Urban Naxalism: Strategy And Modus Operandi – Part 1


The war in the jungles is fought openly. The war in cities, clandestinely.

Urban naxals are the ‘invisible enemies’ of India, some of them have either been caught or are under the police radar for working for the movement and spreading insurgency against the Indian state. One common thread amongst all of them is that they are all urban intellectuals, influencers or activists of importance.

A quick look into the accomplishments of all the urban naxals suggests that they have indoctrinated the youth by pretending to be concerned about social issues. However, my observation is that they never tried to find a solution to social problems. Dictated by the politburo strategy, they just exploit the situation by organising protests and mobilising masses which can be used for party building. They encourage students to take admission in different colleges and fail so that they can continue longer on the college campus.

For a student, from a poor or marginalised background, a subsidised stay in a government hostel, in a big city, is a luxury which he laps up without questioning the ulterior motives of his mentors. With the help of these students they attract new students and organise ‘boot study camps’.

An investigation by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) into the arrest of some people has revealed that the banned outfit Communist Party of India (Naxal) had organised a 15-day camp in Pune in mid-2010. Seven men and four women participated in the ‘study camp’ called ‘teachers training programme’. During the camp, a top Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) state operative, Milind Telumbde alias Jyotirao alias Bada Deepak, and his wife Angelo Sontakke alias Sadhana alias Rahi alias Iskara, the secretary of CPI (naxal)’s golden corridor committee, taught lessons on naxal ideology and naxalism to their new party members and potential recruits.

The venue of the camp was a room at the small Kude Burdruk village in Bangarwadi in Khed taluka of Pune district, located about 50km from the city. The room was of a local farmer, a relative of Dhavala Dhengle alias Deepak Dengale alias Pratap. The man who gave his room for the purpose was told that it was a camp for teachers from Pune and Mumbai to study tribal issues. Pratap was employed with the vehicle department of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and arrested by ATS in early May 2011 for his alleged naxal links. A singer and poet, Dhengle was a member of Pune-based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch, which was allegedly used by CPI (naxal) for interacting with city youths and indoctrinating them into naxal ideology. Pune-resident Chandaliya, founder of Kabir Kala Manch, who attended the camp, said in his statement, “Sadhana (Angela) and Jyotirao (Milind) had come to the camp. They explained naxal ideology to us. They showed us a video named ‘Blazing Trail’ on attacks on police and paramilitary forces.”

The new strategy focuses on a six-stage approach called SAARRC – survey, awareness, agitation, recruitment, resistance and control. In an essay on the issue P V Ramana quotes a state intelligence official, “They have completed the first stage of survey, that is, identifying the target groups, potential areas of discontent and flash-points in urban areas. Now they are in the process of implementing the second and third stages of their strategy.”

In a detailed article in Mainstream Weekly titled ’Metastasis of Naxal Network in Urban India’ where its author Sudhansu Bhandari details naxal urban strategy. He writes:

“This is achieved through the creation of the following types of frontal organisations:

(1) Secret revolutionary mass organisations, (2) Open and semi-open revolutionary mass organisations, and (3) Open legal mass organisations, which are not directly linked to the party. Urban work within the third type of organisations can further be subdivided into three broad categories: (a) fractional work, (b) partly-formed cover organisations, and (c) legal democratic organisations.”

The legal democratic organisations are the most dangerous for national security, as they try to subvert constitutional authority surreptitiously by building mass support through subtle manipulation of grievances against the state.

Though government can ban the other two but it’s almost impossible to ban these legal organisations as the civil-society, human-rights and other vigilante groups all rush forth with hue and cry that the rights of the common man are being gagged. These organisations work closely with disgruntled groups of trade unions, student bodies, women’s fronts, caste-abolition organisations, nationality organisations, writers’ associations, lawyers’ organisations, teachers’ associations, cultural bodies etc.

Survey Step

This step involves scrutinising the urban landscape based upon their geographical profile of whether they are serving an industrialised or under-developed hinterland; changes in work-force composition, minute study of the linguistic and religious minorities; of the economic divergences within cities; of the processes involving ghettoisation as these are the potential breeding grounds for their recruits whom they can very easily indoctrinate to work against the interests of the Indian state.

