Maoist Insurgency & Growing Extremism in India
While, the ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) is the genesis of Hindu terrorism, having co-relationship with it, the main fault lines of India’s politics is based upon the discriminatory system of caste and religion. These trends in Indian politics have become the staging ground for all the extremist movements and wars of liberation.
In this regard, in its annual report of 2017, Human Rights Watch which conducted investigative work in 2016 said that India is witnessing an increase in violence against women, and pointed out Indian government’s failure to control growing attacks on Dalits and religious minorities-Sikh community.
Besides indicating high-profile rapes, sexual assaults and even murders of women and girls, the report elaborated, “Limits on free speech and attacks on religious minorities, often led by vigilante groups that claim to be supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are an increasing concern in India. In 2016, students were accused of sedition for expressing their views; people who raised concerns over challenges to civil liberties were deemed anti-Indian; Dalits and Muslims were attacked on suspicion they had killed, stolen, or sold cows for beef; and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) came under pressure due to India’s restrictive foreign funding regulations. A crackdown on violent protests in Jammu and Kashmir beginning in July killed over 90 people and injured hundreds, fueling further discontent against government forces. Impunity for police and security forces largely continued amid new allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings, including reports of sex+ual assault and other abuses by security forces.”
The report described, “The government’s continuing failure to rein in militant groups, combined with inflammatory remarks made by some BJP leaders, has contributed to the impression that leaders are indifferent to growing intolerance…Authorities continue to use sedition and criminal defamation laws to prosecute citizens who criticize government officials or oppose state policies…Despite calls for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, soldiers continue to have immunity from prosecution when deployed in areas of internal conflict.”
In fact, since the leader of the ruling party BJP Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India, various developments like unprecedented rise of Hindu extremism, persecution of minorities even of lower cast-Hindus, forced conversions of other religious minorities into Hindus, ban on beef and cow slaughter, inclusion of Hindu religious books in curriculum, creation of war-like situation with Pakistan etc. clearly show that encouraged by the Hindu fundamentalist outfits such as BJP, RSS VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena, including other similar parties have been promoting religious and ethnic chauvinism in India by propagating ideology of Hindutva. Especially, assaults on Christians and Muslims, including their places of worships and property have been intensified by the fanatic Hindu mobs.
Under the rule of Modi, government-led extremism has resulted into growing extremism and separatism by the militants in India. A large number of separatist movements in different parts of India are posing a serious threat to Indian federation, as Indian security forces have badly failed in suppressing these movements through brutal tactics.
It is notable that under the mask of democracy and secularism, Indian subsequent regimes dominated by politicians from the Hindi heartland—Hindutva have been using brutal force ruthlessly against any move to free Assam, Kashmir, Khalistan, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and Tripura where wars of liberation continue in one form or the other.
While, war of liberation has also accelerated in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), where Kashmiris are struggling for their legitimate right of self-determination in wake of continuous state terrorism, unleashed by the Indian security forces, case of Khalistan and widening of gaps between the Hindu and Sikh communities are also notable.
As regards the discrimination against the Sikhs, Indian Army led by General Kuldip Singh Brar, supported by troops and armoured vehicles had broken all records of the state terrorism and extra-judicial killings through the barbaric Operation Blue Star which occurred between 3–8 June 1984, ordered by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to control over the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in Amritsar, Punjab. Since then, Sikhs have been fighting for Kahalistan as an independent state.
In the recent years, Maoist intensified their struggle by attacking official installments. In this context, Indian media admitted that Maoists have entered the cities, expanding their activities against the Indian union. On 22-23 April 2018, at least 39 Maoists were killed in an alleged encounter with Indian security forces in district Gadchiroli on the north bank of river Indravati which divides Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. The Maoists accepting the loss have vowed to take revenge. Local human rights organizations have raised questions on the authenticity of the Gadchiroli incident mentioning that “not a single police personnel has received injuries.” They have termed it a planned mass murder and a cold-blooded killing of the Maoists. These mass killings of Maoists by the Indian security forces are going unnoticed in international media.
