Shafiq R Khan

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Naxalite Movement in Bihar

Ye jo Bihar haiBihar, the ancient land of Buddha, has witnessed golden period of Indian history. It is the same land where the seeds of the first republic were sown and which cultivated the first crop of democracy. Such fertile is the soil that has given birth to innumerous intellectuals which spread the light of knowledge and wisdom not only in the country but in the whole world. The state has its capital at Patna, which is situated on the bank of the holy river Ganga. The state as it is today has been shaped from its partition from the province of Bengal and most recently after the separation of the tribal southern region now called Jharkhand.Ancient HistoryThe history of the land mass currently known as Bihar is very ancient. In fact, it extends to the very dawn of human civilization. Earliest myths and legends of hinduism the Sanatana (Eternal) Dharma - are associated with Bihar. Sita, the consort of Lord Rama, was a princess of Bihar. She was the daughter of King Janak of Videha. The present districts of Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Madhubani, and Darbhanga, in north-central Bihar, mark this ancient kingdom. The present small township of Sitamarhi is located here. According to legend, the birthplace of Sita is Punaura, located on the west-side of Sitamarhi, the headquarters of the district. Janakpur, the capital of King Janak, and the place where Lord Rama and Sita were married, lies just across the border in Nepal. It is reached via the rail station of Janakapur Road located in the Sitamarhi district, on the Narkatiyaganj - Darbhanga section of the North-Eastern Railway. It is no accident, therefore, that the original author of the Hindu epic - The Ramayana - Maharishi Valmiki - lived in Ancient Bihar. Valmikinagar is a small town and a railroad station in the district of West Champaran, close to the railhead of Narkatiyaganj in northwest Bihar. The word Champaran is derived from champa-arnya, or a forest of the fragrant Champa (magnolia) tree.It was here that Prince Gautam attained enlightenment, became the Buddha- at the present Bodh Gaya- a town in central Bihar; and the great religion of buddhism was born. It is here also that Lord Mahavira, the founder of another great religion, Jainism, was born and attained nirvana (death). That site is located at the present town of pawapuri, some miles to the south east of patna, the Capital of Bihar., it is here that the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh was born and attained the sainthood of sikhism, that is became a Guru. A lovely and majestic Gurudwara (a temple for Sikhs) built to commemorate his memory - the harmandir- is located in eastern Patna. Known reverentially as the Patna Sahib, it is one of the five holiest places of worhip (Takhat) for Sikhs.The ancient kingdoms of Magadh and of Licchavis, around about 7-8th century B.C., produced rulers who devised a system of administration that truly is progenitor of the modern art of statecraft, and of the linkage of statecraft with economics. Kautilya, the author of Arthashastra, the first treatise of the modern science of Economics, lived here. Also known as Chanakya, he was the wily and canny adviser to the Magadh king, Chandragupta Maurya. As an emissary of Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya traveled far and wide in pursuit of promoting the interests of the State and dealing with the Greek invaders settled in the northwest of India, along the Indus valley. He succeded in preventing the further onslaught of the Greeks. Indeed, he brought about amicable co-existence between the Greeks and the Mauryan Empire. Megasthenes, an emissary of Alexander's General, Seleucus Necator, lived in Pataliputra (ancient name of Patna, the Mauryan capital) around 302 B.C. He left behind a chronicle of life in and around Patliputra. This is the first recorded account by a foreign traveler in India. It describes in vivid terms the grandeur of life in Patliputra, a city established by King Ajatshatru, around 5th Century B.C., at the confluence of the rivers Sone and Ganga.Another Mauryan king, Ashok, (also known as Priyadarshi or Priyadassi), around 270 B.C., was the first to formulate firm tenets for the governance of a people. He had these tenets, the so called Edicts of Ashok, inscribed on stone pillars which were planted across his kingdom. The pillar were crowned with the statue of one or more lions sitting on top of a pedestal which was inscribed with symbols of wheels. As the lion denoted strength, the wheel denoted the eternal (endless) nature of truth (dharma), hence the name Dharma (or Dhamma) Chakra. This figure of lions, atop a pedestal, with inscription of a wheel, was adopted as the Official Seal of the independent Republic of India (1947). Also, Ashok's dharma chakra was incorporated into the national flag of India, the Indian tricolor. Remains of a few of these pillars are still extant, for example at Lauriya-Nandan Garh in the district of West Champaran and at vaishali , in the present district of the same name. Ashok, a contemporary of Ptolemy and Euclid, was a great conqueror. His empire extended from what is now the the North West Frontier Province (in Pakistan) in the west, to the eastern boundaries of present India in the north, and certainly, up to the Vindhyan Range in the south. Ashok was responsible also for the widespread proselytization of people into Buddhism. He sent his son, Prince Mahendra, and daughter, Sanghamitra, for this purpose to as far south as the present country of Sri Lanka (Sinhal Dweep in ancient times, and Ceylon during the British Empire. Some historians, particularly Sinhalese, consider Mahindra and Sanghmitra as brother and sister.Ancient Bihar also saw the glorification of women in matters of state affairs. It was here that Amrapali, a courtesan of Vaishali (the present district of the same name) in the kingdom of the Lichhavis, attained and wielded enormous power. It is said that the Lord Buddha, during his visit to Vaishali, refused the invitation of many princes, and chose to have dinner with Amrapali instead. Such was the status of women in the Bihari society of several centuries B.C.!A little-known, but historically and archaeologically documented, event is worth mentioning in this context. After his visit with Amrapali, Lord Buddha continued with his journey towards Kushinagar (also called Kusinara in Buddhist texts.) He travelled along the eastern banks of the river Gandak (also called Narayani, which marks the western border of Champaran, a district now administratively split into two- West and East Champaran.) A band of his devoted Licchavis accompanied Lord Buddha in this journey. At a spot known as Kesariya, in the present Purbi (meaning, East) Champaran district, Lord Buddha took rest for the night. It was here that he chose to announce to his disciples the news of his impending niravana (meaning, death); and implored them to return to Vaishali. The wildly lamenting Licchavis would have none of that. They steadfastly refused to leave. Whereupon, Lord Buddha, by creating a 3,000 feet wide stream between them and himself compelled them to leave. As a souvenir he gave them his alms-bowl. The Licchavis, most reluctantly and expressing their sorrow wildly, took leave and built a stupa there to commemorate the event. Lord Buddha had chosen that spot to announce his impending nirvana because, as he told his disciple Anand, he knew that in a previous life he had ruled from that place, namely, Kesariya, as a Chakravarti Raja, Raja Ben. (Again, this is not just a mere legend, myth or folk-lore. Rather, it is a historiclly documented fact supported by archaeological findings. However, neither this part of Buddha's life, nor the little town of Kesariya, is well-known even in India or Bihar.At Nalanda, the world's first seat of higher learning, an university, was established during the Gupta period. It continued as a seat of learning till the middle ages, when the muslim invaders burned it down. The ruins are a protected monument and a popular tourist spot. A museum and a learning center- The Nava Nalanda Mahavira - are located here.Nearby, Rajgir, was capital of the Muaryan Empire during the reign of Bimbisara. It was frequently visited by Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira. There are many buddhist ruins here. It is also well-known for its many hot-springs which, like similar hot-springs elsewhere in the world, are reputed to have medicinal property.Medieval HistoryThis glorious history of Bihar lasted till around the middle of the 7th or 8th century A.D. - the Gupta Period - when, with the conquest of almost all of northern India by invaders from the middle-east, the Gupta dynasty also fell a victim.In medieval times Bihar lost its prestige as the political and cultural center of India. The Mughal period was a period of unremarkable provincial administration from Delhi. The only remarkable person of these times in Bihar was Sher Shah, or Sher Khan Sur, an Afghan. Based at Sasaram which is now a town in the district of the same name in central-western Bihar, this jagirdar of the Mughal King Babur was successful in defeating Humayun, the son of Babur, twice - once at Chausa and then, again, at Kannauj (in the present state of Uttar Pradesh or U.P.) Through his conquest Sher Shah became the ruler of a territory that, again, extended all the way to the Punjab. He was noted as a ferocious warrior but also a noble administrator - in the tradition of Ashok and the Gupta kings. Several acts of land reform are attributed to him. The remains of a grand mausoleum that he built for himself can be seen in today's Sasaram (Sher Shah's maqbara.)Modern HistoryDuring most of British India, Bihar was a part of the Presidency of Bengal, and was governed from Calcutta. As such, this was a territory very much dominated by the people of Bengal. All leading educational and medical centers were in Bengal. In spite of the unfair advantage that Bengalis possessed, some sons of Bihar rose to positions of prominence, by dint of their intelligence and hard labor. One such was Rajendra Prasad, native of Ziradei, in the district of Saran. He became the first President of the Republic of India.When separated from the Bengal Presidency in 1912, Bihar and Orissa comprised a single province. Later, under the Government of India Act of 1935, the Division of Orissa became a separate province; and the Province of Bihar came into being as an administrative unit of British India. At Independence in 1947, the State of Bihar, with the same geographic boundary, formed a part of the Republic of India, until 1956. At that time, an area in the south-east, predominantly the district of Purulia, was separated and incorporated into West Bengal as part of the Linguistic Reorganization of Indian States.Resurgence in the history of Bihar came during the struggle for India's independence. It was from Bihar that Mahatma Gandhi launched his civil-disobedience movement, which ultimately led to India's independence. At the persistent request of a farmer, Raj Kumar Shukla, from the district of Champaran, in 1917 Gandhiji took a train ride to Motihari, the district headquarters of Champaran. Here he learned, first hand, the sad plight of the indigo farmers suffering under the oppressive rule of the British. Alarmed at the tumultuous reception Gandhiji received in Champaran, the British authorities served notice on him to leave the Province of Bihar. Gandhiji refused to comply, saying that as an Indian he was free to travel anywhere in his own country. For this act of defiance he was detained in the district jail at Motihari. From his jail cell, with the help of his friend from South Africa days, C. F. Andrews, Gandhiji managed to send letters to journalists and the Viceroy of India describing what he saw in Champaran, and made formal demands for the emancipation of these people. When produced in court, the Magistrate ordered