MAC: Mines and Communities

Indian bureaucrat warns of 'Maoist armed overthrow of state'

Published by MAC on 2010-03-10
Source: Times of India

But Mr Pillai ignores the origins of revolt

A prominent Indian central government bureaucrat has warned that his country may be overtaken by terrorists within the next forty years. Inevitably some critics have accused him of deliberately fomenting paranoia,  to justify even further militarisation of India's rural areas.

The war (officially declared a "green hunt") against Maoists ("Naxalites") has already reached major proportions in the north eastern states. Thousands of villagers have been  uprooted, many killed and wounded, and bona fide human rights campaigners have been arbitrarily arrested or harassed by the state. See:

Union Home Secretary, G K Pillai, bases his warning on a booklet, allegedly circulated by the "enemy", which he highlighted last week at the Delhi Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses - an autonomous body funded by India's Ministry of Defence.

Pillai admitted that "Over the past 60 years, the Indian state had created a huge detritus of poor governance " - especially in relation to tribal peoples' rights to land and forest production.

But he claimed that a proposed new Mining Act would set about redressing these wrongs, through "a fund in perpetuity for the development of local villages [and] new power plants .... giv[ing] subsidised or free power to surrounding villages"

What Mr Pillai dismally failed to acknowledge was that it is the very seizure of Adivasi (Indigenous Peoples') territory, specifically for mineral projects, which is at the heart of tribal peoples' unrest and resistance; and that this has provided the "sea" in which the guerrillas have been able to "swim" for many years.

[Comment by Nostromo Research, 8 March 2010]

'Maoists looking at armed overthrow of state by 2050'

Times of India

6 March 2010

NEW DELHI: Home secretary G K Pillai on Friday said Maoists were looking at the armed overthrow of the Indian state by 2050, acknowledging that the state was ill-equipped at present to put significant pressure on them.

Addressing a seminar on `Left-wing extremism' at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Pillai said, "The overthrow of the Indian state is not something they are willing to do tomorrow or the day after. Their strategy, according to a booklet they circulated, is that they are looking at 2050, some documents say at 2060."

Pillai described Maoists as a formidable enemy, saying they had not come under any significant pressure yet, because their core armed cadres remained intact and out of reach of the Indian state. Dismissing recent talk of talks, Pillai was sure that the Maoists would only come for negotiations when they felt the heat, which they were not at present.

The Indian state, its administrative lapses and poor governance were largely to blame for the growth of Naxalism, he said. The Maoists had developed bases in remote, forest areas, where they operated in a perceived administrative vacuum. There were many districts, Pillai said, where the government had not existed for decades.

They also lived in a strange paradox, opposing development on the one hand but drawing oxygen from the development dissatisfaction of the local people, he added.

However, Pillai said that for the first time in the past one year, the state had decided to tackle this extremism head-on, and take back much of the areas "lost" to the Maoists. In Chhattisgarh, for instance, the state had reclaimed about 4,000 sq km of territory that had been under a severe development deficit and under Maoist control.

Over the past 60 years, the Indian state had created a huge detritus of poor governance -- whether it was laws governing tribals' access to forest land or their right to minor forest produce. All this was changing, but very slowly, because the Indian system has traditionally moved very slowly, Pillai said.

He cited the new mining act which will be introduced in Parliament soon. The legislation envisages a fund in perpetuity for the development of local villages; new power plants will have to give subsidised or free power to surrounding villages, and the government is in the process of withdrawing cases against tribals for accessing minor forest produce. But these measures will take a while to show up on the ground.

The government was also hamstrung by the fact that different states took different views on tackling the menace. For instance, West Bengal continues to take an ambivalent position. In January 2009, it refused to allow inter-state operations against Maoists, but a year and many killings later, the CPM government is now seeing the value of this.

Pillai said the Maoists had been very successful in setting up their structures and systems, funds and training as well as access to about Rs 1,400 crore a year in funds. Their operations were largely low cost, but Pillai was clear that they were not really interested in any discussions with the state. Their aim was armed revolt. In West Bengal, where the CPM thought it could convince the Maoists to change their ways, 159 party workers were killed by the ultras in West Midnapore alone.

Pillai said one of the first acts of the Maoists was to demystify state authority by shooting at the face of officialdom in the target area. The Maoists were also helped by so-called intellectual groups and civil society organisations by building resistance and protests to things like SEZ, land reforms or land acquisition for development.

Maoist violence claimed its highest toll of 908 in 2009, the highest yet since 1971. Pillai expected this to go up significantly in the coming years, before the state could get on top of things.

The lack of capacities in the state was manifest in the grim fact that in all its operations so far, not more than 5% of the core armed cadres of the Maoists had been hit. "The real armed cadres are yet to come out," he said. However, in the recent past, intelligence gathering had improved significantly which led to the arrest of several key leaders.

Maoists, Pillai said, were very meticulous in conducting their reconnaissance, attacks, and post-mortems -- pointing to some professional help, either from former soldiers or others. "Now they can bring many sectors of Indian economy to their knees. But they don't want to do it today. They know that if they do that now, the state will come very hard. They are not fully prepared to face the onslaught of the state machinery. So, they would rather go very slowly," he said.

"They are very highly motivated, highly trained. I am quite certain that there are some, may be some ex-army or some people who have been with them," Pillai said.

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