Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bloody Revolution in India?

As Pakistan deals with a powerful insurgency and daily carnage, there are calls for backing up the Pakistani army-led counterinsurgency with major social, economic and political reforms to calm the growing social unrest that attracts young men and women to radical causes. These calls are being reinforced by the belief that the Taliban insurgent groups often succeed by exploiting local grievances against powerful landlords, and lack of economic opportunity for the alienated young population growing up under feudal or tribal systems.

Some of these conditions are not unique to Pakistan. Pakistan's neighbor India has bigger issues of landless peasants, the caste-based Apartheid, and the problem of widespread hunger, poverty and desperation, which is worse than most of its neighbors. In addition, there is a known and growing nexus between the radical Hindus and some of the Indian intelligence and military officials, as recently detailed by former police chief of Maharashtra, Mr. S.M. Mushrif in his book titled "Who Killed Karare?".

Here is a report by a Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai after his recent visit to India:

"I fear there will be a bloody revolution in India," a retired Indian military officer remarked to this writer and other guests during a recent visit to New Delhi. It was shocking to hear the comment from a soldier, in a country that supposedly had given a voice to its huge population and was believed to be all-inclusive.

It is obvious that India's much-praised democracy hasn't brought any real change in the lives of millions of Indians. That some of the poorest men and women are now up in arms in parts of India is evidence enough that democratically elected governments must do more to provide rights and justice to the rural poor and ensure even-handed development in different parts of the country.

The Naxalite violence in India has caused pain to most thinking Indians. For them it is a matter of anguish that a growing number of Indians are disillusioned with their country's democracy and see no hope of benefiting from India's steady economic progress. They have picked up the gun to fight for their rights.

The Maoist-linked violence is spreading and engulfing new places. The vast region affected by the insurgency include the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal and runs south through Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It is usually called the "Red Corridor" because the leadership for the rebels is provided by communist cadres labelled as Maoists. The Communist Party of India (Marxists-Leninists), despite suffering splits, is still the standard-bearer of the rebels.

According to reports in the Indian media, more than 220 districts in 20 or so states are now affected by Maoist-linked violence. Indian intelligence agencies believe the movement has at its disposal 20,000 armed cadres and over 50,000 regular members. Apart from the rural poor, indigenous tribes such as the Girijans in Andhra Pradesh and Santhals in West Bengal have been flocking to the Naxalite movement. The movement has appeal for the dispossessed and the under-privileged. In the words of its present leader, Mupalla Laxman Rao, in hiding somewhere in eastern India and better known as Ganapathi, his party's influence has grown stronger and it was now the only genuine alternative before the people of India.

The Naxalite movement began as a peasants' uprising in May 1969 in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal. It was initially led by 49-year-old Charu Mazumdar and its aim was to seize power through an agrarian revolution by overthrowing the feudal order. Mazumdar died in police custody 12 days after his arrest in Calcutta in 1972 and became a hero to Maoist cadres that have increased in number and strength over the years despite splits in the movement. The Naxalite insurgency has sprouted after every defeat and is now stronger than ever.

India's share of the world's poorest people has increased to 39 percent from 25 percent in 1980. In comparison, the Below Poverty Line population worldwide has decreased from 1,470 million to 970 million. There are reportedly 301 million Indians below the poverty line, just 19 million less than in 1983. The Human Development Report by the UN has been ranking India among the lowest 60 or 65 countries in the list of 193 nations that are part of the annual study. India's poor performance on this score was in spite of the around nine percent growth rate in its GDP. There are reports in the media about farmers committing suicide or selling their wives to pay mounting debts. Though the recorded figures of such cases aren't high in a big country such as India with 1.17 billion people, it still indicates the desperate state of certain communities.

India's poor and marginalised groups have on occasions showed their anger through the power of the ballot. This happened in the 2004 and also in the 2009 national elections. The Hindu nationalist BJP tried to seek votes by coining the slogan, India Shining, in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections as part of its claim that its coalition government had brought prosperity during its five-year rule. But the electorate thought otherwise as the majority, particularly the poor and rural voters, the lower castes and minorities hadn't benefited from the progress that had mostly made the rich richer. Their verdict in the polls was against the BJP-led NDA alliance and in support of the Congress and its allies. The Congress won again in 2009 despite the incumbency factor because it was largely seen as the party that cared more for the rights of the poor and the rural voters and was conscious of the concerns of the minorities, particularly Muslims.

However, it is the ruling Congress now that is confronted with the challenge of responding to the needs of India's restless rural poor and tribal communities. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently described the Naxalite insurgency as the single greatest threat to India's internal security. Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress head Sonia Gandhi and the rising star of Indian politics, has been focusing on the vast Indian hinterland, visiting the under-developed rural villages and spending nights at the homes of Dalits, often termed the poorest and most oppressed people in the country. This cannot be enough to calm down the Naxalites, who are convinced that only force could win the Indian people their rights.

A showdown between the Indian government and the Naxalites is now imminent. The Congress-led government is mobilising hundreds of thousands of security personnel, mostly police and paramilitary forces, to launch an offensive against the Maoists mostly likely in November. It has ruled out the use of the military, but the operation will be coordinated from New Delhi as part of a central government initiative. Indian analysts and foreigners knowledgeable about India have pointed out that the country lacked a cohesive strategy to deal with the insurgency. The ruling elites have also been criticised for being slow in responding to the needs of the poorest communities, who were then easily recruited by the Maoists.

Such is the hatred of the Naxalites for the ruling elite that their leader Ganapathi, a former schoolteacher, branded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaran as "terrorists." In a recent interview at his secret jungle hideout with the weekly magazine Open, he said "the people will rise up like a tornado under our party's leadership to wipe out the reactionary blood-sucking vampires ruling our country." At another point, the 59-year old Ganapathi declared: "Those (government) sharks want to loot the wealth and drive the tribal people of the region to further impoverishment."

By threatening to unleash a "tornado" of violence if the Indian government went ahead with its planned large-scale offensive against his insurgent forces, Ganapathi has made the intentions of the Maoists obvious. Already, his men, and even some women cadres, have carried out actions that are now normally associated with the Taliban. They have kidnapped and beheaded government officials, blown up electricity and telephone towers, destroyed roads and railway tracks, killed political opponents and attacked police stations and other official installations. The offensive against the Naxalites will certainly weaken and deprive them of some of their bases and hideouts, but the issue cannot be resolved by the use of force alone. Many members of the Indian intelligentsia sympathise with the cause of the Maoists and objective analysts see it as an economic issue and one concerning lack of justice. The Indian ruling elite needs to tackle the root-cause of the insurgency instead of applying force through the state apparatus to crush the rebels.

I think Mr. Yousufzai, an independent journalist and reporter from Pakistan, has done a good job of reporting what he saw and heard in India and he has put it in context.

But predicting revolutions is hazardous business. In spite of studying historic causes of past revolutions, it's not any more accurate than predicting when and where the next big earthquake or hurricane will hit and what will happen in its aftermath.

Talking about Pakistan, the violence has reached new heights in recent days. The conditions have existed for a while and the triggers have been in place, and yet, it's not certain if what we are seeing now is indeed a revolution. There are still many questions as to whether the nation's political and military leadership can forestall a bloody revolution, by a combination of the use of force and appearance of reform to placate those violently protesting the tyranny of the status quo. After all, terrorism is often defined as a form of violent protest.

In India, too, conditions exist for a bloody revolution. But it's not certain what the trigger will be. It could be the growth of the Maoist movement and its spread from rural to urban India where it begin to be seen by Indian urban middle class and gets the attention of the world media. But it's by no means fait accompli. All depends on the ability of India's political leaders and its military's competency in forestalling it. But the jury is still out on these questions.

Rahimullah Yusufzai is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email:

Here is British Writer William Dalrymple talking about India and Pakistan:

Here's are two video clips about Maoists in India:

Related Links:

Can Indian Democracy Deliver?
Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Pakistan's Choice: Globalization or Talibanization
The Tornado Awaiting India

Insurgents Violence Reports in India

Countering Militancy in FATA

Political, Economic and Social Reforms in Pakistan

Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India
Western Myths About "Stable, Peaceful, Prosperous" India

Taliban Target Landed Elite

Feudal Punjab Fertile For Terror

Caste: India's Apartheid


Anonymous said...

Today in the talk radio show I heard the host was talking about Pakistan as being as bad as Iraq and Afghanistan. He was talking about today's blast at Peshawar. He was telling "can you believe for this country we are spending billions as aid. We can't we just leave them alone and let them deal with each other the only way they know - by killing".

I work at a place surrounded by Indians. The glee on their face is palpable. It is as if their long cherished dream of Pak getting wiped out is getting fulfilled, with no effort on their part.
Sad, but true.

Let us focus on that instead of worrying about India.

Zen, Munich, Germany said...

"Bloody revolution in India"? I thought Peshawar and Waziristhan are in Pakistan. If Indian borders were weaker, then those Taliban terrorists would have created a bloody revolution in India. Until that time, it is wishful thinking..

Anonymous said...

@Riaz - Any reason for a burst in anti india postings :-)

Anyhow I am not sure how much respect Indian would give to this writer. E.g. what do you think of this article in indian newspaper
Times of India

And what do you think of this article,8599,1932723,00.html

Riaz Haq said...

I think the author Yousufzai, an independent journalist and reporter, has done a good job of reporting what he saw and heard in India and he has put it in context.

But predicting revolutions is hazardous business. In spite of studying historic causes of past revolutions, it's not any more accurate than predicting when and where the next big earthquake or hurricane will hit and what will happen in its aftermath.

Understandably, some of you have brought up Pakistan's current bloody situation in response to this post.

Clearly, the violence has reached new heights in Pakistan. The conditions have existed for a while and the triggers have been in place, and yet, it's not certain if what we are seeing now is indeed the beginning of a revolution. There are still many questions as to whether the nation's political and military leadership can forestall a bloody revolution, by a combination of the use of force and appearance of reform to placate those violently protesting the status quo. After all, terrorism is often defined as a form of violent protest.

In India, too, conditions exist for a bloody revolution. But it's not certain what the trigger will be. It could be the growth of the mainly rural Maoist movement and its spread from rural to urban India where it begins to hurt the Indian urban middle class, politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats, and gets the attention of the world media. But it's by no means fait accompli. All depends on the ability of India's political leaders and its military's competency in forestalling it. But the jury is still out on these questions.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a New York Times report about recent US assistance to Pakistan prior to the Waziristan operation:

During preparations this spring for the Pakistani campaigns in Swat and South Waziristan, President Obama personally intervened at the request of Pakistan’s top army general to speed the delivery of 10 Mi-17 troop transport helicopters. Senior Pentagon officials have also hurried spare parts for Cobra helicopter gunships, night vision goggles, body armor and eavesdropping equipment to the fight.

American military surveillance drones are feeding video images and target information to Pakistani ground commanders, and the Pentagon has quietly provided the Pakistani Air Force with high-resolution, infrared sensors for F-16 warplanes, which Pakistan is using to guide bomb attacks on militants’ strongholds in South Waziristan.

In addition, the number of American Special Forces soldiers and support personnel who are training and advising Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops has doubled in the past eight months, to as many as 150, an American adviser said. The Americans do not conduct combat operations.

The increasing American role in shoring up the Pakistani military’s counterinsurgency abilities comes as the Obama administration debates how much of a troop commitment to make in neighboring Afghanistan. It also takes place as Taliban attacks are spreading into Pakistani cities. It is unclear whether Pakistani authorities are using any of the sophisticated surveillance equipment to combat the urban terrorism.

Underscoring the complexity of the relationship between the allies, Pakistani officials are loath to publicize the aid because of the deep-seated anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. And they privately express frustration about the pace and types of aid, which totals about $1.5 billion this year.

Anonymous said...

Finally it is not the blogger and the bloggers opinion sell among people it is the news which sells about the countries.

If riaz feels that the news about pakistan is better than that of india so be it. However if other think the other way and wants to invest in india, it is the risk which they are taking for return

Anonymous said...

india will eventually break up. just a matter of time. economic disparity will speed up the process.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "india will eventually break up. just a matter of time. economic disparity will speed up the process."

I don't think India will break up because of the growing rich-poor gap; but there are other factors that will challenge India's unity.

Given the many ethnic, regional, religious and caste fault lines running through the length and breadth of India, there have long been questions raised about India's identity as a nation. Speaking about it last April, the US South Asia expert Stephen Cohen of Brookings Institution said, " But there is no all-Indian Hindu identity—India is riven by caste and linguistic differences, and Aishwarya Rai and Sachin Tendulkar are more relevant rallying points for more Indians than any Hindu caste or sect, let alone the Sanskritized Hindi that is officially promulgated".

According to a recent article published by a Chinese strategist, if India today relies on anything for unity, it is the Hindu religion. The emergence of a republic of India in 1947 was based on religion [the Hindus were a majority so they should rule.] The Chinese strategist wrote that India could only be described today as a 'Hindu religious state'.

Dhananjay said...

Since when did a common netizen become a chinese strategist?

Anonymous said...

Wow Riaz,

How the hell do you get the time for bashing India at least once in 2-3 days. It seems like you take at least few hours daily for this purpose. I need to learn a lot from your time management :)

Riaz Haq said...

Dhananjay: "Since when did a common netizen become a chinese strategist?"

common netizen?

Here is what the BBC said about the "common netizen":

The report was written by the China International Institute of Strategic Studies in July.

It argues that a fragmented India would be in China's interests and would also lead to prosperity in the region.

The article was available online until recently but it has now been removed. Even so, it has received extensive coverage in the Indian press.

Vikram said...

I dont see the Naxals as being primarily composed of landless labourers, although certainly in UP and Bihar they might be part of the Naxal cadre. I think they are composed mostly of tribals from India's remote and neglected tribal areas. Also, the trigger for the upsurge in the violence has been the violent land acquisition and exploitation by corporate houses, which has accelerated in the current environment.

The Naxal issue is one primarily of justice and rights. I think the big mistake their leadership is making is that its exploiting the genuine sense of grievance among the tribals into some all-India revolution. Although poverty and deprivation are widespread in India, their incidence and intensity vary enormously from state to state.

Cotton farmers in Maharashtra, factory workers in Tamil Nadu, tea growers in Assam, wheat farmers in Punjab, diamond workers in Gujarat all have difficult lives, and the state can do a lot more from them, but I dont think they want some kind of revolution to overthrow the Indian state.

The job of the civil society in India is to ensure that both the state and the Maoists give up violence as a means to solving conflicts, and the democratic space to solve conflicts be recovered, so solutions are sustainable and empowering rather than reactionary.

I hope that the Indian state realizes the mistakes it made in Kashmir, where the democratic space has (seemingly) only been recovered after military conflict that caused enormous suffering and widespread alienation among the Kashmiris. India is a wonderful idea and all its constituent people want it to succeed, its just that we have to our state accountable to the constitution and give up thoughts of using violence as a solution to our social problems

Dhananjay said...

Riaz you seemed to have made a career out of believing fairytales and misleading articles. That so called 'article' was indeed written by a common netizen and not some Chinese thinktank.

"the director of told the Global Times that the article that infuriated Indians is actually an old article written by a Chinese Internet user who is neither affiliated with the think tank nor with the website.
He also explained that the website is not related to the International Institute of Strategic Studies in China. Reporters from the Global Times later searched the article online, and found it had appeared in personal blogs and forums in China for several years. The earliest published date was November 30, 2006, on Tianya, a leading Chinese BBS, by a web user named Queen Park Cruiser, with the title “Defeat India from Bangladesh”."

If you still wish to believe it, then go ahead.

Dhananjay said...

One more link:

"The site’s owner-editor Kang Lingyi has said that he ran the internet publication on his own without any backing from the Chinese government.

Kang said it was a mere coincidence that his website had a name similar to the official think-tank, China International Institute for Strategic Studies (CIISS), and that he has since changed it to China Center for International and Strategic Studies “to avoid confusion”."

Its just pathetic how you quote such 'articles' without even having the decency to verify the truth.

Riaz Haq said...

Dhanjay: "That so called 'article' was indeed written by a common netizen and not some Chinese thinktank."

If you believe what you are saying, then you also have to believe that there is freedom of expression in China that allows ordinary netizens to post whatever they feel like on important subjects like China's relations with its neighbors.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times report today about growing Maoist insurgency in India:

India’s Maoist rebels are now present in 20 states and have evolved into a potent and lethal insurgency. In the last four years, the Maoists have killed more than 900 Indian security officers, a figure almost as high as the more than 1,100 members of the coalition forces killed in Afghanistan during the same period.

If the Maoists were once dismissed as a ragtag band of outdated ideologues, Indian leaders are now preparing to deploy nearly 70,000 paramilitary officers for a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign to hunt down the guerrillas in some of the country’s most rugged, isolated terrain.

For India, the widening Maoist insurgency is a moment of reckoning for the country’s democracy and has ignited a sharp debate about where it has failed. In the past, India has tamed some secessionist movements by coaxing rebel groups into the country’s big-tent political process. The Maoists, however, do not want to secede or be absorbed. Their goal is to topple the system.

Once considered Robin Hood figures, the Maoists claim to represent the dispossessed of Indian society, particularly the indigenous tribal groups, who suffer some of the country’s highest rates of poverty, illiteracy and infant mortality. Many intellectuals and even some politicians once sympathized with their cause, but the growing Maoist violence has forced a wrenching reconsideration of whether they can still be tolerated.

“The root of this is dispossession and deprivation,” said Ramachandra Guha, a prominent historian based in Bangalore. “The Maoists are an ugly manifestation of this. This is a serious problem that is not going to disappear.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a BBC report today about India's "two faces":

In India, certainly in urban India, it just feels like the mercury is rising. Compare that to parts of Europe, my previous posting, where many people have plenty of everything. They are not pre-occupied with the hope of moving up, but with the fear of losing what they already have.

India, of course, could get it all wrong. The have-nots could remain stuck in their rut, increasingly angry and marginalised.

Hundreds of millions of people still survive on very little in this country and as they watch the new buoyant India flourish around them, there is bound to be a reaction.

A peasant-based rebellion, taking inspiration from the revolutionary teachings of Chairman Mao, is fermenting dangerously across a vast swathe of Indian territory. Unchecked, it could well spread fast. "That," a senior security official once told me, "is what really keeps me awake at night."

Riaz Haq said...

Nepalese Maoists admit support for Indian Maoists:

Just a day after the Nepalese media revealed about the close nexus and recent secret meetings between the two Red brothers (Maoists) from Nepal and India in an undisclosed location in India, a senior leader of Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) has openly admitted that his party has extended full cooperation and support with Indian Maoists.

Speaking at press meeting, a Maoists-affiliated journalists association in Bara district of central Terai, on Sunday, party secretary CP Gajurel said, “We have extended our total support to the Indian Maoists Party, which has been enlisted as terrorist outfit by the Indian government, for their ongoing armed movement.”

According to a report carried out by the Rajdhani Daily, a Nepali national daily in Nepal, Gajurel, however, did not elaborate on whether their support was just a moral one or with arms as speculated by the Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram, recently.

The former chief of former rebels’ foreign relation bureau Gajurel who had spent three years jail term in Chenai a few years ago, is the first Maoists leader who applauded the Indian Maoists’ armed insurgency publicly.

Two days ago, the Rajdhani Daily had revealed about the secrete meeting held between the UCPN-M team led by central committee member Indra Mohal Sigdel alias Basanta and Indian Maoists leader Kishanji in an undisclosed place in India while Sigdel was in four-day India tour from October 8 to 11.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in India Today about India's business community recommending inflicting pain on Pakistan:

The FICCI Task Force Report on National Security and Terrorism has underlined the need for a 'national counter-terrorism architecture' which establishes a national counter-terrorism agency, a national intelligence grid, a ministry of internal security with a cabinet minister and a new intelligence agency dedicated to non-state actors.

The report of the FICCI Task Force that was presented to Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday has made wide-ranging recommendations to counter the threat to India's security from cross-border jihadi terrorism and Naxalite insurgency.

Addressing media persons, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP and Immediate Past President, FICCI, and Chairman of the FICCI Task Force Report on National Security and Terrorism, expressed deep concern over the extent to which a pattern of contemporary jihad and home-grown terrorism has manifested itself in India.

The report documents how Pakistan's dubious policies on terrorism and its military establishment infused with jihadist mindset will continue to threaten India's security in the coming years.

The co-chairman of the FICCI Task Force Report on National Security and Terrorism is Harsh Pati Singhania, President, FICCI. The members of the Task Force are Yogendra K. Modi, Past President, FICCI; Ajit Kumar Doval, Former Director, Intelligence Bureau; Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Satish Nambiar; Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) S. Krishnaswamy; B. Raman, former additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat; Ved Prakash Marwah, former police commissioner, Delhi; and Dr Amit Mitra, Secretary-General, FICCI.

The report points out that that Pakistan will maintain its infrastructure of terrorism - the networks that recruit, train, equip and finance jihadis - inside Pakistani territory. In this context, the task force recommended leveraging international cooperation by co-opting foreign expertise for developing capacity, monitoring movements of terrorist leaders, and sharing information and knowledge with them; developing capabilities for covert and overt operations on terrorist locations, a common investigation cell for whole of India, a calibrated and well defined decision-making process and accountability at various levels, place strong 'immediate response' mechanism and tailor-made terrorism prevention and incident management drills for each metro city, vulnerability assessment to identify areas and establishments requiring necessary security measures and incorporating the private sector and civil society into India's war on terror.

The report reflects on what has emerged as India's biggest internal security threat - Maoist insurgency and the lack of a robust institutional mechanism to deal with them. The government's approach toward Naxalite insurgency has so far recorded limited success, with each affected state developing its own security response.

The task force's assessment is that the lack of coordination between national, state and local security services and lack of developmental initiatives leading to increased urban-rural divide have prevented a containment of the Naxalite threat.

The task force is convinced that Pakistan has to make a clean break from its existing state policy of supporting terrorism. Meanwhile, India needs to build up its capabilities to counter Pakistani state designs, if it doesn't disown terrorism and come clean, the task force recommends.

Riaz Haq said...

Kashmiri traders have condemned a report published by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) that proposed that India should inflict “economic pain” on Pakistan. The 118-page (FICCI) report also called for choking water resources, covert retaliation and surgical strikes against Islamabad in order to address terrorism in India. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and other trade bodies in Srinagar met in an emergency meeting on Thursday and called the report “irresponsible and immature”. The KCCI said the development was “serious”. “The apex business chamber should have devoted time to formulating policies for the economic prosperity of the country. It has unfortunately indulged in political gimmicks, and that too with gruesome mindset against a neighbouring country,” the KCCI members said in a statement. Federation of Chambers of Industry in Kashmir (FCIK) President Shakil Qalander said at a time when the world needed peace, the FICCI was advocating strategies that could clearly lead to war. The KCCI asked world economic bodies to take note of the FICCI’s “war rhetoric” and support the quest for peace and stability in the region by helping settle the Kashmir dispute. “The suggestion of launching a military offensive is not new and has been tried on four occasions previously. It has only ended in a typical cycle of war breeding war,” the statement added. iftikhar gilani

Riaz Haq said...

Biggest Land Grab After Columbus

By Devinder Sharma

14 November, 2009
Devinder Sharma Blog

I think the eulogisation of Tata's has gone too far. Behind all the glamour, sobriety and humanitariasm that we read and hear about Tata's, there is a dark hidden side which is kept under wraps. It is time we look at the destructive role Tata's have played over the years in uprooting thousands of poor families, and the resulting destruction of livelihoods and the environment.

To overcome their guilt, and that too aimed at pacifying the liberal voices in the urban centres, I am sure Ratan Tata would be thinking of setting up schools and funding some NGO activities in the tribal lands as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

What a sophisticated way to cover your dark underbelly !

I was quite taken aback today to see a frontpage headline in The Hindustan Times: The biggest land grab after Columbus. As the blurb says: Government report criticises corporate exploitation of tribal lands; tribals turn to new friends: Maoist. And if you remember only a few days back, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had publicly accepted, and made a promise: "The systemic exploitation of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated."

Do you think Manmohan Singh will do anything to stop this? You bet, he will simply push for more such projects that will eventually destroy the social fabric of these tribal lands. If you think I am wrong, let us take the land-grab in Bedanji, a remote rural expanse in Bastar in Chhatisgarh, as a test case. The Tata's plan to set up a Rs 19,500 crore steel plant for which ten villages have to be emtied.

Interestingly, a report of the PM-appointed Ministry of Rural Development committee on Land Reforms has succinctly said: "This open declared war will go down as the biggest land grab ever, if it plays out as per the script." The Hindustan Times report quotes the just-released government report warning against the corporate takeover in the Bastar hinterland: "The biggest grab of tribal lands after Columbus."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a BBC report by veteran correspondent Mark Tully:

Being central government forces and recruited from all over India they will be strangers, not speaking the tribal languages or understanding their ways.

The central forces are not exactly known for their softly, softly approach.

When they were very active in Kashmir, I remember having several conversations with the governor about the failure to punish police responsible for human rights abuses.

The governor was a humane man himself, and he had the honesty to admit the government feared the forces would be demoralized if action was taken against them every time they went too far.

The tribal people, who both sides claim to be representing, will be crushed between security forces demanding they provide information about Maoist movements, and the Maoists themselves who have already shown how brutally they treat anyone they believe has betrayed them.

Once again, the root of the problem is the Indian government's inability to provide what those they govern rightly feel is their entitlement.

Nowhere is this more manifest than in the callous handling of tribals who have been dispossessed of their land.

Reading Arundhati Roy, I was reminded of a visit I made to a resettlement villages for tribals, who had twice been evicted in order to make way for power stations.

When they complained to the official accompanying me that they were not being provided with electricity, he shot back: "Well you cannot afford it, can you?"

With that sort of callousness all too common amongst officials, is it any wonder that tribals support Maoists who promise to protect their lands?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an LA Times report on the vicious cycle of poverty in rural India:

India has long been plagued by unscrupulous moneylenders who exploit impoverished farmers. But with crops failing more frequently, farmers are left even more desperate and vulnerable.

Reporting from Jhansi, India - She stops for long stretches, lost in thought, trying to make sense of how she's been left half a person.

Sunita, 18, who requested that her family name not be used to preserve her chance of getting married, said her nightmare started in early 2007 after her father took a loan for her sister's wedding. The local moneylender charged 60% annual interest.

When the family was unable to make the exorbitant interest payments, she said, the moneylender forced himself on her, not once or twice but repeatedly over many months.

"I used to cry a lot and became a living corpse," she said.

Sunita's allegations, which the moneylender denies, cast a harsh light on widespread abuses in rural India, where a highly bureaucratic banking system, corruption and widespread illiteracy allow unethical people with extra income to exploit poor villagers, activists say.

But here in the Bundelkhand region in central India that is among the nation's more impoverished areas, the problem is exacerbated by climate change and environmental mismanagement, they say, suggesting that ecological degradation and global warming are changing human life in more ways than just elevated sea levels and melting glaciers.

"Before, a bad year would lead to a good year," said Bharat Dogra, a fellow at New Delhi's Institute of Social Sciences specializing in the Bundelkhand region. "Now climate change is giving us seven or eight bad years in a row, putting local people deeper and deeper in debt. I expect the situation will only get worse."

An estimated 200,000 Indian farmers have ended their lives since 1997, including many in this area, largely because of debt.

A 2007 study of 13 Bundelkhand villages found that up to 45% of farming families had forfeited their land, and in extreme cases some were forced into indentured servitude. Tractor companies, land mafia and bankers routinely collude, encouraging farmers to take loans they can't afford, a 2008 report by India's Supreme Court found, knowing they'll default and be forced to sell their land.

"While a few people borrow for social status or a desire to buy a new motorcycle, in most cases it's for sheer survival," Dogra said. "When they see their children starving after several years of crop failures, many feel they have no choice."

Recent amendments to a 1976 law in Uttar Pradesh state have increased the maximum punishment for unauthorized money-lending to three years in jail, up from six months, but many loan sharks are well-connected and elude prosecution. The law specifies that lenders must obtain a state license, but the requirements for obtaining it can be vague, a situation that critics say gives bureaucrats significant leeway to enact arbitrary rules and exact questionable fees.

"I take occasional loans when we're desperate," says Jhagdu, 50, a farmer in Barora, 60 miles south of Jhansi, sitting on his haunches with teeth stained red from chewing betel nut. "When there's no rain, like now, you can't repay for a year, so the amounts can double."

Riaz Haq said...

The BBC is reporting that the Church of England has pulled its investments from India mining company Vedanta after criticism of its Orissa bauxite project:

The decision has been welcomed by campaigning groups including Survival International (SI) which has been lobbying the church to disinvest from Vedanta for more than a year.

SI says that the bauxite mine will destroy a large part of the Niyamgiri Mountain in Orissa, damaging the lives of Kondh tribes people who live in the area.

Needs 'ignored'

Vedanta has been accused of forcing tribal people off the land, damaging the environment and destroying wildlife.

No-one from the company was available to comment on the decision of the church.

But last year Vedanta argued that it had the support of the Orissa state government and the Indian judiciary - and that before it went ahead with the project it consulted exhaustively to assess its environmental and social impact.

The company accused campaigning groups of focusing their objections solely on the concerns of the tribal community and ignoring the needs of other people in the area for jobs and improvements in education and healthcare.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent BBC report on increasing Maoists violence:

At least 21 troops were killed when armed Maoists attacked a camp of the paramilitary forces in India's West Bengal state, officials said.

Nearly 50 rebels on motorcycles encircled the camp of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (ERF) at Silda village on Monday and started firing on it.

More fighters joined the assault on foot, firing from automatic weapons.

More than 6,000 people have died during the rebels' 20-year fight for communist rule in many Indian states.

The Indian government recently began a major offensive against the rebels in several states.

Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India's "greatest internal security challenge".

The rebels now have a presence in 223 of India's 600-odd districts.


The camp was overrun by the Maoists after the troops put up brief initial resistance, district magistrate of West Midnapore district NS Nigam told the BBC.

"The Maoists then burnt down the camp and planted landmines on the entire length of the road leading to the camp. Reinforcements with night vision and anti-landmine vehicles reached the camp late at night," Mr Nigam said.

At least 21 bodies have been recovered from in and around the camp and some of them are badly charred, he said.

Anonymous said...

The article “The biggest land grab after Columbus” by Neelesh Mishra published in ‘Hindustan Times’ about the land accusation by Tata Steel is based on draft report of ‘Committee on Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reform’ which by itself is not providing the complete information about the MOU signed between Tata Steel and Chhattisgarh government.

According to me Tata Steel is a company which is fully committed to the well being of the communities it operates in, especially the tribal people with whom they are working with. They have a hundred year old history of engagement and sharing of the wealth generated by the enterprise in Jamshedpur.

Being a frequent visitor of Jamshedpur I have experienced how their community development initiatives have ensured a qualitative improvement in the standard of living of the people of the operational & project areas be it in education, health services, development of sports activities, increase in income, Entrepreneurship development, Women empowerment, Preservation of tribal culture and much more. This is a well known fact and there is evidence of this in over 800 villages they are working in, which the members of the committee have ignored during the survey.

It is ridiculous to believe the report which accuses Tata Steel as the supporter and the first financier of Salwa Judum, the so called anti-Naxalite movement of the people of the area. It is a well known fact that the first movement against the Naxalites was the 'Jan Jagran Abhiyan', started in 1991 by Mahendra Karma. That was mostly led by local traders and businessmen. It later collapsed, and the leaders had to seek police protection to survive. In 2005 it was renamed Salwa Judum (meaning "Purification Hunt" in Gondi language) and it is reported that civilians were armed to supposedly fight the Naxalites in the region. And In mid-2008, the movement's front liner, Mahender Karma announced that Salwa Judum will soon cease to exist.

Anonymous said...

Tata Steel is a company whose community development initiatives are well known. Its initiatives for qualitative improvement in the standard of living of the people of the operational & project areas be it in education, health services, development of sports activities, increase in income, Entrepreneurship development, Women empowerment, Preservation of tribal culture etc. are highly appreciable.
Tata Steel’s project at Chattishgarh is going to act like a miracle tool for the development of the tribal people of the region. For the detail and support Tata Steel view

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excepts of Nehru University's Prof Jayanti Ghosh's video interview on Real News Network in which she says there is "no Indian miracle":

JAY: So in India you're saying there never was major reforms and it's getting worse.

GHOSH: Absolutely. If you look at the pattern of Indian growth, it's really more like a Latin American story. We are now this big success story of globalization, but it's a peculiar success story, because it's really one which has been dependent on foreign—you know, we don't run trade surpluses. We don't even run current account surpluses, even though a lot of our workers go abroad to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, to California, as IT workers. We still don't really run current account surpluses. So we've been getting capital inflow because we are discovered as this hot destination. You know, we are on Euromoney covers. We are seen as this place to go. Some of our top businessmen are the richest men in the world. They hit the Fortune top-ten index. All of that kind of thing. This capital inflow comes in, it makes our stock market rise, it allows for new urban services to develop, and it generates this feel-good segment of the Indian economy. Banks have been lending more to this upper group, the top 10 percent of the population, let's say. It's a small part of the population, but it's a lot of people, it's about 110 million people, which is a pretty large market for most places. So that has fuelled this growth, because otherwise you cannot explain how we've had 8 to 10 percent growth now for a decade. Real wages are falling, nutrition indicators are down there with sub-Saharan Africa, a whole range of basic human development is still abysmal, and per capita incomes in the countryside are not growing at all.

JAY: So I guess part of that's part of the secret of what's happening in India is that the middle, upper-middle class, in proportion to the population of India, is relatively small, but it's still so big compared to most other countries—you were saying 100, 150 million people living in this, benefiting from the expansion. And it's a lot bigger. It's like—what is it? Ten, fifteen Canadas. So it's a very vibrant market. But you're saying most of the people in India aren't seeing the benefits.

GHOSH: Well, in fact it's worse than that. It's not just that they're not seeing the benefits. It's not that they're excluded from this. They are part of this process. They are integrated into the process. And, in fact, this is a growth process that relies on keeping their incomes lower, in fact, in terms of extracting more surplus from them. Let me just give you a few examples. You know, everybody talks about the software industry and how competitive we are. And it's true. It's this shiny, modern sector, you know, a bit like California in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa. But when you look at it, it's not just that our software engineers achieve, it's that the entire supporting establishment is very cheap. The whole system which allows them to be more competitive is one where you are relying on very low-paid assistants, drivers, cooks, cleaners. You know, the whole support establishment is below subsistence wage, practically, and it's that which effectively subsidizes this very modern industry.

Anonymous said...

the sad part is the casteism, that is rampant in this region. i heard a story, about a woman maoist sniper, who had played havoc with the security forces. they could not find her for three months, and toll was day by sheer luck, they caught her and killed her. she had fallen and the security forces just watched her die, gasping for breath, for they were afraid, that she might detonate a hand grenade. the officer of the troops however took a chance to approach her and give her water. she just spat that water on his face. he says there was a look on her face that he will take with him until his death. she was high up in the maoist hierarchy so the officer went ahead to check her background. he found that she was from a village in srikakulam, in andhra pradesh. she was married at 16. On her first night, it was not her husband who came to her, but the landlord of the place. a 60 year old man abusing a 16 year
old. it is a custom it seemed in that region, that the first night should be with landlord. she lost her mind after that night, recovered , left her husband and wandered ,eventually joining the maoists.

there are many indians here who blame pakistanis. we say Pakistan is going wrong because of its establishment. namely the mullah, military and rich anglican pakistani elite. dont we have that oligarchy here in india! do we not have the upper caste hindus, the landlord, the rich businessmen and the politicians forming an oligarchy? An oligarchy that is simply growing rich by exploiting the vast riches of our soil?
whatever we might say about Pakistan, please understand that atleast some of them, have opened their eyes to this oligarchy. have we in india done that? the answer is no.

there is a company called vedanta resources. it is headquatered in london, and they are billionaires. they want minig rights to a mountain hill in jharkhand, that a real rare find. it has amongst the best Bauxite content. but the gond tribes who are in that area say, our god lives on this hill! we have a temple there, so we will not allow you to mine!
you know what the company management said? We will rebuild a better temple for you in the plains? (take it from our corporate social responsibility account) WOW! great minds these MBA`s are from our management institutes?
we have a temple atop palani hill in tamilnadu. we have been praying over it for few thousand years, if vedanta or anyone tells us, hey there is gold in that mountain you guys better shift, then do you think we will allow that? we will skin those MBA`s right there and hang it to dry.
but then the poor gond tribals and their tribal god? thats fate isnt it?
the officer who told me this story, weeps at the guilt of having killed a poor girl. i left him saying if you carry fighting with guilt, you will get killed.
how many more lives will we corrode?

Riaz Haq said...

Chairman of the UCPN (Maoist) Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” on Saturday warned India not to interfere in Nepal's internal matters, according to a report in the Hindu:

Addressing thousands of party cadre here on the occasion of May Day, Mr. Prachanda said: “If India thinks that by backing Madhav Kumar Nepal, it will make everything all right; if it thinks that it now holds the command of Nepal Army and the Army would do whatever it says; and that the Maoists want to kill Nepali people, then the Indian leaders are making a mistake. We appeal them not to make this mistake.”

He said the party cadre had gathered to protect Nepal's sovereignty. The Maoists say the CPN (UML)-led government is “remote-controlled” and is a “puppet” of India.
Stance changed

Mr. Prachanda said the government's stance changed after Mr. Nepal's visit to Thimphu, Bhutan, where Mr. Nepal met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He pointed out a recent announcement that the Nepal Army could be mobilised to control the Maoist movement. “I believe you would not listen to a voice that came redirected from Thimphu,” he told the gathering.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on a Maoist female fighter in India:

The guerrilla fighter was tough, experienced, leading a platoon of around 60 insurgents.

"I am from a very poor family," the fighter told me.

"Life was very difficult. I joined the party and now I understand many more things. I think revolution is the only option."

One thing you should know about this hardline Maoist rebel - she is a young woman.

She is one of the growing numbers of poor Indians who have joined a four-decades-old Maoist rebellion, in which thousands have died. Last month the rebels killed 76 members of the security forces in a single attack.

More than 20 of India's 28 states are affected by the insurgency. The remote tribal villages of Jharkhand state, where the fields are still tilled by oxen, are at the centre of it.

The area is home to some of the country's poorest people, mostly members of indigenous tribes. There is little sign of India's economic miracle here.

Local people feel the government has neglected them. So the Maoists, or "the party" as the villagers call them, have got on with running the place.

Parallel government

"The government here has no health programmes… so our party sets up health clinics to help the people," one Maoist fighter told me.

"This area is plagued by illness... Our party gives free medicines in the clinics - and we get help from doctors and nurses. We run them in the rainy season when people are suffering most."

The Maoists have drawn a lot of support from poor villagers like Chachi.

"They are like our sons, our brothers," she says.

"Before, we were not allowed to go into our forests - the authorities used to cut the trees but we weren't even allowed to gather firewood. Now we can.

"The party makes sure there is no tension between rich and poor… that's why we want the party here."

But not everyone agrees. The Maoists have blown up schools because the security forces use them as barracks.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a sad story of the growing population of Manipur widows in India as reported by the BBC:

For about 50 years, the Indian police and army have been battling separatist insurgents in the north-eastern state of Manipur, a conflict which human rights groups claim leaves at least 500 women widowed each year.

There were 10 of them. They were strikingly beautiful. They were all sitting chatting in a regular room in a regular house.

Nothing about the way they looked prepared me for the sad story they had to tell.

I only realised later that the book each of them was holding close to her was a family photo album. And that was the clue.

The album was full of pictures of their husbands and of their short lives together as families.

Edina, a young widow in her mid-20s with two children, is eager to show me her photographs.

She struggles to leaf through the pages. She suffered a stroke after hearing the news of her husband's death and her left side is now paralysed.

She told me how she had heard what happened to her husband on a chilly morning back in January 2009.

"He was a driver, and a very loving and caring father," she said. "That day after lunch, he went out and not long afterwards I heard, on the television news, that he had been killed by the security forces. They said he was an insurgent."

I asked Edina if the security forces had shown her any evidence for that claim?

"No," she replied in a choking voice, "and I know they are lying." Tears rolled down her cheeks, as she caressed a photograph of her husband, which she had arranged neatly in the album.

Stories of loss

These young widows meet every second Saturday to cry their hearts out and exchange stories about their losses.

It is a particularly strong image of this, one of the world's longest running insurgencies, here in the north-east of India.

The fighting has left many dead and injured - rebels, army and police officers, as well as innocent bystanders.

These young women have all lost their husbands, killed by the security forces.

They all insist that their husbands were innocent and had been picked up, under the special powers, and accused of being insurgents.

Being a widow with children in small towns in India means an extremely tough and deprived life.

Edina, Nina, Tony, Nitan and others became friendly with me after several hours talking, and began to open up and tell me a bit more about their lives.

"You know, we are young and beautiful and that makes our lives as widows even more tough," said one.

"Our in-laws and parents put a lot of restrictions on us. They don't like us to go out and work, as people start saying bad things about us.

"They are afraid we may remarry and that is considered very bad in our society."

I ask them if they would like to remarry, to fall in love? For a moment, they don't know how to react.

It is an option they are not really able to consider. They blush and start laughing.

Hunger strike

The sense of loss and void that one feels in Manipur is overpowering.

I wonder how much of this can be attributed to the controversial act, brought in more than 50 years ago, which gives these sweeping "special powers" to the armed forces.

They are regularly accused of abusing these powers.

For 10 years, activist Irom Sharmila Chanu has been demanding that the act be repealed.

This 38-year-old woman has been on hunger strike, and is alive only because she is force-fed at the hospital where she is kept in judicial custody.

I was allowed to meet her in 2007, but this time the authorities would not give me permission to see her.

But I went to the hospital anyway.

Riaz Haq said...

India's Supreme Court has told the authorities in Chhattisgarh state to disband civilian militias because they are unconstitutional, according to the BBC:

The judgement is being seen as a significant blow to the state government.

The government regards the armed groups as an important part of its battle against Maoist insurgents.

Chhattisgarh is one of the states at the heart of the Maoist rebel insurgency.

The Supreme Court ruling covers two types of armed group.

Special Police Officers (SPOs) have a semi-official status. They receive small salaries from the government, are armed by the authorities and have basic training.

The Salwa Judum movement is less formalised. The government has sometimes described it as a spontaneous response to the Maoist insurgents.

But the authorities have certainly supported them, encouraging villagers to organise themselves into anti-Maoist forces, says the BBC's Jill McGivering, who has visited the area.

Some of these villagers also received training and guns.
Human rights concerns

Our correspondent says these local groups do have clear advantages over India's paramilitary forces.

They have a specialist knowledge of the jungle terrain and nearby communities and can understand local dialects. They can also provide valuable intelligence to the security forces.

But there have been human rights concerns about their role as armed law enforcers, partly because of the lack of clarity about their powers and accountability.

Some of them have been accused in the past of attacks on other villages, of destroying houses and killing people who were allegedly pro-Maoist.

Critics say that the fact they have government support and can act with impunity has also undermined the rule of law and blurred the lines between fighters and civilians.

A key question is how effectively the Supreme Court ruling will be implemented. Monitoring the process will not be easy in the state's remote forests.

The ruling could have implications, too, for other Indian states with similar state-supported militias.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's another piece by Ananya Vajpeyi on exceptions to Indian "constitutional democracy":

By enforcing extraordinary laws, by sending in armed forces, by granting impunity to soldiers and paramilitaries for their actions against armed or unarmed civilians, by denying citizens redress, justice or compensation, by creating a war-like situation for a population that has political, social, cultural and economic grievances possible to address without force, it is the state that sets aside the Constitution. The Indian state has done this too many times, in too many places, and for too long.

It is time for citizens in the so-called ‘normal’ parts of the country to consider how they want to defend their Constitution against such misuse and ill-treatment by the state, a procedure that leaves millions of people exposed to both everyday as well as excessive violence, and ultimately turns them against India. If the Indian Union sees any attrition to its territory in the coming years on account of separatism and civil strife (not such an unlikely scenario as hawkish policy-makers like to believe), this will have come to pass at least partly because the state allowed the cancer of exception to eat away at the body politic, and did not administer the medicine of constitutional reinstatement and restitution in time. It bears repeating that periodic exercises in the electoral process do not always prove to be a sufficient counterweight to the toxic effects of the AFSPA, even if elections are relatively free and fair (a tough challenge), and even if significant percentages of the relevant populations do turn out to vote.

The state’s reasoning for why military, paramilitary and police must replace civil agencies in the work of everyday governance, a step which can and does go horribly wrong, is that disruptive violence (from secessionist and insurgent groups) has to be met with restorative counter-violence (from the state) in order to ensure overall security for the population, and preserve the integrity of the Union of India. Defenders of the AFSPA insist that this is a sound rationale. But inevitably, questions arise: What are the limits of the immunity that such an extraordinary law grants to the armed forces, when does the justifiable control of terror become overkill, and when should a quantitative assessment about the necessary degree of force give way to a qualitative judgment about whether force is necessary at all, over and above alternative – peaceful – means of addressing the situation?

There appears to be a dire need for a system of checks-and-balances, perhaps also originating from the Constitution, to be instituted, so that the explicitly democratic mandate of the Indian republic may be strengthened against an always lurking authoritarian tendency (a legacy of the post-colonial state’s colonialist and imperialist predecessor).

Riaz Haq said...

There was an article in Forbes magazine issue of March 4, 2002, by Steve Forbes titled "India, Meet Austria-Hungary" which compared India with the now defunct Austria-Hungary. Here is an excerpt from the text of that article:

Influential elements in India's government and military are still itching to go to war with Pakistan, even though Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has taken considerable political risks by moving against Pakistani-based-and-trained anti-India terrorist groups. Sure, Musharraf made a truculent speech condemning India's ``occupation'' of Kashmir, but that was rhetorical cover for cracking down on those groups. Washington should send New Delhi some history books for these hotheads; there is no human activity more prone to unintended consequences than warfare. As cooler heads in the Indian government well know, history is riddled with examples of parties that initiated hostilities in the belief that conflict would resolutely resolve outstanding issues.

Pericles of Athens thought he could deal with rival Sparta once and for all when he triggered the Peloponnesian War; instead his city-state was undermined and Greek civilization devastated.

Similarly, Hannibal brilliantly attacked Rome; he ended up not only losing the conflict but also setting off a train of events that ultimately led to the total destruction of Carthage. Prussia smashed France in 1870, annexing critical French territory for security reasons, but that sowed the seeds for the First World War. At the end of World War I the victorious Allies thought they had dealt decisively with German military power. Israel crushed its Arab foes in 1967, but long-term peace did not follow.

India is not a homogeneous state. Neither was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It attacked Serbia in the summer of 1914 in the hopes of destroying this irritating state after Serbia had committed a spectacular terrorist act against the Hapsburg monarchy. The empire ended up splintering, and the Hapsburgs lost their throne. And on it goes.

Getting back to the present, do Indian war hawks believe China will stand idly by as India tried to reduce Pakistan to vassal-state status? Do they think Arab states and Iran won't fund Muslim guerrilla movements in Pakistan, as well as in India itself? Where does New Delhi think its oil comes from (about 70%, mainly from the Middle East)? Does India think the U.S. will stand by impotently if it starts a war that unleashes nuclear weapons?

VR said...

What Heinrich Heine predicted about Germany in this context deserve a mention....It might happen in case of India (hope so it does not happen, but quite likely)

"Do not smile at my advice -- the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is of true Germanic character; it is not very nimble, but rumbles along ponderously. Yet, it will come and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world's history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal story on the stunting of human capital growth in India:

At least 3,000 children as young as six are being recruited by insurgent groups across India, according to a new report published by a human rights group.

The New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights says the practice of using child soldiers is “rampant,” with the majority recruited in Maoist-affected states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

Maoist rebels, also known as Naxalites, have been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as India’s greatest internal security challenge. They assert control over vast areas of land in central and eastern India. The insurgency was launched in the late 1960s in West Bengal. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of indigenous tribes and the rural poor, and their ultimate goal is to create a communist society.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Aljazeera report on Indian Maoist insurgency:

"You people say that India [has] got a republican, independent government, we say NO it is not so, and between these two there is a contradiction. You people say that India got independence on August 15, 1947, we say power-transfer happened. Semi-feudal, semi-colonial. Politicians, rich people and land owners are looting the country, and benefiting. You may know the current police law is from 1898, from Victorian times, so what has changed? What has changed is a few faces who sit in the parliament today. Like a new cap on an old bottle. The content of the bottle is still the same. So the common people are still deprived and they will rise," said their spokesman Gaur Chakravarty.
A 40-year long civil war has been raging in the jungles of central and eastern India. It is one of the world's largest armed conflicts but it remains largely ignored outside of India.

Caught in the crossfire of it are the Adivasis, who are believed to be India's earliest inhabitants. A loose collection of tribes, it is estimated that there are about 84 million of these indigenous people, which is about eight per cent of the country's population.

For generations, they have lived off farming and the spoils of the jungle in eastern India, but their way of life is under threat. Their land contains mineral deposits estimated to be worth trillions of dollars. Forests have been cleared and the Indian government has evacuated hundreds of villages to make room for steel plants and mineral refineries.

The risk of losing everything they have ever known has made many Adivasis fertile recruits for India's Maoist rebels or Naxalites, who also call these forests home.

The Maoists' fight with the Indian government began 50 years ago, just after India became independent. A loose collection of anti-government communist groups - that initially fought for land reform - they are said to be India's biggest internal security threat. Over time, their focus has expanded to include more fundamental questions about how India is actually governed.

In their zeal for undermining the Indian government, Maoist fighters have torched construction equipment, bombed government schools and de-railed passenger trains, killing hundreds. In the name of state security, several activists who have supported the Maoists have been jailed and tortured. Innocent people have also been implicated on false charges. These are often intimidation tactics used by the government to discourage people from having any contact with the Maoists.

The uprising by Maoist fighters and its brutal suppression by the Indian government, has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 1980, and displaced 12 million people. Many of the victims are not even associated with either side. They are simply caught in the crossfire. And the violence is escalating as both sides mount offensive after counter-offensive.

Riaz Haq said...

A deadly trend has struck roots in India's Red Corridor over the past three years. A soldier fighting Maoists deep inside the jungles of central and south-central India is far more likely to be killed than his uniformed brothers taking on militants in Jammu and Kashmir, or insurgents in the North-east.
Rebels in the Red zone are killing more soldiers than are dying in all insurgency-hit areas put together.
Official data from the Union home ministry shows that at least one security personnel loses his life to Maoists every three days. The chance of the enemy surprising security forces makes the job of their personnel highly risky.

Riaz Haq said...

By dressing up “militants” as Muslims wearing skullcaps in a mock anti-terror drill, Indian police exposed not only communal mentality but low IQ and poor general knowledge negating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of SMART — Strict and Sensitive, Modern and Mobile, Alert and Accountable, Reliable and Responsive, Techno savvy and Trained — law enforcers voiced at the recent conference of directors-general of police in Guwahati.
Footage of the drill showed commandos capturing “terrorists” in white-knitted skullcaps before bundling them into police jeeps. But do terrorists — even if they happen to be Muslims — don the Islamic skullcap to unleash murder and mayhem? I don’t think so.

Riaz Haq said...

By dressing up “militants” as Muslims wearing skullcaps in a mock anti-terror drill, Indian police exposed not only communal mentality but low IQ and poor general knowledge negating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of SMART — Strict and Sensitive, Modern and Mobile, Alert and Accountable, Reliable and Responsive, Techno savvy and Trained — law enforcers voiced at the recent conference of directors-general of police in Guwahati.
Footage of the drill showed commandos capturing “terrorists” in white-knitted skullcaps before bundling them into police jeeps. But do terrorists — even if they happen to be Muslims — don the Islamic skullcap to unleash murder and mayhem? I don’t think so.
The latest Global Terrorism Index (released by international think tank Institute of Economics and Peace) reveals that while jihadists were responsible for 15 percent of terrorism-related killings in India, Maoists accounted for the lion’s share of casualties — a whopping 50 percent — in 2013. The remaining 35 percent of deaths were caused by guerrillas fighting for statehood or independence in states like Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
Maoists have created a Red Corridor from the India-Nepal border to south India but the worst-hit states are Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. Their goal is to overthrow the Indian government by force. The writ of the administration doesn’t run in large tracts of central India where there are no police stations, post offices, revenue collectors or even cellular network.
Similarly, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), which gunned down 75 Adivasis or tribespeople, just before Christmas in its devilish pursuit of a separate homeland for ethnic Bodos in Assam, is one of the deadliest separatist outfits in business. New York survived 9/11. Mumbai is doing fine despite 26/11, thank you. I think that armed rebellions like the Maoist insurgency or secessionist uprisings in the northeast pose a far graver challenge to the Indian State. New Delhi should focus on neutralizing anti-national groups trying to seize power or dismember India instead of maligning Muslims who have never challenged the state till today.

Riaz Haq said...

Are most terrorists in India Muslims? I have to chance to look at this following yet another avoidable incident this week.

Nigeria's ambassador to India has responded to a comment made by a Union minister.
The comment was made Giriraj Singh, who said: "If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian lady and not a white-skinned woman, would the Congress have accepted her leadership?" The remark revealed the casual racism that is so commonplace in India. Nigeria's ambassador OB Okongor was upset enough to say "I believe the prime ninister will do right thing on this. I am not going to lodge protest." The prime minister ignored it, once again as those who have observed his conduct on such things will have noticed, though the media was naturally outraged.

The website ran a commentary headlined '5 reasons why Giriraj Singh should shut up.' It included this statement of his from last year: "Isn't it true that all people caught in terrorist activities belong to one community? I am not trying to blame any one particular community. Why are all so-called secular parties silent on this?"

Presumably he means Muslims. He is of course not right in assuming that all people caught for terrorism are Muslims, but are Muslims responsible for most of the terrorism in India? Let's look at the data. The South Asian Terrorism Portal lists fatalities and incidents across India. Quite helpfully, it also does lists them by conflict theatre.

In 2014, there were 976 deaths from terrorism (or extremism, whatever name one wants to use for it) in India. Of these, the most (465) came in the North East. The second most (314) came from Left wing extremism, by a group of people called Maoists. Deaths in Jammu & Kashmir, assuming we want to attribute the whole lot to terrorism, stood at 193. Outside of these conflict theatres, Islamist extremism claimed four lives.

In 2013, the figure was most for Maoists (421), the second most for the North East (252) and the Kashmir plus Islamist violence outside the state again third (206). In 2012, we had a similar situation: Maoists (367), followed by the North East (326), followed by Kashmir (117). The total number of victims to Islamist terrorism outside these three areas, across India, was 1.

In 2011, Maoist violence claimed 602, the North East 246 and Kashmir plus Islamist violence outside the state stood at 225. This year, again the sequence is the same, though violence levels across India have dropped, as they have been doing for the past decade.As is obvious, most terrorists in India are Hindus, the ones whom we have conveniently labelled 'Maoist' instead of 'Hindu'. The second largest group of terrorists are the tribals, animists and perhaps some Christians, of the Northeast. Muslims are third. If one looks outside the separatism of Kashmir, their violence and terrorism levels are among the lowest in the world and they appear to be lest susceptible to terrorism not just by the standards of the world's Muslims but also India's Hindus.


The reason is that 'terrorism' is today accepted only that which is Islamist. And the reason for this is the narrative in the media, which has neatly conflated terrorism with Islam and Pakistan. News channels like Times Now run many more programmes firing middle class and Anglicised Indians up against 'terrorism' (ie Islamist/Pakistan) than they run shows on the North East and on Maoism, which claim a far greater number of lives as the figures show.

It is of course unfortunate that this should be the case, but we can explain away the common man using such arguments. For a Union minister to hold them as Gospel is frightening and shows how wrong headed the members of this government are....

Riaz Haq said...

Why is #India losing the battle against #Maoists? … via @htTweets

In the last four days, Maoists have killed 16 security personnel in the Bastar region of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh. On Monday, five Chhattisgarh Armed Forces personnel were killed in Dantewada, where the rebels blew up an anti-landmine vehicle with a powerful IED. The strike came close on the heels of an ambush in Sukma on Saturday that killed seven security personnel.

Surprise attacks have been the hallmark of Maoists. Yet what is surprising is that despite years of experience and training, the security forces more often than not find themselves on the losing side in these assaults.

A day after the Sukma ambush, a senior security official told a national daily that Chhattisgarh’s Special Task Force “misread the situation” and put only 49 of its men on the job to catch Hidma, one of the most wanted Maoist commanders, when it is known that he moves around with at least 100 armed cadres. Why did the force show such bravado? There are no clear answers yet.

Such is the grip of the Maoists in the southwest forests of Sukma that they did not permit 300 heavily armed CRPF and STF personnel to retrieve the bodies of their seven colleagues from the forest. Finally, local journalists were asked to help the forces retrieve the bodies.

What’s interesting is that the Maoists were not even at the site of the attack when they were negotiating with the security forces over the bodies. Yet they managed to keep an eye on the scene thanks to villagers.

This is the kind of support that Maoists have and rely on for successfully conducting operations. They depend on tribal communities not only for food and shelter but inputs on the movement of forces.

According to the home ministry’s figures, there were 2,258 violent incidents in Maoist-affected states in 2009. There were 2,213 incidents in 2010, 1,759 incidents in 2011, 1,415 incidents in 2012 and 1,129 incidents in 2013.

Even though the State would make us believe that it is managing to wean tribal communities from the Maoists with its policies, the truth is that the tribes people are still strongly behind the Maoists and continue to help them in every possible way and they continue to see the Indian State as an enemy.

That the State is short of ideas when it comes to getting the tribes people on its side will be clear if you read the ruling NDA’s draft national policy and action plan to effectively combat Left-wing extremism. In the section on “Perception management-related measures”, the government plans to bring the tribes people to its side by “giving due recognition to Adivasi icons, production of short films, organising excursions of tribal children, seminar and conferences”.

I have travelled extensively in Chhattisgarh and I can assure you none of these will win the perception battle in the minds of the tribes people, who are the key to winning the war against the Maoists.

Only two things would do that for the government: Proper implementation of rights-based laws that will help tribal communities to better their lives and the assurance that they will get a fair hearing at the hands of the police and courts.

There are several other problems in the draft policy: In an article on the website of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, security analyst Bibhu Prasad Routray writes that the new 29-point action plan evolved by the home ministry for addressing Left-wing extremism point towards the “continuation of the past policies and does not indicate a radical departure from the approach pursued by the previous government”.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's Maoists insurgents world's 4th deadliest #terror outfit after #Taliban, #ISIS, #BokoHaram via @timesofindia

The world witnessed 11,774 terror attacks in 2015, in which 28,328 people were killed and 35,320 injured. India was the fourth worst-affected country after Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, with 43% of 791 attacks in the country carried out by Naxalites+ . A total of 289 Indians died in terror strikes.
Data collected by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism contracted with the US state department revealed that Taliban, Islamic State and Boko Haram were the three deadliest terror groups globally. They were followed by CPI(Maoist), a banned outfit.
The CPI(Maoist) was responsible for 343 terror attacks in 2015, killing 176 people. Taliban were involved in 1,093 strikes in which 4,512 people lost their lives, IS launched 931 attacks which claimed the lives of 6,050 people and Boko Haram was involved in 491 attacks killing 5,450 people. Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which rounded off the top five in the list, was involved in 238 strikes, killing 287.

Over half the terror attacks in India took place in four states - Chhattisgarh (21%), Manipur (12%), J&K (11%) and Jharkhand+ (10%). Chhattisgarh, which has been hit hard by Left-wing extremism, reported a doubling of terror attacks in 2015 - from 76 in 2014 to 167.
The report said there was great diversity in the perpetrators/terrorist groups involved in attacks in the country, with 45 outfits active across the country. The Naxals alone accounted for 43% of terrorist attacks in India last year. The report said the number of people kidnapped/taken hostage by terrorists and insurgent groups in India almost tripled in 2015, increasing to 862 from 305 in 2014. Of this, Naxals alone kidnapped/took hostage 707 persons last year compared with 163 in 2014. In 2014, there were no attacks in which 50 or more people were kidnapped or taken hostage while in 2015, there were seven such attacks, all of them attributed to Maoists.

Riaz Haq said...

When India's founding father Mohandas Gandhi started "Quit India" movement to seek India's independence from Britain, the colonial rulers of British India responded by imposing "The Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance of 1942" on August 15, 1942.

After independence in 1947, the Indian government has made extensive use of the same colonial-era British law to crush legitimate demands for freedom by the peoples of Assam, Manipur, Kashmir and other regions. The Act has now been in force in Kashmir for 26 years.

While Indian government claims Kashmir as an integral part of India, it undermines its own claim by denying fundamental rights to Kashmiris, the rights that are granted by the Indian constitution to all Indian citizens.

Riaz Haq said...

An Unfinished Revolution: A Hostage Crisis, Adivasi Resistance and the Naxal Movement review: From ground zero

A journalist’s troubled stories from the heartland
On March 14, 2012, two Italian tourists, Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo, were taken hostages by Naxalites in Kandhamal district of Odisha. During the month-long crisis, Kishalay Bhattacharjee was part of a team of journalists that engaged with Sabyasachi Panda, leader of the Maoist group, and facilitated the release of Colangelo.

This is the typical boots-on-the-ground reportage that takes a reader deep into the jungles of eastern India, where Maoists and mosquitoes swamp the anonymous lives of Adivasis. Bhattacharjee and a host of other TV reporters landed up in a small township, Daringbari, on the fringe of that forest in Kandhamal in 2012, in search of news on the two Italians who had been kidnapped.

And thus began an unusual saga that is one of the key highlights of this narrative. A small township bathed in harsh summer sun and poor mobile connectivity was now a key dateline. TV journalists were competing to do live telecasts, and one of those days Bhattacharjee and team slipped out into the forest.

Bhattacharjee places his entire experience against his growing up years of the 1970s and 1980s, when a wave of armed left-wing movements struck at the zamindars and police in various parts of India. What started in the Naxalbari village of West Bengal later became a fad among the restless youth of many campuses, and urban youth descended in dozens into the forests of central India. They were there to fight for the rights of the Adivasis, against the oppressive state.

The romance has all but disappeared. The movement of urban youth is now mostly populated by Adivasis, who are now its foot-soldiers.

This book is a sobering read about the reality of modern India. Across the wildly beating heart of this country, where tribals live in harmony with thick forests and wild animals, under which great mineral wealth is deposited, the nation is at war. The Adivasi is caught in the middle. Every actor in the theatre — extraction industry promoters and police, the Maoist fighters and the NGO activists, missionaries and religious leaders — is claiming that his actions will improve the lot of Adivasis. For now, however, there is only blood on their broken streets and sleepless nights. Unless peace returns to the heartland, India will never find its place among liberal democracies

Riaz Haq said...

#India’s Indigenous people pay price of #Modi's #tiger conservation. Only 1% of over 100 million #Indian #Adivasis have been granted land rights despite gov't forest rights law of 2006, which aims to “undo the historical injustice”. #BJP via @AJEnglish

Officials were celebrating just hours away from several of India’s major tiger reserves when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in the southern city of Mysuru that the country’s tiger population has steadily grown to more than 3,000 since its flagship conservation programme began 50 years ago over concerns that the numbers of the big cats were dwindling.

“India is a country where protecting nature is part of our culture,” Modi said in his speech on Sunday. “This is why we have many unique achievements in wildlife conservation.”

Modi also launched the International Big Cats Alliance, which he said will focus on the protection and conservation of seven big cat species: the tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, puma, jaguar and cheetah.

But Indigenous people, known as Adivasi in India, say wildlife conservation projects have displaced members of their community over the past half-century. Adivasi communities in Karnataka organised protests last month to highlight how their people, who have lived in forests for centuries, have been kept out of conservation efforts.

Project Tiger began in 1973 after a census of the big cats found India’s tigers were quickly going extinct through habitat loss, unregulated sport hunting, increased poaching and retaliatory killings by people. Lawmakers and officials tried to address these issues, but the conservation model centered around creating protected reserves where ecosystems can function undisturbed by people.

Several Indigenous groups say the conservation strategies, deeply influenced by American environmentalism, have meant uprooting numerous communities who had lived in the forests for millennia.

Members of several Adivasi groups set up the Nagarahole Adivasi Forest Rights Establishment Committee to protest against evictions from their ancestral lands and seek a voice in how the forests are managed.

“Nagarahole was one of the first forests to be brought under Project Tiger, and our parents and grandparents were probably among the first to be forced out of the forests in the name of conservation,” said JA Shivu, 27, who belongs to the Jenu Kuruba tribe. “We have lost all rights to visit our lands, temples or even collect honey from the forests. How can we continue living like this?”

The fewer than 40,000 Jenu Kuruba people are one of the 75 tribal groups whom the Indian government classifies as particularly vulnerable.

Jenu, which means honey in the southern Indian Kannada language, is the tribe’s primary source of income. Its members collect it from beehives in the forests to sell. Adivasi communities like the Jenu Kurubas are among the poorest in India.