India - International Relations
Naxalites: who are they and what are their demands?
Rather than an internal threat, the Naxalites are the result of an inefficient policy of income distribution. Lynus Misquitta argues that they have grassroot support of millions of Indians not benefited by a bubbling economy. From Mumbai.
India is facing internal as well as external insurgencies. The internal dissensions are from populations mostly from the North Eastern states, and these problems are economic in nature. The external problems, mostly from terrorists, who infiltrate from Pakistan, are of political nature. But, if India cannot contain the internal confrontations that are mostly from the Naxalites, it harms our international image.
But who are the Naxalites and what are their demands? The Naxalite cadres are made up mostly from people from backward tribes and castes and the landless farmers who feel neglected and marginalised. The story goes back to the year 1967, in a small village in West Bengal, where the revolutionary communist leaders Kanu Sanyal and Charu Majumdar led a military peasant uprising. This village was called Naxalbari, and so these people on the warpath for economic reasons are called Naxalites. Sanyal and Majumdar broke away from the Communist (Marxist) party as the party could not deliver the goods though they had the same manifesto. These two leaders Sanyal and Majumdar were influenced by the philosophy of Mao Tse-Tung, father of the modern republic of China. The motto was to attack the capitalists, who they surmised, were responsible for the plight of the masses. In a way they were correct as the Business-Politics nexus was very strong and there was no way to redress the grievances of the poor. But they could have come to the bargaining table instead of showing utter belligerence to the government of the day. The objective of the Naxalites under Majumdar and Sanyal was to seize power through an agrarian revolution.
Today, 14 out of the 28 States of India feel the dangerous presence of these Naxalites who are more active in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jarkhand, Chhatishgarh and West Bengal. The Naxalite Movement finds strong support among the aboriginal tribal communities and poor peasants as the youth from these sections of population feel left out, specially because they are mostly illiterate, and hence are readily available to reinforce the movement.
The Naxalite ideology gained momentum in the seventies, among the youth and the intellectual circles in many parts of India. The Government of India was alarmed and set up a committee to look into their grievances. The committee pointed out that the Naxalite unrest emanated from the defective implementation of the laws to protect the poor farmers and tribals. But the Government was more worried about the uprising and so took measures to crush them instead of giving some temporary relief to their economic needs. Naxalite leader Kanu Sanyal was arrested and he died in police custody. This was not taken kindly by the Naxalites.
The Naxalite ideology gained momentum in the seventies, among the youth and the intellectual circles in many parts of India.
During the Emergency too, the Naxal Movement was suppressed by Indira Gandhi. After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, the first non-Congress government released the Naxalite leaders, partly due to the pressure exerted by human rights activists.
In the eighties the Naxalites resorted to guerrilla warfare People’s War Group (PNG) in Andhra Pradesh and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) went on a warpath against politicians, businessmen and landlords.
The ground realities in India is what eggs on the Naxal movement. Take the example of the clout the rich and the powerful have, to destroy evidence and ride roughshod on average innocent citizen. There are other cases where the state machinery favours certain individuals to make hay during their tenure of office. The poor thus get marginalised when the government fails in its obligation to fulfill the principles enshrined in our Constitution, namely equitable distribution of wealth and income. The matter gets acute when the application of modern technology replaces manual labour and the poor and the illiterate suffer. Even the Raja Chelliah Committee by Rajiv Gandhi to check the performance of the public sector pointed out that the bureaucrats manning the public sector industries were milking India dry. This is precisely why the Naxalites target the bureaucrats and the rich and the famous. In the process, in the crossfire a lot of police and innocent citizens are killed.
But again, business and government are doing their utmost to give relief and help to the poor and downtrodden. A lot of business houses like Tatas, Ambanis, have adopted villages and created the necessary infrastructure like schools, colleges, hospitals, playgrounds, free education to children, teaching hygiene to the illiterate women, housing and so on. The government too gives assistance regularly but it seems it does not reach remote villages. Recently, government gave assistance of 2475 crores to 55 Naxal affected districts and under the RSVY (Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana) Scheme an amount of 15 crores has been disbursed to each of the districts for 3 years. But some elements among the Naxalites are fiercely against bureaucracy and cannot trust them. Recently, the government is contemplating to allot equity in the mineral mines to these Naxalites to make them happy.
The India Shining picture depicted by foreign economists is a misnomer. Of course India is one of the fastest growing economies but it does not benefit the people at the bottom of the pyramid that runs into millions of dissatisfied people. India grows only sectorally. Jawaharlal Nehru´s policies of idolising heavy industries before developing the man-power infrastructure have harmed the Indian economy. Mahatma Gandhi was a visionary, and he had advocated the development of India from the grassroots, by establishing small-scale and handloom industries. We did not have technically qualified people as India had just gained Independence and we had to solicit foreign technical help to harness and develop heavy industries at a very high cost. The poor farmer in remote villages had the handicap of storing and transporting the produce to competitive markets and were exploited by moneylenders and middlemen. There were no refrigeration and storage facilities and there were no roads let alone mode of any transport. Besides the politician-business nexus, the quid pro quo involved, leaves a great vacuum, in which the Naxalite cauldron simmers and spills violence.
Jawaharlal Nehru´s policies of idolising heavy industries before developing the man-power infrastructure have harmed the Indian economy.
Recently hundreds of tons of wheat rotted in godowns of FCI, Food Corporation of India, in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, as they were exposed to elements of nature and uncared for. The bureaucrats involved could have advised the government to distribute these wheat to the poor and appease the Naxalites.
India lives in villages and it is a matter of shame that tons of wheat and other cereals are allowed to rot when the average tax payer has to stretch to make both ends meet after paying the taxes and thousands of people die of semi starvation or are undernourished leading to rickets. It is a great crime against humanity when such irresponsible acts lead to indirect starvation. And this is happening often, as government does not give proper punishment. This time 9 officials of FCI were suspended and an inquiry is in progress.
It is a pity that the government does not realise that a stitch in time saves nine. Naxalites who are also called Maoists, are a big threat to business and industry as some of the railways and mining towns are in their strongholds. Chetan Bhagat writing in The Times of India calls the situation ‘wrong diagnosis’ as the government only treats the symptoms of internal conflict ignoring the cause. He says unless the rural and the underprivileged Indian youth sees a better life, the infection is going to grow and this infection does not need pain killers but antibiotics. The bottom line is that despite liberalisation the benefits of ‘India Shining’ do not reach 90 per cent of Indians. Only 10 per cent enjoy a gregarious life. For the common man inflation kills savings and his/her purchasing power.
Finally, to use strong-arm tactics on Naxalites is not advisable as they have grassroot support of millions of victimised Indians, victimised because the benefits of a bubbling Indian economy have not percolated to these unfortunate citizens of India. The displacement of Tata’s Singur project to manufacture people’s car Nano was partly the work of the Naxalites. Unless the government of India wakes up to the ground realities by supervising and seeing that no red tape interferes with help disbursed, a revolution of the proletariat is looming large on the Indian horizon.