50 Years of Naxalbari: A Path for Alternative Development

50 Years of Naxalbari: A Path for Alternative Development

by :Purnendu Sekhar Mukherjee

In the last 50 years several thousand marginal farmers have been martyred in the hands of mercenary armies of landlords or the police just to establish their rights over land and its produce. In 1977-78 when there were efforts to revive the revolutionary movement in Andhra Pradesh, when thousands of peasants were getting together in Karimnagar and Adilabad to establish their rights on their lands and crops, there were no option in front of them except to retaliate against the joint attacks by the feudal lords and the police administration. At around the same time, similar efforts were started to establish revolutionary peasant committees in south Bihar (present Jharkhand). Simultaneously, dalit landless farmers from central Bihar organized under the revolutionary Communist forces faced massive violence from the mercenary armies of the landlords. The police and the parliamentary political parties as expected joined hands with the landlords.

In the 80’s while continuing to fight the combined attacks of these reactionary forces, practices such as cooperative farming, cooperative animal husbandry and community ownership of forest resources were established in different parts of Dandakaranya with the objective of making the villages self-reliant. In 1995, the village government committee or Janatana Sarkar was established. Meanwhile huge tracts of land have been distributed among the landless. The loot of the forest resources by the jungle mafia has been restricted and the rights of the adivasis over forest produce have been established while ensuring regulated use of such resources.
From 1996, in order to restrict the dependence of the adivasis over forest resources and hunting, they have been encouraged to practice fruit and vegetable farming. Both individual and cooperative farming was encouraged by distributing seeds of fruits and vegetables among individuals/families and communities. Both forms of farming, private and collective, were allowed simultaneously so that people could select one after assessing the pros and cons of both. It is to be remembered that the new democratic revolution in India does not envisage the end of private enterprise, rather it wants that private enterprises are run keeping in mind the needs of the broader masses.
Within two years of this collectivization of animal resources such as cows, buffaloes, oxen, goats, ducks, chicken etc. was initiated. Cattle and other animals of landlords and moneylenders were confiscated and all animals were shifted to a designated place. The excreta of such animals was collected in a place and used as organic manure. Such practices kept the villages clean and reduced the requirement of chemical fertilizers.
Success of such policies infuriated the local landlords, traders and moneylenders and they tried to repress the movement with the help of the police administration. The primary reason for their anger was the confiscation of their lands and furthermore due to the redistribution of the land to the landless, it was difficult for them to get cheap agricultural labour for their land. Moreover the forest officials and local politicians in nexus with the jungle mafias lost their regular sources of income.

Furthermore, as the farmers could keep their entire produce, it released them from the dependence on local moneylenders. This gave rise to a chain reaction. For example, if the third world succeeds in putting an end to the exploitation by the multi-national corporations, such corporations will be forced to increase the exploitation and repression of the American people which will then push the American people towards revolutionary politics. Similarly, the cooperative farming and animal husbandry model in the adivasi villages created alarm in the towns and cities. All reactionary forces joined hands to destroy the Janatana Sarkar. In order to resist these attacks, the guerilla army of the oppressed people also increased in size and power. And the Janatana Sarkars got further strengthened based on the strength of this guerilla army.
In 1997-98 itself the inhabitants of 238 villages in Dandakaranya dug 110 ponds by giving voluntary labour. Simultaneously 47 large water reservoirs were created, some for irrigation, some for fish cultivation and some for the needs of cattle. During August-September of that year, nearly 3 lakh fish spawn and some thousands of prawn seeds were used to start extensive pisciculture. In 1998 the peoples’ government started distributing fish spawn in a large scale among the local population, which soon became a basis of the local economy. Now there are water reservoirs or ponds in the area of most revolutionary peoples’ committees. In the same areas where agriculture was once very limited now there is extensive cultivation of fruits such as papayas, bananas, mangoes, lemons and guavas and vegetables such as onion, garlic, brinjal, gourds, pumpkin, ladies finger, cauliflower, maize, spring onion, tomatoes etc.
The revolutionary peoples’ committees (RPC) have taken the initiative to train the local population in agricultural practices, develop irrigation systems, protect cattle and develop animal husbandry, convert forest land into agricultural land and arrange for collection and preservation of fertilizers, seeds etc. In the Mad area of Dandakranya, which was once the most backward area, today there is cooperative agriculture and cooperative farms under the direction of RPCs. Every year during January-February, the work to level the land is taken up for 10-15 days. Cultivation of herbs is being expanded keeping in mind the health needs of the people. A number of local health centres have come up, together with mobile health centres. The mobile health centres provide free basic health services to people over a large area.
In the schools under the RPC, text books have been developed in eight subjects, mathematics, social sciences, political science, Hindi, culture, biology, general science and the history of Dandakaranya for students from classes one to five. Most significantly, with great effort Gondi, the language of the adivasis, has been restored and primary curriculum in Gondi language has been started. Remarkably, a dictionary in the Gondi language has also been written. Efforts are being made to even restore the more backward Halvi language. More than 25 magazines are published regularly just from Dandakarnya. In the areas under the Janatana Sarkars, Indian-made foreign liquor is banned although there is no ban on country liquor, hadia etc. However, drinking alcohol is forbidden in the revolutionary organization and campaigns are run to build public consciousness against the drinking of country liquor, smoking etc.
In those areas of Dandakaranya where peoples’ governments have been set up till district level, the struggle began with the establishment of peoples’ rights over the fundamental aspects of rural economy – land, crops, cattle and water bodies. Private property has not been ended but land has been taken from landlords and distributed among the peasants.
A gram sabha is a fundamental unit of the Janatana Sarkar. The gram sabhas look after the local administration of each village and all inhabitants of the village except those belonging to the enemy camp are its members. Every year each gram sabha organizes at least two meetings. In the first meeting decisions are taken while they are reviewed in the second meeting. If the villagers are unsatisfied with the functioning of an individual in the gram sabha they have a right to recall and they can remove the person from the working committee.
Three to five such villages or roughly 500-3000 individuals constitute a Revolutionary People’s Committee (RPC). Ten to fifteen such RPC’s constitute a regional RPC or regional government which comprises of roughly 10000- 20000 individuals. Finally 3-5 such regional RPC’s make up a divisional or district level RPC.
There are 9 departments under the administration of a district level RPC- 1. Defence, 2. Finance, 3. Agriculture, 4. Small scale industries 5. Justice, 6. Education and Culture, 7. Health and Social development, 8. Forest protection 9. Mass communication Seven or nine or eleven members constitute local or regional RPCs. There are 15 members in the district committee which comprise of a president, a vice president, a representative of the PLGA, individuals responsible for the functioning of the 9 departments and 3 representatives of the area committee of the Party. In the fundamental unit or the gram sabha all villagers except class enemies elect the committee members and decide upon the agenda to be considered for development work. The villagers have a right to recall an elected committee member if she/he fails to perform an assigned duty.
In 2008, a Dandakaranya Special Zonal preparatory committee was formed to coordinate between the 2 district level RPC’s. In spite of the Salwa Judum operational from 2005-2008 and the Operation Greenhunt, which was instituted by the reactionary central and state governments to crush the Janatana Sarkars, these peoples’ governments are being able to continue functioning as the basis for the popular support for them is the alternative model of development based on popular participation which tries to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth.
Just because the Maoists want to subvert the present system it does not mean that they oppose the welfare projects of the State. In areas where the Janatana Sarkars have not been established, the Maoists engage themselves in movements to ensure the proper implementation of government schemes such as 100 days work, water harvesting, state subsidies for small scale industries, housing schemes for the poor etc. The Maoists demand the proper implementation of all such welfare projects by the government which they themselves want to take up on a larger scale.
The Maoists want the utilization of national resources in such a manner that the benefits of welfare schemes reach the largest number of people. For the same reason the World Bank opposes the 100 days work (MGNREGA) scheme as it considers that if the peasants get some income they will not be available as cheap labourers in cities.
On the other hand the Maoists have always demanded the proper implementation and expansion of the MGNREGA project. The Maoists are not against the extraction of ore from mines but they are against policies that allow the displacement of inhabitants of forests and hills, the indiscriminate deforestation and facilitation of the loot of valuable mineral resources by the multinational corporations, all in the name of mining and industrialization.
It is to be clearly understood that the current aggressive nature of global capitalism is taking the world towards a disaster, it is taking us towards a situation in which natural resources are going to get over, environment is going to be degraded, human disease will increase and in order to increase humanity’s suffering and sick lifestyle life saving drugs and health services will become even more expensive. In order to prevent this disaster and to save the future of the world what is of utmost need is to build an alternative environment friendly, self-reliant, employment generating and non-wasteful political-economic system.
The Jantana Sarkars, under the leadership of the Maoists, are fighting to establish such a society. And till today, the inspiration for this struggle comes from the historic Naxalbari movement that happened 50 years ago, a movement that showed the path of liberation to the working masses of India.

(The author is a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and has been a political prisoner.)

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