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Mainstream, VOL L, No 50, December 1, 2012

Metastasis of Maoist Networks in Urban India

Monday 3 December 2012, by Sudhanshu Bhandari


“Work in the rural base areas does not mean abandoning our work in the cities and in the other vast rural areas which are still under the enemy’s rule; on the contrary, without the work in the cities and in these other rural areas, our own rural base areas would be isolated and the revolution would suffer defeat. Moreover, the final objective of the revolution is the capture of the cities, the enemy’s main bases, and this objective cannot be achieved without adequate work in the cities.”
(From ‘The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party’ in The Selected Works of Mao Tse Tung, Vol. II, p. 317)

Ever since the unification of the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) leading to the formation of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in 2004, the strength of the Party has undergone rapid expansion. This is not only in terms of growing military prowess and the increasing motivation of its cadres, but in terms of geographical reach and grassroot dominance over certain areas. Over the last few years, the Central Polit-Bureau members are continuously introspecting their own weaknesses and the weaknesses of their class enemies. This self-evaluation has led them to analyse in depth the cleavages existing within their class enemies and to utilise the contradictions therein for attaining their strategic interests.

The CPI-Maoist Central Polit-Bureau has, thus, realised that they need to strengthen their mass base, or more accurately, broaden their mass base. They understand that they cannot confine themselves to the tribal belt alone if they need to win the protracted People’s War. For expanding this base, they need the support of the Indian intelligentsia.

This is in keeping with their tactical task of creating two different kinds of United Fronts: (A) between their class allies and (B) between their people and a clique, group or section of their class enemies. They would like to use this urban-based intelligentsia to accentuate the underlying contradictions of the bourgeois society. This is one of the reasons why they need to proliferate and expand their urban networks overtly and covertly through a variety of facade organisations in which such Left Wing Extremist organisations are very adept.

The Urban Perspective Document of the CPI-Maoist clearly outlines that “The cities are the strongholds of the enemy and have a large concentration of enemy forces. It is therefore from the cities that attention must be given for infiltration in to the enemy camp(…..) Such work should be without the knowledge of the lower level committees and the details of the work should only remain with the comrades directly responsible.”

It appears that in the last five-six years, the CPI-Maoist has effectively put the above theore-tical doctrine to praxis. In an interesting article which Mannan Kumar wrote for DNA India, he remarked that “The CPI–Maoist’s intelligence agency, Peoples’ Security Service (PSS), has been working meticulously for the past four years and has spread its subsidiary offices to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and also in the State capitals of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. Unlike the CPI-Maoist’s military intelligence wing that generates information for operational use, the PSS’s key job is to do short, medium and long-term assessment and chart out the future course for the party.” (DNA India, August 20, 2011)
To achieve this, the PSS depends on penetra-ting key government departments like Home, Finance, Defence and Policy and Planning by winning over lower and middle-rung emplo-yees—from peons to the level of Under Secreta-ries. The security agencies stumbled upon its presence after they caught one of its middle-rung members from Bihar.

Accordingly, the PSS’ mission is to penetrate government intelligence by following the Maoist dictum that you cannot know yourself comple-tely without knowing about your enemy. The Director General of Police (DGP) Chhattisgarh, Vishwaranjan, in an interview to Times Now, had once remarked that Maoists have been using their spies very successfully to infiltrate into government departments. He also admitted that the Indian Government forces have never been able to apprehend so far someone who is at a higher echelon of their intelligence service.
To enable their spread into urban areas, the Maoists have created a Tactical United Front, which as per P.V Ramana, has the following objectives:1

(a) to consolidate various “anti-imperialist” struggles and to bring them on to one platform on the basis of a common working understanding;

(b) to expand the reach of the Maoists across various sections of society by building contacts with them;

(c) to boost overground cadre strength, to thoroughly indoctrinate them, and then to incorporate them into organisational work, especially in urban areas;

(d) to poach partners for potential leaders and ideologues; and

(e) to enable its political activities to reinforce the Maoists’ military activities (such as armed struggle).

The arrests of three Maoist operatives from New Delhi in the first week of October 2011 points towards the presence of a number of operatives in the city, according to senior police officers and intelligence agencies. Intelligence sources point out that they were having knowledge of Maoist sympathisers in Delhi who were in conversation with Maoist operatives living in the dense jungles of Bastar. They also knew that many of their operatives hiding in the cities were used to carry drugs to the urban areas to be sold. These sources said that they have information about six suspects who have bases in Shakarpur and Punjabi Bagh.

In 2009, a senior official of the State Intelligence Department (SID) had told the media that forensic analysis of Kobad Ghandy’s (a Polit-Bureau member of the CPI-Maoist) lap-top, had revealed the existence of sleeper-cells of the CPI-Maoist in urban areas. A joint operation by the Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh Police in 2010 had also led to recovery of some documents that spelt out the strategy of Maoist groups for urban areas. .

The new strategy focuses on a six-stage app-roach called SAARC—survey, awareness, agita-tion, recruitment, resistance and control. “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,” said the SID official who declined to be named.

In such a situation, where the enemy is much stronger, the CPI-Maoist leadership realises that it cannot have a short-term approach of direct confrontation in order to achieve ‘quick results’. Rather, they realise that they should have a long-term approach. The task of the Party is to win over the masses, including the vast majority of the workers, and to build up the enormous strength of the working class in preparation for the decisive struggle in the future.

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 organi-sations, 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 last sub-type of legal democratic organisa-tions is 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. Also, the Secret and Open, Semi-open Revolutionary organisations can be easily identified and banned but doing so for the third is difficult 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.

Some such organisations may be those catering to a particular section like 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 exploita-tion 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’ organisa-tions. 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.

Take their spread in a nascent State like Uttarakhand, where the Maoists had supported the movement against big dams. Chintanda (an important Polit-Bureau member) and his colleagues were working for the thousands who got uprooted from their land by power projects in the hill State from Pithoragarh district in the Kumaon region to Chamoli in Garhwal. The projects had sounded the death-knell for several towns and villages by submerging them, and the Maoists’ frontal organisations saw a vast fertile ground for gaining fresh recruits.

The Recruitment

FROM the Maoist literature seized from their leaders who were arrested in Uttar Pradesh in early 2010, the Special Task Force (STF) had learnt that the Central Polit-Bureau 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 have plenty of weapons in their possession. These, the Maoists felt, could be used for future action.

The police had in February 2010 taken into custody Ratan Bahadur, who was allegedly drafted by the Maoists to work among the families of the slain dacoits of Bundelkhand and make them join the Naxalite cause. Bahadur came in touch with the Maoists through a former Allahabad University union leader who has since gone underground.

In Karnataka, educational campuses are the new hunting grounds for Maoists. The intelli-gence dossier of the State Police reveals that Maoists scour campuses in Mangalore and Shimoga for new recruits and sympathisers. Saketh Rajan, the man who started the Maoist movement in South India and who was shot dead in 2005, was a legend in this part of the State.

After his death, the Maoists were using Rajan’s charisma to motivate students. Universities in Dakshina Kannada then became potential training grounds to strike when the iron is hot—that is to recruit intelligent but impression-able minds who could be swayed by the romanti-cism involved in fighting for a just cause against an exploitative Indian state. Universities like Kuvempu and Mangalore became potential recruiting zones for the CPI-Maoist which was on a waning streak in South India.

In Maharashtra, the arrest of Sontakke was an eye-opener for the police. He was living in a rented accommodation at the Pune suburb of Pirangut with his niece, Sushma Ramteke, who was working in a private company.
The Maoists 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. .

Take the case of Manoj Sonule in Chandrapur as an example. On January 6, 2008, the police had arrested Manoj Sonule, a hardcore Maoist from the Ramnagar area in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. Sonule and his aides were part of the Chandrapur-based ‘Deshbhakti Yuva Manch’ which indoctrinated the youths. He was also paid to smuggle arms and ammu-nitions. He was inspired to join the movement by Arun Thomas Ferreira and the once Secre- tary of Maharashtra State Committee, Milind Teltumbde.

This arrest led to massive police operations to crack the urban modules of the Naxalites operating in Chandrapur and the adjoining Wani tehsil (administrative unit) of Yavatmal District. Two women Maoists—Mayuri Bhagat and Anuradha Sonule—wanted for spreading the Naxal ideology in Chandrapur since 2008, were brought to Chandrapur town from Nagpur Central Jail around July 15, 2011 for interro-gation.

An interrogation of the Maoist leaders arrested in West Bengal reveals that the Maoist focus has now shifted to Jadavpur University (JU). Kanchan, the arrested CPI–Maoist 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 Maoists 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-Maoist cadres in Lalgarh. As the Maoists 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 Maoists 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 comfort-ably furnished, rented houses in areas such as Rajarhat, Baguihati, Uluberia and central Kolkata. “We have traced some of the rented houses where the Maoists took shelter. The monthly rent of such a house is as high as INR 10,000 per month,” said one of the investigators.

