The term ‘Naxalism’ is derived from the name of a small village called ‘Naxalbari’ in West Bengal.
In a way, Naxalism isn’t an uprising against the Indian state but against but against the prevalent human right violation.
Every movement, good or bad, has an origin story:
Book 1: The fall of feudal system in Andhra Pradesh
During the British rule, the landless poor suffered the most and saw independence as a solution that would uplift them from their poverty. Unfortunately, their beliefs were shattered as nothing changed. During Independence, when the rest of India joined hands to become independent, Hyderabad became the last princely state to join independent India as it was a hotbed of dissatisfaction at the time since there was peasant uprising in the state. The elite high ranking castes manipulative grabbed the peasant’s land, which reduced them to marginal and landless laborers. This was a major source of discontent among the poor peasantry in Telangana.
Book 2: Violent rebellion against the evil landlords
In the early 1950’s, the Telangana rebellion had reached its peak. The participants, mainly tribals and small agriculture farmers, had a common dream with Indian communists. They believed in freeing the agrarian society from the outdated chokehold of landlords, thereby restoring and distributing land to its rightful owners- themselves. The uprising by the communists led to the freeing of 3000 villages from the hold of feudal lords and 10,00,000 acres of land were redistributed to landless laborers.
Book 3: The failure of the 9th Schedule to remove Zamindari
The 9th schedule was implemented by the Nehru government in 1951 to get rid of the Zamindari system and re-distribute the land among the people so that the socially and economically backward could survive on these lands.
However, this schedule was more involved in political legality than in helping the landless poor whose lands were being captured forcefully by the rich. Corruption also played a major role. In order to have narrow political gains, there was no proper action taken against the landlords. The poor became poorer, and a series of atrocities against the landless poor began.
Book 4: The fiasco of the 5th Schedule in protecting tribals
The government tried to mend their ways with the Fifth Schedule which was introduced to guarantee tribal independence and their right over land. However, the schedule failed to include the North-Eastern states of Assam, Mizoram etc, where villages were already in isolation and poverty due to their location.
Furthermore, the tribal people inhabited lands that were rich in water, minerals and other resources. Great! right? Nope. These were the lands that the government and other private companies targeted for development of the country, which meant tribals were sure to be uprooted while having their lands snatched away.
Making matters worse, the Samatha judgment in Andhra was passed which allowed the government to undertake tribal lands in public interest and for development activities. This gave corrupt government officials unrestricted authority to transfer scheduled tribe land to the government.
As the government efforts were failing one after another, the discontent among tribals continued to grow all over India.
Book 5: The birth of Naxalism after the farmer’s revolt
Thus the year 1967 was the year that marked many peasant uprisings. The first clash occurred when a sharecropper who had a judicial order to plough his land, was beaten up by goons of the local landlords. This was followed by violent opposition from the peasants. To maintain order, the government started mobilising police officers. The conditions turned from bad to worse when a death of the police officer at the hands of the tribals, led the police to open fire in retaliation, thereby, killing nine tribals.
Book 6: Split in the CPI (M) and formation of CPI (ML)
The origin of Naxalism can be traced back in 1967 when the Communist Party of India (Marxist) split, which led to the formation of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in 1969.
The CPI (M) wasn’t ‘left’ enough for some members of the party. These radicals accused the CPI (M) government in West Bengal for making no moves towards an armed revolution which they thought was a betrayal to the communist cause.
This is when a leader called Charu Mazumdar came up who lead violent attacks in Naxalbari in North Bengal in a hope to replicate the communist revolution that happened in China. However, the CPI (M) called them blind pro-Chinese which caused the split.
Book 7: Adopting armed revolution as the last resort
The newly formed party, that is, the CPI (ML) followed the “revisionist” trend. They were in favour of adopting various drastic measures including armed struggle, but their demands were turned down by the top left leadership of CPI (M).
The disappointment grew and the CPI (ML) section of the party began to doubt the revolutionary zeal of the CPI (M). They were convinced that an armed revolution was the only way out. They lost patience and started mobilising the tribals and the landless laborers in certain parts of Bengal and began what we now know as the revolutionary “armed struggle”.
The series of the events above is what led to the terror phase of Naxalism that we know today. If the development policies are properly implemented and the tribals are given equal rights, then the Naxalite movement will dissolve for good.