Naxal movement is engaged in Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW). This war is waged by a blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians. If they have reached this stage, we have no one but our political leaders to blame as they have used Naxals for their political gains and shunned them when not required. Like Gahsiram Kotwal.
The modern-day guru of 4GW, William Lind, aptly observes that, “If nation states are going to survive, people in power must earn and keep the trust of the governed.” Addressing the American Council of Foreign Relations, he said, “the heart of Fourth Generation Warfare is a crisis of legitimacy of the state”. How true to the Indian model when he added that, “the establishment is no longer made up of ‘policy types’ – most of its important functionaries are placemen. Their expertise is in becoming and then remaining members of the establishment. Their reality is covert politics and not the competence or expertise. When the 4GW will visit them, their response would be to ‘close the shutters on the windows of Versailles’.”
This 4GW is complex and long term. It’s decentralised, small in size and lacks hierarchy. The strategy is to make a direct attack on the enemy’s (Indian state) culture, including genocidal acts against civilians, and wage a highly sophisticated psychological and cultural warfare, especially through media manipulation and lawfare. All available pressures are used – political, economic, social and military. For this purpose, legal professionals are required, media professionals are required, creative people, varied intellectuals and academicians are required, and civil society leaders are required, especially those who are connected with non-governmental organisations. It begins with low-intensity conflicts where actors attack from different platforms.
In 2004, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War, usually called People’s War Group (PWG), merged the Naxal Communist Centre of India (MCC) and formed Communist Party of India (Naxal), pledging to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. The party became a member of the Coordination Committee of Naxal Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA).
This new entity drafted five vision and strategy documents under an urban perspective plan – a blueprint for their urban movement and activities. It is believed that Gobad Ghandy, alias Rajan, who was arrested in September 2009 in New Delhi, played a major role in the preparation of this plan.
Of the five documents, ‘Strategy and Tactics’ and ‘Urban Perspective Document’ caught my attention. These documents take a long-term approach as they believe direct confrontation for quick results won’t help. The document admits that enemy is very strong in urban areas and, therefore, never to engage with the enemy until the conditions are favourable. And to make them favourable, it suggests exploring and opening of opportunities, organising people through frontal organisations, targeting the ‘vulnerable group’ of minorities, women, Dalits, labour and students through influencers who work undercover for a long time and accumulate strength. The document stresses on uniting industrial proletariats, the weak and students, and use them as vanguards who can play a direct role in the revolution.
The city becomes the money source, shelter for cadre as transit points, source of weaponry and legal protection, medical aid, media attention and intelligentsia network.
So, an invisible Naxal-intelligentsia-media-academia nexus works as strategic fortification with the ultimate aim of taking over the Indian state to achieve Naxal rule. They have identified Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad as the Golden Corridor, the Delhi-Kanpur-Patna-Kolkata as Ganga Corridor and KKT’s (Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) Chennai-Coimbatore-Bengaluru as tri-junction.
“Mass organizations are operating under the garb of human rights NGOs. These are manned by ideologues, including academicians and activists,” the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, detailing the new strategy of the Naxal movement.
The affidavit cites the ‘Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution’ document as a blueprint of the Naxal plan to seize political power. It states that one of the strategies adopted by Naxals is to mobilise certain targeted sections of the urban population through its mass organisations, which are otherwise known as ‘front organisations’. The MHA filed the affidavit in response to a notice issued by the Supreme Court on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by former Madhya Pradesh member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Kishore Samrite that the Naxal problem was spreading rapidly.
“The mass organizations mostly operating under the garb of human rights NGOs are organically linked to the CPI (Naxal) structure but maintain separate identities in an attempt to avoid legality,” the MHA affidavit says.
The affidavit further says such organisations pursue human-rights-related issues and are also adept at using legal processes to their benefit. According to the home ministry, ideologues and supporters of Naxals in cities and towns have undertaken a concerted and systematic propaganda against the state. “In fact, it is these ideologues who have kept the Naxal movement alive and are in many ways more dangerous than the cadres of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army,” the affidavit says.
The tactics employed are extremely effective and media-attention grabbing. These range from using aggressive agitations and propaganda provoking Dalits to take up arms to programmes on anti-capitalist policies to target controversies in history (e.g., Is this what Dr Ambedkar wanted in the Constitution?). They work with feminist groups, atheist groups, anti-superstition movements, intellectuals, students, labourers, slum groups, farmers, journalists, competitive exam centres and so on. They take up genuine issues with the aim not to solve them but to create unrest and anger against the system and make people believe in armed struggle. This is how the ‘vulnerable group’ unknowingly becomes their vanguard. Like I became, under the mentorship of my professors.
Naxal documents stress on building a strong base in cities, and mention three kinds of urban mass organisations: secret, open and semi-open, and legal, the last including cover organisations and affiliated activists. The forest-based rebellion survives mostly on what Naxal ideologue Varavara Rao calls the “movement in urban areas”. From the urban network comes logistics, moral and intellectual support and the ideological argument for violence. The network is in several cities, and sympathisers occupy prominent positions.
So far, the urban movement has served the Naxals in a number of ways. Take logistics support for example. In 2006, police seized empty rocket shells and rocket launchers in Mahabubnagar district, Andhra Pradesh. The kingpin, ‘Tech Madhu’, later surrendered to the police, which led to the detection of an elaborate network the Naxals had built to manufacture rocket parts and transport them to different parts of the country. The network originated in the industrial centre of Ambattur, a suburb of Chennai where these were fabricated in separate foundries and stealthily transported in private commercial carriers to different parts of the country. The network spread across five states: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
On many occasions, important top-level leaders of the CPI (Naxal) have been arrested from cities and towns, indicating that frontal organisations in cities are used as shelters.
The detection of Naxal activities in towns such as Surat, in Gujarat, clearly indicates that the Naxals are attempting to penetrate the urban-based working-class movement in the country. Besides, there have been reports of the detection of Naxal activities in Haryana –– in Jhind, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Sonepat, etc. A closer look at these areas reveals that these are industrial hubs. In Delhi, the Naxals have reportedly infiltrated the Delhi Safai Karmachari Sanghatan. In fact, according to a media report quoting unnamed intelligence officials, “The rebels, the sources add, have plans to strike in the industrial belts of Bhilai-Ranchi-Dhanbad-Calcutta and Mumbai-Pune-Surat-Ahmedabad to take their battle into the heart of India.”
Some instances of Naxal violence adversely affecting trade and economy are – damaging road construction machinery, shutting down and destroying bank branches, damaging railway lines, highways and telecom towers, thereby inhibiting communication and transport, and destruction of the pipeline for transporting iron ore slurry in Chhattisgarh. According to reports, “power and steel industry projects in Chhattisgarh with investments of the order of rupees one hundred and thirty billion were stagnated due to Naxalite disturbances.” All in all, it’s a very grim economic condition which affects all sectors of industry and all class of people. Micro-economic effects include lower tourist inflows, lower regional tourism market share, reduced usage of public transport, reduced long-term investments in agriculture and other potential sectors, reduced enrolment in schools, lower job availability and lack of substantial opportunities.
The urban movement has attracted students towards the Naxal fold in various parts of the country. In the 1980s, hordes of students from Kakatiya University and Regional Engineering College (now National Institute of Technology), Warangal, and Osmania University, Hyderabad, joined the then Progressive War cadres. Besides, according to one media report, “…security agencies believe that the front organizations have started vigorous movement in the education sector, to rope in students from several reputed colleges for their cause… [they] warned the [Nagpur] city police about these student-oriented revolutionary organizations. People working under banners with hints of revolution, like ‘sangharsh’ and ‘kranti’ are under the scanner”.
Following the arrest of Himadri Sen Roy, a very senior Naxal leader, and Somen alias Sumanand, West Bengal State Committee Secretary, near Kolkata, police claimed that, “the CPI (Naxal) has initiated a drive to spread its network in the city (Kolkata) and its outskirts and the outfit has brought some youths and students from premier educational institutions like Presidency College under its fold in the last two years.”
In Bengaluru, too, Naxal activities in colleges have been noticed. According to a media report, the police suspected that a group known as the Karnataka Communal Harmony Group (KCHG), a congregation of intellectuals and activists, is a Naxal front. Apparently, top police officials visited the famous Jesuit college – St Joseph’s – to investigate the involvement of students with the KCHG and the Naxals. In fact, in Karnataka, it was the urban movement that was stronger than the rural movement. Jawaharlal University, Hyderabad Central University, TISS, Allahabad University, IIT Madras and Jadavpur University are the citadels of urban Naxalism.
Moreover, if and when the urban movement catches on, the state will have to deal with industrial unrest and urban terrorism. Urbanisation itself has some faultiness and the Naxals could well exploit this to their advantage. Also, the stronger the movement becomes in the urban areas, the more it is likely to contribute to the agrarian revolution – in terms of providing leaders and men and material to the people’s war.
If the government of the day fails to come up with a counter strategy to arrest Naxalism immediately, it may, as planned, result in a bloody civil war.
(Vivek Agnihotri, the author, is an award-winning film-maker, writer and public speaker. He tweets at @vivekagnihotri. The article was first published on Swarajya.)