Naxalite Movement in Bihar: A Domino Effect of Nepal?

Nihar Nayak

The Maoists (also known as Naxalites) in India are emboldened by the recent success of their Nepalese counterpart, who emerged as a legitimate power center after a decade of protracted people’s war. The effects are already visible in Bihar, the neighboring Indian State. Despite convoluted security arrangement by the Bihar Police, partial successful of the Bandh (general strike) on Oct. 30, 2006, by the Maoists indicated that they are capable enough to strike at their will. The Naxalites have managed to blow up a forest bungalow and triggered a mine near Chamua railway station on the Narkatiaganj-Gorakhpur section under the Samastipur division of the East Central Railway in West Champaran district of Bihar. The blast damaged a 200-metre stretch of the track leading to the derailment of the engine and six bogies of a passenger train.

The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) had called a 24-hour bandh in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh from Oct. 29, 2006-midnight to Oct. 30, 2006-midnight to protest the recent arrest of their leaders Narendra alias Osho in West Champaran district of Bihar and Sheela Marandi at Raniganj in Jharkhand. The strike by the Maoists spread over four States had affected general transport services. In Sitamarhi district, armed cadres of the CPI-Maoist set ablaze three private buses. Armed cadres descended on Balua- Gausnagar village under Runni Saidpur police station and set on fire three private buses parked in front of the house of former Sitamarhi block development committee chief Rameshwar Yadav. Of late, Railway has become a soft target of the Maoists. Despite Bihar Chief Minster, Nitish Kumar's fervent appeal to lay down arms and join the mainstream society, the Maoists continue to blow up railway tracks, police outposts and loot banks

Bihar is a fertile ground for the breeding of Naxalites due to poor governance, complex social structure, chronic poverty and formation of private armies. Starting their movement against feudal forces in early 1970s from Bhojpur, the Naxalites under the banner of erstwhile MCC (Maoist Communist Centre) and PW (People’s War) are now active in over 33 Bihar’s 38 districts and operate three fronts- CPI-Maoist, New Democracy and CPI (ML-Malay group). Apart from these groups Nepalese Maoists make their presence in the State taking advantage of 700 kilometers of porous border between India and Nepal. Although security personnel are manning the boarder, it is not possible to check the movements of the Nepalese Maoists in the border areas because of forests and inhospitable terrain. Districts like East and West Champaran, Sitamarhi and Sheohar in North Bihar have been facing a spurt in Maoist violence ever since the Maoists have become active in Nepal. However, according to a reliable sources, the Maoists of Nepal, India and Bangladesh use the Dharan-Biratnagar (Nepal)-Supaul-Purnia (Bihar, India) –via chicken neck of West Bengal-Dinajpur (Bangladesh) route to coordinate themselves for a ‘United Front’ against India.

However, despite peace talks with the seven party alliance and commitment to the Democracy, the Nepalese Maoists in a joint resolution together with its South Asian counterparts have vowed to “advance revolutions for the seizure of power by armed force” and "turn South Asia into a flaming field of Maoist revolutions." At the fourth conference of the Coordination Committee of the Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) in Aug. 2006, somewhere in Nepal, the Maoists of the South Asian counties vowed to advance the armed struggle for the seizure of power in the respective countries. General Secretary of Nepal Communist Party (Unity Centre, Masal), Mohan Bikram Singh, on Oct. 31 pointed out that the CPN-Maoist as one of the most unreliable political forces in Nepal and they would do anything to come to power. They once announced to dig bunkers to launch tunnel war against India but they have now established intimate relations with India to go to power, he added.

As India grapples with a difficult internal security situation in the wake of continuing Maoist attacks, the ‘United Front’ effort by the Asian Maoist outfits in general and linkages between the Nepalese Maoists and its Indian counterparts in particular have remained a cause of concern for India. The concern is obvious due to 1,690 kilometers of porous border with Nepal. In addition, internal security is in constant threat due to ideological, strategic and organisational linkages between the CPI-Maoist and the CPN-Maoist and misuse by the terrorist outfits. In late September, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Shriprakash Jaiswal expressed apprehensions that terrorists could sneak into the country through the open Indo-Nepal border. The evidence of linkages are also confirmed by the annual report of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) of India for the year 2004-05, which states that arms belonging to Nepali Maoists are finding their way to the underworld.

As a result, any qualitative development in the Maoists movement in Nepal has significant implications for India. A document on ‘objectionable’ moderate approach and its damage to the Maoists movement in Andhra Pradesh was circulated among the Indian cadres. They felt that the party should have followed the ‘militant’ line as practised by the Maoists in Nepal and the LTTE in Sri Lanka. A document of CPI (Maoist) titled "New Challenges: Our Perspectives", meant for internal circulation, has emphasised the need for an evaluation of the Indian scenario, and, then redefine its strategies and field tactics. With modernization of its weaponry by procuring new sophisticated weapons, the Indian Maoists are closely monitoring the developments in Nepal. The Maoists victory in Nepal has strengthened the morale of Indian counterpart to accelerate the activities in India.

While the Maoists in India are all set to start a United Front with the support of its South Asian counter parts, the state responses to the menace is incoherence and lackadaisical. Even the formation of Naxalite Coordination Committee and the Task Force comprising nodal officers of the nine Naxal-affected states have failed to coordinate between the states. Apart from so called multi-pronged actions against the Maoists, the authorities should take all necessary steps to check external influence over the Maoists.

Author Note
Dr Nihar Nayak, Associate Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi