Wednesday, January 2, 2008




The anger of the poor in the tribal areas in central India arising from their unaddressed grievances for many years has been systematically exploited by Maoist elements to start a Mao Zedong-style peasants' revolution. Mao's Thoughts of the 1960s and 1970s, which were discarded in China after 1978, form the basis of their ideology. Their objective is not limited to the removal of the economic and social grievances of the rural poor. It has become increasingly political, namely, the capture of political power through the barrel of the gun by following Mao's strategy of capturing power in the villages and then surrounding the cities with the "liberated' villages. For this purpose, they have been organising the hard-core of a People's Liberation Army (PLA) by motivating and recruiting the angry rural poor and arming and training them.

2. While Mao is the source of their ideological inspiration, they are influenced in their strategy and tactics not only by the experiences of the peasants' revolution in China before the Communists captured power, but also by those of the Shining Path Guerillas of Peru and the Maoists of Nepal. Till 2004, Maoist activities in different parts of the affected belt were led by the Maoists' Communist Centre and the People's War Group (PWG). The two merged in 2004 to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The insurgents have since then been operating under the leadership of the CPI (Maoist).

3. The areas worst-affected by the Maoist activities are 10 districts of the State of Jharkhand, seven districts of Chhatisgarh, six districts of Bihar, five districts of Orissa, two districts of Maharashtra and one each of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh--- making a total of 33 districts across eight States. Sporadic activities have been reported from other States too, but these have not yet assumed serious, insurgency-like dimensions.

4. It has been estimated that the CPI (Maoist) has so far recruited and trained about 15,000 persons and armed about 10,000 of them. What one has been facing is a classical rural insurgency of the Nepalese model and not urban terrorism of the jihadi model inspired by Al Qaeda. There are many differences between the Maoist insurgency and the jihadi terrorism in Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir (J&K):

The Maoist insurgency is largely confined to the rural areas in the tribal belt in central India. It has so far had no significant support in urban areas. The jihadi terrorism is largely confined to urban areas with very little support in the rural areas.

The Maoists are organised in the classical pattern of the pre-1949 PLA of China---- with military-style formations capable of acting in large or small groups, with a hierarchial command and control. The jihadis follow the cellular structure---with their followers divided into a number of secret cells, with each cell having a small membership. The jihadis do not have a hierarchial command and control.

The jihadis, who keep changing their base of operations from State to State, do not seek territorial control. Control of territory and administering it as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) does it in Sri Lanka and as the Maoists have been doing it in Nepal and Central India, would require a large force of motivated and trained cadres. None of the jihadi organisations has it. The Maoists seek territorial control in the rural areas. They have already been able to establish their writ in the areas controlled by them.

The jihadis have been increasingly using improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The use of hand-held weapons, while still prevalent, is becoming less frequent. The Maoists use effectively hand-held weapons and land mines. Use of sophisticated IEDs has been rare among the Maoists.

The jihadis are well-funded and well-equipped thanks to the assistance from the intelligence agencies and jihadi organisations of Pakistan and Bangladesh and the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia and sections of the Muslim diaspora abroad. After China stopped exporting revolution in 1979, the Maoists have no longer been in receipt of funds and arms and ammunition from China. They now depend on extortions from rich land-lords and forest contractors for their fund collection and raids on police stations, govt. armouries etc for replenishing their stocks of arms and ammunition.

The jihadis have been increasingly using the Internet, the mobile telephones and other modern advances in science and technology to strengthen their communication and operational capabilities. The Maoists are yet to master the use of S&T. Moreover, in the rural areas inhabited by illiterate or semi-literate tribals, where they operate, there is not much scope for the use of modern advances in S&T.

While the jihadi terrorists kill civilians indiscriminately, the attacks of the Maoists on civilians are more targeted----against those whom they look upon as their class enemies or exploiting classes such as landlords, forest contractors and money-lenders as well those collaborating with the security forces against the Maoists.

5.The Police forces of different States continue to face serious difficulties in controlling the spreading fire of the rural insurgency of the Maoists. There are many reasons for this. The first is the fact that the Maoists,who have taken to terrorism-cum-insurgency on ideological grounds,have genuine root causes for doing so---the continuing pockets of abject poverty, particularly in the tribal areas across central India, and the failure of the State to implement an effective programme for the economic development of the tribal areas. As a result of these root causes, Maoist leadership enjoys some popular support.

