Every now and then, Indian newspapers flash news about Maoist insurgents, including women being killed. They usually avoid mentioning how many soldiers were killed in encounters, whether fake or genuine. Here is a glimpse of such news: A woman fighter, along with a male c-fighter, was killed in a clash with government forces in Odisha’s Malkagiri district (Press Trust of India, December 14, 2020).
In another incident, a woman Maoist was killed in an encounter with India’s security forces in Sukma district of Chhatisgarh (PTI, October 13, 2010). A woman Maoist was killed near Anrapali forest (Visakhapatnam, Andhrapradesh). And, another woman Maoist, carrying Rs. 16 lac reward on her head was killed in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.
Sometimes there are pitched battles between the Indian forces and the Maoists, including women. For instance, there was a head-on confrontation between a Maoist group and government forces of over 1500 “jawan”, equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and helicopters at the Bijapur-Sukma border. Sans air power, the Maoists, armed only with machine guns, gunned down 22 soldiers belonging to Central Reserve Police Force, Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (Cobra), and Bastariya Battalion of the Central Reserve Police.
Why do women join the Maoist Movement?
They find the Maoist narrative of emancipation attractive. . Not only the low-caste women but also the high-caste ones joined the Maoist ranks in droves. About 30 to 40 per cent of combatants are Maoists. The status of women in the Indian society is no better than that of slaves. They are not supposed to form an opinion or dare express it. Even the high-caste women are supposed to be reticent and coy. They are tutored to be housewives confined to quadrilateral of their homes, rear children, and do household chores. The Maoist ideology ingrained the sense of empowerment in them. The Maoist manifesto teems with such words as “mahila sasahktikaran” (women’s empowerment), “raise their voices” (awash uthaunne), “get their voices represented” (mahilako awaj ko pratinidithyo) and “understand women’s grief” (mahila ko dukka bhujnne).
The Maoist struggle is commonly known as “the people’s war”. The “war” aims at abolishing the feudal system, and creating a democratic egalitarian society. The bulwark of the Maoists is rural population, lower castes and women. Women and men of all castes, classes, ethnic backgrounds and education levels joined the movement.
The Maoist has incorporated women’s emancipation in their ideological manifesto, actually a “40-point demand-document”. The gender equality is enshrined in points 19, 20 and 21, mentioned heretofore:
“19. Patriarchal exploitation and discrimination against women should be stopped, girls should be allowed to access paternal property as their brothers.
20. All racial exploitation and suppression should be stopped. Where ethnic communities are in the majority, they should be allowed to form their own autonomous governments.”
The Maoist proved their heart-felt commitment to the manifesto by punishing rapists, wresting back the usurped land of single women, penalising men for polygamy, and prohibiting the sale of liquor as drunken men more often beat the women. Jan adalats (“people’s courts”) ferociously uphold women’s rights on issues of social and domestic violence.
Women were given political or combat position on the basis of merit. Untouchability and gender discrimination has been abolished. The points 19, 20 and 21 of the Maoist manifesto relating to women stress the need to transform state and customary laws to redress gender inequality at all levels.
In 2002, in recognition of their female constituency, the Maoists introduced the so-called “prachanda path,” creating a women’s department in the Central Committee. In several cases, it is the women who slay the incorrigible feudal tyrants. The women realise that they are “agents of change” who have to fight out repression in all its manifestations. The women have become politically aware that they have the right make decisions about their marriages, children’s education, and other everyday gender needs.
Indian police admit it was the women fighters who were in the vanguard of a deadly attack in Chhattisgarh, where 24 people, including some top politicians, were killed.
Because of its liberal manifesto, the insurgency has spread to 11 states, with Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha as epicenters. It has become entrenched in all central and eastern Indian states, often referred to as the “Red Corridor.
Having failed to subdue the Maoists, the government occasionally resorts to spreading false news about deaths of Maoist leaders. For instance, Hindustan Times dated June 24, 2021 reported that Maoist leader Haribushan, carrying a reward of Rs. 40 lac on his head, had died from COVID19. Her wife rebutted the news (Parveen Kumar Bandari Hans News Service October 5, 2021). “More than 16 senior and middle level level communist leaders have died in the last couple of months due to COVID19…Two senior most leaders of Bastar Ganga, including Dandakaryana Special Zone Committee members Ganga and Sobhroi have died due to infection in the last couple of months”.
Sympathy with Naxals is an offence
In the Bhim Koregaon planted-letters case, several intellectuals and rights activists including Navalakha were declared “traitors” by the Indian government. They were even accused of having links with Kashmiri militants. Fake letters were inputted into their computers. They were even accused of being Pakistan’s intelligence agencies agents through Ghulam Nabi Fai, a US-based Kashmiri leader. Fei has served two-year imprisonment in the USA for having illegally received funds from the inter-services intelligence of Pakistan.
The Maoist are trying to disseminate their message to urban areas also. They understand that the minorities are fed up with the regressive caste system. The rebels want to radicalise youngsters and already have carved out a strong network in premier universities of Delhi and Kolkata. The Maoist want to create an urban militia to fight the oppressive enforcement machinery of the states and Indian Union. They are believed to have infiltrated the government intelligence machinery to stay abreact of government’s tactics.
The Maoists make no bones about their plan to set up a “coordination network among like-minded outfits in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. They want unhindered movement of left-wing extremists in these territories to exchange arms, ammunition and information”. To counter the Maoist strategy, India rushed its diplomats to capitals of neighbouring countries to plug up the porous border and obstruct the insurgents’ free movement.
In addition, India launched Special teams for simultaneous searches in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka at suspected Maoist training centres and hideouts. The effort was counter-productive because India’s national Investigation Agency framed charges against the innocent people.
During searches, the Indian forces were surprised to know that the retired Gorkha soldiers of both British and the Indian Army harbour sympathy for the Maoists.
They trained the Maoists to use fire arms efficiently. Some Maoists demonstrated their alacrity and military sills in planning bank robberies, and extorting ransom from rich businessmen. Besides arms and ammunition snatched from police stations, the Maoists are believed to have amassed over Rs. 5 billion from bank heists. The general impression in people’s minds is that the Indian forces dare not pursue the Maoists in forests. The insurgents pick up places where to ambush the security forces, and make off with booty with impunity.
Salwa Judum (purification hut)
Having failed to arrest momentum of the movement, India organised a private army ofSalwa Judum ledbyMahendra Karma From among the villagers. To boost their morale, they were given honorary rank of “special police officer. “As a workaround, the government sponsored counter-militias and split tribes into those “for” and “against” Maoists. Those willing to fight the Maoists were offered guns, money and honorary police ranks.
The Maoists shot dead Mahendra Karma and several members of the ruling Indian National Congress whose brainchild the Salwa Judum was. It later transpired that the salwa judum had been cobbled up with help of child soldiers recruited under duress or financial allurement. It was involved in gross human rights violations. When People’s Union of Civil Liberties in India brought its atrocities to the Supreme Court’s notice, it declared it illegal in 2011.
Charu Mazumdar started the movement as a “revolutionary opposition” in 1965. The world came to know of it in 1967 when the Beijing Radio reported “peasants’ armed struggle” at Naxalbari (Siliguri division of West Bengal). In July 1972, the police arrested Charu Mazumdar and tortured him to death on the night of July 27-28. The Naxalite ideology has great appeal for marginalized strata (particularly dalit and adivasis) of India’s caste-ridden society. The Naxalites Central Committee’s resolution (1980) visualises creating a base for spreading people’s democratic revolution. It would include : ‘Homogenous contiguous forested area around Bastar Division (since divided into Bastar, Dantewada and Kanker Districts of Chhatisgarh) and adjoining areas of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Khammam, East Godavari Districts of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrapur and Garchehiroli district of Maharastra, Balaghat districts of Madhya Pradesh, Malkagiri and Koraput districts of Orissa. The Naxalites want to carve out an independent zone extending from Nepal through Bihar and then to the Dandakarnaya region extending up to Tamil Nadu to give them access to the Bay of Bengal as well as the Indian Ocean.