Overcoming innumerable obstacles and snatching initiative, PLGA fighters and urban action team combatants led by the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC) of the CPI (Maoist) have opened up a new warfront in the State of Keralam, situated along the South Western coast of India. Their armed propaganda actions targetting the state, corporate and local exploiters, have broken the viel of lies and counterpropaganda of the reactionaries and revisionists and forcefully brought out the politics and rational of the people’s war. Some of these actions were done in broad day light through bold and rapid moves in urban centres, stunning the enemy and enthusing the people. The necessity of taking up arms and advancing the revolutionary war as the true means to seize and secure the rights of the adivasis and other masses over the ‘Land, water and forests’ has been widely propagated through these actions.
This has attracted wide attention among the oppressed masses, particularly the youth. These actions were carried out as part of a Politico-Military Campaign (PMC) carried out over a three month period, from November 2014 till January 2015. The aim of the campaign was to prepare the masses for the revolutionary war, defeat the initiative and aggressiveness of the enemy armed forces and advance the revolutionary movement. In the course of this campaign fighters of the PLGA engaged a section of the Thunderbolts in a firefight and successfully retreated without loss or injury, while throwing the adversary into panicked flight. It is notable that the Thunderbolts are a highly trained and heavily armed force specifically raised by the government of Keralam to suppress the Maoist led armed struggle.
The successful completion of the PMC marks a qualitative turn in the expansion of the people’s war led by the CPI (Maoist) in the country as well as an overcoming of the stagnation faced in the armed struggle initiated in the Western Ghats more than a decade ago in the Malnad region of Karnataka. Facing heavy repression, the party lost 16 of its valiant leaders and fighters, including comrades Saketh Rajan and Rajamouli (Secretaries of Karnataka State Committee) during this period, while striving to sink firm roots and advance the new democratic revolution by rallying the masses. Meanwhile, efforts to initiate the armed struggle in Tamil Nadu and Keralam too failed to get off, suffering grievous losses of comrades who were martyred in enemy attacks.
Reviewing these experiences the party decided to pool all its capacities in the three Southern States and formed the WGSZC. This committee resolved to concentrate its major force at the Trijunction (TJ) of the three States in the Sahyadri mountain range (Western Ghats), while continuing work in Malnad. Accordingly, plans and preparations were made to deploy. The deployment from Malnad to the TJ which began in May 2012 was completed successfully in May 2013 after overcoming many hurdles and enemy encirclement and suppression campaigns. Another beloved comrade and heroic guerilla comrade Yellappa was lost in one attack by the enemy. After reaching the TJ, the interlinking of all squad areas was further delayed due to inclement weather.
It could be completed only by the end of 2013. Soon after the PLGA squads reached the northern tip of TJ in Keralam in February 2013, their presence was exposed. The enemy launched a big military and propaganda offensive. They were aided in this dirty work by turncoats (aptly named ‘exalites’ by the late poet Kunjunnimash, in a play on the ‘naxalite’ tag given to Maoists) who have since long deserted the revolutionary movement. While the enemy spread ‘terror’ stories, the ‘exalites’ complemented them with pontifications on the “improbability of a Maoist led armed struggle in ‘advanced’ Keralam”.
Large scale combing and deployment of forces was done by the Kerala government. Simultaneous combing by Kerala Karnataka Tamil Nadu forces was done in TJ area forests spanning the three States. These developments created some hurdles in carrying out the deployment plans and movement of the PLGA squads. However, it also brought about a new political atmosphere in Kerala. The Maoist movement, particularly the people’s war, became a central topic of discussion, keenly followed by the revolutionary masses. Defeating the moves of the enemy and the anti-propaganda of the turncoats, the party and PLGA were able to counter the enemy offensive politically, successfully complete military tasks and sustain work in the Trijunction.
The PLGA squads went to the toiling masses, practically witnessed the pathetic living conditions of the adivasis, propagated revolutionary politics and necessity of armed struggle and studied the socio-economic condition to some extent. They were shocked to see the utter poverty and backwardness of the adivasi masses in Keralam, which the ruling classes and their trumpeter media boast as the most developed State in the country in terms of human development index.
The assessment of the WGSZC was proved to be correct on the objective condition in TJ and the response from the toiling masses. Both are very conducive to build revolutionary movement, wage armed struggle and build revolutionary army. The enemy’s slanderous propaganda against the revolutionaries really helped them in a sense — the squads were not strangers to the people when they went to their villages as the enemy had already informed them about the Maoists! Relying on the masses, the squads successfully established themselves in the designated areas, built up their networks, carried out reconnaissance and prepared for action against the enemy. The successful preparation and carrying out of the PMC was the outcome of this solid work, carried out in exhaustingly difficult terrain full of steep inclines and braving inhospitable conditions.
During this period one more comrade, Sinoj, was martyred. The area selected by the WGSZC as its main zone of work was, historically, mostly inhabited by fifty odd adivasi tribes engaged in agriculture and herding. Many of them like Paniyar, Adiyer, Kattunayakkas, Kurichyar, Todar, Kotha, Irular, Kurumbas, Sholigar, Jenu Kurubas, Betta Kurubas, and many others are living there for centuries. Being original inhabitants of the forests they enjoyed free use of its land and resources. Many of them were either huntergatherer or practised shifting cultivation. Some were pastoral. The feudal kings/British colonialists/nontribal people from plains invaded this territory, grabbed the land of the adivasis, overturned their tribal way of life and brought them under their rule.
In Wayanad (Keralam), taking its name from ‘Vayal nadu’ (land of paddy fields), they were expelled from their habitats by British colonialism in the process of establishing plantations. A large section among them were forced into bonded labour in the plantations along with dalits brought from other parts of the southern peninsula. Under colonial forest rules and regulations the adivasis were denied rights in the forests. Similarly, in Attappady (Keralam), the indigenous Kurumbar, Mudugar and Irular were reduced to wage labourers, some working for the ganja mafia, due to alienation of lands and restrictions enforced by the forest department. In Nilgiri Tamil Nadu), the Todar, Kotha, Irular, Kurumbar were the original inhabitants.
British colonialists occupied there lands in 19th century to set up military establishments, plantations and summer residences. The tribal communities became labourers in their own land. Nagarahole (Karnataka) was the land of Jenu Kurubas and Betta Kurubas for centuries. By the end of 19th century the British colonialists brought this area under their ownership forcibly evicting the indigenous communities for timber logging. The colonialists enforced many restrictions on the movement of adivasis and banned them from shifting cultivation, collection of forest produce and hunting for their livelihood. After the British, the Indian rulers followed the same policy. A large part of adivasi land has been alienated from them. Acts were adopted to restore these lands, but they remain unimplemented.
Due to the encroachment of their traditional lands, oppression and exploitation by the nontribal exploiters, and eviction from their traditional habitat by the state authorities in the name of various projects, National parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Reserve Forests and other Protected Areas (PA), the adivasis in all three States are living in miserable conditions. The tribal people not only lost the land and the sources of their livelihood but also their rights, their dignity and their way of life. Today they work as wage labourers in the estates and in lands owned by nontribals. More than 80 per cent adivasis are landless labourers, 35 per cent are poor peasants having less than two acres. The share of income from cultivation is less than 20 per cent of the total income. More than 70 per cent comes from wage labour and nearly 10 per cent from minor forest produce collection. Even in a State like Keralam, comparatively enjoying better health facilities, death of new born among adivasis is a distressingly regular affair.
On an average 40 to 50 adivasis, mainly women, are murdered in Attapadi alone every year. Their young are forced to work in far off places as household helps. The women are often made a target of sexual depredation. In the Kodagu region, adivasis and dalit landless continue to labour under bondage to feudal landlords.Though an Act has been recently adopted to grant land rights to forest dwellers, its implementation is nominal. Apart from adivasis, dalits are the other major community working in large numbers as labourers. Their condition is not better than that of adivasis. The whole TJ area has a large rural proletariat, agricultural workers and plantation workers. Plantation workers mainly work in big and medium plantations owned by comprador bureaucrat capitalists or the government.
Globalization policies has seriously affected both sections. In plantations, job security was badly affected. Casualisation — the tendency of engaging workers on temporary, badali and contract terms is increasing drastically. Work load has also increased manifold while real wages have decreased. Their housing and other basic amenities remain the same as it was several decades earlier. Agricultural workers, mainly engaged in the small and medium holdings owned by rich and medium peasants, are becoming more and more unemployed or underemployed. The real wage rate is also going down due to continuous inflation. The peasantry consists of three types in the whole area the landless and poor peasants, middle peasants and rich peasants. More and more poor and middle peasants are falling into debt trap; thousands have already committed suicide. The Sahyadri, particularly in Keralam, was also host to large scale inmigration of peasants. This has changed the demography of the whole TJ area.The adivasis were reduced to a minority.
Over 80 per cent of the migrant peasants are poor and middle peasants. They worked hard to transform the hills and forest into fertile land in an unfamiliar territory and hard living condition. Today, their population is over a million. They are mainly engaged in cultivation of commercial crops such as coffee, tea, cardamom, rubber, pepper, banana, fruits and vegetables etc..They are often forced into distress sale of products since their economic conditions prevent them from holding on for better prices. They are squeezed dry by atrocious terms imposed by private and public creditors. Moreover, the prices of these commodities keep swinging wildly since they are ultimately governed by global markets. A series of free trade treaties signed by the Indian government in the past few decades have made matters worse. As a result of all such factors, all sections of the people living in this region – adivasis, dalits, plantation workers, agricultural workers and peasants – face heavy exploitation and oppression at the hands of the state machinery and various exploiters. Thus, there is every reason for the masses to be joyful over the successful deployment and activities of the PLGA in their surroundings.
The Sahyadri range, all the way from its northern end in Gujarat and Maharashtra till its southern tip in Keralam, has been the site of many a popular struggle, both armed and unarmed. In particular, one area of operation of the PLGA in Keralam at present, North Wayanad, has the proud history of fierce resistance to British colonialism during the late 18th and early 19th century. The Kurichya adivasis were major participants in these struggles. Coming closer to the present period, Wayanad was one of the main areas of revolutionary struggles in Keralam inspired by the armed peasant rebellion of Naxalbari. It is also the only district where revolutionary activities have surged ahead again and again overcoming either setbacks due to repression or deviations. Here special mention must be made of comrade Verghese, martyred in 1970, who played a leading role in organising the adivasi bonded peasants against feudal exploitation and went on to lead them in the armed struggle for the seizure of political power.
His memory continues to inspire the oppressed masses throughout Keralam. Keralam has a long history of communist activity and valiant armed struggles led by the communists. When the CPI leadership deviated into revisionism, rank and file comrades in different parts of the State started seeking a way forward. They were attracted to the fierce ideological struggle being waged against Khrushchev revisionism under the leadership of Mao Tsetung. The peals of spring thunder from Naxalbari thus resounded in favourable conditions, and hundreds rallied to the path of protracted people’s war.
Ever since then Maoist led revolutionary activities has been a regular feature of the political scene. A number of heroic armed actions were carried out successfully. Many militant mass struggles were organised. At different periods, youth and students came forward in large numbers to join the revolutionary movement and serve the people. Yet all these efforts did not lead to building a sustained and developing Maoist movement. All throughout these decades, the revolutionary movement was repeatedly derailed by wrong tendencies and rightist deviations.
This was ruptured with in the early 1990s. On the one hand, a section of comrades rebelled against the revisionist line of K. Venu, rejected the theses that conditions in Keralam are not conducive for people’s war and went forward. This initiative would be one of the components forming the Maoist Unity Centre, CPI (ML), along with comrades in Maharashtra, and then later, the CPI (ML) NAXALBARI, uniting with revolutionaries led by the late comrade SA Rawoof. A group of comrades, who had formed a new centre, rebelling against CPI(ML) Jana Shakthi rightist leadership, later merged with this. Meanwhile, sections who were disgusted with the right opportunism of the various ML parties present in Keralam rebelled and joined the CPI (ML) People’s War in the early 1990s, which later merged with the Maoist Communist Centre, India in 2004 to form the CPI (Maoist). They too set out to rubbish the revisionist theses of Keralam’s exclusivity. Both of these initiatives had been working independently towards initiating armed struggle.
Now, following the merger of the CPI (Maoist) and the CPI (ML) NAXALBARI, they have become one. This has played an important role in the successful opening of a new front of the people’s war in Keralam. For the people of Keralam, this is a decisive step towards realising the revolutionary road long blockaded by revisionism. For the Maoist movement in India as a whole, it is the promise of firmly repudiating opportunist theses that deny the validity of the new democratic revolution and the people’s war in regions that are relatively advanced. As such, it is already a rebuttal, in deeds, of the Indian state’s claim to have isolated and restricted the revolutionary movement to Central and Eastern India.