Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Indian Government’s Fear of “Maoist Menace”

Posted by Mike E on April 14, 2010

The wreckage of a military vehicle after a Maoist attack in Dantewada on April 6. With the massacre of 75 policemen in a jungle ambush, India's Maoists have shown they remain a potent national security threat despite a major four-month offensive to curb their operations.

Thanks to Green-Red for this suggestion. It originally appeared as part of AFP coverage (April 7).

India gropes for response to Maoist menace

NEW DELHI (AFP) – – With the massacre of 75 policemen in a jungle
ambush, India’s Maoists have shown they remain a potent national
security threat despite a major four-month offensive to curb their
operations.

Tuesday’s attack in a densely forested area of Chhattisgarh state was
the deadliest to date and is likely to embarrass the government, which
since late last year has been pursuing a concerted effort to flush the
rebels out.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said he was shocked by the high casualty toll.

“This shows the savage nature of the Maoists — the brutality and
savagery which they are capable of,” he said.

The ambush again showcased the Maoists’ ability to strike in strength
and then melt back into their jungle hideouts before security
reinforcements arrive.

The insurgency, which started as a peasant uprising in 1967, has
spread to 20 of India’s 29 states and has been identified by Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh as the number one threat to domestic security.

Little is known about the movement’s shadowy leadership based in the
central state of Chhattisgarh, or its cadre strength, which is
variously estimated at between 10,000 and 20,000.

Since 2007, they have assassinated a federal MP, engineered a mass
prison break for 300 of their jailed fighters, sunk a boat carrying
elite commandos and held entire trains hostage.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said Tuesday’s attack
was an assault on India’s democracy and urged the government to launch
an “all-out offensive” against the leftist rebels.

“There is no scope for discussion or debate any more. First we have to
hit them hard. This must be a fight to the finish,” said BJP spokesman
Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

The Maoist influence is greatest in impoverished, remote areas,
fuelling the argument that growing social disparities thrown up by
India’s economic growth have been a major factor behind the rebels’
expansion.

“These are areas inhabited by tribals and the poorest of the poor, who
have been bypassed by the economic boom,” said author and economist
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

“It’s a perfect breeding ground for left-wing extremism.”

Ajai Sahani, executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute of
Conflict Management, agreed that the failure to deliver good
governance, security and basic services had played into the rebels’
hands.

“The Maoists are not really strong. It is the state which is weak and
has failed to deliver,” he told AFP.

The rebels insist they are fighting for the rights of the poor in
India’s hinterland.

The most common work in the forests of Chhattisgarh is subsistence
farming and the gathering and selling of leaves for Indian “beedi”
cigarettes — a job that brings in a meagre 35 cents a day.

Until now, the government has resisted enlisting the military’s help
in fighting the Maoists, relying instead on paramilitary forces.

At the end of last year, the government launched Operation Green Hunt
— a large-scale, coordinated offensive involving six states worst
affected by Maoist violence.

But the rebels’ superior knowledge of local conditions and topography
has thwarted efforts to take them on in large numbers.

“The Maoists are like water. The minute you try to pressurise them,
they spread all over,” said Longe Kume, a senior police officer in
Jagdalpur, a region of Chhattisgarh dotted with rebel training camps.

Rahul Bedi, a defence analyst with Jane’s Information Group, said the
paramilitary forces were “under-equipped and under-trained” and argued
that the government needed to re-think its strategy.

“It is a man-intensive war. India needs more people and sophisticated
weapons to fight it,” Bedi said.

K.P.S. Gill, the former police chief of Punjab state credited with
stamping out a Sikh nationalist insurgency in the 1990s, said
Operation Green Hunt had been flawed from its inception.

“Somebody has picked up the strategy from some book and forced it on the paramilitary forces,” Gill said.

“They are violating the basic principles of anti-insurgency operations
by travelling in large numbers and in vehicles,” said Gill, who noted
that victims of Tuesday’s ambush had been sent on a four-day patrol in
an area they barely knew.

“They were sitting ducks,” he said.

One Response to “Indian Government’s Fear of “Maoist Menace””

  1. Shiva said

    Let us not take the Prime Minister’s words literally when he calls the Maoists the number one threat to domestic security. The purpose there is to conceal his real aim, namely to ‘free’ India’s mineral and other natural resources from the control of the Adhivasi’s.

    By making Maoists the problem all resistance is readily branded ‘Maoist’ and thus dispossessing the Adhivasi is achieved through emptying villages in the pretext of fighting ‘Maoist terror’.

    Poverty and oppression are not automatically the breeding grounds for “left-wing extremism”. They exist in many parts of the world and, if that argument is true, the world should be seething with rebellion. But that is not the case. Even fascism can take advantage of poverty, although not for long.
    NGOs and experts of all manner tend to oversimplify the issues in terms of the few parameters (often one) that that they know.

    The success of the struggle depends on the extent to which the initiative is with the struggling masses. Not just the establishment but the Maoists too do not have ready-made answers. But their advantage is that their cause is that of the majority.

    My hope is that all progressive and revolutionary forces learn to cooperate through a process of unity and struggle for the benefit of revolution in what is probably the most complex political entity that is India — by way of ethnicity, caste, religion, gender issues, economic development, urban-rural differences and the consequent complexity of class structure.
    The Maoists deserve encouragement and support, not blind adoration. There are lessons that the Indian revolutionaries need to learn on the correct handling of contradictions and distinguishing between ‘friendly’ and ‘hostile’ contradictions.

    Right now the responsibility of all left, democratic and progressive forces of India is to defend the Adhivasis against state oppression in the pretext of fighting ‘Maoist terror’. The state is the biggest terrorist force in our part of the world. Heroic battles alone are inadequate. There is urgent need for political work at all levels, and therefore dialogue among forces of the genuine left.

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