INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

Genesis of a National Counter Terrorist Centre?

with one comment

2007092261210601I found this story through Shlok Vaidya’s great blog, Naxalite Rage (Shlok in turn got it from one of his readers). I’m not sure what to think.

Now that the Indian government’s 24 hour, Multi-Agency Centre is providing continuous, integrated tracking of terror-related data, Delhi is seeking to develop a co-ordinated response capacity through the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).

I have slightly mixed feeling about this. There is no doubt that something along the lines of the NCTC is needed. India is one of the most terrorist affected countries in the world. They face a diverse set of threats ranging from ethnic separatism in the North-East, revolutionary Maoist in the centre and so-called ‘Islamic’ terrorism in the cities. In particular, one of the great failings of the effort to combat Naxalism has been a consequence of India’s strongly federal (qualified by the constitutional sledgehammer of president’s rule) structure. Such a system is ill-suited to combat a diffuse, ephemeral and multi-dimensional insurgency.

The Naxalites have exploited the lack of information-sharing and co-ordination amongst India’s states. At the most obvious level, the Naxalites have used state boundaries to launch hit and run attacks between states. Additionally, the lack of co-operation and co-ordination between the states has lead to a set of isolated, largely incoherent and ineffective responses. In this sense, the NCTC is long overdue.

On the other hand, I am uncomfortable with the way in which the NCTC will define the Naxalites and, consequently, respond in an internally consistent way. Dealing with  Naxalism as a ‘terrorist’ problem no different than, say, ISI-supported, ‘Islamic’ attacks, would be ineffective.  The two are very different beasts.

The Naxalites are, in the first instance, insurgents. They may use terrorist tactics, but, fundamentally, they have neither the structure nor the modus operandi of a terrorist group. Yes, they are networked. Yes they attack civilians. However, they do have a very rooted territorial presence which is used not only to organise attacks, but also used as a base for the construction of alternative institutions of power.

It remains to be seen how effective the NCTC becomes. Hopefully, the institution will be flexible enough to deal with the phenomenon of Naxalism as a consequence of weak state institutions, economic underdevelopmentm and social exclusion. The Naxalites can only be defeated through a combination of police/military force and government-imposed reforms.

(Image: The Hindu)


One Response

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  1. An interesting and intelligent point on the differences between the Naxalites and groups such as the Lashkar e-taiba. I don’t suppose that you would have a list of recommended readings on South Asia and political violence?

    Jon Ant

    May 26, 2009 at 3:00 am

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