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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 1, July 19, 2004

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal



ASSESSMENT


 
PAKISTAN

Musharraf's 'strategic approach' to terrorism
Guest Writer: Mohammad Shehzad
Islamabad-based freelance journalist and writer

What the global community, particularly the US considers 'terrorism' is considered 'jihad' [struggle against injustice] by a powerful section of Pakistani society - a clique of the jihadis, and the rightwing.

9/11 shocked the world reinforcing the fact that terrorism is the biggest threat to global peace. It made General Musharraf change Pakistan's decades-old Afghan policy within no time. It made him ban some jihadi outfits including the high profiled Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] and Jaish-e-Mohammad [JeM] on January 12, 2002.

To assure the world of Pakistan's commitment, on every foreign visit and from time to time at home, Musharraf renews his pledge to fight terrorism. On July 1, 2004, chairing a high level meeting in Islamabad, he said: "South Waziristan has become headquarters of al-Qaeda... terrorists hiding there and their harbourers will be dismantled."

The jihadis and the rightwing, however, are sending different but 'clear' signals. They are in no mood to understand the gravity of 9/11, interpreting it as a Jewish conspiracy against Islam - particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan - and propagate this idea enthusiastically through the mosques' pulpits, public statements and the print and electronic media. Thus, an influential Islamic scholar Dr. Asar Ahmad wrote in the popular Urdu daily Nawa-i-Waqt [May 26, 2004]: "The US wants to make greater Israel by subjugating Iraq. The 9/11 investigations have been stopped because it was masterminded by Israel and the US cannot take any action against the Jews. The 9/11 was not bin Laden's brainchild but of the US, Israel and the Jews. It was masterminded to provide the US an excuse to destroy Afghanistan. In fact, the US wants to make Afghanistan another home for the Jews. It will facilitate Jews' settlement in Afghanistan."

While Musharraf corroborates that Pakistan has become al-Qaeda's headquarters, the top jihad-monger, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed [LeT's founder], challenges its existence outright! "The US has launched a smearing campaign against jihad. It has coined a term 'al-Qaeda'. Through the western media, it propagates false stories about al-Qaeda's fictitious activities against the western interests and maligns the Muslim world," Saeed writes in the monthly Voice of Islam [June 2004].

In an interesting contrast, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the hardliner Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leader, hails al-Qaeda for its attempts on General Musharraf's life. In an interview with Weekly Ghazwa [June 2], Qazi said: "General Musharraf is a traitor. He used to be al-Qaeda' number one patron. But now he has cheated it at the US behest. Therefore, al-Qaeda is right if it attacks him. It will take him on sooner rather than later. The mayhem in Karachi is a reaction to Musharraf's policies against al-Qaeda in South Waziristan."

These and other proclamations lead to a dangerous conclusion: the jihadis / rightwing have their own agenda, and this confronts Musharraf's agenda - if he is committed to eliminating terrorism, the jihadis are committed to eliminating him. Three attempts on his life speak loudly of the jihadis' commitment, and the June 10 attack on the Karachi Corps Commander underscores this reality.

Musharraf's biggest mistake was his poor judgment about the consequences of 9/11. As renowned columnist Ayaz Amir puts it: "It was the US stick that condemned Musharraf to change our Afghan policy. It should have been our own decision. After the 9/11, there was no room for our jihad policy in Kashmir. Musharraf thought by taking a u-turn on the Afghan policy, he would save the Kashmir policy. But Armitage's stick made us change that too."

Musharraf's early post 9/11 policies did not prove his sincerity about fighting terrorism. He thought he would be able to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. His January 12 ban on LeT and JeM was the most farcical, and failed to impress both the international community and analysts at home. The ban itself was the outcome of a mutual agreement between the jihadi outfits and the Musharraf regime. The founders of LeT and JeM - Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar respectively - had been informed in advance about the ban. LeT and JeM simply registered themselves under new names - Jamaat-ud-Dawa [JD] and Khuddam-ul-Islam, respectively - occupying the same infrastructure. The office-bearers of the two outfits kept the same portfolios. Both the groups continued to crank out the same jihadi publications that glorified jihad and spit venom against India and the Hindus.

Unsurprisingly, jihad continued to spread like poison ivy, despite the Musharraf ban. My report [The Friday Times: July 31, 2003] showed that between January-June 2003, the jihad-mongers recruited more than 7,000 young boys, aged between 18 and 25, from various places in Pakistan. LeT and JeM recruited more than 3,350 and 2,235 boys respectively.

On April 2, 2003, Hafiz Saeed addressed a huge rally in Islamabad and openly solicited funds for jihad, displaying banners that invited youth to join the LeT for jihad training. Those days, Islamabad had imposed a ban on public assemblies, but Saeed was permitted to hold the rally.

In October 2002, Musharraf made another mistake that has now become a 'headache' for him. To oust the two mainstream political parties - Pakistan Muslim League [PML] of Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party [PPP] of Benazir Bhutto - he permitted the 'godfathers' of the Taliban to contest the elections under the banner of the MMA - an alliance of six pro-Taliban religious parties. Musharraf also accredited the madrassa (seminary) degrees as equivalent to the BA degree, the minimum qualification he had set for candidates to contest the General Elections. Even as mainstream political leaders were kept away from the election, illiterate clerics were facilitated in their entry to Parliament.

The MMA is now dead set against Musharraf's agenda of the 'war against terror' and labels him and some of his key cabinet members as 'US agents'. These include Shaukat Aziz [the future Prime Minister] and Zobaida Jalal [the Education Minister who is working on curriculum reform]. Of late, Musharraf has started labeling the MMA leaders as 'extremists', 'illiterate', and 'fanatics'.

Three attempts on his life, including two suicide attacks; the attack on Karachi Corps Commander convoy; the killing of 75 soldiers in the South Wazirstan by a handful of al-Qaeda terrorists; MMA's mounting opposition to the on-going military operation in South Waziristan and the deteriorating law and order situation in the country, seem to have transformed Musharraf's strategy to fight terrorism.

Earlier, analysts had remained skeptical of his resolve to fight terrorism. This perception seems to be diluting now. Ayaz Amir notes, "Two attempts on his life have made him serious about his resolve to fight jihadis. Now the jihadis and the state are not at the same wavelength. The direction of the state has changed. Pakistan cannot wage a war against jihadis. Army has nurtured them for the last 20 years. A 'Hafiz-ul-Asad' type crackdown is not going to work, neither is it needed...'

Taking a leaf out of the British empires' book, Musharraf has resorted to the 'divide-and-rule' stratagem to weaken the jihadis. Knowing that Hafiz Saeed had become strong enough to defy him, Musharraf has successfully orchestrated a split in the JD, just as he had earlier done with PML and PPP. The larger-than-life Saeed has now been made a midget. Dr. Zafar Iqbal - the co-founder of LeT - will be the new chief of the JD faction that is now called Khair-un-Naas (KN), which means 'public welfare'. The calculation is that his moderate views would help promote Musharraf's agenda.

After the jihadis, the MMA is the biggest hindrance to Musharraf's agenda. The MMA wants Musharraf to stop military operations in South Waziristan; shed his uniform by the year end; drop curriculum reforms and changes in hudood and blasphemy laws, etc. In other words, it is asking Musharraf to push the country back into the pre-9/11 period. It is now an open secret that Musharraf has made up his mind to deal with the MMA in a decisive manner.

In the coming days, the MMA Governments will be dissolved, and that is why the MMA has once again revived shariat issue in the NWFP. It has barred Government officials from attending dance/music parties. It has vowed to force people to prayers with the stick - a system very common in Saudia Arabia. MMA plans to link the imminent dissolution of its Government to Islam and shariat in order to win the people's sympathies and malign Musharraf as a 'US stooge'.

If Musharraf is successful in dealing with the MMA, it will be easier for him to continue as both the President and Army Chief for an indefinite period. "There will be no reaction within the Army if he does not shed his uniform. Was there any reaction when Hosni Mubarik continued in his office for 20 years? Was there any reaction when Suharto refused to step down?" argues Ayaz Amir. "...But this is not the solution. Army is part of the problem in Pakistan. The solution lies in doing three things: one, you have to make the society more democratic; two, you have to stop becoming the satellite of the US; three, you have to stop supporting the mullahs. By becoming the US satellite, the country is just strengthening the jihadis and the rightwing that thrives on its anti-US philosophy. The country is thus neither going to democracy nor is getting rid of the US."

Pakistan will have to wait and see whether Musharraf's new strategy delivers or boomerangs. But one thing is certain - Pakistan's history proves that it has always been pushed into crisis whenever a military dictator ruled it. General Ayub's martial law resulted in the disintegration of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh; General Zia's martial law radicalized the moderate Pakistani society and promoted the jihadi culture. It remains to be seen what legacy General Musharraf leaves behind. But the words of an American diplomat are significant in this context: "If Musharraf could really cleanse Pakistan of the jihadi culture, he could go into the annals of Pakistan history as a leader greater than Jinnah!"


 
INDIA
BANGLADESH

Mystery Killings in Dhaka
Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management

Once again, news that otherwise has serious ramifications for Indo-Bangladesh trans-border terror politics, has come to be hotly contested by authorities in Dhaka. On the night of July 17, 2004, there were multiple attacks by unidentified gunmen in Dhaka's Segun Bagicha, Dhanmondi and Shyamali localities, in which an indefinite number, reportedly up to 24, separatist militants from Northeast India were killed and several others wounded. News about this incident originated from Guwahati and Agartala, capitals of the Northeast Indian States of Assam and Tripura respectively, citing senior police and intelligence sources. The incidents themselves had been confirmed - though fatalities reported were much lower - in initial reports by Bangladeshi newspapers including Inquilab, Daily Ittefaq, Janakantha, Daily Prothombhor, and Ajker Kagoz. Most such publications, however, have since 'retracted' their reports, possibly under Government pressure.

Reports received indicate that rebels of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), People's Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur and the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), had gathered for a meeting in the Bangladesh capital when they came under attack in four separate locations, leading to the death of at least 24 militants. Some reports suggest that most of those killed were ULFA cadres. Bangladesh was quick to deny that anything of that sort had happened. Dhaka Police Commissioner Ashraful Huda was quoted by an international news agency, saying, "There is no truth to these claims."

Indian sources are sticking to their story about the July 17 incident, and there are reports of increased vigil along the porous Indo-Bangladesh border that runs 4,095 kilometres along the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and West Bengal. S.C. Srivastava, Inspector General of the BSF's Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland frontier, stated: "We have already alerted the border outposts after the killings (in Dhaka)."

There have been several such incidents in the past involving Northeast Indian insurgents in Bangladesh, which authorities in India insist did happen, and Dhaka, as always, flatly denies. Despite Bangladesh's undiluted position that no Indian insurgents were operating from within its territory, New Delhi has been firm in insisting that there were, at last count, at least 210 camps of various Northeast Indian rebel groups in that country, and cite a number of incidents to reinforce their claim, including, most recently:

  • On January 2, 2004, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) raided a hideout of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and captured six of its cadres and seized some weapons and a mobile telephone set. According to media reports originating from Bangladesh, the NLFT camp that was raided was located near Karisapunji village under Chunarughat upazilla in Habiganj district. The United News of Bangladesh identified those arrested as Kokek Tripura (22), Philip Debbarma (24), Manjak Debbarma (20), Bukhuk Debbarma (24), Satish Debbarma (25) and Shoilen Debbarma (25).
  • In another incident on January 2, 2004, the rebel All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) 'Chief', Ranjit Debbarma's residence in Dhaka was attacked by rocket propelled grenades (RPG). Indian media reports said five ATTF rebels were killed in that attack and eight others, including Debbarma, was wounded.
  • The same day, January 2, 2004, Bangladeshi security forces reportedly arrested as many as 34 rebels belonging to the ULFA from different parts of Dhaka. Some Bangladeshi newspapers, including Jugantar, quoted police officials as saying the militants were arrested after raids at different places including Mohammedpur, Green Road and Gulshan, all upmarket localities in Dhaka. According to Jugantar, four people who were caught while making bombs at a house in the city's Mohammedpur area, had received treatment at the Suhrawardy Hospital, concealing their identities.

Dhaka chose to remain silent on the reports relating to the raid and the arrest of six NLFT rebels, as well as the bomb attack on the residence of the ATTF chief. However, Bangladesh did come out with a formal denial of reports about the arrest of 34 ULFA militants in Dhaka. "We would like to categorically state that the reports (about the ULFA rebels' capture) are false, baseless and concocted and have been fabricated to strain the friendly relations between Bangladesh and India. No such incidents took place in the capital city of Dhaka," a Home Ministry Press Release issued in Dhaka on January 3, 2004, said. The Bangladesh Home Ministry statement added: "We would also like to reassert the well-known position of the Government of Bangladesh that Bangladesh has never allowed or assisted insurgent groups of any country for acts against that country and this policy was being pursued by the Government consistently and rigorously."

It is likely that Dhaka would continue to hold on to its position that Indian insurgents were not operating from the country. Under the circumstances, things are not going to move beyond claims and counter-claims. There is little scope in international law that could allow New Delhi to ascertain the identity of those of its citizens who it insists get killed from time to time in alleged shootouts inside Bangladesh, and any confirmation that these are separatist militants is nigh impossible without explicit - and highly improbable - cooperation from Bangladeshi authorities.

Insofar as Bangladesh is concerned, simple denials of Indian claims of anti-India militants operating from that country cannot hold good for long. With claims of Northeast Indian insurgents getting involved in gun battles inside Bangladesh coming up more rapidly than ever, Dhaka will eventually have to come clean on the issue, better sooner rather than later. With global attention on Bangladesh, especially after Western media reports identified the country as an emerging hub of Islamist terror, Dhaka cannot afford to continue to pretend that rebels from across the border in India's Northeast have not been given a free run in parts of the country.

INDIA

Manipur: Lessons Never Learnt
Bibhu Prasad Routray
Acting Director, ICM Database & Documentation Centre, Guwahati

On July 15, 2004, a dozen women stripped in front of the Assam Rifles (AR) establishment in the heart of Imphal city, catalyzing escalating protests against the alleged custodial death of a 30-year old woman, which eventually culminated in extreme violence. At least seven government offices have been set on fire by violent protestors, till the filing of this report, as the State administration goes into a huddle to decide its response. The series of incidents in Manipur since July 11 has reopened the larger debate on the role of the security forces (SFs) in counter-insurgency operations and the existence of the 'special laws' that protect them.

Thangjam Manorama, who the AR sources describe as a hardcore cadre of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), was arrested from her residence in Bamonkampu Mayai Leikai in the early hours of July 11, and an arrest memo was issued to this effect. A few hours later her dead body was recovered four kilometres away from her residence, with, according reports and versions put out by protestors, 'visible marks' of torture and 'rape'. The AR personnel termed the incident an encounter, which ensued as Manorama attempted to flee while leading the security forces to a PLA hideout. While facts are few in the current and heated debate, the incident has fuelled tremendous dissent and a series of protests against the role and presence of the SFs in the State and the continuance of Acts such as the Armed Forces (Assam & Manipur) Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958.

The AFSPA was promulgated in 1958 under extraordinary circumstances, to deal with the insurgency in the then Naga Hills of Assam. The AFSPA was introduced in Manipur in 1980 and, over the years, has drawn tremendous opposition from various 'human rights' organisations in the State, who term it a 'horrendous' Act, which provides 'complete immunity' to SF personnel.

The Act does provide wide ranging power to "any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces" in a disturbed area to either open fire, arrest or conduct search operations "without warrant" for "maintenance of public order." Section 6 provides, further: "No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act." Section 5 of the Act, however, does provide that: "Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made over to the officer-in-charge of the nearest police station with the least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest", and there may be an apparently violation in the Thangjam Manorama case.

Human rights organizations claim that the Manorma case was far from the exception, and one count puts the number of youth killed in Manipur in 'fake encounters' between February 26 and March 15 this year, at 13. Other incidents of alleged excesses since reported in the open source, include:

