INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.


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Reports are coming in that a train derailment in West Bengal that killed at least 15 people was caused by a Maoist bomb which destroyed the tracks. This seems to be a plausible possibility. The derailment happened in West Midnapore, an area which was briefly ‘liberated’ by the rebels late last year.

If this was in fact the Maoists, it represents a potentially disturbing turn towards terrorist tactics. The question is whether it was a deliberate attempt to derail a civilian passenger train. If it was, the Naxalites are not doing themselves any favours.

UPDATE: The death toll from yesterdays attack is now at 71 and continues to rise. While early reports suggested that the train was derailed as a result of a Maoist bomb, it now seems clear that it was the result of track sabotage.

While the Maoists are brutal, they have largely avoided the use of terrorist tactics. The recent attack against a civilian bus in Chhattisgarh, for example, targeted security forces. The civilians were ‘collateral damage’.

There is a strange idea circulating in India that while the Naxalites may have once been honourable and idealistically guided rebels, they have now became a nihilistic criminal gang. I’ve recently been reading documents and newspaper reports from the early days of the Naxalite movement in West Bengal during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The level of brutality inherent in their ‘strategy of annihilation’ as well as the thuggishness and terrorism of their lumpen street fighters in Calcutta suggests that this story is nothing more than a convenient myth.

The state was partially able to crush the early Maoist movement because their brutality had alienated the vast majority of the population. Today’s Naxalites have learned their lessons from the past. That is why actions such as this are surprising.

UPDATE 2: The CPI(Maoist) has denied involvement in the train derailment. I tend to believe them. The death toll has now surpassed 100.

UPDATE 3: The Indian Express is reporting that the People’s Committee Against Police Attrocities has claimed responsibility. If this is true, it raises questions of how autonomous the PCPA is from the CPI(Maoist). The links between the two groups have been taken as a given- are they nothing more than a front for the Naxalites? This is unclear.

Written by Michael

May 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm

3 Responses

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  1. A global headline-grabbing act of violence like this is certainly predictable in the circumstances. Classic guerrilla campaigns use violence (“the propaganda of the deed”)to gain attention from the government they’re trying to influence, from the wider national and global audience, and also to impress or intimidate local people with their abilities. Violence is just one of the necessary tools for their campaign, alongside political, psychological and economic measures.

    The key message is that since insurgency is a struggle for influence and therefore not solely based on violence, it cannot be resolved just by security forces trying to find and fight guerrillas, but needs a multi-agency approach to also address the political and other issues which provide the grievances of the local people which drive the campaign. Let’s hope the lessons from wider history are applied quickly in India.


    May 28, 2010 at 5:40 am

    • Andrew,

      You’re right. But, one of the aresenals in the tool kit of revolutionaries is also a rejection of indiscriminate violence against civilians which can easily be painted by the state as acts of terrorism. This is, in a sense, a ‘negative’ tactic worth a tremendous amount of propaganda value. It allows the rebels to present themselves as saviours of the people. It is especially effective in insurgencies in which the state forces are illl disciplined and brutal (think Mao and the support which he was able to generate by simply behaving more justly and honourably than the forces supporting the KMT). See my current update… the Naxalites have until recently been relatively scrupulous in their rejection of the tactics of terrorism precisely because of the propaganda value. This is not to say that their actions (such as the brutality of their ‘people’s courts’) have necessarily not been brutal. Rather, they have been tempered by a strategic calculation that large attacks against civilians simply do not work. Perhaps this latest attack was an ‘accident’ that wasn’t meant to derail a passenger train, perhaps they are becoming bolder and more brutal… I have no idea.


      May 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

  2. India has more Home-Grown Terrorists than any country in the World. Some of the Elected Politicians has Soft corner, Soliciting and Sheilding Home Growns and most of the Corrupted Politicians had proved themselves ” GAYS ” to deal against Terrorism by State or Non State actors to protect civilians. The country is Constantly ” BLEEDING ” by 2 side of Attack. Merciless KILLING SPREE by Terrorists & LOOTING SPREE by some Corrupted Politicians. India had tried enough DISHWASHERS as COOKS for curing Terrorism Recipe on the sacrifice of Civilians, but never made it. Is Home Ministry & Defence Ministry capable to handle Naxals-Maoists? If not ” KICK ” them out. Govt interested to show the growth of 8-9% of the country but not cannot ” TACKLE ” the growth of Terrorism by more than 300%. INDIA SHINING by NAXALISM and MAOISM.


    May 28, 2010 at 7:13 am

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