Counter-Terrorism: Something Worse Than Islamic Radicalism



February 16, 2007: For decades, India has had a problem with radical communist guerillas ("Maoists") out in the country side. Last year, Maoist violence left nearly 800 civilians, police and Maoists dead. While the government has never been able to completely eliminate the Maoists (who are present in about two thirds of Indian territory), it was never believed these political fanatics would grow to be a major threat. That attitude has changed. The Maoists have adopted a more effective, for them, strategy, that is enabling the rebels to gain more support, more money, more guns, and more people using those guns. 

The Maoists began as armed groups siding with poor farmers and agricultural workers, against the wealthy farmers and business owners in rural areas. Although the huge feudal landholdings of traditional India were gone by the 1950s, a lot of that land ended up in the hands of a small number of  able and ambitious farmers, rather than spread evenly among the entire rural farming population. Many of the major landowners took advantage of their less successful neighbors, causing anger and resentment. The Maoists exploited this to gain recruits, and build a network of people who would not turn them in. But in the last decade, the Maoists have, like many revolutionary organizations, gotten quite good at criminal activities, like extortion (or "revolutionary taxes"). The Maoists are also making progress creating "united fronts" with other anti-government organizations (even though it is no secret that communist revolutionaries consider these allies "useful idiots" and future victims.)

Moreover, government development and education programs have helped as well. Rural poverty has been reduced a lot in the last decade, but it's still 25 percent of the population. Education, however, has increased the literacy rate in the countryside, giving the Maoists more capable recruits. Growing rural prosperity means more people have radios and TVs, and this enables media attention, on the activities of the Maoists, to reach more people. Lastly, the Maoists have the recent example of the Nepalese Maoists, who brought the government to its knees and are now a major party in the government. The Indian Maoists intend to take over the government and create a communist dictatorship. They are unlikely to do that, but they are likely to cause lots of mayhem in the countryside. The Maoists are also working on moving into the urban areas as well, but have so far not had much success. Nevertheless, the government is probably correct is believing that the Maoists are now a larger threat than Islamic radicalism.


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