Naxalite Movement: Power To The Peasants

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It’s called the Red Corridor for the Maoist philosophy that defines this region but it also reflects the bloodshed and sheer loss of lives in Eastern, Central and Southern India dominated by Naxalite insurgency.

The Naxal movement began with a minor incident in Naxalbari, a village in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district. A tribal sharecropper was assaulted by the hirelings of a village landlord. In the conflict that followed, a policeman was killed.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh | Wikimedia Commons
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh | Wikimedia Commons

The next day, 25th May 1967, 11 people died in a clash between police and angry protesters. No one imagined that the Naxalbari incidents would ignite an insurrection that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh would later call the “greatest internal security threat to India”.

The Naxalite movement was aimed at an overthrow of the state and seizure of power through an armed struggle led by peasants. It influenced farmers, youth and students, and spread to West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, and some other states.

Some of the brightest university students joined the Naxalite movement in the hope of ushering in a revolution they thought would create a society based on equity and justice. Their hopes were dashed, many were killed and many others jailed.

Charu Majumdar | Wikimedia Commons
Charu Majumdar | Wikimedia Commons

At the centre of the movement was Charu Majumdar, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, who was born in Siliguri. He called upon communists to follow the Maoist path shown by Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Mao advocated an “annihilation of class enemy” to capture power.

Mao Zedong | Wikimedia Commons
Mao Zedong | Wikimedia Commons

In 1969, Majumdar joined forces with other communist leaders such as Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal. And the CPI (M) was even part of coalition governments in West Bengal till 1971. After that, the state govt launched a massive crackdown on the Naxalites.

Youth and students suspected of being part of the movement were killed and jailed, while peasants, tribals and agricultural labourers died in rural areas in many states, where they had taken up arms against landlords, who were exploiting them.

On 16th July 1972, Charu Majumdar was arrested in Calcutta. Twelve days later, he died in a police lock-up. His death led to fragmentation of the Naxalite movement, a failed revolution that still causes blood to be spilt and lives to be lost.

Cover Image: Telegraph India

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