The Indian Maoist movement is like a mystery wrapped in a riddle. There are varied perceptions about the Red movement that has struck roots in several parts of India. If the insurgency has risen to a higher level of strategic offensive stage in Bastar forests of Chhattisgarh in Central India, it could be in a stage of strategic equilibrium or strategic defensive in other parts of India. For those who take a macroscopic view of the Indian revolution, it's the best example of the outcome of an inefficient system of democratic polity and hence the imperative need for a new democratic revolution. For those who take a microscopic view, it's nothing but alien ideology being pursued vigorously by those ‘misguided' sections of Indian society.

Different would be the views of those who construe that the path of protracted people's war leading to the new democratic revolution is the panacea for all ills of Indian society and the failure of the parliamentary system. Indeed the Indian Maoist movement is turning out to be a challenge to comprehend. Mostly, attempts to understand the revolutionary movement have projected a one-sided view. It was sought to be analysed from different viewpoints like militarist, ideological, sociological, economical etc. The Institute of South Asian Studies has now succeeded in filling the gap by bringing out this book, More than Maoism, a collection of different perspectives.

Comparative analysis

The book, which contains 34 chapters, empowers the reader to analyse, evaluate and scrutinise the revolutionary movement through 34 different prisms. Apart from a comparative analysis of the Indian revolutionary movement and the Chinese revolution of 1927-49, and the response of the Indian State to the ‘biggest challenge to the internal security', social scientists, journalists, and activists provide an understanding of the contours of the movement.

Each perspective in each chapter provides a rare glimpse into the issue. John Harriss (chapter 2) traces how the Maoist movement's strategic emphasis against landlords in late 70s and 80s shifted to that of imperialism in 2010. Sumanta Banerjee, who moved from being an active participant to an intimate observer to a distant onlooker, offers this explanation of how the moral base of ideology which impelled Maoists to launch the movement, gets eroded with the excesses committed by them in the course of the revolution.

The history of rebel movements in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal offer a variety of reasons why Maoists succeeded in Nepal, while they could not in other countries. S.D. Muni gives us an authoritative account of the Nepalese movement: how strategically, the protracted people's war gave way to Prachanda Path. Nandini Sunder offers an altogether different angle to the Maoist issue (section on ‘Causes' and ‘Indicators') on the circumstances that would lead poor people to take to arms and fight the State. The socio-economic reasons for the insurgency, exploitation of vulnerabilities of tribals and the legislations that were supposed to protect the tribals but ended up exploiting them are highlighted.

The role of women in the rank and file of Maoists, the experience of Andhra Pradesh in initiating a dialogue with the Maoists and trends and security implications (P.V. Ramana) are elucidative enough to make this book a reference point for the policy makers and researchers.

The exhaustive answers of Maoist leader Azad (killed later by security forces) to searching questions of Siddharth Varadarajan, provide an opportunity for the reader to understand the ideological moorings of the movement and how a top ranking leader / ideologue would take a different look at issues concerning people. All in all, the book does offer more than a conventional understanding of the Maoist movement in India.

MORE THAN MAOISM — Politics, Policies and Insurgencies in South Asia: Edited by Robin Jeffrey, Ronojoy Sen and Pratima Singh; Manohar Publishers and Distributors, 4753/23 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 1250.

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