Archive for the LWE 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

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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

Why the army can fight in J&K but not Chhattisgarh

Posted in Army, Counter-insurgency, Indian Army, Insurgency, LWE with tags , , on 4 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

Reproduced below is an interesting article by Brig (Retd) SK Chatterji, on the essential differences between the nature of insurgency in J&K vis-a-vis Chattisgarh.

The battle against the infiltrators in Kashmir and the battle against the Maoists need strong but different responses, argues Brigadier S K Chatterji (retired).

The Cabinet Committee on Security recently resisted the temptation to field the army to fight the Maoists.

The decades-long insurgency has engulfed 230 odd districts and has manifested adequate consolidation lately. The killing of 76 policemen on April 6 at Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, followed by the derailment of the Jnaneswari Express that left 150 dead and the killing of 27 CRPF troopers on June 29, are indicators of the degree of senseless violence they are ready to inflict.

These attacks are also proof of the movement taking a terrorist turn, with the killing of innocent civilians not being a taboo anymore.

However, before we field the armed forces there is reason to take stock of the differences between the Maoist movement and the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ] where the army has also been deployed in strength for decades.

The Maoist problem is India’s [ Images ] first fully home-grown insurgency. The problem is rooted in our inept administration and rank corruption that has denied the benefits of growth to a huge swath of our population, who continue to live in poverty.

In contrast, the Jammu and Kashmir problem is a proxy war, covertly and overtly supported by Pakistan. It falls in the category of State-sponsored terrorism.

Also, in sharp contrast to the Maoist-affected interiors where poverty, deprivation and hunger stalk every village, the streets of Srinagar [ Images ] hardly have an impoverished man.

The basic drivers of the Maoist insurgency are politico-economic-social, in essence. Its fuel mix includes our class-ridden social structure that refuses to confer social acceptance and dignity to all. The Maoists’ promise of a class-less society offers a world of hope to people who have all along been discriminated on grounds of caste and creed. It has no fundamentalist influence.

In Kashmir, the movement has gone far beyond being fuelled by the demands of independence or merger with Pakistan. Today, it is an extension of fundamental Islamist militancy, with its commitment to the Islamist Caliphate at the end of the road.

The Lashkar-e-Tayiba [ Images ], the lead militant organisation in Kashmir, is a proponent of this convoluted philosophy.

The Maoist problem encompasses multiple states. The spread of the area affected by insurgency is far larger. Lack of political consensus has eroded the quality of response. Absence of co-ordination between states has allowed freedom of movement to the terrorists. Intelligence sharing mechanisms are yet to be put in place.

In Jammu and Kashmir there was broad consensus amongst mainstream political parties for deployment of armed forces. The concept of a joint command of forces combating the terrorists was put into effect in Jammu and Kashmir leading to synergy between the state police and the central armed forces.

In Jammu and Kashmir, in spite of the borders being guarded rather heavily, the rugged mountainous jungle terrain allows induction of weapons by the infiltrators. Though heavy weaponry is difficult to ferry from across the borders, there is no dearth of personal weapons of the best quality like the AK-47.

The Maoists depend primarily on looted old and obsolete armouries of police forces. Of course there are more AK-47s now, but it still is a far cry from what is available in the valley.

The current strength of the Maoist cadre is estimated variously between 10,000 and 30,000. Even if the figure of 10,000 be accepted, it is far in excess of 3,000 odd terrorists that we faced in Jammu and Kashmir when insurgency was at its peak.

Gaining an upper hand over the terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir forced us to deploy over 250,000 men. It has taken us close to 20 years to control the insurgency and bring it down to the level at which it even now simmers.

However, the weaponry of the Maoists being poorer, their combat capability may not be as good. They make up for it in terms of numbers, though. The pros and cons put together, the Maoist problem will also suck in more and more of an already stretched army, if deployed.

In Jammu and Kashmir we legislated the Armed Forces Special Powers Act for applicability in the state. In Maoist areas there is no such legislation operative.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the army initiated a huge perception management operation to win the hearts and minds of the people. The operation’s major plank has been Sadbhavna, essentially a civic action programme responsive to the aspirations of the people. In remote areas the armed forces assisted the villagers in improving their quality of life and bringing succour during natural calamities like the snow tsunami and earthquake of 2005.

The fact of change in perceptions is most vividly obvious in the study undertaken by Robert Bradrock, a scholar from King’s College, London [ Images ], which concludes that only two percent people in Jammu and Kashmir favour merger with Pakistan, today.

In contrast, no major perception management initiatives have been launched in Maoist areas. Even if developmental funds that have now been earmarked are put to use, a task difficult as such with the government’s writ not extending to the interiors, it is doubtful whether an inept and corrupt administration will allow the benefits to reach those who are its professed recipients.

The differences between the two insurgencies are gapingly wide. In addition, we have to realise that this is going to be the nature of tasks for the police and paramilitary forces, tomorrow. There is no choice they have but to upgrade to standards so that they remain relevant in the emerging environment.

We have had decades to realise these basic truths when the Maoist insurgency was gradually gathering strength. However, the police leadership failed to prepare its forces for the inevitable; an absolute lack of strategic vision. The preparations might as well start today, unfortunately, by paying the price against the Maoists.

Retired soldiers are NOT the solution for counter-LWE operations

Posted in Army, Counter-insurgency, Indian Army, LWE, Naxal with tags , , on 2 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor
  

The Soldier is the real weapon of the Indian Army

As a fallout of the recent stand-off between the Home Ministry and the Defence Ministry on the use of the Armed Forces to take on Left Wing Extremism (LWE),  a proposal to employ ex-servicemen on a three year contract for de-mining and other ‘specific’ operations was floated by some senior Home Ministry officials. The issue merits debate.   

Prima facie, the proposal, in the current form, will be  a non-starter for the following reasons. Continue reading

Communication between the LWEs and the Home Ministry

Posted in Counter-insurgency, Insurgency, LWE, Maoists, Naxal with tags , , , on 1 July 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

The contents of the letters between the LWEs and the Home Ministry, through Swami Agnivesh, have been released on the Sanhati website.

Excerpts of the letter by Azad are reproduced below:

We had already stated publicly our Party’s position on cease-fire and talks with the government several times in the past. We wish to reiterate our Party’s position once again in light of the proposals made by Mr. Chidambaram in his letter sent to you.

Firstly we hold the opinion that the cease-fire should be mutual. You are well aware of the continuous persecution of ordinary innocent people by the security forces in all the regions where the latter are deployed as part of the Operation Green Hunt. Not a day passes without an incident of murder, rape, abduction, torture of the adivasis and destruction of their property or stealing their belongings by these so-called security forces. How can the people or the Party and its various wings get confidence that the Government is serious in its intent for peace when it allows its forces to indulge in heinous atrocities on innocent unarmed people, when the government itself allows the suspension of all basic democratic rights of the citizens and consigns their own Constitution to the dust-bin? In such a situation it is necessary on the part of the government to prove its seriousness regarding the peace process by first halting its operations against innocent unarmed people and unequivocally stating that it is ready to observe cease-fire simultaneously with the CPI(Maoist) starting with a specified date. The practical measure to really ensure peace is the declaration of mutual cease-fire for a definite period, say, 2 or 3 months, to start with. Insisting that the CPI(Maoist) should declare that it will abjure violence is an unsound and unreasonable proposal. It implies that the Maoists are indulging in violence while the Government and its security forces have been fighting for peace. The facts actually are vice versa.

It is the paramilitary, police, private vigilante gangs sponsored by the government that are unleashing violence on the people on an hourly basis and the people are compelled to retaliate for their own survival. The Party and the PLGA too are compelled to undertake counter-offensive operations in their self-defence and in defence of the people. Hence it is the Government that has to instill confidence among the people and the Party cadres about its seriousness by first halting its offensive operations and attacks on the people instead of asking the Maoists to unilaterally declare that they will abjure violence.

Even more amusing is the time period of 72 hours which means just nothing. Such a short period cannot prove the seriousness on either side. Even a minor incident on either side can be picked up to prove the violation by the other side. A relatively longer period is necessary if we wish to really bring peace. It is only after a period of peace and the creation of a conducive atmosphere that talks can be held. Our Party is very serious about bringing about peace especially at the present juncture when lakhs of adivasis had fled, and are fleeing, their homes; when lakhs of adivasis are facing chronic conditions of hunger and famine due to their ouster from their lands and forcible closure of the weekly bazaars by the police and administration; when the adivasis are haunted by the threat of death any day by the most savage paramilitary, police, SPOs and private vigilante gangs. One should not be swayed by victories and defeats at this critical juncture in the life of the adivasi community in our country but try to create conditions whereby their survival is ensured.

You are also aware of the difficulties involved for an underground party that is proscribed by the government to proceed for talks. Hence we had proposed the release of political prisoners from the jails. At the outset the Government can take the initiative to release at least some of our Party leaders so as to facilitate talks with them. Without referring to any of these proposals made by our Party, Mr. Chidambaram proposes that “talks will begin sometime during the period of 72 hours when there is no violence.” He also says that he expects that the CPI(Maoist) will “continue to maintain its position of ‘no violence’ until the talks are concluded.”

Maoists ready for dialogue – conditions apply

Posted in LWE, Maoists with tags , , , on 24 June 2010 by indiasecuritymonitor

Bangalore Mirror has reported that the Maoists have responded positively to the Home Minister’s proposal by putting forward some conditions.

Interestingly they have not sought the withdrawal of paramilitary forces from the forests – only that they be confined to the barracks.

It remains to be seen how the Home Ministry responds to this.

The lack of outright rejection for talks seems to have come at a time when the Left Wing Extremists have taken casualties at the hands of the security forces recently.

Is it possible that the casualties have hurt the LWEs more than security forces or the government have been able to assess? Is that the real reason for the talks – to buy time, to reorganise and recover.