Understanding The Maoist Challenge In India (Part 1)

Sandeep Kumar Dubey

Oct 16, 2015, 05:10 PM | Updated Feb 24, 2016, 04:26 PM IST

One of the gravest security threats India faces is the menace known as Maoism more popularly called Naxalism.  This is the first part of a series which will describe the Maoist menace India faces staring from its inception. 

Maoist movement in India has a long history of about 40 years and still continues in a more organised and deadly way. The movement in India derives its ideological legitimacy from the ‘integrated’ Marxism-Leninism-Maoism which bases itself for scientific validity on the Theory of Contradiction. The Theory is also paraphrased as law of the unity of opposites. Mao defines it as the basic law of materialistic dialectics. The Theory states contradictions are everywhere: between proletariat and bourgeois; between labour and capital; between feudalism and common masses. Contradictions surface from the ‘concrete analysis of concrete conditions’ on grounds.

Maoists claim that in India, there are four major contradictions they have found after the ‘concrete analyses’. These are as follows: the contradiction between imperialism and the Indian people; the contradiction between feudalism and the broad masses; the contradiction between capital and labour, and the internal contradiction among the ruling classes. Maoists find the last two as principle contradictions which helps in class struggle through antagonism.

Now the question arises as to how the Maoists think to resolve these contradictions. According to one of their founding documents, entitled Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution, the contradictions can be resolved only through the New Democratic Revolution (NDR). To usher in the NDR, the Maoists aim at overthrowing the Indian state through armed struggle to capture the political power. The NDR will lead to socialism and further to communism, they claim. To introduce the so-called revolution, Maoists rely on armed agrarian revolution and three magic weapons—party of the proletariat, people’s army and revolutionary united front. This gives a synoptic view of the ‘algorithm’ to reach the stage of communism.

Quest for Proletariat’s Party

Although there have been some gory attempts of the Maoist type to carry out the communist revolution in India even before India’s independence in 1947, the party of the proletariat for the first time was formed in 1969 as Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI (ML) under the leadership of Charu Mazumdar. Let’s attempt to sketch a brief history of the quest for a proletariat party and trace its trajectory.

Birth of Communist Party of India or CPI

The history of the communist party in India goes way back to 1920s. The Indian Communists met in Tashkent in 1920 and tried to form an Indian communist party. On December 26, 1925, the Communist Party of India or CPI was formed at a conference in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The ideal of the Party was to introduce a communist revolution in India. In fact, in 1946, they (the CPI) succeeded to some extent in mobilizing the people, on the principle of armed struggle, in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh. The armed struggle continued for almost five years or so. This movement is known as Telangana Uprising (1946-51).

Almost on the same ideological line and at the same time, another peasant armed uprising led by the Kisan Sabha, a peasants front of the CPI, took place in Bengal. It is known in the history as Tebhaga Uprising (1946). Just like the Telangana uprising, even this movement could not sustain and died.

Split in CPI and Birth of Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Following the India-China war (1962), serious differences emerged in the CPI with some party members supporting China. This led to a major split in the CPI, giving birth to Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (Marxist) at the Seventh Congress of the CPI, held in Calcutta from October 31 to November 7, 1964. The CPI came to be known as pro-Soviet Party and the CPI (M) as pro-Chinese party. In 1967, the CPI (M) came to power in West Bengal through a coalition of anti-Congress fronts, known as the United Front.

Within the Party, a strong dissension emerged as to the participation in the coalition government. At the same time, Communist Party of China (CPC) also through its mouthpieces—People’s Daily and Radio Peking—appreciated the Naxalbari uprising and sharply criticised the CPI (M) for having participated in the United Front Government.

Split in Communist Party of India (Marxist)

In 1967, a peasant armed struggle, known as Naxalbari movement, took place, under the leadership of the West Bengal State Committee of the CPI (M). To support and sustain the Naxalbari movement, some of the CPI (M) cadres, mainly led by the Presidency College students, held a meeting in the Rammohan Library Hall of Calcutta, and formed the Naxalbari Peasants Struggle Aid Committee. Also, on June 27, 1967, they staged a demonstration in front of the West Bengal Assembly, protesting against the alleged anti-peasant stand/policies of the Government of West Bengal headed by the CPI (M). Reacting to it, the CPI (M) Politburo directed the Party’s State Secretary of West Bengal to expel them from the Party. As a result, 19 members, including Sushital Ray Chowdhury, were expelled from the CPI (M).

Concerned over the rising rebellion among its ranks and files, the CPI (M) Central Committee met at Madurai in August 18-27, 1967 to resolve the dissident voices, and adopted resolutions rejecting the Chinese assessment of the Indian ruling class as consisting of comprador-bureaucratic capitalists, and its suggestion for armed struggle to capture power from them. This was the official line of the CPI (M).

On November 12-13, 1967, after failure of Naxalite movement, a group of dissatisfied revolutionary comrades from seven states met in a conference held in Calcutta to discuss further strategy to spearhead the Naxalbari movement. This conference was called by the All India Naxalbari Krishak Sangram Sahayak Samity which was an offshoot of the Naxalbari Peasants Struggle Aid Committee. Among those who attended the conference were Shiv Kumar Mishra from Uttar Pradesh, Satyanarayan Singh from Bihar, and Charu Majumdar from West Bengal. This conference decided to form an All-India Coordination Committee of revolutionaries in the CPI (M).

On November 13, 1967, a group of extreme left-wing elements named as All India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) was formed within the CPI (Marxist). In April 1968, the CPI (M) organised an all-India plenum at Burdwan. On May 14, 1968, it was renamed as All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) after the Burdwan plenum.

Birth of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)

The AICCCR in its plenary session in Calcutta during April 19-22, 1969, decided to launch a party as a ‘political vanguard’. On April 22, 1969, on the hundredth birth anniversary of Lenin, the Central Organising Committee of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) under the leadership of Charu Mazumdar was formed, although it was only May 1, 1969, when the formal announcement of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI (ML) was made by ‘reluctant’ Kanu Sanyal, in a huge rally held in Calcutta. The AICCCR was dissolved. Charu strongly rejected the Parliamentary path to reform the society. Only once in his life, he fought a by-election from the Siliguri assembly constituency as the candidate of the undivided Communist party in 1963, but failed to win it and miserably, lost his deposit as well.

Split in Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)

The first party Congress was held in May 1970 and the Central Committee (CC) elected by the Congress proposed Charu’s name for the General Secretary (GS). Charu Majumdar was elected as the GS of the Party.With the passage of time, serious differences among the files and ranks of the Maoists surfaced. It is believed that Charu Majumdar made continuous efforts to concentrate power in his own hand. Within a few months, some members of the party objected the Charu’s left sectarianism. In retaliation, Charu Majumdar side-lined/expelled the members and removed Sushital Roy Choudhury from the post of editor of the Liberation, ‘to maintain unity and curb indiscipline in the ranks’.

Just in the case of India-China war of 1962, differences surfaced between Ashim Chatterjee and Charu Majumdar on Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) too. Ashim Chatterjee wanted the Party to declare that Pakistan was fighting a just war against India. Charu Majumdar argued that they could not support Yahya Khan who was a party to the ‘comprador-bourgeois-capitalist class’, in the larger left discourse. As a consequence, Charu Majumdar expelled Ashim Chatterjee, along with other dissidents. In response, this anti-Charu brigade formed its own Central Committee within the CPI (ML) and elected Satyanarayan Singh as President on November 7, 1971 and . This new CC went to the extent of expelling Charu Majumdar, which eventually led to the split of CPI (ML) into two factions—CPI (ML) led by Satyanarayan Singh and CPI (ML) led by Mazumdar.

On July 1 to August 15, 1971, the Indian Army and the States Police undertook joint operations, code named ‘Operation Steeplechase’, in the bordering districts of West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. It was a big setback for the Naxalites. They were almost flushed out from the areas. On July 16, 1972, Charu Mazumdar was arrested from the Entally area of East Calcutta. At the time of his arrest, it is believed that Charu was suffering from cardiac asthma. He passed away due to his ill health in the Lal Bazar police lock-up, Alipur Jail, on July 28, 1972. He is known as the father of Naxalism and authored Historic Eight Documents, a collection of eight articles on the Naxalite militant struggle of 1967. With his death, an era of Maoist movement and the quest for proletariat’s party ended.

One can see from the above account, the history of the quest for a ‘truly’ Maoist party has been fraught with many ebbs and flows, ups and downs. Since the death of Charu Mazumdar in 1972, the Maoist movement in 1980s and 1990s saw both mergers and splits among the splinter groups. But the bigger Maoist groups such as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) which formed in 1975 and primarily present in Bihar and the CPI (ML) People’s War Group or also known as CPI (ML) People’s War, which was formed in 1980 and primarily concentrated in Andhra Pradesh, could not come together even at the end of 20th century. It was only in 2004, that ever biggest merger took place and that was between the CPI (ML) People’s War and the MCC, which led to the formation of the Communist party of India (Maoist) or CPI (Maoist) in short, to spearhead the Maoist movement in a more coordinated and effective manner. With this, the internal security challenge facing the Indian state multiplied, as the Maoists were no more fragmented and were more centralised in command and structure. Moreover, the Maoist movement became inter-state, creating problems for the security agencies as coordinating between two or more states which follow different rules of the game, was/is a tougher task.

Sources on next page


  • Biplab Dasgupta, The Naxalite Movement, Allied Publication, New Delhi, 1974.
  • Sumanta Banerjee, India’s Simmering Revolution: the Naxalite Uprising, Selected Service Syndicate, New Delhi, 1984.
  • Prakash Singh, The Naxalite Movement in India, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2007.
  • Bhaskara Rao, ‘The Problem of Fragmentation in the Naxalite Movement’ in Pradip Basu, ed., Discourses on Naxalite Movement
  • V.Ramana, How to Deal with LWE/Naxalism, IDSA Occasional Paper No. 20, 2011, available at http://www.idsa.in/system/files/OP_MeasurestodealwithNaxal.pdf (Accessed on July 7, 2015)
  • Sankar Ghosh,The Naxalite Movement: A Maoist Movement, Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta, 1974.

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