INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

Posts Tagged ‘BBC

Upping the Ante

with 8 comments

As Operation Green Hunt continues, the Maoists continue to strike with relative impunity while sustaining minimal casualties.

Earlier this week the Naxalites blew up a commercial bus travelling in Dantewara, killing around 50 people. Traveling aboard the civilian carrier were around 20 so-called Special Police Officers (SPOs). These are local tribals empowered as temporary constables to combat the Maoists. While they are valued for their local knowledge, they have also been criticised for child soldiers, inadequate training and their use as little more than cannon fodder by the CRPF.

While the Maoists have engendered a great deal of )understandable) outrage from their killing of dozens of non-combatants, the use of civilian transport by paramilitary forces engaged in a counterinsurgency is negligent at best and criminal at worst. More to the point, it is indicative of the lax discipline and poor tactical planning on the part of the government.

A little over a day later the Maoists, this time in West Bengal, carried out another landmine attack that killed 4 CRPF personnel. Today, in Bihar (a state only moderately affected by the insurgency) derailed a train transporting fuel and then proceeded to torch the carriages.

The relentless attacks by the Maoists and myriad failures by state forces has revealed not only problem inherent in Green Hunt, but also the serious divisions in the government over how best to deal with the insurgency.

The government is undertaking a review of its policies with Chidambaram pushing for a greater mandate. He is echoing the demand made by some state ministers for the deployment of the IAF.  From the Indian Express:

Chidambaram said he would ask the Cabinet Committee on Security for a “larger mandate” — an apparent reference to approval of air support for ground operations — for the Home Ministry in dealing with Naxalites. “The security forces, the Chief Ministers want it (air support). The Chief Ministers of (West) Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa have all asked for air support,” Chidambaram said, speaking on the day Naxalites blew up a bus in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, killing at least 35 people, mostly civilians.

While the Home Minister has claimed that the IAF would be used for transportation and surveillance, rather than aerial bombardment, it is not at all clear why the currently deployed helicopters from the BSF’s air wing are inadequate for the task.

Use of the air force would engage the Indian armed forces in a battle which they are neither trained nor structured for. The armed forces have been prepared and equipped for conventional warfare between neighbouring states, not for precision attacks within their own borders. It is not at all surprising that the leadership of the IAF is opposed to such involvement.

Up until now, Green Hunt is a failure. It is premised on an uncertain blend of massive manpower and the funneling of development assistance to the affected states. The government’s response has been incompetent and inconsistent. The Maoists, on the other hand, have used the opportunities created by the presence of so many additional security forces to lethal effect.

Advertisements

Massive Attack

with 20 comments

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.

Soutik Biswas on the Maoists

with one comment

I haven’t had many substantive posts recently. It’s the end of term and I’m swamped. I’m also working on some pieces on the Naxalites for a few publications. I’ll put up the links once they’re online.

The BBC has a really, really, really (!) good piece on the Maoists by the always solid Soutik Biswas. I have a few minor quibbles with what he has to say (in particular his link with the Maoists of the past and the Maoists of the present… they’re an entirely new rebel group that has re-constituted itself since the 1980s), but this observation is spot on:

As the toll rises, the conflict provokes a sharply polarised debate.

On the one side are the city-bred romantic revolutionaries. One perceptive analyst calls them a “Maoist-aligned intelligentsia vicariously playing out their revolutionary fantasies through the lives of the adivasis [tribespeople], while the people dying in battle are almost all adivasis”. They protest against the government’s plans to smoke out the rebels.

On the other, are supporters of strong state action who believe the security forces should annihilate the rebels and wrest back areas under their control. Collateral damage, they believe, is par for the course.

So India’s Maoist rebels, in the words of another commentator, are either “romanticised, eulogised [or] demonised”. It depends on which side you are on.

I couldn’t say it better. The debate lacks nuance. The Maoists are neither evil terrorists nor are they freedom fighters worthy of support. The only benefit of the Maoist insurgency is derivative. They have forced India’s elites to confront the marginalisation and miserable social conditions of much of its population. If a counter-insurgency strategy emerges that provides even a modicum of the services and political empowerment that citizens in a democratic state are entitled too, then some good has come out of the insurgency. I’m skeptical. But, I like to be proven wrong.

Written by Michael

March 17, 2010 at 7:51 pm

The Mosquito Threat

leave a comment »

According to the BBC:

More than 100 policemen fighting Maoist rebels in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand have died of malaria in the past two years, a police body says.

They also claim that malaria has claimed more lives than the Maoists.

Written by Michael

February 24, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Missing in Naxalite Zone

with 2 comments

This is significant enough for me to break my end-of-summer hiatus. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh’s helicopter disappeared this morning while flying over a Maoist controlled area. According to the BBC:

The helicopter carrying Mr Reddy and four others took off from Hyderabad’s Begumpet airport at 0845 IST (0315 GMT) bound for the village of Anupally in Chittoor district.

It was scheduled to land at 1045 but went missing at 0936 while flying over Kurnool district.

Sixteen hours after the crash, neither the helicopter nor the CM have been located. Whether the chopper was brought down by the Maoists or whether it had to land due to inclement weather is still unclear. If the Maoists are found to have been involved in anyway, it will likely trigger a significant police/military response. I’ll continue to monitor over the next few days.

Written by Michael

September 2, 2009 at 9:18 pm

A Sort of Homecoming

leave a comment »

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.

M_Id_90959_naxal_violence

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.


Nepal’s New Government. What Now?

leave a comment »

After days of Maoist obstruction, Nepal’s new, (non-Maoist, yet ostensibly communist) Prime Minister has been sworn in as head of a coalition that includes 22 parties. According to the BBC:

The 56-year-old was last week named the candidate of an alliance of 22 parties, which have 350 members in the 601-seat assembly.

The composition of the new cabinet has yet to be finalised, but the Nepali Congress, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Terai-Madhes Loktantrik Party and the Sadbhawana Party have said they will join the CPN.

I’m curious as to what will happen next. Will the new government bring some much needed stability to the country, or can Nepal look forward to a continuation of the tensions which have plagued it in recent months?

(Image: AP)

Written by Michael

May 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Comment, Maoists, Nepal

Tagged with , , , ,