Word of the Day – Naxalite

Our 1,623-page Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition) does not include the word Naxalite.

A rather strange, and most definitely, a major omission.

Origins of the Term
The word Naxalite has its roots in the Naxalbari village in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal in the eastern part of India.

It was in the Naxalbari region that a violent anti-landlord movement started in 1967 among the Communist elements and sympathisers (and later spread to other pockets of India like Warangal and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, Chikmagalur Hills of Karnataka and Jharkand). The adherents of this movement were referred to as Naxalites.

Like a lot of English words, the meaning of Naxalite has evolved over the years and means different things to different people.

As Ramachandra Guha writes:

“Naxalite” became shorthand for “revolutionary,” a term evoking romance and enchantment at one end of the political spectrum, and distaste and derision at the other.
(Source: India After Gandhi P.424)

Pejorative Usage
These days, the word Naxalite usually has a pejorative connotation thanks mostly to the Indian police who use the word to describe those elements holed up in the forest or mountainous areas of India and frequently resort to violent actions like beheadings, attacking police stations, killing policemen and kidnappings.

To the Indian police, Naxalite expressions like ‘class struggle’ and ‘social justice’ are merely a camouflage for terrorism and destabilization actions by foreign countries like Pakistan and China.

Open an Indian newspaper and these are the Naxalite headlines you’ll find:

* Village head killed by Naxalites in Malkangiri of Orissa (Orissa Diary, April 24, 2009)
* Choppers for vigil in naxalite-hit areas (Hindu, April 22, 2009)
* Naxals release passengers on train (Times of India, April 22)
* Naxals threaten to derail poor’s power to vote (Economic Times, April 23, 2009)

Different Perception
But there’s another group of Indians (those on the left including Communists, sections of the intelligentsia and the poor) who view the word Naxalite in a more positive light.

To these people, Naxalites are saviors of the rural poor and are among the few who dare to take on the oppressive elements that makes the lives of the poor in India’s villages a hellish nightmare. In their view, the Naxalites are brave souls, the vanguard of the revolution if you will, taking on the dangerous task of organizing the rural masses against the oppressive actions of village landlords, moneylenders, corrupt bureaucrats and police and other powerful elements of rural India.

In India, the word Naxalite is often used synonymously with Maoist.

5 Responses to "Word of the Day – Naxalite"

  1. jay   April 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Some naxalites are pavvums.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Like where?

  2. chaitu1987   April 25, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    The naxal movement in the earlier days enjoyed popular support.

    It was well intentioned in the beginning. With the passage of time, the naxals started using the movement for personal grudges. It went to such a state where even if a well intentioned person wanted to do some good for a village, the naxals attacked him. If youngsters who were initially attracted to the movement were later vexed with the movement and wanted to come out, they were labeled as coverts and killed. Added to all this were the killings of innocent civilians who refused to support them out of the fear of police and other reasons like ideological differences.

    Sindhooram (Telugu) by Krishna Vamsi is a fine movie on the issue of naxalism, See if you can get hold of it.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t have Sindhooram…they have other Krishna Vamsi movies like Chandamama, Sri Anjaneyam, Rakhi, Chakram et al.

  3. chaitu1987   April 25, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Well Sindhooram is a good movie. Antahpuram by KV is also fine. However you can safely avoid the movies you have mentioned.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Netflix doesn’t have Antahpuram either. The only other KV movies (besides the ones mentioned earlier) they have are Shakti, Chandralekha and Gulabi.

  4. LIve_AS_yOU_LIkE   April 26, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Whenever someone try some revolution to save the people from oppression and finally become oppressors themselves,they remind me of the pigs in the ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell.

  5. SRINIVAS   April 27, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Naxalites never suceed ….because they are driven by ideals …..holding the red flag ….they feel …that dictatorship is the only solution …..what they fail to realise is that ….they end up replacing the state and behave in a much more worse way than the state …

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    After the disastrous Soviet experiment (in which over 50 million perished), we are wary of any group that worships at the altar of dictatorship of the proletariat i.e. the communists.

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