Winning: Fighting For A Dream In Rural India

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March 13, 2016: India is defeating its communist rebels by installing 2,200 new mobile cell phone towers in the nine eastern Indian states most afflicted by communist (Maoist) rebels. Most of these are already in service. This is in response to a 2008 Maoist decision to destroy cell phone towers in these states. Communications are vital for the police, and enable the growing number of civilians to use their cell phones to call in information about the Maoists. The growing availability of cell phone service in rural eastern India was very popular with the civilians and the security forces also found cell phones were a good (sometimes superior) substitute for the usual military and police radios. While the Maoists also used cell phones they found that, on balance, the cell phones hurt more than helped. So the Maoists went after the cell phone towers.

In 2010 the government realized that if they installed a lot of mobile cell phone towers (powered by solar panels) in police stations, military bases and villages guarded by local defense militias, widespread sell phone service could be maintained despite the Maoist campaign against cell phones. In 2013 the government allocated over $400 million to buy over 2,000 portable cell phone towers and distribute them to protected locations. When the Maoists are cleared from an area communications firms could install their own towers safely and the mobile towers could be moved to new areas. This proved very effective and very popular with civilians who noted the government was protecting something (cell phone service) that was very popular in these rural areas that earlier had little or no phone service at all. And what was available was a lot more expensive than cell phones.

The Maoist terrorists in eastern India regularly attack transportation and communications, road building operations, large businesses (like mines), police stations (to steal weapons, ammo and other equipment, like radios) and wealthy people (especially landlords, as the economy in the area is somewhat feudal). The communists also finance their operations by extorting money from local businesses, and even some landlords (who they have vowed to drive out of the area.) But their war on cell phone service proved to be a major mistake, in large part because cell phones were so popular.

The Maoists want to establish communist police state, and create a worker's paradise. That is not working out so well. Currently India is winning its four decade war with leftist rebels. But like everything else the government does the “crush the Maoists” project is behind schedule, over budget and not nearly as efficient as politicians said it would be. Nevertheless, eliminating the Maoists is the most important defense related problem India has that most people outside India have never heard of.

While these “Maoist” rebels get a lot of headlines inside India, the communist rebels have not gotten much attention outside of India. Even for a country as big (over a billion people) as India, the Maoists are a noticeable source of violence and other criminal behavior. Since its peak in 2010 leftist (mostly Maoist) terrorism related deaths have gone from 1,180 down to 314 in 2014. The decline was most precipitous (49 percent) in 2011, but continued over the next three years. That meant a 39 percent decline in deaths in 2012, an unexpected 15 percent increase in 2013 followed by a 25 percent decline in 2014. The decline is expected to continue and more Maoists are deserting, surrendering or, if they are leaders, warming to the calls for peace talks.

The trend that began in 2010 was the result a major paramilitary police operation against the main concentrations of Maoists in eastern India. What's amazing is that communist rebels and terrorists are still active after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War. Worldwide this appeared to be the end of the communist movement. But there is still an energetic communist terrorist operation in eastern India. These terrorists belong to the Maoists, an organization trying to establish a communist dictatorship similar to the radical communist movement of the 1960s, when Chinese ruler Mao Zse Dong sought to "purify" the country with a lot of chaos and millions of dead. By the 1970s China had officially renounced the Maoist movement. Yet the concept remained alive. The Cambodian Khmer Rouge were the first copy-cat Maoists, and they killed over a million of their countrymen in the 1970s. Despite all that there are still those who believe that the Maoist dream could work if it were done right. In India there are many leftists who are willing to fight for that dream.

 


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