Archive for the Counter-insurgency Category

Perspective: Mr Bharat Verma of IDR comments on Left Wing Extremism

Posted in Army, Counter-insurgency, CRPF, Indian Army, Insurgency, J&K, LWE, Maoists, Naxal with tags , on 2 August 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

Bharat Verma

Mr Bharat Varma of the Indian Defence Review has come out with an article entitled ‘Maoist threat, deploy babus, not army’. In his article, he makes some telling points.

The same is reproduced below: Continue reading


Armed Forces Special Powers Act: An analysis

Posted in Army, Counter-insurgency, Indian Army, Insurgency, Terrorism with tags , , on 28 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

Lt Gen (Retd) Vijay Oberoi, a former Director General of Military Operations and Vice Chief of Army Staff has written a lucid article on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in The Tribune. He has clearly explained why it is such an important act and why it is more maligned than it is malignant.  

Special powers for armed forces

We need clarity, not emotions

by Lt-Gen Vijay Oberoi (retd)

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, better known as AFSPA, has been brought out of wraps at various opportune times – opportune for those who have either something to gain, i.e. the insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir, political parties always ready to fish in troubled waters, with an eye on electoral gains or those who are regular establishment-baiters, who have made it a habit to take the plunge headlong in any controversy with the belief that if it is against an organ of the government, it needed to be opposed!

Many have called AFSPA a draconian law and have vehemently supported its repeal, but having read quite a few of their views and watched them pontificating on TV, I am convinced that most lack even a rudimentary, let alone in-depth knowledge on the subject. This Act has been in force for over five decades because it was essential for the conduct of smooth counter-insurgency operations by the army. It will continue to be needed as long as the army is employed on counter-insurgency/ terrorism tasks.

The Act was promulgated on September 11, 1958. The rationale for bringing the Act on the statute book needs to be appreciated. When the army was first employed on counter-insurgency tasks in Nagaland in the 1950s, two aspects came to the fore immediately. First, unlike in the case of maintenance of law and order, when the army is called out in ‘aid to the civil authority’, where time is available to employ the police before committing the army, operations against insurgents are entirely of a different genre, as the insurgents do not give any time for such niceties.

The insurgents we are fighting today are heavily armed, they act speedily, commit heinous crimes and disappear. Unless the army counters such actions with speed and not wait for orders from higher civil or military authorities, nothing would be achieved.

Secondly, the soldiers and officers of the army had to be protected from prosecution for consequential action taken against insurgents in good faith as part of their operations. Here too, the Act does contain the important caveat that the army personnel can be prosecuted with the Centre’s sanction, if their actions warrant it. There is, therefore, no blanket immunity from the laws of the land.

Over the years, some army personnel have indeed been prosecuted where a prima facie case existed. However, it is also true that due to the exceptional care which all army commanders take when their troops are employed against insurgents, such cases are few and far between.

After the initial employment in Nagaland, the employment of the army on counter-insurgency tasks continued increasing, till it was progressively employed in all the north-eastern states for such tasks. Along with such employment, AFSPA was also invoked in all affected states.

When insurgency erupted in Srinagar in 1990, the Act was extended to the Valley. Later, as the activities of the insurgents spread, first to the Poonch-Rajauri area, then to Doda and Bhadarwah and finally to the whole state, the entire state was brought under the Act’s purview in stages. It can thus be seen that AFSPA was invoked progressively only when the situation required the deployment of the army.

The army is designed and structured for fighting external enemies of the nation. Consequently, they are not given any police powers. However, when the nation wants the army to conduct counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations, then they must be given the legal authority to conduct their operations without the impediment of getting clearances from the higher authorities.

If this is not done, they would be unable to function efficiently and defeat the insurgents and terrorists at their own game. It is for this reason that the Act gives four powers to army personnel. These are for ‘enter and search’, ‘arrest without warrant’, ‘destroy arms dumps or other fortifications’ and ‘fire or use force after due warning where possible’. Once again, there is a safeguard in the Act, which stipulates that the arrested person(s) will be handed over speedily to the nearest police station.

The law stipulates that AFSPA can be imposed only after the area in question is declared a ‘disturbed area’ by the state government concerned. When this writer was the Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) and the army was asked to deploy in the Doda-Bhadarwah area, we requested for the invocation of the Act. The state government was reluctant to do so on account of political considerations, but we did not commence operations till the Act was invoked.

Clearly, the Army has no desire to get embroiled in counter-insurgency tasks. It is not the army’s job. However, despite over 50 years of insurgency in our country, the state police as well as the central police forces (CPOs) have not been made capable of tackling insurgency. Consequently, in each case the army was inducted to carry out counter insurgency/ terrorist operations. If the national leadership tasks the army for conducting such non-military operations, then it is incumbent on the leadership to provide the legal wherewithal to all army personnel employed on such tasks.

It is only then that the operations will be conducted in the usual efficient manner of the army and would be result-oriented. They also must be legally protected. It is because these two aspects have been catered for that the army has been neutralising the insurgents and terrorists, so that normalcy is restored and the political leaders and officials can restart governing.

The writer is a former Vice-Chief of the Indian Army

Maloy Krishna Dhar on Left Wing Extremism

Posted in Army, Counter-insurgency, CRPF, Indian Army, Insurgency, Maoists with tags , , , on 13 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor
MK Dhar

MK Dhar

Maloy Krishna Dhar started life off as a junior reporter for Amrita Bazaar Patrika in Calcutta and a part-time lecturer. He joined the Indian Police Service in 1964 and was permanently seconded to the Intelligence Bureau.

During his long stint in the Bureau, Dhar saw action in almost all Northeastern states, Sikkim, Punjab and Kashmir. He also handled delicate internal political and several counterintelligence assignments.

After retiring in 1996 as joint director, he took to freelance journalism and writing books. Titles credited to him are Open Secrets-India’s Intelligence Unveiled, Fulcrum of Evil – ISI, CIA, al-Qaeda Nexus, and Mission to Pakistan. Maloy is considered a top security analyst and a social scientist who tries to portray Indian society through his writings. In this interview with Nandini Krishnan, he discusses the Maoist menace and how it can be tackled.

Some excerpts: Continue reading

STRATFOR’s report on India’s Left Wing Extremist threat – Naxalism is ‘fairly contained’ in India

Posted in Army, Counter-insurgency, Dantewada, Insurgency, LWE, Maoists, Naxal, Terrorism with tags , , , , on 9 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

STRATFOR is a US-based private strategic intelligence corporation which has taken out a report on India’s Left Wing Extremism scenario.  The same has been reproduced below.

This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR

A Closer Look at India’s Naxalite Threat

July 8, 2010 | 0856 GMT

By Fred Burton and Ben West

The so-called Red Corridor

On July 6, the Indian government issued a warning to railroad operators and users after Maoist rebels — known as Naxalites — declared a “bandh,” a Hindi word meaning stoppage of work, in eastern India. When a bandh is declared by the Naxalites, it carries with it an implied threat of violence to enforce the work stoppage, in this case against the public transportation system over a two-day period. It is widely understood that trains and buses in eastern India during this time would be subject to Naxalite attack if they do not obey the call for a shutdown.

Naxalites are an array of armed bands that, when combined, comprise the militant arm of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M). Some of the most violent attacks conducted by the Naxalites have been against freight and police transport trains, killing dozens of people at a time. Civilians have typically not been targeted in such attacks, but they have been collaterally killed and injured in the mayhem. Whether targeted or not, civilians generally believe that Naxalites always follow through on their threats, so strike warnings are enough to dissuade people from going about their daily lives. The Naxalite “bandh” is a tactic that shows just how powerful the rebels have become in the region, and it demonstrates their ability to affect day-to-day activity merely by threatening to stage an attack.

The Naxalite declaration on July 6 was in retaliation for a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) operation that killed senior Naxalite leader, CPI-M Politburo member and spokesman Cherukuri Rajkumar (alias Azad) on July 2 in Andhra Pradesh. The news of Azad’s death was unexpected, since India has had little luck capturing or killing key Naxalite leaders, but his absence is not expected to seriously hamper the movement. The Naxalites are a large, well-organized force that will be able to replace him with little or no visible effect on operational capability. What was not surprising was that Azad’s killing elicited a Naxalite response.

