Counter-Terrorism: Indian Leftists Beaten Down But Not Out

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January 13, 2012:  The Indian effort to suppress leftist (Maoist or Naxalist) rebels at least managed to reduce the level of violence last year. In 2011, Maoist related violence left 447 civilians and 142 security personnel dead. This was down from 718 civilians and 285 security personnel in 2009. The decline occurred despite determined, and deadly, resistance from over 10,000 armed Maoist (radical communist) rebels operating in rural areas.

The Maoists have become increasingly powerful in the past decade. Back in 2003, only about nine percent of 626 districts had a Maoist problem, but by last year it was 36 percent of districts. The Maoists use terror to raise money, obtain weapons, and intimidate local police. The Maoists aggressively recruit teenagers and terrorize those members who try to leave. The Maoists are all about attacking corruption and feudal practices out in the countryside (where there is a lot of it). But in many districts, the Maoists have become more of a bandit problem and are considered a cure that is worse than the disease.

India has been fighting Maoist 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 over 30 percent and in the districts where the Maoists operate, it is much higher. 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.

Some states, like Andhra Pradesh, have managed to keep their police forces up to strength and, as a result, are doing better against the Maoists. To help the other states, that are not doing as well, the national government has recruited 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.

The government has also moved some troops in to help, but believes the problems are mainly economic and political, and, thus, local. The armed forces are also reluctant to get involved with what they see as a police matter. The national government talks about helping alleviate the poverty but little has been done over the last decade. Economic programs that have been tried have been crippled by corruption. It's going to take some strong political leadership, as well as lots of police, to deal with the Maoists.

 


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