  • April 3: three youths had to be hospitalised as AR personnel beat up several villagers of Keirak village under Kakching police station following a militant attack on their camp the previous day.
  • April 5: a woman escaped with a minor bullet injury as CRPF personnel allegedly fired indiscriminately in the Old Market area in Churachandpur after a burst tyre was mistaken for a militant bomb attack.
  • April 28: a Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) cadre Lukram Sunil, alias Ibomcha, of Oksu Mamang Leikai was 'arrested' from his home and his dead body was recovered the same day.
  • May 4: AR personnel reportedly picked up Meghachandra alias Ramesh, a former People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) cadre, from his residence in Leimapokpam Khunpham Makha Leikai in Bishnupur district, and his dead body was recovered in the evening.
  • May 6: five villagers were hospitalised after they are said to have been thrashed by AR personnel at Nongdam camp under Lamlai police station.
  • May 11: a former PLA cadre Hanjabam Bobby Sharma was severely tortured after being picked up from his residence at Khoyathong Pollem Leikai by AR personnel. He was later found abandoned near the Kangla Moat in Imphal city.
  • May 20: two youths went missing after being picked up from their residences at Mayang Langjing under Lamsang police station in Imphal West district.
  • May 25: Dead bodies of two youth were recovered after AR personnel picked them up from their homes at Kangpokpi area in Senapati district.
  • May 31: a relative of Manipur food and civil supplies minister Pheiroijam Parijat Singh died in Army custody after being picked up by Army personnel from his residence at Nongada Awang Leikai in Imphal East district.
  • June 9: Thokchom Doren was arrested by AR personnel from Lamjao and was found killed the next morning.

As protests on the Manorama issue mount, the State Government has clamped a curfew in the affected areas, which include two adjacent districts of Bishnupur and Thoubal, in addition to the districts of Imphal East and Imphal West. It has further constituted an inquiry to investigate the case. The AR has also instituted an inquiry and has taken the accused men off duty, pending the submission of the inquiry report within a 'short period.' Going by past records and the utility of numerous such 'inquiry commissions' whose reports seldom see the light of day, such steps have done little to contain public ire.

The Army, however, holds that there is a "pattern to the protests", which peak whenever the application of the AFSPA comes up for periodic renewal (The AFSPA was renewed in Manipur on June 1, 2004). Authorities assert that the women who stripped in front of the AR Complex were all from "one village" in an area "indoctrinated heavily" by the militants. Insisting that discipline in the SFs is strong and that rogue elements are routinely punished, the Army has disclosed that, over the past 14 years, 66 of its men have been punished in the Northeast after they were found guilty of excesses. Lt. Gen. J.R. Mukherjee, Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, on June 11, 2004, said that, "99 per cent of the allegations are exaggerations." Even as the AR authorities in Imphal instituted an inquiry commission to look into the Manorama killing, another statement from the Assam Rifles Headquarters in Shillong on July 17, 'categorically' stated that "she was a hardcore PLA sergeant, an IED expert", and was killed "as she tried to flee on the pretext of responding to the call of nature."

The SFs are in a significant bind in Manipur. Counter-insurgency operations in Manipur appear to have little impact on levels of violence, though militancy has registered a sharp decline in other States of the region. Over a dozen militant outfits operate in the State, deriving sustenance not only from carefully maintained arms supply routes, camps in Myanmar and Bangladesh and an enormous extortion regime, but also from a pervasive intelligence network and, crucially, their capacity to evoke sympathy from a substantial segment of the general public. Security forces, on the other hand, remain an alien force, in spite of efforts to establish themselves as the 'friends and guardians of the people'. Incidents like the Manorama case reinforce such alienation and have a force multiplying impact on the militancy. Six attacks on SF installations in the districts of Chandel, Churachandpur and Bishnupur have been executed by the militants since July 11, the day Manorama was killed.

According to information from Imphal, the Chief Minister is scheduled to meet Opposition leaders to discuss the possibilities of recommending the withdrawal of the AFPSA. The existence or otherwise of the Act, however, may have little impact on human rights practices and protection. Assam, for instance, also registers a number of cases of custodial rape and torture even though the AFSPA is not in force in that State. In the murk of endemic violence across the State, there is little hope of relief for the people who have come to live under the constant shadow of guns - both those of the rebels and of the state.

 
INDIA

Naxalites: Unprincipled Peace, Expanding Violence
Nihar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

The dangers of incoherence in India's counter-insurgency policy are once again in evidence. As State Governments - encouraged by the Centre - engage in a 'peace process' with particular groups in one State, the same groups use the opportunities of the 'ceasefire' to extend operations to virgin territories, even as they consolidate activities in areas of current domination. This is a pattern witnessed again and again - but one that fails to register in the minds of India's political leaders.

