Tuesday, May 4, 2010

India's Dirty War - Forbes Magazine + Comments on the Article

India's Dirty War  - By - Megha Bahree Forbes Magazine

Early one morning last October police forces surrounded the residents of Gompad, a remote village in the state of Chhattisgarh in eastern India, and attacked. Sixteen people were killed, including an older couple and their 25-year-old daughter, who was stabbed in the head with a knife and had her breasts sliced off. Her 2-year-old son survived, but three of his fingers were chopped off. A neighbor who witnessed the massacre was shot in the leg as she tried to escape. What prompted the rampage? The cops suspected the villagers of sympathizing with Maoist insurgents, believing that some were informants. A criminal case has been filed by the survivors against the state.
Business as usual in this part of the world. The Indian government is trying to exterminate Maoists known as Naxalites and since 2004 have killed 1,300 of them; trapped in the crossfire, 2,900 villagers have also died.
The Naxalites have claimed their share of victims, too. A few months before the Gompad attack Vimal Meshram, a village head, was gunned down by Maoists in a market in the same district (Bastar). His crime: He was an outspoken supporter of a plant that Tata Steel, one of India's luminary companies, has been trying to build for the past five years . He is one of 1,650 or more people--villagers, police and police-backed vigilantes--who have been killed by Maoists, just in this district. In the bloodiest attack yet, 80 or more paramilitary troops were killed in early April as they tried to flush out Maoist rebels in the forests of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.
This is India's dirty war: a brutal struggle over valuable real estate that pits the Naxalites against some of the nation's most powerful commercial interests. What began 43 years ago as a small but violent peasant insurrection in Naxalbari, a West Bengal village, is now a full-fledged conflict led by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) across 20 of the country's 28 states (see map below), affecting 223 districts. The fight is over land, much of it in the interior, that has rich deposits of coal and bauxite. On one side of the struggle are the rebels--perhaps 10,000 of them armed and out in the field every day, and a militia of 100,000 who can be called up on short notice. Driven by a violent ideology, the Naxalites claim to be fighting for the land rights of the poor, especially farmers and small indigenous tribes who know only an agrarian way of life. On the other side are the wealthy families behind Tata Steel, Jindal Steel & Power and Vedanta Resources (run by mining mogul Anil Agarwal), who want to develop the untapped resources. (The three companies rank 345, 1,131 and 923 on the Global 2000 list.) Caught in the middle of the conflict between Maoists and billionaires are thousands of villagers. (See: "My Family's Narrow Escape From India's Dirty War")
In principle there ought to be an economic answer to the economic question of whether a steel mill is a better use of land than a farm. If the mill is so valuable, why can't its owner offer the peasants an irresistible sum to leave? But here the market takes a back seat behind politics and thuggery.
It's no mystery why things have gotten worse. "India's boom period has coincided with maximum dissent and dissatisfaction in rural India," says Ajai Sahni, executive director for the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi think tank. Over the last decade the Indian government has been trying by legal and other means to lock up the land for public projects like power plants and, more recently, for private enterprises like Tata. (Under the Indian constitution nontribal people are prohibited from directly acquiring land in certain parts of the country, so the government must obtain it on their behalf and sell it to the companies.) That trend has put the state more and more in conflict with the Maoist rebels, and it has ratcheted up paramilitary operations against them. The government has also squared off more frequently against those who have farmed the land for centuries, using various legal entitlements--and, villagers often claim, resorting to fraud or force--to gain possession of the property. Other times the state simply seizes the land, labeling any resistance rebel-inspired. Hundreds of thousands of people have been dispossessed and displaced. Many now live in what could become permanent refugee camps, where they are prey to both sides of the proxy war and easy converts to radicalism.
Dantewada in Bastar is the epicenter of Naxal activity, where the New Delhi government launched a "cleansing" operation last fall. It also happens to be 50 miles from the town of Jagdalpur, the site of a planned factory by Tata Steel that will produce 5 million tons a year, and close to iron ore mines that could feed the plant. For the past five years the government has been trying to acquire 5,050 acres across ten villages that will affect 1,750 landowners but has met with resistance even as it is being accused of bullying and pressure tactics. Tata washes its hands of those allegations. "Land acquisition is the government's job," says a spokesperson.
Acres of rice, chickpeas and lentils stretch to the horizon. Standing among rows of chickpeas on his 6 acres, Hidmo Mandavi, the village head, says Tata reps have been telling him and other farmers to sell the land and have offered them jobs in the new steel factory. "We're not engineers," he says. "We'll get jobs--but jobs where we'll be serving water to others or sweeping the floors. Right now we live like owners. Why should we become servants?"
Their defiance doesn't go down well, even in the world's largest democracy. The police have been breaking up gatherings of as few as five people. A couple of winters ago two busloads of villagers were on their way to meet the governor of Chhattisgarh to complain about being bullied into selling their land for the Tata plant when the police stopped their buses and hauled them off to jail. Mashre Mora, 46, a farmer in the nearby Dabpal village who refused to sell out, was arrested a third time after returning from a weekly village gathering where farmers discuss issues like water supply, crop infestation and disputes with their neighbors. Charge: disturbing the peace. That evening about 40 cops came to his house, broke the lock and dragged him out. "I've told them I won't give up my land," he says. "I'm uneducated and can't get a job in an office, so once the money runs out what will I do? I only have the support of my farming, I don't have anything else." (The police say they have no involvement in land acquisition and show up only to hunt Maoists.)

Maoists earn more than 1500 crore every year from these lands supporting illegal mining and allied activities. Then use the money to bully villagers and buy arms to fight with state forces. Precisely the reason they do not want to give up, villagers lose as the place does not develop and always live under the fear of death and poverty. Forbes can do better than publishing one sided stories written by journalists who sit in ivory towers.
Who would have thought, Forbes publishing an article supporting Communists/Socialists and basically Terrorists. How did this get past editorial review?

Indian Government should do what USA and China does all the time, apply Emminent Domain in such cases and get it over with. Trying to convince farmers/NGOs/Communists to give up land for factories is a futile excerise.
"dastu11" - What you have read is fairy tale propagated by the clueless. Please read the maoist methods of struggle to understand the issue.

I wouldn't go to police station in India if you merely hit me, they won't listen ( Unless I am a Journalist, Politician...) People don't go. Here terrorists also go free... Try to hit your bike and experience it, it will be settled on spot unless they have made it tight in big cities these days...

Think of the people who can kill the police and not only escape, but influence the top leaders and journalists, make deal with police from such position of strength....You need heavy money , geographical spread and Intellectual power to do that.

Western influenced convent educated people who never experienced haplessness think it is poor people who do it by themselves. Poor and hapless can't do it.

BTW Each time Pakisthani terrorists striked in Kashmir, BBC used to claim Pakisthan denies any support. You read tons of material on how Kashmiris are descriminated financially and hence the "revolt" and so on....
Nupura2 | 
About my previous comment related to Tatas plant - That area was never famous for rich. It was a sparsely populated area, with few villages around most of the land owned by govt. Further, Most of the Tatas wealth are parked elsewhere.

The fact that maoists paid tribute to what they call "martyr" and came to the last cerimony is ample proof that atleast one maoist was present and had died.

One had to read the news papers piling on a hapless govt and police to understand how maoism got legalized in an area with that incident. Now POLICE MAKES DEALS WITH MAOISTS - That way maoists operate, as do police. Socialist and communist intellectuals are a huge influence who justify attack on state on one hand, and could make a little thing criminal if it is done by their opponents.
This article is useless propaganda - Typical of idiots.

(1)- Consider Tatas - They are one of the most respected groups, have spent enoromously on social schemes. One fine day, Villagers attacked their construction site in a rather remote area. Out of a dozen or so policemen guarding their site, some were injured critically. They fought back for their life and fired back. Some villagers died.

News papers for weeks split venom on the govt which had no clue, politicians piled up. Maoists leaders from all over the country bid farewell to their comrades. The issue that newspapers touted was that Govt had aquired some land in that area rather cheaply a decade back, and now land prices increased after govt made that an industrial area. So in effect govt cheated the people.

The reality was that, political maoist organizations had trained upto 4 people in that crowd ( Reported). It is possible that those 4 attacked the police from the villagers. Now news papers, political leaders made it a rich Vs poor story ( As done by this article). Maoists got all the sympathy, 4 years later that area is controlled by maoists, they extract money from industrialists.

(2) Consider Vedanta - a London based company. They spent hugely on media and social issues. According to one of their managers, they just can't match the NGOs who get foreign money for creating trouble. For each village Vedanta develops legally, these NGOs pay cash to another guy to create trouble. In fact CHURCH OF ENGLAND ( !!!) had an anti Vedanta campaign. Church converts the people after creating disgruntlement, and they transfer billions to India.


Socialist revolutions devide the society. Journalists are hapeless agents, lazy idiots drunk in power of their access to highlight any of these. They just write the standard propaganda.
A great article abut the fragmentation of society in India. The struggles of villagers caught between the Maoists and the Indian police is a topic that deserves the extensive reporting done in this article.
There are hundreds of thousands of villages in India, that are neglected by successive Governments. All the developmental activities are being concentrated on cities. All the aid to the remote villages and tribal areas are going to the pockets of Politicians and officials. The villagers also fall into the hands of landlords and private money lenders easily, and they even become bonded laborers for life. Their land are being taken away by force for mining and building big industrial complexes for corporate houses without paying adequate compensation. The Maoists use these injustices, to infiltrate into the villages and tribal areas. Without giving justice to these people, the menace of Maoist insurgency is not going to stop. A military intervention will only give temporary results. In most cases injustice is the main reason for the terrorist activities.
The Maoists in India doubtlessly have foreign backing by hostile neighbors. It's impossible for such sophisticated militancy to just mushroom out of nowhere, complete with sophisticated landmines and even rocket launchers. There is an external source of supply for their weaponry. The brutality of the movement is clearly in the mould of "politique du pire" - they haven't recently degenerated into brutality, they adopted brutality from the start. They have especially resorted to indiscriminate attacks on undefended civilians, which clearly shows that they aren't pro-people or pro-poor. They've never done anything for the poor, never uplifted anyone's life on the ground. This is a Khmer Rouge style movement, which only knows how to commit murder.
With so much of India affected by the Maoists, it is incomprehensive to buy the argument of the article that this conflict is over a few thousand acres spread across the country. It is evident that there is a well armed force funded by anti-India interests whose aim is to destabilise the country and see that the population remains perpetually poor.
As an Indian, I've noticed that this Maoist rebellion immediately began escalating when Pakistan was forced to stop supporting Islamist insurgents in India following 9/11. Because 9/11 made it political difficult for Pakistan to continue backing Islamic jihadist holy warriors, Pakistan had to find another way to destabilize its arch-enemy India, and so it immediately began diverting its support to the Maoist guerrillas. The timing couldn't be more conspicuous - as Islamic guerrillas disappeared from the headlines, Maoist rebels immediately began to dominate the headlines with news of massive and unprovoked attacks. It's impossible for this to be a mere coincidence. The Maoists refuse to recognize the Indian constitution, and are openly fighting for the overthrow of the state. They also have the habit of declaring truces when they find themselves losing, only to cynically use such periods to re-arm so that they can launch attacks later on, at their convenience. This is not a pro-poverty movement, any more than the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia were pro-poor.
Is Forbes becoming a Maoist Mouth-piece spreading false propaganda?

Almost everything about this article from framing of issue to details is pro-maoist.

Firstly, The headline and framing of issue "A violent struggle over resource-rich land is pitting billionaires against Maoists." is simply wrong. Maoist terrorism predates current industrial development. Maoist were killing people even during the heydays of nehruvian-socialism when private sector was almost non-existent.

Secondly, Article wants reader to believe that Maoist fight is only about resource rich interior land. In sharp contrast, Stated goal of Maoist is to take-over india.

Thirdly, Article starts with a alleged incident of police brutality with description 3 fingers of 2 year old being cut. Why would cops cut fingers of 2 year old? Is this a real incident?

Finally, Article hides the fact that Maoist only attack Government properties (i.e., police-station, school, health-center etc.). Not a single private-sector Steel-Plant, or Mineral Mine belonging to domestic or foreign company is ever attacked. According to S. Asia Terror Portal, Maoist collect roughly $900m/annum as protection money. Most of it coming from private sector steel, mining and construction companies

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