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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 22, May 22, 2010

Maoism in the Mainstream

Tuesday 25 May 2010, by Ajay K. Mehra


Even as ’Operation Green Hunt’ is trekking a bumpy road to taming the Maoist challenge, the emerging trends indicate, though retaining their violent identity, the politics of the gun is being increasingly mainstreamed into India’s political culture of orderly mayhem. The recent media exposure regarding their linkages with police and CRPF gun-runners in UP and fratricide among the ranks expose that their rutted road to revolution is following some of the familiar trends in mainstream politics and has developed aberrations beyond the professed ideology.

In fact, India’s experiment with revolution has always been rooted in the mainstream politics. The communist movement in India, since its inception in 1920 in Tashkent and after a formal founding of the Communist Party of India in the country on December 26, 1925 in Kanpur, has been confounded between the Leninist-Maoist revolutionary politics and the country’s emerging parliamentary politics on a liberal democratic platform. Between the Cawnpore (Kanpur) Bolshevik Conspiracy Case (1924) and the Meerut Conspiracy Case, the Communists had had political baptism by colonial fire. However, before they launched their first revolutionary moment in Telangana in 1944 riding piggy back on the Andhra Mahasabha movement against the repressive doras, the Communists disbanded themselves following a crackdown by the British Govern-ment during the Second World War in 1933; floating small organisations, even joining the Indian National Congress using their Congress Socialist Party sympathisers.

The post-Telangana history of the communist movement since 1951, when the CPI withdrew the ‘revolution’ on Stalin’s diktat, has been torn between overturning India’s ‘sham’ bourgeois democracy run by bourgeois politicians and participating in parliamentary elections, even running three State governments in accordance with the Indian Constitution. The fractiousness of the Communists has seen major splits in the party and the movement in 1964 and 1969, while their revolutionary politics underwent several divisions between the 1970s and 1990s. It was only in 2004 that major Maoist groups came together to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist), though even post-2004 three major factions remain. However, it did stop dalam rivalry and checked the possibility of fratricide.

The CPI continued with the parliamentary politics since 1951, contesting all the general elections since 1952. The Communist Party of India-Marxist, formed after ideological differences with the colleagues in the CPI, while organising the revolutionary movement in West Bengal, also contested the 1967 general elections and for the first time participated in a coalition govern-ment in the State, creating ideological and pragmatic fissures between the factions wedded to revolution and those who ‘pragmatically’ sought to work for ‘revolutionary changes’ from within. It indeed was a spectacle in May 1967 when a ‘Cabinet’ mission, headed by Land Revenue Minister Hare Krishna Konar representing the ‘party-in-government’, went into an unsuccessful discussion with Charu Mazumdar Kanu Sanyal duo representing the ‘party-in-revolution’.


Post-1972 crushing of the Naxalbari movement and since the sprouting of the Srikakulam movement in the late 1960s as well as the development of the fourth stage of the Maoist revolutionary politics since the 1980s witnessed the participation of certain factions of the Maoists in elections in Bihar. During the 1980s the Maoists intervened in the mainstream politics in Andhra Pradesh from time to time in supporting leaders and their parties such as N.T. Ramarao, Channa Reddy and others in elections on request. Many more surreptitious linkages with local politicians in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal are murmured, but the details are not fully known.

Since with their expanding ‘organisational’, ‘administrative’ and ‘war/revolution’ expenses they need to tap more resources, there are reports of their involvement in opium trade and ‘tax/protection money/extortion’ from the corporate houses (domestic and global), the local business and even government officials, both in order to raise resources for their ‘revolutionary’ activities. Given the discussions on crimina-lisation of India’s mainstream politics for the past two decades and given the fact that under any government such activities would be illegal, if not criminal, the revolutionaries have been sufficiently mainstreamed. There has not been any assessment of the extent of such ‘tax extortion’ and the extent to which this has enabled the corporate interests to exploit natural resources (mining of minerals and an exploitation of forest produce) resulting in further miseries for the tribals so far. But isn’t it part of India’s mainstream politics too?

The gun-running with India’s highly deinstitu-tionalised and corrupt police organisation too would fall in the category of mainstream politics. The police is misused, mishandled and corrupted with the connivance and collusion of elements in the administration, including the police brass, some of whom have displayed proclivities for crime ranging from murder, molestation and forgery, as well as politicians at different levels. It is unlikely to be clear whether the Maoists have only been receiving arms and ammunition from the disgruntled and corrupt elements in the police in UP or elsewhere, or there is any larger net. In any case, this is not exclusive to India’s revolutionary politics.

Obviously, we need greater understanding of Maoism in India and its claim for revolutionary transformation beyond compromises.

The author is the Director (Honorary), Centre for Public Affaires, Noida.

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