INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

Archive for the ‘Orissa’ Category

Italian Nationals Kidnapped

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My blog’s received a spike of visitors from IP and I think it’s safe to say that this story is the reason:

Italy ‘hopeful’ India Maoists will free two tourists

Italian Consul General Joel Melchiori is “hopeful” that two Italians kidnapped on Saturday in the Indian state of Orissa would be released.

This is a worrying development for ‘outsiders’ interested in the Maoist conflict in India. The Naxalites have never before targeted foreigners. They generally avoid them. They (mostly) refuse to meet with foreign journalists and academics and do not target tourists

Whether this recent kidnapping represents a change in Maoist strategy or a one off action linked with the specific activities of the two kidnapped men is unclear.

For those Italians who have visited my blog in recent days, I wish a speedy release of the hostages and a pacific resolution. I also hope (more selfishly) that this is not a new Maoist strategy borne of their recent strategic setbacks.

Written by Michael

March 19, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Orissa

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Bread and Circuses (at least today)

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It’s hard not to be cynical about the Indian government’s strategy when one reads rubbish like this:

The police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) force set up a medical camp and distributed gifts to local tribals in the Maoist-affected Chandrapur village in Orissa’s Rayagada District.

Apparently they even organized a magic show! Wow. So shiny. I’m still not clear how any of these ad hoc, one off (and largely irrelevant) acts of charity by the Indian government constitute any sort of counterinsurgency strategy that  could assist the adivasi people become autonomous and empowered communities in India able to  exercise their democratic citizenship.

I have no doubt that the local commander in charge of this initiative has the best of intentions. But, once the clowns go home and the food runs out, the systematic exploitation and marginalisation of India’s eastern tribal populations will continue. There is no rabbit in the hat.

EDIT: And to preempt some criticisms of my admittedly snarky post, yeah, I have no doubt the kids dug the magic show. Hell, I loved magic shows when I was a boy and I was hardly lacking in toys and other childhood distractions. And, no doubt the medical care will make a real difference in some people’s lives. I have no intention of minimising this. The fact is, however, this is not part of some ‘relief’ mission- it is an ad hoc initiative being conducted under a counterinsurgency strategy. It is short term and misses the point.

Written by Michael

October 14, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Massive Attack

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As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve had no time to update in the past few weeks. However, this morning’s news of a massive, coordinated attack in Dantewara is worth a quick post. At least 76 paramilitary police have been killed in what is the largest loss of life for state forces in the history of the Maoist insurgency. According to the Indian Express:

Virtually an entire company of the CRPF was wiped out when 75 of its personnel including Deputy Commandant Satyawan Singh Yadav and Assistant Commandant B L Meena along with the head constable of the Chattisgarh police were killed.

The operative word is, according to the BBC, ambushes in the plural. Not one single attack, but rather a well planned and well executed series of attacks against the security forces by the insurgents. Considering that much of the local population has been displaced and their villages emptied by the Salwa Judum campaign it isn’t at all surprising that the Indian forces seem incapable of gathering enough local human intelligence to outmaneuver the Maoists.

This attack comes only a few days after 10 paramilitary police in neighbouring Orissa state were killed in a landmine blast. Inevitably there are now some calls for the resignation of the Home Minister, Chidambaram, the architect of Operation Green Hunt, the anti-Naxalite offensive. The next 48 hours will be interesting and I am awaiting both the official government and Maoist statements.

A Sort of Homecoming

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For once, the Naxalites have been garnering the media attention which they deserve. Both the Indian and the international media (in particular the BBC) have had extensive coverage of the Maoist takeover of Lalgarh in West Bengal. This is largely a consequence of the significance of this weeks brazen show of strength by the rebels. Within a matter of days, the Naxalites were able to completely seize control of a large district in one of India’s most populous and important states.


Not that it wasn’t  predicted. As I wrote back in April, the Maoists have successfully been exploiting the seething resentments against West Bengal’s communist government and have steadily been increasing their influence in the state.

While it seems that the state security forces, primarily composed of the CRPF, have re-taken much of the self-declared ‘Liberated Zone’ , the story is far from over. The Naxalites have demonstrated their power and their ability to out-think and out-fight the state. In spite of all of the warnings that the Maoists were moving to support adivasi unrest in the state, the government did little. And once the governmen was forced to act, the Maoists proved that they could more than hold their own in direct confrontations with the paramilitary police. By all accounts, the CRPF has sustained more casualties than have the Naxalites.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, they have also demonstrated their tactical sophistication. The declaration of a liberated zone was a brazen act of defiance. But it was not reckless. The government has not encircled the insurgents. They will simply be able to melt back into the jungles of West Bengal and Orissa having made their point.

Banning the CPI (Maoist) simply revelealed the divisions within the various levels of the Indian state. While it’s still early days, the Maoists have just scored a major coup against the government. They are forcing the state to react to them. They are setting the rules.

A Thousand Small Fires

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Last month, a senior Maoist in Orissa was arrested for the gruesome murder of Laxmanananda Saraswati, a leader of the VHP. The VHP (roughly traslated as ‘World Hindu Congress) is one of the more radical and militant groups which make up the Sangh Parivar, an association of Hindu revivalist (or fundamentalist, depending on one’s sympathies) organisations which include India’s second party, the BJP. (more recently the Moaists killed a leader of the RSS, another Hindu revivalist group).

After the murder, a VHP-called bandh quickly degenerated into a communal blood letting which killed scores and left thousands homeless

The tension between Hindu activists and Orissa’s growing Christian community has been seething for years. As in much of the rest of India, conversion to Christianity is seen my many dalits (untouchables) and adivasi (tribal forest-dwellers) as a way of escaping from the strictures of the caste system.Missionary activity and conversions have been particularly controversial in the state.

In 1999, a foreign Protestant minister was beheaded and, more recently, the state has banned conversions and religious proselytization.

Enter the Maoists. Orissa is part of the Central Indian Naxalite heartland. It is a poor state with an isolated and marginalised adivasi population in the western districts. The Maoists have been able to mobilise support by championing the cause of both the adivasi and the Christian minorities (who are more often than not one and the same).

The state is a tinderbox which is easily ignite on communal lines. It is one of the small fires and seething discontents across India which the Maoists are effectively fuelling for their own long-term strategic aims.

Written by Michael

May 10, 2009 at 2:56 pm