Monday, August 15th, 2022 08:37:54

Hostage Drama To People’s March, ARE THE MAOISTS RE-ASSERTING?

Updated: May 23, 2015 4:56 pm

On May 9, 2015, the day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing a public rally in Dantewada district of southern Chhattisgarh, Maoists killed one villager in neighbouring Sukma district. The Maoists had allegedly taken away a number of villagers (between 5 to 500 amid conflicting official reports), into the forest in the early hours of the day. Later on in the day though, the left-wing extremists released all but one—who had to bear the brunt, being termed as informer. Abducting villagers would really not help the cause of the Maoists. They may attract attention through such abominable acts, but would be losing out on popular faith in their core region. It also speaks about their lack of hold on the populace in their core guerrilla base. The Maoists after all had to release the villagers en-masse since this hostage drama was more of an eye-ball grabber on the occasion of the Prime Minister’s visit to Chhattisgarh—one of its kind years down the time-line. Another aim was to psychologically coerce the villagers for a long term hold on them and more so when it has been alleged that Salwa Judum 2.0 is being planned to be unleashed in the state. Or it could plausibly be a pre-emptive move to thwart any attempts to mobilise civil militias in a new avatar.

On May 8, as The Asian Age reported, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested two persons from Pune suspecting them to be Maoist leaders. According to officials of an ATS unit in Pune, the suspected Maoist leaders are identified as 62-year old K. Muralidharan alias Ajith, and a 29-year-old Ismail Hamaza alias Pravin. They have been booked under sections 10, 13, 20, 38 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and sections 419, 467, 468, 471 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.

On May 4, 2015, in a bakery at a village near Coimbatore, Roopesh and his wife Shyna were arrested in a joint operation by the police of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The two have allegedly led Maoists in Kerala for years and are key strategists for the left-wing extremists. The Tamil Nadu Q’ Branch police are planning to quiz Roopesh’s daughter Aami. The police have got evidence that Roopesh and Shyna used to live in a rented house in Tirupur which was frequented by Aami.

It is germane to mention that the Maoists are attempting to push into northern Kerala for some time now. In November – December 2014, number of incidents at Palakkad and Wayanad districts indicated Maoist presence. A couple of major ones included a group of seven persons ransacking the outlets of the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and McDonalds at Chandragiri in Palakkad city and a group of 15 ultras burning the files and damaging the computers and furniture of the forest range office at Mukkali near Silent Valley in Palakkad.

Though writing for Mint, Sudeep Chakravarti says that “Kerala has remained on the wishful-thinking radar of the rebels.” Further, independent journalist Aishik Chanda opines in that “As far as the Maoists are concerned, experiences of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have shown that they can be flushed out of a state, but they will continue returning back till they find fertile grounds for revolution.” It is nonetheless noteworthy to recapitulate that the ultras are under serious pressure since the elimination of Kishenji in November 2011 and incarceration of their top brass.

The latest issue of People’s March is out in public domain. It’s the Vol. 13, January-March 2015 edition. Among many diverse revolutionary topics touched upon in the Maoist mouthpiece, the first to be focussed upon is the Politico-Military Campaign (PMC) in the Western Ghats. The essay shoots thus:

“Overcoming innumerable obstacles and snatching initiative, PLGA fighters and urban action team combatants led by the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC) of the CPI (Maoist) have opened up a new warfront in the State of Keralam, situated along the South Western coast of India.”

The language is to be noted in this narrative. The state of “Keralam” and not Kerala. Moreover, it talks about both the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army [PLGA] fighters as well as ‘urban action team’ combatants.

The matter goes ahead further: “Some of these actions were done in broad day light through bold and rapid moves in urban centres, stunning the enemy and enthusing the people…This has attracted wide attention among the oppressed masses, particularly the youth.”

The Maoists claim that “these actions were carried out as part of a PMC carried out over a three month period, from November 2014 till January 2015”—the period where activities of Maoists in Kerala were also reported the most. Moreover, the ultras believe this ‘success’ to be a “qualitative turn” in their revolutionary war. They admit that a similar initiative undertaken a decade earlier had been muted in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala by the security forces.

In fact, an abysmal failure on the part of the ultras pushed them to form the Western Ghat Special Zonal Committee [WGSZC] to propel forward. The document tells that the Maoists had started to systematically infiltrate the tri-junction of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Kerala from May 2012 itself from their base at Malnad. Since February 2013, when the presence of the Maoists was exposed to the security forces, according to the narrative, the extremists developed contacts with the Adivasi masses, practically and simultaneously propagated revolutionary politics and the necessity of armed struggle. The PLGA cadres also studied the socio-economic conditions of the region. In parallel, the Maoists fought in the plane of propaganda against their ex-comrades, whom they with derision term “exalites”- who had dismissed the Maoist expansion in Kerala.

