Two faces of extremism

A Spring Long Past

Dilip Simeon

There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic – Albert Camus

India's Maoist movement (named Naxalism, after thana Naxalbari in Darjeeling district) began in April 1967. The Chinese Communist Party accorded it the title Spring Thunder Over India. Its leader was a little-known district leader of the CPI (M) named Charu Mazumdar, who went on to found the CPI (ML). Forty two years later, the movement has split many times. But it is still in the news. Armed attacks are increasing, and so are reports of brutality on both sides. The recent beheading of a police officer named Francis Induvar aroused so much disgust that the Maoists found it necessary to express regret. Militancy is a defence of the oppressed, they say, and brutality merely an aberration. They cite instances of state violence to justify actions undertaken in self-defence. There is more to this than meets the eye. Maoist theory holds that India is a semi-colonial polity with a bogus constitution that must be overthrown by armed force. The comrades view all their actions as part of a revolutionary war. Their foundational documents declare armed struggle to be "the highest and main form of struggle" and the "people's army" its main organisation. In war, morality is suspended and limits cast aside. War also results in something the Pentagon calls "collateral damage." Is it true that Naxalite brutality is only an aberration?

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Himal Southasian