Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Maoists’ urban perspective: an analysis

Maoists’ urban perspective: an analysis
Uddipan Mukherjee
E-Mail- uddipan.mukherjee@gmail.com

Incalculable harm was done to the Naxalite movement of the late 1960s and early 70s due to the wrong strategic evaluation of the leaders of the insurrection at that time. Their defective understanding of urban warfare and penchant of initiating a bloody confrontation with the administration in the cities led to their abysmal show. However, after the grand merger of the two major Naxal splinter groups in 2004, a series of bulky documents from the side of the Maoists have made their way into the public domain which speaks volumes of their refined doctrinal position vis-à-vis strategy and tactics, especially for urban areas.

Out of those documents, two merit serious attention and analyses. The first, the ‘Strategy and Tactics of Indian Revolution’ or STIR was prepared in September, 2004. The other came out three years later, the ‘Urban Perspective: Our Work in Urban Areas’ or UPUA. In the backdrop of a recent spate of arrests of Maoist activists from urban areas and cities; it appears that a re-reading of the two documents to decipher the long-term strategy of the Indian Maoists has become a necessity.

In STIR, the Maoists stress on the large concentration of the petit bourgeoisie in urban areas of India. It is no wonder that the rebels are still basing their revolutionary tactics on the lower middle class of the Indian society as the French had done on the Sans-culottes in 1789. Further, in STIR, they write with Marxian moorings: “We should not forget the dialectical relationship between the development of the urban movement and the development of the armed agrarian revolutionary war.”

The Maoists admit through STIR that: “In the absence of a strong revolutionary urban movement, the growth of the people’s war will face limitations and difficulties in its advancement”. The pressing question in this context is how the urban work of the Maoists will aid and abet their ongoing rural insurrection?

The answer, though stated in STIR itself, is far more conspicuous and resolute in UPUA of 2007. The document reads thus: “Working class leadership is the indispensable condition for the New Democratic Revolution (NDR) in India. Working class has to send its advanced detachments to rural areas.” [Section 3.1.1, p 17, UPUA]

Thus, being the centres of concentration of the industrial proletariat (industrial workers), urban areas play an important part in the political strategy of the NDR. The task of the party in urban areas is to mobilise and organise the proletariat in performing its crucial leadership role.

According to the Indian Maoists, as written in UPUA, “the specific characteristics of revolutionary war in India is to determine military strategy as that of protracted people’s war – of establishing revolutionary base areas first in the countryside where the enemy (read the government) is militarily weak and then to gradually surround and capture the cities which are bastions of the enemy forces.”

Thus it is clear from the Maoists’ document that the armed struggle and the movement in the rural areas will play the primary role; whereas the work in the cities will play a secondary role, complementary to the rural work.

In fact, the legendary Chinese leader, Mao Tse-tung had said: “the final objective of the revolution is the capture of the cities, the enemy’s main bases, and this objective cannot be achieved without adequate work in the cities.” The charismatic Che Guevara too opines: “The importance of the urban struggle is extraordinary.”

The Maoists assess that presently, India has a larger proportion of the population in urban areas and a much larger working class than at the time of the Chinese revolution. This increases the relative importance of urban work in the particular conditions of the Indian revolution.

Nevertheless, in cities, the counter-insurgency state forces are very strong and hence the Maoists are careful while establishing bases. Nevertheless, since a steady supply of urban cadre is necessary to fulfill the needs of the rural movement and to fuel the protracted people’s war, establishment of urban bases is imperative for the Maoists. [Section, p 65, UPUA]

Urban guerrilla war is far-off

The main challenges that the Maoists face in the urban areas are:

1. Democratic party-system is well entrenched in the cities and urban areas and hence it is extremely tedious to dent the political ethos in cities and towns.

2. Extremely strong administrative machinery exists in these regions and thus counterinsurgency repression assumes gargantuan proportions.

3. The trade unions, which are potential fertile regions of fomenting dissatisfaction amongst the urban proletariat; already has established political parties ensconced in.

4. The presence of the Maoists in key industries like defence production, telecom, etc is poor.

Undoubtedly, an urban base provides logistical support to the armed struggle, i.e. technical and medical help. It further helps to send cadre to rural areas. The Maoists also plan to infiltrate into enemy organisations like the police, para-military and military in these populous regions. They attempt to do so by conducting propaganda warfare; viz. upholding the problems of the ordinary constables and soldiers.

A favourable condition exists in the urban areas of India for the building of broad mass fronts against the state structures. At least that is the evaluation of the Indian Maoists as articulated through UPUA. It may be inferred that the Maoists are venturing into the Indian cities with obvious intentions of solidifying and extending their networks and in addition to that, they are in the process of colluding with other terrorist outfits based in the Northeast, Bangladesh and Nepal, which have grave security implications for the Indian state.

In STIR, the rebels stress on forming secret party units in the bastis and slums of the urban areas. Their main focus is that of mass political mobilisation by inculcating the leadership qualities in the urban working class: the real class, according to Karl Marx, which possesses the ‘consciousness’ of revolution.

The Maoists have realised their folly in the early part of their revolution when they used to use drastic measures and have regular showdowns with the police in the urban areas. Hence, they warn their comrades in STIR: “we cannot and should not, at this stage of the revolution, organise for armed offensive with the state in the urban areas…..”

They accord special emphasis on small towns, small mining centres and areas in the vicinity of their base areas and guerrilla zones. They focus on the formation of both open and secret defence teams to resist state repression.

Party structure in urban areas

The basic task of the Communist Party of India (Maoists) in the urban domain is to deal with the problem of coordination between open and secret work. Another chief component is to retain contacts between city organisation and leadership in the rural areas – the heartland of the insurgency.

In urban areas, they seem to, as per STIR, adhere to the principle of ‘political centralisation and organisational decentralisation’. That is, their Central Committee contemplates small squad-level groups which would be mature enough to take decisions independently, but along party lines. The squad leaders need not refer to the party high command for all minor issues and day-to-day work.
In UPUA, they acknowledge that their party’s work and organisation in the cities/towns is extremely weak and generally cannot achieve a dominant position till the final stages of the people’s war. This ‘objective reality’ forces the Maoists to determine a ‘mellowed-down’ long-term policy for urban areas.

However, there have been arrests made by the Indian Police (between 2007-11), of prominent Maoist leaders from cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Nasik, Kolkata, Chandigarh and other urban areas. These point to the fact that the ultras are spreading their wings in cities, more so, after the publication of the UPUA.

So, what is the long-term strategy of the Maoists with regard to urban areas?

1. They would hardly adopt a short-term approach of direct confrontation with the state forces in order to achieve ‘quick results’.

2. Thus, the threat perception to Indian cities in the form of what we face from the cross-border terrorists is highly unlikely.

3. Urban terrorism accompanies a substantial amount of collateral damage. That acts as a dampener for the Maoists to go for a Lashkar-esque operation in the cities because such sporadic and wanton acts of terror would create disconnect between the left-wing ultras and the masses: a situation they totally detest.

4. The Maoists are concentrating on a long-term approach of solidifying their bases in the urban areas.

5. If at all they have a short-term goal; that has to be to use their urban bases in supplying spare parts, medicines, arms, recruits and ideologues to the rural guerrilla zones.

6. To further the military objective of the revolution, the Maoists are and surely would strengthen their cyber-warfare strategy.

7. Propaganda through student-worker organisations would be the mainstay of their strategy for the time being.

8. Their rural insurgency is in the stage of strategic defence. So, they would very likely continue the above discussed strategy in the urban areas till the rural insurgency reaches the stage of strategic offense.

9. Till then, the Maoists would try hard to penetrate the white-collar employees, intellectuals and youth so as to bolster their insurgency.

Evaluating the Iraqi insurgency (2003-06), Major Edward Brady in his thesis submitted at the Maxwell Air Force base, Alabama in June 2008; rightly assesses that urban areas provide access to the insurgents to soft targets that could be attacked by small cells. Moreover, easy sanctuaries are provided to the insurgents to thrive in the cities. However, we may safely hypothesise that keeping in mind their historic failure in the 1970s, the Maoists would be reluctant to enact a Baghdad-type insurgency in Indian cities at this stage of their revolution.

Nevertheless, it always could happen that if the top leadership of the Maoists is annihilated by targeted killings/incarcerations, then a breakaway faction could unleash ghastly acts of terror emulating the cross-border militants. That will probably be a cost which we might have to incur in return of the decimation of the insurgency.

In the meantime, police ought to step up its human intelligence network and continue to nab the urban outfits of the Maoists as they had been doing for some time recently. Panic buttons need not be pressed right now. But cognisance must be made of the fact that the spread of the Maoists in the sprawling towns and cities of India could shape up as a major destabilising parameter in the future.

Dr Uddipan Mukherjee holds a doctoral degree from TIFR (Deptt. of Atomic Energy, India). He writes on strategic issues.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Naxalism is at city's doorsteps: Former top cop

Prafulla Marpakwar, May 17, 2011, 05.21am IST


MUMBAI: The Naxal movement, which used to be confined to Gadchiroli and Chandrapur, and later to Gondia and Nanded districts, has reached the doorsteps of the metropolis, due to the failure of the Congress-led Democratic Front government in tackling the problems of tribals.

Former director-general of police Arvind Inamdar on Monday expressed concern over the emergence of Naxalites in a big way in Thane and Pune. "Certainly, it's a matter of serious concern. Prima facie, the Naxalites seem to have succeeded in ensuring the support of tribals and intellectuals in urban areas. As a result of that, their movement is getting support in big cities," Inamdar told TOI.

In 1977, when Inamdar was Nagpur's deputy commissioner of police, he had nabbed Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, a top Naxal leader in those days and later in 1992, he had seized arms worth Rs 8 lakh from a Naxal sympathizer in that city.

Inamdar pointed out that the naxals were now concentrating on urban areas. "It appears that their social networking is very strong, and as a result, they have been able to attract urban intellectuals," he said.

On the reasons for the growth of the Naxal movement, Inamdar said they had impressed upon the tribals that the government and industrialists were exploiting them. "It's a fact that they have been robbed of their livelihood. Their traditions and culture have been neglected. Therefore, they look to the Naxals for justice," he said.

Inamdar warned that if they join hands with terrorists and gangsters, it will be the worst-ever situation. "In the past, there were reports of naxals joining hands with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE). Then there were reports that there was a nexus (between them). If they join hands, it will be an alarming situation," he said.

Gadchiroli district collector Atul Patne, who has taken measures to bring the tribals into the mainstream, felt that more efforts were needed to ensure that villagers don't succumb to Naxal pressure. "We will have to put in more efforts, we will have to involve all sections of society," Patne said.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tamil Nadu Police 'adopt' 300 villages in bid to curb spread of Naxalism


PTI, Jan 26, 2011

THENI (TN): In a novel attempt to curb Naxal movement from spreading
its wings in Tamil Nadu, police have 'adopted' 300 villages bordering
the state and are providing them basic amenities to improve their
lives, according to a top police official.

Speaking at a function at nearby Varushanadu after distributing
welfare schemes to tribals, DGP Letika Saran said the villages would
be adopted in phases. She expressed confidence that the scheme would
thwart any attempt by Naxals to again intrude the territory after a
failed effort to set up an arms training camp at Murugamalai in 2007.

The function also saw police receive petitions from tribals to assess
their needs and being given cattle and sheep and some basic amenities
like soaps and toothpaste.

In a bid to bring about a sense of camaraderie,police had food and tea
with the tribals, assured them that their rights would be safeguarded
and urged them to educate themselves to better their prospects in

Police sources said enhanced basic amenities would be provided to 300
villages in the first phase of a total of 471 identified villages.
Villagers were being given milch animals, as also ration cards and
blankets in the hope it would help them improve their standard of
living, they said.

A top police official, requesting anonymity, said the idea took shape
after they found some villagers possessing gadgets and watches.
Enquiries revealed they had got it from Naxals, whom they used to help
enter and exit jungles, which have myriad pathways.

Two tribals Karimalai and Easwary,who received benefits, were unsure
whether villagers could provide police with information on movement of
strangers without facilities like phones. They said they were scared
of 'threats' by such people against revealing anything and sought
protection from police and help from forest officials to improve their
economic conditions.

NGOs dealing with tribals felt the Naxal problem could be solved with
proper policing and not such schemes. Moreover, tribals should be
allowed to enjoy the forest produce and the herbs they cultivate. Only
if they move deep inside the forests would they know about movement of
naxals, they said.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Maoists attack road construction workers in Jharkhand

Throwing a spanner in the works for developmental activities in the region, Maoist ultras attacked road construction workers in Jharkhand's Lohardagga District on Saturday.

Ram Gulab Sharma, Sub-Divisional Police Officer, said that the Maoists were trying to extort money from the factory and in that process burnt the bulldozer kept outside.

"Some notorious group came here and burnt the machine. Allegedly, they were trying to extort money and in the process burnt the machine. We are looking into the matter," said Sharma.

One of the eye witnesses said that the Maoists ultras asked for kerosene from her to burn the machine.

"They asked for kerosene oil and I gave them. They were around 18-20 of them," said Pancho Devi. (ANI)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Teeth for Maoist strategy

New Delhi, Jan. 11: The Centre is honing its anti-Maoist strategy by pumping in additional funds, recruiting new personnel and bringing more rebel-infested areas within its glare.

Sources said the government had pushed funds under the security-related expenditure scheme (SRE) for 83 districts in nine Naxalite-hit states from Rs 80 crore to Rs 580 crore for this fiscal. It has already released over Rs 200 crore towards schemes under SRE implemented by the states, sources said.

“More than Rs 320 crore worth of funds will be released before March. Expenses of states regarding hiring of choppers, building approach roads and police stations will all be covered,” a home ministry source said.

Some of these announcements were made by home minister P. Chidambaram at a review meeting for paramilitary forces at the CRPF headquarters on Monday.

Sources said the number of special police officials (SPOs) would be increased to 25,500 from 13,500 now. Their salary of Rs 1,500 was also likely to see a substantial increase, the sources added.

SPOs have been a big help to paramilitary forces who have often not been on the best of terms with state police forces. These officials, mostly tribal youths with anti-Naxalite leanings or with a history of being Maoist, have excellent local knowledge that come in handy when security forces conduct operations.

“When we do not have enough policemen like in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada, we take SPOs, so an increase in their number is a welcome move,” said a CRPF officer.

A senior police officer from Chhattisgarh said Bastar alone needed around 100 battalions of security forces to overcome the Naxalite challenge. At present, the state has about 40,000 personnel aided by about 25,000 paramilitary personnel — far from the one lakh needed in Bastar.

So far, 35 of 83 districts in Naxilite-hit states, including West Midnapore, were named “focus” districts. But the government has now raised the number to 60. Some of these districts are believed to be from Madhya Pradesh which are not under the SRE.

An impact assessment of the SRE scheme was to be done for the entire state of Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. There has been an almost tenfold increase in violence in Bengal since 2008, home ministry figures show. With elections approaching, there are fears the violence will increase.

Rebel arrest

A senior Maoist leader from Chhattisgarh undergoing treatment at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital was today detained by security forces. He will be formally arrested tomorrow.

Police sources said Pijush Kanti Acharjee, 64, was hospitalised last week for treatment of paralysis after he was bitten by a snake in the jungles of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh in December. He was picked up on the basis of intelligence inputs provided by the army and the CRPF.

“According to our information, Acharjee is a senior Maoist leader and had joined the Maoists in 1964. He was bitten by a snake and suffered paralysis. He first came to his relative’s house in Shillong and was brought to GMCH last week for treatment. He was in cabin 20,” said the police source.