Archive for the ‘Indian Election’ Category
Voting in the 30 April polls of the Indian election was largely free of the Naxalite violence that affected Phase II. There were a few isolated incidents but minimal loss of life and damage was reported. Polling was, however, cancelled in a number of districts in West Bengal as a result of an agitation by tribal groups allied with the Maoists.
Did the Naxalites exhaust all of their logistics resources in their poll disruption during Phase I?
Phase III will be held on 7 May. Voting will be held in districts of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Harayana, and Rajasthan.
In West Bengal the Maoists have been riding the wave of rural discontent against land acquisition for some time. Now they are also mobilising tribal communities.
Following a series of assassinations of cadres affiliated with West Bengal’s governing communist party, Friday saw a large anti-government mobilisation in Kolkata. According to the Times of India, the demonstration was composed of groups affiliated with the Maoists.
India is rife with disaffected, oppressed and angry groups. By exploiting numerous local issues, the Maoist octopus threatens to bring together the millions of small fires into a blazing inferno that could consume India. Hyperbole? Maybe.
Apparently not, according to preliminary polling data from Jharkhand.
Voter turnout was higher in the regions considered Maoist strongholds, whereas some places with little rebel presence recorded lower polling percentage.
Initial figures show that polling percentage in the eight Lok Sabha seats varied between 42 and 58 percent as people braved Maoist violence as well as the mercury soaring to 42-46 degree Celsius in various parts.
I haven’t found anything which supports these numbers, but it does seem that there was minimal disruption by the Naxalites. There were a few scattered attacks on Wednesday and another yesterday, but overall Phase II was more tranquil than I had expected. The killer heatwave gripping much of the country undoubtedly did more to dampen voter enthusiasm than any other factor.
Update: According to the Hindu, overall turnout for Phase II was 55%. Higher than in 2004.
No updates for the next day or two. I’m taking a break after a marathon session.
I started India’s Forgotten War earlier this week as my first foray into blogging (about four years two late!). I’m happy with the results so far. Considering how much of a minority interest Naxalism is, it’s amazing how many hits I’ve had. I hope you come by often to see the blog develop and grow. Thanks everyone!
UPDATE: Polling in Bihar “peaceful“.
UPDATE: Various skirmishes in polling areas. The Times of India reports that there have been numerous gunbattles between Maoists and the police and bomb attacks on election officials in Jhrakhand. Also some reports of violence in Orissa and Andhra.
UPDATE: A Naxalite landmine has been defused by police. The mine was buried under an electoral boycott banner at a polling station in Madhya Pradesh.
UPDATE: The chart disaggregates rural/urban turnout in major states during the last election. Unfortunately, most of the heavily Naxal affected states aren’t included. I’m curious to see what impact, if any, their call for an electoral boycott has had on rural voters. A decline in the percentages would underscore the insurgents strength. If voting turnout isn’t significantly affected, it would suggest that the the string of high profile attacks amount to little more than a bit of good media PR.
|Turnout: Urban versus rural constituencies in 2004|
|Major State||Turnout in urban
|Turnout in rural
|Turnout in entire
|Year of Lok Sabha
|Turnout in Urban
|Turnout in Rural
Update: The BBC has a great interactive map of the election. What’s interesting is that half of Andhra Pradesh is voting today. Until a few years ago the state was the heart of Naxalite activity in the country. I haven’t heard of a single attack anywhere in the state since the beginning of the election. The hub of the so-called ‘red corrider’ has shifted to Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Elements of the Andhra government’s approach to counter-insurgency (raising and effectively training the anti-Naxalite Greyhound police force coupled with strong financial incentives for fighters wishing to quite the movement) sh0uld be emulated. I was in Warangal district (Andhra Pradesh) in 2008 and met with the district police commander. She had nothing but contempt for the Salwa Judum and Chhattisgarh’s ‘civilian’ militias.
Update: First reports of Maoist disruptions. Ongoing gun battle after a CRPF camp was attacked in West Singhbum, Jharkhand. Train station bombed in Palamau, also in Jharkhand.
Polls in phase 2 of the Indian election opened 30 minutes ago.
I found a UPI story on yesterday’s train hijacking claiming that the Naxalites were, “protest[ing] over some former Maoists participating in India’s general elections”.
Interesting. I interpreted the highjacking as a show of strength. Maybe it wasn’t. Also wondering who or what faction has jumped into legal politics. UPDATE: Could it be the 3000 ex-Maoists who joined the Prajarajyam Party (PP) in February? The hijack took place in Jhrkhand and the PP is based in Andhra. Maybe not?
I’m going to stay awake all night to blog and twitter Phase II of the Indian election. Should be interesting and after today’s Naxalite demonstration of strength (the train hijacking) I’m more convinced that there will be more violence than there was in Phase I. I hope I’m wrong and I hope that my night is boring .
Phase II of the election is less than 24 hours away. Reports are coming in of two Naxalite actions in the polling areas. A train has been highjacked by around a hundred guerillas in Jharkhand. Over 700 hundred people are being held hostage. A block development office has been blown up and a truck driver killed in a series of co-ordinated attacks in neighbouring Gaya and Aurangabad districts in Bihar.
I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of a bloody two days.
Maoists have melted back into the jungle and released all of the hostages unharmed. Why? Well it seems there are two reasons:
A Maoist spokesman, Gopal, told the BBC: “This was a symbolic gesture, no intention to cause harm to passengers and anyway it is very hot here.”
Heh. Cheeky. Who knew that Maoists were could be so sardonic caustic (note to self: verify meaning of big words that I use to sound clever).
Only a few hours until the second round of the Indian election. This is the one to watch. Polls are being held in areas which are ‘marginally’ affected by the Maoists. It’s a bit of a litmus test for the Naxalites. If they’re able to disrupt the voting in any significant way it will demonstrate that they have the capacity to plan and implement strikes outside of their heartland. If If there are no (or a marginal number) of attacks than the guerrillas will have demonstrated an inability to present a consistent and wide-ranged threat to the Indian state.
My sense is that the Naxalites will show that the former is true.
Phase II of India’s five round election are being held this Thursday (23 April 2009). There’s a nifty interactive map of polling on the BBC’s site here.
Although it was before my time, the capacity of India’s democracy to survivewas, until the 1980s, questioned by Western and other observers . That the democratic system has survived and flourished (albeit with some really, really big problems) into the 21st century is testament to the country. Organising a free and fair election of this size is certainly one hell of feat.
How will phase II be affected by the Maoists?
The Indian Express has been reporting that phase I of the election was deliberately held in Naxalite affected areas to minismise the risk of overstretch by the security forces (see here). It’s a clever strategy in many ways, quite aside from the tactical and strategic benefits.
Limiting large Maoist attacks to one day out of the five days of the election ensures that it is more difficult for them to dominate the headlines. The conversation will not be, as it was during the first day, about the weaknesses of the Indian state and the capacity of the Naxalites to wage war and disrupt people’s lives.
Will phase II be entirely peaceful? Not likely. While the districts which are the epicentre of Naxalite territory have already voted, Thursday’s polls are being held in a number of areas in which they have at least a presence. This includes large swathes of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Eastern UP. All of these areas are also adjacent to heavily affected Maoist districts. The Naxalites have demonstrated that they’re capable of mobility and are able to exploit India’s internal borders. If anything, Thursday will be a more accurate litmus test of how well organised and how strong the Naxalites are.
(Image: Noah Seelam/AFP)