The security forces gunned down 16 alleged members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on Sunday. The rebels were killed in an intelligence-based operation in Kasansur area of the district bordering Chhattisgarh.
What is naxalism?
Naxals or Naxalites (or Maoists) are terms used to refer to militants who believe in the ideology of Communism (or Maoism) and operate in various parts of India, mostly in those having large forest cover. The term “Naxalite” or “Naxals” comes from the village named “Naxalbari” which is in West Bengal (Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district), which is where a violent uprising of laborers was organized by a section of the then Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) under the leadership of mostly three people: Kanu Sanyal, Charu Mazumdar and Jangal Santhal. This uprising took place in the year 1967.
Reasons for naxalism
The reason why this particular uprising started, is of course hardly discussed or looked at among Indian politicians or even the other organs of the Indian state, be it the police (especially in West Bengal) or among the Congress party or rulers who then ruled the state. The violent uprising though was not against the Indian state.
Because of the Permanent Settlement revenue system introduced by the Britishers once the East India Company established its rule in West Bengal, a large number of zamindars/landlords were created who owned large tracts of land but were hardly involved in cultivation of crops and agricultural activities themselves. They instead employed a large number of laborers and also tenant farmers/sharecroppers (i.e. people who didn’t own your land but who would organize agricultural activity on your land, in lieu of which he/she will get a part of the total produce).
The sharecroppers would in turn employ agricultural laborers in many cases, who would be paid a pittance because in most cases the sharecropper would hardly get much of the total agricultural produce from the land, and whose own tenure was not secure. Moreover, the sharecropper could be evicted at any moment from the land, because he/she did not own the land. This happened both under the Britishers and continued once India became independent using the loophole present in the Land Reforms Act of India (1955), which stated that sharecroppers had permanent use rights on land leased out to them under certain conditions, but these rights could not be claimed if the landlord wanted to take the land back for personal cultivation. Using this route, many landlords used to evict sharecroppers/tenant farmers regularly and keep them on a leash, with the local administration working to the benefit of the landlords themselves.
The Naxalbari violent uprising was thus directed at ensuring land reforms, which in simple terms, meant re-distribution of agricultural land equally among all those engaged in agricultural production, particularly among the landless (both sharecroppers and also agricultural laborers), since land was seen as the basis of wealth of the zamindars who in most cases were absentee landlords-cum-goondas who controlled the local machinery of the state (local administration and also local police).
One should also try and read on the conditions under which the local people (and a substantial section among them were tribals) functioned as laborers and sharecroppers. There were regular complaints of women being molested and even raped by landlords or relatives/family members of landlords.
(Adapted from The Hindu and quora.com)