Tuesday, April 6, 2010



There are two Indias.

The dazzling India which we see every day on our TV channels, in the spins of our political leaders and in the writings of our so-called strategic analysts. This is the India which, according to them, is moving rapidly forward to take up its position as a world power, which is courted by the other nations of the world.

But there is another India which we rarely see or write about. This is the India of grinding poverty---- a victim of social exploitation of the worst kind, where the inhabitants---mainly tribals--- are treated like chattels and domestic animals by the upper caste political leaders, landlords and forest contractors.

We rarely see India of negative images because it has been sought to be pushed under the carpet by the dazzling India, which feels embarrassed to admit to the world that such an India exists 63 years after independence.

It is this India kept pushed under the carpet, which has managed to struggle its way out from under the carpet and is hitting out with ferocity at all its perceived exploiters---- whether in the Government or in the society.

It is this India coming out from under the carpet, which is flocking to the banners of the Maoist ideologues and taking to arms against the Government and its social exploiters. For it, the Government is not of the people, by the people and for the people, but of the exploiters, by the exploiters and for the exploiters.

Unless we have the moral courage to admit this harsh reality we are going to see more and more incidents of utter savagery as we saw on April 6,2010, in the Dantewada district of Chattisgarh where a group of Maoists ---estimated at between 300 and 1000--- ambushed and butchered about 75 members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), who had gone into the jungles for counter-insurgency operations.

This is not the first incident of butchery of the security forces in the history of our counter-insurgency operations. This will not be the last unless and until we realize that counter-insurgency is not only about putting down violence against the State and Society, but also about making resort to violence unnecessary by addressing the problems and grievances of the tribals.

It would be very easy to dismiss the Maoist insurgency as the political manipulation of illiterate or semi-literate tribals by Maoist ideologues from cities to achieve political power through the barrel of the gun. Yes, there is an element of cynical political manipulation of the tribals by many city-bred Maoist ideologues.

But the claim of political manipulation alone cannot explain how hundreds and hundreds of tribals are flocking to the banners of the Maoists. Intense anger over the failures of successive Governments to recognize and address their problems are driving them to heed the calls of the ideologues to massacre their perceived class enemies.

Unless and until we have a two-pronged approach to the problem---better counter-insurgency to put down violence and better governance and administration to remove the expoitation of the tribals by the non-tribals and improve their quality of life, blood will continue to flow in the jungles and roads of the tribal homelands in Central India.

Tribal India had always posed law and order problems. The tribal homelands in the North-East did so when Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were Prime Ministers. They put down the Chinese and Pakistani supported tribal insurgency in the North-East with a firm hand. At the same time, they interacted vigorously with the tribal people and addressed their problems in an attempt to wean them away from violence. Nehru started a special service called the Indian Frontier Administration Service (IFAS) and inducted the best officers from other services into it to improve governance in the tribal areas not only in the North-East, but also in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. They were always ready for a dialogue with the tribal leaders---even with those who had taken to arms against the State.

They addressed poverty and social injustice not only in the tribal areas, but also in the rest of the country. Indira Gandhi used to start her day every day by mingling with poor and exploited people outside her residence and listening to their tales of woe. Her shoulders were always available to the poor and exploited to rest their head on and cry.

After Rajiv Gandhi, we have had a succession of Prime Ministers without a human touch in governance and administration in the tribal areas. They tend to look upon the tribal revolt in Central India as purely a problem of law and order, but not also as a problem with human dimensions.

The Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh is rarely seen or heard. He hardly ever mingles with the poor and downtrodden in the tribal belt of Central India. He deals with the tribal belt of Central India in the same way as the Pakistani leaders deal with the tribals of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)---- as mainly a problem to be tackled by the security forces as if the political class has no responsibility for leadership.

There is hardly a medium and long-term strategy --- with a judicious mix of the law and order and hearts and minds dimensions. All new ideas on counter-insurgency coming up are about how to make the security forces more effective. It is important for them to be effective . But it is equally---if not more---important for the political leadership to be seen by the tribals as caring and sensitive to their anger and bitterness towards their exploiters.

The time has come for the Prime Minister to take up in his hands the responsibility for working out a comprehensive political, operational and human strategy for dealing with the problems of the tribal homelands in Central India

If we continue to dither as we are doing now, Mao Zedong may have his last laugh in India. (7-4-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )


Maoist rebels kill 75 Indian police

Victims ambushed at dawn in thick forest in Chhattisgarh

Jason Burke, South Asia correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 April 2010 11.52 BST
Article history

Maoist rebels exercise at a base in the Abujh Marh forests, Chattisgarh, in 2007. Photograph: Mustafa Quraishi/AP

At least 75 paramilitary policemen were killed in a dawn ambush by Maoist rebels in thick forest in central India today. The loss was one of the worst in a single attack by the insurgents in many years and highlights the increasingly serious problem extremist leftwing violence poses to the country.

Several hundred fighters from the Communist party of India (Maoist) appeared to have used mines and small arms against a unit of 120 men from the central reserve police force.

