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Maoist presence in Kerala – Beyond revolutionary folklorism

Maoist presence in Kerala – Beyond revolutionary folklorism



K K Baburaj

baburajAre Maoists, as pointed out by many, making it easier for the government to suppress people’s protests in Kerala? Or are they helping the government bury the struggle for existence of the marginalised? Can Maoist attacks sway the opinion of the people against the government? Does Maoist presence help re-establish the government in power, one which is indifferent and lethargic in solving grave issues of the people and has lost its image due to alleged corruption of massive proportions, as ‘protector de patriarch’?

 Maoism fundamentally believes that existing civil mode, as a whole, is an instrument of class oppression. Going by this, the government is only a mechanism, to watch over through surveillance cameras and do internal policing of the unrest that flares up among the people due to class conflicts, and suppress it. According to Maoists, all welfare measures of the government are smokescreens intended to help the corporates, and education is just an exercise to carve agents of government administration. They also believe that freedom of speech, social ethics, or collective life of people are articulations of governmental supremacy and hence bear no greater importance than the imagination of a wishful thinker. The people, as we know, are in continuous fight with the government to improve their living conditions, and Maoists creep in, find hideouts among these people and try to expand their territory and strength. Maoism, in short, does not acknowledge democracy as a mode of administration or even a lifestyle. They are elements of Marxist fundamentalism that could regenerate anywhere, anytime. Though Gandhiji is their established enemy, the real obstacle on their way is Ambedkar, the vibrant source of modern democratic thoughts in India. 

From the very moment of its origin, Maoism has been appealing to people to refrain from voting, terming elections as the most deceptive activity taking place in the nation. But the people, on the contrary, have been actively exercising their franchise in areas considered as their strongholds. Also, they don’t reject the misleading instruments of the government such as TV, dailies, magazines, cinema or internet. Thus, people dismiss the political technocracy of the Maoists even in their strongholds, and Maoists often explain this phenomenon as an act of the police and the informers. Assuming their accusations to be true, if we expect people to lose all their hopes in the existing civil administration and welcome Maoism as the alternative liberating force, it foreordains a number of factors. Let us examine these factors:

Ancestral Land/Traitors  

China, which is the parent land of Maoists, did undergo a war of national liberation under the leadership of communists. Though there were several factors that led to their victory, the following circumstances were very crucial and decisive.

 One: The majoritarian Han nationality of China, then, was fragmented to the core due to deep conflicts, and several provinces were rattling with war between warlords. This had created a space for the communist party to project themselves as the real representative of nationalism. They assured the people that their motive was to realise the dreams of Sun Yat-Sen, the modern icon of Chinese nationality, and eventually made Red Army as the National Liberation Army. These tumults of events dragged many warlords to the communist side. Many tall models of old imperialism were appointed at the helm of national liberation.

Two: The invasion of China by its age-old enemy, Japan, drew the support of the people to the national resistance movement of the communist party.

Three: Old western invasion, and later Japanese invasions, formed their quasi-governments in China with the help of the nationalities, races and provincial power centres who were socially outside the main nationality. Most of these minorities were Christians of native origin. With unification of Chinese nationality they were labelled as direct agents of foreign intruders and treated with hatred1. It is a fact that the Chinese Communist party constantly called for a rejection of national chauvinism. Traitors, spies, betrayers, pimps, deceivers – these terminologies which commonly appeared even in the central committee communique were part of the racial enmity that the nationalists engineered against these ‘internal others’. The edifice of Chinese nationality, as one of the most powerful nationalities of the world, was built upon this hatred. Thus, the Han Chinese racism become an important part of Chinese nationalism just as the White Russian ethnicity become central to Russian nationalism. Just as the Russian Communist party and state machinery were built on a White Russian base, the Chinese Communist party and state were built on a Han Chinese base. Assimilating everything into them was their veiled objective. This is how the present Chinese imperialism built its ground as the great wall of Huan nationality.

These facts indicate that if the people of our country lose their trust in the existing civil government and decide to choose a parallel government of Maoists, there are several phases of social changes the nation will inevitably pass through. Manufacturing a war-like situation by repeating abstract words like ‘corporatisation’, ‘imperialism’, or ‘globalisation’ will not work. The only possibility would then be projecting India’s staunch enemy Pakistan, as attacking and setting up a quasi-government here. And the rulers cannot be somebody but must be the minority Muslims who are considered as ‘others’ of our nationality.

Millions of people were killed in China during the civil riots that took place all over the nation. The Han nationality was founded on the ruthless murders carried out on the natives and the ‘internal others’. In the present India, if Maoists wish to capture the crucial strength to form a government, they should massacre the minorities in thousands, much greater in number than the Sangh Parivar, to win the trust of our nationality.

Though these possibilities are unusual and rare, the fact that Maoism still exists is an important question to ponder over.

Proto-nationality/ agrarian revolution

A group of historians has placed Maoists under the lineage of India’s ancient agro-militants. Acknowledging this, some upper caste professors of well-known universities like JNU, certain journalists from mainstream media, and a few senior bureaucrats are supporting them secretly. International figures like Arundhati Roy favor them openly. At the same time persons like Aditya Nigam2 take Maoists as reactionary elements that distort the social revolution of India. Dalit intellectuals and feminist thinkers of India count Maoists as remnants of a violence-ridden race that cherishes a glorified past. The women and tribal communities also reject Maoism squarely. S.K Biswas in his work ‘Nine Decades of Marxism in the land of Brahmanism’, observes that Maoists are a tributary of Hindutva, clad in communist cloak, born to resist the exodus of tribal conversion to Christianity from Central India.

The letter published by Sabyasachi Pandey who resigned from the central committee of Maoist organisation is an indicator as to not ignore the above observations altogether. In the letter he says that in Dandakaranya, the Maoists retain their supremacy by preventing the freedom of propaganda of other political organisations and annihilating their members. Sabyasachi writes that they carry deep hatred towards prominent Adivasi tribal leaders and Christian missionaries. He differed with them on several issues and that forced him to come out of the organisation.

It has been criticised often that ninety percent of the people killed by Maoists are either ordinary villagers, or policemen from the Adivasi community, or officers from the lower strata of society. On the sidelines thousands were killed in police atrocities. Aditya Nigam points out that you will not find a Banerjee, a Mukherjee, a Bhattacharya or a Basu among those killed2. In Bihar the movement of CPI (ML) Liberation Group had very wide network among the people. Their leaflets reveal that the Maoists engaged in fratricide and killed more than 450 of their party members. And these 450 victims, you can be sure, are from Adivasis, Dalits, backward and Muslim communities.

In the work ‘Agrarian struggles in India after Independence’, edited by A. R. Desai, N. Natarajan points out that there were nearly seventy five armed protests from Adivasi communities against the colonial administration. These protests are misquoted as the archetypes of Indian agrarian revolution and national liberation by several Marxist historians.

The resistance from these Adivasi communities was against the colonialists who tried to uproot them from their lands and push them to extinction. Now we have a large reference of studies that describe the various struggles of existence of the marginalised in India.3 The Marxists and their scholar affiliates, over the years, have been denying the demographical or communal representation of these protests and viewed them as part of the agrarian or national liberation movements. This is nothing but theoretical stubbornness that’s thrown upon us. Even the ‘subaltern’ critics who claimed to have revised these Marxist obduracies failed to bring any rational change to these distorted views.

The aristocratic Brahmins of India consider the paganism of Vedic period as their proto-nationalism. Parallel to this, the liberalists and the Brahmin Marxists established the agrarian revolution as a precursor of ‘national liberation’. They reframe the Adivasi protests that took place during the colonial regime as proto-nationalism, and by this they reproduce the tenets of national liberation. But the Phule-Ambedkar movement, which introduced new democratic norms during the national liberation struggle, thwarted the ‘Grama Swaraj’ of Gandhi, and armed with these neo-democratic principles, the Dalit Bahujans rejected the national liberation dogma of the Marxists as well. Having failed to understand these historical facts, the elite scholars, the media, and the popular culture are projecting Maoism as a ‘revolutionary folklorism’. Thus Maoism, the decadent remains of Marxian ideology, is being cruelly dressed up by the above coterie. So long as Maoists do not target the thickly populated regions of the upper castes and the rich, and no bombs explode in these areas, till then, the noble lullabies of this class will continue.

