Narayanpatna of Koraput District in southern Odisha has become synonymous with militant struggle – a struggle for land that transformed into a revolt against the exploitative landlords, moneylenders and liquor-traders and integrated with the revolutionary movement, all the while maintaining its mass character over the last ten years. Along with Lalgarh, Narayanpatna presents before the oppressed masses of the country a glowing model of revolutionary peasant armed struggle.
The majority Kuvvi adivasis living here lost their land to non-adivasi migrants such as Brahmins, Rajputs and Sundis who became landlords through force and deceit. The adivasis had to clear up patches of forest land for their homestead and field or work in the fields of the landlords as tenants or bonded labourers. In 2004,the adivasi poor peasants formed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) and succeeded in seizing 118 acres of land after chasing away the landlords. Following this initial success, the organisation took firm roots. The revisionist CPI(ML) KN Ramachandran group leading them tried to confine the struggle within legal limits. The masses were influenced by the rewvolutionary movement in Dandakaranya and neighbouring Malkangiri led by the Maoists as well as the daring raids of the PLGA in Koraput and Nayagarh. Peasants seized 150 acres of land in Borigi and Nagulabedda panchayats in 2008 led by the Maoists.
This greatly enthused the masses. CMAS leadership of Narayanpatna declared itself to be independent from Ramachandran group. As the struggle intensified, the landlords organised ‘Shanti Committee’ and attacked CMAS. The peasants responded by forming their own militia ‘Ghenua Bahini’. Due to the counter-attack launched by the militia, repression subsided. In June 2009, peasants from seven panchayats and 159 villages armed with traditional weapons seized 2500 acres of land. This mass upheaval shook the old structures and social relations to their foundations. The masses finally rose up to throw away the yoke of semi-feudal bondage and domination by asserting their collective might.
The ruling classes were alarmed. By harvest time in November 2009, state repression was scaled up. Singanna, one of the popular leaders of CMAS, was shot dead. A reign of white terror was imposed. Though the movement was hit hard the people did not abandon their land. They collected half of the produce and the next year the entire crop. The masses considered it to be a great achievement of the movement. The Maoist party began to give direct leadership.
The structure of the CMAS at the village level was made more democratic. Party primary units and people’s militia in village expanded and Revolutionary People’s Committees (RPCs) were formed. Addressing all aspects of the peasant’s lives, it began building the foundations of a self-reliant economy. Since 2009, Narayanpatna has been facing the multi-pronged attack of ‘war on people’. Under its impact some leaders even abandoned the struggle. Yet, the movement remains undeterred.
It went through several difficult periods in the past as well, but emerged stronger from each one of them. The movement’s strength lies in its revolutionary line, Maoist leadership and a strong mass character. The people are well aware that though the path of struggle they have chosen is fraught with difficulties, a return to the old society and a life under the ruthless landlords is even more intolerable.