Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Menace of Maoism in India - Checking History for Possible Solutions

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There is something about the region currently infested by Maosim in Central India, which is time and again disregarded by power in Delhi. This is the region known as Gondwana. Akbar was incapable of conquering this region. This region held out against all imperial conquests of Mughals. Only when Aurangzeb descended on Deccan with his full force, kings of this region made an uneasy truce with Mughals and accepted their nominal suzerainty. To control this region and be at peace, one has to understand the history of this region. A number of old kingdoms were established by, or together with, ruling families of the Gonds and other scheduled tribes in this region. The first of these is mentioned in 1398, when Narsingh Rai, raja of Kherla, is said by Ferishta to have ruled all the hills of Gondwana. He was finally overthrown and killed by Hoshang Shah, king of Malwa. Between the 14th and the 18th centuries, three main Gond kingdoms existed; Garha-Mandla occupied the upper Narmada Valley, Deogarh-Nagpur occupied the Kanhan River and upper Wainganga River valleys, and Chanda-Sirpur occupied present-day Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, and eastern Adilabad districts.


The three Gond principalities of Garha-Mandla, Deogarh, and Chanda-Sirpur were nominally subject to the Mughal emperors. In addition to the acquisitions made in the north at the expense of Garha-Mandla, the Mughals, after the annexation of Berar in 1595, established governors at Paunar in Wardha District and Kherla in Betul District. Having thus hemmed in the Gond states, however, they made no efforts to assert any effective sovereignty over them; the Gond rajas for their part were content with practical independence within their own dominions. Under their peaceful rule their territories flourished, until the weakening of the Mughal empire and the rise of the expanding Bundela and Maratha powers brought misfortune upon them.

In the 17th century Chhatar Sal, the Bundela chieftain, deprived the Mandla principality of part of the Vindhyan plateau and the Narmada Valley. In 1733 the Maratha Peshwa invaded Bundelkhand; and in 1735 the Marathas had established their power in Saugor. In 1742 the Peshwa advanced to Mandla and exacted tribute, and from this time until 1781, when Gond dynasty of Garha-Mandla was finally overthrown, Garha-Mandla remained practically a Maratha dependency. Meanwhile the other independent principalities of Gondwana had in turn succumbed. 

Bakht Buland, the ruler of Deogharh, visited Delhi, afterwards was determined to encourage the development of his own kingdom. To this end he invited Hindu and Muslim artisans and cultivators to settle in the plain country, and founded the city of Nagpur. His successor, Chand Sultan continued the development of his country, and moved his capital to Nagpur. On Chand Sultan's death in 1739 there were disputes as to his succession, and his widow invoked the aid of the Maratha leader Raghoji Bhonsle was governing Berar on behalf of the Maratha Peshwa. The Bhonsle family were originally headmen from Deora, a village in Satara District. 

Raghoji's grandfather and his two brothers had fought in the armies of Shivaji, and to the most distinguished of them was entrusted a high military command and the collection of chauth (tribute) in Berar. Raghoji, on being called in by the contending Gond factions, replaced the two sons of Chand Sultan on the throne from which they had been ousted by a usurper, and retired to Berar with a suitable reward for his assistance. Dissentions, however, broke out between the brothers, and in 1743 Raghoji again intervened at the request of the elder brother and drove out his rival. But he had not the heart to give back a second time the country he held within his grasp. Burhan Shan, the Gond Raja, though allowed to retain the outward insignia of royalty, became practically a state pensioner, and all real power passed to the Marathas. 

Chanda, Chhattisgarh, and Sambalpur were added to his dominions between 1745 and 1755, the year of his death. In 1743 Raghoji Bhonsle of Berar established himself at Nagpur, and by 1751 had conquered the territories of Deogarh, Chanda, and Chhattisgarh. A number of rebellions against British rule took place throughout the 19th century. Some of these rebellions focused on protection of forests against commercial logging. In their efforts to subjugate them, entire communities were labelled "criminal classes" by the British.


There are few reasons why Mughals failed and Marathas succeeded in wresting total control over this troubled region. Firstly, Marathas themselves were masters of Guerilla-Warfare. They had fought mughals for almost 47 years (1660 to 1707) by this technique. 

Secondly, they took the benefit of internal dissent among the ruling policy makers of this region. They played a role similar to the one played by Sri Raama and assassination (Or Killing) of Vaali and instating Sugriva on the throne. Raghuji went further, he later drove away this sugriva and became the ruler of Kishkindha (in this case Gondwana - today's troubled spot) himself.

