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  • India’s Most Urgent Domestic Security Challenge—Not What You Might Think

    In thinking about India’s internal security woes, several pressing issues come to mind: poverty, social fragmentation, disgruntled laborers, and overpopulation. But which is the most important? In fact, none of the above. According to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reiterating his comments from a 2006 Chief Minister’s Conference, left-wing terrorism—namely, the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency—sits atop the list. Surprised? Well, don’t be.

    Naxalites, or Naxals, who operate along India’s eastern coast (known as the “Red Corridor”) make up India’s most destructive and terrifying left-wing (Maoist) insurgency. Fighting for land reform and increased federal government attention to rural needs, Naxalites more and more frequently turn to violence to push their agenda. At an official meeting with Chief Ministers of Naxal Affected States on July 14, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram remarked:

    Between 2004 and 2008, on an average, 500 civilians were killed every year [by Maoist insurgents] and many of them were killed after being named “police informers.” In 2009, 591 civilians were killed, of which 211 were named as “police informers.” This trend has continued in the first half of 2010 too, with 325 civilians killed, of which 142 were named as “police informers.”

    At the same meeting, Chidambaram revealed that “[d]uring the period January to June, 2010, there have been 1103 incidents of violence perpetrated by Left Wing Extremists,” resulting in over 200 security forces fatalities. The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) reports that Maoist violence led to over 700 Indian civilian and security forces deaths in 2009. SAIR data indicates that 2010 fatalities will soon surpass 2009 levels—as of July 19, 637 civilians and security forces died in Maoist-related attacks.

    What’s particularly frightening is that Naxalite insurgents aim to wage stronger campaigns in India’s more densely populated urban areas. The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies explains that “the Naxalites are making concerted efforts to make their presence in urban areas felt …[and] have developed a different strategy to penetrate these areas.” The urbanization of the Naxalite movement is even more worrisome given recent announcements that the Indian central government will not deploy army personnel to help subdue Naxalite aggression.

    However, as Chidambaram detailed in the July 2010 meeting, the central government will continue to provide logistical and tactical support to state governments and district police. Hopefully the government’s technical assistance will strengthen the counteroffensive, named “Operation Green Hunt,” which deployed 50,000 paramilitary soldiers to Naxalite-affected regions.

    The effectiveness of India’s anti-Maoist operations, however, ultimately depends on the ability of state officials to properly train and equip local law enforcement agencies. But until these forces see drastic improvements, Naxalite rebels will continue to destabilize Indian cities and exhaust state governments’ time, energy, and resources. Officials and security personnel must rise to the challenge and ensure the safety of the country’s flourishing democracy.

    Michael Palermo currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation.  For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to India’s Most Urgent Domestic Security Challenge—Not What You Might Think

    1. V.Takhar, Vancouver says:

      It is easy to say this is wrong or that must be stopped, but harder to see the purpose behind all this violence. The fact that most of these civilian deaths were security personnel trying to infiltrate and suppress villages, and resulted only from self defence of naxalites, does not justify killing, which is wrong in any form. But rather than sending more troops to kill Naxalites, a more civil and thoughtful look at the reason WHY Naxals are doing what they are may help cool down this situation on both ends. After all, protection of the commoner in India should be more important than corporate profits based upon forceful acquisition of agriculture lands that belong to the already poor and deprived.

    2. P Mazumder, Kolkata, says:

      Maoists are inspired by the political thoughts of Mao Ze Dong who used to believe in the political dictum that power comes out from the barrel of a gun. The offshoots of this thought process generated distorted political system like "Barrack Communism or Khemer headed by Pol pot Govt under whose regime resulted in the deaths of approximately 21% of the Cambodian population killed due to the combined effects of slave labour, malnutrition, poor medical care, and executions. During Mao's own regime 45 million people died owing to infamous famine created by flawed Maoist policy. Mao did not feel sorry for that rather he commented let half the ppopulation die to feed the other half better. How could few aberrant communist in India called themselves Maoists can deliver goods to tribal population who suffered due to poor governance, lack of opportunities, atrocities, social deprivation and exploitation by the mine owners. Maoists only exploited this disappointing backdrop to establish their hegemony through bullets. The Govt, major political formations must be unied to wage a brave battle against the Moists who are nothing less than surrogate terrorists in the guise of social revolutionaries. We have observed the way violent revolutionaries turned into mercenaries and kidnappers in Latin America. Violence can never deliver social development on long term basis, only democracy can serve that purpose well provided the ruling class pay attention and find remedies to social evils like inequity, casteism, poverty, malnutrition etc.

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