However, Maoist uprising is second major freedom movement after that of the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Maoists inhabit an area known as the ‘Red Corridor’ that stretches from West Bengal to Karnataka state in the southwest. Indian former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called Maoist insurrection, “the single biggest internal-security challenge”, whereas, Home Secretary G.K Pillai had reiterated the magnitude of this threat by saying that the Maoists want to completely overthrow the Indian state by 2050.
India’s Maoist insurgency became progressively more lethal—1003 people were killed in 2010, 908 in 2009 and 721 in 2008. Particularly, in 2010, new operations of the Indian security forces had exposed the failure of India’s anti-Maoist war. Faced with frustration, Home Minister P. Chidamabram had stated that the Indian government “welcomes peace talks with Maoist rebels.” On the other hand, Ramanna, a Maoist leader in Chhattisgarh state rejected the offer, saying that the government should first withdraw thousands of paramilitary soldiers, and create peaceful conditions for talks.
Nevertheless, peace talks were offered by the New Delhi after the Maoist insurgents ambushed a bus on May 17, 2010 that killed 45 police officers and civilians who were returning after an operation, killing two Maoists. The event highlighted the Maoists’ strength despite a government offensive aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest militancy. Maoist movement initially started by its leader, Mupala Luxman Rao in 1969 in the form of peasant uprising in West Bengal, protesting against big Hindu landlords who left no stone unturned in molesting the poor people through their mal-treatment such as forced labour, minimum wages, maximum work, unlawful torture and even killings—the evils one could note prior to the Frech Revolution of 1789 when fedual lords had practised similar injustices on the farmers. But, instead of redressing the grievances of the peasants and workers, Indian security forces in connivance with the rich-dominated society used brutal tactics in crushing the Maoist movement. The Maoists had no choice, but to launch an armed struggle for their genuine rights.
The Naxalite-Maoists, as they call themselves, are the liberators, representing landless farmers and the downtrodden masses who have been entangled into vicious circle of poverty, misery and deprivation. The Indian indiscriminate social order treats them resentfully, setting aside human dignity. Owing to these inequalities, Maoists have appealed to the sentiments of the helpless poor, who found their future dark under the subsequent regimes led by so-called democratic forces of India.
According to a report, “Out of total 1.17 billion populations, over 39% of dispossessed Indians, living below poverty line are hopeful that Maoists would bring a change in their wretched lives.”
Ideologically, the Naxalites believe that Indians have yet need freedom from hunger and deprivation and from the exploitation of the poor by the rich classes of landlords, industrialists and traders who control the means of production. Due to these reasons, Maoists target all representatives of the state like politicians, the police and other officials. At local level, they target village functionaries and landlords.
Having its voice unheard—Maoist movement which had been raging in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkand, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, has expanded to Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In the recent months, Maoist insurgency has accelerated enveloping new areas. Now, it is a popular movement which has massive support of people for its ideology.
BBC had reported on October 12, 2009, “In response to the atrocities of the Indian police, Maoist rebels had blown up culverts and cut electricity to railways in various regions during two-day strike.”
Naxalite insurgency has become so popular that India is actively considering shifting 23 battalions of para-military forces from occupied Kashmir to the Maoist affected areas.
Surprisingly, on the one hand, Indian rulers realise the real causes of Maoist uprising, but still accuse China of backing the Maoist guerrilla warfare. Some Indian high officials misperceive that Beijing supplies arms and ammunition to the Maoists. With the covert support of Indian secret agency RAW, Indians also propagate that there are secret training camps in China, which teach tactics of guerrilla warfare to the Maoists, and then they are being dispatched to India.
Tamil Nadu is another area where separatist movements are haunting federation of India. However, in many regions of India, separatist movements or wars of liberation continue unabated.
In this respect, the seven states of Northeastern India, which are called the ‘Seven Sisters’ are ethnically and linguistically different from rest of the country. These states are rocked by a large number of armed and violent rebellions, some seeking separate states, some fighting for autonomy and others demanding complete independence, while keeping the entire region in a state of turmoil. These states which include Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, accuse New Delhi of apathy towards their issues. Illiteracy, poverty and lack of economic opportunities have fueled the natives’ demand for autonomy and independence.
Owing to the political, economic and social injustices, tensions existed between these Northeastern states and the central government as well as amongst their native people and migrants from other parts of India. In late 2013, Indian state governments tried to ease tensions making by promising to raise the living standards of people in these regions. But, in late 2014, tensions again rose, as the Indian rulers launched an atrocious offensive which led to a retaliatory attack on civilians by tribal guerrillas.
Undoubtedly, these states have witnessed various forms of India’s state terrorism like crackdowns, illegal detentions, massacre, targeted killings, sieges, burning the houses, torture, disappearances, rapes, breaking the legs, molestation of women and killing of persons through fake encounters.
It is worth-mentioning that in 2015, the then Indian Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh had highlighted his focus to build the capacity of security forces, engaged in fighting uprising and separatism. Indian Central Government finalized the raising of Indian Reserve Police Battalions (IRBPs) in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and Naxal/Maoist hit states or Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Out of the total 25 IRBPs proposed, five were for IOK and 12 for LWE affected states, whereas rest of 8, IRBPs for other states. Online reports suggested that IRBPs also include Northeastern states of India.
Now, IRBPs have totally failed in suppressing insurgency and separatist movements in various regions of India, including those of the North East.
In this connection, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) organized an international seminar titled “Pluralism vs Exclusionism: The Case of Rising Extremism in India” at Marriot Hotel on February 22, 201818. The speakers, including a prominent Indian journalist Syed Iftikhar Gilani delivered a presentation on “Growing Extremism in India: Glimpses and Impressions”. Reportedly, the presentation was not well received in India and Indian Foreign Office Joint Secretary and Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar summoned DNA (Indian based newspaper) editor in-Chief Dwapaian Bose and lodged protest against Iftikhar Gilani’s presentation at IPS.
It is noteworthy that the one of the important causes of the disintegration of the former Soviet Union was that its greater defence expenditure exceeded to the maximum, resulting into economic crises inside the country. In this context, about a prolonged war in Afghanistan, the former President Gorbachev had declared it as the “bleeding wound.” However, militarization of the Soviet Union failed in controlling the movements of liberation, launched by various ethnic nationalities which were kept under control through the ruthless force. While, learning no lesson from New Delhi’s previous close friend, Indian fundamentalist Prime Minister Modi and the ruling extremist party BJP are acting upon the similar policies.
Instead of redressing the grievances of the people by eliminating injustices against them, Indian Government is depending upon ruthless force to crush these extremist and secessionist movements. Therefore, India’s unrealistic counterinsurgency strategy has badly failed.
Nonetheless, poor economic policies, heavy defence spending, neglected social development, growing serpent of radical Hinduism, ancient caste system and divisive/pressure politics are just few triggers of these movements.
New Delhi, instead of addressing actual domestic problems and peoples’ genuine grievances, also resorts to blaming its neighbours for fueling these movements. In the pretext, backed by the US President Donald Trump, Indian extremist rulers are also implementing war-mongering policy against Pakistan and China.
It is of particular attention that Indian Minister of External affairs Jaswant Singh who served the BJP for 30 years was expelled from the party for praising Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan) and echoing the pain of the Indian Muslims in his book, “Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence.”
Pointing out the BJP’s attitude towards the minorities, Singh wrote: “Every Muslim that lives in India is a loyal Indian…look into the eyes of Indian Muslims and see the pain.” He warned in his book, if such a policy continued, “India could have third partition.”
As a matter fact, taking cognizance of the separatist movements in India and New Delhi’s use of brutal force through military in suppressing them, in one way or the other, Jaswant Singh has shown realistic approach in his book.
We can conclude that extremist policies of the BJP continue in crushing the extremist and separatist movements, including Maoist insurgency though force. But, like the former Soviet Union, these movements which pose a serious threat to Indian federation, will culminate into disintegration of the Indian union.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations