Home Contact Us  

Naxalite Violence - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#2926, 31 July 2009
Maoist Violence and its Limitations
Devyani Srivastava
Research Officer, IPCS
e-mail: devyani@ipcs.org

Since the formation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in September 2004, the armed activities of the Maoists have gained unprecedented lethality and frequency across India. The virtual absence of the Indian state in some areas and excessive corruption in mostly tribal and forested areas coupled with a systematic implementation of guerilla warfare tactics has enabled the Maoists to consolidate their military strategy and perpetrate a rein of terror. Despite their military advances, however, the social and political expansion of the Maoists remains restricted. Even in the most conducive environment marked by oppression and acute backwardness, such as in Lalgarh in West Bengal and Kandhamal in Orissa, evidence from the ground suggests that the support for the Maoists brand of politics is at best limited. Why has this been the case?

The impact of the nihilist violence associated with the Maoist ideology upon its transformative and liberating capacity has attracted many intellectual writings, with Hannah Arendt’s work being among the most prominent. Writing in On Violence, Arendt critiques the effectiveness of violence in the phenomenon of revolution by questioning the political equation of power with violence - for instance, Mao’s declaration that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” According to Arendt, violence and power are at opposite ends, with one occurring where the other cannot.  Power stems from the support and consent of the people while violence, relying on instruments up to a point, can manage without the numbers. The resort to violence therefore, is actually the symptom of a crisis of power. Moreover, being instrumental by nature, violence can never create power as the obedience it exacts is never long-lasting. This distinction is particularly critical to understanding the limitations of violence in a revolution, for violence does not imply power, and without power, a revolution is not possible. Truly popular uprisings, therefore, do not require armed combat but only a shift in the loyalties of state structures (police, bureaucracy) against the state which can render the superiority of state-owned means of violence (used to suppress revolutions) useless.

Drawing upon Arendt’s argument, recent Maoist operations in Lalgarh and Kandhamal assume significance not so much for revealing a spread of the Maoists but for reflecting the limited transformative capacity of their revolution.

In Lalgarh, the initial phase of protests led by the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) did not see any major Maoist attack in terms of landmine blasts and ambushes despite an endorsement of the tribals’ struggle by the rebels. Reports from the ground explained that the central Maoist leadership was at odds with local Maoist cadres over the extent of armed activity - while the former supported intense action, local workers advised against it for fear of alienating the people. This is why later on when the Maoists unleashed a wave of terror against Marxist leaders inviting in turn the wrath of the state, explicit support for the Maoists is believed to have waned. Further weakening their base was the inability of the Maoists and the PCPA to run a viable parallel administration as had been promised to the people. Following a period of instant success through several projects including building roads, water reservoirs, and providing medical teams, the Maoists soon began to use their trademark coercive tactics against the people, forcing them to pay levies that further alienated the people.   

The violent attacks perpetrated by the Maoists against Hindutva fundamentalists in Kandhamal last year is another case in point. Their involvement was precipitated on the grounds of protecting the Christian community - mainly Panos Dalits - that had been subject to the oppression and pressure of the Sangh Parivar to ‘re-convert’ to Hinduism. However, given the tense relations between the Panos and the Kandhas (the dominant Adivasi community) and the Sangh’s Hindutva propaganda in the district, the assassination of Swami Lakshmananda in August by the Maoists worsened, instead of alleviating, the condition of the Christians. At least 43 Christians were killed and close to 13,000 displaced in the riots that ensued. Maoist involvement in the issue has placed the Christian community at the mercy of the Hindutva miscreants who continue to intimidate them while the Maoist cadres have escaped into hiding.

Both these cases are instructive in pointing out the ineffectiveness of the Maoist brand of politics. In both instances, while genuine grouses against years of oppression by the dominant political forces (Marxist and Hindutva) had created support for the Maoists, the latter’s excessive reliance on violence proved to be the dividing line between the target community (that became the victim of worse atrocities following Maoist intervention) and the rebels. The Maoist military advance, therefore, does not have the potential to translate into an armed uprising. While Maoists intellectuals may well argue that this stage is only a catalyst in paving the way for an armed uprising, and that time is on their side, the fact is that unless the rebels start providing social services, their brand of violence will only alienate the masses further.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
On Maoist Killings

Review of Chief Ministers' Conference on Naxalism

Naxal Attack in Gadchiroli: A Sign of Strength or Weakness?

Policy Options on Pakistan: What India Should Do

Elections in Maoist Heartland

Emerging Trends of Urban Terrorism

Fighting Naxals

Q&A: Terror Tentacles in Karnataka

Q&A: Karzai Threatens Pakistan

Q&A: Attack on Danish Embassy in Islamabad

Mining War in Chhattisgarh

Nayagarh Attack: Maoist Penetration in Orissa

The Swat Offensive

Web of Violence in Jharkhand

Naxals-LTTE nexus in Tamil Nadu: An Alliance in the Making?

Economic Blockade: Will the Maoists' New Strategy Succeed?

The Gorakhpur Blasts: Symptom of a Rising Threat

Naxal Attack with a Vengeance in Chhattisgarh

Suicide Terrorism - Iraq 2006

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.