Maoists in Movement

What the government calls  left-wing extremism is not the only insurgency that makes the ruling elites sleepless. While the left-wing extremists, more popularly known as maoists, are challenging the state with a view to change the exploitative system, the non-maoist or non-marxist insurgencies, including religious jihadists, have a very narrow ideological outlook without any action programme to abolish social and economic injustice. For all practical purposes, terrorism in certain regions is now a way of life for thousands of the underprivileged who have no future. And the security authorities too don't want to eliminate all terror outfits completely. They have vested interests in keeping fear psychosis alive to silence voice of dissent. Not that all insurgents or militants are isolated from masses. It's not really the case for jihadists or separatists in Jammu and Kashmir. Whether the Sultans in Delhi admit it or not they enjoy popular support, so they are surviving. In truth without a minimum mass sympathy no insurgency can survive. Then without a rear it is next to impossible to cling to violent campaign for long. Nepali maoists had to finally make a compromise because of their poor military logistics and absence of rear. If jihadi separatists continue to brave all odds in Jammu and Kashmir despite massive state repression it is because they have a solid rear in Pakistan. Dozens of ethnicity-based insurgencies in North East have a kind of fluid rear base in Burma's volatile border region. For the maoists in central India what matters most is base area or semi-liberated zone where maoists have some sort of manoeuvrability because of the dual power syndrome. That maoists are still isolated from broad masses, particularly urban masses, is their major weakness that stands in the way of steady expansion. After all India in the 21st century doesn't live in jungles. With state military operations mounting maoists now desperately need to break the stalemate by way of expansion, both vertically and horizontally. And of late they are trying to expand their traditional areas of influence though it hardly gets focused in the media.

For over a year, maoists operating in Chattisgarh state, have been largely confined to the Bastar region in the south. They are now attempting to create an entirely new zone, along the western border of the state. New areas cover forested pockets in districts such as Blaghat in Madhya Pradesh, Gondia in Maharashtra, and districts Rajnandgaon, Kabirdham and Mungheli in Chattisgarh. New area MMC zone (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh confluence) is similar to the Dandakaranya Special Zone in Bastar. To win over villagers, the maoist leadership is highlighting specific issues such as land, differential pricing of bamboo in different states, and even demonetisation. The new zone of operations marks the first expansion by maoists in the region, in at least eight and half years. A small division of maoists in the region, called the GRB (Gondia, Rajnandgaon, Balaghat) with about 20 to 30 members has merged with the team from Bastar, creating a cadre strength of 80. Two new maoist platoons numbered 2 and 3, are in the charge of expansion. Exchange of fire between the security forces and maoists of MMC zone in Chattisgarh has been restricted to northern Rjnandgaon. For one thing Rajnandgaon once used to hit the headlines because of Shankar Guha Niyogi’s unique trade union movement of ‘struggle and construction’.

Meanwhile maoist cadres up to the level of divisional commander have been allowed the use of mobile phones, and tablets for easy access to reading materials in the MMC zone. Guidelines issued earlier by the maoist leadership include not to carry mobile phones with SIM cards, not to access websites on the radar of intelligence agencies, not to store important documents in memory cards, and not to tap WhatsApp are now being used by maoists, to spread information about the party in the maoist controlled areas. Maoist propaganda is being conducted through pamphlets, posters, mobile phones and WhatsApp. Electronic devices are to be attached to an updated computer, and scanned for viruses, every six months. After an exchange of fire the maoists have to leave their camps in a hurry, leaving materials behind. While there are connectivity blackout areas deep inside the forests of Rajnandgaon and Kabirdham, the mobile networks in MMC zone are better than in Bastar.

If the maoists cannot move forward in the face of massive combing operation, they will have to retreat—there is no middle path. And the maoists for the time being seem to have decided to move forward.

Vol. 50, No.17, Oct 29 - Nov 4, 2017