In India, Left Wing Extremism is the word used to describe Maoism and Naxalism. It indicates that they struggle to have their means recognised by the state and society. Although Maoism and Naxalism are sometimes mistaken for one another, their origins are fundamentally distinct.
Maoism, or the philosophy of the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, is a communist thought that originated in China. For the longest time, up until 1977–1978, China’s political and military structure was governed by this idea. Maoism’s guiding principle is to create a classless society through armed revolt. The struggle for armed resistance to imperialism and overthrowing the ruling elite is where Maoism had its start.
On the other hand, Naxalism is an Indian idea, yet Maoism’s doctrine has been adopted. After India gained its independence, Naxalism emerged. Naxalism is also the “far-left extreme communist” movement that adheres to the Maoist theory and takes up arms to defend the peasantry against landlords and the state. Naxalism holds that overthrowing the government and landlords is the only way to stop the atrocities carried out by them because it views the Indian government as colonial, feudal, and imperial.
The separatist movement known as Naxalism began in India in the late 1950s, in the West Bengal state’s Naxalbari district, close to the Indo-China Border. It was from this point that the movement acquired its name. And in 1967, a peasant-communist uprising against the feudal lords was launched under the leadership of Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal, and Jangal Sanyal. This uprising eventually evolved into the Naxal Insurgency. Only the Communist Party of India broke apart at that time, and the Naxalists joined it (Marxist-Leninist). Naxalism has now extended beyond West Bengal to other regions of the nation, primarily to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha in central and eastern India. And the area affected by extreme Leftism is now referred to as the Red Corridor.
In India, Naxalism has evolved through three stages:
- First Phase: 1950-1973.
- Second Phase: 1973-2004
- Third Phase: 2004 to present.
FIRST PHASE (1950s-1973)
People from the states of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh accepted naxalism, which was inspired by Mao Zedong’s revolutionary strategy and the Chinese cultural movement. To launch the Telangana Struggle, a peasant movement, certain villages were put into communes in 1948. During this stage, the peasants used force to take the land from the landlords and the government. Additionally, they had weapons to defend themselves against the government and police. Violence based on caste, class, and ethnicity subsequently results from these activities in the Northeast’s poorer areas.
Naxalism first emerged in 1967. On the anniversary of Lenin’s birth, a new party called the CPI(ML) was established in 1969 after breaking away from the CPI(M). Charu Majumdar was chosen to serve as the party’s secretary. And CPI (ML) began employing the guerilla warfare strategy. The majority of the Naxalites’ power centres were destroyed after Charu Mazumdar was taken into custody by the Kolkata Police in 1972, where he later passed away.
But when the government failed to address the underlying source of the issue and instead relied on “counter-insurgency operations,” the Naxalites were able to brainwash the inhabitants of the affected areas, and the situation once more began to take a much wider form.
The naxalite movement split into numerous small groups, which then began remobilizing in various Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Telangana-related areas of South-Eastern Indian States. During this stage, naxalites would kidnap the landlords and force them to hand over the cash and make an apology in front of the entire hamlet.
In response, the government launched “Counter-Insurgency Operations” in their most extreme form, prohibited Naxalite political parties from running in elections, formed numerous informants groups, and launched several rehabilitation programmes to prevent young people from becoming involved in the Naxalism movement. Nearly 10,000 Naxalites returned to society once the outcome was favourable. A few moderate Naxalite political organisations were also no longer prohibited by the government.
THIRD PHASE (2004-PRESENT)
The People’s War Group was founded by multiple Naxalite groups, including the People’s War, Party Unity, and Maoist Community Center, at the end of the second phase. This phase was marked by the excessive brutality committed by Naxalites, which was the catalyst for this violence. The People’s War Group joined with the Maoist Communist Center of India, CPI (ML), CPI (M), and CPI (ML) in 2004, giving the Naxalites a significant amount of influence.
Once more, they began taking advantage of the populace, but this time, it extended beyond landowners and public servants. Instead, they began using deadly force to target ordinary citizens and their homes. This insurgency had reached almost 200 districts in India by the end of 2007. And the former Indian Prime Minister referred to this as “the single worst internal security challenge the nation has ever faced.”
The growth of the Naxalites’ financial base was another factor in the development of radicalism. By the end of 2009, Naxalism had extended to nine states throughout the nation, touching parts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as well as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, and Maharastra where it was at its worst. After 2009, states began to experience a decline in its impact.
Actions By The Government
While maintaining law and order is a state responsibility, the central government continuously provided the state government with resources to combat Naxalism, including financial, military, intelligence, and strategic support. And both the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of the BJP and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of the Congress took tough counterinsurgency measures.
Paramilitary soldiers were stationed in the affected areas by the central government. The Manmohan Singh administration introduced the 14-Point programmes to combat insurgency in 2006, and as a result, CPI was outlawed by the 2009 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Better security and intelligence measures were also a major priority.
Furthermore, the Central Government began implementing good governance measures in the Naxal-affected States. A committee headed by Dr. D. Bandyopadhyay was tasked with examining the socioeconomic state of the impacted areas during the UPA administration and developing solutions to the problem. To address the developmental challenges in the Naxal-affected areas, the government launched the “Integrated Action Plan” throughout this process.
The NDA administration dismantled IAP and launched a “Special Central Assistance” Programme that assists the 35 worst-affected areas. The “SAMADHAN” scheme was launched by the government in 2017 to improve the lives of those living in Naxal-affected areas. To address the complaints of the indigenous population, the government passed THE FOREST DWELLERS ACT, 2006, in addition to this.
All of these actions contributed to the 60-year-old violence being reduced in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha as well as the control of Naxalism.