Posts Tagged ‘Salwa Judum’
I’ve learned from experience that at this period in my life I should not make promises to my readers which I can’t keep. My posts in the past six months have been extremely erratic. My academic and professional life doesn’t currently give me the time to consistently post with the same intensity as I could in the first years of Naxalwar. No more promises of ending a hiatus. I will only say that I hope to post when I have something to say and the time to say it.
One of the reasons for the paucity of postings has certainly not been a lack of things to write about. 2010 was the bloodiest year in the history of the Maoist insurgency. 1,169 people died last year according to the government. While civilians continue to make up a disproportionate number of fatalities, the security forces have also not done very well. According to the Indian Express:
The Naxalite groups also enjoyed the upper hand vis-a-vis the security forces in terms of the number of people lost in the battle. The security forces lost 285 personnel, as compared to 317 in 2009 while the casualties on the Naxalites’ side was only 171, again significantly less than 219 in the previous year.
In spite of Green Hunt and the insertion of 60,000 CRPF personnel into the Maoist affected states (roughly evenly split between combat and support staff), the government has not been capable of establishing anything even remotely approaching tactical or strategic dominance.
It seems that 2011 will be more of the same: an unthinking counter-insurgency strategy rooted in the belief that poring greater and greater numbers of poorly trained and motivated paramilitary police forces into central and eastern India will somehow eliminate the ‘Naxal Menace’. It won’t. Nor will the funding of development programmes that are often little more than thinly veiled schemes to further enrich local notables and those forces responsible for the alienation of the adivasi from their land. What is required is political bravery- negotiation without condition. Only when the shooting stops can the government start thinking of the way in which it can begin to fundamentally transform its historically mal-governed hinterland.
Unfortunately, what we are getting is more of what was just announced:
Battling rising Maoist militancy, the Chhattisgarh governmenthas decided to add another 2,400 special police officers (SPOs) to be drawn from local youths to combat the guerrillas.
This will nearly double the number of SPOs in Bastar. More cannon fodder for the CRPF and more intra-tribal violence. Depressing.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve had no time to update in the past few weeks. However, this morning’s news of a massive, coordinated attack in Dantewara is worth a quick post. At least 76 paramilitary police have been killed in what is the largest loss of life for state forces in the history of the Maoist insurgency. According to the Indian Express:
Virtually an entire company of the CRPF was wiped out when 75 of its personnel including Deputy Commandant Satyawan Singh Yadav and Assistant Commandant B L Meena along with the head constable of the Chattisgarh police were killed.
The operative word is, according to the BBC, ambushes in the plural. Not one single attack, but rather a well planned and well executed series of attacks against the security forces by the insurgents. Considering that much of the local population has been displaced and their villages emptied by the Salwa Judum campaign it isn’t at all surprising that the Indian forces seem incapable of gathering enough local human intelligence to outmaneuver the Maoists.
This attack comes only a few days after 10 paramilitary police in neighbouring Orissa state were killed in a landmine blast. Inevitably there are now some calls for the resignation of the Home Minister, Chidambaram, the architect of Operation Green Hunt, the anti-Naxalite offensive. The next 48 hours will be interesting and I am awaiting both the official government and Maoist statements.
Now that the media has taken notice of the Maoist insurgency there have been a slew of features coming out from both the domestic and the international press. One of the things I love about India is its vibrant and extensive English language media. While the quality can be spotty, the fact that there are so many newspapers and magazines means that there’s always something interesting to read. And, now that urban India has noticed the war raging in its hinterlands, there are a hell of a lot of good journalists on the story.
Each month, I’ll provide a brief roundup of features which I think our worth reading.
Smita Gupta, writing for Outlook, makes a journey to Chhattisgarh where he spends time with the state elites in Raipur and visits Bastar to meet with the villagers who are caught in the midst of war. While the piece doesn’t provide many new insight into the war, it does bring into sharp relief the dilemmas and the suffering of the local tribal population who are caught between the state and the rebels. It also shows the collusion which exists between the Maoists and the governing elite.
The second feature is from India Today. Shafi Rahman visits the Maoist ‘liberated zones’ to report on the governance structures that the rebels have set up in areas which they control. Well worth a read as it provides a rare glimpse into the actual workings of the civil component of the ‘revolution’. The Maoists have been able to establish alternative systems of government partly through force, but also because of the vacuum which exists in the most backward parts of the country where historically the state has had a minimal presence. Rahman puts a human face to this reality.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights has released its 2009 report on India. It can be found here.
The report heavily criticises the conduct of the state in their war against the Naxalites. In particular, the government and security force’s conduct in Chhattisgarh, the epicentre of the conflict, comes in for a drubbing:
The security forces and the state sponsored civilian militia Salwa Judum cadres were responsible for gross human rights violations in the name of counter insurgency operations.
Of course, the standard line amongst apologists for a flawed counter-insurgency policy is to question the neutrality of organisations such as the Asian Centre for Human Rights. This may be a reasonable strategy when defending the indefensible, but it’s hardly convincing.
Much of India’s disjointed anti-Naxalite counter-insurgency strategy is counter-productive. Setting aside for a moment the morality of a scorched earth campaign (which is, in effect, the approach that has been taken in Chhattisgarh), such an approach doesn’t work in a country such as India.
Terrorising a population into submission and ensuring that the cost for individuals and communities who support insurgents is intolerably high can work, if it works at all, only in a more monolithic and authoritarian state. In a state like India, the terror can and always will be limited in scope and scale. The result is simply creating more resentment and fear, further boosting the credibility and the ranks of the Maoists.
Salwa Judum is a failure. The creation of SPOs is a failure. The forced re-settlement of Adivasi is also a failure. The government needs to be smarter and more flexible than the Naxalites. Of course, there are the two priorities of a unified response as well as smart development measures targeting areas at risk from Naxalism. Equally important is the deployment of flexible, highly mobile and disciplined troops who can respond to information gleaned both from real-time monitoring and the cultivation of so-called human intelligence. This will not be possible if the state alienates the population by sanctioning brutality against the innocent.
Dantewada is the closest that the Naxalites have come to establishing a ‘liberated zone’ in India. I was in the area in 2008 and the local commander of the CRPF told me that the state controls nothing but the Salwa Judum camps and the main road during the day.
A poverty stricken part of the country, Dantewada’s primarily indigenous population coupled with a lack of infrastructure and guerrilla-friendly terrain has made it ground zero in India’s Maoist war.
On the eve of a re-polling (the first round of voting was suspended after a successful Naxalite-called boycott), the Naxalites have struck again, killing at least 11 in a landmine blast. The dead included members of Salwa Judum, the CRPF and the ill0trained, often underage, quasi-official Special Police Officers.