It is unclear exactly what precipitated the Andhra Pradesh operation by the CRPF (India’s federal police force) that killed Azad, though it did come after a busy spring in Naxalite territory. On April 6, Naxalites mounted a textbook armed ambush that killed 76 CRPF members conducting a patrol in Chhattisgarh state, at the time the deadliest attack the Naxalites had carried out in their 43-year history. Then, on May 17, they detonated an explosive device along a road in Chhattisgarh and destroyed a bus, killing nearly 50 civilians and police officers. At the time, Azad issued several statements to the press indicating that the group regretted the death of so many civilians but blamed them for riding on the bus with police officers, something they had been warned against numerous times. Indeed, police in this region are typically not allowed to ride on public transportation due to the threat of Naxalite attacks and the possibility of collateral damage.

On May 28, less than two weeks after the bus attack, an act of sabotage against a railway line in West Bengal state caused a train carrying only civilians to derail. It was subsequently hit by a freight train, resulting in the deaths of nearly 150 people. While Naxalites initially denied that they were involved in the incident, they later admitted that a rogue gang trained by them had sabotaged the railway line without permission from Naxalite central command. (There is also the possibility that the Naxalites were attempting to derail the freight train — a much more common Naxalite target — but mistakenly targeted the wrong track.)

Finally, on June 24, in the wake of these deadly (if not all intentional) attacks, the Naxalites reiterated their intention to drive multinational corporations (MNCs) out of India and that they would use violence to do so. This most recent threat reflects the primary interest of the Naxalites, and it is backed by a proven tactical ability to strike economic targets, which is a top concern for the Indian government. It is this situation that leads STRATFOR to look at one of the world’s longest-running insurgencies to see what makes it tick.

Background on a Rebellion

The Naxalites get their name from their place of origin, the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal, where in May 1967 a local Communist Party leader promised to redistribute land to the peasants. This was not the first time such a proclamation by a Party member had been made in eastern India, but earlier attempts to foment a peasant rebellion in the region had faltered. This one, however, triggered a wave of violence in which workers intimidated or killed landowners, in many cases running them off their land and reclaiming it as their own. The actions were based on sentiment among the peasants (made up largely of tribal members) that they were merely taking back what they had been forced to give up to wealthy prospectors from central India. These newcomers had gained the land from the local tribes, the peasants believed, through schemes in which the land was taken as collateral for the tribes’ outstanding debts.

On a grander geopolitical level, the Naxalites can be viewed through the prism of Chinese-Indian rivalry. The Naxalites adopted the ideology of Mao Zedong, the Chinese revolutionary and leader who converted China to communism and who had just begun the Cultural Revolution there in 1966. In the beginning of the Naxalite movement, there was mutual rhetorical support between the Maoist regime in China and the Naxalites in India. While there was little evidence of material support (and there is no indication of such support today), the advent and growth of the Naxalite movement certainly did serve China’s goal of weakening its largest neighbor to the south.

India was able to dampen the Naxalite movement significantly in 1971, but the regional belief that the government in New Delhi had robbed tribal groups of their land in eastern India persisted. The Naxalite movement continued in a somewhat dormant phase throughout the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s. Violence resumed again in the late ’90s and has been escalating in the years since.

The increasing violence corresponds with India’s economic growth, and this is not coincidental. India has experienced a boom in economic growth over the past 20 years that has seen per capita income rise roughly 100 percent. By comparison, it took India 40 years to complete its last doubling of per capita income. Foreign investors have sustained this growth by pumping billions of dollars into India’s economy. However, economic growth in India has not trickled down, a political liability that the Naxalites have leveraged both to revive their movement and challenge India’s more mainstream political parties.

Geography and Development

India as a whole has a disparate geography and some 1.1 billion inhabitants, and the government in New Delhi thus has a tough time extending its writ throughout the land. The Naxalites are not the only militant movement in India; groups in northwest and northeast India also take advantage of the terrain and the distance from New Delhi to challenge the government for control of the territory they inhabit. The Naxalites specifically inhabit an area known as the “Red Corridor,” which stretches from West Bengal state southwest to Karnataka state. The most violent states in this corridor have been Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Orissa. The region is defined by rolling hills covered in dense jungle and has few improved roads, which allows the Naxalites to control access. The dense jungle also protects them from government aircraft.

