Friday, July 3, 2009

Grievance guerrillas -- KPS GIll

Crack tactics, tackle Maoists


K.P.S. GILL (4 July 2009)

Wherever I have confronted terrorism and insurgency, from early encounters with Naxalism in Assam, through the multiple insurgencies in that state, then, in Kashmir, Punjab and, eventually, in Chhattisgarh, my first effort was always to develop a fair understanding of motive, intent and ideology of the groups. It is out of these that their strategies and tactics flow.
The degree of force, the nature of targets, the tactics and weapons deployed — each of these is defined by the underlying character and objectives of the group’s leadership.
Despite the fact that the Khalistani terrorists claimed to be fighting for Sikh rights, the reality was that this was an opportunistic platform for people who were trying to seize power through the use of limitless and indiscriminate violence. Significantly, a majority of their targets were, in fact, the very Sikhs they claimed to be “protecting”.
On the other hand, I recall, that when local explosives were used in the serial blasts in Hyderabad in August 2007 — at that juncture, for the first time — there was some speculation that the attack may have been engineered by the Maoists. This was a line of conjecture that I rejected immediately. The Maoists have many sins to their name, but putting bombs in public places to target random civilians are not among these.
There was evidently a comprehensive failure of assessment on the part of the Marxists, not only in Lalgarh, but in the preceding proclivity to deny or distort the reality of the Maoist gains in the state. This can partly be explained in terms of the utterly polarised and muddied discourse in India.
What we see is a whole spectrum of perspectives from the ultra-romantic to sweeping condemnation: intellectuals and political players have alternately projected the Maoists as heroic defenders of the oppressed masses, or as “mere” criminals, thugs and extortionists.
The reality lies elsewhere. This is an ideologically motivated grouping – though not all its members could conceivably have a full comprehension of ideology and strategy. This is no different from the agencies of the state: how many footsoldiers of the paramilitary forces or police, for instance, understand the Constitution of India? The core leadership of the Maoists certainly has a coherent vision of ideology and approach. At lower levels, what we have is the mobilisation of “grievance guerrillas”, people who join the ranks because of specific wrongs, deficits and needs.
The crucial element that must be grasped is that the Maoists have never been able to create a “liberated area” anywhere in India. Once the security forces enter, they simply cede territories. There is never a direct and wider confrontation, though small police parties may be opportunistically ambushed.
What was seen at Lalgarh — despite panicked assessments of a Maoist “liberated zone” being carved out — was a transient and tactical disruption based on a specific local incident and through the creation of militant front organisation activity.
Even here, the dominance of the Maoists was vastly exaggerated. While I was in Midnapore — though I was prevented from entering the affected areas — I was able to talk to several villagers coming from what was generally thought to be “Maoist-dominated” territory. Oddly, when they were questioned, the replies encountered were that their village was free from Maoist influence, but others “10 to 15 kilometres away” were controlled by the rebels. Those familiar with such matters will confirm that this is the standard response across India for all unverified rumours.
By and large, the Maoists are essentially making inroads into regions of governmental neglect by trying to dominate areas that are either very lightly governed as a matter of policy, or where the reach of governance has diminished. This was dramatically visible during my tenure in Chhattisgarh.
There was much talk about the situation in Bastar, and how the Maoists had established “dominance” across this vast administrative division — the heart of violence in the state. What I found, however, was that the total presence of police forces in the area was abysmal. Across 39,114 square kilometres was a total sanctioned strength of 2,197 policemen (5.62 per 100 square kilometres). Actual availability was just 1,389, yielding a ratio of just 3.55 policemen per 100 square kilometres.
I recall that I travelled long distances through Chhattisgarh, often late at night, but would not see a single policeman on duty. Another signal abdication was police officers turning up for meetings in civilian clothes to avoid detection by the Maoists.
Much of current discourse attributes far more popular support to the Maoists than is, in fact, the case. Thus, we are told (inaccurately) that the Maoists principally dominate tribal areas because these populations are among the poorest of the poor. What is ignored here is the sheer and demonstrative brutality of the Maoists — cold-blooded killings; the cutting off of limbs for the smallest of infractions; harsh and humiliating punishments for “co-operating” with the government, or otherwise acting against the will of the local Maoist leadership.
This, precisely, was what was on display in Lalgarh. No other tactical purpose was served through the killing of Marxist cadres and the macabre display of at least one corpse for days on end, other than to inspire widespread terror. It is notable that once the security forces had moved back into Lalgarh the thousands who had fled the Maoist terror quickly returned to their homes.
If the Maoists are to be defeated, the state and its agencies will have to develop a detailed understanding of their strategies, tactics and underlying ideology. Such an understanding is now conspicuous by its absence, with the notable exception of the police leadership in Andhra Pradesh and a few officers in the intelligence establishment. To my surprise, it appears to be evidently and abundantly lacking among the Marxists in West Bengal.

Lalgarh: fear, power and obedience

Date:03/07/2009 URL:

Lalgarh: fear, power and obedience

Praveen Swami

Can democratic institutions resist a cult of death?

Four years ago, in a newspaper interview that went unnoticed even in West Bengal, ‘Comrade Dhruba’ described plans for a guerrilla campaign that would stretch from Medinipur to Malda. But the Communist Party of India (Maoist) central committee member had words of reassurance for his impeccably bourgeois, English-speaking audience. “ We do not plan violence in Kolkata,” he said, “ because when we establish our bases there, the people will be forc ed to obey us.”

Marketed as an authentic adivasi rebellion against misrule, backwardness and human rights abuses, the still-unfolding violence in Lalgarh in fact provides graphic insights into exactly how India’s Maoists command obedience. Lalgarh’s key leaders — a caste-Hindu from Andhra Pradesh with a Kalashnikov in hand, and an affluent public-works contractor backed by the Trinamool Congress — have demonstrated that there is an intimate relationship between fear and power.

Fittingly, perhaps, the Lalgarh crisis began with a murderous act of violence — albeit an abortive one. Minutes after West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee left the site of a new steel plant on November 2, 2008, a massive improvised explosive device went off under the road he had just passed over. If rats in the fields around Salboni hadn’t chewed through the kilometre-long wire connecting the IED to the hands which controlled the explosion, Mr. Bhattacharjee would have died.

For months before the bombing, there had been localised protests against the construction of the Rs. 350 billion JSW-Bengal Steel plant at Salboni. No large-scale displacement of local residents was involved. Of the 5,000 acres needed to build the plant, 4,500 acres were owned by the State government, while the remaining 500 were purchased by the JSW-Bengal Steel at relatively high prices. But Maoist-affiliated groups argued that the State had no right to the forest land it was making over to the plant: it belonged, they insisted, to the region’s adivasis.

The police responded to the November 2 bombing by detaining over a dozen Lalgarh area residents for questioning — a far from unusual practice after a major terrorist attack. Many of those detained, predictably, had no connection with terrorists. On November 3, for example, the police held retired schoolteacher Kshmananda Mahato and three teenage school students, Eben Muru, Goutam Patra and Buddhadev Patra. Even though all four were let off the next day, some local residents were incensed.

Clash between police and locals

Matters came to a head on November 5. Early that morning, the police raided the village of Chhoto Pelia in search of Sasadhar Mahato — the fugitive CPI (Maoist) operative alleged to have commanded the attempted assassination of the Chief Minister. Fighting broke out between them and the local residents who the police claim were compelled by the Maoists present in the village to obstruct their way. Fourteen women were injured; one woman, Chhitmani Murmu, lost an eye.

From November 7, the anger transformed into street protests. Led by the Bharat Jakat Majhi Marwa (BJMM), a body of traditional adivasi community leaders, Salboni residents closed roads and blockaded the Lalgarh police station. On November 14, though, the BJMM leadership reached an agreement with the local authorities. But its workers were now attacked by members of the newly-formed Police Santrosh Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities: PSBJC), which accused the traditional adivasi leadership of selling out the people it represented.

Who constituted the PSBJC? Its principal leader, Chattradhar Mahato, was a long-standing Trinamool Congress supporter who had made a small fortune from public-works contracts — and fugitive Maoist Sasadhar Mahato’s brother. Trinamool leaders claim he was expelled two years ago, but have produced no evidence to back this claim. Notably, Trinamool Congress flags were regularly flown by the PSBJC cadre at their protests; at many places in Lalgarh, the party’s banners still share space with those of the CPI (Maoist).

From the outset, it was clear that the PSBJC had no intention of making peace. Its demands were designed to invite rejection: that West Medinipur’s Superintendent of Police do penance by performing “sit-ups holding his ears;” that all policemen in Lalgarh crawl on all fours from Dalilpur to Chhoto Pelia, rubbing their noses in the dirt; that all those arrested on terrorism-related charges since 1998 be released.

Even then, the State government attempted to stave off a confrontation. On November 27, the day of the deadline set by the PSBJC, the West Bengal police shut down 13 posts and camps in the Lalgarh area. Later, on December 1, two more police posts were abandoned. But West Bengal’s increasingly desperate efforts to make peace failed — and a murderous meltdown followed.

The PSBJC announced the suspension of its struggle — but on ground, formed a parallel administration. Its Maoist allies prevented the entry of the police and administration in the villages of Belpahari, Binpur, Lalgarh, Jamboni, Salboni and Goaltore.

From here, the Maoist death squads launched a series of increasingly brutal attacks. BJMM’s Sudhir Mandal, who organised a massive anti-Maoist rally in December, was shot dead. In February 2009, Maoists fired on the funeral procession of the assassinated Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, Nandalal Pal, killing three. Five more CPI(M) supporters were killed in April, as were four poll staff and police personnel. June brought a fresh wave of attacks.

“The Maoists did not capture Lalgarh,” counter-terrorism analyst Ajai Sahni observes, “the State deserted the people.”

Maoist groups had long been preparing the ground for just such a situation. In 2005, following the assassination of CPI(M) leaders Raghunath Murmu, Bablu Mudi and Mahendra Mahato, the prestigious South Asia Intelligence Review warned of the possibility of a “Naxalbari Redux” — a reference to the Darjeeling district hamlet from where, in March 1967, began a six-year Maoist insurgency that claimed hundreds of lives.

Documents seized from three CPI (Maoist) leaders, researcher Saji Cherian noted in the article, showed plans to attack or blow up police stations. There were also notebooks with details of how adivasis in Bankura, Purulia and West Medinipur were to be educated about their exploitation — and how they could be “freed.”

Starting with an October 14, 2004, attack which claimed the lives of six Eastern Frontier Rifles personnel in West Medinipur district, the CPI (Maoist) launched increasingly ferocious attacks.

Political allies

It also made political allies. In February last year, the West Bengal police arrested Himadri Sen-Roy, the Bengal state secretary of the CPI (Maoist). From Roy’s interrogation, the police acquired a mass of details on how the Maoists were developing a symbiotic relationship with the Trinamool Congress and the welter of so-called civil society movements that had sprung up to oppose West Bengal’s industrialisation drive.

Top Maoist leaders, Sen-Roy is said to have told the police, visited Nandigram in 2006, soon after the Trinamool Congress and Islamist groups initiated what would turn into a bloody confrontation. They sensed opportunity. Sen-Roy claims to have persuaded a range of political figures that their interests and those of the CPI (Maoist) were similar: among them, Trinamool leader Subendhu Adhikari and eminent writer and activist Mahashweta Devi.

Early in 2007, Sen-Roy is alleged to have said, Maoist military commanders purchased Rs. 8 lakh worth of weapons — six .315-bore rifles and ammunition — to set up an armed unit in Nandigram. Dozens of locally-made weapons were also purchased to arm new cadre. The weapons were stored at Sonachura in East Medinipur, an area which saw some of the worst violence during the Nandigram agitation.

Meanwhile, top CPI (Maoist) commander Molajella Koteswar Rao set about constructing military infrastructure in the Lalgarh area. According to Sen-Roy’s testimony to the police — which, under the law, is not admissible in a court — Rao extorted between Rs. 8 lakh every month from roads, construction and forest-produce contracts operating in the districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia. In addition, CPI (Maoist) units outside West Bengal pumped in a further Rs. 1.5 lakh a month to train recruits in Jharkhand and Orissa’s Mayurbhanj forests.

By 2008, the Intelligence Bureau was reporting Maoist activity in all but one of West Bengal’s 18 districts. Three districts — Bankura, West Medinipur and Purulia —were graded among the most affected in the country. Between January and October 2008, 21 fatalities were reported from the districts in 34 Maoist attacks.

Like the Lalgarh violence, these killings did nothing for the poor adivasis in whose name they were executed: but the CPI (Maoist) doesn’t seem to care.

In one recent interview, Koteswar Rao candidly admitted that his party was willing to endorse almost any form of violence:
“ We do not support the way they attacked the Victoria station [sic.]”, he said of the Lashkar-e-Taiba jihadists who executed November’s carnage in Mumbai, “ where most of the victims were Muslims. At the same time, we feel that the Islamic upsurge should not be opposed as it is basically anti-U.S. and anti-imperialist in nature. We, therefore, want it to grow.”

West Bengal will be a test of whether democratic institutions prove capable of resisting this cult of death.


The ' Observer Research Foundation - Chennai ', a non-profit think-tank, conducted a two day seminar - " The Naxalite Movement " in Chennai between 28 - 29 Jan 2005.

A number of well researched papers were read out at the seminar. It was an intellectually stimulating fare.

That the Naxalite Movement is wedded to the ideology of violence can be clearly discerned from the following interview (excerpts) given by the People's War Group (PWG) Leader - M. Lakshmana Rao to a Telugu daily:

Q. The PWG has today come to be identified as another militant outfit, another sore on India's troubled landscape. You are being equated with the insurgents of the N.E. / J&K.
How is your fight different from theirs?

A. The movements of the N.E. AND J&K have a very restricted aim. They are fighting to protect their NATIONAL INTERESTS. Our aim is to DISLODGE THE IMPERIALISTS WITH THE GUN. The party, which is based on the communist ideology, is building a movement that will bring forth the rule of the proleteriat. PROLETERIAT DICTATORSHIP. In that sense we have a wider, all encompassing view.

Q. Why have you chosen the path of violence? Why not democratic means to acheive your aim?

A. Because the rule of the masses cannot be acheived through normal political means. The Indian people have only one way to usher in modern democracy: ARMED STRUGGLE.

Q. Both the State and your party are using violence. And caught in the crossfire are innocent Indians. Innocent proleteriat Indians. Are you being fair to them?

A. Terming our activities as violence is not correct. Ours is counter-violence. We are resisting the violence unleashed by the State on the proleteriat. Again, I would like to remind you that it is not the PWG who is fighting the imperialists. It is the masses against the State. The PWG is only leading them. So it is the people against the repression. Its the people's war. And who else will be killed in a people's war - but people? Over 1300 people have been killed in the crossfire. OF THIS ONLY A VERY SMALL NUMBER WERE GUERRILLAS. The rest were all prey to the violence unleashed by the State. The State is responsible for their deaths.

Q. Wouldn't the right to self-determination lead to the disintegration of the country?


Marxists invent false histories

Marxists invent false histories – KPS Gill

The suspension of common sense and the astonishing embrace of nonsense

KPS Gill reports on Lalgarh for The Telegraph, Armed with the experience that tackled Punjab militancy

K.P.S Gill, dubbed ‘Supercop’ for bringing the Punjab militancy to its knees, reached Calcutta on June 26 on the invitation of The Telegraph to assess the Lalgarh operation against the backdrop of his strategic and tactical experience in the field. Gill spent the day in Calcutta, doing “extended homework” on Lalgarh. “Till now, I have been watching the situation from afar. Now I will be following the developments more closely,” he said before interacting with some people in the city familiar with the Lalgarh operation. The next morning, when the security forces were trying to recapture Ramgarh that fell later in the day, Gill proceeded to Lalgarh. As Gill’s vehicle entered Midnapore town, police personnel waved the vehicle down and asked him to follow them to the police superintendent’s office. Gill was called in with a request to stay away from Lalgarh but soon the session became a full-fledged discussion with a steady stream of officers walking up to him, saluting him and sharing their experiences with him. The administration told Gill that he would be escorted back to Calcutta after lunch because of his Z-plus security tag and because the roads were heavily mined. However, setting out for lunch, Gill made a detour and travelled towards Lalgarh, interacting with several people on the way. Eventually, at a check post, Gill ran into a wall of police and paramilitary personnel. By then, the veteran who once sent shivers down extremist belts had collected enough information to fulfil his assignment for The Telegraph.

Truth about Lalgarh1
As I briefly toured West Midnapore district during the police action in Lalgarh (I was prevented from going into the affected area on “security” grounds), the most dramatic lessons of the crisis, through all its phases — the slow build-up over seven months of state denial, appeasement and progressive error; paralysis in the face of rising Maoist violence; and the final, almost effortless resolution, as the rebels simply melted away in the face of the first evidence of determined use of force — were abundantly clear to me: the complete absence of historical memory in the institutions of the state, and the need for each administration to repeatedly reinvent the wheel.
The West Bengal government is not the first to go through this fruitless cycle; or the first to allow immeasurable harm to be inflicted on its citizens as a result of what is nothing more than the suspension of common sense. Right from my days in Assam, I have seen this cycle afflict virtually every administration confronted with the threat of terrorism across the country — even in theatres of eventual and exceptional counter-terrorism success.
After visiting Midnapore and talking to various people, including police officers, I learned that the operations essentially comprised marching into areas supposedly infested by Naxalites. In the early 1970s, when the Naxalites started setting up cells in the district that I was then heading in Assam, we had relied on building up intelligence so as to pinpoint the hideouts of the Naxalite leadership. I recall that we had identified 85 such places, and when we raided these places, we were able to arrest 74 Naxalites, virtually breaking the back of the movement in the state.
In the current situation, the operations are not intelligence-based but only aimed at area dominance. This is a strikingly inferior response to intelligence-based operations. I still remember a remark made by the last British inspector-general of Assam in an inspection note at the Sonari police station, that “one proper arrest is equivalent to six months of patrolling by a company of policemen”. This, incidentally, had been written shortly after a movement launched by the Revolutionary Communist Party of India (well known for the Dum Dum-Basirhat raid in West Bengal) had been put down by Assam Police.
The government and its agencies go into a state of denial during initial manifestations of extremist violence and terrorism — and “initial” here may mean years and decades. Administrative inaction is couched in a wide range of alibis; agencies connected with the state and the “intelligentsia” add to this by putting forward “solutions” which serve as apologetics for anti-state forces. The debate is taken over by these knee-jerk, inchoate “political” and “developmental” solutions and by the “root cause” argument: that extremism is the result of national issues like poverty and injustice rather than being driven by any ideological motive.
Indeed, the Marxist leadership in West Bengal has been exceptionally imaginative in the invention of false histories, claiming that the Naxalite movement of the 1967-75 phase was defeated by their government’s administrative and land reforms that cut away the Naxalite recruitment base (the CPM-led Left Front incidentally came to power in 1977). Anyone who is even superficially familiar with the history of that phase would, however, immediately recall that the Naxalites were crushed — indeed, brutally crushed — by the Congress government of Siddhartha Shankar Ray. If at all reforms had a salutary impact, it was only after the capacities of the rebels had been comprehensively neutralised by relentless police action.
As the Maoists now restore progressive ascendancy in parts of the state, however, such nonsense continues to be given wide publicity, not only by ill-informed “intellectuals”, but, astonishingly, by the Marxist party leadership as well, even as the real magnitude of the threat is denied, and the basics of policing and wide deficits in police and intelligence capacities are ignored.
I have seen this, again and again, in theatre after theatre. The state and police paralysis witnessed at Lalgarh was, for instance, much in evidence in the early phases of the Khalistani movement in Punjab. Among the hundreds of incidents illustrating the collapse of administration, perhaps the most humiliating was the February 1984 episode, when six fully armed policemen were dragged into the Golden Temple by militants. The response — 24 hours later — came from senior police officials who begged Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to release the men and hand over their weapons.
After protracted negotiations, the dead body of one policeman was handed over, and five policemen were released. Their weapons were never returned. No action was ever taken on the murder of the policeman.
Andhra Pradesh has now become a model of effective police response to Naxalism, but few recall the decades of Maoist dominance in wide areas of this state, and the apologetics that were advanced in favour of the extremists in the highest echelons of government. Then chief minister N.T. Rama Rao, for instance, described the Naxalites as “true patriots”; he and his successors, across party lines, found it expedient (as the Trinamul Congress recently has), to form opportunistic electoral alliances with the Naxalites — to the inevitable advantage of the rebels.
Those who now celebrate the prowess of the Greyhounds forget that this force was created as far back as in 1989, and it is only under unambiguous political mandate after 2005 that an enormously empowered Andhra Pradesh police and this special force have been able to inflict near-comprehensive defeat on the Maoists in the state.
Political leaders in West Bengal must see through their own platitudes and falsifications to comprehend the core of state infirmity that constitutes the foundations of the Maoist power. The absurd alibis that have been advanced to evade the necessity of response must be abandoned at the earliest, and not after the sheer quantum of the loss of innocent lives — as has been the case in other theatres — simply forces the state to respond.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Marxists, Maoists... Is there a difference?

Marxists, Maoists... Is there a difference?
Balbir K. Punj
June.19 : The "liberation" of Lalgarh by Maoists is a logical upshot of the politics of violence and savagery that the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) successfully practised against its political opponents in West Bengal for over three decades. The state, in the not too distant past, was known for its high intellectual content in public discourse. Today, violence is intrinsic to its politics.
While a part of West Bengal burns, two key actors in state politics, the Congress and the CPI(M), are busy playing the blame game. The ruling Marxists and their fellow travellers (in the media and numerous NGOs) are paralysed in this crisis because of ideological confusion. The rebel Maoists are doing in Lalgarh what the Marxists have been preaching and selectively practising while dealing with dissent in West Bengal and Kerala — the Left’s two stronghold states.
Of course, the Congress is living up to its record of hunting with the hound and running with the hare for short-term political gain, but this will cost the nation dearly.
The CPI(M)-Maoist nexus snapped when the chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, was sought to be assassinated by Maoists weeks before the recent Lok Sabha polls.
According to the latest news reports, the Maoists have dug up roads at several places and blocked others with tree trunks in Lalgarh. The houses and offices of CPI(M) leaders are being vandalised. Fresh violence has killed one CPI(M) leader and two party activists and left several others injured. There is a complete breakdown of law and order in the area.
Last week, people surrounded Marxist leader Subrata Kar’s house in Khejuri, in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district, asking the police to search the house for evidence of corruption in several state and Central government schemes. The police did not arrive so the people themselves ransacked the house and recovered some 20 National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) work cards meant for below-poverty-line families.
The CPI(M) branch office at Gholabari was burnt and in the debris many half-burnt government documents were found. In another party office in Kalaghachia there was an entire file regarding the appointment of 350 Integrated Child Development Scheme workers in Khejuri. A few months ago, fair price shops became the target of public ire as the foodgrain distribution system broke down and several leads linking shopowners with the CPI(M) were exposed. The CPI(M) domination that went on for over three decades survived and thrived mainly because people were afraid of revolting against their tyranny.
Newspapers reported that it was the discovery of government appointment files, NREGS cards and other benefit cards for the poor in the houses of prominent CPI(M) panchayat leaders that fuelled villagers’ fury against them. When the police was compelled to search these houses, it was found that most of them had also concealed illegal firearms and ammunitions. For instance, in Haludbari, panchayat chief Pranabesh Pradhan had to flee from his house as angry villagers surrounded it. His house, according to news reports, is the best in the village. Villagers said they knew that he was a corrupt man, but did not protest earlier for "fear of being booked by the police in false cases". The police recovered two guns and two pistols from his house.
There is a definite link between the Maoists in West Bengal with the ones in neighbouring Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Several well-planned attacks against police outposts have taken place in these three states recently. The administration seems to be unable to trace the supply of arms and ammunition to these Maoist groups. The heightened activity of these groups, read with the discovery of arms and ammunition at village level in CPI(M)-governed West Bengal, may provide leads in this dead-end investigation.
Nepal seems to be the transit point for these supplies. The Delhi police recently nabbed an Indian national who was a conduit for money, counterfeit notes, arms and recruiting agents for Pakistan-based militants operating from Nepal. Despite the election victory of the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Orissa, the increasing strength of Naxalites and Maoists in his state cannot be overlooked. It seems the whole of east India, extending as far as eastern Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, is being run by parallel administrations of various Marxist and Maoist groups.
In West Bengal, the Congress-Trinamul Congress combine has successfully beaten the Marxists in their own game. So far only the Marxists had stoked violence against either "class enemies" or "deviationists" exploiting occasionally genuine but mostly imaginary grievances of the masses. While fighting a relentless battle against the Marxists, Mamata Banerjee has internalised many of these traits and in the process the Marxists are getting a taste of their own medicine.
Incidentally, what has happened to all the NGOs who had screamed hoarse following the roughing up of some young men and women at the hands of some ruffians styling themselves as activists of Ram Sene in a Mangalore pub? None of these rent-a-cause activists were seen when human rights and the rule of the law are being trampled upon in Lalgarh so brazenly. Their silence speaks loudly about their hypocrisy.
The occasional clashes between Maoists and Marxists, however, do not mean that there’s any real difference between the two. Both believe in dictatorship and snuffing out of dissent. They may differ on strategy, but not about goals. Also, at times, Marxists and Maoists kill each other, not because of sharp differences on fundamentals but because violence is central to their creed.
While the Congress in New Delhi celebrates its return to power, the ground situation is not improving in the violence-affected eastern parts of the country. In fact, the only state government that has succeeded in building up a counter-force to Naxalites is of Chhattisgarh, which is under pressure from Left intellectuals and the Centre to disband this counter-terror force. But now that the West Bengal ruling party’s secret storage of arms and ammunition at village level has been exposed, it would be worth watching how the Centre will act.
Balbir K. Punj can be contacted at,-maoists-is-there-a-difference.aspx

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

At work for war -- cooking CPM goose

At work for war
Maoists, state begin drill

June 17: Late last night, at a small camp in Lalgarh’s Kantapahari, six Maoists held a meeting when word reached that central forces had started arriving in Midnapore.
The meeting, headed by Bikash who runs the Maoists’ Lalgarh operations and guided over the phone apparently by Kishanji who heads their armed wing in the country, decided to set up the first line of defence by this morning.
The task was completed by the time home secretary Ardhendu Sen arrived in Midnapore to review the situation in Lalgarh.
By 9am, the only two arterial roads leading to Lalgarh from Midnapore town, capable of carrying heavy vehicles, had been dug up at 11 points. Each trench across the road was 4ft deep and 3ft wide, making it impossible for any vehicle to cross over.
The Maoists bragged of a more diabolical plan, too. If the police smash through the defences and reach Lalgarh, the rebels said, they would have a four-tier barricade in place.
In the first layer, there will be children, followed by women. Tribals armed with bows and arrows will bring up the third layer. Armed Maoists will position themselves in the fourth layer, they said, seemingly oblivious to the macabre irony in the “people’s war”.
Aware of the plan, chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti appealed to the people of Lalgarh not to allow themselves to be used as “human shields”. Police sources later said they would try to disperse the shields using rubber bullets and tear gas.
By the end of the day, the state government, too, announced that it would act. But the time of the launch is being kept confidential, not for tactical reasons alone — the state government has yet to overcome its indecisiveness.
After returning to Calcutta, Sen announced: “An operation against the Maoists will take place. It will be led by state police with the central forces providing the back-up. Our main aim will be to ensure minimum bloodshed. But I cannot reveal when it will take place.”
Sources said 18 companies would be involved in the operation, of which 13 will be central forces and five from the state police.
Each company has about 100 policemen who can go into action — which means around 1,800 personnel will be pitted against the Maoists. The rebels’ number is put at 250 but more guerrillas are said to be moving towards Lalgarh from Orissa and Jharkhand. Kishanji has apparently reached Belpahari, 20km from Lalgarh. Besides, the Maoists are counting on some of the villagers they have trained since November last year.
The police sources said it would not be a “swift and short” operation. “We know the area is mined and dug up, so we have to move forward carefully,” an officer said. “We will have a minesweeper at the head of the convoy and a truck carrying sandbags along with us. After the minesweeper has cleared the way, we will bridge the dug-up roads with the sandbags and then move on.”
The officer said the objective would be to “reoccupy” an area, consolidate their position there and then push forward. The plan is largely in tune with the tactics being focused upon since P. Chidambaram took over as home minister at the Centre.
In the police’s arsenal will be AK-47 and AK-56 rifles, grenade launchers and rocket launchers. Senior police officers from Calcutta, like IG (co-ordination), have moved to Midnapore.
The rebels acknowledge the police’s superiority in firepower and supply of ammunition but said they were banking on familiarity with the terrain and local support.
It was not possible to verify the claims by the Maoists. At every dug-up point, the Maoists said, they would be setting up “checkposts” which will be guarded by “50 to 60” armed supporters.
“They will all have cellphones and at the first sign of any activity, they will warn other checkposts along the way,” a Maoist leader said.
Knowing that the policemen will be wearing bulletproof jackets, the Maoist cadres have been trained to shoot at the face, arms and legs, another leader said.
If the police decide to skip the arterial roads and use forest trails, they may have to abandon armoured vehicles while ferrying themselves across the Kangshabati river in the absence of bridges.
The five CRPF companies stayed put at the Midnapore police lines today, drawing up maps to chalk out operational routes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Contain Maoist menace -- Sandhya Jain

Contain Maoist menace

Sandhya Jain (Pioneer, 12 May 2009)

When Chinese wish the wrath of heaven upon one, they invoke it gently: ‘May you live in interesting times’, a euphemism for living without peace and stability. A prolonged spell of ‘interesting times’ is now upon our Himalayan neighbour, ironically Beijing’s budding ally.

At the time of writing, Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav’s deadline for Government formation seemed unlikely to fructify, though CPN (UML), with 109 seats, and Nepali Congress, with 114 seats, were frontrunners in forging a new coalition. Yet former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, whose attempts to grab totalitarian power by infiltrating and taking over the Army triggered the current crisis, may also succeed in sticking to power.

Prachanda has made overtures to CPN (UML) leader Jhalanath Khanal, the likely Opposition candidate for the Prime Minister’s job. The Nepali Congress and 22 other political parties support him, though the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (53 seats) is undecided. A major hitch is Prachanda’s determination to block Government formation until the exit of the Army chief, and threat to return to the violence that rent the once-Hindu kingdom for over a decade.

Nepali Hindu backlash against the Christian-Maoist leadership has now unfurled, and will continue no matter what political deals are struck in the immediate future. The mask of secular-atheist democracy worn by Maoists in their decade-long assault upon the Hindu kingdom is off; the monarchy has paid the price of conspiracy married to its own ineptitude. But now political parties, institutions like the Army, temples and devotees, and the people in general, recognise that they face a Christian tyrant in Prachanda. China can ignore this Western-Christian infiltration in it’s ‘near abroad’ at its own peril; fresh attempts to evangelise in Afghanistan have recently come to light.

Nepal’s quest for Hindu reaffirmation shows in the timely surfacing of a video of Prachanda revealing plans to permanently capture state power by stuffing the Army with PLA cadre. The video pertains to a meeting with PLA cadre in Chitwan on January 2, 2008, when Mr GP Koirala led the interim Government.

Prachanda’s bragging that Maoists had tricked everyone into believing their armed combatants numbered 35,000, when they were less than 8,000, exposes the complicity of the United Nation’s Mission in Nepal in validating 20,000 Maoist soldiers for induction into the regular Army. The integration of Maoist goons into the professional Army was resisted by Army chief Gen Rukmangad Katawal, which triggered the current crisis.

The UNMIN is no innocent taken for a ride. The UN is neither neutral nor apolitical; it was conceived, like the League of Nations before it, as an instrument for continuing Western domination in the post-World War II era. Racism is subtly institutionalised in its mandate, as witnessed by its relentless usage against former colonies and regions that could not be tamed in the pre-war era. Anyone who does not agree with this assessment should explain why the services of South Africa Apartheid expert, Gen Jan Smuts, were utilised in preparing the Charter of both the League of Nations and the United Nations! South Africa was not a member of either body - but Smuts was a racist par excellence.

To return to Nepal, Gen Katawal had a royal upbringing as adopted son of the late King Mahendra. He and the loyalist Nepali Congress to which Mr Ram Baran Yadav belongs would recognise the danger Maoists pose to the autonomy of the Himalayan kingdom and the integrity of its ancient ethos.

Prachanda showed his true face blatantly with the dismissal of south Indian Brahmin priests of the famed Pashupatinath Temple on January 1, 2009. Their replacement with Nepali citizens without religious lineage or training enraged Nepali Bhandari priests (protectors of the temple’s assets and managers of its administrative affairs), who roused devotees and took up cudgels against this gross interference in the nation’s holiest shrine. An appeal by deposed King Gyanendra to the people to not politicise the temple issue made Prachanda beat a tactical retreat.

But soon after this episode, Hindu devotees returning from Gorakhpur in India were humiliated by the seizure of their copies of the Bhagwat Gita. These incidents underline the persisting threat to Nepal’s millennia-old Hindu culture and civilisational ethos since the political ascent of the Maoists and the abolition of the Hindu Kingdom.

It is pertinent that immediately after the Maoist takeover the Vatican appointed a Bishop and expanded evangelical activity in Nepal. The top Maoist leadership is Christian; hence evangelism could be complicit in the temple crisis and the current political crisis.

The video showed Prachanda bragging that Maoists formed the Young Communist League with thousands of youth (goons hated in civil society for kidnappings, extortions, even murder, and grabbing property worth millions which has still not been restored to their rightful owners) “who now add to our strength,” a euphemism for their skills in street violence. He admitted having “enough money” to prepare a good battle plan for revolt and state takeover.

The current crisis began when Prachanda suddenly dismissed Gen Katawal on May 3 and appointed loyalist Gen Kul Bahadur Khadka in his place. That the move was intrinsically divisive was evident when four ruling alliance partners, the CPN (UML), Madhesi People’s Rights’ Forum, Sadbhavana Party and CPN (United), boycotted the Cabinet meeting that took the decision. Maoist urgency followed Gen Katawal’s decision to reinstate eight Generals retired by the Government, halt military recruitments, and not participate in the National Games.

The CPN (UML) exited the Government and threatened a no-confidence motion; the General refused to step down; Mr Ram Baran Yadav, on the appeal of 22 out of 24 political parties to “protect the Constitution” and prevent total capture of power by Maoists, asked the Army chief to stay put. The main Opposition Nepali Congress rejected the sacking of the Army chief and warned of street protests.

The Prachanda-gate video makes it clear that Maoists cadre strength was always grossly exaggerated. As the fighters validated by UN are still confined in UN-monitored barracks, it is clear that the crowds on the streets are simply rented, like those seen in the coloured revolutions of Central Asia, which could suggest foreign funding. Now that the truth is known, there is no need to be intimidated; the Army and nationalist political parties should do the needful to contain this menace.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We don't want to be Congress' palanquin bearers: Karat

This is a concession by Karat that CPM was in fact a palanquin bearer of Congress during the UPA regime. kalyan

We don't want to be Congress' palanquin bearers: Karat
Agencies Posted online: Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 1503 hrs

New Delhi : CPI(M) foresees a realignment of political forces after the Lok Sabha elections in favour of the Third Front and rules out supporting Congress in government formation as it does not not want to be its "palanquin bearers". The party says it will also "very seriously" consider joining a non-Congress secular government and does not outrightly rule out the possibility of heading such a formation.
In a wide-ranging interview to PTI, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat spoke on various issues including on how the Left parties would approach the Indo-US nuclear deal, an issue on which they withdrew support to the UPA government, and on the Sri Lankan issue. He was not in agreement with NCP leader Sharad Pawar that the Left parties would have to support the Congress and the UPA it heads in the post-poll scenario to keep the BJP out.
"We don't have to be palanquin bearers for anyone. There is no danger of BJP coming to power at the Centre this time. The choice will be a non-Congress secular government or a Congress-led government. I don't think the BJP is going to be in the picture," Karat said. He said in fact more parties would join the Third
Front after the elections. "We expect a realignment of forces after the elections. I am saying parties which are not with us now will come towards us," he said.
The overall trend, Karat said, has been very clear that the UPA has practically ceased to exist. Most of the parties (of the UPA) are finding their own way and parting company with the Congress as far as the elections are concerned. "All these parties will have to decide after the elections what they propose to do," he said. But when asked whether the realignment could also affect his combination, the CPI(M) leader said the parties of the Front have come into the grouping with the aim of defeating both the Congress and the BJP and their respective allies in the states.
"We have already discussed that we need to carry forward this after the Lok Sabha elections and to see that we form a government at the Centre. The regional parties that have joined with the Left parties have a stake in this project," he said. Asked if he had parties like RJD and LJP in mind when he talked about realignment, Karat said the Front has made a general appeal to all non-Congress secular parties to come together on a joint platform for pro-people economic and independent foreign policies and in defence of secularism. "Many of these parties share this approach and it is up to them to decide," he said.
To another question about Pawar's statement that the Congress and the UPA cannot ignore the Left and have to do business with it after the elections, Karat said "his intentions are good. "But as far as we are concerned, we cannot accept and support a Congress-led government. We are working for a government which will be a non-Congress secular one."
Asked if he would mind the Congress being part of it, the CPI(M) leader said it was for the Congress to decide whether it would facilitate formation of a secular government. "It is for them to decide." He dismissed a view that the position of Congress and the Left was only posturing before elections. "Let us see what happens. After the elections, everybody's position will become clear. My party adopts a political line. It is not some on-the-spur of the moment decision. "We have adopted a political line in which we have called for the defeat of Congress and the BJP and the formation of an alternative secular government. We will work for that to succeed. Let us see."
Asked about the possibility of the CPI(M) joining government at the Centre unlike in 1996 when it spurned an offer, Karat said it had been a long-standing policy (not to join a government if it cannot influence its policies) and it would take a decision after the elections.
Karat said "but we cannot say what type of government will be formed after the elections. If a non-Congress and secular government is feasible, then the matter will be taken up by us." He said last time, the matter was not not taken up very seriously because it was a Congress-led government and the party did not want to join it. "As I said, if there is a non-Congress government, the matter will be considered very seriously," he said.
Asked if the party would agree to have its own Prime Minister if an opportunity came its way, Karat said "first of all, let us discuss whether we will join a government. Then we will see what is to be done. "There are various factors we have to take into account when we decide to join a government. So let us first see what are those circumstances and then we will take a decision," the CPI(M) leader said.
On his assessment of the polls so far, he said it was clear there was a three-way contest between Congress and its allies, BJP and its allies and the non-Congress, non-BJP combination. In states like Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the parties of the Third Front were ahead, he said. To a question about Pawar's view that CPI(M) and BSP together would not cross 65-70 seats and the Third Front would not be in a position to form a government, he said Pawar has forgotten parties like BJD, TDP, JD(S), AIADMK, PMK and others of this front.