Communism played a somewhat unique role in India. Unlike many other countries, the Communist movement there worked within the existing democratic framework and still has a major involvement in contemporary politics. Communism itself affected India in two ways. The Communist Party of India worked to right social injustices and vaguely committed itself to a revolution in the future. Grassroots Communist guerilla movements also worked against existing social setups to create a fairer environment for peasants. At the same time, Communist principles were institutionalized into Indian government and Communist principles made their way into government policy.
The Communist Party grew out of India’s independence movement against the British. Disenchanted members of the nationalist Indian National Congress were radicalized by Communist ideas, especially in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution. They formed their own party and eventually led an armed struggle against the British with the aid of the Japanese, called the Indian National Army. They managed to encroach into North-Eastern India but were ultimately defeated. After independence, the Communist movement split into several factions, with each wielding influence in certain parts of the country. None of them followed the revolutionary ways of the Bolsheviks and they all worked within the democratic system. Eventually, the world’s first democratically-elected Communist government was formed in the southern state of Kerala. They did follow elements of the Bolshevik plan by doing their best to dismantle the existing economic and power structure that was dominated by elite members of India’s caste system. They tried to empower peasants and workers by redistributing land, raising political awareness and promoting literacy. All this had a largely beneficial effect as the state of Kerala boasts near-universal literacy and living standards much above the norm. However, the abandonment of Bolshevik methods meant that the Communist parties in India never could extend their appeal or power enough to be major contenders for power in India at the national level. Communist movements in India were almost as prone to corruption and criminalization as others and it should not be inferred that Communism was an especially positive force.
There were also several armed grassroots insurgencies in India. These are called Naxalite movements and they happened in the poorest regions of India where inequities due to societal imbalances were the harshest. They grew out of the genuine frustration of the peasants, who were egged on by educated middle-class vanguard from the cities. There were several small revolutions across India throughout the 60s and 70s which were eventually crushed by the Police. These movements stuck very closely to the Bolshevik ideals and tried their best to emulate Lenin and Stalin. However, since they never consolidated enough and could not garner the cross-cultural appeal needed for a unique setup like India’s, their revolutions were universally unsuccessful.
Finally, the Indian government itself followed Bolshevik models to a certain extent. When India gained its independence in 1947, it saw the economic success of the Soviet Union and, however misguidedly, allied itself to a certain extent with Russia. It followed a program of industrialization and modernization similar to the USSR’s with Russian help and tried its best to emulate the quick transition to the Industrial state that Russia had made. It followed Five Year plans, economic planning and centralization. However, once again, the heterogeneous and complex nature of India made Soviet models prone to failure. They have been discredited and India switched to free market Capitalism in the early 90s. In conclusion, Communism played a constructive role to a large extent within the democratic framework of India and also was the ideology behind several small revolutions of frustrated peasants trying to overthrow their oppressors.