Attrition: Communist Rebels Lose Their Edge


December 29,2008: The police northeastern Indian state of Bihar are not pleased with their performance against local Maoist (communist) rebels. In the last five years, there have been 130 gun battles between police and Maoists, leaving 63 rebels and 76 policemen dead. In the last few years, the federal government has also grown tired of the Maoist violence, and devoted more resources to fighting them. Thus this year, battles between police and Maoists in Bihar resulted in 29 rebels dead, and 20 police. In 2004, three rebels and 22 policemen died.

India has been fighting Maoist (communist) rebels for decades. The violence is mostly in rural areas of eastern and southern India, where poverty is high and literacy is low. Nationally, the illiteracy rate is 39 percent, and in the districts where the Maoists operate, it is often much higher (its 53 percent in Bihar). That makes it difficult to recruit local police, and in many of the areas with the most Maoist violence, the police are under strength. The police have to be literate, and too many potential recruits are not. Many who could qualify, have better paying, and less dangerous, alternatives to choose from.

To help the states like Bihar, the national government is recruiting 35,000 additional police into a special security force (the "Police Reserve") to be used against the Maoists. This is in addition to 26,000 Police Reserve cops already raised. This is against shortages of about 100,000 police in the affected states. The Maoists are, after all, a local problem and are taking advantage of local grievances (feudal practices by landowners and industrialists, and corrupt local government officials), which the government finds more difficult to deal with, than simply hiring more cops.



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