In the last few days, a new word has entered the ever-increasing political lexicon of the country — Urban Naxal. With its tones and overtones, the word, which has both suited the legal and social media entusiasts, has been used to refer to the so-called social activists, who were arrested on various charges by Maharashtra Police, recently. The term ‘ Urban Naxal’ found an instant reaction in the whole country, and much to the chagrin of the oppositon parties, people started identifying these kinds of wolves among themselves.
With synchronized raids, by the Maharashtra police and intelligence officials, in five states at the homes of prominent civil and human rights activists and intellectuals, who were branded as ‘urban Naxals’ arrested five of them in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.
According to the media reports, raids had been carried out at the homes of radical poet Varavar Rao in Hyderabad, civil rights activist, intellectual, and author Anand Teltumbde in Goa, national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, lawyer and human rights activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai, former PUCL secretary Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy in Ranchi, Jharkhand.
Five other “urban Naxals” and “Naxal sympathizers” were arrested in Maharashtra and Delhi on 6 June in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case, including Rona Wilson, an activist and Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, civil right activists Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut, and lawyer Surendra Gadling.
“The ‘urban Naxal’ has been around and active for a long time in Maharashtra though it has always been legally challenging to establish them as such. Some of these people are well-entrenched in the civil society and have immense legal and intellectual resources at their disposal. In the past the leads against them have rarely been backed by proof but this time I believe the police have a strong case at least against some of them,” said one senior police officer who has previously worked in the state’s anti-Naxal unit while talking to livemint.
According to livemint.com offences against those who were arrested on 6 June were registered by the Pune Police after a Pune resident Tushar Damugade filed a complaint against what he alleged were “inflammatory speeches” made by some of these activists at the Elgar Parishad held in Pune on 31 December last year. The Parishad was held ahead of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon near Pune where violent clashes had taken place between Dalits and others.
Leitmotif’ of the Urban Naxals
The arrest of the so called social activists and intellectuals, in a multi city rais, once again brought the debate on the cocept of ‘Urban Naxalism’ to the fore. This, however, is an old maoist strategy to focus on urban centres for leadership, organise masses, build a united front and engage in military tasks such as providing personnel, material and infrastructure.
A 2004 Communist Party of India (Maoist) document titled Urban Perspective elaborates on this strategy with one of the most important focus areas being on gaining leadership from urban areas. The document says ” “Work in the urban areas has a special importance in our revolutionary work. …..in our revolution, which follows the line of protracted people’s war, the liberation of urban areas, will be possible only in the last stage of the revolution. However, this does not mean that there is no need to concentrate on the building of urban revolutionary movement from the beginning. From the beginning we will have to concentrate on the organization of the working class, which being the leadership of our revolution has to directly participate and lead the agrarian revolution and the people’s war and on building a revolutionary workers movement. Moreover, on the basis of revolutionary workers movement we will be able to mobilize millions of urban oppressed masses and build struggles against imperialism and feudalism, struggles in support of the agrarian revolution and struggles for democratic rights. We will be able to create the subjective forces and conditions required for building a countrywide, broad, anti-imperialist, anti-feudal united front during this course only. The urban movement is one of the main sources, which provides cadres and leadership having various types of capabilities essential for the people’s war and for the establishment of liberated areas… We should not forget the dialectical relationship between the development of the urban movement and the development of the people’s war. In the absence of a strong revolutionary urban movement, the people’s war will face difficulties.”
This document clearly sets the goals to be achieved by their urban cadres and stipulates that ” being the centres of concentration of the industrial proletariat, urban areas play an important part within the political strategy of the New Democratic Revolution. It is the task of the party in the urban areas to mobilize and organize the proletariat in performing its crucial leadership role. Urban work thus means, firstly, forming the closest possible links with the working class, and, through the class struggle, establishing the party as a proletarian vanguard; further, it means the mobilization and unification of all other sections under proletarian leadership in the struggle to achieve the tasks of the revolution.”
Not only this, the document also clarifies that along with political measures the carrying out of the required military task is also a major issue.The document clarifies the military strategy as establishing the base areas first in the countryside where the “enemy is militarily weak” and then capturing the cities, which are the “bastions of the enemy forces”. Regarding this, the document says “Thus it is clear that the armed struggle and the movement in the rural areas will play the primary role, and the work in the cities will play a secondary role, complementary to the rural work. However, while giving first priority to the rural work, we must also give due importance to the urban struggle. Without a strong urban revolutionary movement, the ongoing people’s war faces difficulties; further, without the participation of the urban masses it is impossible to achieve countrywide victory. As Com. Mao says, “the final objective of the revolution is the capture of the cities, the enemy’s main bases, and this objective cannot be achieved without adequate work in the cities.”
While the document clearly brings out the intentions of the Maoist insurgents towards disturbing the tranquile atmosphere of the cities of the country, it also lays out the plan how to achieve these goals and what must be done to avoid being identified by the power that be. We, the naive ones, react only to the short-term plans of these Maoists, but in reality, the long term approach of these naxals are more dangerous.
In the long-term approach of these Maoists, they not only talk of getting the Party an urban framework and the military struggle, but also stipulates the idea of creating various fronts through which they can carry their struggle against the Indian government. These fronts make use of the available legal opportunities within the constitutional framework of our country and carry out revolutionary propaganda and agitation openly and try to mobilise anti-establishment forces as widely as possible. In accordance, the document says ” Whatever be the reason, we should however evaluate the situation and try to make the best use of the legal opportunities available, while keeping in mind the long-term perspective… “”Work of this nature can be carried out in various types of organizations. The best organizations are those which are more oriented to struggle, like trade unions, slum and other locality based organizations, youth organizations, unemployed organizations, students associations and unions, women’s organizations, commuter associations, etc. Besides there are also other organizations which are welfare oriented, community based or are self-help organizations – like workers’ cooperatives, cultural organizations, sports clubs and gymnasiums, libraries, bhajan mandals, non-governmental welfare organizations, women’s welfare organizations, caste based and nationality based welfare organizations, minorities’ bodies, etc. There are also many organizations, which emerge on a particular issue, for a particular period, or for a particular festival, etc.”
A long process coming to conclusion
The recent arrests made by the Maharashtra police and intelligence officials are the culmination of a long and detailed investigations done by both central agencies and local police. In 2013, while replying to a PIL filed in Supreme Court, the then government had submitted an affidavit in which it stated that apart from their stronholds in Central India, activists and sympathisers of Maoists are repeatedly making efforts to penetrate into Urban India and by far, they are succeeding in it. The then Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had confirmed all this in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, detailing the new strategy of the Maoist movement. Citing a document of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) titled ‘Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution’ the affiddavit termed it as drawing a blueprint of the Maoist plan to seize political power.
The affidavit states that one of the strategies adopted by Maoists is to mobilise certain targeted sections of the urban population through its mass organisations which are otherwise known as ‘front organisations’. The affidavit was filed by the MHA in response to a notice issued by the Supreme Court on a PIL filed by former Madhya Pradesh MLA Kishore Samrite that the Maoist problem was spreading rapidly.
A report in dailymail.co.uk in 2013 states that the affidavit further says that such organisations pursue human rights related issues and are also adept at using the legal processes to their benefit.”The mass organisations mostly operating under the garb of human rights NGOs are organically linked to the CPI (Maoist) structure but maintain separate identities in an attempt to avoid legality,” the MHA affidavit says.
The report further says that according to the home ministry, ideologues and supporters of Maoists in cities and towns have undertaken a concerted and systematic propaganda against the state.
“In fact, it is these ideologues who have kept the Maoist movement alive and are in many ways more dangerous than the cadres of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army,” the affidavit says.
Intelligence inputs also indicate that the Maoists are getting assistance from across the border, particularly from some groups in Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The home ministry has also informed the apex court that legal action against these front organisations needs to be initiated, and that these are the main source of recruitment of underground cadres. The home ministry is of the opinion that through the PLA the Maoists seek to capture territory in the countryside and gradually encircle urban centres.
In a report prepared by MHA, front organisations of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoists) have been listed.There are 128 such organisations across the country that are on the radar of intelligence agencies for their links with the red rebels.Other than states hit by left wing extremism like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh these front organisations are also active in Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and Kerala.
The Maoists work with a vision that they will be able to over throw the government and get into power if they terrorise people and eventually the establishment. In villages, which once was the main source of the Naxals recruiting their cadres, are usually uneducated, lack basic amenities and oppresed by the local nexus of police-mafiaand politician. This in turn lead them to the naxal ideology which boasts of providing equality to evryone and free them from oppression. In last few years, these Maoists have changed their strategy and are targeting the urban centres of our country.
The focus of Naxalites in urban areas is to mobilise industrial workers, students, people from the lower strata of society, those who occupy lower positions in the government and private sectors and left leaning intellectuals and academics.
Naxalism or Maoists in India poses a wide scale threat today and there is a possibility that major parts of the country and major cities will be under the control of the Naxals. Naxals can be a hidden or a sleeping ISIS of tomorrow. We know the power and the strength of the Naxals but we never know when their power multiplies and becomes double that shall pose a serious threat for the sovereignty and national security of India. If we don’t take measures now, we may face serious consequences ahead. It is very high time that we put a stop to the urban terrorism by the Naxalites before it is too late for us to react in a proportionate manner.
By Nilabh krishna