The word Naxalism brings to mind communism, image of poor people up in arms, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, fiery speeches of Home minister against Naxals and the recent Dantewada killings.

This was not the case 50 years back when the whole world from US to Europe to Africa to China was in revolution in different forms. Something which was always in the limelight was a “revolution”.


It attracted many young people throughout the world and it became a sign of rebellion, an out cry against those imposing their ideas and governments throughout the world came on the hit-list. Che Guevara was the icon and free speech, equality and civil rights the words of the time.

Indian youths also romanticized the same thing – “a revolution”. Young girls and boys from top colleges of country started to foray into this domain. Frustrated with government policies and fall of Nehru’s idea, the youths wanted to make a difference by themselves.

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Naxalbari was like a clarion call “Just then, Das and Ray went underground. Between 1970 and 1971, 12-13 Stephanians followed, leaving studies to join the revolution. Das and a few others were arrested; the rest returned on their own — disillusioned and scared. Rajiv Kumar, an Economics student, was in third year when he left for Bihar in mid-December, 1970.

For three months, he stayed with CPI-ML sympathizers, including a bricklayer in Munger. “One of the reasons for my return was the prospect of being asked to kill people,” he says. “We were a bunch of romantics who just didn’t know that we were being fed with lies.”    Dipesh Chakrabarty, a Presidency College student of the 1960s who now teaches in University of Chicago, recalls: “Many urban youth who went to liberate rural areas came back after some weeks with acute bowel problems.”

Over the years the urban youths stopped taking part in such processes and only some were left to do the fighting. It was now the time for youths from rural areas to take forth someone who was actually affected by police brutalities or were misfortunate to be sliced in between the on going battle. Soon in 1980 the battle became more intense and last decade has surpassed all expectations by increasing the death toll manifolds.” says Rai Chaudhuri then 23 years old. He retired as the head of the Presidency College’s Physics Department in 2004 and was one of those to be mentioned in V S Naipaul’s India: A Million Mutinies Now.

“We were elated. We had only read about the armed peasant struggles in China and Vietnam. Now it was actually happening here in our land,” says Rai Chaudhuri. Soon posters supporting Naxalbari started to appear in College Street and elsewhere .Slogans such as ‘China’s Chairman is our Chairman’ suddenly sprouted on Kolkata walls. The lawns of Presidency College became a meeting ground for students from Calcutta and neighboring areas, and the informal group came to be known as the Presidency Coalition


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Youngsters were recruited in large numbers from all across the country to liberate the country. Students from colleges such as Stephens would leave their dream to study abroad or  to enter the IAS. China’s path is our path, China’s chairman is our chairman” read on a wall in St. Stephen’s. Had it been some other time, people would have considered it a prank, but it was not. When the high wall of St Stephen’s —that rarefied oasis for the nation’s elite — was used as a pad for radical propaganda, it confirmed what most observers already knew: an influential section of Stephanians had fallen to Naxalism.

Slogans appeared on lecture-room blackboards and one such work read, Reactionary teachers, we will have your skin for shoes for the poor”! At the height of militancy, contemporary insiders put the number of core Naxals in the college at no more than 30 — not a big figure, but by most accounts the single largest Maoist presence among all DU institutions. In 1968, history student Arvind Narain Das had run for president of the college student’s body elections on an openly Naxal platform. He won. “We were ready to storm heaven,” Dilip Simeon, a leading member of the group, was to write later. During 1970, their activities started to enter a serious phase.

A distressed parent approached O’ Connor asking him to persuade his son to give up politics. “By then, they (the students) were well into the vortex and almost out of hearing,” writes the pastor.       The campus was tense. TOI reported a ‘plot’ to burn the college library and bomb the chapel. “We didn’t know it then, but some students and teachers close to us were spying for the police,” says Ray.


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Just then, Das and Ray went underground. Between 1970 and 1971, 12-13 Stephanians followed, leaving studies to join the revolution. Das and a few others were arrested; the rest returned on their own — disillusioned and scared. Rajiv Kumar, an Economics student, was in third year when he left for Bihar in mid-December, 1970.

Though incidents where young men and girls leaving have stopped but some young folks from villages especially dalits and tribals seem to have taken it as a cause where they see it as a defiance against the powerful “corrupt” elite and those leading them are those youngsters of 1960s and 1970s who have grown old now and have nothing else left but this ideological war for themselves as they have already sacrificed alot for it, their families and hope for better life for themselves.


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The situation now is not of romanticizing but rather that the fact poor and angry young men and women, who see no future for themselves, are easy targets for terrorists and extremist recruiters. It is only because of unemployment that the younger generation takes to terrorism in order to generate income and fulfils its needs. So the youths knowingly or unknowingly embrace Naxalism. In some cases, people are driven to the Naxal world by the Naxalites themselves and are paid attractive amounts.

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs estimates the following yearly deaths from the violence:

1996: 156 deaths

1997: 428 deaths

1998: 270 deaths

1999: 363 deaths

2000: 50 deaths

2001: 100+ deaths

2002: 140 deaths

2003: 451 deaths

2004: 500+ deaths

2005: 700+ deaths

2006: 750 deaths

2007: 650 deaths

2008: 794 deaths

2009: 1,134 deaths

In order to eradicate this problem the government needs to take hand of the situation and a rapid development of the region is required. Naxalites should be brought to mainstream and if they have issues they can form a political party and if they really want to make a change. This situation is going to affect Indian youths the most and also India at a broader level. A solution needs to be found for the problem for those who are dying are INDIANS after all.