The Curious Cases Of ‘Recruitment’ In Naxalism

The Curious Cases Of ‘Recruitment’ In Naxalism

While once Naxalism attracted those who felt discriminated against by the state, today new recruits are joining the cadres not for any ideological or economic reason, but to settle personal scores. 

Over a period of time the Naxal movement has gone through different phases— from establishing its links to different parts of the country, spreading its geographical reach, to modifying its modus-operandi.

There are also allegations that the movement lacks the initial ‘legitimacy’ and is mired in corruption with the members working for vested interests. However, there is yet another change that the movement is struggling with or rather adapting itself to.

And the change is the plethora of reasons for which the movement has become attractive to some of its recruits. Strangely none of these have anything to do with politics! This article will attempt to find out those reasons that are pushing people to join Naxalism without even understanding what it is all about.

There is no doubt in the assertion that the movement represented the voices of the voiceless and gave power to the powerless. Consequently the underprivileged and the marginalised section of the society, mostly from the tribals residing in the forests of India found this medium of protest to be suitable to place their demands.

With the economic liberalisation of 1990’s the movement faced resurgence due to the excessive demand for land, minerals, natural resources and raw materials. Interestingly the forests of India became easy prey to the rising need of the ever growing commercial ventures in India. It is at this juncture that the Naxalites found it to be a healthy breeding ground for the rising cadres of the movement. The incessant rise in displacement among the tribals due to land occupation and demand for natural resources led to increasing dissatisfaction. This section of the society whose voice was systematically obliterated and conveniently ignored by the political class of India whole heartedly supported the movement.

One of the most consistent reasons that have amplified the cadre strength of the Naxalites has been the state apathy towards the fulfilment of basic demands of the tribals (who constitute the majority of the force). It, therefore, became very easy for the Naxals to legitimise their existence by pointing out the indifference of the state and simultaneously establish themselves as their saviour.

The recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reveals that despite much effort to improve the connectivity in the Naxal dominated areas only 31% of the undertaken work has finished in five years. This speaks volume of the regular push to join the movement in these areas mainly inhabited by the poorest of the poor. Another very common reason is the police atrocities. The vicious circle of poverty-naxalism-police torture drove many poor to take the path of the movement to protect from further sufferings.

Violence begets violence says the popular adage. And therefore funding private militias to deal with the Naxal problem has resulted in people getting further disillusioned by the treatment of the state towards them.

The rise of private militias, however, is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on since the 1980’s. Groups like Ranvir Sena, Sunlight Sena, Bhoomi Sena and the more recent Salwa Judum have collectively ensured the multiplication of cadre strength through their systematic and structural violence meted to the powerless with covert support from the government.

However strangely, over a period of time the genuine causes were supplanted by trivial reasons which led to the gradual increase of the cadre strength of the movement. There have been instances of would-be cadres taking up arms to avenge the insult meted out to family members or oneself or to the community by the members of the other community or by family members themselves.

During interrogation Chandeshwar, a Naxalite recently caught by Delhi police special cell from Kapashera area, revealed that he had joined the outfit to avenge the insult meted out to him by his uncle.

As far as the women are concerned securing their dignity or taking revenge after losing it turn out to be one of the major reasons behind their being part of Naxal outfits.

Although, there are also reasons like them being scolded by parents which pushed them towards the movement. Many women have found safe haven among the Maoist ranks to escape from the undesirable marriage proposals fixed by their parents.

However, this is not to suggest that women cadres within the Maoist rank feel safe. They have repeatedly been subjected to physical abuse that has caused many of the female cadres to surrender.

Children, for that matter, are mainly recruited by force. Threats of dire consequences like the killing of their family members have consistently provided strength to the Bal Sanghathan. In Parthari village of Lohardaga district of Jharkhand, recruiting children is one of the main objectives of the Naxals. Quarrels among children are conveniently exploited by the Maoists by handing over guns and ammunition as a symbol of power and invincibility which these young minds readily accept.

It is not to suggest that reasons like poverty or police torture are trivial issues. The point is to suggest that people suffering from these causes had no intention of joining the movement unless these personal causes came their way. They needed to be part of the victim lot to be inspired enough to support the Naxals or rather take up arms. The question that one needs to ponder is if the movement is losing its vital touch by being over-inclusive. Intentions of the leaders who are exploiting the weakness of the system to extend its influence and thereby ensuring its survival also need some introspection.

Although some of the top leaders are politically inspired, the same reasons seem to be absent when it comes to their recruits in the lower cadres. No wonder the movement is losing its credibility among the intellectual class who had in the 1960’s voluntarily joined hands.

Suparna Banerjee is Senior Research Fellow, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme at National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore.
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