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The Maoist Insurgency in India

Given below are my replies to a set of questions on the Maoist insurgency in India e-mailed to me by a journalist of a Brazilian online journal:

1 Who are the Maoists in India nowadays?

The Maoists are the cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), who are fighting against the State in the tribal areas of Central India—–mainly in Andhra Pradesh,Chattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa and West Bengal.They also have some activity in Maharashtra and Bihar. It is essentially a movement of Maoist ideologues for the capture of political power through the barrel of the gun by exploiting the economic grievances of the poor tribals of central India.

2. How did they appear? Do they keep the same ideology from the Cold War?

It is a movement inspired by the ideology of Mao Zedong. They believe in Mao’s tactics of capture of political power through a rural revolt of poor and exploited peasants and landless workers.Among the foreign ideological influences on them are those of the Chinese Communist Party under Mao, the Shining Path of Peru and the Maoists of Nepal. Even though the Chinese Communists discarded much of Maoist ideology after his death, his followers in India continue to follow them. They look upon the present leaders of China as revisionists.

3 What is the relation with the Communist Party?

They do not agree with the ideology of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other leftist parties which are against violence and which believe in acquiring political power by contesting in elections. The Maoists are fighting against the present Government of CPI (Marxist) in West Bengal which came to power through elections.

4 What are the main objectives of the group?

Capture of political power through a rural insurgency of the rural poor in order to work for the uplift of the poor people. It is essentially a movement of the rural poor and the backward tribals. It has no popular support in the urban areas and from the industrial workers.

5 Maoists and Naxalites are the same thing?

The Maoists’ violent struggle originally started in the 1960s in a village called Naxalbari in West Bengal. They used to be called Naxalites. They have now spread to other areas outside West Bengal and call themselves Maoists. Yes, the Naxalites and the Maoists are one and the same.

6 Can we compare them to radical Islamist groups?

One cannot. The jihadi terrorism is an urban movement. The Maoist movement is a rural insurgency. The jihadi terrorism is a religious movement against non-Muslims. The Maoist movement has nothing to do with religion. The Maoists don’t believe in religion. The Maoist movement is a movement of the rural have-nots. The Maoists are Indian citizens. It is an indigenous insurgent movement. The jihadis are a mix of radicalised Muslims from India and Pakistan. They are trained in Pakistan by its Inter-Services Intelligence with the help of Pakistani jihadi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). The jihadi movement is a global movement. The Maoist movement is not.

7 Are the Maoists more dangerous than Al Qaeda? Why?

Al Qaeda is a terrorist organisation with a global political and religious agenda. The Maoists are an insurgent organisation with a purely Indian and social class agenda. Al Qaeda believes in indiscriminate killing of civilians. The Maoists believe in targeted killing of civilians. Apart from the security forces, the Maoists kill only those civilians whom they look upon as class enemies such as landlords and forest contractors. Al Qaeda has till now not posed a threat to India’s internal security because it has practically no support in the Indian Muslim community. The Maoists pose a serious threat to India’s internal security because they have considerable support from the rural poor in the tribal areas of Central India.

8 From where does their philosophy come from?

Already answered above

9 Do the Maoists have support from sectors or regions in India?

Already answered above

10 Why and how the Government have to deal with them?

The Government has to follow a two-pronged policy. It has to undertake a crash programme for the economic and social development of the poor tribals in Central India and take legal action against landlords and forest contractors and government officials exploiting and harassing the poor tribals. At the same time, it has to take action against the armed cadres of the Maoists and their leaders. It should not succumb to violence. It should show a caring attitude to the poor tribals.

11 In which extension this support makes more difficult the operations of the authorities?

The operations of the authorities are rendered difficult by the failure of the Government to modernise rural policing, poor road communications in the rural areas, and the lack of co-operation from the people of the areas who have sympathy for the Maoists.

12 How does the modus operandi work? Is it similar to the Al Qaeda’s one?

It has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. It is a rural insurgent movement which has to be dealt with using a mix of techniques—-better rural policing, better attention to the grievances and problems of the rural poor, crash development of the rural areas, and strengthening the capability of the security forces to collect intelligece from the rural areas and prevent the Maoists from moving in large groups and attacking the security forces.The Maoists don’t use improvised explosive devices. They use land mines. They often use weapons captured from the security forces. The Maoist modus operandi is more like the modus operandi used by the communist insurgents of Malaya, Thailand and Burma in the 1950s and the 1960s.

13 To deny the existence of a group or just combat could lead to a reinforcement of Maoists?

Question not clear

14 The strategies to fight against them are the same that they use with Al Qaeda?

Already answered above.

15 Can the Maoists make a major attack as Mumbai in 2008?

The Maoists have made many major attacks on the security forces, overran their posts, and captured large quantities of arms and ammunition. But they did not receive the kind of attention the LET received in Mumbai on 26/11 because they operate in rural areas and not in urban areas. They operate far away from the TV cameras. They don’t attack iconic targets. They attack class targets in rural areas.

16 Are there links with terrorists groups in others countries?

They have ideological ties of solidarity with Maoists in countries such as Nepal and the Philippines. They don’t have operational links.

17 Is there any peace agreement between the Government and the Maoists? What can we expect in a closer future?

There is no peace agreement. The Government is prepared to hold talks with them on their grievances if they give up the use of violence for achieving political and economic objectives and surrender their arms and ammunition. They are not prepared to. The Maoists pose a typical dilemma to Govt. policy-makers—-security vs development. Without security, there can be no development.Without development, there can be no security.How to harmonise the requirements of security and development?.No answer to this question has been found so far.

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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