India: Force Alone Cannot Crush Maoist Insurrection, activists say

By Altaf Ahmad
150414-IN-maoist-620 People cover the bodies of Indian security personnel killed by Maoist insurgents in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh state, March 11, 2014.

The Indian government cannot defeat Maoist rebels by the gun alone, and it must do more to win over impoverished people living in India’s insurgency-stricken east, human rights and civic advocates say.

The insurgency won’t go away unless the government develops the affected areas, and builds health clinics and schools for tribal communities inhabiting them, according to the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), one of India’s leading human rights groups.

“We have been suggesting that the authorities grant forest rights and restore all basic facilities to resettle tribal people in the abandoned villages,” Sudha Bharadwaj, the PUCL’s general secretary in the state of Chhattisgarh, told BenarNews by phone.

“This would draw tribespeople fighting for their rights closer to the state institutions, and curb Naxalism.”

Rebels strike again

Chhattisgarh is one of several Indian states grappling with the Maoist – or Naxalite – insurgency.

Just in the past few days, 12 policemen were killed and 17 others injured by Maoists in separate attacks in the state.

On Monday, rebels triggered a powerful land-mine blast in Dantewada district, killing five officers and injuring seven.

That followed the killings of seven cops and wounding of 10 others by suspected Maoists in Sukma district on Saturday. Sukma was the site of another Maoist ambush that claimed the lives of 15 policemen on March 11, 2014.

In Saturday’s killings, the rebels ambushed a Special Task Force (STF) convoy, killing five officers, after they had gunned down two other cops, Vijay Kumar Verma, deputy commandant of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Chhattisgarh, told BenarNews.

“Five more cops were killed in indiscriminate firing by the Naxals and 10 others injured. The firing was so intense that cops rushed back, leaving the bodies there. With help from CRPF reinforcements, the bodies of the slain cops were recovered,” he said.

Communist guerrillas

The Maoists say they are fighting to establish a classless society and establish a “red corridor” across much of eastern India.

Maoist guerrilla factions have been fighting the central government for the past three decades. In 2004, they merged into the Communist Party of India (Maoist), an outlawed group.

The Maoists say they are upholding the rights of poor farmers and landless laborers.

“In search operations, mostly ordinary villagers are picked up by the security forces. Such indiscriminate arrests need to be stopped to restore faith of the tribal people in the justice system and prevent further alienation,” said Bharadwaj of the PUCL.

“The deadly attacks in the past three days against security personnel underline the fact that the civil war-like situation does not seem to be dying down,” Bharadwaj added.

In her opinion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is relying too heavily on increasing military and paramilitary operations against the guerrillas without getting to the root of social problems that help fuel the insurgency.

Yet because Maoism is an ideology it cannot be defeated by force, according to Baiga Mahapanchayat, a nongovernmental organization that has been working in Chhattisgarh’s tribal areas for more a decade.

“The government should plan to rehabilitate tribal people displaced from their homes and forest areas,” Rashmi Dwivedi, the NGO’s convener, told Benar News.

“Authorities must realize that tribespeople, animals and forests are one family dependent on each other, and separating them from one another would lead to violence.”


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