Indian Government’s Fear of “Maoist Menace”
Posted by Mike E on April 14, 2010
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
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
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
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’
“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’
“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
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.