Changing interpretations of early Indian history

30 06 2008

Changing interpretations of early Indian history

Upinder Singh

FROM: the hindu


History is not one but many stories; only a few of them have been written. The challenges to build on the advances so far are many.


The historiography of ancient and early medieval India reveals significant changes over time; these can be understood against the background of the political and intellectual contexts in which they emerged and flourished. The various ‘schools’ of history writing are often presented and understood in terms of one school making way for the other in a neat, forward progression. The reality is more complex. There was considerable variety within the schools; some of them co-existed in dialogue or conflict with one another, and there are examples of writings that go against the grain and do not fit into the dominant historiographical trends of their time.

Antiquarians’ domination

The 18th and 19th centuries were dominated by the writings of European scholars, referred to as Orientalists or Indologists, although they often described themselves as ‘antiquarians’. Many of them worked for the East India Company or the British Government of India. The founding of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784 provided an institutional focus for scholars working in fields such as textual study, epigraphy, numismatics, and history. A major contribution of the Indologists lay in their efforts to collect, edit, and translate ancient texts. In this, they depended heavily on information provided by ‘native informants.’ Indology soon spread beyond the British empire and became a subject of study in European universities.

Apart from the study of ancient texts, the 19th century witnessed developments in epigraphy, numismatics, archaeology, and the study of art and architecture. The decipherment of Ashokan Brahmi and Kharoshthi scripts were breakthroughs. The analysis of coins contributed to the construction of a framework of political history. Officers of the Geological Survey discovered prehistoric stone tools and laid the basis of Indian prehistory. The Archaeological Survey of India, established in 1871, has over the decades made important contributions to unearthing and analysing the material remains of India’s past. The contributions and breakthroughs of the 18th and 19th centuries were rooted in a colonial context, and this is evident in certain features of Indological writing. The Brahmanical perspective of ancient Sanskrit texts was often uncritically taken as reflecting the Indian past. Social and religious institutions and traditions were critiqued from a Western viewpoint. Indian society was presented as static, and its political systems despotic, over the centuries. Race, religion, and ethnicity were confused with one another, and there was a tendency to exaggerate the impact of foreign influence on ancient India. This is when the classification of the Indian past into Hindu, Muslim, and British periods took root.

Indian scholars of the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century made major contributions to constructing a connected narrative of ancient India. These historians, who wrote against the background of an emergent, and later increasingly strong, national movement, are generally referred to as Nationalist historians. They wove together data from texts, inscriptions, coins, and other material remains to show the contours of the ancient Indian past. Contributions were made in the field of political history. South India was brought into the narrative and the study of regional polities progressed.

The nationalist tinge in these scholars’ writings can be seen in their insistence on the indigenous roots of cultural developments. It is reflected in their search for golden ages, which led to their exalting the age of the Vedas and the Gupta Empire. Non-monarchical polities were discovered and celebrated to counter the idea that India had never known anything but despotic rule. The periodisation of the Indian past into Hindu, Muslim, and British periods was, however, retained. It coalesced with a communal tendency to valorise the ‘Hindu period’ and to project the advent of the Turks and Islam as a calamity and tragedy.

The 1950s saw the emergence of Marxist historiography, which went on to play an influential role in the construction of the history of ancient and early medieval India. In the long run, the Marxist historians shifted the focus from an event-centred history dominated by political narrative to the delineation of social and economic structures and processes, especially those related to class stratification and agrarian relations. Marxist historiography contributed to uncovering the history of non-elite groups, some of which had suffered subordination and marginalisation.

While making these valuable interventions and contributions, Marxist writings often tended to work with unilinear historical models derived from Western historical and anthropological writings. Texts were sometimes read uncritically, with insufficient attention paid to their problematic chronology and peculiarities of genre. Archaeological data were included, but the basic framework of the historical narrative remained text-centric. Initially, the focus on class meant less attention to other bases of social stratification such as caste and gender. Religion and culture were sidelined, or mechanically presented as reflections of socio-economic structures.

