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#3047, 21 January 2010
 
The Naxal Strategy in Urban Areas
R Venkata Ramani
Research Analyst, Orkash Services Private Limited, Gurgaon
e-mail: sathyavenkataramani@gmail.com
 

Naxal violence, though predominantly a rural phenomenon, has been slowly but steadily making inroads in urban areas. The Ninth Unity Congress of the Communist Party of India (Maoists) [CPI (M)] held in January/February 2007 at an undisclosed location in the forests along the Jharkhand-Orissa border had resolved to take the struggle into urban areas. However, given the difference in the socio-economic conditions between rural and urban areas, the Naxalites are struggling to win mass support in the urban areas. Lack of basic infrastructure and development in the rural areas are the fundamental premises on which Naxalites continue their dominance over local people. On the other hand, urban areas have relatively better infrastructure and have been witnessing continuous growth and development. The fundamental premises on which the Naxalites work in rural areas therefore do not exist in urban areas. Further, other factors like greater awareness among the masses, higher literacy rate and lower unemployment rate in the cities are also not working in favour of the Naxalites. 
 
Nonetheless, the Naxalites are making concerted efforts to make their presence in urban areas felt. Media reports highlight that by 2007-08, the Naxalites had established bases in and around Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune. It appears that the Naxalites have developed a different strategy to penetrate these areas. Instead of carrying out attacks against symbols of the state, they are attempting to reach out to intellectuals and academic scholars on the one hand and industrial workers, persons who occupy lower positions in the government and students on the other.  In this way, they are seeking to mobilize the urban populace as their patrons, supporters and sympathizers, rather than as armed cadres.  
 
Evidently on 22 September 2009, police arrested foreign educated Kobad Ghandy, a politburo member of the CPI (M), in south Delhi. He was also in charge of the sub-committee on mass organizations and responsible for spreading Naxal influence in urban areas. As an ideologue of the party, he was the one who coordinated the actions undertaken by various frontal groups of the organization and other civil liberty groups in the city. In a similar incident in August 2007, police arrested two suspected Naxalite leaders in Mumbai – Vishnu alias Shridhar Krishnan Shrinivas, a member of the central politburo and the CPI (M)’s Maharashtra ‘state secretary’ and Vikram alias Vernon Gonzalez, member of the CPI (M) National Committee.. These arrests are an important indication of their penetration in a different form in urban areas.
 
The Naxalite penetration into urban areas is taking place through frontal organizations with over 100 such organizations comprising students, intelligentsia and workers reportedly in existence. The most predominant and visible modes of penetration appear to be infiltration into protests, agitations or demonstrations carried out against the government in urban areas. A sign of this was visible in places like Nandigram and Singur in West Bengal where they reportedly played an important role in instigating unrest... Another emerging form is the targeting of workers who occupy lower positions in government administration. One such group is that of the sanitation workers whose services are not regularized and who also receive lower wages. The Naxalites are attempting to exploit their grievances and thereby gain a solid momentum in their quest to penetrate into urban areas.  
 
As per media reports, the last few years have seen many strikes by sanitation workers in demand of regularisation of their services and better pay across cities in western Uttar Pradesh. All their strikes follow a definite pattern – a relay hunger strike or surrounding administrative buildings and blocking access. The sanitation workers are mostly from the Valmiki community, traditionally one of the most oppressed sections of the society. Significantly, targeting people among the oppressed sections is an age-old strategy of the Naxalites which appears to have been applied in the case of the Valmiki community as well. These strikes are well organized, raising the suspicion of Naxalite involvement.
 
Urban areas are also being used by the Naxalites for procuring rations, logistics, arms and ammunition. For instance, in September 2006, the police arrested six persons in Chennai for their alleged involvement in manufacturing parts of rocket launchers for the Naxalites.
 
Though the Naxalites are seen to be adopting a different strategy in urban areas, there are also instances of attacks being carried out in the urban towns. Significantly, these attacks have happened in areas close to the rural areas where their dominance continues. The attack in Nayagarh and Daspalla towns in Orissa on 15 February 2008 and the attack against the Orissa State Armed Police camp at R Udaygiri town in Gajapati district of Orissa on 24 March 2006 are a few such examples. These attacks however remain few and scattered with the Naxalites focusing on covert operations in urban areas instead. Notwithstanding the difficulties being faced by them in their urban operations, their resolve to penetrate into urban areas is amply clear. For this reason, the government needs to undertake measures to target Naxal intellectuals in order to stall their penetration.

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