As per their suo-motu admission, the region of concentration of the Maoists in Kerala is inhabited by fifty odd Adivasi tribes engaged in agriculture and herding. Many of them like Paniyar, Adiyer, Kattunayakkas, Kurichyar, Todar, Kotha, Irular, Kurumbas, Sholigar, Jenu Kurubas, Betta Kurubas and many others are living there for centuries. The Maoists, quite expectedly, have chosen their area of expansion having large concentration of agricultural and plantation workers—spanning both adivasis and dalits. Their research propagandise that unemployment and inflation are on the up in the region.

Historically, the Maoists attempt to gain strength and credence from the proud history of fierce resistance to British colonialism by the Kurichya Adivasis during the late 18th and early 19th century in the Wayanad area. Wayanad was also one of the main areas of revolutionary struggles in Kerala during the armed peasant rebellion of Naxalbari. The Pulpally-Tellicherry guerrilla attacks orchestrated by the Naxal armed squads under the leadership of A. Varghese, K. Narayan and his daughter K. Ajitha still dominate Naxalite historiography of Kerala and particularly Wayanad and its adjacent Kannur districts. Geographically too, Wayanad is situated on the tri-junction of the three provinces.

On an ideological plane, the document mentions a number of left-right schisms within the broader umbrella of the communist movement in Kerala. Interestingly, it talks about the merger of the CPI-Maoist and the CPI-ML (Naxalbari)—which was instrumental in opening up of this new base/front of People’s War in Kerala. The document hails this as a success against the outstanding problem of revisionism. Finally, the essay zooms out by saying that this particular campaign at the tri-junction and consequent foray into Kerala defies the tall claims of the Indian state that the Maoist movement is confined in the Central and Eastern spheres of India only.

Now, the pertinent issue is what could be gleaned out of the analysis of the narrative?

First, this ought to be construed as a major propaganda construct by the Maoists than reality. Though it is a matter of fact that reports confirmed Maoist presence at the Tri-junction of the three Indian provinces, however just a mere presence does not mean establishment of a guerrilla base. The presence is qualitative; no quantitative factors have been posited by the guerrilla group.

Second, the Maoists are still using the term PLGA—which categorically proves that they are still far off from the third and decisive phase of guerrilla warfare—that is, the Strategic Offense phase with the People’s Liberation Army being ready for a conventional war.

Third, the claims of attracting the youth and the urban folk must be taken less seriously. Again, the fact remains that certain issues related to the urban proletariat and the students may allow the Maoists to creep in and generate a wave of sympathy and romantic fervour amongst the urban youth and intellectuals; the Maoist movement is hundreds of miles away from gaining a considerable foothold in the growing urban network in India. Some arrests from the urban areas in Maharashtra, from Delhi and Kolkata do not necessarily mean a Maoist presence to reckon with in the cities and towns already dominated by mainstream political parties and a culture of open market economy, quite oblivious to the theoretical intricacies of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Nonetheless, a stream of aid from the city bases—howsoever fledgling, is a cause of worry for the security and intelligence forces of the Indian state. Also the fact that educated yet disgruntled individuals like the law graduate Roopesh taking to left-wing extremism implies that cities and towns would continue to provide shelters and logistics to the ultras.

Fourth, such an attempted expansion towards the southern part of the sub-continent indicates that the Maoists are trying hard to break the stranglehold of the counter-insurgency operations unleashed by the security forces since the last four to five years. The motive of the ultras is to divert attention of the security forces and loosen the noose in and around their principal base of Dandakaranya. Moreover, by diversifying their bases, the Maoists are keeping their ‘Plan B option’ open. If indeed they are forced to evacuate their primary stronghold of Abujhmaad so carefully crafted since 1980, they will not have to undergo the similar tribulations of Mao Tse-tung’s Long March—rather, they will systematically re-settle in the new guerrilla base.

Fifth, it is conspicuous from the admission in the narrative that the Maoists faced much resistance from their ex-comrades—mostly in the ideological discourses and had to fight a fiery propaganda war. Such intellectual component of the war has to be continuously fought by the Maoists in future too. Ideological schisms in the Communist movement in Kerala are nothing new though. In the 1967-68 too, the pro-annihilation line of Charu Mazumdar and pro-mass line of then Kerala leadership confronted with each other.

Nevertheless, it could be safely admitted that a serious attempt has been made by the Maoists to intrude the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. They are targeting the Adivasi and Dalit masses who live in marginal conditions. Militarily too, they are studying the geography of the region to create vantage points in order to ambush the police forces. Political propaganda is on. In their moves in the Western Ghats, the Maoists would definitely use their previous experience of forming a guerrilla base at Dandakaranya.

But as history would tell, it took the guerrillas more than a decade to establish their forte in Central India. It would however, be prudent for the police forces and the law and order authorities to take their positions. It is however heartening to find that joint operations by the police forces of the four southern states are in swing—well compounded by intelligence inputs.

It’s true that ‘the Maoists being’ in Kerala or at the tri-junction doesn’t confirm their creation of a guerrilla base, but at the same time they are not to be treated as mere pushovers and the formation of the impregnable base at Abujhmaad has to be kept in full consciousness.

(The writer is in IOFS {Administration} under OFB, Ministry of Defence. Views expressed are author’s own.)

By Uddipan Mukherjee

Comments are closed here.