ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Humaneness and Contradictions

India’s Maoist-inspired Naxalites

Based on long-term ethnographic field research in the Adivasi-dominated forests of eastern India, this article explores how and why the Naxalites have persisted in the subcontinent and the challenges that beset revolutionary mobilisation. The focus is on how communist ideology for a casteless and classless society translated into the humaneness of revolutionary subjectivity, creating relations of intimacy between the guerrilla armies and the people in its strongholds. Crucially, also analysed are a series of contradictions that constantly undermine revolutionary mobilisation, tearing the Naxalites apart and destroying them from within.

The arguments presented here are part of the author’s forthcoming book on the Naxalites provisionally entitled, Nightmarch: India’s Hidden Revolutionary Maoist Struggle.


This year in England, from where I write, revolution is being commemorated everywhere—exhibited, curated and sold—through the records and rebels of the late 1960s at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Academy of Arts exploring Russian art in the aftermath of 1917, or through themed events, seminars and conferences. The story of the world’s longest-running revolutionary guerrilla insurgency, though, remains largely outside of the global imagination; silenced from within its country of operation (except when it is to focus on the numbers dead) and silenced out of this renewed international interest in revolution. It seems we are happy to sell revolution or discuss a bygone era of social change and its dystopic demise than we are to get our hands dirty with the issues raised by those who are still fighting for a more egalitarian future, the challenges they pose and face. So, it is a pleasure to participate in this special issue by reflecting on some of the insights I have been fortunate to have gained by studying India’s Maoist-inspired Naxalites.

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Updated On : 29th May, 2017
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