Maoist Mass Organisations and Mass Movement

April 23, 2010
Event: 
Fellows' Seminar
Type: 
Only by Invitation
Time: 
1030 to 1300 hrs

Chairperson: Brig. (Retd.) Rumel Dahiya, SM
Discussants: J N Roy and W Chandrakanth
Internal Discussants: Dr. Rajiv Nayan and Dr. Nihar Nayak

According to Dr. P.V. Ramana, in order to succeed in its revolutionary agenda of the armed overthrow of the state, a Communist group requires three magic weapons – strong Party, strong Army and United Front. The last of these involves the ‘mobilization of people’. His paper focuses exclusively on Maoist Mass Organisations or Front Organisations.

The author explains that the Maoists have several mass organisations, at the State level as well as at the All India level (AIMOS), which are primarily of three types: 1) Underground Revolutionary: these are built clandestinely and conduct secret propaganda. 2) Open or semi-open Revolutionary: these directly serve the people’s war as long as there is room for undertaking open revolutionary activities. 3) Mass organisations not directly linked to CPI (Maoist): these are broad-based, not directly linked to the Maoist parent outfit, and function under cover with a limited set of activities as its mandate. This type can be further subdivided into three broad categories: (a) fractional work, (b) party-formed cover organisations, and (c) legal democratic organisations.

Dr. Ramana elucidates the utilities of Mass Organisations for the Maoists as: One, they spread the ideology of the outfit among the people in the areas of their operation. Two, they serve as a recruiting base, or catchments, for the underground. Three, to watch for the future leadership of the outfit emerge from among the ranks of the Mass Organisations. He quotes the example of Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji and Naveen who were leaders of the Radical Students Union in Andhra Pradesh and Delhi, respectively. Four, members of Mass Organisations are drafted into the ‘people’s militia’, or the Base Force. Five, Mass Organisations would enable the Maoists to be ‘heard and seen.’

Dr. Ramana asserts that the availability of a large number of people as members of mass organisations has enabled the Maoists to create vast numbers of cadres for the people’s militia in the rural and tribal hinterland, who have participated in all the large-scale synchronized attacks on multiple targets in different parts of the country in Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal, beginning with the Koraput raid of February 6, 2004, and acquired a new proficiency and vigour in the Jehanabad Jail Break in Bihar on November 13, 2005.

Dr. Ramana points out that the entire work of the Mass Organisations is guided and supervised by a committee appointed by the apex and all-powerful Central Committee. This committee is known as the Sub Committee on Mass Organisations (SUCOMO), formed for the first time in 2001. The purpose of SUCOMO is to provide direction on the issues that need to be taken-up by the Mass Organisations and to provide coordination at the all-India level for State-level Mass Organisations and All India Mass Organisations (AIMOs).

In the next section of the paper, the author cites two cases from Andhra Pradesh where Mass Organisations got defunct after being quite active and popular for a while.

Highlighting the case of Singareni Karmika Samkhya (SIKASA), the author mentions that SIKASA took up various issues that mattered for the people dependent upon the Singareni Collieries. These included mine safety, better working conditions and wages, exploitation of miners, rampant alcoholism, goondaism and exploitation by contractors. To implement its directives, the tool it used was “terror”. However, towards the latter half of the 1990s, the downfall of SIKASA commenced. The reasons included: the collieries accumulated losses of Rs. 1,250 crore and was referred to the BFIR; severe police crackdown commenced; and liberalisation policies came into force.

Highlighting the case of the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union (APRSU), Dr. Ramana mentions that in the initial years APRSU went through a prolonged debate on whether its mandate should be to limit itself to addressing students’ problems alone, or to make it a part of the New Democratic Revolution and help build and lead the agrarian revolution in the villages. The latter view prevailed. The various issues taken-up by APRSU during the period of its active functioning, either when it was underground or worked openly, included: opposing detention system in schools, better facilities in welfare hostels, scholarships for students, reservation for the underprivileged in educational institutions, Karamchedu dalit massacre by upper caste landlords, opposing New Education Policy, protest marches against alleged fake encounters, etc.

Nevertheless, towards the beginning of the mid-1990s, the downfall of APRSU commenced and now it is defunct. While the leadership loss contributed significantly to the slow demise of the APRSU, new ‘economic opportunities’ which threw open several avenues for the angry youth also played an important role in failing to attract students towards the Maoist-fold.

According to Dr. Ramana, among all the states in the country, Mass organisations are most active and vibrant in the Bastar region in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. In the Dandakaranya region the Mass Organisations in operation are:

DAKMS: The organisation started its activities in 1981 in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. A person who is at least 16 years of age and is a resident of the village is eligible to become a member of the particular village unit of DAKMS. However, landlords, lumpen elements and those suspected to be linked to the police are not granted membership of the unit. The objective in forming DAKMS was to protect the self-respect of the tribal (adivasi) populace, declare Dandakaranya as a ‘liberated area’, prevent religious conversions, fight for the rights of the tribal populace over the land, fight against privatization and the entry of multi-national corporations (MNCs), to fight for better wages and working conditions of the labour involved in collecting kendu leaf (similar to beedi leaf), bamboo fellers, and so on.

KAMS: It is one of the most active mass organisations that operates in the Dandakaranya region and fights for the rights of tribal women. All women who are above 16 years of age are eligible to become members of the village unit in which they are resident.

AKCS: It was founded in 1997 to fight for the rights of students and for solving their problems. Some of the issues taken-up by the organisation included effective implementation of mid-day meal scheme in schools, provide text books free of cost, grant scholarships, etc.

KABS: It was founded in 1998, in the Konta and Basuguda areas of Dantewada district (South Bastar). All children between the ages of five and 15 are eligible to become members of KABS. The underlying motive behind forming this organisation seems to be ‘to catch them young’.

Dr. Ramana concluded his presentation by assessing that on a broader national scale, the Maoists do not have a ‘mass base’, contrary to the impression that is created, which is essentially because recurring and frequent acts of ‘violence’ widely dispersed in different parts of the country attract publicity and visibility. The author, nevertheless, warns that it should be noted with concern that even the miniscule support they had built over the years has sufficient ‘nuisance value’ for the Indian state.

Discussion

  1. The Maoist movement has tapped into the deep and dangerous undercurrent of alienation, misery and rage amongst millions of people who have been failed by the economic, social and political system.
  2. In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to the Naxalites as the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country. But nothing has been done so far to seriously address the concern.
  3. The author’s end assessment that “on a broader national scale the Maoists do not have a mass base” needs further discussion. India now has 223 districts across 20 states that are affected by Maoist activities. This shows that the Maoist potential to penetrate other states, which had hitherto remained outside their grasp, has evolved enormously.
  4. Bad governance, lethargic and corrupt administration, inefficient police, and illiteracy among rural populations will ensure that the Maoists keep receiving fresh recruits.
  5. Inconsistent public postures of the top central and state leadership shows that even a basic consensual assessment of the Maoist threat is lacking. More detailed assessment at the end together with recommendations, including alternative courses of action, ought to be added to the paper.
  6. It is time to recognise that the Maoist movement has grown in the tribal areas because there is a new consciousness among the tribal people about their rights over their resources.
  7. Study of Maoists’ linkages to unorganized weapon markets of India, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh would be useful.
  8. The decline of labour union power in the country has shored up Maoist support.
  9. Maoists can be countered only through a coherent and well thought out strategy.

Report prepared by Dr. Imtiyaz Majid, Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi