When its fountainheads in Moscow and Beijing have got dried up, Communism of extreme form is not only surviving in India, but inflicting repeated blows. The killing of 76 CRPF personnel in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on April 6 is the latest in the series of incidents to take place in India. Earlier, the highest casualty in one such landmine blast-cum-ambush was 55; that too was in Chhattisgarh in March 2007.
Political analysts need to ponder as to what are the motivating factors and sources of material, moral and ideological support for the Maoists, who still believe that the power flows from the barrel of the gun. This is ironically happening when Communism elsewhere is more or less on retreat. Now the ‘ballot’ version is losing its hold in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura too. What is the stranger is that the ‘bullet’ version of Communism is hitting at the Indian state machinery much more strongly than when they used to enjoy the backing of, first Soviet Union and then China many decades ago.
Maoists of today are putting up much more stiff resistance than the Soviet-inspired Communists during the 1948 Telangana uprising days or the Naxalites of 1967-73 period. In fact they appear somewhat more tenacious than the militants of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and even for that matter LTTE of Tamil Nadu, which in fact spilled over from neighbouring Sri Lanka.
While all the disturbed areas of India lie in and around the international borders or coast-line, the Maoists are very well ensconced in the heartland of India. They are far away from the international boundary; so apparently it is more difficult to get covert and overt support from across the border. Except Telangana rebellion, almost all the big bloody upheavals took place on the borders of the country. Even the earlier Naxal insurrection had its epicentre Naxalbari in Darjeeling district. Thus it was not far away from Nepal and Sikkim – the latter was not a part of the Indian territory then.
So the big question is: who is providing oxygen to the Maoists of today when their ideological models cease to exist and they have less access to the arms, aid and ammunition from abroad.
But then the Maoists of today have certain advantages, which others did not have in the past. They have dug in very deep in the region having one of the toughest terrains in the country. History is replete with the examples of conquering armies winning the northern India plains smoothly but getting bogged down in the central plateau. Even the better armed British found it extremely difficult to completely overcome the Chotanagpur plateau and further south till as late as early years of the 20th century.
The big problem with the huge tract of land under Maoists’ influence is that minerally it is extremely rich and the country cannot afford to lose it to them. While the Socialist India of the past managed to – one way or the other – neutralise the earlier versions of Left extremism, the Capitalist India has opened its gate wide open for the multi-national corporations to overtake the country’s trade, business and industry. The Maoists are the one, who are, at least trying to prove as the vanguards of the resistance against them. Though they work under the red flag, they at least talk of preserving the greenness of the forest.
But all this did not happen in one day. The Left extremists have learnt from the past. It can be argued that ideologically they are neither the Maoists nor the Marxist-Leninist or even Stalinist, but still they have over the years mastered the art of surviving for so long after being successfully crushed in early 1970s.
They now know the disadvantage of confining themselves to small pockets, but over the decades managed to spread their tentacles in the region which can best suit the guerrilla-style warfare.
The Left extremism, which had its roots in the highland of Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal travelled to reach the land-locked plateau of heartland via the plains of eastern part of north India – especially Bihar. Passing through rough history as well as geography, it slowly but steadily established itself deep in the hills of the Central Indian plateau.
While the earlier Naxal attacks of late 1960s and early 1970s were more or less targeted killing or mass upsurge in West Bengal, the Naxals resorted to bloody massacres of the landed class people, mostly in Bihar, after they re-grouped in mid-1980s. Many of these carnages were revenge killings. Gradually they re-surfaced in Andhra Pradesh under the name of Peoples War Group and in Bihar under the banner of Maoist Communist Centre. The CPI (Maoist) came up only after the merger of these two outfits.
However, it was by the turn of the 21st century that the Maoists actually entered the deep jungles to trap in the state machinery for war. The first time they struck at the police party in a big way was in September 1999 parliamentary election day. In simultaneous landmine explosions to be followed by ambush no fewer than 37 policemen lost their lives in Hazaribagh district of the then Bihar – now it is in Jharkhand. The Maoists decamped with the arms and ammunition.
Then they took the new state of Jharkhand by storm and killed no fewer than 200 policemen, many of them CRPF personnel, in the first couple of years of its creation. Jharkhand came up on November 15, 2000. Even the trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir did not lose so much security personnel in those days.
From Jharkhand they went deep south and took Orissa, parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and almost the entire Chhattisgarh. As these all are minerally rich regions and dynamites are used to blast the mines, getting explosives is not difficult for them.
Whether it was the March 2007 landmine blast-cum ambush, which killed 55, or the latest April 6 one – or many other such identical attacks – the tragedy is that the security forces were taken completely off guard and failed to inflict any casualty on the Maoists. The scale of devastation caused by these landmine blasts-cum ambushes is much more than what the ultras in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir or North-East could do in one strike. However, it is also true that the insurgents in these bordering states also took on army while the Maoists are essentially fighting the army-trained paramilitary forces. But unlike in bordering states, where army presence is natural, the government is seriously thinking in terms of using air-force against the Maoists.
It is true that many army personnel lost their lives in Operation Blue Star launched in June 1984 to get rid of Sikh militants holed up inside the Golden Temple. But that was a different type of warfare and the army killed many times more the Sikh militants, including their leader, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. In the case of Maoists the security personnel are repeatedly proving as sitting-ducks for them and are unable to kill anyone in retaliation. The armoured vehicles provided for them failed to provide any protection.
The problem with our establishment is that we failed to take the Maoists’ challenge seriously and concentrated only on the militants from across the border. While urban terrorism of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, etc. got full coverage, the Maoists’ action generally escaped the attention till it was too late. So when they blew up 55 policemen in March 2007, the media hardly gave any coverage after the second day. It is only now that the nation woke up to the hard reality.