Genesis of Naxalism/Maoism in India

The Telangana Movement

The only logical way to look at the Naxal movement is to locate it within the framework of Communist movement in India. The best place to start should be the rise and fall of the Telangana Movement (1946 – 51) because Telangana will always remain the glorious chapter in the history of peasant struggle. It was an effort to copy the Chinese revolution and suggested that a model better suited to Indian conditions need developing.

The Telangana experience led to evolution of three distinct ideologies within the Indian Communist movement. One favoring Stalin, another opting for Chinese model, and the third favored a centrist approach along parliamentary democracy.

Split of the Communist Party of India

Following the India-China war, the Communist party split into two during 1964 – Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI (M). While the CPI preached the theory of ‘peaceful road to non-capitalist development’, the CPI (M) adopted the centrist line. Though there were serious differences on ideological and tactical grounds, both the parties went ahead with their parliamentary exercises and formed the United Front government in West Bengal.

Birth of Naxalism

Indian Communists

In the backdrop of internal conflicts within the Indian Communist movement, an incident in a remote area gave birth to what is now called Naxalism. In a village called Naxalbari in West Bengal, which gave the word “Naxal” to the world, a tribal youth named Bimal Issan, having obtained a judicial order, went to plough his land on 2 March 1967. The local landlords attacked him with the help of their goons. Tribal people of the area retaliated and started forcefully recapturing their lands.

What followed was a rebellion, which left one police sub inspector and nine tribals dead. Within a short span of about two months, this incident acquired great visibility and tremendous support from cross sections of Communist revolutionaries across the country.

Although the United Front Government of West Bengal, headed by the CPI (M) was able to contain the rebellion, these state units had a formal meeting in November 1967, as a result of which the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries  (AICCCR) was formed in May 1968. The AICCCR adopted two cardinal principles for its operations – allegiance to the armed struggle and non-participation in the elections.

More Fragmentation

However, differences cropped up over how an armed struggle should be advanced and this led to the exclusion of a section of activists from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, led respectively by T. Nagi Reddy and Kanhai Chatterjee.

In 1969 the AICCCR went ahead with the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist- Leninist) in May 1969. The CPI (M-L) held its first congress in 1970 in Kolkata and Charu Mazumdar was formally elected its general secretary. Since then, both the CPI (M-L) and the MCC continued with their respective forms of armed struggle for the next couple of years.

Charu Majumdar

During this period, Charu Majumdar became the undisputed Naxalite guru and with the organizational skills of Kanu Sanyal and Jaghal Santhal, the movement spread to different corners of the country. However, as hundreds of CPI (ML) cadres lost their lives, and thousands were put behind bars, the movement witnessed confusion, splits and disintegration. After Charu Majumdar’s death in 1972, the central leadership of CPI (ML) virtually collapsed.

The history of the Naxal movement post Charu Mazumdar, is characterized by a number of splits, and attempts at course-correction by some of the major groups. Even Kanu Sanyal, one of the founders of the movement gave up the path of “dedicated armed struggle” by 1977 and accepted parliamentary practice as a form of revolutionary activity.

The Naxal Ideologue

Charu Majumdar inspired by Mao’s doctrines, provided ideological leadership for the Naxalbari movement, advocating that Indian peasants and lower class tribals overthrow the government and upper classes by force. A large number of urban elites were also attracted to the ideology, which spread through Majumdar’s writings, particularly the “Historic Eight Documents” which formed the basis of Naxalite ideology.

Another Attempt for Revival

It 1974, an influential group of the CPI (ML), led by Jauhar (Subrata Dutt), Nagbhushan Pattnaik and Vinod Mishra, launched a major initiative, which they termed ‘course-correction’. This group renamed itself the CPI (M-L) Liberation in 1974. The group offered an Indianized version of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism: limited role for armed struggle and greater emphasis on mass peasant struggles.

Further Fragmentation

However, during the next three years, the movement suffered further splits with leaders, such as Kondapalli Seetharamaiah (Andhra Pradesh) and N. Prasad (Bihar) dissociating themselves from the activities of the party. This led to Prasad forming the CPI (M-L) (Unity Organization) and Seetharamaiah started the People’s War Group (PWG) in 1980.


Since then, the principal division within the Naxalite movement has been between the two lines of thought and action – as advanced by the CPI (ML) Liberation and as by the PWG. While Liberation branded PWG a group of “left adventurists”, the PWG castigated the Liberation group as one of the “revisionists” imitating the CPI (M). On the other hand, the growth of MCC as a major armed group in the same areas, created the scope for multifarious organizational conflicts among the Naxal groups.

Liberation took a theoretical stand of correcting the past mistake of ‘completely rejecting parliamentary politics’ and registered its first electoral victory in Bihar in 1989. On the other hand, PWG and MCC completely rejected the parliamentary democratic system of governance and vowed to wage ‘people’s war for people’s government’.

In the 1990s, the armed groups gained access to latest weaponry and training and thus became far more destructive and emboldened. The consolidation and penetration continued for next several years and led to the formation of Communist Party of India (Maoist).

About Goodpal

I am a firm believer in healthy people (mind and body both), healthy societies and healthy environment. Please feel free to comment, share and broadcast your views -- I like rational and intellectual discussions. Thanks for stopping by. Have a Good Day!
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2 Responses to Genesis of Naxalism/Maoism in India

  1. Mahendra Kumar says:

    It all started with a dispute of land which rightfully belonged to a peasant who was a member of Scheduled Tribe.

    Why does not the govt initiate treatment of the root of the problem?

  2. Goodpal says:

    Unfortunately, social problems are sometimes not so simple although we all wish immediate solution.

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