Despite important differences, the major historiographical schools shared similarities. Certain tenets of these schools continue to thrive. Some of the fundamental premises and methods of Orientalist historiography still hold their ground, and histories of Third World countries such as India remain Eurocentric. Appeals to the ancient and early medieval past are often dictated by nationalist or communalist agendas. Marxist historiography continues to be an influential force in early Indian historiography.

A critical understanding of historiography, one that recognises the contributions and limitations of past and present ideological and theoretical frameworks, is essential to understanding where the history of ancient and early medieval India stands. However, the advances of the future are likely to be the result of questioning and thinking beyond the boundaries of existing historiographical positions and methodologies.

History is not one but many stories; only a few of them have been written. The challenges to build on the advances so far are many. Currently, there are two parallel images of ancient South Asia — one based on literary sources, the other on archaeology. Texts and archaeology generate different sorts of historical narratives and suggest different rhythms of cultural continuity, transition, and change. Historians generally use archaeological evidence selectively as a corroborative source when it matches hypotheses based on their interpretation of texts. Archaeologists have not adequately explored the historical implications of archaeological data. Correlations between literature and archaeology tend to be simplistic and devoid of reflection on methodology. We need to consider whether, given their inherent differences, textual and archaeological evidence can be integrated, or whether we should simply aim at juxtaposition.

The tradition of extracting supposedly self-evident ‘facts’ from literary sources needs to be replaced by an approach that is more sensitive to their genre, texture, and cadence. However, in view of the information and insights offered by rapidly growing archaeological data, historical narratives can no longer remain text-centric. A more sophisticated approach towards textual study has to be accompanied by an incorporation of archaeological evidence. This will lead to a more nuanced image of ancient India. It will reveal the complexities and diversities of cultural processes, and will incorporate the ordinary and everyday into our understanding of the ancient past.

Histories of early India should ideally represent the various regions and communities of the subcontinent in their diversity. However, while the heartlands of great empires and kingdoms are well represented, many regions are not. These have to be brought in. Bringing more people into history requires initiatives to uncover groups that have been subordinated and marginalised. This is not easy, given that a great proportion of the source material available to historians has been created by elite groups and reflects their ideas and interests. Nevertheless, the past of people who have been hidden from history has to be uncovered and written, and these histories must become an integral part of the narrative of the ancient Indian past. Explorations of gender, the family, and the household need to be pushed further and have to become part of larger social histories. Issues and institutions such as the family, class, varna, and jati need long-term perspectives, showing how the different bases of social identity intersected and changed over time.

India’s varied and complex cultural traditions need attention. While these continue to be the focus of research among scholars working in South Asian studies, religious studies, and art history departments abroad, they have in recent decades remained somewhat marginal to mainstream historical writing in India.

Need to enlarge debate

There is a close relationship between history and identity; the past has, therefore, always been contested terrain. In contemporary India, the ancient past is invoked in different ways in political discourse, including propaganda with chauvinistic or divisive agendas. There are debates over the state’s right to project and propagate certain interpretations of the past through school textbooks. Communities frequently take offence at things written about them in historians’ scholarly writings. In such a charged and intolerant atmosphere, there are several dangers — of the deliberate manipulation and distortion of the past to achieve political ends, of historical hypotheses being judged on the basis of their political implications rather than academic merit, and of historians being criticised for writing objective history. The need to define and enlarge a liberal academic space which nurtures level-headed dialogue and debate has perhaps never been greater.

(This article is excerpted from the Introduction of Upinder Singh’s forthcoming book, A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Pearson Longman, Rs. 3,500.)





PM’s daughter takes on Marxist view of history

27 06 2008

19 Jun 2008, 0128 hrs IST, Mohua Chatterjee,TNN

NEW DELHI: Just when PM Manmohan Singh has taken on his communist partners over the nuclear deal, his daughter, professor Upinder Singh, has come up with a book which challenges the Marxist version of ancient Indian history.

While praising Marxist historians for uncovering the history of non-elite groups and other contributions, Singh disagrees with them for their reliance on unilinear historical models derived from western historical and anthropological works.

She also delves extensively into ancient India’s cultural past — art, literature, religion and philosophy — in sharp contrast to Marxist historians who focused on “social and economic interpretations”.

Singh, however, is not one to discard the Marxist approach altogether. “Being a student of history in the 1970s, I am a product of the shift from the nationalist to the Marxist view and so I have drawn from both,” the DU historian told TOI, identifying herself as “belonging to the liberal space which is so important”.

Singh’s 704-page A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century is targeted at graduate and post-graduate students and will be released on July 18.

With her keen interest in archaeology, Singh seeks to challenge Marxist historians like Romila Thapar, and provides, for those “writing the new NCERT school books,” more than one interpretation of ancient Indian history, and encouraging them to look for more.

Elaborating on her divergences with the Marxist school which have dominated the campuses since the 70s, Singh stressed the need for students of ancient Indian history to pay attention also to cultural aspects — art, literature religion and philosophy. “Religious doctrines, I feel, are important for students to understand things in context,” she said.

In the introductory chapter, Singh discusses the contributions and flaws of the various schools. “Marxist historiography also contributed towards uncovering the history of non-elite groups, many of whom had suffered centuries of subordination and marginalization. While making these valuable contributions, Marxist writing often tended to work with unilinear historical models derived from western historical and anthropological writings,” she writes.

Sketching out her differences with the Marxist school, Singh notes that shift of population from rural to urban areas did not take place as suggested in the model as “most people of the subcontinent continued to live in villages”.

Asked about likely controversies after the book’s release, she said, “Given that a controversy came up about a book that did not exist, I must say it can really vitiate the atmosphere. History always has a political element, it is always connected with power and power structures, with strong views on it even among ordinary people. But ultimately the book will be judged in the long run by students of history.”

Explaining the purpose in the preface, she said, “It is necessary to expose them to the complex details and textures of history… unresolved issues… have been presented as such, rather than conveying a false sense of certainty. Where there are debates, the different perspectives have been presented, along with my own assessment of which arguments are convincing and which ones are not.”





History of Naxalism

24 06 2008

Courtesy: hindustan Times


Telangana Struggle: By July 1948, 2,500 villages in the south were organised into ‘communes’ as part of a peasant movement which came to be known as Telangana Struggle. Simultaneously the famous Andhra Thesis for the first time demanded that ‘Indian revolution’ follow the Chinese path of protracted people’s war. In June 1948, a leftist ideological document ‘Andhra Letter’ laid down a revolutionary strategy based on Mao Tsetung’s New Democracy.

1964
CPM splits from united CPI and decides to participate in elections, postponing armed struggle over revolutionary policies to a day when revolutionary situation prevailed in the country.

1965-66
Communist leader Charu Majumdar wrote various articles based on Marx-Lenin-Mao thought during the period, which later came to be known as ‘Historic Eight Documents’ and formed the basis of naxalite movement.
· First civil liberties organisation was formed with Telugu poet Sri Sri as president following mass arrests of communists during Indo-China war.

1967
CPM participates in polls and forms a coalition United Front government in West Bengal with Bangla Congress. This leads to schism in the party with younger cadres, including the “visionary” Charu Majumdar, accusing CPM of betraying the revolution.

Naxalbari Uprising (25th May): The rebel cadres led by Charu Majumdar launch a peasants’ uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal after a tribal youth, who had a judicial order to plough his land, was attacked by “goons” of local landlords on March 2. Tribals retaliated and started forcefully capturing back their lands. The CPI (M)-led United Front government cracked down on the uprising and in 72 days of the “rebellion” a police sub-inspector and nine tribals were killed. The Congress govt at the Centre supported the crackdown. The incident echoed throughout India and naxalism was born.

