INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

Operation Green Hunt

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Now that the beginnings of Operation Green Hunt, the central government’s anti-Naxalite offensive, have unfolded, a lot remains unclear. According to government spokespeople, it will not take the form of massive assault against the Maoist zones:

I wouldn’t like to call it a war. A war is fought against the enemy, not against our own people.

— Vijay Raman, Special Director General, Central Reserve Police Force and commandant of joint Centre-states anti-Naxalite operation Green Hunt.

Rather Green Hunt will, according to Raman:

facilitate, assist and secure the process of development that the government will hasten in these areas than go bang-bang hitting the Naxal targets. It can take any number of years. All I would say is, it would be a very calculated security exercise with human face,

So, what we have is a long-term and sustained counter-insurgency campaign that, in some ways, mirrors the US project in Afghanistan. Fair enough. I have often argued that the Naxalites are not primarily a police ‘problem’. They are the consequence of a complex array of failures in the contemporary Indian state, ranging from weak institutions to persistent social and exploitation of marginal groups in the deprived parts of the country.

In order for this strategy to work, however, the Indian government must improve the training, pay and equipment of the para-military police. Steps have been taken, including the establishment of a jungle warfare centre. However, this is not nearly enough. Reports continue to come in from parts of Chhattisgarh of troops selling their weapons to the rebels in exchange for food. Time and again, the CRPF has also showed that it is being out-fought, out-thought and out-gunned by the Naxalites. This needs to change.

The Indian government is currently testing the deployment of drones in the Naxalite areas. Use of advanced technology will only be effective in conjunction with a concerted, long-term effort to improve the capabilities of the para-police. Drones are no replacement for solid, human intelligence gathered by disciplined and motivated forces who have developed the trust of local communities.

As I said, I’m happy to see that the Indian government has not chosen to undertake a spectacular, if fruitless, massive counterstrike into the Naxal heartland. It remains to be seen, however, if the more complex strategy chosen can be undertaken effectively.

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