A lost cause: On the Gadchiroli encounter and Maoists

Despite severe losses, the Maoists refuse to acknowledge the futility of their cause

Updated - November 15, 2021 01:05 am IST

Published - November 15, 2021 12:02 am IST

With the deaths of 26 rebels in a police operation in Gadchiroli on Saturday, the proscribed Communist Party of India (Maoist) has faced yet another setback in its “protracted armed struggle” against the Indian state. Gadchiroli, a largely forested and tribal-dominated district, is among Maharashtra’s poorest and the Maoists have sought to expand their presence extending from neighbouring Chhattisgarh. There have been major encounters in the district, with recent ones involving the deaths of 40 Maoists in two separate operations in April 2018 and a landmine blast claiming 15 police personnel and a driver in May 2019. Gadchiroli remains one of the few districts “severely affected” by left-wing extremism. Despite suffering significant losses to its leadership either in military operations or due to physical infirmities and a shrinking of the areas of influence, the Maoists have refused to withdraw from their pursuit of armed struggle. In cycles of violence, they have managed their own strikes against security forces, but such attacks have not provided them any heft in expanding their presence or increasing their support base. The conflict has fallen into a pattern — violence begets violence as insurgents and the security forces continually lose combatants, but equally disturbing, this also affects the poor tribal people whose lives are caught in a prolonged crossfire.

The Maoists’ inability, not just to expand but also to entrench themselves, is to some extent to the credit of the Indian state apparatus, both its security establishment and its work, through development schemes, in weaning away support for the Maoists among the poorest and marginalised sections, especially in remote areas. At the same time, this is also a reflection of the incongruence of the Indian Maoists’ programme which bases itself on replicating the Chinese Revolution of the previous century, and its quixotic pursuit of armed struggle as the means to achieve its aims. Neither are the conditions in India remotely closer to that of China in the 1920s, nor are the peasantry — whose support the Maoists deem as crucial to their project — enamoured of the Maoist programme or its reliance on guerilla struggle. The Maoists’ refusal to acknowledge the diverse industrial base in the country, their rejection of liberal democratic instruments in the Indian state and the faith of the poor in the robust electoral system have blinded them to pursue a futile cause. Yet, despite the futility, the Maoists retain the capability to strike in isolated skirmishes. Maharashtra must not rest on its success in militarily diminishing the Maoist threat in Gadchiroli. It must act continually in winning over the support of tribals in the region and retaining their faith in the liberal democratic institutions of the state.

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