6.The second is the understandable ambivalence of the political leadership in dealing with Maoist insurgency and its reluctance to authorise the security agencies to use the same methods against the Maoists as they do against the jihadi terrorists. This ambivalence arises from the fact that large sections of the elite and the public, which do not approve of Maoist methods, have nevertheless a strong empathy for their ideology and objectives.

7.The reluctance of the State can be attributed to the differing background of the two kinds of situations. Jihadi terrorism is to a large extent foreign inspired, foreign funded and foreign trained and armed. It is being used by Pakistan as a weapon to achieve its strategic objectives against India. Many foreign mercenaries ---mainly Pakistanis--- are involved in it. Counter-terrorism as applied against the jihadi terrorists is seen by the political leadership and the intelligence and security agencies as part of our continuing confrontation with the Pakistani Armed Forces in order to maintain the secular character of our pluralistic society.

8.The Maoists, on the contrary,are sons and daughters of our own soil, who feel neglected by the State, the political leadership, thegovernmental agencies and the better-off sections of our society and abandoned to the clutches of abject poverty and misery while the rest of the society is marching forward towards increasing prosperity. Their ideology---Maoism--- is not native to our soil. But,this has caught their imagination since our own political leadership and elite have not been able to place before them an alternative ideological model, whichwould end their perceived economic and social marginalisation.

9.The indigenous character of the Maoist insurgents/terrorists and the absence of the involvement of foreign mercenaries come in the way of the professionalism of our rural police, which has to be the cutting edge of our counter-Maoism strategy. They also come in the way of the success of our intelligence agencies in collecting rural intelligence comparable with their success in collecting intelligence in the urban areas. The rural police constables, who have to be in the forefront of the counter-insurgency campaign against the Maoists, often come from the same social and economic milieu as the Maoists. One cannot blame them totally if this comes in the way of their performance.

10. Fears caused by the ruthlessness of the methods used by the Maoists and the reluctance to operate against them caused by the fact that they are products of the same mileu as the Maoists should at least partly explain the hesitation of the people of the affected areas to come forward to join the police force in the required numbers. This is despite the prevalence of large-scale unemployment in these areas and the attractive emoluments offered to the police personnel volunteering for duty in the insurgency-affected rural areas.

11.According to a briefing of the media given by Mr.V.K.Duggal, the then Home Secretary of the Government of India, on March 31,2006, ("The Hindu" of April 1, 2006), there were 17,000 vacancies of Constables in the State of Bihar, 6,000 in Andhra Pradesh and 1,000 in Jharkhand. He did not explain to what extent these vacancies were due to the non-availability of candidates with the required minimum qualifications and to what extent due to the reluctance of the local people to serve in the Maoism-affected areas.

12.The intelligence agencies find themselves handicapped due to two reasons. Firstly, the Maoists have not been using modern means of communications to any significant extent .Extensive use of modern means of communications, as the jihadis do, increases the vulnerability of the terrorists to detection and neutralisation. When they avoid the use of modern means of communications, the flow of technical intelligence (TECHINT) is sparse.

13.Counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency against the Maoists is, therefore, much more dependent on human intelligence (HUMINT) than counter-terrorism against the jihadi terrorists. Urban sources do not have much hesitation in reporting to the Police on the activities of suspected terrorists---whether indigenous or Pakistani nationals. The large urban population strengthens their anonymity and gives them protection against reprisals by the terrorists. In the case of the largely rural Maoist terrorism/ insurgency, the villagers have often a reluctance to report against their co-villagers. Moreover, in thinly-populated villages, the advantage of anonymity is weak and there is less protection for village sources against reprisals by the terrorists/ insurgents.

14.How weak is our intelligence capability against rural Maoist insurgents would be evident from the fact that in recent months the Maoists have operated successfully in large numbers, with the assembling of the insurgents in such large numbers and their moving on the road towards the targets remaining undetected and unthwarted. In one incident in the State of Bihar on November 13,2005, about 1000 armed Maoists reportedly raided a jail and rescued their comrades detained there. It is difficult to say how much of this was due to the absence of intelligence and how much due to the complicity of sections of the police personnel.

