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Amid violence, Maoists at war within

They may have stepped up attacks across different parts of India, but the debate still rages within the larger body of Indian Maoists: is the violence the way forward?

india Updated: Dec 15, 2009 12:16 IST

They may have stepped up attacks across different parts of India, but the debate still rages within the larger body of Indian Maoists: is the violence the way forward?

Even as the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) answers with a firm 'yes', not everyone adhering to the ideology is in agreement. Now, a rebel ideologue who has been associated with the Maoist movement in Jharkhand for 30 long years admits there are acute differences.

While the young cadres endorse armed action, the Maoist leadership is contemplating "whether entering the political mainstream and working in social sectors in the villages will help draw more people" into the CPI-Maoist fold, the leader said on condition of complete anonymity.

This is particularly so because the Indian government has threatened a crackdown on the Maoists, and the police and army have already stepped up anti-Maoist operations.

The leader, originally from West Bengal who spoke to IANS near Ghatshila in East Singhbhum district, is attached to the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML), which gave up violence for electoral politics in the early 1980s.

Even as the CPI-Maoist calls for a boycott of the Jharkhand assembly elections because it believes that electoral politics is "a bourgeois game", nearly 50 former Maoists are contesting the polls.

"A new revolution is not possible at this stage - neither nationally nor internationally," he said. "This is making the young armed insurrectionists in the state a little frustrated, impatient and restive.

"The dialectical debate has also forced a section of the Maoist leaders to surrender and join mainstream politics this time. The trend actually began a couple of years ago."

"Increased police action and deployment of the army in the villages have led to excesses and large-scale human rights violations against poor tribals and backward caste villagers who form our support base in Jharkhand. It is forcing a rethink among the top brass. We don't want the innocent and poor to suffer," he said.

The leader said the dilemma had its roots in the way the CPI-Maoist was formed.

The CPI-Maoist, born in 2004, is a merged entity comprising the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People's War Group, two of the most violent strands within the Indian Maoist movement.

The CPI-ML, which has taken part in both Lok Sabha and state elections after shunning the electoral process for decades, as well as some other Maoist groups claim the enemy "is stronger and all the radical Left groups should work together for the common goal - development through class struggle".

But another section, mainly because of pressure from youths and students, wants to create chaos and whip up propaganda for early results.

A section of the leadership in the CPI-Maoist in Jharkhand "wants to concentrate on building up effective political and social wings to carry on the legacies bequeathed by Lenin, Marx and Mao Zedong", said the ideologue with extensive links with all sections of Maoists.

"An alternative development movement focussing on social reforms at the grassroots is already under way. We are trying to spread social awareness in villages through education - by inculcating Communist values - by solving the drinking water problems, promoting awareness about equality of gender, trying to stop female foeticide and ensuring minimum wage in the remote villages of Palamau, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Ranchi and districts bordering Bihar," he said.

Tribal villagers in Jharkhand earn less than Rs.20 per day and school dropout rates are as high as 75 percent, said the Maoist leader.

"We set up at least 10 schools over the past decade, but the security forces have destroyed them. We also conduct health camps, which are attended by reputed doctors.

"Earlier, the police lent us tacit support. But since the central government deployed the army for anti-Maoist operations, local police have stopped cooperating, making things more difficult for us.

"I don't know which way the movement is heading."