Young Indian, 25 February 1971
A sharp tussle is promised between two opposite thoughts and outlooks — the Sarvodaya and the Naxalite — in Mushahari, a Community Development Block in District Muzaffarpur, North Bihar.
Mushahari occupies an important place in the Naxalite strategy to “liberate the countryside and encircle the cities”.
The place ranks in the literature of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) among such Naxalite strongholds as Naxalbari, Srikakulam Lakhimpur Kheri and Debra-Gopivallavpur.
It is so regarded by the party because “Mushahari is one of the few places in India where a successful guerrilla warfare is being conducted despite savage repression”.
The Naxalite Guerrilla Warfare in this area includes “annihilation” of about 22 “class enemies” besides several cases of loot and dacoity in the District of Muzaffarpur.
From early 1969 the Patna press has been full of statements by the leaders of the different political parties, on the law-and-order problem, which has arisen from the Naxalite infiltration among the poor rural masses of the region.
In the clandestine CPI(ML) literature it is claimed that Mushahari is one of their “base areas” and “what is happening in Mushahari today is a revolutionary Peoples’ War to achieve liberation from the oppressive rule of big landlords and bureaucrat capital”.
Mushahari drew wide attention early in June 1970 when the Sarvodaya leader Jaya Prakash Narayan rushed to Muzaffarpur, cancelling all his other tour programmes, to the rescue of two prominent Sarvodaya workers of Muzaffarpur who had received letters threatening that they would be done to death.
He came and took the pledge that “either my bones would crumble or I shall succeed in my Mission” of combating and curbing the Naxalite. He proposed to meet the Naxalite challenge by intensifying the Sarvodaya movement in the Mushahari region.
This was also to be the start of his experiment on a wider scale.
The Naxalites did not kill the Sarvodaya workers in question. Instead, they came forward with a challenge to J.P. by shooting down Parikshan Singh, a landlord — the 18th murder in their “enemy annihilation programme” — on June 5, 1970 at Mushahari, where just a few hours earlier the Sarvodaya leader had discussed with prominent persons of the locality how to counter their influence and activities.
It has been stated that Jaya Prakash Narayan wants to face the Naxalite challenge through a radical change in the village society, by removing economic and social disparities and by persuading the village community to unite and work for the uplift of all by common consent.
He has drawn up a programme of intensifying the Sarvodaya movement.
But ironically enough the Gramdan pledges-the much-publicised higher form of the earlier Bhoodan movement had already been obtained earlier in this Block. That is to say, the region had been donated to the ideals of Sarvodaya long ago.
J.P. has been honest enough to admit now that the Gramdan pledges have not been actually implemented in this area probably as is the case with the rest of Gramdani areas.
J.P.’s programme is drawn into two parts, now is to achieve the implementation of the earlier obtained Gramdan pledge, and, second, to rectify mistakes and lapses in Gramdan Movement.
This sounds good enough (if it is implemented). Many leaders belonging to different political parties ranging from the SSP and the CPI to the Congress and the Congress (O)-are reported to have assured their help to J.P. for carrying out his mission.
J.P.’s arrival at Muzaffarpur, on the other hand, was seen by the Naxalite as a challenge to their activities. The CPI(ML) therefore launched a bitter attack against him personally.
It proclaimed: “Mr Narayan is nothing but a tested and tried agent of the reactionary ruling class. He is a loyal lackey of the landlords who have now requisitioned his services at Mushahari. . . He has abandoned the pose of neutrality and is denouncing and condemning the ‘violence’ of the peasantry and asking them to obey and worship the landlords as before.”
Mushahari, the troubled spot of Bihar, has its own story. The story began in early 1968 when the sharecroppers there, evicted from land by the landlords, seized back some of the land.
At this, the landlord of Narsingpur is reported to have reacted forcefully. There was an attack on the sharecroppers in which a group of 300 armed men were involved. The landlord himself is reported to have come on the scene on an elephant.
After a battle which lasted four hours and in which firearms were used, the landlord’s men had to flee.
A police camp was soon established in the area and several cases were instituted against the peasants.
Naxalite sources allege that the “private army” of the landlord under the protective umbrella of the police entered the houses of peasants afterwards and in broad daylight committed all sorts of atrocities on them: raped their womenfolk, beat them up indiscriminately, smashed their huts and plundered their belongings.
The hostilities between the two sides were then suppressed, but there was really no peace.
The Naxalite took their revenge in July 1969. The house of the landlord was raided, he was shot dead and his property looted. Two other persons were killed and 12 injured in this raid.
The CPI (ML) had “black listed” this Zamindar. He was charged with playing the chief role in “hunting down revolutionaries” in their struggle, helping police in tracing the underground leaders and being instrumental in burning dozens of huts of poor peasants, looting the property of peasants, and subjecting them to “inhuman torture”.
This has been spoken of as the first action of the Naxalites under their “enemy-annihilation programme” in Bihar.
Since then, armed guerrilla actions have spread to eight thanas of Muzaffarpur. Their impact has been felt in the contiguous areas of Darbhanga and Champaran. At present almost the whole of Bihar specially Purnea, Saharsa, Munger, Darbhanga, Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Patna, Ranchi and Singhbhum is feeling the spell of Naxalite activities.
To date about 22 “class enemies” most of them charged by the Naxalites of “anti-people role” during the period of 1968-69-have been killed in Muzaffarpur District alone.
Naxalite activities are reported to be particularly intensive in the Community Development Blocks of Mushahari Boccha, Sakara, Katra, Paru and Hazipur, besides the town of Muzaffarpur.
Raj Kishore Singh is believed to be the local Naxalite leader. He is absconding and an eye-catching award has been announced for his capture. Ironically enough, the police have been making repeated claims since June 1970 that it is “on the track to locate and arrest” the absconding leader. But it has not succeeded in this so far.
The recent murder of a Jana Sangh worker of Mushahari probably marked an important change in the Naxalite tactical line. On June 24 last, Ram Garib Das, President of the Mushahari Block Jana Sangh was shot dead.
It was the first political murder committed by the Naxalites in Bihar.
Soon after the murder. a leaflet circulated by the CPI(ML) said that Ram Garib Das was shot dead because he was “a stooge of reactionaries” and “police informer”. Those who would follow in his footsteps would also meet the same fate, it threatened.
It does not mean that the administration has been complacent all this time and the Naxalites were given a free hand. The administration machinery has been on alert since 1968 when only a few cases of crop looting was the main activity of the Naxalites.
But after the first “enemy annihilation” in July 1969 which was followed by a number of murder and loot cases, the authorities have been in full alarm.
The Commissioner of Tirhut division accompanied by the district Magistrate of Muzaffarpur visited the disturbed areas in August. Earlier the Inspector General of Police and half a dozen other senior police officers had made similar visits.
In the same year (1969) a high-level conference was called by the then Advisor to the Governor, T.P. Singh to discuss the Naxalite activities in Tirhut Division comprising the districts of Muzaffarpur. Saran, Champaran, and Darbhanga.
The Commissioner of Tirhut division, the IGP Northern Range and the DMs of the four districts of the Division participated in the conference and decided to counter the Naxalites with a firm hand.
Since then, over 600 peasants including 150 alleged Naxalites have been arrested. Properties of many have been seized. Anti-Naxalite cells of police have been set up along with a network of those who will assist the police.
Contingents of the Border Security Force, the Police, armed Home Guards and Magistrates have been posted in the Naxalite infested area. Dozens of Police camps have been set up and patrolling is intensive.
Gun-licenses have been issued to many landlords for safety reasons. Alluring awards have been declared for apprehending important Naxalite leaders.
But even so the Naxalite guerrillas carry on. They seem to come from nowhere and achieve their mission of “annihilation of class enemies”. The reason for the failure of the law-and-order arm of the Government can only be traced to the utter poverty and exploitation of the poor rural masses and their belief that the Naxalites could “liberate” them.
Source of Naxal Power
A particular incident would be quite revealing and instructive. In a village under Baruraj Police Station of Muzaffarpur, a landlord cum money lender was attacked by the Naxalites in June 1969.