Another important observation that takes prominence at this juncture is the disappearance of the old class – ‘pure’ revolutionaries. They are replaced by a new clan of cultural parasites called Maoists. Only such sections of parasitic traits can exploit the Adivasis and women, more heinously than any mainstream organisations, to execute their agenda of reactionary killings. Their cultural symbols and theories of women’s liberation clearly expose their cultural parasitism. In central India and Andhra Pradesh they extort large sums of money from corporate heads and big landlords through might and forced levy. This is not a spill of news from the closed corridors of media but it is a validated fact.

When we have these facts in front of us, it is baseless to say that the existence of Maoists is a conspiracy of a few top police officers to siphon off central funds as opined by some of the prominent cultural activists and media persons. The importance assigned to violence by the media, and the general assumption that subversive activities trigger historical changes, benefit Maoists. False conviction of the people that social dacoity to communist mythology are progressive trends, also favor these people. Maoism, in spite of all these factors that may support their growth, will not pose any threat, even to a slightest degree to established powers. Not far from now we will witness all socialist groups and mainstream communist parties becoming stagnant and the CPI (ML) fractions wilting to extinction.

I would like to draw your attention to a Maoist poster in Vellamunda, a village in Kerala, which read, ‘Death is the punishment to the traitors’.

In the communist manifesto, the revolutionary class of industrial workers justifies their position as ‘revolutionaries’ by alienating and antagonising their deprived brothers as ‘lumpen proletariat’. We have already seen that it was the national minorities whom the Chinese communist party labelled as ‘pimps’. With lack of a prominent leadership of factory workers, or lack of presence of a foreign invader as in the case of China, who will here be referred to as ‘traitors’ by Maoists? The fact remains that Maoism cannot exist without an alienated ‘traitor’. In her article, ‘ Walking with Comrades’, Arundhati Roy describes these traitors as agents of state, who join with the state’s propaganda of national security to crush the Maoists. This statement actually condemns thousands of people of the Adivasi villages as traitors. It is pitiable and disheartening to note that this international writer doesn’t have a speck of compassion to consider these Adivasi community as our brothers and sisters. This doubtlessly clarifies that those who are not ‘Maoists’ are ‘traitors’. And the word cleverly conceals the fact that the traitors are the ordinary people at the bottom, not those in power. So, the growth of Maoism means giving credibility to a dangerous politics, giving sanction to ‘fratricides’ as observed by Kazantzakis.

It does not require any explanation to understand how Naxalism in general and Maoism in particular crumble the social mobility of women and Dalits. In Telengana-Naxalbari regions and other territories where left militarists had strength, it is found that the Dalits, Adivasis and lower caste women were extremely poor in education, wealth and self-empowerment. Other than a few hollow activists, the naxal-maoist activism could not produce even a single individual who could represent the large mass of people and be their voice. This is a fact to be taken seriously.

Generally, people from the upper castes and backward castes, who have affinity towards Marxism, are the ones who embrace Naxalism and Maoism. Even after many years of their political involvement among the people, they fail to engage in cordial and constructive discourse with the bottom of our society, and become insensitive to their problems. It is the Marxian ideology that throws them to such social passivity, as Marxism inherently rejects diversity with its erroneous and deceitful dialectics, and pushes them into a slumber of reminiscence of a glorified past of communist parties.

Mass politics of post-modern India is obliged to two distinguished personalities. One is Kanshi Ram, who led crores of Dalits and Bahujan people into the democratic process, and the other is VP Singh, who lived by the ethics of a ruler. During the turbulent period of 70s and 80s, they both called upon the naxalites to shed militarism and appealed them to believe in democracy. Now, in continuation of this, the most desirable demand that can be placed in front of these activists and their ideologues is, to drop Maoism and trust the common people.



1. Race, Ethnicity and Sexuality – Intimate Intersections, Forbidden
Frontiers. (Joane Nagel- University of Kansas 2003).

 2. The Rumour of Maoism – Aditya Nigam (Kafila – March 25/2010).

 3. As a consequence of several Adivasi protests in colonial India, various new acts were passed in favour of Adivasis; Act of 1935 was formulated considering the geographical and communal specifics of the Adivasi community. Formation of 24 Parganas district in Bengal state was also an outcome of this, writes N Natarajan in ‘Agragarian struggles in India after Independence’, edited by A.R Desai. 



K K Baburaj is a writer, social critic and Dalit activist based in Kerala.

This article was translated from Malayalam by Jayachandran J M.

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