The force was taking part in a months-long operation in the central state of Chhattisgarh aimed at re-establishing state authority in thousands of square miles of territory now under the sway of the insurgents. This year has seen a series of such attacks though the latest is by far the most ambitious and deadly.

"Something has gone very wrong," the Indian home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, said. "They seem to have walked into a trap."

The Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who has recently described the Maoists as the greatest internal security threat currently facing his country, described his shock.

B Raman, a former senior policeman and intelligence operative, said that it would "go down as a black day" in the history of India's counter-insurgency efforts. "It is a very serious incident. It shows above all the level of popular support the Maoists have in that area, especially if the strength of the ambush force was as high as is thought," Raman told the Guardian.

Although government officials, police and alleged "informers" are often among their targets, Maoists also regularly attack rail lines and factories. A statement from a captured Maoist leader released to media a few weeks ago revealed how the group extorts hundreds of millions of pounds from local companies every year.

The insurgents largely operate in remote areas where strategically important and precious resources such as bauxite, uranium, iron ore and diamonds are found. "The growing activities of Maoists are threatening iron ore mining," said Ashok Surana, head of a leading industrial body, Mini Steel Plant Association. They are also known as Naxalites, after Naxalbari, a village in the state of West Bengal where their movement was born in 1967 in a heady mix of rural protest and urban ideology.

A first wave of agitation was crushed in the early 1970s. Since then violence has mounted as the Maoists exploit resentment among very poor, marginalised rural communities which have not benefited from India's recent economic growth.

"There is a lot of exploitation, poverty, land loss and alienation," said Raman.

Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of "tribal" or adivasi communities. They are now present in nearly a third of India's 630 districts. The rebels carried out more than 1,000 attacks last year, killing more than 600 people.

GK Pillai, a senior interior ministry official, said last month that the campaign against the Maoists would take 10 years at least. He said the hardest fighting was still to come. Yesterday Pillai promised "much firmer action".



6/4 will go down as a black day in the history of India's counter-insurgency just as 26/11 became a black day in the history of Indian counter-terrorism.

2. In a well-prepared and well-executed attack of unprecedented mobilisation, precision and savagery a large number of Maoists (Naxalites_) --- estimated by the local police to be about 1000 strong--- ambushed a combined party of over 80 members of the Central Resereve Police Force (CRPF) and the District Police returning from road security duty and managed to kill 72 members of the CRPF and one member of the District police force on April 6,2010. The Maoists had reportedly taken up position on a hill overlooking the route by which the party was returning after performing its task. It is not clear whether the route was a regular road or a motorable jungle track. The ambush took place in the thick Mukrana forests of Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district.

3. The fact that the Maoists were able to mobilise such a large number of persons for the ambush would indicate that they had advance indication of the return of the CRPF party by that route. They might have had advance intelligence of the plans of the party or they might have assessed that the CRPF might be returning by this road after watching the CRPF men conduct search and destroy operations in the area for three days.

4. A rule of precaution in counter-insurgency operation is that you don't use the same route for going to an operational area and for returning from there. Often, this precaution is not followed by the security forces either due to carelessness or due to the fact that the security forces do not have much of a choice due to the poor development of roads in the jungle areas in which the Maoists operate.

5. One may recall an incident a couple of years ago when a large police party had gone by boat from Andhra Pradesh into Orissa . The Maoists had noticed them going and had correctly assessed that the AP police party would be returning by the same route. When they did, a large number of Maoists had taken up position on a raised feature overlooking the river and they literally mowed down over 50 members of the police party.

6. We had probably not learnt the right lessons from the river ambush and facilitated a deadly road ambush in thick forests by not following basic dos and donts of counter-insurgency. The CRPF and the District Police have to perform a thankless task for want of proper road and telecommunications networks in the Maoist-infected areas. While the Maoists are trained to treck long distances by foot, the security forces tend to be road and vehicles-bound. They become sitting ducks for the insurgents, who surprise them with explosives and landmines and then mow them down with hand-held weapons. The reflexes of the security forces tend to be weak as could be seen from the fact that there have been very few instances of an ambushed security forces patrol recovering from the ambush and retaliating against the Maoists. Ambushes always tend to be fatal for the security forces with very few instances of successful counter-ambushes by the security forces.

7. Continuing serious deficiencies in rural policing and in police-rural communities relationships have been coming in the way of village help for the police by way of preventive intelligence. Counter-intelligence in the rural areas to prevent the penetration of the security forces by the Maoists is also weak. The fact that only one member of the District Police was killed in the ambush of April 6 as against 72 members of the CRPF makes one suspect possible collusion between the Maoists and some members of the District Police. Since the Maoist and the District Police recruits are recruited from the same rural stock, possibilities of penetration of the new police recruits by the Maoists are high.

8. The time has come to think in terms of using helicopter patrols and spotter drones in our counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists in areas covered by thick jungles. An important question to be examined in this connection is how to prevent civilian casualties of villagers and residents of jungles and avoid environmental damage. (6-4-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )