What is urban naxalisms? Know the original Naxals

As all the five activists arrested live in urban areas and represent intelligentsia of a particular ideology, another term has flooded a reader's space, that is, Urban Naxals.
As all the five activists arrested live in urban areas and represent intelligentsia of a particular ideology, another term has flooded a reader's space, that is, Urban Naxals.

With a nationwide crackdown by the Maharashtra police on Left-wing activists suspected to have links with outlawed Naxal groups, the term “Naxal” is being talked about with greater frequency on social media, in TV studios and columns of newspapers. As all the five activists arrested live in urban areas and represent intelligentsia of a particular ideology, another term has flooded a reader’s space, that is, Urban Naxals.

The term Urban Naxals remains undefined. It is best attributed to a book and a few essays by film-maker and social media opinion-maker Vivek Agnihotri. His book, Urban Naxals: The Making Of Buddha In A Traffic Jam was released in May this year. Union Minister Smriti Irani was the chief guest of the event.

The phrase loosely means people of Naxalite bent of mind who reside in urban areas and work as activists, supporters and protectors of the ideology while the active Naxals battle it out in the jungles and vast swathes of Maoist-dominated areas.

This is the time to hit refresh and re-understand the original term: Naxals. Naxal is the short form of the word Naxalite.


The parent term, Naxal entered Indian lexicons in the decade of 1960 and has acquired a certain meaning over the years. The term Naxal comes from a village called Naxalbari in Siliguri district of West Bengal. Naxalism is understood at two levels – as a socio-economic issue and a law and order problem.

The people who launched Naxal operations were frustrated with growing inequality among the various classes of society and government’s apathy to address the routine grievances of the poor. They launched armed rebellion against the system and the government dealt with it as a law and order problem. In 2008, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “Naxalism is the greatest threat to our internal security.”

Who were the original Naxals?

The first NaxaI group sprang off as an offshoot of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). A small group of the party decided to break away to launch an armed struggle against big landowners and establishment.

Their objective was to capture additional lands of big zamindars and distribute the same among the tilling farmers and landless labourers. The leadership was provided by Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal. They became the first Naxals or the original Naxals.

Charu Majumdar

He was the “literary man” of the original Naxals. Charu Majumdar was born in a zamindar family that had progressive outlook and supported freedom struggle of India. As a young man, Charu Majumdar participated in freedom struggle himself – in Tebhaga movement of 1946 in Bengal.

He was a member of the CPI and, later CPI-M before parting ways to launch Naxal movement. Once Naxalites started armed attacks on zamindars and government offices, Charu Majumdar prepared what is now called the Historic Eight Documents. These appeared in the form of eight articles. They served as the tenets of Naxalism for the fellow comrades.

Charu Majumdar was the first general secretary of the CPI (Marxist-Leninist), founded in 1969. He was captured from his hiding in July 1972. Two weeks later, Charu Majumdar died of massive heart attack in police lock up. His life was a story of “riches to rags”.

Kanu Sanyal

He was considered more militant than his comrade-in-arms Charu Majumdar. Kanu Sanyal was a silver-tongue orator, who used to draw huge crowds in 1960s. His call for revolution brought many young men in the Naxal fold in West Bengal.

It was Kanu Sanyal, who announced formation of CPI (ML) at a public meeting in Calcutta on the birthday of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in 1969. But, differences cropped up between Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal soon.

Kanu Sanyal prepared a report, called Terai Report, to denounce the methods of Charu Majumdar to take the Naxal movement forward. However, after the death of Charu Majumdar in a police custody, Kanu Sanyal shunned the path of violence and campaigned for parliamentary methods to bring about the change.

He was last active during Singur agitation in West Bengal. He was even arrested during Singur agitation in January 2006. He was found hanging in March 2010 at his residence in Siliguri in West Bengal.

Jangal Santhal

When Naxal movement was launched, Jangal Santhal was the president of the Siliguri Kisan Sabha. He was active in organising people for the revolution. Around the same time, a sharecropper was attacked and killed at a village near Naxalbari.

The attackers were believed to be the armed band of a local zamindar. The incident took place on May 24, 1967. Jangal Santhal led a group of armed Naxals the next day and ambushed a police team on its way to investigate the killing of the farmer.

The police convoy was attacked with bows and arrows. A sub-inspector was killed. This incident is the first recorded incident of violence by the Naxals. Jangal Santhal was arrested in August, 1967. He found himself isolated following his release in 1979. He died a lonely man in 1988.


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