Fifty shades of Red : Ideological struggle among Naxalite groups in Bihar

Busts of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Lin Piao and Charu Mazumdar outside a Naxalbari school. Pic courtesy Indian Express


Frontier, 14 August 1971

An ideological struggle is on in Bihar. Mr. S. N. Singh, the State Secretary of the CPI (ML), has declared a virtual war against party theoretician, Mr. Charu Mazumdar. The State Secretary has “expelled” many of the followers of Mr. Mazumdar, while he himself has been disowned by the Mazumdar camp.

The war is on. But it is being fought on a purely ideological level.

Ideological differences are not new for the Marxist-Leninist — to be more precise, Maoist — ranks in Bihar. From the very beginning, say from the days of the “Naxalbari Sahayata Samiti’ and the ‘Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries’, there have been many groups, popularly known as ‘Naxalites’, claiming faith in the Maoist dictum of armed revolution.

Expulsion Games

The dominant group is the CPI (ML). In the beginning, Mr. Toofan Chandra Josh and Mr. S. N. Singh were the pillars of this group. The irony is that both of them are no longer attached to the party. The former was expelled by the latter while the latter himself has been disowned by the Mazumdar camp.

From the very beginning of the armed struggle in Bihar, the CPI (ML) has been the most active and influential among the Naxalite groups.

Another was the group of Mr. B. K. Azad. Though very active in nature, the working field of this group was limited in the sense that it had influence only in the home area (north Munger) of Mr. Azad.

The third group of communist revolutionaries were active under the leadership of one Mr. Rahi. This group was very small and it too had a very limited working field, viz some parts of Gaya district.

Yet another group led by Mr. Prithviraj Singh was active in the same region. This group is said to have had close connection with the Co-ordination Committee of Mr. T. Nagi Reddy.

Besides this, numerous scattered groups or combinations of groups — some having only a handful of persons in their fold — led by individual revolutionaries were also active all over Bihar. At least two or three of groups were in existence in Patna alone.

Most of these small groups died out in the absence of a powerful ideological background and their members, including leaders, joined other stronger groups, mainly the CPI(ML).

In certain cases, the groups themselves merged into the CPI (ML). Most of these groups had no strong ideological difference, with the ML.

Favourite abuse: ‘CIA agent’

While engaged in ideological dispute the Indian communists are often in the habit of hurling their pet accusations of ‘CIA agent’, ‘counter-revolutionary’, ‘revisionist’ and ‘adventurist’ — without caring whether the struggle is antagonistic or non-antagonistic.

The struggle in Bihar is being conducted in the same traditional manner. To go by one group, it alone is the torch-bearer of revolution and the rest are nothing but CIA agents.

Rahi Group

Mr. Rahi’s “CIA” group is very small and insignificant — and inactive too, to some extent — and it is futile to discuss its ideological background. However, it may be mentioned that he was once expelled from the Bihar State Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries on charge of “counter-revolutionary activities”.

Prithviraj Group

The group led by Mr. Prithviraj Singh too comes in the same category. Before making any comment on the ideology of Mr. Singh it is necessary to reveal that once he had to undergo medical treatment in a mental hospital.

Though having affiliations with the T. Nagi Reddy group he is very happy to declare that he is trying to propound some new Marxist theories of his own for the advancement of the Indian Revolution. “He is”, reported Mr. Singh’s son, “engaged in studying mathematics now-a-days.”

BK Azad Group

Both these groups have no ‘action’ to their credit while the group of Mr. B K. Azad was quite active in its limited working zone. But it has undergone a qualitative change.

Mr. Azad no more believes in traditional Marxism, not to speak of Maoism, Many of the Marxist formulations are basically wrong, according to Mr. Azad.

Though a prominent member of the Bihar State Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries, Mr. Azad opposed it from the very beginning. When he dissociated himself from the CCCR, his sharp criticism against the formation of the CPI (ML) seemed quite natural.

Mr. Azad does not accept that the contradiction between feudalism and the poor peasants is the major one. He considers that the question of national liberation movement is the main thing.

After the revolution is accomplished, he argues, a matriarchal system should be set up because democratic centralism means relationship between mother and child and that is impossible without a system.

There are many professional criminals in his Naxalite group because “these so-called criminals have become the most hated people in this bourgeois society and as such, they are our most allied forces.” Last but not least Mr. Azad uses substances like bhang because this help him to concentrate.

In the last mid-term parliamentary poll Mr. Azad stood as an Independent candidate from the Khagaria constituency in north Bihar. He was defeated.

In the wake of the election, Mr. Azad found, all of a sudden, that the Chinese Communist Party is no longer revolutionary and that there are some basic errors in dialectical materialism.

CPI(ML) Rift

Since it is the biggest and the most influential group, the rift in the CPI (ML) is disturbing. The two groups treat this rift from different viewpoints.

While Mr. S. N. Singh treats it as an inner-party struggle, the Mazumdar group in Bihar accuses him of being a “traitor”. Both the groups are engaged in mutual mud-slinging.

While the Mazumdar group tries to trace out the traits of centralism in its former State Secretary from the earlier days, the State Secretary accuses Mr. Mazumdar of “left adventurism.”

The rift between SN and CM came into the open late last year with the adoption of a resolution by the Bihar State Committee of the CPI(ML) accusing CM of “authoritarianism” and of pursuing “extremist” policies.

The suit was followed by the U.P. State Committee, which too adopted a resolution supporting the stand taken by the Bihar Committee. However, it went one step forward by attacking the enemy annihilation programme. Bihar had kept mum over the question.

Besides accusing CM of “authoritarianism”, the Bihar Committee had attacked his line of not making a united front with the peasants at this stage. It wanted the rich peasants to be spared from annihilation.

Another attack on the leadership was mounted on the question of actions in urban areas. The Committee wanted the present sort of struggle in towns to stop and only actions of “defensive” nature to be conducted there.

It also questioned the party’s call that “this is an era of self-sacrifice.” It wanted the policy of self-defence to be followed.

Confused Cadre

The positive aspect of the whole thing is that the rank and file, who seemed to be bewildered at the time of the split, recovered very soon. They have joined this or that camp and are continuing their struggle against the Establishment.

This bewilderment was natural — the same person who was described by the CPI (ML) organ as “the beloved leader of Mushahari peasants” hardly a year ago, was described as “having no influence among the masses of the area.’’

However, it is the CM group which was in majority. All the actions carried out were credited to them. At present the SN group is practically inactive, perhaps because it has lost its influence in the three Naxalite strongholds in Bihar, viz Mushahari, Surajgarha and Chotanagpur.

Party organs differ

A clear line of demarcation emerges from the organs brought out by the two groups – both, if translated into English, mean People’s War.

Lok Yuddha, the organ of the CM group in Bihar, confines itself to preaching its ideology and seems least disturbed by the split. Almost the whole space of Jana Juddha, the organ of the SN group, is devoted to articles dealing with the present ideological war.

SN describes his one-time “respected” leader, Charu Mazumdar, as “an unintellectual man”. He asks, should an intellectual like Mr. Nirad C Chaudhuri be imported into the Communist Party to lead the People’s Democratic Revolution?

Frontier 14 August 1971

Frontier 14 August 1971


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