Category Archives: Ministry of Home Affairs

Xi-Modi @ Wuhan: (Perhaps) We won’t know what happens but still there is a lot we do. My piece.

Even as the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ‘lay the groundwork for the Qingdao Summit’ to be held in June when the top leadership of SCO nations travel to China, in some ways, something very distinct has already occurred.

On Sunday, following discussions with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, China’s Foreign Minister and recently-appointed State Councilor Wang Yi declared that the Chinese President Xi Jinping will be holding an ‘informal meeting’ with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan as early as the next weekend.

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India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Wang Yi, her Chinese counterpart who is also now the State Councilor making him China’s foremost voice on foreign affairs. Pic courtesy: @IndianDiplomacy

“Xi and Modi will have strategic communication on the world’s profound changes, and exchange, in an in-depth manner, views on overall, long-term and strategic issues regarding China-India relations, Wang was quoted as saying by the Chinese news agency Xinhua. (http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-04/23/c_137129130.htm)

How should this be seen?

In the words of India’s recently-retired Foreign Secretary and long-time China hand S Jaishankar to news agency ANI, “It is certainly a very bold step. They will be meeting in a casual environment. The agenda will be open. This will be much more personal and interactive”.

For Sino-Indian ties, if 2017 was the year of friction, marked by the Doklam stand-off and the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, 2018 has seen more than a mere reset.

New Delhi struck the right conciliatory notes with Beijing when it came to dealing with the constitutional crisis in Maldives and the ‘Thank You India’ initiative of the Central Tibetan Administration. On its part, Beijing did not stand with Pakistan in February when the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) moved to squeeze Islamabad over its support to extremist groups.

Dust has also settled on two matters considered important for New Delhi but which saw a unilateral suspension from Beijing’s end –re-opening the Nathu La route for Mansarovar yatra and sharing hydrological data on Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers.

Yet divergence remains.

For India, Beijing’s multi-faceted involvement with Islamabad remains the biggest red flag. Irritants like blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and increasing its foothold in the Indian Ocean region have remained unresolved.

Though trade between the two nations has increased exponentially, so has the trade deficit in favour of China.

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Indian Naval Ship (stealth frigate) INS Shivalik steams past the US Carrier during the ongoing Exercise Malabar-2015. Pic courtesy: Indian Navy

China views India’s embrace of US, Japan and entities on its periphery with suspicion. India’s pro-active role whether in engaging with nations in the Indo-Pacific littoral or in the military build-up along the border has been entirely unprecedented.

Seen from Beijing, the neighbourhood isn’t exactly welcoming at present. It has enjoyed better ties with Japan, Vietnam and Australia  in the past.  In addition, there is a resurgent United States which is willing to call its bluff whether in the economic sphere or in the strategic one.

What now?

History offers an interesting even if not entirely relevant lesson.

The year was 1989. The month was June.

In the heart of the Chinese capital, the country’s military had been used against its citizens. Thereafter unfolded the trauma at Tiananmen Square.

Not too long after, China’s competitor communist nation the Soviet Union too vanished.

India wondered if the Chinese would be interested in settling the boundary dispute over which the nations fought a bitter war only three decades before.

Former National Security Adviser (NSA) and foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, a junior diplomat in 1992 told the then Foreign Secretary JN Dixit, ‘Fears (from the Tiananamen Square and Soviet Union’s collapse) should make the Chinese leadership willing to ensure peace along the border with India, freeing the Chinese government to deal with more pressing concerns’.

Turned out, the Chinese were receptive.

In his book, ‘Choices – Inside the making of India’s Foreign Policy’, Menon notes that by September of 1993, the first agreement of its kind on the border between India and China had been inked.

What is important to note however is this – China today has a President who has secured a mandate ‘for life’ whereas Modi, almost at the end of his term, has to seek one next year.

POSTSCRIPT: As Sushma Swaraj boarded the aircraft to take her to Beijing on April 21, investigating agencies confirmed the location of the wanted diamond merchant Nirav Modi – Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.

THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED FIRST ON THE FOLLOWING SITES:

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CRPF SUKMA BLAST: Did not check the road for mines admits Chhattisgarh Police

Does the left hand know what the right is doing? Not always.

In a stunning revelation, it is now emerging that neither the local police nor the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) – both tasked with countering the left-wing Maoist violence in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh – bothered checking the road for mines before allowing troops to ply on it leading to the carnage on March 13 where nine policemen were killed in an mine explosion.

Around noon on Tuesday, in the state’s Sukma district, men from 212 battalion of the CRPF were commuting from the Kistaram camp to the one at Palodi when their Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) was blasted by insurgents using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

Two more policemen who were in the same vehicle are currently being treated for the injuries they sustained.

While the CRPF maintained that the state police was tasked with clearing the road from all forms of threat on that ill-fated day, the state police said did not have the resources required for that task.

Sundarraj Patilingam, the Chhattisgarh Police Deputy Inspector General (DIG) who looks at the violence-hit region said, “On that day, the state police undertook an area domination exercise (this involves occupying the dominating features along a route to secure a large area) between Kistaram and Palodi. It was a decision taken based on resources available before the officials on ground. In hindsight, we believe a more intensive de-mining and ROP (Road Opening Party is specifically tasked with minutely scanning the road to terminate threats like the IEDs) could have resulted in detection of the IED. Therefore the incident could have been averted”.

He added, “But ideal conditions don’t always exist and senior officials have to visit camps”.

For years now, Maoist rebels have used IEDs planted underneath the road surface to target security personnel. A thorough ROP is thus the only way to counter the threat.

Vehicular movements are generally avoided unless personnel actually conduct an ROP exercise and give the green light.

Warning was ignored 

Barely five hours before the mine blast, the Maoists fired upon personnel from the CRPF’s special unit, CoBRA (208th battalion) ahead of the Kistaram camp at about 7am.

“We’d hardly covered three kilometres on our way to Palodi, nearly 250 Maoist insurgents attacked us. We hit them back and they retreated,” said a policeman who was aware of the fight.

As a result of this, a pre-planned visit to the Kistaram and other camps by the Sukma Superintendent of Police and senior CRPF officer was cancelled.

Nevertheless, at around 9am, the SP, Abhishek Meena, landed in a helicopter at Kistaram, unaccompanied by the senior CRPF officer.

“Our 208 CoBRA had warned about the presence of large number of Maoists with sophisticated arms in the area. The Sukma Superintendent of Police (SP) went ahead with his pre-planned visit after assessing the situation. Our Commanding Officer sent the MPVs one of which got caught in the IED blast”, said the Director General of CRPF, RR Bhatnagar.

Asked if the SP Sukma should have paid heed to the caution advised by his force, Bhatnagar said, “There is no point in conducting these post mortems. We have to look ahead”.

When contacted, the Sukma SP Meena declined to comment.

ALSO READ – MY DEEP DIVE INTO MAOIST INSURGENCY AND WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018:

https://jugalthepurohit.wordpress.com/2018/01/06/maoist-menace-fewer-attacks-fewer-maoist-casualties-but-more-security-men-killed-this-and-more-that-the-govt-wont-tell-you/

MAOIST MENACE: Fewer attacks, fewer Maoist casualties but MORE SECURITY MEN killed. This and more that the govt won’t tell you.

Few paid attention to Ginugu Narsimha Reddy alias Jampanna (55) when he began as a technician in Hyderabad. But in the last week of December 2017, when he returned to the city with his 37-year-old wife Hinge Anitha, taking note was a posse of beaming Telangana policemen and excited journalists. Reddy, after all, had lived his life as a celebrated operative of the outlawed Communist Party of India (CPI) (Maoist). Joining the group in 1984, he started as a dalam commander and grew to the coveted position as a member of the apex, decision-making body, the Central Committee (CC).

2017, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) saw the decline in instances and intensity of Maoist violence. Recently, Home Minister Rajnath Singh pointed out “overall reduction of 21% in violence incidents over corresponding period of last year”.

But that is just one side.

While the attacks on security personnel may have reduced, Maoists have been able to carry out more intense attacks leading to increased casualties for security forces. At the same time they have been able to reduce their own casualties. Data accessed using the Right To Information (RTI) Act 2005:

Instances of security forces being attacked by Maoists

·         2016 – 111

·         2017 – 73

Killing of security force personnel by Maoists

·         2016 – 65

·         2017 – 72

Killing of Maoists by security forces

·         2016 – 222

·         2017 – 109

Surrenders by Maoist cadre

·         2014 – 623

·         2015 – 565

·         2016 – 1420 (1190 from Chhattisgarh alone)

·         2017 – 666 (till December 15, 2017)

Yet, as this report in THE HINDU (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/chhattisgarhs-fake-maoist-surrenders/article20547957.ece) claims, nearly 90 per cent of the surrenders  out of Chhattisgarh last year were fake.

Violence involving Maoists

·         2014 – 1091

·         2015 – 1089

·         2016 – 1048

·         2017 (till Nov 30, 2017) – 813

In this period, Maoists killed more than 212 security personnel and 616 civilians.

The Maoist movement was born before India became independent and it has survived by choosing when and where to fight. So it is hardly a surprise when the MHA notes that the Maoist have made efforts in “Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border areas, establishment of a base at the tri-junction of Kerala-Karnataka-Tamil Nadu and formation of a new Zone at the tri-junction of Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh”.

In trouble-prone areas, police is often the first and only significant arm of the administration. Yet instead of achieving the ideal average ratio of one policeman for every 547 citizens, India continues to field one policeman for every 720 citizens.

On ground, most admit that while Maoists can still pull a surprise, there exists better domination and coordination between various governmental agencies. “Instead of camping in villages and seeking food from the locals, Maoists are now camping in jungles and through emissaries are arranging their food since they fear locals will alert us,” said an officer posted in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district. In Odisha, “Barring the Malkangiri-Nuapada belt, they are nowhere”, said another officer.

Another theme emerging from the ground is the militarisation of Maoist insurgency. “Earlier their People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) was a significant component of the Maoist organisation, now increasingly it is becoming the only component. This works well for us as we are able to win over the people with sops and facilities,” said a source. In contrast, in addition to ramping up security, the government is avowedly constructing roads, mobile towers, schools, skill development centres, post offices, banks and ATMs to present its humane face.

The aging leadership and the lack of an effective second-rung in the CPI Maoist are bright spots when seen from the government’s viewpoint. Sources point to Jampanna and many before him to say, “several senior Maoist leaders are in touch with their families and through them with the police in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. We can expect big surrenders in 2018”. “The average age of their leadership is beyond 55 now. These people began in their 30s and 40s. Health is increasingly a concern for them. If you look at the Maoist hierarchy, they have no next generation to takeover”, said K Durga Prasad, former Direcor General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer with rich experience in tackling the Maoist menace agreed.

So what should the approach be in 2018?

“The government should consciously work to prevent another lease of life to the Maoists. Fake surrenders, fake encounters, death of civilians by security personnel, or large-scale displacement of people is what helps Maoists expand their reach. We have to be careful,” said a source.

India’s record on this front is far from inspiring. In his book, ‘Blood Red River’, Rohit Prasad quotes from a study on displacement of native population in India. In it, he states how between 1947-2000, nearly 60 million were displaced – of which only 1/3rd have been rehabilitated. Among the displaced, nearly 40 per cent are tribals.

General election of 2019 aside, states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand which are at the heart of the Maoist insurgency are barely 24 months away from local elections. As a result, in addition to security-related efforts, political and developmental activities too are picking up pace.

In the battle for the heart of India, 2018 is not just another year.

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED AT THE DAILYO PORTAL: https://www.dailyo.in/politics/maoists-left-wing-extremists-india-naxal-surrender-tribals/story/1/21498.html

#StateOfPlay: Celebrating surgical strikes? No thanks.

By Jugal R Purohit

Speaking at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the media for its coverage of the first anniversary of the surgical strikes. These strikes were conducted in the aftermath of the Uri camp attack which led to the death of 18 army personnel on September 18 last year.

Incidentally, even as the PM was speaking, security personnel in Srinagar were responding to a boisterous attempt by three terrorists to script another Uri-like attack. They targeted the battalion headquarters of the Border Security Force (BSF) where close to 200 personnel and their families were present.

In the year gone by, several such attempts have been made by the terrorists. The surgical strikes, one can say, have neither deterred them nor their Pakistan-based handlers.

Yet none of this came in the way of ‘celebrating’ the operation.

Did anyone ask if all measures to prevent such Uri-like camp intrusions had been implemented? If yes, why are they still taking place? If they haven’t been implemented then why so?

These strikes were meant to be yet another option in deterring Pakistan from aiding and abetting terrorism in Kashmir. What are the other options? How have we implemented them? What happened to the question of delivering better governance in the state which to my mind is the biggest step in coming closer to solving quagmire?

For one, Delhi claims it has refined the counter-terror mechanism in Kashmir because of which it has achieved more terrorist kills in comparison to previous years. Adding to the argument, those on the ground insist the present year is a calmer one (167 violent incidents recorded till June 30, 2017) coming after 322 recorded incidents – highest in the last five years – in 2016. A senior officer in Srinagar reasoned, “We are controlling better, more tightly than before.”

Along the Line of Control (LoC), the surgical strikes were followed by a severe intensification of cross-LoC firing. The 449 ceasefire violations in 2016, bulk of which were recorded in the aftermath of the surgical strikes, consumed the lives of seven security personnel (not to speak of those 29,000 who had been temporarily displaced or the civilians who’ve been hit, killed or lost property). Interestingly, if you are to keep the casualties in the months of October and November of last year aside, data between April 2016 and March 2017 shows India only lost two service personnel in the firing.

But this isn’t all that happened.

A PRS Legislative Research Jammu and Kashmir Budget analysis of 2017-18 tells us that investment in the state which amounted for Rs 4866 crore from 2009-10 to 2014-15, averaging Rs 973 crore a year, slowed down to Rs 267 crore in 2015-16. What does that mean on the ground? Rate of unemployment for persons between 18-29 years of age in the state hovered at 24.6 per cent when the national average was 13.2 per cent. Among persons between 15-17 years of age, it was at 57.7 per cent when the corresponding national average was 19.8 per cent.
(http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1484568158_JK%202017-18%20Budget%20Analysis.pdf)

 

State’s Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu, on January 11, 2017, made an insightful comment when he said, “Unemployment is a social issue of serious magnitude in the state. Even as the rate of unemployment is supposed to be very high in the state, we do not have actual figures” (http://jakfinance.nic.in/Budget17/speechEng.pdf)

 

In J&K, when comparing the average growth between 2005-10 and 2010-15, a decline is seen from 5.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent. In agriculture (which employs 64 per cent of the population and contributes 22 per cent to the economy), manufacturing (employs 11 per cent and contributes 25 per cent) and services (employs 25 per cent and contributes 53 per cent), the current levels of growth pale when compared to the growth in 2005-10. (http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1464866443_Jammu%20and%20Kashmir%20Budget%20Analysis%202016-17.pdf)

 

Two recent news reports from Srinagar caught my eye.

The Indian Express reported on October 4 that ‘schools, especially higher secondary ones, have been open for a little more than hundred days throughout the 11-month session so far. It is the second consecutive year that schools in the valley have remained shut for most part of the academic session’.  Day after, Hindustan Times quoted, ‘Combined cases of drug abuse and related psychological issues also went up from more than 14,500 cases in 2014 to 33,222 in 2016, a staggering 130% increase in two years. This year till April alone, this number is 13,352’.

Did Delhi and Srinagar face any questions over this?

When I tried finding out a voice on the ground to understand the human story from these numbers, I bumped into Muneeb Mir (37), a businessman operating from Pampore. He said, “We see the iron fist of the government, we see a return to the cordon and search approach we thought we had last seen in the 90s. We understand it helps the rightist agenda of the government to be seen as muscular but what really worries us is this – earlier the narrative of the government was one thing and the narrative of the people the other. Today that line has blurred and this dominating rightist narrative worries us.”

Speaking of anniversaries, it was in October 1947 that Jammu and Kashmir’s erstwhile ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession, paving the way for the state to become a part of India. An undated letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to Hari Singh published in Ramachandra Guha’s seminal ‘India After Gandhi’ carried the following text:

“Even if military forces held Kashmir for a while, a later consequence might be a strong reaction against this. Essentially, therefore, this is a problem of psychological approach to the mass of the people and of making them feel they will be benefited by being in the Indian Union. If the average Muslim feels that he has no safe or secure place in the Union, then obviously he will look elsewhere. Our basic policy must keep this in view, or else we fail”.

So, what happened?

THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED ON THE SITE DAILYO:

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/surgical-stirke-uri-attack-kashmir-insurgency/story/1/19947.html

 

RE-UP: #BSF chief declares full force as corruption-prone, sparks outrage within

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Many are surprised, some are shocked and the rest are silent.

In October 2015, DK Pathak, the former Director General (DG) of the Border Security Force (BSF) remarked how the ‘elite’ force he was ‘proud to lead’ had ‘very less’ number of corruption cases. Within 20 months, things have a turn for the worse or so it seems. In a two-page order issued last month by the current DG, KK Sharma’s office, almost all posts and appointments in the force ‘have been identified as sensitive posts and corruption prone areas in the BSF’. No justification, further explanation or course of action has been provided in the said order.

