Exactly 40 years ago, on May 24th, 1967, landless labourers in the remote West Bengal village of Naxalbari rose in arms against feudal landlords oppressing them. They were guided by Charu Majumdar, then a CPI(M) leader and the father of Naxalism , the name given to India's extreme left wing movement, borrowed from the village where it began. 'Chairman Mao is our Chairman' was their slogan. The movement soon spread to other regions where the mainstream Communist parties were traditionally strong like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The Naxalites organised acts of violence against security forces and the feudal classes and their ultimate aim was to destroy the State.
Innocents being easy targets quickly fell prey to Naxalite weapons. This violence caused widespread revulsion and it was used by the Indian State to crush the movement with all its might. Means, not necessarily fair were taken recourse to by the State. This was aided by ideological splits within the Naxalite movement as to how the Indian Revolution should be conducted. The Naxalites were fragmented and by the mid-seventies their resistance crumbled under the force of counter-attack by the State . The movement did leave its mark on literature, art, polemics ,and political discourse. Many intelligent young men and women were attracted to it.
In recent years, Naxalites overcame their differences and various factions like the People's War Group, Maoist Co-ordination Centre and CPI(ML) Red Flag have united under one banner and one leadership. This, aided by the increasingly fragile internal and external situation have led to a resurgence of left extremism in India. The Government today considers it the biggest threat to India's internal security. The Government has admitted the existence of a 'Red Corridor' in India starting from Pashpuati in Nepal to Tirupati in India. The LTTE and Islamic terrorist groups are supposed to have contact with them. Their writ runs in many inaccessible parts of the Corridor.
Left extremist ideology of the Naxalites has a romantic touch associated with jungles and the chase, but it is one of the most reactionary and orthodox thought forms. Individual liberty is scarcely respected and dissent prohibited. Winds of change, influenced by human freedom, democracy and developments in technology is accepted by most Communist parties the world over who now strive to be part of the democratic mainstream. The collapse of the Soviet experiment, the economic and social reforms adopted by the Chinese Communist party and the changes in Eastern Europe have not convinced the Naxalites that an Indian Revolution is an impossibility. A civilisation, one of the oldest in the world, which has withstood the shocks and upheavals of thousands of years, has the strength and the resilence to bear and outlive Naxalism. India of the Buddha and the Chaitanya is not a land fertile for revolution. History will judge it a wise option if the Naxalites decide to end their self-imposed isolation and guerilla warfare and enter the democratic mainstream for Indian society will definitely accord a honourable place to them.