Growing vulnerabilities India’s Maoist insurgency in the red corridor

By Taimur Khan

On June 27, 2017, the FARC of Colombia handed over its guns/weapons to the United Nations (UN), making the Indian Maoists the largest group of Communist fighters besides the YPG of Syria. Ranging from 8,000 to 10,000 in its guerilla army, approximately 40,000 cadres and active supporters in its people’s militia, a number of active fighters, have been fighting a protracted people’s war against the Indian government for more than fifty years with no end in sight.
Since the two main Maoists groups merged in September 2004, the Communist Party of China (Maoists) has become the largest armed group operating in India. This protracted people’s war in the Central and Eastern parts of India, euphemistically known as “The Red Corridor”, is about land ownership, displacement of locals from their hometowns and the exploitation of resources (that are abundant) in these areas, that provide shelter to approximately 84 million adivasis or indigenous people.
The Red Corridor which is under the control of Maoists is spread across the districts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Maoists have a strong presence in the states of West Bengal and Maharashtra as well. The stalemate has remained elusive to a variety of political, economic and social factors. The Indian government has deployed more than a 100,000 paramilitary troops in regions constituting The Red Corridor, to crush the Maoist movement.
From a small uprising that was launched in 1967, from a remote village of Naxalbari in West Bengal, the Maoist insurgency has turned into a Frankenstein that, according to former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is “the single biggest internal security threat to India.” The severity of the situation in the Red Corridor, can be gauged by the number of casualties of innocent adivasis, Maoists and Indian security forces personnel, suffering at the hands of this conflict. Approximately 15,000 people have been killed (including Maoists and Indian security forces personnel) with an average death count of 100 people every year since 1990. The question remains, why the insurgency has persisted for so long, and the Maoist movement is still soaring?
According to the Indian government, the Maoists want to overthrow the government and establish communist rule while according to the Maoists’ literature, their fight is against the ‘economic-imperialist exploitation’ of their land and resources (first by the Feudal lords and now by multinational companies). This fight is also against the ‘social oppression’ of the Indian government and the prevalent caste system.
The answer to the above asked question is, that this war persists due to the conditions that create war, do. The area districts that consists of The Red Corridor in India, are full of valuable ores and metals. The forests have wood and irritable land in abundance. The subsequent governments and politicians have only used the slogan of development, however in reality, the manifestation of development has never taken place in the areas that constitute The Red Corridor. The Red Corridor which is under the control of Maoists is spread across the districts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Maoists have a strong presence in the states of West Bengal and Maharashtra as well.
The tribal people have seen no such development. Their lands, forests, rivers have always been exploited for resources alongside their tribal women, who have been abused sexually. The livelihoods of the tribal people are snatched away by the government on the behest of the mining corporations who took over their lands and forests. To top it all off, the tribal people are not even employed by the corporations that set up shop in their tribal lands, overall simply exploiting the resources.
Members of the civil rights activists and Maoists watchers in India and abroad are divided over whether the use of violence as a means by Maoists is necessary or not. However, when it comes to the Maoists’ cause being rooted in the opposition against the unscrupulous exploitation of forest lands and displacement of tribal people for the sake of resources, all are in agreement.
Furthermore, the longevity and persistency of the Maoists’ armed struggle can be attributed to the lack of political will in the Indian State to resolve the issue, the double game of the Indian authorities and adherence of the Indian government to seeking a purely military solution to the conflict.
Despite the declarations of a unilateral ceasefire by the Maoists, the Indian government has shown total unwillingness to work towards establishing peace, and never reciprocated any overtures of peace made by Maoists. Instead of negotiating with the Maoists, addressing the grievances and concerns of the local population and the insurgents, the Indian state has always resorted to violent and hard power means to resolve the issue.
During the government of PM Manmohan Singh, a special budget was allocated for districts with Maoists presence and rapid militarization of police started where armories were upgraded and high-intensity warfare equipment was provided to the police. Operation Green Hunt against the Maoists was also launched in 2009. The government even attempted to reel in the Indian Army into this conflict but fortunately, the military decided not to get involved. The forests have wood and irritable land in abundance. The subsequent governments and politicians have only used the slogan of development, however in reality, the manifestation of development has never taken place in the areas that constitute The Red Corridor.
As an alternate strategy, the Indian government also sponsored counter-militias and bribed local tribes to fight against the Maoists. One such example is of the infamous “Salwa Judum”, where the strategy of creating counter-militias backfired as she came under international scrutiny for gross human rights violations, employment of child soldiers, rape and murder. In the end, the Indian government had to ban the organization.
The Indian security forces are also blamed for carrying out extrajudicial killings of Maoists and causing mass sexual and rights abuses of adivasis as reported by independent journalists covering the conflict. From April 22nd to 23rd, 2018, at least 39 Maoists were killed in an alleged encounter with Indian security forces in the district of Gadchiroli.
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 even a single police personnel had received injuries. They have termed it a planned mass murder and a cold-blooded killing of Maoists. Even the human rights activists and journalists have been targeted for reporting the abuse and targeted killings.
According to Dr. Lakhan Singh, President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, the situation is that of a civil war in Central and Eastern districts of India. However, to avoid UN monitoring, the government refuses to declare this as an internal armed conflict. The government of India boasts that violence has decreased over the past few years, however, the decline in casualties is due to a stalemate, not due to a peaceful political settlement. The stalemate has remained elusive to a variety of political, economic and social factors.
The Indian government has deployed more than a 100,000 paramilitary troops in regions constituting The Red Corridor, to crush the Maoist movement. The mass killings of Maoists and innocent adivasis is being completely ignored in the international media, just like the Indian state’s atrocities in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) where thousands of innocent civilians have been and still are being subjected to state oppression and mass killing’s for the past seven decades.
The international media should highlight the atrocities of the Indian state against the innocent adivasis of Central and Eastern India, the Maoists (who are raising a voice for their rights) and the people of IOK. It is the responsibility of the international media to become the voice of the oppressed who are living under the iron fist of the Indian state.
The farce of the “biggest democracy of the world” should be eliminated in order to make the international community realize that the state of India is responsible for the ills it faces and not its neighbors who are conveniently blamed by India whenever something goes wrong.
Mr. Muhammad Taimur Khan is a freelance journalist. He holds an M. Phil Degree in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. He wrote many research articles, Policy Briefs, Issue Briefs, Book Reviews and Monographs on topics related to International Relations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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