him released, but on payment of bail. Gandhiji refused to pay the bail. Instead, he indicated his preference to remain in jail under arrest. Alarmed at the huge response Gandhiji was receiving from the people of Champaran, and intimidated by the knowledge that Gandhiji had already managed to inform the Viceroy of the mistreatment of the farmers by the British plantation owners, the magistrate set him free, without payment of any bail. This was the first instance of the success of civil-disobedience as a tool to win freedom. The British received, their first "object lesson" of the power of civil-disobedience. It also made the British authorities recognize, for the first time, Gandhiji as a national leader of some consequence. What Raj Kumar Shukla had started, and the massive response people of Champaran gave to Gandhiji, catapulted his reputation throughout India. Thus, in 1917, began a series of events in a remote corner of Bihar, that ultimately led to the freedom of India in 1947.Sir Richard Attenborough's award winning film, "Gandhi", authentically, and at some length, depicts the above episode. (Raj Kumar Shukla is not mentioned by his name in the film, however.) The two images here are from that film. The bearded gentleman, just behind Gandhiji, in the picture on the left, and on the elephant at right, is Raj Kumar Shukla.Gandhiji, in his usual joking way, had commented that in Champaran he "found elephants just as common as bullock carts in (his native) Gujarat"!!It was natural, therefore, that many people from Bihar became leading participants in India's struggle for independence. Dr. Rajendra Prasad has been mentioned above. Another was Jay Prakash Narayan, affectionately called JP. JP's substantial contribution to modern Indian history continued up until his death in 1979. It was he who steadfastly and staunchly opposed the autocratic rule of Indira Gandhi and her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi. Fearing people's reaction to his opposition, Indira Gandhi had him arrested on the eve of declaring National Emergency beginning June 26, 1975. He was put in the Tihar Jail, located near Delhi, where notorious criminals are jailed. Thus, in Free India, this septuagenerian, who had fought for India's freedom alongside Indira Gandhi's father, Jawahar Lal Nehru, received a treatment that was worse than what the British had meted out to Gandhiji in Champaran in 1917, for his speaking out against oppression. The movement started by JP, however, brought the Emergency to an end, led to the massive defeat of Indira Gandhi and her Congress Party at the polls, and, to the installation of a non-Congress government -The Janata Party - at Delhi, for the first time. With the blessings of JP, Morarji Desai became the fourth Prime Minister of India. JP remained the Conscience of the Janata Party and of post-Gandhi - post-Nehru India. He gave a call to all Indians to work ceaselessly towards eliminating "dictatorship in favour of democracy" and bringing about "freedom from slavery". Sadly, soon after attaining power, bickerings began among the leaders of the Janata Party which led to the resignation of Shri Desai as the Prime Minister. JP continued with his call for "total revolution" (sampporna kranti), but he succumbed to kidney failure at a hospital in Bombay in 1979.Subsequent bickerings in the Janata Party led to the formation of a breakaway political party - the Janata Dal. This political party is a constituent unit of the current ruling coalition at Delhi, the so called, United Front. It was also from this party that Laloo Prasad Yadav, the Chief Minister of Bihar was elected. The bickering continued. A new party led by Mr. Yadav was formed as - the Rashtriya Janata Dal - which went on to rule for almost 15 years in Bihar.This was also a period when Hindi literature came to flourish in the state. Raja Radhika Raman Singh, Shiva Pujan Sahay, Divakar Prasad Vidyarthy, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Ram Briksha Benipuri, are some of the luminaries who contributed to the flowering of Hindi literature, which did not have much of a long history. The Hindi language, certainly its literature, began around mid to late nineteenth century. It is marked by the appearance of Bhartendu Babu Harischandra's ( a resident of Varanasi in U.P.) drama "Harischandra". Devaki Nandan Khatri began writing his mystery novels in Hindi during this time(Chandrakanta, Chandrakanta Santati, Kajar ki Kothari, Bhootnath, etc.) He was born at Muzaffarpur in Bihar and had his earlier education there. He then moved to Tekari Estate in Gaya in Bihar. He later became an employee of the Raja of Benares (now Varanasi.) He started a printing press called "Lahari" which began the publication of a Hindi monthly, "Sudarshan", in 1898. One of the first short stories in Hindi, if not the very first, was "Indumati" (Pundit Kishorilal Goswami, author) which was published in 1900. The collection of short stories "Rajani aur Taare" (Anupam Prakashan, Patna, publishers) contains an extended history of the origin and evolution of the short story as a distinct literary form in the Hindi literature.For its geographical location, natural beauty, mythological and historical importance, Bihar feels proud of the assets it has been gifted by time. And for its moral contributions in the fields of arts-literature and religion and spiritualism, it knows no competitors centuries old stories related to this land are told even today. The state is the same kingdom, which once upon a time ruled the country as well as the neighbouring countries . Many great rulers have lived here and it fills us with a sense of pride when we think of Bihar as the 'Karmabhumi' of Buddha and Mahavir. Bihar, to liven up the glorious tale of which land, words fall short.Naxalite Movement in Bihar and JharkhandIn a development that could have far reaching implication not only for Bihar and Jharkhand but also for other States, the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI)[1][1] and the Communist Party of India, Marxist-Leninist (People's War) merged in the united formation, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) CPI-Maoist, in September 2004. Both the groups have been the most powerful ones, accounting for about 88 percent of the countrywide Naxalite violence and 90 percent of the resultant deaths.[2][2] The merger has resulted in further escalation in the level of Naxalite violence in these two States. For example, Bihar, where Maoists are active in approximately 30 out of 38 districts, was the worst affected States in 2004, with 155 Naxalite-related killing between January and November 30, 2004. Jharkhand, where Maoists are active in 18 out of 22 districts, ranked second, with 150 deaths as against 117 in 2003.[3][3] The unification of Naxalite groups, largely interpreted as the beginning of a new phase in Naxalite movement in India, has also been influenced by the perceived success of Maoism in Nepal and activities of several front organizations in the last few years.[4][4]An attempt has been made in this paper to map the trajectory of Naxalite movement in Bihar and Jharkhand in the light of current developments, historical experience and complex interplay of factors that have shaped the course of the movement. The paper argues that the course of the Naxalite movement in these two States would depend, to a great extent, on how it manages contradictions emerging out of complex interplay of the ideological commitment and various factors that have influenced the behaivour of these groups at the grassroots level.----------------------- Ideological Synergy and EscalationSpread of ViolenceContrary to popular belief that the creation of the separate State of Jharkhand in November 2000 would result in a decline in violence, there has been an upsurge in Naxalite activities in these two States. With the bifurcation of Bihar, a number of affected districts in South Bihar went over to Jharkhand, and it was expected that the Naxalite groups will suffer a setback in the remaining areas. The succeeding years, however, have not only witnessed a consolidation of extremists in their strongholds, but a further expansion into newer areas. Thus, apart from traditional strongholds in Patna, Gaya, Aurangabad, Arwal Bhabhua, Rohtas and Jehanabad in South western parts of the State, there has been a spurt in extremism in parts of North Bihar, bordering Nepal, including the West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Madhubani districts. The Naxalites have also extended their areas of influence in Shaharsha, Begusarai and Vaisali, and areas along borders with Uttar Pradesh.Similarly, in Jharkhand, the feeling before November 2000 was that the region was backward and neglected because the political and bureaucratic establishment, dominated by officials from the ‘non-tribal’ areas of Bihar, did not care for the tribals. It was widely believed that a new government that was more representative of tribal interests would be in a better position to address to their legitimate grievances. The successive governments have, however, failed to contain the expansion of Naxalism. Indeed, it seems that the creation of Jharkhand has helped the Naxalites consolidate their roots in the region. At present, the worst affected districts are: Chatra, Palamu, Garhwa, Giridih, Latehar, Gumla, Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Lohardaga and Bokaro. Jharkhand, with a dense forest cover over large parts of the State, offers favorable terrain for the Naxalites to operate and build their bases. The Naxalites have also consolidated their presence in areas bordering Orissa and West Bengal and have been responsible, to a substantial measure, for escalation of Naxalite violence in the neighbouring States. Taking advantage of poor coordination among law enforcement agencies between two States, the Naxalites commit crime in one State and slip into the borders of neighbouring States.Annual Fatalities in Naxalite violence in Bihar and JharkhandState2001200220032004Jharkhand200157117150Bihar111117127155Source: Annual Report 2003-04, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, at http://www.mha.nic.in/AR0304-Eng.pdfUnified OnslaughtApart from a host of internal factors such as failure of the State governments to address issues contributing to the growth of Naxalism, poor performance of civil administration in rural and tribal areas, ill-equipped police force, and the existence of a collusive arrangement between a section of politicians, bureaucrats, contractors and extremist elements, this escalation of violence is largely due to increasing coordination between the CPI-ML (PW) and MCCI in the last few years. These groups were at wars in the 1980s and for most part of the 1990s, which took the lives of hundreds of their cadres in various parts of Bihar and Jharkhand. Their leaders differed on personal and ideological issues and turf war to hold territory often overshadowed the unity efforts. However, both these groups made concerted effort to forge unity, which was evident in increasing degree of coordination in these two States.Though the move for unity among Maoist groups is not a new thing, it got a momentum after the PWG entered Bihar after a merger with the CPI-ML (PU) in 1998. The process to bury differences to fight the ‘common enemy’ reportedly started in 1999. Though separate decisions were made by the MCCI and the PWG in January and March 2000 to end conflict, but the results were not encouraging due to opposition from some of the top leaders of the MCCI and clashes between cadres of the two groups at the grassroots level. The efforts to forge unity became serious when some hardliners in the MCCI leadership, who had staunchly opposed any type of association with the PWG, left the organization in 2001. During a two-day meeting held at a secret place on August 23-24, 2001, the PWG decided to end their conflict.[5][5] In a joint statement, both the groups expressed their willingness “to end the conflict at any cost” after indulging into an “open criticism and self criticism”. Stating that separate decisions were made by the MCCI and the PWG in January and March 2000 to end the conflict, the two outfits held the grass-roots level activists responsible for the killing of over a dozen MCCI and PWG cadres.[6][6] Moreover, intense police operation in Jharkhand, and large scale use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) forced both the groups to enter into strategic alliance and refrain from encroaching on one another’s territory.[7][7] In November 2002, a joint statement issued by the two groups at Patna stated that the indiscriminate use of the POTA against the activists and sympathizers of Naxalite groups by the Jharkhand government had ‘compelled them to iron out differences’ and fight jointly against the State machinery.Linkage with Nepalese MaoistsGrowing linkage of the Naxalites in Bihar with Maoist insurgents in Nepal has also been responsible, in many ways, for unification of Maoist parties and resultant expansion of their activities in Bihar. The linkage between these two groups has been largely seen as a pre-requisite for further unification, consolidation and expansion of Maoism in different parts of the country and across South Asia through creation of the 'Compact Revolutionary Zone' stretching across Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Bihar, to Nepal. Expansion of Naxal activity in Bihar is an important part of this strategy and the prevailing situation in Bihar helps these outfits. The porous Bihar-Nepal border, the general breakdown of rule of law, poor governance and incapacity of the police force provides a context for these left extremist groups to operate with ease. Bihar has eight districts with 54 police stations situated along the 753 kilometer long open border with Nepal, which has become increasingly vulnerable to use by the Nepalese Maoists. A number of Maoist insurgents have been arrested from different parts of Bihar in the last few years.The MCCI and CPI-ML (PW) have been maintaining close relations with the Nepalese Maoists for some time. In February 1996, the MCC Central Committee published a paper welcoming the Maoist movement in Nepal. In October 1996, the MCC condemned the repression of the Maoist movement in its Congress. Reports in April 2000 informed that the MCC and Maoists were holding joint training camps in Hazaribagh and Aurangabad. In July 2001, the MCC along with the PWG and the Maoists in Nepal, formed an umbrella organization, the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) to unify and coordinate the activities of the Maoist Parties and organisations in South Asia. All three groups are part of the joint 'Indo-Nepal Border Regional Committee,' and unconfirmed reports indicate that the Indian Naxalite groups have been training Nepali Maoist cadres in various training camps in Bihar and Jharkhand. Apart from the CCOMPOSA, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), which came into existence in 1984, has also been trying to coordinate the activities of Maoist parties in South Asia. Leaders of the RIM are believed to have acted as mediators to strengthen the extreme left in the region.Growth of NaxalismEmergence of OrganisationsDoes the current phase of Naxalism in these two States represent a new phase? To what extent, will the ideological synergy at the top will percolate down at the grassroots level where the growth of the movement has been conditioned by a number of other factors such as caste dynamics, political linkage, growing criminalization, lack of ideological commitment and turf war over financial resources? The impact of the current phase of violence on the future of Naxalite movement will depend, to a great extent, on their ability to manage these contradictions.Even a cursory glance at the trajectory of Naxalite movement in Bihar and Jharkhand would reveal that though it developed in the backdrop of rich tradition of peasant and tribal movements—both during British and post-independence period[8][8], it grew through its complex interaction with a number of local issues, which have defined the course of the movement. The basic demand of Naxalite movement during the early phase revolved around the issue of land relations, self-respect, respect for their women and payment of minimum wages. The organizations which espoused these demands, could not evolve a common understanding on various strategic, tactical and organizational issues. Thus, we find the emergence of a number of Naxalite groups in the undivided Bihar.The movement, which originated in the small town of Naxalbari in Darjeeling district, West Bengal had a direct impact on the undivided Bihar. Leading the movement in the State was the nine-member Bihar State Committee of Communist Revolutionaries, which began spreading its activities in various parts of the undivided Bihar. The Communist Party of India, Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) came into existence in 1969. In early 1970s, some CPI-ML leaders began to establish contacts in Jehanabad and Palamu areas, but many of them were arrested during the emergency period in 1975. When these leaders were released during the Janata government in 1977, some of them organized themselves into CPI-ML (Unity Organisation) in 1978. The same year, the Mazdur Kisan Sangram Samity (MKSS) was formed.During the 1980s, three groups had major impact on Naxalite movement in Bihar: the CPI-ML (Liberation), the CPI-ML (Party Unity) and the MCCI. As early as 1982, the Bihar government in its Notes on Extremist activities-affected areas reported that as many as 47 out of a total of 857 blocks, spread over 14 districts were affected by the left wing extremist movement.[9][9] The CPI-ML (Liberation), which had a formidable presence in the central parts of undivided Bihar, decided to function as an over ground political party in 1992. It was stated that “the party does not rule out the possibility under a set of exceptional national and international circumstances, the balance of social and economic forces may even permit peaceful transfer of central power to revolutionary forces”. It was, however, added that the party must prepare itself for winning the ultimate decisive victory through an armed struggle”,[10][10] though it admitted that the situation was not ripe for such a movement. Reports suggest that it still maintains underground squad in some regions. The party also has a string of organizations to mobilize students, women and workers. They are: All India Students Association, Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha, All India Coordination Committee of Trade Unions, All India Progressive Women's Association and Jan Sanskritik Manch.Another prominent Naxal group, which emerged during the 1980s, was the CPI-ML (Party Unity). It tried to organize the peasantry as the main force of democratic revolution. They adopted the twin strategy of selective annihilation and economic blockade of landowners.[11][11] In a major effort at the consolidation of left-wing activity, the CPI-ML (Party Unity) merged with the People's War Group (PWG) of Andhra Pradesh in 1998, to constitute the CPI-ML (People's War).However, one Naxalite groups which had maximum impact on the course of Naxalite movement in Bihar, and in many sense represents the true character of the movement is the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI). The group, earlier known as the Dakshin Desh, was active, during the initial days in West Bengal and Gaya and Hazaribagh districts of undivided Bihar. In the perception of the MCCI, the struggle is fundamentally a movement for appropriating political power. Thus, the political education of the peasants reaches its completion when the peasants uphold the fact that fights for land is only a means to launch a war to capture of power.[12][12]During the late 1970s and 1980s, the MCCI concentrated its strength in Bihar; and with the perspective of building up people’s army and base area, the Bihar-Bengal Area Committee was set up. The emergency period suppressed their activities, but in 1978-79, they once again began to mobilize the peasants. Till 1982, the MCC was mostly underground. Gradually, the group began to operate through these mass fronts. In Bihar and Jharkhand, it maintained a string of front organizations, including the Naujawan Pratirodh Sangharsh Manch, Krantikari Budhijivi Sangh, Krantikari Sanskritik Sangh, Krantikari Chhatra League, Communist Yuva League, Naari Mukti Sangh and Mazdoor Mukti Sangh.[13][13]The MCC disagreed with the CPI-ML’s approach of class annihilation. It accepted action against the ‘class enemies’. It advocated mass action in which conscious people enraged by class hatred would spontaneously participate in the annihilation of class enemies. But it was vehemently opposed to secret and indiscriminate killings by the squad.[14][14] It carried out a number of massacres in the central parts of undivided Bihar. On October 7, 1986, the MCC killed 11 persons belonging to the upper caste Rajput community in Darmia village Aurangabad district in Bihar. On May 29, 1987, the MCC massacred 42 persons belonging to an upper caste Rajput family at Dalelchak-Baghaura village in Aurangabad district, Bihar. On February 12, 1992, the MCC massacred 37 members of the landowing upper caste Bhumihar community at Bara village, Gaya district in Bihar. On March 18, 1999, the MCC massacred over 34 upper caste Bhumihars in Senari village, Jehanabad in Bihar. On November 18, 1999, the MCC killed 12 persons in Latu village, Palamu in Jharkhand. On April 14, 2001, the MCC killed 14 persons at Belpu village, Hazaribagh district in Jharkhand.[15][15]One of the features of the Naxalite movement during that phase was bitter internecine clashes among these groups. The clashes between the MCCI and the CPI-ML (Party Unity) resulted in the death of hundreds of cadres of both the organizations in central and southern parts of undivided Bihar. After the rapprochement between the MCCI and the CPI-ML (PW), the main rivalry remains between the latter and the CPI-ML (Liberation), which after eschewing the path of armed revolution is increasingly finding it difficult to maintain its turf in its strongholds particularly Bhojpur and Patna districts of Bihar. The PW’s growing influence in these districts has caused serious problems for the Liberation group.[16][16] According to sociologist and former Naxalite, Mr Sashibhushan, the Liberation, after giving up the annihilation line, “has no solid means to cash in on the anger of the people against exploitation.[17][17] Apart from ideological factors, these organizations were locked in bitter war of supremacy in a particular area.[18][18]Caste Dynamics and Sena PhenomenonApart from internal dissension and internecine clashes, the caste dynamics also influenced the movement since the 1980s. The polarization along the caste line deepened, when the dalits were mobilized by the left wing extremists and increasingly stereotyped as Naxalites by the upper castes who banded together. The result was a closing of ranks, not only among the richer and landowners, but also along caste lines that embraced every rung of the social ladder, down to the poorest of the castemen. It affected the organizational structure, mobilization strategy and activities of Naxalite groups at the grassroots level. If we examine the pattern of violence in Central parts of undivided Bihar, the entire confrontation was moulded by caste factor and not by class ideology. The Naxalite leaders also recognized the importance of caste in mobilization. As Dipankar Bhattacharya of the CPI-ML (Liberation) says that we can not afford to completely ignore the role of caste. Sometimes class struggles do overlap with caste war while on some other occasions class struggle relegated to background and caste violence does take place.[19][19]This complex pattern of Naxalite mobilization and counter mobilization on the basis of caste gave rise to what is generally called the Sena (private army of landowners) phenomenon in Bihar. Though armed gangs have been part of feudal history of rural India, Bihar is the only State in post-independence India where private armies of landowners exist. Most of these private armies emerged in late 1970s, and 1980s as a feudal response to the growth of Naxalite groups. Since then, an estimated 15 private armies have existed at various points of time in the State, including prominently: the Kuer Sena, the Bhumi Sena, Lorik Sena, Sunlight Sena, Bramharshi Sena, Kisan Sangh, Gram Suraksha Parishad and the Ranvir Sena.Most of these Senas, with a limited cadre strength and area of operation, could not sustain their existence for long and eventually withered away. However, among all these, the Ranvir Sena emerged as the most dreaded and ruthless group. Over the years, the Ranvir Sena extended its influence to the Jehanabad, Patna, Rohtas, Aurangabad, Gaya, Bhabhua and Buxur districts, mobilizing the landed caste groups in these districts against the various left-wing extremist organisations. Over the years, the Ranvir Sena carried out a number of massacres in Central Bihar. On June 16, 2000, its cadres killed 34 persons at Miapur village, Aurangabad district. On April 21, 1999, 12 persons were killed at Sendani village, Gaya district. On February 20, 1999, 11 persons were killed at Narayanpur village, Jehanabad district. On January 25, 1999, 23 persons were massacred in Sankarbigha village, Jehanabad district. On December 1, 1997, 58 persons were massacred at Lakshmanpur-Bathe village, Jehanabad district. On April 10, 1997, 10 persons were killed at Ekbari village, Jehanabad. And on March 23, 1997, Ranvir Sena cadres killed 10 persons at Habispur village, Patna district. Though the Ranvir Sena claimed to have targeted only Naxalites, its victim, by and large, have been landless and poor peasants of the most backward castes.[20][20]The context of the Sena’s activities has been conditioned by an extreme polarization of State politics and the bureaucracy on the basis of caste. It had linkage with many top level politicians on the sole basis of caste loyalties.[21][21] Since the landowner groups constituted a powerful political lobby entrenched in the government, the police and the bureaucracy, the pattern of state intervention and even the government approach to the conflict were conditioned selectively by these linkages.[22][22]However, in the last few years, the Sena has been sufficiently weakened particularly after the arrest of its chief, Brahmeshwar Singh at Patna on August 29, 2002. Reports also indicate that the Ranvir Sena has been at the receiving end for some time now, and has lost much of its earlier influence among upper caste land owners. One of the reasons is the increasing criminalization of the outfit.Linkage with Mainstream PoliticsLinkage with political parties has also conditioned the behaviour of Naxalite groups and this is reflected in their behaviour during elections and their relationship with mainstream political parties. Though these groups have been insisting on election boycott to wean people away from parliamentary politics, there has been a palpable change in their attitude towards elections. The behaviour of Naxalite groups during elections have suggested that their stated objectives have little role to play as far as grassroots mobilization of electoral support is concerned. In Bihar, during the recent State Assembly elections in February 2005, though the CPI-Maoists officially declared that the continuance in power of the ruling RJD is against the interest of the party, it, at the same time, admitted that the Naxalites and the RJD ‘share the same social base’. It has also reportedly alleged that Laloo Prasad Yadav has been trying to bribe its cadre and activists through Government contracts and projects.[23][23] Alleging a nexus between the MCC and RJD, the CPI-ML (Liberation) says, “MCC used to extend its support to the RJD in Bihar and JMM in Jharkhand during earlier elections. In the last elections some of their commanders were seen openly canvassing for the RJD candidates in Bihar”.[24][24] According to Saibal Gupta, secretary of the Asian Development Research Institute: "I won't say they are hand in hand. Because the social base of the RJD and MCC is the same, there is a natural coalition.'' [25][25]Muscle power plays a critical role in elections in these states and the enormous clout wielded by Naxalite groups at the grassroots level has been one of the crucial instruments of influence in the electoral process. In Jharkhand, according to one estimate, the Naxalites are capable of influencing the election process in some 54 of the 81 Assembly constituencies.[26][26] Unsurprisingly, Naxalite groups often use their influence to support candidates or political formations which provide them a favourable context for operation in the post election phase. Therefore, it is not surprising that their violence or threat of poll boycott never result in active boycott or a decline in vote percentage. Thus, for instance, during the April 2004 Parliamentary Election in Jharkhand, where the pre-poll campaign was marred by a series of attacks on security force personnel, the voter turnout was recorded at 55.71 per cent. Even in some of the worst-affected districts, including Palamu, Hazaribagh, Singhbhum and Lohardaga, the voter turnout ranged between 49 and 60 per cent. Similarly, many Naxalite dominated areas in Bihar registered an impressive voter turn out.There are reports, moreover, that these groups have themselves contested the elections through proxies. For example, during the Panchayat (Village Council) elections in 2001, activists of both the PWG and MCCI contested in Jehanabad district. In the Parliamentary Elections of April 2004, a former 'sub-zonal commander' of the MCCI, Ramlal Oraon alias Veer Bhagat, contested as an independent candidate from one of the worst Naxalite-affected constituencies, Chatra in Jharkhand, and the voter turnout in some of the worst-affected Assembly segments recorded their highest turnout in the last 20 years.[27][27] Clearly, despite the announcement of the unification, the factors that have historically influenced the behaviour of Naxalite groups still remain operative, and will continue to have a considerable influence during the election process.Financial Incentives and growing criminalisationTheir muscle power, enormous presence at the grassroots and a collusive arrangement with a section of politicians, government officials and contractors offer huge financial incentive to these groups. And this is facilitated by inability of the state to enforce its writ in Naxal-affected areas. These groups are able to hold jan adalats (kangaroo courts) and administer instant justice, leaving the administration gaping.[28][28] The extremists impose levy on government projects.[29][29] The collection ranges from forest contractors, businessmen, civil contractors, villagers and government officials including police in some areas. The Naxalites have also threatened the Golden Quadrilateral project in their areas of influence. As a result, progress in these areas is probably the slowest of the GQ stretches. In fact, the Naxal fear is not restricted to this area or to the PM highway alone. They have also threatened companies such as Steel Authority of India Limited-run iron ore mines at Megahahatburu.[30][30] Although, the Naxalites claim that they are fighting an ideological war, they are basically involved in making money. Smuggling of woods, taking cut from government officials from development fund and extortion have become main business of Naxalites.[31][31]The dwindling role of ideology and financial incentive has led to growing criminalization of the outfit. In many cases, the local ‘commanders’ due to lack of proper ideological indoctrination and lure of money behave like ordinary criminals. Stories of deviations and degeneration of Naxalite groups appear regularly in media. Degeneration in Naxalite movement resulted in emergence of protection racket.[32][32] Moreover, a number of persons with criminal backgrounds have joined the movement to secure some safety from the law. In addition, there are a number of examples of land having been captured by Naxalite outfits.State ResponseOne of the important factors that have sustained this self-sustaining dynamics of Naxalite violence in Bihar and Jharkhand is the lack of proper state response and failure of the administrative machinery at the grassroots level. As a result, in many areas government officials do not even attend their offices due to the threat posed by Naxalites.[33][33] In these areas, development works are executed more often than not on paper.[34][34] In August 1999, special House Committee of the Bihar Legislative Council which was asked to study the chain of violence and counter violence in Central Bihar, said the lack of political will and determination on the part of State in tackling extremism head on, its failure to set up agencies unafraid to step into the disturbed regions and political affiliations of the extremist groups with mainline parties are some of the reasons for the aggravating extremist violence in Bihar.[35][35]No proper attempt has been made to equip police force properly to deal with the threat. Even in Jharkhand, where the successive governments relied heavily on police operations to neutralize the armed groups, proper attention was not paid to this aspect. The police operations suffer due to lack of adequate and appropriate equipment - including basics such as automatic weapons, landmine detectors, transport and communications; a proper intelligence network at the grassroots level; and better protection to police officers and personnel in the Naxalite affected areas. Therefore, it is not surprising that despite large-scale arrests under the POTA, the government was not able to contain the violence. In Bihar also, lack of resources is a major handicap. The extremist groups on the other hand, are well trained and possess even sophisticated arms.[36][36] On April 16, 2003, the then Director General of Police, DP Ojha, made an official statement before the Press that the State police were not equipped well enough to prevent extremist violence in Bihar. He said. “How can one expect the police force to contain the extremists? They don’t have even matching fire power, lack standardised police pickets and are deprived of state-of-art communication system besides bullet-proof vehicles and mines-protected vehicles?”[37][37]The surrender policy announced by the government has not had desired results. Apart from poor implementation of the scheme, the fear of retribution by Naxals is the reason for poor records in surrender. Maoists have been ruthless in dealing with the deserters and any activist who felt tempted by the surrender package must be ready to face the consequences.[38][38]Another important reason for the growth of Naxalite movement has been the government’s inability to implement land reforms. The village economy supports nearly three-fourths of the State’s population, yet it remains one of the most exploitative in the world.[39][39] The landowners were politically very influential and were largely responsible for poor implementation of the policy.ConclusionThere is little evidence, under the present circumstances, that the present and projected initiatives by the governments will succeed in neutralising the growing menace of extremism in these two States. Moreover, the factors that sustained the movement and pattern of politics remains the same in these States and if the forces that shaped the course of the Naxalite movement remain in the control of socio-political and administrative structures of these States, and Naxalites do not make any positive intervention to alter them, the recent trends in ideological synergy and resultant upsurge in violence can not be interpreted as any fundamental change in the character of Naxalite groups.
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