The region’s geographic isolation has created a tribal mentality, and while the government lumps militant groups in the area under the Naxalite umbrella, the militant community is actually quite diffuse, with small units acting with varying levels of autonomy throughout the region. For example, there is little indication that a unit from Chhattisgarh would also be able to conduct operations in West Bengal. Transportation is expensive and dangerous, so people tend to stay close to home and defend it fiercely. This makes it difficult for outsiders to gain influence in (and access to) the area.

It also means the area is extremely poor. Although the region has an abundance of raw materials in its hills and forests, the state of India has been hard-pressed to get at those resources because it cannot effectively control them. And while Naxalites call for the improvement of the lives of the people they claim to represent, they have resisted any government attempt to develop the area’s economy. Indeed, the low level of trust between the Naxalites and New Delhi creates the conundrum of how the government can possibly provide security without developing sufficient infrastructure and how infrastructure can possibly be developed without sufficient security. An example of this can be seen in the Naxalites’ constant sabotaging of area roads by planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) under road surfaces or simply digging roads up. Roads are necessary for development, but Naxalites view roads as a means for the government to send its forces into their territory.

Eager to stimulate growth in the region, the central government promised foreign investors land without communicating, much less negotiating, with locals inhabiting the land, which naturally led to disputes between the locals, the foreign companies and the government. A famous example of an ongoing dispute involves the South Korean steel conglomerate POSCO, which is in the process of acquiring some 4,000 acres in Orissa state on which to build a $12 billion steel mill. The project has been delayed by protests and violence by locals opposed to the project, and police have been unable to secure the area to permit construction. Only now, some five years after the government promised the land to POSCO, is local compensation being negotiated.

India’s economic success has meant that foreign investors like POSCO are increasing their presence in India, which means that locals like the Naxalites are faced with both a threat and an opportunity. Outside business interests (whether investors from South Korea or wealthy prospectors from central India) in partnership with the government pose the greatest threat to the Naxalite movement. On the other hand, outside investment could bring jobs and development to an area that is desperately poor. But Naxalites are skeptical of letting the government control anything in their region, and successful economic development would have a calming effect on the region’s radicalized militants. Movements like that of the Naxalites have an array of motivations for why they do what they do, but self-preservation is always a very high priority.

The other opportunity is to force the central government or foreign investors to pay the group directly for any land in the region. Naxalites can raise the stakes by organizing more militant force to deny access to certain areas, sabotage transportation and commercial activity and otherwise mobilize the locals. This would essentially be a large-scale protection racket. The model has been implemented and followed successfully by other militant groups, most notably Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which manages to extract concessions from energy giants operating in Nigeria’s oil-rich but dismally poor Niger Delta, and even from the Nigerian government itself. While Maoist leaders in eastern and central India do make statements about how commercial projects in the area need to provide locals with jobs, it is clear that Naxalites are also trying to enhance their capability to pursue the second option.

The Threat

Naxalites are honing the capability to construct and deploy IEDs, conduct armed raids and maintain an extensive, agile and responsive intelligence network. As seen in the examples above, Naxalite fighters can be opportunistic in their attacks. The April 6 raid on the soldiers in Dantewada and the May 17 bus attack were both actions that took advantage of opportunities to target and kill police forces. The April 6 raid was the culmination of two or three days of stalking the CRPF unit in the forest and waiting for the right time to strike. The May 17 bus attack was organized in a matter of hours, with spotters noticing the police on the bus and alerting other cadres who planted the device further down the road. This flexibility and autonomy among its various component parts, along with the group’s local support and indigenous knowledge of its turf, make the Naxalites a dangerous adversary against the slower moving, more deliberate and more predictable CRPF.

New Delhi insists that, according to the constitution, the Naxalite problem is one of law and order and, thus, a responsibility for the states to address. New Delhi has deployed the CRPF, but it has not gone so far as to deploy the military, something that many Indian politicians have called for as the only solution to the problem. While military advisers have been sent in to train local and federal police forces in the Red Corridor, they have not engaged in any known anti-Naxalite operations. India has unpleasant memories of past deployments of its military forces to address domestic threats. In the 1980s, use of the army to deal with Sikh militancy was criticized as being too heavy-handed. Military action at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, codenamed Operation Blue Star, also fanned the flames of Sikh militancy and sparked a series of serious reprisal attacks that included the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had ordered the operation.

