Monday, 12 April 2010

India’s response to the Maoists

After the shock over the loss of 75 CRPF jawans died down, India’s collective resolve to crush the Maoists stiffened. This across-the-board feeling has been expressed best (among the articles I have read) by Vir Sanghvai in his article The Maoists Have Left Us With No Choice . Sanghvi rightly says that since the authority of the State has been challenged by the Moaists, they need to be crushed. Sanghvi goes on to say that unfortunately, before the government can work out a process for upliftment of the region, the State’s authority must be reasserted.

Sanghvi also wonders why the Dalits are much more integrated into the national mainstream than the tribals even though the tribals form the majority in two states and have greater political power. This is a very important question for which there are no clear answers. Why are some communities able to benefit from or exploit reservations much better than others? Why do some deprived communities integrate better than others? Why is Arunachal Pradesh so much peaceful than say Manipur or Tripura even though all these states receive the same amount of largesse from the Central government?

However, on one point alone, I don’t really agree with Sanghvi. Sanghvi says that “Our Maoists will be crushed no matter how long it takes the Indian state to do this.” What gives Sanghvi the confidence to say this with such conviction? India has a tried and tested strategy for dealing with insurgency that has been used in almost all the seven north eastern states. This strategy is to flood the troubled region with troops – the army, the BSF and the CRPF – and fight a prolonged fight which will tire the insurgents and force the local population to yearn for peace. Any form of peace. Ultimately the insurgents are forced to the negotiating table. This has worked for Nagaland where a ceasefire has been in place since 1997. The Naga insurgency had started raging even before Nagaland was carved out of Assam in 1963.

But this time it is different for so many reasons. One, the area involved is much larger and the number of deprived people is much higher. It cuts across various states and tribes. Secondly, as India grows economically, the number of Indians willing to join the CRPF, the BSF and the army etc. will dwindle. Even now, the army faces a huge shortage of officers. At present, supply of men (not officers) outstrips demand. However, this will not last for long. Why spend the best years of your life in camps and on frontlines fighting your own countrymen when you have so many other options in a booming India? India just will not be able to fight a low cost thirty years war against the Maoists (and put on hold all developmental work in that region for that period) as it used to do in the past. Finally, if any of India’s neighbours decides to stir the pot a little bit, and we all know that India doesn’t have too many friends in its own neighbourhood, things can get very messy.

I have no doubt that the Maoists cannot give the tribals a better deal than what they are getting from the Indian state even now. However, do the tribals know that?


Wobi said...

Surprising that no one deems it appropriate to deal appropriately with the history of the troubles in this region. Clue: Partition! Hope your readers take up this lead ;-)

Winnowed said...

Wobi, I think I will need one more clue. What's Partition got to do with the Maoist upsurge? One more clue?

Wobi said...

I'll give you some facts and perhaps you can chase them up ;-). At the time of partition (and thereafter), Assam was forced to accept around 6 lakh refugees mostly from East Pakistan. As is well documented, partition related migration from East Pakistan continued well into the early 1960's. (Incidentally, when Bordoloi refused citing pressure on land and increasing ethnic conflict, Nehru threatened to withhold development funds unless the refugees were accepted and resettled). This changed the demographic of not just Assam but the entire North East, almost making it (according to some native writers), an extension of Hindu Bengal. The pressure on land and resources, along with a fear of going the Assam way and also cultural and social pressures forced several indigenous groups to adopt a culture of violent separatism to make their voices heard. Incidentlly, their demand in based on the same lines (in terms of political idealogy) as the demand for Khalistan.

Lots of facts there...lots of chasing to do ;-)

Winnowed said...

Wobi, I still don't get it. I doubt if partition has contributed in any way to the Maoist menace. Assume India was never partitioned. Do you think undivided India's tribals would have got a better deal in Chattisgarh?

As for the North East, yes, immigrants from what is now Bangladesh have aggravated the problems there, but can you say that the Naga insurgency is a result of such migration? In Assam and may be Tripura, it can be said that insurgency is a result of unbriidled immigration from Bangladesh. However, let us not forget that Bengalis (both Muslims and Hindus) have migrated to and lived in all over the north east much before the partition.

Wobi said...

May I suggest that you read any of Ian Talbot and/or Gurharpal Singh's books on partition for a well considered approach? Also, the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research had in the past, had some excellent articles on their website. I havent been on the site for a while now but no reason to think it would be any different. I am sure that between them, your queries will be fully and appropriately answered.