Immediately after assuming power in Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy's Government announced an 'unofficial' suspension of operations against the Naxalites (Left Wing extremists) of the People's War Group (PWG), on May 16, 2004, a move that was confirmed by an 'official ceasefire' on June 16, 2004. With the pressure off in Andhra Pradesh, the PWG has now shifted attention to neighbouring Karnataka, with a suddenly intensified focus on the 'socio-economic problems' of the tribals in the areas around the Kudremukh National Park (KNP).

As they expand into this virgin territory, the Western Ghats (hill areas) of Karnataka are fast emerging as a new base for Naxalites. Training camps and village meetings are being organized, unemployed youth are being recruited, and pamphlets protesting the eviction of tribals by the Government have been widely distributed within a campaign for political mobilisation. With an adequate armoury of weapons including 8 mm rifles, single or double-barrel breech loading guns and hand grenades, besides a abundant supply of ammunition, their 'influence' is becoming rapidly entrenched in the region. These developments were brought to light in June 2004, when the Naxalites invited a group of journalists to highlight their demands. During this interaction, the 'Secretary' of the Karnataka Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) People's War (PW) State Committee, Prem, disclosed that the committee had decided to form armed squads in the State in May 2002. This became 'necessary', he argued, as the State, through its Police Force, began a series of 'repressive measures' against the local people. The people - tribals, farmers and daily wage agriculturists - were targeted because they opposed the Government's plans to evict them from the KNP.

The 'Secretary' of the Karnataka CPI-ML-PW State Committee also demanded that the Government immediately end eviction of the tribals from the KNP in Chikamagalur district, put an end to combing operations by the Police and disband the Rapid Action Force, which was formed to track down its cadres.

The PWG had earlier established an incipient presence in the eastern part of the State - in Raichur and Gulbarga - but was shifting base from these areas because of their vulnerability, both from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, as these areas did not provide any natural cover to escape Police operations. On August 27, 1999, the Raichur rural Police had killed PWG leader Bhaskar while three others managed to escape. In another incident, Naxalite leader Ramesh had been arrested in May 2001.

The PWG's thrust into the Western Ghats of Karnataka, once again, exploits the failures, indeed, follies, of the state. It is the continued neglect of the tribals in the KNP area by successive Governments that have created the conditions for the easy entry of the Naxalites. Kudremukh was declared National Park under sub section (1) of section 35 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, on September 2, 1987, by the State Government for the protection of the highly endangered species in the forests, including the Malabar Civet, the king cobra and the flying lizard.

In 1998, the State Government started issuing notices to the tribals to quit the national park area without even providing an opportunity for public hearings. The Forest Department joined the efforts of the Revenue Department to evict farmers and tribals from the KNP area, imposing fines for 'encroaching' on Government land and warning them that if they did not leave the Park, they would be treated on par with poachers.

This intensified the series of agitations which have, in fact, been initiated and sustained over the past 10 years by young members of over 1,350 families that had dwellings in the newly earmarked KNP area in Belthangady taluk (administrative division), and who had been under sustained pressure as a result of the Forest Department's moves to evict them. The discontent among the tribals is now being well exploited by the Naxalites.

The Naxalites have established four armed groups - Tunga, Bhadra, Netravathi and Hemavati - in the affected Malnad Region, covering four districts. Each group or dalam has 15 to 16 members each, and these are operating in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Chikmagalur, and Shimoga districts. Sources indicate that some 50 'hard core' elements, owing allegiance to the PWG, are operating in Karnataka. In addition, reports available with the state Home Department indicate that the PWG has established three tiers in the State - the People's Guerilla Army (PGA), Local Guerrilla Army (LGA) and Striking Guerrilla Army (SGA), besides the dalams. The State Committee of the PWG has five members and four District Committees (DCs) - Perspective Area DC, Bangalore DC, Shimoga DC and Uttara Kannada DC.

The movement of Naxalites in the Malnad areas had been noticed by the predecessor S.M. Krishna Government, and, in response, a Rs. 600 million rehabilitation scheme had been announced in November 2003 to treat the socio-economic problems arising out of poverty and lack of basic amenities for those living in the forest areas. In addition, as a direct counter-insurgency measure, the authorities had planned to involve villagers in combing operations through Grama Rakshana Samitis (Village Defense Committees, VDCs) but neither of these initiatives has materialized so far. Although the present Karnataka Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, has ruled out a cease-fire or cessation of Police operations against the Naxalites, he has expressed interest in pursuing a negotiated solution. He continues, nevertheless, to reiterate that the State Government would deal with Naxalite violence as a 'law and order problem' and act accordingly.

It is significant that the socio economic conditions prevailing in the Malnad region are not quite as serious as the PWG projects them to be. In fact, the PWG had conducted a survey called 'SOCOMA' (social conditions in Malnad) in the early 1990's to assess whether conditions in the Western Ghats were conducive to the expansion of the Naxalites' base in the region. The survey, however, found that there was no acute poverty in the region, though class divisions did exist. Nevertheless, the PWG leadership decided to expand its operation into the area for 'strategic' reasons, and began to highlight the eviction issue in order to secure the sympathy of the local tribals. This is, in fact, the only issue available for exploitation in the region.

It is useful to recall, in this context, that when the Chandrababu Naidu Government initiated peace talks with the extremists in Andhra Pradesh in 2002, Jharkhand had witnessed a dramatic rise in violence. This time, it appears that the opportunities of peace are to be exploited in Karnataka.

The infirmity of a policy of selective negotiations with the Naxalites is demonstrated elsewhere as well. In Jharkhand, while the PWG has evinced interest in peace talks with the Government, its ally, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) - with whom the PWG is engaged in 'unification talks' - has opposed any such move. To demonstrate its displeasure at the peace initiatives in Jharkhand, MCC activists killed six Jharkhand Armed Police personnel, including an assistant sub-inspector, in a landmine explosion near Rania in the Ranchi district on June 22. The MCC is also conducting intensive training programmes and efforts to cement their base in the West and East Singhbhum Districts in the State.

Violence and consolidation activities by Naxalites in other States have also continued uninterrupted. Most recently, in Bihar, two persons were gunned down and seven kidnapped by the MCC in the Gaya district on July 9; and a police picket was attacked at Simrahni in Champaran district on July 14. In Chhattisgarh, MCC cadres killed and dismembered the body of a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Sarguja district on July 12. In Uttar Pradesh, the MCC killed two guards at a stone crushing company in Chahawan on June 30.

In Andhra Pradesh itself, while the Government considers lifting the nine-year ban on the PWG, the group has intensified its mobilization drive after the withdrawal of state para-military forces from operational duties. Torchlight rallies, recruitment parades and praja darbars (people's courts) have been held across wide areas, including villages such as Bellamkonda, Dachepalli, Veidurthy, and Bollapalli. The PWG has explicitly rejected Chief Minister Reddy's appeal that its armed cadres should confine themselves to forest areas, asserting that the organization has 'every right to propagate its ideology'.

It should be evident that the Naxalite problem - which has seen a galloping expansion over the past decade - cannot be solved through piecemeal talks in individual States. Apart from the fundamental difficulty that the Naxalites have systematically exploited negotiations as a tactic for consolidation and expansion, and even on a presumption of good faith on their part, holding peace talks in one State, while combing operations are carried out in another, can hardly produce positive results against a movement that shows extraordinary unity of ideology and purpose across the entire span of its influence. This has at least been acknowledged by Jharkhand Chief Minister, Arjun Munda, who noted that "the affected States should come together to address the issues of Left Wing extremismů talking to a single group will not solve the problem."

Regrettably, no such unified effort is in evidence. The Central Coordination Committee (CCC) of Naxalite affected States headed by the Union Home Ministry has met twice to discuss the Naxalite problem, but has not been able to evolve any comprehensive strategy to tackle the Naxalite threat in various theaters.

Worse, utter confusion currently appears to prevail in the perspectives of the various State Governments, with a clear division between those who support a ceasefire and negotiations, and those who have predicated such a process on a cessation of criminal activities by the PWG. While Jharkhand's Munda and Chhattisgarh's Dr. Raman Singh have welcomed the peace talks in Andhra Pradesh and evinced interest in replicating the experiment in their States, Karnataka's Dharam Singh has ruled out any cessation of police operations. Naveen Patnaik of Orissa, on the other hand, has maintained a position of studied ambiguity, while Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have remained completely silent on the matter. The CPI-ML has now indicated that it is "not averse to" negotiations with other State Governments, provided "they give up their repressive measures."