• The ideology of naxalism soon assumed larger dimension and entire state units of CPI (M) in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir and some sections in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh joined the struggle.

July-Nov: Revolutionary communist organs ‘Liberation’and ‘Deshbrati’ (Bengali) besides ‘Lokyudh’ (Hindi) were started.
Nov 12-13: Comrades from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal met and set up All India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) in the CPI (M).

1968

May 14: AICCR renamed All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) with Comrade S Roy Chowdhury as its convenor. The renamed body decides to boycott elections. Within AICCCR certain fundamental differences lead to the exclusion of a section of Andhra comrades led by Comrade T Nagi Reddy.

1969

April 22: As per the AICCCR’s February decision, a new party CPI (ML) was launched on the birth anniversary of Lenin. Charu Majumdar was elected as the Secretary of Central Organising Committee. AICCR dissolved itself.
May 1: Declaration of the party formation by Comrade Kanu Sanyal at a massive meeting on Shahid Minar ground, Calcutta. CPI (M) tries to disrupt the meeting resulting in armed clash between CPI (M) and CPI (ML) cadres for the first time.

• By this time primary guerrilla zone appear at Debra-gopiballavpur (WB), Musal in Bihar, Lakhimpur Kheri in UP and most importantly Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
May 26-27: Andhra police kill Comrade Panchadri Krishnamurty and six other revolutionaries during a crackdown on Srikakulam struggle in Andhra Pradesh sparking wide protests.
Oct 20: Maoist Communist Centre was formed under Kanhai Chatterjee’s leadership. It had supported Naxalbari struggle but did not join CPI (ML) because of some tactical difference and on the question of the method of party formation.

1970

April 27: Premises of Deshabrati Prakashan, which published Liberation and its sister journals, were raided. CPI (ML) goes underground.
May 11: The first CPI (ML) congress is held in Calcutta under strict underground conditions. Comrade Charu Majumdar is elected the party general secretary.
July 10: Comrades Vempatapu Satyanarayana and Adibatla Kailasam, leaders of Srikakulam uprising are killed in police encounter during the crackdown. Comrade Appu, founder of the Party in Tamil Nadu was also killed around September-October. The Srikakulam movement in continued in Andhra Pradesh till 1975.

• Leading lights of literary world of Telugu like Sri Sri, R V Shastri, Khtuba Rao K V Ramana Reddy, Cherabanda Raju Varavara Rao, C Vijaylakshmi with others joined hands to form VIRASAM (Viplava Rachayithala Sangam) or Revolutionary Writers Association (RWA).

• Artistes from Hyderabad inspired by Srikakulam struggle and the songs of Subharao Panigrahi form a group — Art Lovers – comprising the famous film producer Narasinga Rao and the now legendary Gaddar.

1971

In the background of Bangladesh war, the Army tries to crush the ultra-left movement in West Bengal. Uprising in Birbhum marks the high point of this year.

• Art Lovers change its name to Jana Natya Mandali (JNM) late this year. It joins Communists and start propagating revolutionary ideas through its songs, dances and plays. It functioned legally till 1984.

1972

July: Charu Majumdar is arrested in Calcutta on July 16. He dies in Lal Bazar police lock-up on July 28. Revolutionary struggle suffers serious debacle. CPI (ML)’s central authority collapses.

August:
‘Pilupu’ (The Call), a political magazine was launched in Andhra Pradesh.
• Kondapalli Seetharamaiah reorganises the AP State Committee of Communist Revolutionaries following killing or arrest of the 12-member AP State Committee.

1973
Fresh guerrilla struggles backed by mass activism emerge in parts of central Bihar and Telangana, now a part of Andhra Pradesh.

1974

July 28: The Central Organising Committee of CPI (ML) was reconstituted at Durgapur meeting in West Bengal. Comrade Jauhar (Subrata Dutt) was elected general secretary. Jauhar reorganises CPI (ML) and renames it as CPI (ML) Liberation.

