Is the Maoist movement in a ‘critical’ phase?
With no fresh recruitments and issues, and the security forces gaining an upper hand, the outfit appears to be on the back foot
After almost five decades and surviving many ups and downs, the Naxalite, or Maoist movement, now led by the banned CPI (Maoist), is going through a critical phase.
Documents recovered from the encounter sites and the surrendered, or arrested Maoists reveal that the Central Committee, the highest body, has repeatedly used the terms “critical phase” and “setbacks”.
As per the documents, the leadership has pointed out that the movement is “highly critical” in the plain areas (urban pockets) and in the key strongholds such as the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), and the Telangana State Special Zonal Committee (TSSZC).
The documents also reveal that the Maoists still have some presence at the tri-State border junctions such as Maharashtra - Telangana - Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand - Bengal- Odisha, and Odisha - Chhattisgarh - Madhya Pradesh.
In one such document drafted by the DKSZC in 2011, it was stated that the movement in the region had reached a stagnation point, which was accepted by the Central Committee in 2013-14 and noted in the minutes of its meeting.
In retreat mode?
In 2014, the then general secretary of the CPI (Maoist) Muppala Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathi, in a letter to all the State committees, had given an order to "minimise losses and defend the strongholds," which signified the retreat mode.
But it did not work for them, as by then most of the States such as Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh had developed their own elite anti-Naxal strike forces such as the Greyhounds, the Special Operations Group (SOG) and the C-60, which had penetrated deep into the strongholds, killing top leaders.
Since then, the Maoists’ area of operation has been shrinking.
Another aspect that has been troubling the outfit since the mid 1990s is the drying up of recruitments from the urban areas, especially educated youth.
Post globalisation and the opening up of opportunities, the Maoist ideology has no takers, particularly among the students in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The banning of the Radical Students’ Union (RSU) in 2004 in the unified Andhra Pradesh had dealt a blow on fresh recruitments.
It was the RSU that had attracted educated youth such as Nambala Keshava Rao alias Basavraj, the general secretary of the party now, and the likes of Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji, and Yalavarthi Naveen Babu.
These leaders hailed from reputed institutions such as NIT-Warangal, Andhra University College of Engineering, Osmania University, and JNU, and had led the movement ideologically.
The documents reveal that recruitments have almost come to a nought, leaving the tribal people as their only mass base.
Lack of issues has also impacted the movement. The Maoists are still holding on to the ‘land reforms’ and the ‘class enemy’ concept. Landlords holding on to the farmers’ land is a rapidly dwindling issue, and this has almost phased out the ‘class enemy’ concept.
In a 7,000-word document, the Central Committee had tasked the State committees and the special zonal committees to find new issues, but they were hard to find.
The bauxite mining issue in the AOB region, which had the potential to infuse life into the movement, turned out to be a non-issue with the Government of Andhra Pradesh revoking the relevant G.O.
Tribal vs non-tribal
With no fresh recruitments and issues, the Maoists are totally dependent on the tribal base, be it in the AOB region, or in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Jharkhand.
In the beginning, things were fine, but later the assertive tribal people, who had earned their positions in the middle-rung leadership, started questioning the "hegemony" of the leaders from the plain areas.
The strength of the once 40-member Central Committee has now dwindled to about 14. It comprises leaders almost above the age of 60, most of who suffer from various ailments. And even among them, about 70% are from A.P. and Telangana. Similar is the case in the middle-rung leadership, which is dominated by leaders from the plain areas.
The surrendered tribal leaders such as Kundan Pahan in Jharkhand, Naveen in Visakhapatnam, and Chikudu Chinna Rao alias Sudheer, who recently left the party in the AOB, had openly spoken about the rift between the tribal and non-tribal leadership.
Top sources in the police say that there are not many educated and intellectual tribal people now in the party who can take top posts.