Also, the Indian military insists it is currently focused on fighting Islamist and separatist forces in Jammu and Kashmir in northwest India, along the disputed border with Pakistan, and is dealing with multiple ethno-separatist movements in the northeast region of India surrounded by China and Bangladesh. While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labeled the Naxalite issue the biggest threat to the country’s internal security, incidents like the 2008 Mumbai attacks provide evidence to most Indians that Pakistan and the militants who hide there pose a greater external threat.

In the end, Naxalism is fairly contained. Despite threats and indications from Naxalites that they will attack urban targets throughout India, the group has yet to demonstrate the intent or ability to strike outside of the Red Corridor. But the group’s leaders and bombmakers could develop such a capability, and it will be important to watch for any indication that cadres are developing the tradecraft for urban terrorism. Even if they do not expand their target set and conduct more “terrorist-type” attacks, the Naxalite challenge to the state could materialize in other ways. The Naxalite organization is a sophisticated one that relies not only on militant tactics but also on social unrest and political tactics to increase its power. Naxalites have formed sympathetic student groups in universities, and human-rights groups in New Delhi and other regional capitals are advocating for the local tribal cause in rural eastern India.

Instead of using violence, these groups stage protests to express their grievances against the state. And they underscore the Naxalite ability to use both militant violence and subtle social pressure to achieve their goals. Even if the government did decide to deploy the military to combat the Naxalites in eastern India, it would face a tough fight against a well-entrenched movement — something New Delhi is not likely to undertake lightly or any time soon.

Left Wing Extremism – Hijacked by the petty politics of vengeance

Posted in Counter-insurgency, Insurgency, LWE with tags , , on 7 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

In any insurgency, there is a core group of believers – those who believe in what they are doing – who form a minority. The majority of insurgents are those who have joined ranks for reasons other than the root cause. These could be to avoid police persecution, to avoid persecution by Left Wing Extremists (LWEs), out of a misplaced sense of adventure, to seek revenge against some injustice committed, to spite lovers and parents (yes, this was a common cause in J&K) or even to earn some form of respectability just as a young man would seek to join the armed forces for the glamour and uniform.

The youth, having joined the insurgents,  often use this apparently enhanced status and power to Continue reading

Innovative improvised Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher

Posted in Counter-insurgency, Insurgency, Terrorism with tags , , , on 5 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

Are we likely to see something similar to this in the LWE environment?

This is a captured Palestinian garbage truck from Gaza.

The truck is set up to fire 9 Kasem rockets and then drive off innocently.

The note pasted on the drivers door says In case of traffic violations, please contact The Palestinian Authority.

The Israelis have evidence of ambulances and emergency vehicles set up the same way.
This is why the Israeli Government inspects every ship bringing “aid” to the Gaza Strip.


Who are the Maoists and what do they want?

Posted in Counter-insurgency, Maoists with tags , , on 5 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

Rita Khanna has posted an article on the Radical Notes website giving a comprehensive idea about who are the Maoists and what they want.

Excerpts below:

Who are these Maoists?

The Maoists are revolutionaries mainly consisting of the extremely poor people including a large number of dalits and tribals. They come mainly from the toiling masses of India and they are trying to organize the vast population of such masses of this country. They seek to arm and train them so that these masses can resist the onslaught of the rich. In this effort they go beyond the idea that mass movements should focus on some specific issues like increase of wages, better health care, more honesty of public servants and so forth. The view of the Maoist rebels is that the poor and exploited people must first and foremost establish their own democratic political power and their own state power in various places. This is because without controlling state power, the poor and the exploited can at most hope for only limited improvements in their living conditions, i.e., so long as it does not inconvenience the rich who usually control the state power. So, the Maoists mobilize the poor to fight against the existing state, even armed fight if possible, as they consider the existing state to be a set of agents acting for the big multinational corporations, rich landlords and the wealthy in general. The fight is an extremely challenging and unequal one as the rich are aided by the government bureaucrats, the police and even the military. Also, contrary to what the Government and the mainstream media are propagating, the Maoist rebels are actually completely opposed to individual killings, they openly denigrate such stray terrorism-like acts. What they have been attempting to build up is a mass movement, even armed, to take on the violence of the ruling classes and its representative state machinery.

