It is time that there is a wider realisation that Maoism or Naxalism in India is a proxy war by China being waged against India for the last five decades.
The expansion of the international communist movement suffered a great setback after the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s, as also due to the Vietnam war. This spawned ultra-leftist groups and movements in many parts of the world. They were aided and abetted by China in a manner that the deniability factor could be maintained. When the Naxals launched ‘Spring Thunder’ in Naxalbari, the Chinese Community Party mouthpiece wrote in an editorial comment in 1967, “A peal of a Spring Thunder has crashed over the land of India.” The editorial offered moral support from the highest level of China.
The Sino-India war had reverberations on the Indian communist movement, wherein a very strong section of the movement took a pro-Chinese position on the plea that the conflict was between a socialist and a capitalist state. There emerged three groups in the Communist Party i.e. the nationalists, the centrists, and the internationalists. A sizeable segment of the movement rejected Deng’s ‘capitalism in China’. This explains the reason for the current animosity between the two. Nevertheless, there is one thing common between them, i.e. total subservience to China. It is for this reason that there is never a whimper of condemnation for any omissions and commissions by China. To them China is infallible.
Over the period, the ultra-leftist movement has engendered many splinter groups, some more extremist than the other. In the past, some of these groups have been involved in vicious internecine conflicts. It was only in 2004 that CPI (Maoists) was formed after the merger of CPI (ML) People’s War Group and Maoist Communist Center (MCC).
Thus, when it comes to find a solution to the ultra-left imbroglio, who does the Government of India talk to? These parties seem to have a propensity to split on the flimsiest grounds and one or other group will never accept the terms of a peace process and therefore violence continues.
A senior ex-official of the Intelligence Bureau, Maloy Krishna Dhar, wrote in the Nepal Monitor on November 2009, “I have highlighted the facts of existence of Maoists groups in the North-east and Bangladesh as well as Nepal to emphasise the fact that sophisticated weapons are inducted by Indian Maoists from Chinese arms peddling mafia through Maoists in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. The Bangladesh based Maoist parties, mostly active in the western part of the country are in cahoots with Indian Maoists.” He further added that arms of Chinese origin are inducted by the sea route from Haldia, Kasaba Naraingarh (Midnapur) area to areas like Khantpara and Baripada.
The present Home Secretary, GK Pillai maintains, “Chinese are large suppliers of small arms and I am sure the Maoists get it from them.” In 2004, 10 truck loads of light and medium machineguns as also huge quantity of ammunition was seized at Chittagong port in Bangladesh. One of the senior officers of the National Security Intelligence of Bangladesh on interrogation has revealed that the entire consignments of arms were procured from China. He also said that ULFA and NSCN (IM) leaders visit Kunming in China to procure arms, which is also supplied to the Maoists in Nepal and India.
The anti-India and pro-China leanings of the Indian Maoists is evidenced by a press release (5 May 2009) of the CPI (Maoist) Central Committee on developments in Nepal: “US imperialism and Indian expansionism are particularly perturbed over the growing influence of China over the region, consolidation of China’s grip over Sri Lanka, and fear that the government in Nepal is moving closer to China. And it is this fear which is common to both India and the US that has pushed these powers to oust the government led by Maoists in a bid to install a regime loyal to them. …it, (Indian Maoists), pledges all support to the Maoists in Nepal in their fight against Indian expansionism.”
The Maoist leader Kishanji has gone on record to say: “The Islamic upsurge should not be opposed as it is basically anti-US and anti-imperilistic in nature. We therefore want it to grow.”
The Maoist movement in India, therefore, is not homegrown. It is a ideological movement to capture Indian territory and overthrow the present parliamentary system of democracy. It is for this reason that they label their movement as ‘war’, their hostages as ‘Prisoners of War’, and the areas where they hold complete sway as ‘liberated zones’. A Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Mohammad Omar Madni, now in custody, has revealed that the LeT was acting in coordination with the CPI (M) in Jharkhand. This was reported by the Times of India on 9 June 2009.
On 2 October 2009, a senior Maoist leader Srinivasan categorically stated on Lemon TV about the linkage of the Maoists in India with China. In the same month, the Foreign Minister of Nepal Ms Sujata Koirala stated that the Maoists in India were receiving arms and aid from China through the Maoists in Nepal. Another Maoist leader has spoken about the Indian Maoists receiving training in the Yunan province of China through the aegis of ULFA. There are 10 China Study Centres in Nepal, five of which are in Terai along the India-Nepal border. These centres serve as conduits, facilitation nodes and indoctrination centres for the Indian Maoists.
This is not the first time that the Maoist movement has threatened the integrity of the country. The Naxalbari movement grew rapidly between 1969 and 1971. In 1971 the war clouds were hovering over India and India’s eastern theatre had become strategically sensitive. Given the China-Pakistan strategic partnership and China-Naxalite links, Mrs Indira Gandhi realised the need to tackle the Naxals immediately and with a firm hand. She announced in Parliament that Naxalites will be fought to the finish. Accordingly, Operation Steeplechase was launched from July to August 1971 by the army, police in West Bengal and bordering districts of Bihar and Orissa.
The focus of the Maoist leadership on the tribal regions, as has emerged from the interrogation of arrested Maoist leaders, is because they constitute the mineral heartland of India. By destructing mineral activity in that area, they intend to target India’s economic growth.
China operates at various levels and exploits those organisations which are best suited for a particular environment. Some parties which are overt faces of the Maoists and are in electoral politics, like the CPI (ML), become active during this period. During the monarchy, when the Maoist insurgency in Nepal was at its peak, China kept denouncing the Maoists, and maintained that the Maoists were misusing the name of Mao, but once the Maoists formed the government, the links were exposed. Against the established practice, when Prachanda became PM, the first country he visited was China. He flew to Beijing in response to an invitation by premier Wen Jiabao ostensibly to attend closing ceremony of Olympic Games. The five day trip had all the trappings of an official visit. Had the Maoist government in Nepal continued, a Nepal-China Friendship Treaty on the lines of Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950 would have been a reality.
For an enduring solution, the imperative is to root out the problem in a manner that it does not raise its head again, and China does not succeed in fragmenting India into 20 or 24 parts, as one Chinese scholar recently threatened. It is time that the fact that Maoists are the proxy soldiers of China is accepted and that, in an event of an India-China military standoff, they would act as fifth columnists.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views either of the Editorial Committee or the Centre for Land Warfare Studies).