Thirdly, It is interesting to understand why were gonds trusting Marathas but offered fierce resistance to Mughals? because Marathas were closer to them culturally and martially. Mughals were sitting high up on sierra-mountains drinking expensive wine and giving orders. This is the reason why AP-police and to quite an extent MH-Police have packed up the menace from the infested parts of Maharasntra and AP respectively. The key is getting someone whom they identify with to tackle them by Saam-Daan-Danda-Bhed tactics. 

I agree that with added factors like PRC and our own communist parties, the dynamics becomes complicated. However, it is better if the actual confrontation is done by local police, rather than CRPF or IA backed up by Su-30 MKI. The central forces can strike at the logistical chain which supplies these people with arms. They can be involved in training the police-force. But not as premier strike-force. 

Lastly, this district of South Bastar and Dantewada is really secluded and primitive. Perhaps, this is the last reserve of these people. No rulers in the past went on to impose a complete rule in this region at least. It did not fall on any major trade-routes for British, so after cleansing the Mumbai-Kolkata rail-route and roadway and Hyd-Nagpur-delhi rail and road way, they let the tribals in this region be.

What needs to be done in long-run after all this is over is something similar to the naked tribals of Andaman. Let the tribals be along with their sacred forest, valley and riverine. Develop this region as tourist spot, instead of industrial spot. Things then will change with time slowly..

5 comments:

al brazzakh said...

Good article boss.

Does this mean that Vidarbha is going to be a nightmare? My questions:
Why out of Mumbai-Thane belt, Konkan, Khandesh, Marathwada and V, only V is massively backward. The resources are present in V. iT have seen some talks made by V leaders saying that V is being under developed so as to supply non V Maharashtra.
The basic question is why no development, and why there are highest number of farmers taking their lives from the region? Thanks.

Chiron said...

Vidarbha is divided into two regions, Brazzakh ji..

1. The Nagpur Division (Bhandara, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Gondia, Nagpur, Wardha districts - the Wanganga Basin) which is very fertile and quite prosperous. It is the Amaravati division (Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Washim, Yavatmal districts) which are having problems regarding farmer suicides. The Amaravati division is barren, scanty rainfall hence quite a few lands are rendered inarable due to overuse of artificial fertilizers post green-revolution period.

2. Thus the dynamics of the region which is affected in Vidarbha (Amaravati division) is not related to the people and ecology of gondwana region.

3. Overall, Vidarbha is much less developed than Western Maharashtra. But this problem is purely political. All the major policy makers of MH come from Western MH (the Sugar-factory belt). Western MH has Mumbai-Pune-Nashik. It has fertile basins of Krishna and tributaries. This sugar lobby (Saakhar-Samrat) usually isn't interested much in development of any other region beyond their territory.

4. This is not the case with Chandrapur-Gadchiroli-Bastar-Dantewada-Karimnagar-Khammam-Kanker-Koraput districts in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, AP. The Nagpur-Wardha-Chandrapur are regions of plenty rainfall, good soil, decent degree of industrialization. The Chandrapur-Gadchiroli part is evergreen and dense forest and is in continuation with the Dantewada and Bastar regions in C'garh, Khammam in AP and Koraput in Orissa.

5. Except for Nagpur-Chandrapur belt, this entire region have about 65% population as tribals, less than 10% urbanization (figures from Wiki), not much agricultural activity, except for mining not much industrial activity as well.

6. One has to only look at the network of Indian railways and highways, they all circumnavigate these eight districts mentioned in paragraph 4. The routes of Nagpur-Kolkata and Hyd-Chandrapur-Nagpur-Jabalpur-Delhi has been cleansed long ago by British of any gond political influence.

7. I don't think the people from arc of Burhanpur-Amaravati Dividion-Nanded-Hyderabad will harbour ideologies like that of the region in previous paragraph.

8. One good government is enough to end the woes of Vidarbha. This is the reason why Gadkari is still remembered as benefactor in this region (entire vidarbha up to Chandrapur. Beyond Chandrapur the dynamics change) in spite of the fact that he was only a PWD minister in SS-BJP government.

Ace said...

Chiron, very well written article as always, but you have mentioned a line, that Akbar was never able to capture Gondwana, which is factually incorrect, because after the defeat of Rani Durgavati and her son Vir Narayan Shah, the subsequent Gond kings accepted Mughal overlordship....

al brazzakh said...

Yes, Nitin Gadkari is indeed
remembered.The sugar co-op, milk co-op, cotton belt politicians have nothing better to do for the people of the Amaravati division.

Ironically Praful Patel gets himself up from Gondiya. Thanks for the details.

Chinmay 'भारद्वाज' said...

Interesting and informative article indeed...

Just to add an anecdote to this wonderful article : one of the interesting thing about Gond kings was that when making peace with Muslim sultanates they would convert to Islam and revert back to Hinduism after some time. That's why one wouldn't find many Muslim gond in South east Vidarbha.

Great job dude....keep it going....