The Maoist movement was born in India in the late 1960s, after a radical section of political workers broke away mainly from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) because they felt the CPIM and other such parties like CPI, RSP, etc. had discredited themselves with their opportunist politics of placating and compromising with the rich. The movement has a long history of development. The present party, CPI (Maoist), came into being in 2004 by the merger of a number of fraternal organizations.

Is development in India arrested because the Maoist rebels are blocking it?

What is the state of the people of India at present? With its current high rate of growth, this is also a country of abject poverty and extreme inequality. Home to 24 billionaires (second largest in Asia according to Forbes), India can also boast of 230 million people who go to bed on a half empty stomach (Source: World Hunger Report).

A country whose economy grows at 9% cannot feed its own population – at least 50% of the people live below the official poverty line and 47% of children below the age of three are underweight [World Bank report; Undernourished children: A call for reform and action]. In this so called ‘hub of knowledge economy’, only 11% of the total population can afford higher education and 50% of the students drop out before class eight to start living as casual labourers (Source: Education Statistics, Ministry of Human Resource Development). This is true of most of India not just the areas where Maoist influence and control is high. Then how can we say that development in India is being blocked by Maoists?

Maoists do not oppose `development’ at all, they only oppose the `pro-rich development’ at the expense of destitution or often total destruction of the poor. For example, in Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh they oppose setting up of helipads but there, the poor themselves, led by the Maoist rebels, have built irrigation tanks and wells for help in agriculture something the Indian government did not bother to do. The Indian government routinely blames the Maoist rebels that they blow up schools! But what the Government tries to suppress is that these blown-up school buildings were actually being used or requisitioned to become camps for security personnel!

And what changes do they want? Why do they want these changes?

(1) Overhauling the entire structure of oppression instead of piecemeal reforms

In addition to all the woes described above, India is also a country, where thousands of Muslims can be butchered in broad daylight by fascist Hindu forces (the most widespread and gruesome such pogrom in recent times happened in Gujarat in 2002), while the ministers and police look the other way. And these features are not stray results of the misdeeds of a few villains. The existing socio-political system in India has a built-in mechanism which ensures that the common masses would be oppressed by a rich and powerful few. Widespread systemic violence is required and is routinely applied by the Indian state so that common people remain disciplined and do not revolt in the face of oppression.

(2) Land to the tillers and destruction of the landlord class

About 60% of the Indian population is still dependent on agriculture. However the primary input, land, is predominantly concentrated in the hands of a few landlords and big farmers. Close to 60 percent of rural households are effectively landless [NSS report]. The elite in the villages, by their collusion with the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats have blocked any meaningful land reforms. In the last four decades the proportion of households with little or no land (landless and marginal farmer households) has increased steadily from 66% to 80%. On the other hand the top ten percent rural households own more land now than in 1951 (Source: NSS report).The Maoist revolutionaries want to change this to ensure equitable distribution of land. They do not deter from collective armed fight of the landless and poor peasants and the poor rural labourers against the existing state power for achieving this goal.

(3) Freedom from moneylenders and traders

Indebtedness in rural India has been increasing by leaps and bounds especially in the recent decades. Public rural banks are closing down due to relaxation of government regulation. Therefore, instead of securing credits from public institutional sources, rural folk are now being forced to approach the village money lenders (who are often big landlords or rich farmers as well) on a larger and larger scale. Unscrupulous traders are adding to the misery of the poor peasants. They sell spurious inputs to small and marginal peasants at exorbitant prices. They also make huge profits by buying their harvest at throwaway prices and selling them in urban areas at a premium. Not-so-well-off peasants, in this no-win situation, of course end up needing substantial credit. Private moneylenders and various for-profit financial companies take advantage of this situation by extracting enormous sums from peasants. Interest rate could be as high as 5% per month. The BBC News reported that more than 200,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997 under the pressure of such indebtedness. The Maoist rebels want to change this.

