Archive for the ‘Naxalites’ Category
The ‘Voice of the Indian Revolution’ has returned. In late 2008, the Kerala-based People’s March magazine was banned after the arrest of its editor. According to the Hindustan Times, the publication ban was overturned after the Press Registrar Appellate Board declared that the proscription was invalid as no formal charges had been brought against the magazine by the government. Good for them. Aside from my academic interest in having access to an English language publication which at least semi-represents the views of the CPI (Maoist), it seems that banning propaganda is a particularly crude and ineffective way at combating a highly sophisticated insurgency. If anything, publications such as People’s March can help provide the government with some insight into the current intellectual and tactical direction of the guerillas.
As for the magazine itself, a PDF of the latest issue can be found here. I haven’t yet been able to track down a website.
A couple of things… while the NSA has stated that it is unlikely that the CM’s helicopter was brought down by the Naxalites because they lack the weaponry for such a strike, this runs contrary to some previous reports. According to the Indian Express, material was seized during a raid by Jharkhand police in August 2007 which indicated that:
the extremists have been training in the use of 12.7 mm anti-aircraft guns and have already acquired 80 mm mortars and rocket-propelled grenade rifles.
The Economic Times has also claimed that unnamed ‘reports’ suggest that the Naxalites have acquired a number of anti-aircraft guns. While the Times is… umm… a little bit vague on the details, it is a surprise that the NSA has so soon and so unequivocally stated that the Naxalites do not possess the capabilities to undertake a strike against a helicopter. It’s a bit premature.
India’s National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan has all but ruled out that the disappearance of the helicopter carrying Andhra’s CM had anything to do with the Maoists. Narayanan:
Naxal strike seems extremely improbable. I would almost entirely rule it out. I do not think the Naxalites have the capability to bring down the helicopter.
At present, the massive search and rescue operation has been halted due to heavy rains that have rendered the dense forests around the last known location of the helicopter virtually impassible. Will the Naxalites be able to get there first? While the Nallamlla forests are no longer the Maoist strongholds that they were in the early half of the decade, armed guerrilla fighters still have a significant presence.
This is significant enough for me to break my end-of-summer hiatus. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh’s helicopter disappeared this morning while flying over a Maoist controlled area. According to the BBC:
The helicopter carrying Mr Reddy and four others took off from Hyderabad’s Begumpet airport at 0845 IST (0315 GMT) bound for the village of Anupally in Chittoor district.
It was scheduled to land at 1045 but went missing at 0936 while flying over Kurnool district.
Sixteen hours after the crash, neither the helicopter nor the CM have been located. Whether the chopper was brought down by the Maoists or whether it had to land due to inclement weather is still unclear. If the Maoists are found to have been involved in anyway, it will likely trigger a significant police/military response. I’ll continue to monitor over the next few days.
A good assessment of the current security environment in Chhattisgarh, courtesy of the South Asian Terrorism Portal. As always, a must read.
According to the Indo-Asian News Service, the CPI (Maoist) has circulated an internal document entitled, “Post-Election Situation, Our Tasks’. The document seeks to apply the lessons learned from the recent defeat of the LTTE in Sri Lanka:
The document makes several references to the LTTE, which the Sri Lankan military crushed in May, ending one of the world’s longest running insurgencies.
It says that ‘the setback suffered by the LTTE has a negative effect on the revolutionary movement in India as well as South Asia and the world at large’.
‘The experience of LTTE’s setback in Sri Lanka is very important to study and take lessons. The mistake of the LTTE lay in its lack of study of the changes in enemy tactics and capabilities and an underestimation of the enemy along with an overestimation of its own forces and capabilities.’
Perhaps, more interestingly, the circular sets out a general strategic plan to counter the government’s expected anti-Naxal offensive:
Under the sub-heading ‘Immediate Tasks’, it says the entire party and its armed wings need to carry out ‘tactical counter-offensives and various forms of armed resistance and inflict severe losses to the enemy forces’.
‘Attacks should be organised with meticulous planning against the state’s khaki and olive-clad terrorist forces, SPOs (Special Police Officers), police informants, and other counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the people.
‘These attacks should be carried out in close coordination with, and in support of, the armed resistance of the masses; these should be linked to the seizure of political power and establishment of base areas; it is the combined attacks by all the three wings … and the people at large that can ensure the defeat of the enemy offensive.
‘In order to defeat the new offensive by the enemy and to protect the gains of People’s War, it is very essential to rouse the masses throughout the country (to) stand up in support of the struggles in Dandakaranya, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and other places’.
I think that there can be two broad interpretations of the document: 1) The Maoists are taking prudent steps to blunt the effects of the upcoming post-Monsoon government offensive, or 2) the Maoists are nervous that their Bastar national base (if it even exists) is at risk of being destroyed (with the concomitant risk of the government killing or capturing key leaders of the Party).
The doccument is either a sign of strategic and tactical skill or Naxalite nervousness. Maybe both.
It seems increasingly likely that the Singh government will launch a major anti-Naxalite offensive sometime after 1 September. I was contacted recently by someone working closely with the state police in Chhattisgarh who has said as much (trying to find out more). There have also been a number of stories in the Indian media lending credibility to this claim, including the recent re-deployment of 5,000 Border Security Personnel into India’s eastern states.
Additionally, the Maoists, in anticipation of a major counter-insurgency campaign by the Centre, are allegedly preparing themselves by intensifying their operations. The CPI (Maoist) Politburo has, according to Rediff, issued a circular:
The politburo circular also has enough indications that the Maoist strategy to counter the proposed government offensive is to step up violence in their strongholds through what the Maoists call a Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign.
“We have to further aggravate the situation and create more difficulties to the enemy forces by expanding our guerrilla war to new areas on the one hand and intensifying the mass resistance in the existing areas so as to disperse the enemy forces over a sufficiently wider area;
“Hence the foremost task in every state is to intensify the war in their respective states while in areas of intense enemy repression there is need to expand the area of struggle by proper planning by the concerned committees; tactical counter-offensives should be stepped up and also taken up in new areas so as to divert a section of the enemy forces from attacking our guerrilla bases and organs of political power,” the politburo said.
Now would be a logical time for Delhi to try and push the Maoists out of their jungle strongholds. The Singh government has just waged a successful re-election campaign and is politically safe in case something goes terribly wrong. Additionally, India’s Forgotten War is no longer so forgotten. It has reached a tipping point. The Maoists are a growing threat to the state which can and is no longer being ignored. The Singh government knows that it must tackle them before the Maoists are in a position to seriously resist a concerted government counter-insurgency campaign. Now is the time for any rational government to move to prevent risking intolerable political and security costs.
The question is, how effective will a government strike on the heart of Naxal country be? More to come.
This story is significant. The Naxalite’s brief detention and search of a government official travelling on southern Chhattisgarh’s main highway is a relatively minor incident which highlights how the Indian government has lost control over large parts of the country:
The last three months have seen the Maoists tightening their grip on Chhattisgarh and the amount of control that they exercise over National Highway 43 is disturbing, intelligence officials told rediff.com. “The situation has worsened ever since the elections. They [Maoists] have gone from strength to strength. While the massacre of more than 30 people including a superintendent of police made headlines, the truth is that they have become even stronger in the Bastar region,” said a senior state intelligence officer.
Other intelligence sources agreed that the impunity with which the rebels have started raiding and imposing themselves on NH 43 is a disturbing sign of their increasing clout in the region.
I travelled on NH 43 back in late 2007 and was told by a local CRPF commander that while security forces controlled the road during the day, the Naxalite writ ran during the night. Since that time, it seems that the government has lost further ground as the Maoists have strengthened their grip over southern Chhattisgarh. They administer justice, collect taxes and control access in an out of the region. They have virtually established a state within a state.
Bannedthought.net has a great collection of interviews and documents from the CPI (Maoist) here. Well done! The Naxalites are a fairly shadowy organisation and tracking documents and/or statements from the Party itself is a bit of challenge. This site is a solid source of primary information and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the Naxalites world-view and their tactical/strategic analysis.
The virtual civil war in West Bengal continues apace. While anti-Naxal operations in Lalgarh are ongoing, both the opposition Trinamool Congress and the governing Communist Party of India (Marxist) continue to accuse each other of orchestrating a campaign of murder against their respective cadres.
What is clear in the war of words is that West Bengal’s nearly three decade long rural political structure is in the process of distintegration. Both the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists stand to gain from the CPI(M)’s weakening rural electoral machine. Trinamool is envisioning itself as head of government and the Naxalites see an opportunity to re-establish themselves in the state which gave them birth. What if the Left Front does fall and Trinamool takes its place in Calcutta? Would there be a government in West Bengal which owed the Naxalites a tremendous debt? Or would any temporary tactical alliance be jettisoned by a new government? In either scenario the Naxalites would emerge victorious. They would have emerged in West Bengal with a stronger presence and reach than they have enjoyed since the early 1970s. They will be in a position to either directly pressure the state government or threaten it militarily.
The Trinamool Congress, never consistent ideologically, is playing a dangerous game. The CPI(M), on the other hand, bears most of the blame for the current situation. They are a party which has failed to adequately realise their developmental vision. They have deployed their powerful party machinery in an arbitrary and often violent way, alienating precisely those people who make up their natural constituency.