President Pranab Mukherjee in his first address in the Central Hall of Parliament after the NDA Government took over in 2014 said a very important thing:
"A national plan will be chalked out in consultation with the state governments to effectively curb incidents of communal violence and the challenges posed by Left wing extremism."
This was the first time Left wing extremism has been officially called by its actual name on such a grand scale and not the highly misleading term of 'Naxalism'. Naxalism comes from events related to Naxalbari in 1967. Left wing extremism began immediately after Independence and is not confined to the State of West Bengal.
Its roots go back to the appointment of BT Ranadive as CPI General Secretary in February 1948. Ranadive never accepted the transfer of power from the British to the Congress. He called for developing a revolutionary wave within the country.
At a party meeting it was officially said that Independent India was nothing but a 'semi-colony of British imperialism' and violence was the answer.
Ranadive called Congress leaders the enemy and wanted to remove the Central government and grab power. That is how an armed struggle mushroomed the Telangana region. Such Left wing extremism also took place in Tripura and the then State of Travancore.
It was called the 'Calcutta Thesis' and at its height violence raged in 40,000 square kilometres encompassing 3000 villages which were involved in the Telangana Rebellion.
The truth is that is when Left wing extremism began. Not in Naxalbari in 1967. While both the CPI and much later the CPM junked the Ranadive stand and decided to grab power via the elections route, it cannot be denied that Left wing extremism has its roots in the Left political movement.
Of course the 1967 Naxal movement was violent and brutal. The irony is that the ideological base of that movement was none other than the Chinese mass murderer Mao Zedong. It has been estimated that up to 70 million Chinese may have died thanks to Mao's political and agricultural policies.
The problem was compounded by the Congress unleashing their own reign of terror making martyrs out of the Naxalites. As a result, the CPM ruled West Bengal from 1977-2011 and the Congress still finds itself shut out of the State.
However West Bengal could never shed its violent past and things continue to be grim even today. First we had Congress-CPM clashes. Then we had CPM-Trinamool clashes. Now we are seeing Trinamool-BJP clashes.
There is another movement called Maoism that began in 2004. They like the Naxalites are armed rebels. The problem is that the Left wing violence from 1947-67 was buried under the carpet and post-1967 called Naxalism and the latest called Maoism.
That is how the whole issue was obfuscated and Left intellectuals presented all the violence as sporadic and in isolated pockets only. The truth is that Left wing extremism has been raging unabated from 1947-2014 and is present throughout the country.
Further we have tens of thousands of armed rebels who have killed thousands and thousands of opponents who include innocent citizens, government officials and security forces.
The irony is that all Left intellectuals, historians, editors, NGOs, liberals and seculars turn a total blind eye to Left wing extremism but virulently go after anything that is even mildly Right.
A case in the point is the highly misplaced Arundhati Roy who sees absolutely nothing good in the Right movement but alarmingly calls Naxalites as 'Gandhians with guns'.
Her message is that if the Right even strongly asks for their rights then they are Fascists and even if Naxalites kill in large numbers then they are still Gandhis. The entire Left space by and large agrees with her.
It is high time we stop using misleading terms like Naxalism and Maoism and call it for what it is: Left wing extremism. It can be argued further that it can even be called Left wing terrorism. We can no longer brush under the carpet that the violence began when the CPI officially called for a rebellion against the Government of India after Independence.
Identifying a problem correctly and giving it the correct nomenclature is the extremely small first step towards solving the problem and it is highly commendable that the Government of India has called a spade a spade.Image:
Members of a special tactical unit, including personnel of the Special Operation Group (SOG) skilled for anti-naxal operation, display their skills during a demonstration in Bhubaneswar. The special tactical unit force has been created to combat terrorist activities in urban areas. (AFP)
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.