15.Our Intelligence Bureau (IB), which is largely an urban-based organisation, has very little capability for preventive intelligence collection in the rural areas. We have to depend on the rural police for this purpose. The ability of the rural police to collect intelligence depends to a considerable extent on its mobility (patrolling) and its relationship with the village communities in the affected areas. Fears caused by the frequent use of landmines with devastating effect by the Maoists and the failure of the States to provide the police with adequate minedetection and clearing capability have affected the mobility and rural patrolling. This has also an impact on police-community relationship. A police force, which is not able to remain in regular touch with the villagers, cannot collect much worthwhile intelligence.

16.The inability of the State to deal with the Maoist insurgency-cum-terrorism effectively so far can be attributed to the absence of a mix of political and operational strategies. The political strategy has to identify and address the root causes of the spreading Maoism. While the spread is alarming, it is not yet out of control. There are still large areas in the tribal belt where the people are not supporting the Maoists and are observing law and order. The State has so far failed to undertake a crash development of these areas, which have not yet been infected by Maoism, in order to prove to the people that they can achieve their justified economic and social objectives through peaceful means, without having to take up arms against the State. Simultaneously, there has to be an improvement in rural policing and intelligence collection in order to thwart the efforts of the Maoists to bring these areas too under their sway.

17.The areas, which have already come under the effective control of the Maoists, need a different strategy, with the emphasis more on the professional and operational aspects of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency than on the political and economic. The objective is to wrest control of these areas from the Maoists. This would be possible only through expanding and strengthening the police presence in the areas, creating in the IB and the intelligence wings of the Police an improved capability for intelligence collection in the rural areas and strengthening the capability of the police and the para-military forces to counter the modus operandi of the Maoists such as their devastating use of landmines.

18.Concerned over the spread of Maoist terrorism and insurgency, suggestions are increasingly being made for giving the police a military edge through training in jungle warfare techniques etc. We should definitely improve the technical capabililities of the police in matters such as mine-detection and neutralisation, but we should not militarise the methods of operation of the police.

19.The growing interest in some of our officers----serving and retired---in the highly militarized British and American methods of dealing with insurgency and terrorism needs to be curbed. The former British occupying power in Malaya used and the current American occupying power in Iraq uses highly militarised methods. They were/are operating against foreign nationals in foreign territory and had/have, therefore, no qualms about the kind of methods they were/are using to suppress the insurgency-cum-terrorism.

20.Our Police and para-military forces are operating in our own territory against our own people. We have to temper effectiveness with self-restraint. We had to use the jungle warfare methods in Mizoram and certain areas of the North-East in the 1960s and the 1970s because of the involvement of Pakistan and China in keeping the insurgency sustained in those areas. We cannot unintelligently use those methodsin our tribal heartland in Central India. Modernisation of the police forces' rural counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capability, yes; but, militarisation, no.

21.While dealing with the Maoist insurgency, we have to make a distinction between the poor people who have legitimate causes for anger against the State and against those whom they perceive as the exploiting classes of society and the Maoist ideologues, who are trying to exploit this anger to achieve political power through the barrel of the gun. The ideologues must be made to realise that they cannot achieve their objective by using the rural poor as their cannon fodder. The State has to act firmly against them. At the same time, it is important to prevent the rural poor from letting themselves be used as the cannon fodder of the Maoist ideologues. This is only possible through appropriate anger containment and reduction measures. Unless they perceive the State as the protector of the poor and exploited classes and not of the exploiting classes, it would not be possible to wean them away from the Maoist ideologues.

22. A comprehensive strategy of anger containment and reduction on the one side and better counter-insurgency and security in the rural areas on the other is required. This strategy has to be worked out centrally with inputs from the affected States and co-ordinated in its implementation from the Centre. Such a comprehensive strategy is presently lacking.

23. In 1983, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, ordered the bifurcation of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and created a separate JIC for assessing all intelligence relating to internal security. The new JIC for internal security played an important role in monitoring Naxalite activities and advising the Government on how to deal with it. This bifurcation was strongly opposed by some sections of the national security managers on the ground that it was not possible to make a division between internal and external security. When Rajiv Gandhi took over as the Prime Minister in November,1984, their arguments prevailed and the bifurcation was undone. In the light of the increase in the activities of the Maoists and the threat posed by them to internal security, it might be useful to re-examine the advisability of having a separate JIC for internal security.(2-1-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat. Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )