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The Angry Men of Mao

India’s internal security crises are crises of neglect. Despite decades of dealing with insurgency and terrorism, the state still lacks a coherent doctrine, perspective and strategy to counter extremist violence. The permanent internal security apparatus — the Police — is in a state of disrepair, and ‘emergency’ mechanisms — the deployment of paramilitary forces and the Army — have become the staple of internal security management. Official attention fixes essentially and fitfully on the most recent acts of terrorism, but is ever surprised by each new manifestation.

In the late 1990s, when a fractious and often fratricidal Maoist (Naxalite) movement first began to articulate the idea of a ‘Red Corridor’ along India’s eastern board, from Andhra Pradesh to the border with Nepal, the intelligence and security establishment scoffed and dismissed this as a pipe dream. At that time, the Maoist influence was restricted to two principal and mutually antagonistic pockets in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, with a peripheral ‘overflow’ into neighbouring States. Today, a substantially united Communist Party of India (Maoist) has consolidated its influence across and beyond precisely the swathe of territory that had been marked out as the prospective ‘Red Corridor’.

The state’s peculiar and selective blindness persists today. The ‘Red Corridor’ is now thought by many to mark the limits of the Maoist ambition, and it is principally in the ‘affected States’ that an incipient strategic discourse is being articulated. While elements in the establishment, led by the Prime Minister, now acknowledge that the Naxalite movement constitutes India’s greatest internal security challenge, there is little evidence of a detailed recognition of the dimensions of this challenge. Crucially, the Maoist threat is still being assessed in terms of visible violence and subversion.

The Maoists have on their part have made no secret, in their internal documents, that they intend to fish in all available troubled waters in their bid to ‘intensify the peoples’ war throughout the country." The objective of this war is unambiguous: "the seizure of state power should be the goal of all our activity." To this end, they propose to "build open and secret mass organizations amongst the workers, peasants, youth, students, women and other sections of the people and establish a strong mass base."

It is useful to note that the phase of violence, which is ordinarily the point at which the state takes cognizance of the problem, comes at the tail end of the process of mass mobilisation, and at a stage where neutralizing the threat requires considerable, if not massive, use of force, and significant collateral risks. It is useful, consequently, to take cognizance not merely of the current expanse of visible Maoist mobilisation, but the extent of their current plans and projections.

Significantly, the CPI-Maoist has established Regional Bureaus across at least 15 States, and these regions are further sub-divided into state, special zonal and special area committee jurisdictions, where the processes of mobilisation have been defined and allocated to local leaders.

This structure substantially reflects current Maoist plans, but does not exhaust their perspectives or ambitions. There is evidence of preliminary activity for the extension of operations to new areas including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Jammu & Kashmir and Meghalaya, beyond what is reflected in the scope of the various Maoist ‘committees'. In 2004, moreover, the Maoists articulated a new strategy to target urban centres in their ‘Urban Perspective Document’. Two principal ‘industrial belts’ were identified as targets for urban mobilisation: Bhilai-Ranchi-Dhanbad-Calcutta; and Mumbai-Pune-Surat-Ahmedabad.

As the country experiences the most fundamental transformations across a wide range of parameters, a churning process is exacerbating tensions between classes, castes

and communities, creating what Maoists describe as an "excellent revolutionary situation" in the country.

The inability to comprehend the logic of the Maoist ‘protracted war’ underlies the pervasive incoherence of policy and the constant vacillation between ‘negotiated', ‘political', ‘developmental’ and ‘law and order’ solutions. If such an orientation persists, there is a danger that the quiet Maoist consolidation will continue to the point where the entire country is pushed into a crisis beyond its capacities of emergency management.


(Published in Daily News & Analysis, Mumbai, February 4, 2006)






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