During the raid the guerrillas murdered the landlord and his two companions, seized all his legal deeds and documents concerning land and “confiscated” the ornaments pawned with him by the poor peasants.
The Naxalites claim that hundreds of peasants gathered at the said village after the raid, before whom all the deeds and documents in respect of land were burned and steps were taken to return the ornaments to their old owners.
This must have had a tremendous impact in the area.
Naxalites have been quite active in Muzaffarpur town itself. The local L.S. College attracted wide attention in early 1969, when the marble statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the College campus was disfigured and damaged and posters praising Mao were found pasted on it.
It was an entirely new phenomenon. At that time even in Calcutta, such activities were not heard of. Police along with the CID investigated the incident but with no result.
In June same year, there was trouble over the screening of Hindi film in a local cinema because of its anti-China theme. The screening of the film had to be abandoned when the Naxalites threatened to kill the Cinema owner.
Later when the showing of the film was resumed bombs were hurled at the Cinema owner’s house. The matter figured prominently in Bihar Legislative Council.
In September 1970, a man was the target of an unsuccessful shooting attempt. This was the first attempt of Naxalites to kill someone in the urban area.
In November, however, the situation took a new turn when one Naxalite was beaten to death and three of his associates seriously injured following a bomb attack by the Naxalites on the Muzaffarpur Institute of Technology.
The Naxalites threw three bombs at the massive building when the examination was in progress. A teacher of the Institute was injured by the bomb splinters. The students of the Institute came out of the building immediately after the explosion and captured four Naxalites.
One of them died due to beating and three other Naxalites, including a student of the Institute, were sent to hospital in an unconscious state.
However, the aim to disturb the examination-was successful. A portion of the building was damaged and papers, registers and furniture of the examination office were reduced to ashes which ultimately resulted in suspension of the examination.
This was the second incident within three days when Naxalites bombed educational institutes in Muzaffarpur. Earlier they had bombed and damaged a portion of the R.D.S. College.
It appears that the mounting police pressure and the rebuff they had in Muzaffarpur, as well as the presence of J.P. in the Mushahari region, has compelled the Naxalites to “go-slow”.
They are reported to have shifted the centre of their activities to the nearby Hazipur region where four murders have been committed within a month’s time (Nov-Dec, ’70).
What are the causes behind the Naxalite revolt? According to J.P. who is said to have made a study the situation closely, Naxalism is primarily a social, economic, political and administrative problem and only secondary a law-and-order problem.
In an article, ‘Face to Face with Reality’, J.P. raises an important question: who are responsible for the recent growth of the politically motivated rural violence?
He thinks that it would never have taken any root had not the ground been prepared for it by the persistence of poverty, unemployment, and myriad socio-economic injustices.
It is not the so-called Naxalites, he has written, who have fathered this violence, but those who have persistently defied and defeated the laws for the past so many years — be they politicians, administrators, landowners, moneylenders.
Who Is Responsible?
The big farmers who cheated the ceiling law through benami and fictitious settlements; the gentleman who grabbed Government lands and village commons; the land owners who denied the legal rights of their share croppers and evicted them from their holdings and underpaid their labourers and threw them out of their homesteads; the men who by fraud or force took the lands away from the weaker sections; the so-called upper caste who looked down upon their Harijan brothers and ill-treated and socially discriminated against them; the moneylender who charged usurious interests and seized the lands of the poor and the weak; the politicians, the administrators, and all the others who aided and abetted such wrongs; the courts of law and procedure and costs of justice that have conspired to deny a fair deal to the weaker sections of our society; the system of education and the nature of planning that are producing an ever expanding army of ill-educated, frustrated and unemployed youth and that are accentuating economic disparities leading to further polarisation of classes; the politicians whose self-seeking has reduced democracy, the party system, the ideologies to a farce — it is they who are responsible for the accumulated sense of injustice, grievance and hurt among the poor and downtrodden that is now seeking its outlet in violence. Thus declares an agitated Jaya Prakash.
It is not clear how effectively and speedily J.P. can set all this mess right by his Sarvodaya philosophy and movement.