ABSTRACT

India is a unique polity in which both forms of left radicalism are visible: while the parliamentary left seeks to bring about socio-economic changes through liberal democratic means, the left-wing extremists remain committed to violent revolution as the only available means to radically alter the prevalent class structure in a meaningful manner. For the latter, violence cannot be dispensed with in a class-divided society although the parliamentary left, despite having drawn ideological inspiration from classical Marxism-Leninism, prefers the available democratic means to fulfil its fundamental ideological mission of human emancipation. In tracing the historical roots of left-wing radicalism in India, also known as Maoism, this chapter focuses on the context and also its distinctive ideological character to understand the phenomenon which is not merely a ripple, but a powerful voice of those in the periphery for meaningful socioeconomic changes. There are two arguments that the chapter makes: first, the contemporary Indian variety of left-wing radicalism is a context-driven ideological endeavour seeking to chart a specific course of history by involving the marginalized as integral to the entire processes of social, economic and political changes; and second, what is also striking is the unstinting faith of the left radicals in the revolutionary ideology of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism despite the brutal state repression. So in its new avatar of left radicalism, Maoism is not merely a conceptual category, but an appropriate description of India’s socioeconomic reality supporting the prevalent class balances to benefit a selected few.