March:
Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLP) was formed again with Sri Sri as president.

August:
Andhra Pradesh state committee was reconstituted with Kondapalli Seetharamaiah representing Telangana region, Appalasuri (coastal AP) and Mahadevan (Rayalseema).

October 12:
Radical students union was formed in Andhra Pradesh. It faced brutal suppression but surged again after emergency was lifted.

1975

Following declaration of emergency on June 25 and the following repression on ultra-leftists and others, the Central Organising Committee in its September meeting decided to withdraw a “common self-critical review” and instead produce a tactical line ‘Road to Revolution’. But it did not unity among the cadres. Armed struggles were reported from Bhojpur and Naxalbari.

1976

CPI (ML) holds its second Congress on February 26-27 in the countryside of Gaya, in Bihar. It resolves to continue with armed guerilla struggles and work for an anti-Congress United Front.

1977

Amidst an upsurge of ultra-leftists’ armed actions and mass activism, CPI (ML) decides to launch a rectification campaign. The party organisation spreads to AP and Kerala.

February:
Revolutionaries organise Telangana Regional Conference in Andhra Pradesh and seeds of a peasant movement are sown in Karimnagar and Adilabad districts of the state. The conference decided to hold political classes to train new cadres and to send “squads” into forest for launching armed struggle. Eight districts of Telangana, excluding Hyderabad, were divided into two regions and two regional committees were elected.

May:
Bihar and West Bengal representatives of Central Organising Committee resign at a meeting. Andhra Pradesh representative fails to attend the meet due to the arrest of Kondapalli Seetharamaiah. The Central Organising Committee is dissolved.

1978

Rectification movements (CPI ML and fragments) limits pure military viewpoint and stresses mass peasant struggles to Indianise the Marxism-Leninism and Mao thought.
• CPI (ML) (Unity Organisation) is formed in Bihar under N Prasad’s leadership (focusing on Jehanabad-Palamu of Bihar). A peasant organisation – the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (MKSS) is formed.

• ‘Go To Village Campaigns’ are launched by Andhra Pradesh Party of revolutionaries to propagate politics of agrarian revolution and building of Radical Youth League units in Andhra Pradesh villages. It later helped in triggering historic peasant struggles of Karimnagar and Adilabad.

Sept 7:
The famous Jagityal march is organised in Andhra Pradesh, in which thousands of people take part.

Oct 20:
Andhra Government declares Sarcilla and Jagityal ‘disturbed areas’ giving police “draconian” powers.

1979

From April to June, Village Campaign was for the first time organised jointly by RSU and RYL in Andhra Pradesh. The two organisations also expressed solidarity with National Movement of Assam.

Between 1979 to 1988, MCC focused on Bihar. A Bihar-Bengal Special Area Committee was established. The Preparatory Committee for Revolutionary Peasant Struggles was formed and soon Revolutionary Peasant Councils emerged. Two founding members of MCC passed away-Amulya Sen in March 1981 and Kanhai Chatterjee in July 1982.

1980

April 22: Kondapalli Seetharamaiah forms the Peoples War Group in Andhra Pradesh. He discards total annihilation of “class enemies” as the only form of struggle and stresses on floating mass organisations.

• Mass peasant movement spreads in Central Bihar.

• CPI (ML) puts forward the idea of broad Democratic Front as the national alternative. It was part of a process to reorganise a centre for All-India revolution after it ceased to exist in 1972.

• The central committee was formed by merging AP and Tamil Nadu State Committees and Maharashtra group of the CPI (ML). Unity Organisation did not join. The tactical adopted by the committee upheld the legacy of Naxalbari while agreeing for rectifying the “left” errors.

• CPI (ML) Red Flag is formed led by K N Ramachandran.

