Inside MCC Country
reprinted from the pamphlet "Inside MCC Country" by
Aloke Banerjee, a journalist for the Times of India (June 2003).
Jharkhand to Lal Khand
present enormous growth of the MCCI [Maoist Communist Centre of
India] had a humble beginning 30 years ago. But even then, Bihar
had been selected as part of a strategic area by the founding
fathers of the Party - Kanai Chatterjee, Amulya Sen and Chandrashekhar
Das. And ever since MCC began its work, Chatterjee had been insisting
that formation of a red army and a base area must be identified
as the principal task of the party. In fact, it was this strategy,
which gave MCC a distinct identity as compared to the CPI(ML),
which was much more powerful in the early 1970s. To put the central
task into practice, largely on an experimental basis, the MCC
sent some of its members to the Kanksa-Budbud-Aushgram area in
Burdwan in West Bengal in the early 1970s.
knew that the work here would not survive and would be crushed
soon. But we needed field-level experience, and the plan was to
recruit some active and advanced forces and depute them to Bihar",
said Bihar-Jharkhand-Bengal special area committee member Kamal.
Kanai Chatterjee and Amulya Sen themselves began working in Bihar
and in areas that now fall within Jharkhand. "We were clear
from the beginning that it would be unwise to work wherever we
found contact. So, from our inception, we concentrated our work
in the area that we felt could be converted into a base area in
future," Kamal said.
began from Dhanbad and Gaya in Bihar. By the time the struggle
in Kanksa faced a setback after a ruthless police repression,
the MCC was already active in Hazaribagh and Giridih. Simultaneously,
the Party began working in Uttar Pradesh and Assam. Around 12
members from Kanksa, who gained first-hand experience of how to
build struggle from a scratch and how to fight feudalism in the
villages, now began to work in Bihar. Some members from Kolkata
[Calcutta] and Hooghly were also sent later.
we tried to do right from the start was to build the Revolutionary
Peasants Committees and establish them as centres of political
power. We also learnt that even crucial decisions on struggle
should be taken by the people of the villages and under no circumstances
should decisions be imposed on them by the Party from above. The
job of the Party was to explain the situation politically so that
people could take correct decisions on their own", said Marandi.
results were dramatic. Struggle soon spread in a vast area against
the landlords, traders, moneylenders, contractors in the forests
and the coal mines as well as against dreaded dacoits [bandits].
The wrath of the people was sharpest against them. From Gaya and
Dhanbad, the struggle spread to Aurangabad, Bokaro, Hazaribagh
and Giridih. Attacks were launched against landlords. Their land
was seized and distributed among the villagers. Several moneylenders
and contractors were killed, after which money lending as a business
virtually ceased to exist. The landlords began to flee to the
cities. Most of the dacoits were eliminated. This gave a tremendous
boost to the growth and prestige of the MCC.
key to the final success in Jharkhand, however, came from the
matured handling of the Jharkhand movement and converting the
nationality movement into class struggle that demanded the establish
of "Lal Khand (Red Territory)". The agitation that began
with a demand for a separate nation and then for regional autonomy
and a separate state has now largely been converted by the MCC
into a struggle that is no longer limited within the boundaries
of one state but into a political and social movement that demands
uprooting the existing socio-economic and political structure
of the entire country. The slogan "Jharhkand ko Lal Khand
me badal dalo (convert Jharkhand into Lalkhand)" played a
pivotal role in the transformation of a struggle that has now
involved millions of people spread over a vast territory.
when the Jharkhand movement was launched by the Jharkhand Mukti
Morcha (JMM) led by Sibu Soren and Vinod Behari Mahato, the MCC
was a mere spectator, having little strength to influence or even
intervene. So the MCC decided to get involved in the struggle
to acquaint itself with the true fighting elements in the movement
both at the grassroots and at the leadership levels. MCC leaders
even talked to the top JMM leaders, including Sibu Soren and Mahato,
to convince them that a separate state was no solution for the
tribals and that what was required, instead, was to uproot the
existing social system. The classes that oppress would still remain
even if the government accepted the demand for a separate state,
and it was necessary to get rid of exploitation itself by liquidating
the exploiting classes from the state structure.
Soren was not impressed. He had no reason to be. His popularity
was increasing dramatically, and he was emerging as a national
hero of the tribal cause. He had in his grip the passions of millions
of tribal youth who were ready to sacrifice even their lives at
his call. Mahato, however, gave a patient hearing to the MCC.
Though not yet convinced by the Maoist argument, he was sure that
these Maoists meant business.
Jharkhand movement exploded into the Indian scene in 1973-74.
What began with a demand for compensation for converted tribal
land soon gained momentum as the JMM organisers added an entirely
new dimension to it and demanded a separate nation for the tribals.
When large-scale arrests were ordered by the government, which
clearly panicked, seeing the ferocity of the movement, the JMM
leadership raised more aggressive slogans like "vote se nehi,
chotse lenge Jharkhand (we will get Jharkhand not through votes
but through bloodshed)" and "maro daroga maro mahajan
(kill police officials and moneylenders)". Senior police
officials were annihilated. Seizure of land began. Continuous
strikes for 48 hours and then even for 72 hours became routine.
since end-1974, the movement's leaders began to retract. They
had achieved their purpose. They were powerful. Now it was time
to negotiate with the government to obtain plum prizes. Sibu began
talking to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1974, three notorious
robbers were lynched by the people at Kundko in Giridih in presence
of Sibu. Three days later, the police surrounded the village and
opened fire, killing three and injuring two. Sibu did not protest.
On the contrary, he advised the people to shun violence and co-operate
with the government and the police. And with this began his gradual
isolation from the people. In 1977 he participated in the elections.
MCC began from where Sibu retreated. They gave a call not to surrender
but to advance the struggle. Mahato, who was against Sibu's sudden
volte face, offered the MCC a helping hand. In public meetings,
he began to praise the MCC and advised the people to follow the
Maoists and not to compromise with the ruthless state, which had
killed and tortured the tribals for the just struggle they had
launched. Slowly but surely, the MCC advanced, armed with some
of the slogans the JMM had popularised. They continued the seizure
and distribution of landlords' land. Moneylenders were attacked.
Along with it began a consistent campaign that the struggle for
Jharkhand is to be converted into a vigorous class struggle. Sibu
accused Mahato of being an MCC agent. He split the JMM in 1985.
But by then the reins of the movement were already in MCC's hands.
seizure movement began in full swing since 1986. Between 1987
and 1990, over 7,000 acres [2,833 hectares] of land in Chatangpur
were confiscated and distributed among the villagers. A struggle
against exploitation of the tribals by the forest officials also
gained momentum. Forest offices were attacked. Gradually almost
all the forest officials fled. In 1991 the landlords formed the
Sunlight Sena - a private army - to combat the MCC. Within a year,
Maoist armed squads liquidated the entire Sena. The power, prestige
and credibility of the MCC further increased. And from that time
on the forward march of the Party has continued. The movement
for Lal Khand is a classic example of converting a nationality
movement into class struggle.
government's efforts to root out the "Maoist extremists"
have been consistent and ruthless. The strategy has been two-pronged:
to kill them, arrest the sympathizers, destroy villages and beat
up men, women and children to drive home the point that any association
with the MCC will be suicidal. With the stick has always come
the carrot. Developmental activities have been initiated. Food
and clothes have been distributed by politicians, ministers, collectors
and senior police officials free of cost. The attempt obviously
has been to convince the villagers that the government is, after
all, not that indifferent to the people's plight and is ready
to offer a helping hand if the villagers give up their association
with the Maoists.
such attempts of the government have so far yielded little results.
The people of Jharkhand have been ignored and taken for granted
for too long. The tribal male has always been a slave for the
upper caste and the rich to be whipped, their muscles and bones
to be employed in gruelling toil to reap unlimited profit. The
tribal female has been nothing but flesh to be torn apart in lust.
The tribal culture has been trampled upon. Their simplicity has
always been exploited by the moneylender and the landlord. Deprived
of food and shelter, their hunger and poverty have been used to
draw them into the cobweb. Their forest land and those for cultivation
have been snatched away. Elections for them have been nothing
but mockery of democracy with hundreds of them hounded out of
their houses and forced to vote for a particular party. And all
rebellion has been nipped in the bud with lathis [batons], bullets
and wine. They lived like animals and died like animals until
the MCC came.
the Maoists told them that they were still human beings. The Maoists
gave them back their honour and dignity. They learnt afresh that
they could still afford to protest. They learnt afresh that it
was possible to fight back bullet for bullet and win back their
land. From the MCC, they learnt that they were not the only ones
to be exploited in this big world and that people were still fighting
back and winning. For the first time, "politicians"
came to live with them - to share their miserable lives and not
to take advantage of their situation. And they fell in love with
them and joined their call for revolution. They killed the notorious
robbers and saw the MCC repelling the retaliation successfully.
They seized the landlords' land and saw him not raiding their
houses at night but fleeing to the town. They saw brutal moneylenders
taking to their heels. And finally they saw that they were emerging
as their own masters.
reasons for the failure of the government to isolate the villages
from the MCC lie in such a history. No senior leader of the MCC
has ever been arrested, in spite of the government declaring awards
ranging from Rs 1 million to Rs 5 million [11,000-50,000 pounds
sterling or 20,000-100,000 US dollars]. No regular guerrilla squad
has so far been fully eliminated. Only the villagers have had
to bear the wrath of the police and the administration, and they
have accepted it willingly. Operation Eagle, Operation X, Operation
Shikhar and Operation Hill Top, undertaken by successive governments
against the MCC, have all met with failure because the government
has been unable to win back the confidence of the people. "Model
villages" have been set up. Hospitals have been built. Cattle,
tube wells, clothes and food have been distributed after each
"operation". But the villagers considered these to be
bribes. They accepted them but did not accept the government.
Hill Top, which came to an abrupt end in May 2003, had employed
thousands of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security
Force (BSF) personnel. The forces had been led by top officials,
including the director general of police (DGP) himself. The police
moved with armoured vehicles, helicopters hovering above them.
But it turned out to be nothing but a massive show of strength,
which impressed none. The MCC remained as elusive as ever. The
success report filed by the DGP in front of newsmen was a joke.
"We have got a first-hand idea on the topography of Jhumra
Pahar," he said during his press conference, with a long
military strategy adopted by the MCC has so far outwitted the
government. The terrain makes large-scale deployment of CRPF and
the BSF a time-consuming affair. With absence of roads, the police
have to travel on foot. Their movement has always been slow because
of the fear of landmines. But the greatest hurdle has been a hostile
population. As the government forces, which are now always large
in numbers, have to travel through the villages, the villagers
inform the MCC men and women before the police can reach the spot.
All raids as a result become futile and damaging for the police's
morale. The sagging spirit of the police gets further battered
as every month MCC platoons lay several successful ambushes, killing
or injuring the personnel and decamping with the weapons.
situation in Jharkhand, as in Bihar and parts of Chattisgarh,
has come to such a state that the police have given up trying
to enter villages influenced by the MCC without mobilising a huge
force. Even then, they enter the villages during the day and never
at night, destroy a few houses, beat up whoever they can lay their
hands on, arrest a couple of villagers and leave in a hurry. Several
senior police officers have openly confessed before the media
that they feared for their lives. Top police and state home department
officials suspect that this fear psychosis is one of the reasons
why the news of raids is often reaching the MCC even before the
raids are conducted. A retired army officer has been deputed as
the governor of Chattisgarh with a brief that he should employ
his counter-insurgency experiences to tame the Maoists.