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Spring thunder to bloody rebellion: Key dates in history of Naxal-Maoist movement

A comprehensive timeline of events how the Naxal movement started in India to present-day armed Maoist revolt

india Updated: May 25, 2017 12:52 IST
Dhrubo Jyoti
Naxalbari village in West Bengal where in 1967 a peasant uprising against landlords led to the birth of a wider leftist rebellion.
Naxalbari village in West Bengal where in 1967 a peasant uprising against landlords led to the birth of a wider leftist rebellion.(Indranil Bhoumik/ Mint file photo)

A spring thunder over India is how the People’s Daily in China described the Naxalbari movement, which began in a small north Bengal village and spread like wildfire all over the state and beyond.

Over the next decade, hundreds of people died in bloody clashes, and the movement spread west and south, morphing into present-day Maoist militancy. But the history and motivation of one of India’s most potent insurgencies extend far back into the past. In 1948, 2,500 villages organised into ‘communes’ as part of a peasant movement known as Telangana Struggle, demanding that ‘Indian revolution’ follow the Chinese path of protracted people’s war. Here are key dates in the Naxal movement.

THE 1960s: WHEN THE MOVEMENT BEGAN

1964

CPI (Marxist) splits from united Communist Party of India and decides to participate in elections, postponing armed struggle.

1965-66

Communist leader Charu Majumdar writes articles based on Marx-Lenin-Mao thought, later known as ‘Historic Eight Documents’ that form the ideological base of the movement. First civil liberties organisation is formed with Telugu poet Sri Sri as president following mass arrests of Communists during the 1962 Indo-China war.

February 25, 1967

CPI (M) participates in elections and forms a coalition United Front government in West Bengal with Bangla Congress and as Ajoy Mukherjee as CM. This leads to schism in the party with younger cadres, including the “visionary” Charu Majumdar, accusing CPI (M) of betraying the revolution.

May 24, 1967

A tribal man is attacked in the north Bengal village of Naxalbari near the Nepal border by goons of the landlord, and prevented from ploughing his land. In the ensuing clashes, a policeman is killed.

May 25, 1967

Police open fire on protesting villagers at a nearby village, killing 11 of them. Massive protests and strikes follow.

The Hindustan Times’ front page on June 6, 1967, headlines the growing troubles in Naxalbari.

July-November 1967

The fire of the peasant movement spreads across the region, even far-flung places such as in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, where whole sections of the CPI (M) join the struggle. Revolutionary communist publications ‘Liberation’, ‘Deshbrati’ (Bengali) and ‘Lokyudh’ (Hindi) start publication.

November 12-13, 1967

Members of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal meet and set up the All India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) in the CPI (M).

December, 1967

Centre takes serious note of escalating violence as scores of people injured in clashes in the Bengal countryside. Cracks appear between the West Bengal government and the CPI (M).

February 1968

President’s Rule imposed in West Bengal after government is dismissed.

February, 1969

West Bengal police launch a campaign against Naxalites across the state, arresting hundreds of peasants, tribals and students. Fresh elections are held. CPI (M) is single-largest party but Bangla Congress and CPI form coalition government with Ajoy Mukherjee as chief minister.

April 22, 1969

As per the AICCCR’s February decision, a new party CPI (ML) is launched on the birth anniversary of Lenin. Charu Majumdar elected as secretary of Central Organising Committee. AICCR dissolves itself.

May 1, 1969

Kanu Sanyal declares the formation of a new party in Calcutta (Kolkata now). CPI (M) tries to disrupt the meeting resulting in armed clash between CPI (M) and CPI (ML) cadre for the first time. Ensuing clashes leave 200 injured.

May 26-27, 1969

Police kill Panchadri Krishnamurty and six other revolutionaries during a crackdown on Srikakulam peasant uprising in Andhra Pradesh.

October 20, 1969

Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) formed under Kanhai Chatterjee’s leadership. It supports Naxalbari struggle but doesn’t join CPI (ML).

March 16, 1970 : Ajoy Mukherjee resigns as chief minister. West Bengal comes under President’s Rule.

THE 1970s:

The front page of Hindustan Times, dated November 1, 1970 leads with the crackdown on Naxalites.

May 11, 1970 : The first CPI (ML) congress is held in Calcutta under strict underground conditions. Charu Majumdar is elected the party general secretary.

July 10, 1970: Vempatapu Satyanarayana and Adibatla Kailasam, leaders of the Srikakulam uprising, are killed in police encounter during the crackdown. Appu, founder of CPI (ML) in Tamil Nadu, is also killed around September-October. The Srikakulam movement continues in Andhra Pradesh till 1975 but loses steam.

August, 1970: Leading lights of literary world of Telugu like Sri Sri, Varavara Rao, C Vijaylakshmi and others form Revolutionary Writers Association (RWA). Artistes from Hyderabad inspired by Srikakulam struggle and the songs of Subharao Panigrahi form a group -- Art Lovers - comprising the famous film producer Narasinga Rao and the now legendary Gaddar.

January, 1971: First signs of strain appear in CPI(ML). Charu Mazumdar expelled.

March 1971: Fresh elections see CPI (M) as the single-largest party in West Bengal. But Congress and others cobble together a short-lived coalition government.

August 1971: Saroj Dutta, CPI(ML) politburo member, is killed by police. Days later, a massive operation kills scores of party members in the outskirts of Calcutta and throws hundreds behind bars across the state.

