This is part 1 of the new series on Naxalism – Left Wing Extremism. This is the origin story of Naxalism or Red Terror. Naxalism poses a grave security challenge to our matrubhumi. AND yet we, as Hindustanis, remain oblivious to it. This threat revels in violence, uses terror as a tool to control people and territory. It unleashes a “controlled” anarchy to dismantle the state. It seeks to control more than people or territory. It seeks dominion over our minds – how and what we think.


“Terreur” was first defined, by Montesquieu in 1748, as a despotic government’s principle action. The Terreur or Terror is a term commonly used to designate a period of the French Revolution between 1793 and 1794. The “revolution led” to the establishment of a revolutionary government, centered on the committee of public safety and the committee of general safety. The term was later used to designate the regime initiated by Robespierre. Ironically, Robespierre was the key figure in the French Revolution that threw off the monarchy to establish a people’s government which was too radical and had to be, again, overthrown by the people. Terror can thus be defined as – state’s principle reaction to public protest.


Robespierre’s regime led to the coinage of the term WHITE TERROR – Robespierre was an idealist revolutionary and he wanted to install his version of ideal society without worrying about the human cost of an utopian regime. (His reign led to breakdown of all social order of the French society and finally, his arrest & hanging). The French Revolution and the violence that followed was called the “white terror”. White terror or “Shvet Atanka”, is often referred to by the maosits with synonymous terms like “imperial military terror”, “fascist terror” and “state terror”. In Maoist writings, it is mostly a question of this type of terror, which includes the accusation of terrorism directed at their party – the CPI(M)


Red terror is more than a term – it is a complete system. As far as definition of the revolution, the maoists frequently use the definition given by Engels who defined it as people’s response to white terror. However, following the maoists viewpoint, red terror is indeed viewed as a response to white terror, but the terror is of a quite different nature. Red Terror (as defined by Prachanda, then chairman of Nepal Communist Party) is ALWAYS controlled violence such that it does not create anarchy but propagates the rule of the people (communist rule). Uncontrolled violence and destruction increases people’s dissatisfaction & grievances and this may disrupt the communist government. Violence is used as a strategy to enforce and achieve bot tactical and strategic goals.

The term, as a policy, RED TERROR was first coined by Lenin.  Red Terror was a policy of terror and reprisals to bolster and uphold Lenin’s Bolshevik regime. The aims of Lenin’s Red Terror were twofold: to control the state and reforge it through terror. Through controlled terror he also aimed to remove whole classes of state ‘enemies’. To this end, a massive police state was created, which operated outside the law and which could arrest seemingly anyone, at any time, who was judged a class enemy. The maoists also follow the same template but much more puritanical in its philosophy.


Left Wing Extremism or RED TERROR is a much older vintage but in India it made its first mark in 1946 as the Telangana Insurrection. This insurrection gets overlooked as it was near the time when India was in the throes of being born out of an amputated Hindustan.

The uprising was very broad based and lasted almost 5 years. At its height this violent insurrection saw the communists gain control over 3000 villages, use of sophisticated arms (sten guns etc – supplied by the communists). It only ended after the communist party was forced to withdraw its support to the insurrection.

What started as a language issue headed by the Andhra Mahasabha (1928) was soon taken over by a group of radicalized youth led by Ravi Narayan Reddy. Influenced by communist ideas this group changed the AMS into a radical communist organization, with close collaboration with the communists to organize the peasantry into left wing committees. In the 11th session of the AMS in 1944, under the presidentship of Ravi Narayan Reddy, a split occurred and the right wing of the organization was ousted [Sundarayya 1972: 41].

Following the split, the AMS conducted several struggles against powerful landlords, opposing vetti, illegal extortion and forced eviction. The communists through their proxy AMS, began gaining ground in several districts, especially among the agricultural laborers, poor tenants and small landholders. They started forming sanghams (village-level committees). Things took a turn for the worst when altercations broke between the sangham leaders on one side and the local landlord and tax collectors on the other. Doddi Komarrya, a sangham leader was shot dead (WHITE TERROR) and the communists used the opportunity to exacerbate the situation and induce violent retribution (RED TERROR) on the government and the landlords. Communists got what they wanted. The government’s response to their violence was a retribution was disproportionately heavy handed. The Nizam let loose his infamous Razzakars (workers of the Majlis-I-Ittehad (MII) – parent organization of current AIMIM) on the population. Punitive raids on houses of the farmers, rapes of their women, illegal confinement etc were common. Involvement of Razzakars lent a communal element to the fight and soon the lines were drawn between the muslim razzakars and the hindu tenants. In this turmoil the farmers found help in form of organized resistance led by the communists led by Communist Party of India (CPI). Indian army stepped in to quell the Razzakars reign of terror and the Communist Party was forced to withdraw their support to the rebels – In course of the insurrection Nizam’s desire to join Pakistan died along with his kingdom.


25 May, 1967, in an obscure part of northwestern Bengal (village in Siliguri block in Darjeeling District) a violent peasant uprising propelled this remote, obscure village to national and international limelight and led to the coinage of a term that will go on to define left wing extremism. This obscure village was called Naxalbari and the so called peasant uprising went on to engulf large tracts of Hindustani hinterlands. These hinterlands were for long, plagued by poverty, government apathy and caste prejudice. The more radical pro-Mao communists from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) cadre instigated farmers (from the Santhal tribes) and poor villagers to oppose the state. Led by Charu Mazumdar (also known as Father of Naxalism) & Kanu Sanyal, they created peasant cells in villages and started seizing land of Jotedars (Landowners). The seized land was forcibly cultivated. This led to clashes and finally police opened fire on a farmers rally in the village of Prasadujyot in Naxalbari. It led to 11 deaths and in response the farmers, led by the communist cadre, took up arms against the state. What followed was a bloodbath that spread to many parts of the country and it continues to this day.

China’s “People’s Daily” hailed the start of the Naxalbari movement as a significant development in the people’s revolution. They claimed that the fire of Naxalbari would spread like the prairie fire across several states in India.

PS – Communist Party was in power in Bengal and Jyoti Basu was the Home Minister of Bengal at the time. It was Mr. Basu, who ordered police firing against the villagers. This exacerbated an already bad situation and helped bring to life, the Naxal Movement of India


The left wing extremism has always fed and grown on the twin diets of social inequity and economic disparity. Communism/Socialism/Fascism etc make up the Left Wing ideology. They are all similar in their use of violence and assertion of total control. These ideologies all seek their recruits from the same two social demograhies. These demographies are as alien to each other as chalk is to cheese.

Demography 1 – Socially dispossessed & financially excluded from the economic cycle of the society. Deprived and Disregarded by the society, they form its lowest rung. Poor, uneducated, destitute and desperate, they hunger to be listened, to be given justice.

Demography 2 – Socially accomplished & financially secure, these people are well educated (perhaps too educated but with little real world knowledge). They are influential and don’t really have to work very hard in their lives.

As is evident they are essentially two antagonistic classes often the cause of the injustice that afflicts people of the first group. And yet these two give the Left Wing its biggest recruits.

People from these 2 groups want to stand up for economic parity and social equality. This is where the left wing seeks its recruits. Once a person shows solidarity to the cause, he is radicalized in incremental steps and kept in check by very visual displays of controlled violence against dissenters and “class enemies”. Communism in itself remains a radical ideology that seeks total control of the social and economic order. Commonly referred to as Left Wing Ideology


Charu Mazumdar, a popular revolutionary, he was called COMRADE CM. Born in a family of landlords, he belonged to the second demography of recruits. He had a privileged upbringing, he was well educated but thoroughly radicalized by the communist ideology. His search for ideological purity of the ‘people’s revolution’ drove him away from Russian Marxism and towards Chinese (Mao Zedong’s) Maoism. During his time in the throes of revolution in Naxalbari, he penned his 8 documents or his 8 Maxims that form the ideological basis of Naxalism’s Philosophy. They are as below –

  • 28 January 1965 (1st document) – Our Tasks in the Present Situation
  • 1965 (2nd document) – Make the People’s Democratic Revolution Successful by Fighting Against Revisionism
  • 9 April 1965 (3rd document) – What is the Source of the Spontaneous Revolutionary Outburst in India?
  • 1965 (4th document) – Carry on the Struggle Against Modern Revisionism
  • 1965 (5th document) – What Possibility The Year 1965 is Indicating?
  • 8 December 1966 (6th document) – The Main Task Today is the Struggle to Build Up the True Revolutionary Party Through Uncompromising Struggle Against Revisionism
  • 1966 (7th document) – Take this Opportunity to Build armed partisan struggle by fighting against revisionism
  • April 1967 (8th document) – Carry Forward the Peasant Struggle by Fighting Revisionism

According to Charu Mazumdar, India was an occupying imperialist power which had to be countered by an armed insurrection and dismantling of the state. He advocated ideological purity and this ideological purity meant that the maoists (naxals) were against elections and consequently Indian democracy. This has been naxals’ ideology and the basis of their war with the Indian state.

Ă  suivre

Coming soon:



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