Peals of Spring Thunder

by BINOY KAMPMARK

They have been considered one of India’s most pressing threats, and the recent attack by the Naxalites that ambushed a convoy of the Congress Party went that much further.  The ambush took place over the weekend in Sukma on the Maharashtra, Andra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh border. Reports suggest that there were as many as 200 Maoist rebels who inflicted heavy losses – 28 killed and 24 others wounded – before fleeing.

The attacks have shaken the establishment.  Among the dead were four state party leaders including Mahendra Karma of Chhattisgarh, and five police officers.  For BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, “This new aggressive strategy of the Naxalities is a real threat to the Constitution and the rule of law. It is a challenge to sovereignty” (Times of India, May 26).  Former police chief of Punjab state KPS Gill is pessimistic about the new surge – the government of the day did not “have the political will and bureaucratic and police set-up to prevent such attacks” (Dhaka Tribune, May 26).

How the Naxalites have been treated has varied.  In 1967, when the movement first made its presence felt in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari, the Home Minister Y. B. Chavan treated the matter as a case of “lawlessness” in action.  The mistake was classic but fatal.  During the 1970s, the state authorities moved in on the movement hoping to crush it with repressive enthusiasm.  As usual with such measures, the quotient of extra-judicial killings and corrupt practices accompanied the operations.  Legislation was passed to enable various state authorities to take measures – the attempt, for example, by the N.T. Rama Rao government to free up arms licensing in Andra Pradesh in 1983 for individuals to protect themselves against the Naxals.

However brutal any reaction against the Naxal movement has been, the authorities have been incapable of getting away from the socio-economic problems its followers capitalise on.  The West Bengal State Secretariat, when conducting an enquiry into the uprising, found that, “Behind the peasant unrest in Naxalbari lies a deep social malady – malafide transfers, evictions and other anti-people actions of tea gardeners and jotedars.”  They gain political traction in areas of horrendous poverty – regions such as Warangal, Adilabad and Karimnagar.

The agrarian revolution of the Indian state may well have been pushed with enthusiasm, but economic disparities were not going away in the development drive.  Tribal populations were being displaced. Corporate and government malfeasance was rampant.  The Naxalites, for all their brutal measures, can count among their constituency tenant farmers and the dirt poor tribes peoples they claim to represent.

Today, they remain one of the last formidable Maoist movements, having a formidable presence in 20 of India’s 28 states.  The Indian Home Ministry claims there are thousands of fighters whose leaders refuse to negotiate with the government till paramilitary soldiers are withdrawn.  State authorities have been in the habit of arming local vigilantes.  The country also persists in employing that great imperial shackle – the sedition law.  Civil rights tend to be shredded.

Governments have pondered what model of “integration” to best employ, but these have not been successful. Corporate misappropriation and exploitation – be it from mining and energy firms – remains a stark problem in states such as Chhattisgarh.  In 2010, a defense analyst Raman Dixit would write in the Journal of Defence Studies that “social integration” would be the best move against the problem.  Exploitation of the poor and scheduled casts would have to be rectified.  The right over forest produce would have to be assured.

The rhetoric of the bullet is, however, a powerful one. Old formulas are hard to abandon. Painful realities are easy to ignore.  Prakash has urged for a “unified strategy” in dealing with Naxalism, one that blithely ignores the social context of the rebellion.  “It is not a development issue. It is about the Maoist belief to change power through violence” (Times of India, May 26).

But the power of the bullet will be futile in the face of a movement that will remain powerful as long as the social conditions exist to sustain it.  Naxalism’s success is a direct attribution to the failings of governance.  Far from being a cancer, a mutation that says little of the Indian political tapestry, it says everything about it – development that is uneven, inequities that persist with painful relevance.

The best work of revolutionaries is, of course, done by the establishment of the day.  It is they, more so than the Naxalites, who will change.  Till that happens, the Maoist group shall remain what China’s People’s Daily (Jul 5, 1967) once described as: “a peal of spring thunder”.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He currently lectures in politics and law at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal