INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

Posts Tagged ‘Indian Election

Brutal and Media Friendly. The New Face of Naxalism?

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One of the most underreported developments in Naxalism in 2009 has been the emergence of a new leadership cadre that is guiding the CPI (Maoist) in an entirely new tactical direction. Less conservative and reclusive than has historically been the case, the new West Bengal-based group has chosen to undertake bold (and brutal) actions calculated to garner media attention. This has included the beheading of a captured police inspector in October and a dramatic train hijack during India’s election campaign.  This was preceded by the capture of Lalgarh in West Bengal, a move seemingly calculated to demonstrate to India and the world that the Maoists were a force to be reckoned with.

All of this suggests a dramatic re-orientation in Naxalite tactics. Historically, the Maoists have been a tactically conservative force. Rather than court media attention, they preferred to work quietly, expanding their reach and power methodically and patiently. Their leadership has been notoriously recalcitrant and media shy. What has changed? Significant numbers of party leaders, most notably Kobad Gandhi, were arrested in 2009 as the Indian government has improved its counter-insurgency intel apparatus. As a result, a new crop of people with different tactical ideas has emerged. This new face of Maoism has been best personified in Kishenji, the Andhra born, West Bengal-based rebel.

Kishenji is a new kind of Naxalite leader. He has actively courted media attention- holding numerous press conferences and maintaining regular correspondence with prominent journalists. He has demonstrated a flair for the theatrical:

Kishenji had a seven-minute telephone conversation with West Bengal Principal Secretary (Environment) Madan Lal Meena complaining about polluting mines earlier this week, the Chief Minister was forced to accept the state intelligence machinery’s failure to locate the Maoist leader, who is on the run.

It remains to be seen how effective this tactic will be. While Kishenji has succeeded in garnering interest in the Maoist movement (and perhaps gained the support of segments of the urban population), much of the Naxalite’s strength stems precisely from their patient expansion.  By refusing to draw attention to themselves, the government of India has felt little public pressure to respond, creating a space for he gradual expansion of Maoist territory. A new strategy centred around engagement with the press and audacious assaults against the state carries a great deal of risk.

Indian Election Phase IV

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Polling in Phase IV of the Indian election was (largely) peaceful. Aside from some districts in Bihar, voting took place in areas largely devoid of Naxalite activity.

Written by Michael

May 7, 2009 at 11:30 am

Liberated Zone- Dantewada Attack

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Dantewada is the closest that the Naxalites have come to establishing a ‘liberated zone’ in India. I was in the area in 2008 and the local commander of the CRPF told me that the state controls nothing but the Salwa Judum camps and the main road during the day.

A poverty stricken part of the country, Dantewada’s primarily indigenous population coupled with a lack of infrastructure and guerrilla-friendly terrain has made it ground zero in India’s Maoist war.

On the eve of a re-polling (the first round of voting was suspended after a successful Naxalite-called boycott), the Naxalites have struck again, killing at least 11 in a landmine blast. The dead included members of Salwa Judum, the CRPF and the ill0trained, often underage, quasi-official Special Police Officers.

Phase III Indian Election Violence

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Voting in the 30 April polls of the Indian election was largely free of the Naxalite violence that affected Phase II. There were a few isolated incidents but minimal loss of life and damage was reported. Polling was, however, cancelled in a number of districts in West Bengal as a result of an agitation by tribal groups allied with the Maoists.

Did the Naxalites exhaust all of their logistics resources in their poll disruption during Phase I?

Phase III will be held on 7 May. Voting will be held in districts of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Harayana, and Rajasthan.

Return to West Bengal (2)

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In West Bengal the Maoists have been riding the wave of rural discontent against land acquisition for some time. Now they are also mobilising tribal communities.

Following a series of assassinations of cadres affiliated with West Bengal’s governing communist party, Friday saw a large anti-government mobilisation in Kolkata. According to the Times of India, the demonstration was composed of groups affiliated with the Maoists.

India is rife with disaffected, oppressed and angry groups. By exploiting numerous local issues, the Maoist octopus threatens to  bring together the millions of small fires into a blazing inferno that could consume India. Hyperbole? Maybe.

Written by Michael

April 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Election Numbers- Did the Maoists Matter?

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Apparently not, according to preliminary polling data from Jharkhand.

Voter turnout was higher in the regions considered Maoist strongholds, whereas some places with little rebel presence recorded lower polling percentage.

Initial figures show that polling percentage in the eight Lok Sabha seats varied between 42 and 58 percent as people braved Maoist violence as well as the mercury soaring to 42-46 degree Celsius in various parts.

I haven’t found anything which supports these numbers, but it does seem that there was minimal disruption by the Naxalites. There were a few scattered attacks on Wednesday and another yesterday, but overall Phase II was more tranquil than I had expected.  The killer heatwave gripping much of the country undoubtedly did more to dampen voter enthusiasm than any other factor.

Update: According to the Hindu, overall turnout for Phase II was 55%. Higher than in 2004.

Post-Election Decompression

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No updates for the next day or two. I’m taking a break after a marathon session.

I started India’s Forgotten War earlier this week as my first foray into blogging (about four years two late!). I’m happy with the results so far. Considering how much of a minority interest Naxalism is, it’s amazing  how many hits I’ve had. I hope you come by often to see the blog develop and grow. Thanks everyone!

Written by Michael

April 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm