Mumbai (AsiaNews) - On the night of November 24th a group of 55 Maoist rebels have blew up a government office in Kharakpur in Munger district of Bihar state. It was the latest in a series of attacks by insurgents along the so-called "red corridor" that runs through the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.
The Maoists have spread to 13 of the 28 Indian states and are considered the most serious threat to the country’s internal security. The historic and strategic epicentre of the red revolt that has been sending shock waves through India for decades is West Bengal. For 32 years the Communist Party Marxist (CPM) has been in government in the state bordering Bangladesh, and has become a symbol of power. The opposition has been monopolized by the Maoists who are deeply rooted in tribal villages and forests.
The legal opposition, of course, is in the hand of the National Congress of Sonia Gandhi and the Trinamul Congress of Mamata Benerjee, but the defense of the most poor and needy tribals had been hijacked by the Maoists and many times in a violent way. Since November 2007, 69 CPM workers and 10 villagers had been killed in West Midnapore district alone. In June this year the Maoist raided the police station and kept under control the town of Lalgarh. Eleven companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) had been deployed against state government’s demand of 50. (See AsiaNews 06/23/2009 Maoist rebels call for truce as military advances on their positions in West Bengal).
There is no week without news of some ambush by the Maoists. On November 20 the Maoists threaten to kill Bihar ministers’ kin since the Bihar police machinery are letting loose a reign of repression against the families of the top Maoist leader Arvind Kumar. On the same day the Tata-Bilaspur passenger train was derailed after the Maoist blew up rail tracks near Goelkera railway station.
The Naxalite movement started in the sixties when Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal of the CPI (Marxist) inspired by Mao Zedong lead a violent Santhal uprising in West Bengal Naxalbari village. In 1969 the Communist Party of India (Marxist- Leninist) was born. The history of the communist movement in India went through a fragmentation that produced three communist parties.
In 1977, when the Congress Party lost control of the central government in New Delhi the Communist Party went to power in Calcutta (West Bengal) and is still in power now. For 25 years the mythical figure of Jyoti Basu held the reins of power, but his style of governance kept changing. When Deng Xiaoping in China embraced successfully the capitalist mode of development, the communist government of West Bengal follow suit, but the most poor of the poor felt betrayed and reorganized themselves in the jungle. After Jyoti Basu, came Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who open up to many industrial houses and started expropriating agricultural land to build industrial estates alienating the farmers. “Calcutta runs after Shanghai” writes Federico Rampini.
That was the occasion when the Maoists jumped in to the fray, organized the farmers and resisted the take-over. That is what happened in Singur and Nandigram. The Tatas had to shift their Nano plant to Gujarat. This success emboldened the Maoists who multiplied their attacks.
But the presence of Maoists is not confined only to the state of West Bengal. The red belt cuts across India, starting from Nepal in the North, through West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, west Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in the South. They put their training camps on the border regions so that they can easily escape from the police of one state crossing over the border. Recent reports in the press give the origin of the supply of their arms from Nepal, Bangladesh and China. At least 30 different groups are active across the country with a combined membership of around 50.000 activists. But their differences over their perceived revolutionary roles often result in bloody battles. Many groups are accused of land grabbing and extortion. In 2004 the Maoist Communist Centre and People’s War join hands to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is now the biggest armed group ever to challenge the very existence of the Indian state. An estimated 20.000 are bearing arms, one fifth of India’s forest is under their control. And they are active in 165 districts of the 604. Now the central government is in a fix. The state governments ask assistance from the centre and request also the help of the army particularly for military aerial survey. The helicopters are vulnerable also to small arms, but the central government does not allow to return fire.
The centre has extended its full support to the Left Front government in Bengal to combat Maoist terror in the state. The move could spark fresh tension between the Congress and UPA ally Trinamul Congress whose leader, Mamata Banerjee is keen on a dialogue between the state and the Maoist Red brigade. But the Interior Minister, Chidambaram and the Bengal Chief Minister Bhattacharjee agreed that there should be “no talks with the Maoists, unless they agree to completely surrender their arms and come for a dialogue under the constitutional framework”. Bhattacharjee requested the Centre to start operations in the neighbouring Jharkhand as well, where the Naxals, on rum from Bengal, are taking shelter only to return later. But the Centre can not intervene unless it is called by the State.