From their bases in the city, senior Maoist leaders regularly visit the JU campus, with apparently no surveillance. In August 2010, for instance, Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao held a meeting with the varsity’s students. The autho-rities later admitted that they had no knowledge of the event. After this, there were plans to install CCTVs across the campus but this was staunchly opposed by the JUTA and the Students Union which have a strong sympathy for the Maoist cause.
As recently as on November 4, 2011, the West Bengal Chief Minister threatened to take tough action against teachers and students of Jadavpur University who allegedly have links with the Maoists. Mamata Banerjee claimed she had the names of the university’s teachers and students with Maoist links. She remarked: ”I know a section of Jadavpur University teachers and students actively supports the Maoists. The government has a list of such offenders. I have heard that they have put up posters in the university, criticising me. We won’t be tolerating this anymore. The administration will take tough action against such elements.”
The case of Kobad Ghandy is even more interesting. His arrest by a special Delhi Police team on September 21, 2009 near Bhikaji Cama Place in the South Delhi area on September 21 reveals how these top leaders of the CPI-Maoist make use of educated individuals to promote their objectives.

The Delhi Police were looking for a Ph.D student called Arvind Joshi who hailed
from Haldwani in Uttarakhand, and who was believed to have hidden Ghandy at his rented accommodation in the Badarpur area of South Delhi. Later the police found that Joshi had removed a set of Maoist literature, documents, CDs, a laptop and the hard disk of another laptop as well as INR 500,000 from his house. Ghandy’s interrogation also revealed the Joshi had been closely associated with the Maoist movement. They met about five years ago and since then they were working together, added the officer.

Ghandy’s interrogation, sources say, revealed that the Maoists had started “operation urban base” to organise their activities in cities by recruiting poor and unemployed youth to fight for their “cause”. Kanpur-based CPI-Maoist Polit-Bureau member Balraj alias BR was co-ordinating this operation. Ghandy also repor-tedly told the Delhi Police that with help from BR, he had formed a sub-committee on mass organisation to shift the Maoist bases to stra-tegically crucial urban centres and organise local support and recruits in these places. They had also formed a State Committee for women to ensure their participation in large numbers.
Eight cadres of the CPI-Maoist, including two members of its Central Committee and Polit-Bureau, were arrested by the Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh Police in Kanpur on February 8, 2010. Among the arrested was Balraj alias B.R. alias Arvind, ‘head of the ‘Northern Regional Bureau’ of the Maoists. The others arrested were Banshidhar alias Chintanda, another Polit-Bureau member, Naveen Prasad Singh, Ambrish, Deepak Ram, Shivraj Singh alias Arjun, Rajendra Kumar Phulara alias Arvind and Kripa Shankar alias Manoj. A Ph.D and M.Phil. holder from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Chintan, had spent three years in jail.

The Urban Perspective document clearly highlights that the Maoist 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. It shows that the enemy is planning to expand itself in the urban spaces of India for the following reasons:

(A) To find the technically qualified and educated people who can provide the technical skills needed to win the protracted people’s war and provide working-class leadership.

(B) To provide logistic support to their armed struggle against the Indian state. This is done by having Maoist sympathisers in key public sector industries. The Maoist leadership understands that this is not an easy task as the enemy’s intelligence is on the lookout for such elements and it requires dedicated cadres who do not back out easily.

(C) 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. The CPI-Maoist has been able to do it in one major area of coal production—in the large Singareni Coalfields of Andhra Pradesh, where their frontal organisation, the Singareni Karmika Samakhya (Singareni Workers Federation), was a
potent instrument for creating nuisance and disruption of critical coal supplies to the mega thermal power stations of the NTPC. It must be remembered that the Singareni coalfields provide coal to a large number of thermal power plants in South India and prolonged strikes or passive resistance can lead to a domino effect in the already power-starved nation.

(D) The Maoists require material support to their People’s Liberation Army in the form of arms and ammunitions as well as medical supplies which can only come from the urban areas. The Maoist leadership by this means desires to create a network of doctors and hospital attendants sympathetic to their cause who shall treat their injured cadres with utmost secrecy. They also require such cadres who are technically qualified to handle the latest arms and ammunitions and for this the cadres need to be sent to the cities and provided with the relevant skills.

(E) Then the CPI-Maoist’s Central Military Commission keeps a group of highly motivated individuals who constitute what the Maoists 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.

(F) 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.

One should realise that the CPI-Maoist, unlike other subversive organisations, is one which is acutely aware that their goal is not attainable in the short-term or medium-term but through a long-term struggle. They have accordingly prioritised their resources in men and materials so as to ultimately win their protracted People’s War. I sincerely believe that their leadership, which tries to implement every Maoist idiom in the twentyfirst century, also pays heed to another Chinese idiom which was an all-time favourite of Mao Zedong: the foolish old man who tried to move the mountain. Yet, can we blame their leadership and cadres who have been groomed to believe that the mightiest of states are after all paper tigers?


From Ramana, P.V., “India’s Maoist Insurgency: Evolution, Current Trends, and Responses” in Kugelman, Michael, ed., India’s Maoist Insurgency: Evolution, Current Trends, and Responses, 2011, Woodrow Wilson Centre, 2011, p. 36.

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