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Pre-Empting An Yenan in Dantewada

The current attrition rate in our counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists favours the Maoists. The State is on the defensive and is not making headway in its operations against them. This would be evident from the fact that more personnel of the security forces are being killed than Maoists, more weapons are being captured by the Maoists from the security forces than the other way round and except in Andhra Pradesh , in the other affected States the Government has not succeeded in re-asserting its control over areas which are claimed to have been “liberated” by the Maoists.

2. One hundred and seventy security forces personnel were killed as against 108 Maoists during the first five months of 2010. 312 security forces personnel were killed as against 294 Maoists during 2009.During 2008, 214 security forces personnel and an equal number of Maoists were killed.

3.During the first five months of 2010, six States have suffered fatalities in the security forces at the hands of Maoists—-Chattisgarh (103 ), West Bengal (32), Orissa (17), Jharkand (10), Bihar (6), and Maharashtra (2). The same six States suffered fatalities in 2009 too—– Chattisgarh ( 121), Jharkand (67), Maharashtra ( 52), Orissa (32), Bihar (25 ), and West Bengal (15). While the ground situation has remained as serious in Chattisgarh as it was in 2009, it has deteriorated in West Bengal. There has been a downward trend in Jharkand, Bihar, Orissa and Maharashtra. It is doubtful whether the downward trend in these States can be attributed to an improvement in the performance of the security forces. The security forces in Chattisgarh and West Bengal have been more proactive in countering the Maoists than in the past and the Maoists have stepped up their operations in these two States to discredit the security forces by beating back their stepped-up operations. Their successful operations against the security forces in Chattisgarh and West Bengal have brought them dramatic publicity dividends and succeeded in discrediting the efficacy of the counter-insurgency capability of the security forces.

4. Andhra Pradesh, once a hotbed of Maoist activity, has a unique record of no fatalities of security forces during 2010 and 2009 and only one in 2008. If Andhra Pradesh can prevail over the Maoists, there is no reason why others can’t. At the same time, one has to realize that the Government in Chattisgarh faces certain difficulties the like of which no other Maoist-affected State has faced. Of all the affected States, it has had the least economic development. Its road infrastructure is very poor. It has a large forest cover which favours the Maoists. Compared to the Andhra Pradesh Police, the police of Chattisgarh faces serious deficiencies in manpower and counter-insurgency capacity. It has to depend more on central police forces than its own force for the fight against the Maoists. In Andhra Pradesh, it is the local police which played the leadership role. In Chattisgarh, the leadership role is being played by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The role of the local police has been marginal. The responsibility for operational planning and other initiatives is largely in the hands of the CRPF, with the local police rarely consulted in the matter.

5. The ultimate outcome of our counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists will be decided in the Dantewada district Chattisgarh, which has become the Yenan of the Indian Maoists . After the failure of the Soviet model and the Long March to achieve the capture of political power in a predominantly rural country like China, Mao Zedong and his lieutenants embarked on the Yenan model, which ultimately led to success in 1949. Yenan is in the Shaanxi province. In his 1971 book titled “The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China”, Mark Selden describes the Yenan Way as the “discovery of concrete methods for linking popular participation in the guerrilla struggle with a wide ranging community attack on rural problems.” The Shaanxi province, one of the most drought and famine affected areas of China, provided to the Chinese Maoists an ideal base for testing their theory of exploiting mass rural discontent for creating an armed struggle against the urban areas.

6.If Yenan saw the beginning of the road of success of the Chinese Revolution, the Dantewada area of the state of Chattisgarh is looked upon by the India Maoists as an ideal base for exploiting tribal discontent to create a revolutionary fervour as a prelude to the capture of political power through an armed struggle waged from the impoverished rural areas. The focus of our counter-insurgency efforts has to be centred in the Dantewada area of Chattisgarh. The Maoists’ dream of capturing political power by exploiting rural/tribal discontent has to be countered through an innovative counter-insurgency programme to deprive the Maoist leadership of the support of the rural/ tribal masses. Strengthening the capability of the police to neutralize the Maoist leadership has to be combined with programmes to address simultaneously the grievances and problems of the masses in order to prevent the flow of volunteers to the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army of the Maoists.

6. Strengthening the capability of the police calls for measures to improve rural policing and rural intelligence collection, crash development of the road infrastructure and new training methods, which would encourage and enable the police to operate in autonomous squads instead of in top-heavy formations. Programmes to address the grievances and problems of the masses would call for energetic political initiatives to promote economic development and a feeling of social justice.

7. The recent spectacular successes of the Maoists have attracted the attention of the international community. From the questions posed to Shri Shiv Shankar Menon, our National Security Adviser, at the Asian security conference currently being held in Singapore, it is evident that sections of the community of analysts in other countries have started posing questions regarding the security of India’s nuclear arsenal should India be unable to reverse the successes of the Maoists. The NSA has explained why the Maoists do not pose a threat to our nuclear arsenal. It is a purely rural-based insurgency with very little support in the urban areas. It is purely an Indian movement with an Indian agenda and not a global movement with a global agenda. Its targets till now have been its perceived class enemies, the security forces and alleged collaborators of the security forces. Barring its attacks on the railway network in different areas, it has not so far attacked strategic targets like critical infrastructure. Its capability for urban-centric operations is very limited. Its tribal recruits from the rural and forest areas will stick out like a sore-thumb in urban areas. It has not so far showed much interest in the exploitation of the Internet for its operations like the jihadi terrorists. Since it recruits mainly from the semi-literate or illiterate tribal communities, Internet has no attraction for them. It has not shown much interest in typical terrorist operations such as aviation or maritime terrorism. It is old insurgency still inspired and influenced by Mao’s Yenan model and not new insurgency.

8. Despite this, our intelligence and security agencies should closely monitor its evolution in order to look for evidence of its planning to adopt a mix of rural insurgency and urban terrorism.

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

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