Friday, July 31, 2020

Is Charu Majumdar’s ideology relevant today?

Charu MajumdarCharu Majumdar
Sumit BhattacharjeeVISAKHAPATNAM 31 JULY 2020 07:43 IST
UPDATED: 31 JULY 2020 07:43 IST

‘Maoists seem to focus more on arms than on garnering people’s support’

The Martyrs Week being observed from July 28 by the banned CPI (Maoist) entered the third day on Thursday, and the Agency areas of Visakhapatnam were incident-free so far.

The week is observed to commemorate the death anniversary of Charu Majumdar, the founder and architect of the Naxalite movement that had begun at Naxalbari, a village in the Siliguri district of West Bengal, in 1967.

Charu Majumdar had died in police custody on July 28, 1972, at the age of 53 in Kolkata. His body was not handed over to the family members. Instead, the security forces took the body to the cremation ground, where it was consigned to flames in the presence of his family members.

During the week, the Maoists hold meetings to revisit Charu Majumdar’s ideology, build memorials and try to hog the limelight.

Visit to Vizag

Few know that Charu Majumdar had visited Visakhapatnam in 1969 when the Srikakulam peasant uprising was in full swing. Peasant leaders in the North Andhra district such as Vempatapu Satyanarayana, Adibhatla Kailasam, Subbarao Panigrahi and Panchadi Krishnamurthy drew inspiration from his ideology.

Charu Majumdar, who was leading an underground movement then, had stayed in Visakhapatnam for a few days. His comrades such as K.G. Satyamurthi and Mahadev had reportedly stopped the train in which Majumdar was travelling from West Bengal a few kilometres before the Visakhapatnam Railway Station, then called Waltair station, by pulling the chain, and whisked him away to a secret hideout. His son Abhijit Majumdar, in a number of interviews later, had said that as a small boy he had accompanied his mother Lila and his two sisters to meet Charu in the hideout as he was then one of the most wanted men in the country.

“He was here to resolve the dispute with the rival faction led by Nagi Reddy. He had also constituted the new Andhra State Coordination Committee,” said Ajay Kumar of the CPI (ML), a party formed by Charu Majumdar.

The CPI(ML), which was then outlawed and banned, is now recognised as one of the mainstream political parties fighting the elections democratically. But is his ideology, which had attracted thousands of youth and intellectuals, relevant today?

Land reforms

The movement that Charu Majumdar had started was seen as an offshoot of the Tebhaga peasant movement of 1946, which was similar to the Telangana peasant movement. “The crux of the movement was implementation of land reforms and ‘land rights to the tiller’. But it had withered and lost its relevance after the liberalisation policy,” said a former Naxalite, who was drawn towards Charu’s ideology and who had worked with the People’s War Group (PWG) founded by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah.

The Maoists still believe in the 1938 Mao Zedong’s doctrine that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” “This is irrelevant today, as oppression may lead to an armed political struggle. But, as Charu had once said, arms are necessary, but they cannot control the movement and we cannot lose sight on mobilising people,” he said. “But today, the Maoists seem to focus more on arms, and have lost focus on mobilising popular support,” he added.

Another aspect that haunts the Maoists is the Mao Zedong’s strategy of creation of liberated zones.

This was possible in the 1970s in Srikakulam, Naxalbari, or for that matter in Karimnagar or Warangal (now in Telangana). But post liberalisation, things had changed, he said. “Today, we have moved towards an ‘aspirational society’, where this doctrine does not hold water. The dynamics have changed and the Maoists have not visualised the change and innovated as per the changes. That is why their ideology, which once attracted the masses, turned irrelevant,” said Mr. Ajay Kumar.

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