INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

A Moment of Respite

with 4 comments

After my previous post on the major Naxalite attack, interest in my blog grew significantly. I’d like to thank all of my new readers.

In the past few weeks, however, traffic has returned to less manic levels. Of course this is not because of anything I wrote, but rather a product of the audaciousness of the Maoist attack. Since then eastern India has been relatively quiet. The rebels have engaged in a few isolated attacks on the railways and the government has killed a few Maoist ‘sympathizers’. After the hysteria, it seems that the status quo has returned- low level violence against people and property.

But has it? The Dantewada attack may have been a game changer. The Maoists demonstrated that they have the capability to engage in dramatic strikes that can garner the attention of the national and global media. Was it a tactical victory? Likely not. But, it was a strategic victory in the information war and a show of strength that can only boost the appeal of the Maoist forces. Conversely, it couldn’t have been good for morale amongst the paramilitary police. The government, on the other hand, learned that simply pouring troops into the so-called ”Red Corridor’ is not enough. Without sufficient intelligence the CRPF personnel are little more than targets.

What does this all mean? At the risk of making an excessively decisive prediction, I think that the attack in Chhattisgarh has made the conflict with the Naxalites more of a war. The government learned that it needs to be smarter and that the Maoists are a very real threat. They will be more cautious and measured in the future. This is no longer about a group of violent malcontents running around the peripheral regions of India. It is about the Indian state facing a disciplined, tactically superior force that has demonstrated its ability to gain victories both militarily and informationally. It is a war. And war is not always a good thing.  Especially if you believe, as I do, that the Naxalites are a symptom and not the cause.

4 Responses

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  1. This form of Naxalism, the armed struggle in which the CPI (Maoist) is engaged, can’t survive outside the tribal regions of Central and Eastern India. That is why there is no chance of this war spreading to the rest of the country, except in terms of further repression and curtailment of civil liberties. On military capabilities, the causality may well run the other way. It’s cohesive tribal communities like the Santals that taught the Naxals how to wage guerrilla war in the densely forested regions of India, see Edward Duyker, Tribal Guerrillas, a remarkable monograph. The immediate and paramount need is a durable ceasefire. If the government lifts its ban on the CPI (Maoist) and allows it to work as an open political party, it will also have a much stronger basis for demanding decommissioning. There’s a substantial quid pro quo here. But will the CPI (Maoist) accept it? They are after all committed to ‘protracted people’s war’ as their raison d’etre.


    April 29, 2010 at 2:45 am

    • Jairus,

      Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t suggesting that somehow it’ll become a proper war that engulfs all of India. While I disagree that it’s impossible that it might spread outside of the east and central regions (quite a lot of chatter about Naxalite urban networks), I do agree it’s extremely unlikely. What I did mean to suggest is that now the stakes have been raised and both the government and the Maoists will be fighting something more akin to a war in those districts which are currently experiencing the insurgency. As for the CPI (Maoist) accepting a ceasefire… well, you’re basically asking them to engage in a process of mainstreaming. Why would they? How have the fortunes of the CPI (M-L) and their various splinters been since ’68. Not very good.



      April 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm

  2. Michael

    I agree with you that the possibility of the naxal rage spreading to rest of India is low.. but it is there! The malfeasance of the political and bureaucratic players and the numbers game are multiplying the problem manifold.The CPI does not want a ceasefire because the government has got engaged in an ego battle and the track two channels are virtually non existent.


    May 5, 2010 at 2:06 am

    • Wherever ther is/was/will be deprivation, the areas being tribal dominated or not, the Maoist bonfire would find a lucrative ground.

      If we are concerned about the ‘Urbanization’ of the movement, it would be difficult, nonetheless not impossible. Wud be excruciatingly slow for the insurgents though.

      One must keep in mind that a sizeable fraction of highly educated youth from the urban areas have started mingling with the insurgents.

      The point of consideration is NOT the feasibility of the spread of the movement in urban areas, rather the motivation of the rebels to spread their wings in the urban areas at this juncture.

      Personally, I think they will start creating their bases in cities but to have a decisive effect will take time. They too are very much aware of it.

      But to totally rule out the possibility of the ‘spread’ is not a very prudent proposition.

      Uddipan Mukherjee

      May 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

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