From Second Wave – Gujarat Naxalite

Red Alert: Is Gujarat Naxalite-proof?

Maoists have been under pressure in their ‘Red Corridor’, a swath that ranges from India’s border with Nepal, snakes through central and eastern jungles of India, and touches the northern fringes of Tamil Nadu. Indeed, their territory in tribal lands has been shrinking since 2008 — in states such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and West Bengal. Maoists, therefore, have been desperately searching for newer grounds. They are attempting to cast their net in the rich industrial corridors and urban centres of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi, and Tamil Nadu.

In February 2008, Maoists set up a committee to target the ‘Golden Corridor’, which in their eyes spans the space between Ahmedabad and Pune. Suspicions of such an outreach became stronger when on August 8, Gujarat Police arrested a former central committee member of the CPI (Maoist), Tushar Kanti Bhattacharya. Since 1998, some 26 alleged members of CPI (Maoist) and operatives of the erstwhile People’s War Group (PWG) — or Naxalites — have been arrested in Gujarat from Ahmedabad, Valsad, Kutch, Banaskantha, Vadodara, Navsari, Surat, and Dang. In 2010 alone, Surat Police and Ahmedabad Police made some 17 arrests. But in most cases, police could not gather credible evidence and the arrested persons were let off on bail.

However, the Naxalites’ Gujarat ambition is borne out by a 53-page document called “CPI (Maoist) Urban Perspectives: Our Work in Urban Areas”. Naxalite ideologues speak of the necessity of the Ahmedabad-Surat to Pune corridor. This ‘Golden Corridor’ plan was overseen by a committee headed by Kobad Gandhy and Angelo Sontakke. They were arrested in 2009. The plan mooted a ready base in ‘the urban exploited classes’.

The document said a base could be built by sections such as underpaid teachers, students who have no access to quality education, underpaid government employees, evicted hawkers, and autorickshaw drivers. Organizing labour in industrial estates of Gujarat was a vital part of the plan. The document also said: “We will build a broad, united front of all secular forces and persecuted religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs against the Hindu fascist forces.”

Gujarat tribals have been on the Naxalites’ cadre-hunting radar earlier. Such attempts have been recorded in 1992 and 1998. Then in 2013, intelligence reports to the ministry of home affairs pointed to alleged Naxalite-affiliated organizations such as the Gujarat Working Class Wing, Krantikari Kamdar Sangathan, and Naujawan Bharat Sabha. The rationale for such organizations is outlined in “Urban Perspectives”: “The growth of a number of mega cities and the sharper division of the cities into rich and poor sections, hold the possibility of urban military operations.”

So how vulnerable is Gujarat to Naxalite infiltration?

“Maoism as an ideology can take root anywhere,” said Jean Dreze, an Indian development economist, who was a member of the National Advisory Council in the UPA era. “But armed struggle does not seem to spread easily beyond forests and other areas where the terrain is favourable to underground squads.”

The executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management, Ajai Sahni, said that Maoists cannot proliferate in Gujarat where there is a reasonably established state apparatus. “Also, a large number of Gujarat tribals temporarily migrate to work for factories or at construction sites,” he said. “They even take jobs in areas such as the service sector and agriculture which leaves little scope for Maoists to establish themselves.”

Bappaditya Paul, a Kolkata journalist and the official biographer of Kanu Sanyal — “The First Naxal” — said: “The Naxalite movement began in West Bengal, with indigenous farmers struggling to protect agriculture which was their sole livelihood.” Paul went on to say: “In Gujarat, industrialization is the major source of livelihood and involves large-scale migration. This leaves little or no scope for aggressive protests.” P V Ramana, a research fellow at the Indian Defence Strategic and Analysis, told TOI: “Such ideologies do not appeal to the newer generation of tribal youth in Gujarat or to the working class.”

Sahni said: “Today, there is no land-labour capital economy on which Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism were based.” A Gujarat-based cultural activist, Hiren Gandhi, said: “Since 2010, 20 human rights activists were arrested in Gujarat, falsely labelled as Naxalites.” He said Mahatma Gandhi fostered Majoor Mahajan Sangh in Gujarat to solve labour disputes in the spirit of trusteeship. “An armed revolution can’t happen here,” he said.

“Still, civil rights organizations are targeted.” Avinash Kulkarni, a tribal activist in Dang was among the 17 arrested in 2010. “I have been helping tribal families claim their forest rights since 1993,” he said.

50 th anniversary Naxalbari – video youtube


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