But a day after Chidambaram’s tough talk Maoists kill 17 cops in Gadchiroli district, at Laheri, in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra, 18 km from the border, on 8 October. Early this year, Maharashtra state cops lost 15 men in Maekegaon and 16, including 5 women, at Hattigota, both in Gadchiroli district. According to sources, the Maoist numbered more than 300 and comprised mobile military dalams that have recently moved from Chattisgarh. Police said there were many from Nepal among attackers who were equipped with sophisticated weapons and ammunition. In two days the Maoists struck three attacks, beside Laheri, they set on fire a gram panchayat building in Irupdhori village, and killed a farmer, Suresh Halami suspected to be a police informer. These three attacks have shattered the morale of the district police.
The Maoists are very vindictive with police informers. On the 5 October, in Taliban-style execution, they beheaded a special branch inspector, Francis Indwar, and threw his body on a branch road leading to National Highway 33 that connect Patna to Jamshedpur, 20 km from Ranchi.. The officer was abducted few days before and held hostage demanding a swap for arrested Maoist ideologues Kobad Ghandy in New Delhi and Chhatradhar Mahato in Kolkata and another captured leader Chandrabhusan Yadav.
On 21 Settember, Maoists launched a massive attack on CPM party office at Enayetpur, 15 km from Midnapore, triggering a gunfight that left at least 15 people dead. Witness say that at least 10.000 tribals took part in the assault.
Going back in time the list of attacks is very long:-on July 12, twenty-three cops, including a DSP, were killed in ambush in Rajnandgaon in the state of Chhattisgarh;- on May 22, sixteen cops killed in Gadchiroli; on Feb 1, a party of policeman walk into trap laid in Dhanora, Gadchiroli district, to probe arson and 15 were killed; June 29 2008, 38 specially trained Greyhounds were killed in Malkhangiri in the state of Orissa.
There are, of course, successful police operations against the Maoists. On 16 September 8 Maoists had been gun down and a gun factory destroyed in Chinta Gufa of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh state. But a real undeclared war is going on with success and defeat on both sides.
Also on the political scene accusations and contra-accusations are hurled at each other. The Trinamul Congress chief, Mamata Banerjee accused of being sympathetic with the Maoists returned the fire suggesting that the Maoists an the Marxists of the government were two sides of the same coin. “They are working together” she said. Mamata’s outburst came a day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked her party to “sever links with the rebels”. CPM veteran leader Jyoti Basu, too echoed his words, charging the Trinamul with joining hands with the Maoists to unleash violence in the state. “Everyday our workers are getting killed. Our party offices are burnt. The Trinamul Congress an the Maoists are doing this together. They are taking law into their own hands” said Basu.
At the beginning of November, after being in the denial for months, the Nepalese Maoists admitted that they are extending “full support and cooperation” to the Naxals in India. A senior standing committee member of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal Maoist (UCPN-M) CP Gajurel, was quoted in a daily as saying: “We have extended our full support and cooperation to the Indian Maoists, who are launching armed revolt.” The same newspaper had also earlier carried a report that a Maoist leader had met Indian leader Kishenji at an undisclosed place in October.
Faced with the Maoist menace the Left Front government in Bengal is now planning to spend Rs 1.600 crore for the development of the three Naxal-hit districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. The chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, at the beginning of November paid a visit to Jangalmahal in Midnapore district. In sheer defiance of the huge police bandobast for the chief minister visit, the Maoists ambushed a patrol party 50 km from Midnapore town and just 30 minutes after the CM left, killing four soldiers. Eyewitness said the Maoists sprayed bullets from AK-47 rifles, looted arms from the vehicle, and walked away without any resistance.
On 27 October, tribal activists, backed by armed Maoists, under the name of local outfit People’s Committee against Police Atrocity (PCPA) seized the Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani Express in West Midnapore district and detained it for five hours before security forces could free the hostages. The railways continue to be a vulnerable target.
What is shocking is that in these states where the Maoist revolt is burning the local governments are only busy rewarding their own cadres and forgetting the large populations. So it is with the CPM in West Bengal and also in Chhattisgarh a recent scandal has revealed that a former tribal chief minister, Madhu Koda, in four years as chief minister, has increased his declared assets of 20.000 Euro in 2005 to an estimated 60 million Euro today, with illegal investments allover the world. Before becoming a deputy he was a daily wages earner. Corruption and police atrocity seem to be the upsetting causes.