SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 1, July 19, 2004
assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form
with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal
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
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
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
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
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!"
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
Peace, Expanding Violence
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
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
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts
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