March 1972: Congress returns with big majority in violence-marred assembly polls in West Bengal. SS Ray is the chief minister.

July 1972: Charu Majumdar is arrested in Calcutta on July 16. He dies in Kolkata’s Lal Bazar police lock-up on July 28. CPI (ML)’s central authority collapses.

July 28, 1974: The Central Organising Committee of CPI (ML) reconstituted at Durgapur meeting in West Bengal. Comrade Jauhar (Subrata Dutt) elected general secretary and renames organization as CPI (ML) Liberation.

1975: Emergency is declared in India on June 25 and state forces crack down on ultra-leftists. The Naxal movement, on its last legs in Bengal, forced to take a tactical line but fights increasing factionalism.

1976: CPI (ML) holds its second Congress on February 26-27 in the countryside of Gaya, in Bihar. It resolves to continue with armed guerilla struggles and work for an anti-Congress United Front. But Jayprakash Narayan’s anti-Congress movement gaining increasing traction across the country.

1977: Amidst an upsurge of ultra-leftists’ armed actions and mass activism, CPI (ML) decides to launch a rectification campaign. The party organisation spreads to AP and Kerala. Emergency lifted. CPI(M) sweeps to power in West Bengal.

Photo of Charu Mazumdar at CPI(M-L) Liberation’s tiny Siliguri office. (Indranil Bhoumik/Mint)

1978: Rectification movements (CPI ML and fragments) reins in military outlook and stresses mass peasant struggles to Indianise the Marxism-Leninism and Maoist thought. Party strengthens in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. CPI (ML) (Unity Organisation) is formed in Bihar. A peasant organisation - the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (MKSS) is formed.

1980: Kondapalli Seetharamaiah forms the Peoples War Group in Andhra Pradesh. He discards total annihilation of “class enemies” as the only form of struggle and stresses on floating mass organisations.

THE 1980s

May, 1980: Mass peasant movement spreads in central Bihar.

1981: CPI (ML) organises a unity meet of 13 Marxist-Leninist factions in a bid to form a single formation, but the move fails.

1984: CPI (ML) and other revolutionaries try to woo Sikhs towards joining peasant movement following Operation Bluestar in June and countrywide anti-Sikh riots after Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

1986: More than a dozen landless labourers are killed in police firing at Arwal in Jehanabad district of Bihar.

1989: More than a dozen “left supporters” are shot dead by landlords in Ara Lok Sabha constituency of Bhojpur district in Bihar on the eve of polls. CPI (ML) (Liberation) records its first electoral victory under Indian People’s Front banner. Ara sends the first “Naxalite” member to Parliament.

1990: Radical left groups notch up poll victories in several states. All India Students Association (AISA) is launched at Allahabad. Andhra Pradesh lifts all curbs on Naxal groups.

CRPF jawans in Nagpur carry the coffin of Head Constable Premdas Mendhe, who was among the 25 soldiers killed in a Maoist ambush in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on April 24. (PTI)

THE 1990s

1992: Andhra Pradesh bans People’s War Group

1999: Naxalites launch major strikes. CPI (ML) PW kills six in Jehanabad on February 14. MCC kills 34 upper-caste in Senai village of Jehanabad. Three top PWG leaders killed in Andhra Pradesh. PWG hacks to death Madhya Pradesh transport minister Likhiram Kavre.

2000: PWG blows up a Madhya Pradesh police vehicle, killing 23 cops.

THE 2000s

2001: Naxalite groups all over South Asia form a coordination committee. As per intelligence reports, MCC and PWG establish links with LTTE, Nepali Maoists and Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence to receive arms and training.

2004: PWG and MCC fuse to form Communist Party of India (Maoist)

2005: Maoists kill 7 policemen, a civilian and injured many more in Karnataka. Later that year, they carry out a spectacular strike in Jehanabad in Bihar and free 250 of their men.

2006: Maoists kill 25 people in Chhattisgarh, free 40 prisoners in Odisha, and kill 29 people in Dantewada of Chhattisgarh. In December, insurgents blow up 14 policemen in Bokaro.

2007: Maoist shoot dead MP Sunil Mahato. They also kill a Congress leader in Andhra Pradesh. In March, 54 people are dead during an encounter in Bastar with security forces. Former Jharkand CM Babulal Marandi’s son Anup and 17 others were killed in a Naxal attack at the Chilkhadia village in Giridh district of Jharkhand.

2008: Centre announces Rs 5,500 crore highway project to link remote areas in 33 districts that have an active Maoist presence.

2009: Operation Green Hunt comprising 50,000 soldiers to target leftist rebels begins after a series of Maoist attacks in Odisha, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh .

2010: Maoists kill 75 CRPF personnel in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. 26 jawans are killed in an ambush in Narayanpur district. 24 more die in separate attacks in West Bengal. Worst year in terms of Maoist casualties.

2011: At least six separate attacks mostly focused in Chhattisgarh kill nearly 30 police and paramilitary personnel.

2012: Maoists kill six paramilitary personnel in Bihar’s Gaya. Civilians killed in landmine blast in Bijapur.

2013: Maoists kill 25 leaders of the Congress, including former state minister Mahendra Karma, in the Darbha valley in Chhattisgarh.

2017: Maoists attack road-opening party and kill 12 CRPF men in Sukma. A month later, almost-identical ambush kills 25 more paramilitary personnel.