(4) End of caste system and eradication of untouchability

It is well known that the caste system is still thriving in India. Economically it keeps the overwhelming majority of the people in dire poverty and politically it suppresses their fundamental democratic rights. Often the lower castes are robbed of their human dignity. They are even denied access to public facilities like some sources of drinking water, schools etc. An expert group of the planning commission reports that in 70% villages lower caste people cannot enter places of worship and in more than 50% villages they don’t have access to common water sources (Expert committee report to the Planning Commission).

According to an NCDHR report, on average, 27 atrocities (including murder, abduction and rape) against dalits take place every day. The well-off landed sections in the villages still come mainly from the upper castes. They use brahminical ideology to try to keep all other sections of the population under domination. The same is true for usurers, merchants, hoarders, quarry owners, contractors–all mainly come from the upper castes. In short, the upper castes are still very much in command in all aspects of rural life. Often with their own private army of goondas they run a parallel raj. The Maoists want to break this stranglehold of the upper castes and ensure equal rights for dalits and adivasis.

(5) Freedom from exploitation by foreign multinationals and its local partners

Since 1991, foreign capital in alliance with big capitalists like Reliance, Tata and state bureaucrats, has penetrated vast sectors of the Indian economy. Every sphere of our life, starting from road construction, electricity generation, communication networks to food retail, health and education are under direct control of this coterie. In the name of ‘development’ thousands of acres of land are being transferred to big business and multinationals. For example, in Bastar, Chattisgarh, in the name of Bodh Ghat dam, tens of thousands of Adivasis are being forcibly evicted from their “jal-jangal-zameen” (water-forest-land). In Niyamgiri, Orissa the land which is the abode of several Dongria tribes has been handed over to the multinational Vedanta group which will completely destroy the livelihood of these tribes affecting more than 20,000 people. The state government and the mainstream opposition parties of the state are actively supporting such activities. The Maoists, over the years, have been resisting such plunder.

(6) Ensuring people’s democratic rights

It is well known that elections are often a sham in India. The parliament, as we have seen several times, is a bazaar where the rich and the super-rich can buy the MPs. According to ADR (Association of Democratic Reform), the average asset of an MP has gone up to 5.12 crore in 2009 from Rs 1.8 crore in 2004. In our democracy the erstwhile rajas and maharajas, like Scindias, are still proliferating and controlling the local economy and polity at many places. And we also know the state of judicial system in our country. Salman Khans and Sanjeev Nandas can kill by running cars over common people and still they can escape the law for very long, perhaps forever. B.N. Kirpal, the judge, who arbitrarily ordered that Indian rivers be interlinked, ignoring the resulting ecological and human calamity, joined the environmental board of Coca-Cola after he retired. The Maoists want to establish people’s court where poor people can get true justice. In fact, such courts run in many places where the Maoist movement is strong.

(7) Self-determination for the nationalities

The Indian government ruthlessly suppresses national aspirations of a number of people. These people and their land became part of India by accident – because the British raj annexed their homeland or a despotic king wanted their land to be a part of India. Lakhs of Indian troops have been deployed in Kashmir and north-eastern states to curb such struggles of the people in these states for their national self-determination. Since 1958, AFSPA has been imposed in north-eastern states, which allows armed forces to conduct search and seizure without warrant, to arrest without warrant, to destroy any house without any verification and to shoot to kill with full impunity. In Kashmir, there is 1 military personnel for every 15 civilian. Cold blooded murders, like those of Thangjam Manorama Devi, Chungkham Sanjit, Neelofar and Asiya Jan, are carried out frequently in the name of ‘countering terrorism’. The Maoist rebels seek to establish freedom of self determination for all nationalities.

So, to sum up, the new society the Maoists want to establish will have the following components:

Land to the poor and landless. Later on cooperative farming is to be established on voluntary basis.

Forest to the tribal people.

End of rule of the rich and the upper caste in villages and uprooting of caste system. Uproot all discriminations based on gender and religion.

Seizure of the ill gotten wealth and assets of multinational corporations and their local Indian partners.

Self determination for the nationalities, political autonomy for the tribes.

Establish a state by the poor, for the poor where the present day exploiters would be expropriated.

Participation of people in day to day administrative work and decision making. Democracy at the true grassroot level with people having the power to recall its democratic representatives.

In summary: ensuring that all types of freedom, rights and democracy for all sections of toiling masses.

What have the Maoists-led people’s struggles achieved so far?

Information in this section is taken, purposely, from the expert group report to the planning commission, which is available on the web.

Contrary to what the media try to portray, the government’s own report says that the movement led by the Maoist rebels cannot be seen as simply blowing up of police stations and killing individual people. It encompasses mass organization. Mass participation in militant protest has always been a characteristic of such mobilisation.

Although the Maoists by their own admission are engaged in a long term people’s struggle against the oppression by the present India state, their movement has already achieved some short term successes in improving the condition of the poor people.

Maoist movement in India was built around the demand of ‘land to the tillers’. Numerous struggles, led by the Maoists, have been fought all over the country especially in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, to free land from the big landholding families. In many such cases landlords have been driven away from the villages and their land has been put in the possession of the landless poor. But the police and paramilitary do not allow the poor to cultivate such lands. In Bihar, landless Musahars, the lowest among the Dalits have struggled and have taken possession of fallow Government land. This has had the support of Maoists.

Under the leadership of the Maoists the adivasis have reclaimed forest land on an extensive scale in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Orissa and Jharkhand. The adivasis displaced by irrigation projects in Orissa had to migrate to the forests of Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh in large numbers. The forest department officials harassed and evicted them on a regular basis. The movement led by the Maoists put an end to this.

In rural India the Minimum Wages Act remains an act on paper only. In the forest areas of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand, non-payment of the legal wages was a major source of exploitation of adivasi labourer. Maoists-led struggles have put an effective end to it. These struggles have secured increases in the rate of payment for picking tendu leaves (used for rolling beedies), washing clothes, making pots, tending cattle, repairing implements etc. The exploitation previously had been so severe that as a result of the sustained movement led by Maoists the pay rates of tendu leaves collection have over the years increased by fifty times.

The movement has given confidence to the oppressed to assert their rights and demand respect and dignity from the dominant castes and classes. The everyday humiliation and sexual exploitation of labouring women of dalit and tribal communities by upper caste men has been successfully fought. Forced labour, begari, by which the toiling castes had to provide obligatory service for free to the upper castes was also put an end to in many parts of the country.

In rural India, disputes are commonly taken to the rich and powerful of the village (who are generally the landlords) and caste panchayats, where the dispensation of justice is in favour of the rich and powerful. The Maoist movement has provided a mechanism, usually described as the ‘People’s Court’ whereby these disputes are resolved in the interests of the wronged party.

Why then, does the government need to go to war against its own people led by these rebels instead of hailing them as true patriots?

There is a simple answer. Chattisgarh, Orissa are rich in mineral wealth that can be sold to the highest multinational bidder. The only obstacle standing between the corrupt politicians and ALL THIS MONEY are the poor, disenfranchised tribal people (and the Maoists leading them). So, this war. This is not something new in India or for that matter in other parts of the world. Mobutu’s corrupt regime selling off the Belgian Congo piece by piece to the US, Belgium and other countries comes to mind. In the sixty years of independence from direct colonial rule, the Indian state has been doing the same. It has systematically impoverished the overwhelming majority to serve the interest of a powerful few and their foreign friends.

The impending war to evict the tribal people from their villages, in the pretext of eliminating the Maoists, will be fought at the behest of big corporations, who want to control and plunder our resources such as mineral, water and forest. It is high time that we recognize this pattern of waging war which will be fought by the poor on both sides, but will benefit only the big capitalists and their cheerleaders in the government.

Note: This is meant to be a simple and brief exposition of the goals and strategies of the Maoist movement in India for people who may not have much awareness about it and are confused by the propaganda in the mainstream media. This does not go into the arcane debates about mode of production in India, the debates among communist revolutionaries over strategy and tactics etc. This aims at people who, for example, are perplexed why the Maoists, instead of trying to ensure safe drinking water like an NGO, rather, often resort to violent activities against the Government. We have deliberately kept references to a minimum in the body of the text. For an interested reader, the webpage: contains an enormous wealth of information about the Maoist rebels, including their own documents.