ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
-A A +A

Adivasi Insurrections


In the article “Contextualising Five Decades of Naxalbari” (EPW, 28 October 2017) by Debatra K Dey on the Naxalbari uprising and its implications for the current Maoist movement in central India, the author has correctly identified a critical question with respect to the role of government policies in the agricultural sector, leading to displacement of rural masses, especially the Adivasi population. Dey also raised questions about the legitimacy of the agrarian revolution as conceived by the Communist Party of India (Maoist)—CPI (Maoist).

The author has explored two pertinent issues, that is, the current state of Adivasis and agriculture. The dominant discourse on insurrection has not focused adequately on these issues. However, the article contains some small factual mistakes. The author writes “Of the nine states considered to be seriously affected by LWE [Left Wing Extremism], six are states with scheduled districts.” Rather, these should be 10 states and seven states, respectively.

In situating the ongoing insurrection as an Adivasi movement, the author could have given specific examples from the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. To illustrate, the struggle of Dongria Kondh Adivasis to stop the mining in Niyamgiri Hills of Odisha has inspired the CPI(Maoist) to resurrect in the tri-junction area of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The Supreme Court while delivering its judgment in the case of Orissa Mining Corporation v Ministry of Environment & Forest & Others (2013) has empowered the gram sabha to decide whether to allow bauxite mining by Vedanta. Similarly, in the case of Nandini Sundar & Ors v State of Chhattisgarh (2011) the Supreme Court has emphatically asserted on the appointment of Adivasi youth as special police officers (SPOs) that “to employ such ill-equipped youngsters as SPOs engaged in counter-insurgency activities, including the tasks of identifying Maoists and non-Maoists, and equipping them with firearms, would endanger the lives of others in the society.”

These two judicial pronouncements are crucial in understanding the role of the Indian state and its security-centric approach to deal with insurrectionary politics. The author has rightly pointed out the limitations of the Maoist model of development in terms of its failure to provide education and health facilities in scheduled areas. It would have been more productive to contextualise how the development model adopted by the Indian state has also failed, miserably, to deliver basic amenities such as safe drinking water, education and health. As per Census 2011, 34% of Adivasis do not have proper access to safe drinking water on their premises.

According to the author, “the core of the Maoist strategy to capture state power is an agrarian revolution through armed struggle.” Yet, we do not find instances where the Maoist party has mobilised the people of rural India against the policies of the agrarian sector. Lenin emphasised the necessity of “revolutionary upsurge” to bring revolution through the “dictatorship of proletariat.” In the Indian context, the question to be asked is how far the Maoist party has invoked a “revolutionary upsurge” among the peasants, landless labourers, Adivasis and other exploited social groups.

The bone of contention here is that Adivasis are one of the social groups in India who have been exploited by the ruling classes in an inhuman way for the past two and a half centuries. The Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution are a result of the Adivasi insurrections, an indicator of the revolutionary upsurge among the Adivasi communities. Adivasis do not shy away from rebelling against the authority in power when their rights are violated and a threat to their culture of self-governance is felt. The continuum of various Adivasi insurrections has a long history, since 1766. The Maoist party is taking political advantage of the inherent insurrectionary potential among the Adivasis to achieve its political aim of “capturing state power through the barrel of gun.”

It is true that the insurrection in central India represents the underlying Adivasi issues of political rights, justice and equality. However, in the discourse, this has not been situated properly. In spite of the above-mentioned points, given the context, the author has made a sincere effort to invoke the Adivasi issues in contextualising the 50 years of Naxalbari within the ongoing sociopolitical conflict in central and eastern India. The current discourse either strengthens the Maoist party methods of resolving land issues or the state’s development agenda, leading to discontent among the Adivasi communities. The parliamentary politics in India is reluctant to understand Adivasi issues from a rights and justice perspective, whereas the Maoist party is rigid in using its violent methods for resolving the land and other structural issues of governance. There is a need for human-centric politics, known as anthropolitics, to overcome the structural limitations of parliamentary or revolutionary politics in India.

Nayakara Veeresha


Updated On : 29th Dec, 2017


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top