1981

CPI (ML) organises a unity meet of 13 Marxist-Leninist factions in a bid to form a single formation to act as the leading core of the proposed Democratic Front. However, the unity moved failed. The M-L movement begins to polarise between the Marxist-Leninist line of CPI (ML) (Liberation) and the line of CPI (ML) (People’s War).
• First state level rally is held in Patna under the banner of Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha beginning a new phase of mass political activism in the state.

1982
Indian People’s Front (IPF) is launched in Delhi at a national conference of CPI (ML) (Liberation). At the end of the year the third Congress of CPI (ML) is organised at Giridih (Bihar), which decides to take part in elections.

1983
Peasant movement in Assam shows signs of revival after allegedly “forced” Assembly elections. IPF plays a crucial role in this regard.
• An all-India dalit conference is held in Amravati (Maharashtra) to facilitate interaction with Ambedkarite groups.

1984
CPI (ML) and other revolutionaries try to woo Sikhs towards joining peasant movement following Operation Bluestar in June and country-wide anti-Sikh riots after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in Oct 31 the same year.

1985
People’s Democratic Front is launched in Karbi Anglong district of Assam to provide a “revolutionary democratic orientation to the tribal people’s aspirations for autonomy”.
• PDF wins a seat in Assam Assembly elections bring about the first entry of CPI (ML) cadre in the legislative arena.
• Jan Sanskriti Manch is formed at a conference of cultural activists from Hindi belt at New Delhi.

1986

• Bihar govt bans PWG and MCC
April 5-7: CPI (ML) organises a national women’s convention in Calcutta to promote cooperation and critical interaction between communist women’s organisations and upcoming feminist and autonomous women’s groups.
April 19: More than a dozen “landless labourers” are killed in police firing at Arwal in Jehanabad district of Bihar.

1987
PDF gets transformed into the Autonomous State Demand Committee.

1988
CPI (ML) holds its fourth Congress at Hazaribagh in Bihar from January 1 to 5. The Congress “rectifies” old errors of judgement in the party’s assessment of Soviet Union. It reiterates the basic principles of revolutionary communism – defence of Marxism, absolute political independence of the Communist Party and primacy of revolutionary peasant struggles in democratic revolution.
• CPI (ML) ND is formed in Bihar by Comrade Yatendra Kumar.

1989

May:
The founding conference of All India Central Council of Trade Union (AICCTU) is held in Madras. Key resolutions are passed at this meet.
November: More than a dozen “left supporters” are shot dead by landlords in Ara Lok Sabha constituency of Bhojpur district in Bihar on the eve of polls.
• CPI (ML) (Liberation) records its first electoral victory under Indian People’s Front banner. Ara sends the first “Naxalite” member to Parliament.

1990

In February Assembly election, IPF wins seven seats and finishes second in another fourteen. In Assam too, a four-member ASDC legislators’ group enters the Assembly. Special all-India Conference is held in Delhi on July 22-24 to restructure the party.
August 9-11: All India Students Association (AISA) is launched at Allahabad. It opposes VP Singh’s implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations.
Oct 8: First all-India IPF rally is held in Delhi. CPI (ML) (Liberation) claims it to be the first-ever massive mobilisation of rural poor in the capital.
• CPI (ML) S R Bhaijee group and CPI (ML) Unity Initiative are formed in Bihar. The former is still active in east and west Champaran.
• Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chenna Reddy lifts all curbs on naxal groups. Naxalites operate freely for about a year but observers say it corrupted them and adversely affected the movement.

1991
In the May Lok Sabha elections, Indian People’s Front loses Ara seat but CPI (ML) retains its presence in Parliament through ASDC MP.

1992

• Andhra Pradesh bans People’s War Group
• CPI(ML) reorganises the erstwhile Janwadi Mazdoor Kisan Samiti in South Bihar as Jharkhand Mazdoor Kisan Samiti (Jhamkis).

May 21:
Chief Minister N Janardhan Reddy bans PWG and its seven front organisations again in Andhra Pradesh.
Dec 20-26: CPI (ML) organises its fifth Congress at Calcutta from Dec 20 to 26. CPI (ML) comes out in the open and calls for a Left confederation.

1993

• AISA registers impressive victories in Allahabad, Varanasi and Nainital university elections in Uttar Pradesh besides in the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
• CPI (ML) launches a new forum for Muslims called ‘Inquilabi Muslim Conference’ in Bihar.

1994

February: All India Progressive Women’s Association is launched at national women’s conference at New Delhi.
• Indian People’s Front is dissolved and fresh attempts are initiated to forge a united front of various sections of Leftists and Socialists with an anti-imperialist agenda.
• Interactions among various Communists and Left parties intensify in India and abroad to revive the movement drawing lessons from Soviet collapse.

1995

• A six-member CPI (ML) group is formed in Bihar Assembly. Two CPI (ML) nominees win from Siwan indicating the expansion of party’s influence in north Bihar.
May: N T Ramarao relaxes ban on Peoples War Group in Andhra Pradesh for three months. PWG goes in for massive recruitment drive in the state.
July: CPI (ML) organises All India Organisation Plenum at Diphu to streamline party’s organisational network.

• Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) is launched as an all-India organisation of the radical youth.

1996

• Five members of ASDC make it to Assam assembly. An ASDC member is re-elected to Lok Sabha. Another ASDC member is elected to Rajya Sabha. ASDC retains its majority in Karbi Anglong District Council and also unseats the Congress in the neighbouring North Cachhar Hills district in Assam.
• CPI(ML) takes initiative to form a Tribal People’s Front and then Assam People’s Front
• CPI (ML) joins hands with CPI and Marxist Coordination Committee led by Comrade A Roy to strengthen Left movement.
• CPI (ML) initiates the Indian Institute of Marxist Studies. Armed clashes between ultra-leftists and upper caste private armies (like Ranvir Sena) escalate in Bihar.
• The Progressive Organisation of People, affiliated to revolutionary left movement, launches a temple entry movement for lower castes in Gudipadu near Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh. It emerges successful.

1997

CPI (ML) organises a massive ‘Halla Bol’ rally in Patna. A left supported Bihar bandh is organised as part of “Oust Laloo Campaign” in view of the Rs 950-crore fodder scam.

1999

• CPI (ML) Party Unity merges with Peoples War.
• Naxalites launch major strikes. CPI (ML) PW kills six in Jehanabad on February 14. MCC kills 34 upper caste in Senai village of Jehanabad.
Dec 2: Three top PWG leaders killed in Andhra Pradesh leading to a large scale brutal naxalite attacks on state forces.
Dec 16: PWG hacks to death Madhya Pradesh Transport Minister Likhiram Kavre in his village in Blalaghat district to avenge the killing of three top PWG leaders in police encounter on Dec 2.

2000

• PWG continues with its revenge attacks. Blasts house of ruling Telugu Desam Party MP G Sukhender Reddy in Nalgonda district in Andhra Pradesh in January. In February it blows up a Madhya Pradesh police vehicle killing 23 cops, including an ASP. It destroys property worth Rs 5 crore besides killing 10 persons in AP in the same month.

Dec 2: PWG launches People’s Guerrilla Army (PGA) to counter security forces offensive.

2001

April: CPI (ML) celebrates 32nd anniversary of its foundation in Patna on April 22 and gives a call to rekindle ‘revolutionary spirit of naxalism’.

July: Naxalite groups all over South Asia form a Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) which is said to be first such an international coalition. PWG and MCC are part of it.
• As per the Intelligence reports, MCC and PWG establish links with LTTE, Nepali Maoists and Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence to receive arms and training. Naxalites bid to carve out a corridor through some areas of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh up to Nepal.

Nov: MCC organises a violent Jharkhand Bandh on Nov 26.

Dec: Naxalites, mainly in AP, Orissa and Bihar celebrate People’s Guerilla Week hailing the formation of PGA on Dec 2. The week unfolds major violence in the three states during which a plant of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and the house of an Orissa minister is blown up.