Led by Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Khokhan Majumdar and Jangal Santhal, all former CPI-M leaders who broke away from the party to set up CPI(ML), the movement spread like wildfire with their slogan "Land belongs to him who tills it" catching fancy of the farmers.
They have failed to establish a class-less society and their rousing slogan “China’s chairman is our chairman” is no longer heard, but the ideals and the struggle of the Naxalites are still relevant, prominent Naxalite leaders say. Only the character of the enemy has changed – from feudal lords to BJP-RSS, so insist former Naxalites like Vervara Rao and Santosh Rana as well as present-day leaders like Dipankar Bhattacharya. They said that 50 years might have passed since the uprising began, but their ideals still remained relevant today when the BJP-RSS government was bent on “dividing the country and society on religious lines”.
“We had fought against feudal lords and a bourgeois system to create a class-less society. We did not achieve success, but our objectives are more relevant in the present context when a BJP-RSS government is trying to divide the country and society on religious lines,” former Naxal leader Vervara Rao told PTI. They were the “real enemies of class struggle” and they should be fought unitedly, Rao said. Santosh Rana, also a former Naxalite, said that when ‘Modi-RSS’ was trying to take India backwards through its policies of ‘Gorakhsa’ and ‘Gharwapsi’, the ideals and teachings of the Naxalbari Movement were never more relevant than now.
“They are very important in today’s perspective to create a unity among masses,” Rana said. The Naxalbari uprising began on May 25, 1967 at the village of Naxalbari in north Bengal’s Darjeeling district after 11 villagers, mostly share-croppers, including eight women and two children, were killed by the police. Led by Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Khokhan Majumdar and Jangal Santhal, all former CPI-M leaders who broke away from the party to set up CPI(ML), the movement spread like wildfire with their slogan “Land belongs to him who tills it” catching fancy of the farmers.
The campuses of hallowed institutions like Calcutta University and Presidency College became the hotbeds of Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries who advocated an armed struggle against the Indian state. The romanticism of armed revolution led many bright and young minds from noted educational institutions to join the movement. The uprising, which was described by Peking Radio as “front paw of Indian revolution” and the People’s Daily of China as “spring thunder over India”, was eventually suppressed by the United Front and the Congress government through ruthless police action, leading to the disintegration of the CPI(ML) into many splinter groups.
Although the movement failed in its objective, many subsequent pro-poor policies adopted by the state and central governments like the Operation Barga (distribution of land among landless peasants), the Panchayat system and the Public Distribution System were a direct result of it. “No one can deny that Naxalbari movement changed India’s socio-political system. But today the very idea of a class-less society is under threat under the Modi government,” CPI(ML) Liberation general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said.
“From the class struggle of 1960’s, the focus has shifted to the RSS-BJP combine. If we have to fight against the communal divide, we have to widen the class struggle,” Abhijit Majumdar, Central Committee member of the CPI(ML) Liberation and son of Charu Majumdar, said. Ironically, it is the Naxalbari village and other areas in north Bengal where the saffron brigade is fast gaining ground, a fact acknowledged by Bhattacharya. “The BJP is creating a mass base in Naxalbari which is a reflection of entire society where they are gaining ground through divisive politics and communal polarisation,” he pointed out.