The Agitation Step

The urban-based cadres of the party fight for basic amenities like water, electricity, toilets and sewerage, against corruption and exploitation of ration-shop owners, adulterators and black-marketers, against slum-lords, goonda gangs and other lumpen elements. They organise struggles on these issues through the local committees and the slum-dwellers’ organisations. As women and unemployed youth play a leading role in most of these struggles, the mahila mandals (women’s associations) and youth clubs are asked to be involved.

The Recruitment

From the naxal literature seized from their leaders who were arrested in Uttar Pradesh in early 2010, the Special Task Force (STF) had learnt that the central politburo member, Chintanda was targeting the poverty-racked districts in Bundelkhand region, many of which were dacoits’ hubs till recently.

Although most of the powerful dacoit gangs have been eliminated, a large chunk of backward caste leaders has plenty of weapons in their possession. These, the naxals felt, could be used for future action.

In Karnataka, educational campuses are the new hunting grounds for naxals. The intelligence dossier of the state police reveals that naxals scour campuses in Mangalore and Shimoga for new recruits and sympathisers. Universities in Dakshina Kannada have become potential training grounds to strike when the iron is hot – that is to recruit intelligent but impressionable minds who could be swayed by the romanticism involved in fighting for a just cause against an exploitative Indian state. Universities like Kuvempu and Mangalore became potential recruiting zones for the CPI (naxal) which was on a waning streak in South India.

The naxals have been following a very systematic policy whereby the physically fit youths are shifted to hinterlands for armed struggle, with the more educated lot being retained in the cities to carry out agitations and propaganda amongst the masses.

An interrogation of the naxal leaders arrested in West Bengal reveals that the naxal focus has now shifted to Jadavpur University (JU). Kanchan, the arrested CPI (naxal) state secretary, has reportedly told the security agencies that a recruitment process is on for the outfit’s military wing and JU has emerged as a major centre for cadres. Besides, the naxals are believed to have a backup module among the university students. Kanchan has reportedly also said that 12 students from Presidency are working actively as CPI (naxal) cadres in Lalgarh. As the naxals try to spread their network to urban areas, Jadavpur University and Presidency College are not the only institutions they are tapping. According to intelligence agencies, youngsters studying at colleges in Howrah and Hooghly are also their target. The arrested naxals have told the police that a number of their cadres have moved into the outskirts of Kolkata for setting up urban bases. They stay in comfortably furnished, rented houses in areas such as Rajarhat, Baguihati, Uluberia and central Kolkata.

The case of Kobad Ghandy is even more interesting. His arrest by a special Delhi Police team near Bhikaji Cama Place in the South Delhi area on 21 September 2011 reveals that the naxals had started “operation urban base” to organise their activities in cities by recruiting poor and unemployed youth to fight for their cause and women to ensure their participation in large numbers.

The Urban Perspective document clearly highlights that the naxal leadership’s rhetoric is not all loud talk with no substance. That it is composed of educated persons holding the highest educational qualifications, and who are motivated enough to a cause (however blighted) for which they have spent their entire lives.

  1. To accomplish their urban objectives, naxals have employed multi-pronged tactics. I summaries them.
  2. To recruit or install naxal sympathisers in key public sector industries.
  3. To infiltrate into the enemy camp in critical departments like finance, military, police, power, IT, defence production and disrupt the activities from within by gaining control over the workers. Slowly, passive protests and continuous grievances lead to a domino effect in an already disgruntled nation.
  4. To create a network of doctors and hospital attendants sympathetic to their cause who shall treat their injured cadres with utmost secrecy.
  5. To create cadres in urban areas who are technically qualified to handle the latest arms and ammunitions.
  6. To create groups of highly motivated individuals who constitute what the naxals call as ‘city action teams’. These members are entrusted with the destruction of high-value targets or the annihilation of individuals of importance. The identity of such members is unknown even to the local urban party structure.
  7. The collection of centralised intelligence and cyber-warfare. The party tries to use modern electronic means to infiltrate into the enemy’s networks and collect vital information. For this, they need to have individuals with requisite skills, who can only be found in urban areas and who, because of the nature of their job, need to be based therein. Such persons are under the direct control of the highest party echelons.
  8. To create cultural unrest with the help of propaganda platforms like Kabir Kala Manch.

If one probes Kabir Kala Manch and the tentacles it has spread in the cultural landscape of India, what unfolds is not what one can ever associate with a cultural outfit.

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