INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

Indian Election Phase II

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iphoto_1239871780646-2-0jpgPhase 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)

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Written by Michael

April 20, 2009 at 7:59 pm

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