Three living legends of the Naxalite movement from the sixties and early seventies have denounced the ideology, tactics and the cult of violence practiced by today’s Maoists.
“We do not know who these Maoists are,” a visibly disenchanted Kanu Sanyal (81) told HT, in his thatched hut in Hathigada village, 450 km north of Kolkata. “They are indulging in wanton killings of innocent villagers. Communism does not approve of this.”
“They will not win. They will not be able to achieve their goal,” said Santosh Rana (66).
Sanyal, Rana and Asim Chatterjee (67) were household names during the birth and first flush of the Naxalite movement (1967-72) when they let loose a wave of wanton killings that killed thousands in West Bengal.
Now, all three have abandoned the ideology of violence that they gave birth to.
HT spent three months chasing these former rebels to learn their views on the current Naxalite movement.
Sanyal, one of the founding fathers, along with Charu Majumdar, of the Naxalite movement, had spent three months in the 1960s with Mao Tse Tung, whose ideology he followed.
“It’s the Congress, CPI and CPM line to engage in personal assassinations,” said the reclusive Naxal veteran, whose movements are impaired following a recent paralytic stroke.
The CPI (Maoist) rebellion in Lalgarh, about 160 km south west of Kolkata, which Sanyal has been tracking, has claimed over 300 lives since June 2008.
A son of Lalgarh’s soil, Rana led the failed peasant uprising in Gopiballabhpur in West Midnapore, around 160 km south west of Kolkata, in 1969.
He felt Maoists have damaged the Lalgarh peasant uprising. “Initially, the uprising was so strong that the government was forced to withdraw forces,” he said. “The formation of Maoist hit squads, their occupation of villages and declaration of free zones have invited state repression.”
Rana, who now believes in democracy, criticised Maoists for not allowing people the right to differ with them.
The youngest central committee member of the unified CPI (ML), the original Naxalite party formed by Majumdar, Chatterjee differs with his modern day ideological successors.
“Their struggle is based on underdevelopment, not economic exploitation, as was the case during Naxalbari revolt,” said the man who turned Kolkata’s Presidency College into a Naxalite hub in the early ’70s. “The Maoists are targeting the state machinery; this is not the way to develop a people’s war.
“Political struggles cannot be launched with guns. The way Maoists are killing poor people in the name of fighting CPM is suicidal,” he said.