrade Azad who was involved in the Talks process should be arrested and punished. IV – Government forces that are carrying on loot, destruction, mayhem, atrocities on women and massacres in rural areas and killing of mass organization leaders in urban areas flouting international, national laws and agreements should be stopped from doing so. Judicial enquiry should be conducted on all these incidents. V – In order to preserve our leadership from the conspiracies of the ruling classes to decimate our party leadership one more time in the name of Talks, all veteran comrades in prisons should be released by lifting all false cases on them or on bails. They should be allowed to meet our CC to facilitate deciding on a team to participate in the dialogue with the government.”