The order was issued by the Pers Section of the Pers Directorate which deals with personnel-related issues and can be equated with the Human Resource (HR) wing in other organisations. The order has been ‘approved by the competent authority’ (a reference to the Director General himself) and goes on to list six formations which it believes are corruption-prone and sensitive. Beginning with all appointments and directorates within the Force Headquarters, the order goes on to list Command Headquarters, training institutions, Frontier Headquarters all the way to the Sector Headquarters and Battalion Headquarters. A closer reading of the order reveals how even junior and functional offices have not been spared from the taint of being ‘corruption-prone’. For example, those dealing with ration and welfare at the battalion headquarters have been placed under this order’s ambit. Those dealing with recruitment, postings, construction, cash and accounts and even vigilance matters will have a tougher scrutiny over their work thanks to this order.

SHRI D K PATHAK, DG BSF
DG BSF KK Sharma

The exercise to identify such posts is a routine one but the broad sweep with which almost the entire organisation has been identified has led to raised eyebrows.

“The length and scope of this list is unprecedented since it almost covers the entire organisation. Some posts in the procurement department, because they involve dealing with external suppliers, may be considered sensitive and corruption prone. But how is the motor transport department for example being seen with the same lens? As I see it, pe

ATTARI - WAGHA
“The length and scope of this list is unprecedented since it almost covers the entire organisation. As I see it, people have failed in applying their minds”, said SK Sood

ople have failed in applying their minds”, said SK Sood, former Additional Director General of the BSF. It was believed that this list could also be used to justify transfers before the completion of tenures. Interestingly while the order states ‘all appointments’ for nearly all the formations, it also contradicts itself and specifies posts which have been brought under this order.

Many within the force are seeing this as a measure of the panic in the wake of the controversy involving Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav who had earlier this year alleged corruption leading to poor nutrition for lower functionaries of the force. To prove his point Yadav had uploaded on social media video clips in which he was seen displaying the allegedly substandard food being served on duty. Yadav was dismissed from service on April 19 this year by a Summary Security Force Court which heard the case from April 13. Serving BSF men who spoke to this correspondent on the basis of anonymity said the force was trying to improve and tighten its vigilance component.

Despite sending a questionnaire neither the BSF Headquarters nor the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) presented their viewpoint on the issue.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/bsf-corruption-all-posts-corruption-prone-kk-sharma-tej-bahadur-yadav/1/997938.html

Born inside the Union Home Ministry, I am SOP and here’s my story…

My name is Standard Operating Procedure. You can call me SOP.

You will hear about me whenever something goes terribly wrong or a tragedy strikes. Many carry the impression that my tribe is the cure to all ills.

Now I am not simply called SOP. That’s too generic. I have a special number assigned on file but mentioning that may make matters too technical.

Well, I was born as a two-page letter on August 3, 2010, at the hands of a clerk who worked for the then special secretary (internal security) Mr UK Bansal. In my early moments, I recall Mr Bansal sending me from his chamber located on the first floor of the North Block which houses the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to the headquarters of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) like the CRPF, Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

Why was I created and what was the message I carried?

Back in 2010, home minister Mr P Chidambaram was said to be serious in securing the Left-wing extremism (LWE)-affected areas. These were sizeable parts of central and eastern India where rebels from the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) were wreaking havoc. Once when I was lying on the desk at an office I heard how four months before I was born, Maoist rebels killed 75 men from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and one policeman in a single attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district!

DSC_0417

The government’s efforts however hit a roadblock when they realised that the local police forces in their states had neither the training nor the numbers to take on the Maoist insurgents who called the jungle their home. So, till the police could build themselves up, the CAPFs would help them with numbers and fire power. It was to be a partnership.

As time passed, Mr Bansal, a 1974-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, wasn’t very happy about how this partnership was progressing. The CAPFs, which did not belong there, did not know the region or for that matter even the local language, felt like foreigners. The local police on the other hand did not suffer these disadvantages but they did not participate enough. The Maoists exploited this. They killed many of our men.

On my two pages, Mr Bansal had written that for every one policeman participating in an operation, two men from CAPFs would do so too, thus maintaining a ratio of 1:2. He revised it to 1:3 later for “any planned operation”. Only in case of an urgent operation could reduced police participation be allowed. You see the point he was making?

Have you wondered how many policemen participated in the “planned” operations to support road construction in Bhejji on March 11 and in Burkapal on April 24 where the CRPF lost 37 men? Two constables in Bhejji and one in Burkapal! This despite the MHA recently stating that there are “over 20,000 state police personnel” and “45,000 central forces personnel” posted in there.

People in power have no idea about my existence.

When journalist Jugal Purohit went about asking, here is what he found:

– Abhishek Meena, Superintendent of Police, Sukma: No such guidelines exist and no such guidelines can be adhered to.

– DM Awasthi, Special Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh: Such instructions can’t be followed.

– Sudeep Lakhtakia, Additional Director General, CRPF: I will have to check up.

– K Vijay Kumar, senior security adviser, MHA: You cannot have such rigidity.

– The spokesperson of the MHA did not offer any explanation.

This is my reality.

Someone sitting removed from the actual situation thought about me and pushed me down the throats of others who had their own ideas. Then when something went wrong, newer people came together and created newer SOPs. Lessons were seldom learnt. I remain forgotten.

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CRPF personnel killed when the Maoists detonated a landmine under the truck they were moving in. March 30, 2016 MAILAWADA in DANTEWADA DISTRICT. IMAGE SOURCE: Author 

Contrast this with our enemy who bears the name of a foreigner who died more than 40 years ago. That enemy deploys his tactics and remains guided by his doctrine even today. He hasn’t forgotten.

THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED ON THE DAILYO PORTAL:

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/sukma-attack-maoists-crpf-sop/story/1/16963.html

BOOK REVIEW: On tackling Maoist question, an effort to provide answers

How should India grow? Does ‘growth’ have the same meaning for everyone whether in the cities or resource-rich hinterland? Do growth and displacement of natives compulsorily go hand in hand? For India to grow what is needed more – preserving tribal way of life of its natives or exploiting the resource-rich lands they inhabit? What if their grievances create hurdles in the path of growth? 

Author Rohit Prasad in ‘Blood Red River’ has chosen the troubled landscape of Bastar in southern Chhattisgarh to understand how the Indian state is answering these questions.

Located in the heart of the country, the state of Chhattisgarh means many things depending on which side one is looking at. A politically and financially stable state, a state with perhaps the richest resources both in terms of mineral and bio-diversity in the country, a state with nearly 44 per cent of its territory covered by forests, a state which has over 30 per cent of its population coming from a vibrant variety of tribes or a state locked in a brutal embrace with a rebellion which refuses to ebb even after fifty years of its emergence.

The rebels, members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), seek to violently overthrow parliamentary democracy which they believe is a sham. The response of the government hinges on quelling the rebellion with its armed might and addressing the needs of the masses by the means of development.

The armed struggle is visible and chronicled. In comparison, the politics of development, supposed to exemplify in myriad ways the healing touch of an absent state, remains hard to track, harder to grasp. Touted as ‘a journey into the heart of India’s development conflict’, the book stands out for its focus.

Divided into sections segregated by short chapters within, the book is a sincere attempt at providing the reader with the understanding of a topic which can hardly be termed easy. A largely smooth and uninterrupted flow does emerge as the author switches between anecdotes, damning data dug from a multitude of reports, the annals of history, regulations governing the relationship between tribes and their home, the forest, the vibrant hope of a promising economy, the industrial lure of exploiting a resource-rich territory, instances of flawed ‘development’ and a society eclipsed by the shadow of the conflict which has consumed over 12000 lives. On offer are solid glimpses into the unholy nexus that exists on the ground between the government, the insurgents and the private sector which works to perpetuate the conflict at the expense of the locals.   

Interestingly, as the author, a business school professor based out of Gurugram, admits, he’d initially set out to analyse a different subject before stumbling upon something ‘far more complex’ and ‘fundamental’ which led him to write this book.

Rohit Prasad’s ground reporting from the affected region ensures the reader is exposed to the colour, the festivals, the customs as also the difficult path tribes find themselves treading and how there is corrosion of that timeless society underway as a result. Aptly captured case studies make the reader aware of the lost lives of faultless, promising youngsters in the region.   

On the flip side, there are times when the narrative shifts from story-telling to either philosophy or sweeping generalisations. Then there are outlandish claims like where the author says the US Army special forces supported Indian armed police in 2009 offensive against the Maoists! There are also times when objective analysis turns subjective. However, the biggest drawback that book suffers from is the lack of a direct Maoist voice. Scrutinising their ‘developmental works’ in their ‘janatana sarkar’ (local government in areas they term liberated) and their model would have added to the book’s effort by making two sides of the divide clear and visible to the reader.

To conclude, ‘Blood Red River’ is an introduction into a less dimension in the debate over development. Few understand that it is also essential.