INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

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Economics of War

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Here are a couple of good articles on the economic consequences of the Maoist insurgency:

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza and Bibhu Prasad Routray provide a summary of the estimated income that the Naxalites bring in through ‘taxation’. The numbers (if correct) are startling and paint a picture of a wealthy insurgency capable of raising enough funds to procure significant quantities of armaments.

Robert Cutler (currently a fellow at Carleton University) analyses the effect that the insurgency may have on the future macro-economic prospects of India. This is an issue which (as far as I’m aware) has not been examined before. His argument is, basically, that while the insurgency has not directly affected the overall growth of the country, the fact that the insurgency is occuring in a mineral rich area of the country is indirectly preventing optimal growth rates.

Additionally he claims that if the insurgency continues, it will continue to have a destabilising effect on the country. This may be noticed by investors.

I’m not sure I agree with all of Robert Cutler’s arguments, but it is worth a read. I think I’ll get in touch with him.

Written by Michael

May 20, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Media Roundup February 2010

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Now that the media has taken notice of the Maoist insurgency there have been a slew of features coming out from both the domestic and the international press. One of the things I love about India is its vibrant and extensive English language media. While the quality can be spotty, the fact that there are so many newspapers and magazines means that there’s always something interesting to read. And, now that urban India has noticed the war raging in its hinterlands, there are a hell of a lot of good journalists on the story.

Each month, I’ll provide a brief roundup of features which I think our worth reading.

Smita Gupta, writing for Outlook, makes a journey to Chhattisgarh where he spends time with the state elites in Raipur and visits Bastar to meet with the villagers who are caught in the midst of war. While the piece doesn’t provide many new insight into the war, it does bring into sharp relief the dilemmas and the suffering of the local tribal population who are caught between the state and the rebels. It also shows the collusion which exists between the Maoists and the governing elite.

The second feature is from India Today. Shafi Rahman visits the Maoist ‘liberated zones’ to report on the governance structures that the rebels have set up in areas which they control. Well worth a read as it provides a rare glimpse into the actual workings of the civil component of the ‘revolution’. The Maoists have been able to establish alternative systems of government partly through force, but also because of the vacuum which exists in the most backward parts of the country where historically the state has had a minimal presence. Rahman puts a human face to this reality.


Written by Michael

February 24, 2010 at 2:19 pm

The Return of People’s March

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The ‘Voice of the Indian Revolution’ has returned. In late 2008, the Kerala-based People’s March magazine was banned after the arrest of its editor. According to the Hindustan Times, the publication ban was overturned after the Press Registrar Appellate Board declared that the proscription was invalid as no formal charges had been brought against the magazine by the government. Good for them. Aside from my academic interest in having access to an English language publication which at least semi-represents the views of the CPI (Maoist), it seems that banning propaganda is a particularly crude and ineffective way at combating a highly sophisticated insurgency. If anything, publications such as People’s March can help provide the government with some insight into the current intellectual and tactical direction of the guerillas.

As for the magazine itself, a PDF of the latest issue can be found here. I haven’t yet been able to track down a website.

Written by Michael

November 16, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Security Assessment- Chhattisgarh

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A good assessment of the current security environment in Chhattisgarh, courtesy of the South Asian Terrorism Portal. As always, a must read.

India's Red Army

Economics of War

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A confession. I’m allergic to simplistic, mono-causal analyses of complex, multi-dimensional ‘problems’ like the Naxal insurgency. This sometimes leads me to commit the opposite sin of trying to find complexity where it may not exist. It’s good to take a step back and say, “Keep it simple stupid!”

If there’s one key, operative variable for the intensification and sustainability of the Naxalite insurgency in India’s eastern states, it is the presence of a wealth of exploitable natural resources. I have no intention of making a silly, reductionist claim (No blood for oil!), rather I believe that its both defensible and compelling to state that the presence of natural resources is the main reason that Naxalism has torn apart places like Chhattisgargh and Jharkhand rather than West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

I am fortunate to have had a chance to take a course at the LSE under David Keen. Keen’s work on the political economy of conflict is compelling and also deceptively simple. In short, Keen argues that areas with significant tradeable resources are more likely to experience war and once a war does occur, it is likely to be prolonged as a conflict economy develops which acts as a deterrent for peacemaking among the participants. I’m not doing his nuanced argument justice (and am making it sound a bit teleological), but it’s good enough for a blog post.

The war in Chhattisgargh and Jharkhand was not caused by the presence of a large amounts of natural resources. The two state’s developmental, social and political failures created a space for the promulgation of a revolutionary and violent ideology. However, once the guerrillas did establish themselves, the presence of raw materials enabled the emergence of numerous, illicit networks through which the Maoists are able to gain money, power and arms.

Both the government forces and the Naxalites collaborate with businessman, politicians and, in some cases, each other.The war has created a new political economy in which the winners are everyone except for the ordinary people who live there.

(Image: CSE India)