Security and intelligence sources, however, believe that this is just another turn of the wheel in a continuous and ruinous policy cycle, which squanders the operational gains of years of struggle by security forces, and creates opportunities for Naxalite consolidation and expansion. This has been substantially confirmed by Buchanna, a recently surrendered PWG guerrilla squad leader, who asserted "Obviously the (PWG's) demands will not be acceptable to any Government and the talks are bound to fail," and that the talks were only intended to 'buy time to regroup'. Nevertheless, this devastating cycle has been repeated by Government after Government in the affected States, inevitably with the same outcome, and is based on a complete misunderstanding of the ideological coherence of the Naxalite movement, which has never displayed signs of dilution or revision that could make what is rejected as 'petty bourgeois democracy' an acceptable option.

 

 

NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
July 12-18, 2004

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

1
0
26
27

INDIA

     Assam

2
0
1
3

     Jammu &
     Kashmir

13
3
22
38

     Left-wing
     Extremism

1
0
0
1

     Manipur

0
1
1
2

     Tripura

4
1
1
6

Total (INDIA)

20
5
25
50

NEPAL

17
5
15
37

PAKISTAN

16
1
0
17

SRI LANKA

2
0
4
6
 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

24 terrorists of groups active in India's Northeast killed during shootout in capital Dhaka: Reports quoting police and intelligence sources said at least 24 terrorists belonging to different outfits operating in the northeastern region were killed and 26 others injured in simultaneous attacks by unknown gunmen at four hideouts in the capital Dhaka on July 17, 2004. The attacks occurred at two hideouts in Segun Bagicha and one each in Dhanmundi and Shyamali, posh residential areas of the capital. Sources said, terrorists of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), People's Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) might have suffered the casualties in the attack which preceded a secret meeting of the outfits. However, Bangladesh authorities have denied the occurrence of any such incident on its soil. Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ashraful Huda was quoted as having said, "We have had no knowledge of such an incident. If such a thing had happened, it would be very big news -- everyone would know about it. I have no knowledge about it." Sentinel Assam; The Daily Star; July 19, 2004.


BHUTAN

National Assembly resolves to prosecute those who helped terrorists: The National Assembly of Bhutan is reported to have resolved that all Bhutanese citizens who, in any way, assisted the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO) terrorists when they were illegally camped in Bhutan until December 2003, would be prosecuted as accomplices and punished according to the provisions of the National Security Act of Bhutan. Kuensel Online, July 17, 2004.


INDIA

Terrorist infrastructure still exists in Pakistan, says US Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage: The visiting US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, said in New Delhi on July 14, 2004, that the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan still exists and stressed that infiltration, which continues, should end. "Clearly, all the infrastructure that supports cross-border terrorism has not been dismantledů Some has been dismantled," Armitage said at a press conference when asked whether the US was convinced that Pakistan had dismantled the terrorist infrastructure existing on its soil. On infiltration, he said "any level of infiltration is too much from our point of view. There is infiltration. You get various opinions here about whether it is up or down. It is down probably. But the point is not to have it at all." The Hindu, July 15, 2004.

Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir escapes assassination attempt in Srinagar: The Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mangat Ram Sharma, escaped a bid on his life when terrorists fired a rifle grenade on his cavalcade near Lala Rukh Hotel in the capital Srinagar on July 13, 2004. Five persons, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police, sustained injuries during the attack which occurred when Sharma was en route to Jehangir Chowk to attend the inauguration ceremony of Kashmir's first fly-over. Daily Excelsior, July 14, 2004.


PAKISTAN

Parent outfit of Lashkar-e-Toiba splits: Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD), the parent outfit of the proscribed Pakistan-based outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), has reportedly split with two senior leaders opposing the leadership of its founder, Prof. Hafeez Mohammed Saeed. JD has split and the rebels have formed a new outfit called Khair-un-Naas (peoples' welfare), Urdu daily Khabren reported. It also said two important office bearers of the JD, Abu Shoaib and Maulana Qari Abdul Hafeez, along with a number of associates have left the outfit and formed another group after failure of negotiations with Saeed. Daily Times, July 18, 2004.



The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

 

South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

Publisher
K. P. S. Gill

Editor
Dr. Ajai Sahni



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