INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Thank you and good night.

with 5 comments

I’ve run out of time to write properly and my interests have evolved from when I started this blog/

My interest in Naxalism hasn’t disappeared. I still consider the Maoist insurgency in India to be one of the seminal challenges of the 21st Century. My thinking and my ideas have, however, moved beyond Naxalwar. Started in 2008, nearly four years have passed. I’d like to thank all of the people who have read and commented on my work here. I’ve learned a lot from you and I appreciate the interest of those who haven’t contacted me. Thank you.

I’m off to Chhattisgarh and West Bengal next month. I may or may not start a blog with field comments. The form and content would be very different.

Until then, thank you and good night.

Written by Michael

August 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Indian Forest Cover

with 3 comments

A recent story is making the rounds on twitter. From the Indian Express:

Survey blames Naxals for decline in forest cover

India’s overall forest cover has declined by 367 sq-kms in the past two years despite a few states actually expanding their forest areas. The net loss is mainly on account of Naxalites destroying close to 200 sq-km of forests in Andhra Pradesh, a government report said in Tuesday

I wanted to respond to the ‘survey’, but googling it only led me nearly identical articles in all of the other Indian English papers. For example, there was this in the Hindu.

My recent work has been looking at state expansion into adivasi areas and how this expansion has been structured around forest ‘protection’. Naturally, this piece caught my interest. On the surface, it seems like a psychological anti-Naxalite move on the part of the government (as it’s difficult to believe that the Maoists can be blamed for deforestation in any significant way). But, I can neither find the report nor do the various articles provide a link to the journalist who wrote the piece. Curious.

If any reader knows more, I’d be grateful to hear from them. Inquiring minds want to know. Please email me. michaelspacek@gmail.com

UPDATE:

I’d like to thank the people behind http://naxalrevolution.blogspot.com/ for the email I received this morning. They sent me a copy of the report: http://www.fsi.org.in/sfr_2011.htm

I’ll take a look at it and post my response this weekend.

Written by Michael

February 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm

The Last Hurrah?

leave a comment »

I received an apt comment on this blog from Andrew Gibbons last December:

This site seems to have become India’s forgotten blog.

Andrew has a point. During the previous year and a half, I haven’t written anything of note on NaxalWar. Aside from laziness, I blame my academic work.

The blog has suffered because of the kind of writing I have to do. A PhD requires that I write things that are ‘publishable’ and the conventions of academia are formal. Blogging (at least when done well) is somewhere between formal writing and ranting. Finding this balance has become harder.

Two things have happened. First, the old aphorism that the more you know the more you realize that you don’t know has smacked me in the head. Much of what I have written on this blog I wouldn’t write now. The more I read about the Maoist affected areas, the less certain I am about my conclusions. The insurgeny is complex as hell and my thinking has become less certain.

Second, my work is now at the stage where I feel as I have little to say until I get into the field.  I started this blog largely because  I felt (and still feel) that most of what is written about the Maoists is shallow, superficial and unthinkingly ideological. What often passes for journalism, think tank ‘insights’ and academic work is, if I were being generous, crap. It’s often worse than crap, it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous because the ‘story’ which most journalists, academics and ‘experts’ tell leads to policies that are not only ineffectual and counter-productive, but are brutal and destructive.

Many people writing about the Naxalites don’t know what it is they’re talking about. The story of the insurgency is a human story with real human consequences. The work of ‘experts’ sitting in Delhi, Bombay or London often tell us more about their deadlines than they do about the conflict.

I’ve reached a point where I feel I have very little to say until I do my fieldwork. I’ve toyed with the idea of archiving this blog and starting a new one that I could use for my thoughts, musings and observations from the field. I dunno… I haven’t yet decided whether to shut NaxalWar down or turn it into something new.

Before I make a decision, however, there will be at least one more post. While sitting at a pub this afternoon– me. a pint and The Economist– I read an article about Indian energy needs, an article that is screaming for a response. And after that, who knows. Perhaps NaxalWar is merely moribund, perhaps it’s dead. I haven’t yet decided.

Written by Michael

January 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm

World Politics Review

with 6 comments

It’s a bit lazy, but here is some of my most recent thinking on Naxalism. It was published a few weeks back in a really solid up and coming policy mag World Politics Review. It’s behind a firewall, but they offer a trial subscription. Check it out:

http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/7948/indias-enduring-naxalite-insurgency

Written by Michael

March 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm

India’s Prisoner of Conscience

leave a comment »

On 24 December Dr. Binayak Sen,vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties,  was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Raipur Sessions’ Court  for his violations of the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. A full English translation of the judgement can be found here.

According to the Indian Express the court found Sen guilty of ‘helping’ the Naxalites and therefore guilty of sedition. The cited the following ‘evidence’:

Sen’s meetings with jailed Naxalite leader Narayan Sanyal; his attempt to pass on three letters written by Sanyal to unspecified people in Kolkata; and his helping some “hardcore Naxalites” to open bank accounts, get jobs and rented accommodation.Also cited as evidence is the recovery from Sen of newspaper clippings on the Naxal movement and a magazine with interviews of Naxal leaders Ganapati and Kishenji. The verdict is silent on which specific Naxal act or conspiracy Sen was involved in.

This is a judicial injustice entirely unbefitting a democratic state. There should be no tolerance in India for laws as draconian and vague as either of the acts under which Dr. Sen has been convicted. The verdict has been fiercely denounced both domestically and internationally.

The PUCL and Dr. Sen have been fierce critics of the government’s policies and actions towards the adivasi and this is why they have been targeted in a campaign of judicial harassment. Unlike the adivasi of Bastar, Dr. Sen is too prominent to simply kill (or ‘encounter’). Hence the draconian sentencing under a draconian law. The PUCL is one of the few relatively impartial organizations with outside contacts working in the region. They can tell the world what is actually happening on the ground. They are a threat to the local warlords of Dantewara and their friends and allies in Raipur.

The absurdity of the verdict and the law is clear. In effect, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act criminalizes all contact and association with the Maoists. The Maoists control much of the state. ‘Associating’ with them is inevitable for those individuals and groups who wish to do work in the region outside of official channels. In effect, the law ensures that the only story that is told about what happens in Bastar is filtered through the channels such as the Salwa Judum and the government sanctioned warlords who represent the state.

An excellent piece on the injustice of the case can be found here. Of particular note is this quote:

All through 2006, Dr Sen and the state PUCL were in the news for criticising the new Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and exposing fake encounters. In April 2007, the Chhattisgarh PUCL held its state-level convention on the theme: ‘Fake Encounters, fake surrenders and fake cases’.

On May 9, then state president Rajendra Sail [ Get Quote ] announced the PUCL’s decision to intervene in the petition filed by the wife of a Naxalite who alleged that her husband had been killed in a fake encounter in front of her and she had been raped.

This, in short, is the reason Dr Sen was arrested and implicated. In a state where the Maoists were gaining support from the Adivasis whom the government has forgotten, but whose lands it is eyeing, the Maoists had to be eliminated.

This is the crux of the matter. The war being fought in southern Chhattisgarh is dirty and brutal. The government has outsourced its counterinsurgency and ‘governance’ functions to a group of warlords which emerged from Salwa Judum. Dr. Sen and the PUCL are a threat to the impunity and brutality of the local anti-Maoist forces and needed to be silenced. I hope that the Indian system will not allow this decision to stand.

Written by Michael

January 11, 2011 at 11:17 pm

End of the Hiatus (Really)

leave a comment »

I was perhaps a little overly optimistic my last post. Unfortunately, I was unable to resume blogging these past few months. In addition to some personal commitments, I’ve been busy with my PhD work. Thankfully, I was able to pass my comprehensive exams and have now begun the (hopefully not quixotic) search for funding. If all goes well, I hope to begin fieldwork in India by next summer.

Blogging is, as much as anything, a habit- maybe even a compulsion. It’s a habit that I miss and one which I hope will now again become a part of my daily routine. Naxal War has not only provided me with a platform to voice my views. Importantly it has become an invaluable forum for the discussion of views with and between my readers. Thanks for all of those who have taken the time to participate in this project. You have forced me to re-examine some of my views and lead me in new intellectual directions.  I hope in the next few weeks and months, I’ll be able to engage with you and (hopefully) expand the number of people involved in this conversation.

Written by Michael

October 7, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Unexpected Hiatus

with 7 comments

Apologies to my readers for having been quiet this past month. I’ve spent most of the summer studying for the dreaded comprehensive exams and had expected that my blogging would be light.

Unfortunately I also broke my right arm last month which has made writing (at least writing with caps) nearly impossible. It’s pretty much healed and I’ll resume regular blogging later this week. Check back soon….

Written by Michael

July 21, 2010 at 12:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized