There is no chance Naxalites could threaten the Indian state, and the GOI is unlikely to eradicate Naxalism through police action. The most likely prospect is a continuing and bloody stalemate.
47006, 12/08/2005 08:36, 05 NEWDELHI 9245, Embassy New Delhi, CONFIDENTIAL, 05 CHENNAI 2761 | 05 NEWDELHI 1274, “This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 NEW DELHI 009245
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2015 TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PREL, PHUM, PTER, KCRM, ASEC, SCUL, IN, NP, Counter-Terrorism
SUBJECT: INDIA FACES GROWING NAXALITE MENACE
REF: A. NEW DELHI 1274 B. CHENNAI 2761
Classified By: Political Counselor Geoff Pyatt, for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: Despite India’s rapidly expanding economy, Naxalite groups in poor rural areas and their educated urban sympathizers continue to spread and have extended their areas of influence into 12 states, proving they can launch spectacular attacks on government facilities. The GOI has responded with the formation of an “”interstate joint task force,”” to enable state governments to devise a coordinated response. New Delhi has also committed 24 battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to counterinsurgency operations. Embassy contacts and many commentators are skeptical that the new initiatives will accomplish very much, as they do little to address the persistent economic and social problems underlying Naxalism. Indian economic development has missed large portions of the countryside. India’s scheduled tribes (STs), and scheduled castes (SCs) who live in these remote areas, often face lives of desperation and view Naxalites as the only groups willing to defend them. There is no chance Naxalites could threaten the Indian state, and the GOI is unlikely to eradicate Naxalism through police action. The most likely prospect is a continuing and bloody stalemate. To end the conflict, the GOI would have to convince Naxalites to renounce violence and embrace parliamentary politics. This would entail ending violent attacks on those Naxalites who have already entered politics and enacting comprehensive land reform and other measures aimed at dismantling the rural feudal power structure than oppresses India’s poorest citizens. There is little sign that the GOI is willing to take such steps. India’s Maoists are closely eyeing events in Nepal, and if their Nepali comrades eventually give up armed struggle, it could encourage the Naxalites to do the same. Meanwhile in parts of the countryside the bloodletting continues. End Summary.
Naxal Activity Spreading
2. (U) The Indian Home Ministry in its 2004-2005 Annual Report documented the spread and continued success of the Naxalite insurgency. According to the report, there are currently 9,300 full-time Naxalite fighters active in 118 districts and spread across 12 Indian states (Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh). The insurgents are armed with 6,300 factory-made weapons (mostly WWII era bolt action rifles, supplemented by a few automatic weapons). The remainder are armed with “”country-made”” weapons, produced in rural gunshops of dubious reliability. Counter-insurgency experts estimate that every one Naxalite fighter is supported by four “”active sympathizers,”” who provide housing, food, money, weapons and other infrastructural support. Just two years ago, Naxalites were active in only 9 states and 76 districts. To date in 2005 some 510 persons have been killed in Naxalite violence, including over 90 security force personnel. The goal of the Naxalites is to create a “”revolutionary corridor”” from AP to Nepal, that will form the basis of a “”liberated zone”” governed by the Maoists (reftel). They currently administer areas in Jharkhand and AP where there is no GOI control and which provide safe-haven for Naxalite combat units.
3. (U) Experts concur with the GOI assessment that while Naxalite activity has spread over a wider geographic area, the number of violent attacks has remained constant. Increased tactical sophistication and the use of more lethal improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has pushed up the security force death toll, however. There have been a steady stream of Naxalite attacks throughout 2005. Some of the most notable include:
–November 2004 – 15 policemen killed in an Andhra Pradesh landmine attack.
–February 2005 – 38 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) killed in AP
–June 2005 – approximately 500 Naxalites attack the UP village of Madhuban destroying buildings, capturing weapons and killing several local policemen
–August 2005 – Naxalite murder of a member of the AP legislative assembly, his son and six others.
–August 2005 – 22 CRPF members killed in a Chattisgarh explosives attack.
–September 2005 – 15 police killed in Jharkhand
–November 2005 – Naxalites attack a Jharkhand police Training Center killing policemen and capturing 185 weapons
–November 2005 – an estimated 300 to 400 Naxalites attack the Jehanabad Prison in Bihar – killing several constables – freeing 341 inmates, including 20 members of the anti-Naxalite Ranvir Sena, whom they subsequently murdered.
Reasons for the Spread
4. (U) Aggressive counterinsurgency operations by State police forces, supplemented by 24 battalions of the CRPF deployed by New Delhi, have failed to halt the spread of Naxalite activity. Experts agree that the Maoists are ahead of the game, adapting quickly to changed circumstances and growing in sophistication and capability since the September 2004 formation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The formation of the banned CPI(Maoist), with the merger of the Peoples’ War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Center (MCC), has increased Naxalite capabilities, enabled intelligence sharing between formerly disparate Naxalite groups, increased the Naxalite support network, and allowed formerly localized groups to operate across state boundaries. The new party has implemented an extensive training program that has produced professional military-type cadres with improved tactics, better coordination, more sophisticated communication networks and better IEDs.
5. (C) Although Naxalites claim to represent the interests of India’s oppressed Scheduled Castes (STs) and Schedule Tribes (STs), the leadership is almost entirely from the upper castes, including some highly educated individuals. The same applies to the extensive Naxalite support network, including above-ground organizations of educated middle class persons from academia, the media and the legal profession. As globalization and economic liberalization (neo-liberalism) expand in India, some within the largely middle-class anti-globalization forces disparage the Left Front (LF), a group of Communist and Socialist Parties who espouse parliamentary democracy and support the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from outside. They feel that the Naxalites are the only “”true”” leftists, who stand up for the oppressed SCs and STs. The Naxalite movement would not have been able to expand without this middle-class, above-ground support.
New Delhi’s Response
6. (U) The Home Ministry, frustrated by the inability of Naxalite effected states to mount a coordinated response, on September 19 called the administrative heads, senior officials and Chief Ministers of the 12 states together in New Delhi. The participants established an “”interstate joint task force”” to “”facilitate coordinated and synergized anti-naxalite operations across state boundaries,”” and “”strengthen intelligence networks.”” Home Minister Shivraj Patil hailed the meeting, claiming that it would foster a “”multi-track approach,”” rather than merely treating Naxalism as a law-enforcement problem. Patil emphasized that the new approach would work to develop the local economies in the effected areas, ensure political and social justice for the SCs and STs, and “”as a last resort”” act against those Naxalites who continue to insist on committing acts of violence.
An Opposition Viewpoint
7. (C) Telegu Desam MP M. Jagannath represents an AP constituency with a large ST population in which Naxalites are quite active. Although he is in the opposition, he supported many of the views expounded by Home Minister Patil, but urged the Indian state to go much further. In a December 2 conversation with Poloff, Jagannath emphasized that the Naxalite problem is inherently political, and cannot be solved with a purely law and order approach. He pointed out that India’s STs and SCs often live in the grip of feudalism, that in India’s more backward areas the “”feudals”” are usually supported by the high castes, and local police do the bidding of the feudal/high caste nexus, leaving STs and SCs helpless. India’s rural underclass, he noted, face an unrelenting cycle of poverty, unemployment and atrocities, including the rape of wives and daughters. Seeing no other option, the STs and SCs often turn to the Naxalites, who provide them the means to exact revenge and reverse their economic status.
8. (C) Jagannath urged the GOI to tackle the Naxalite problem by providing employment and subsidized loans to poor SCs and STs and investing in genuine rural development programs, including extensive land reforms aimed at breaking the back of the feudals. Jagannath blamed the AP government for the breakdown of negotiations with the Naxalites there, pointing out that to show “”progress”” in the anti-Naxalite campaign, state police forces have picked up innocent tribals, murdered them and claimed they were Naxalites killed in “”encounters.””
The View from the Left
9. (C) Journalist and political activist AS Verma, himself a former Naxalite, told Poloff on December 2 that the GOI’s September 19 meeting was little more than political theater and would do nothing to stop the spread of Naxalism. He pointed out that LK Advani had pursued a similar policy as Home Minister in the previous NDA government, when Naxal activity was confined to only four states. Verma accused the GOI of inherent hypocrisy, in that it claims that Naxalism is a “”social problem,”” but then relies on a law and order solution. In Verma’s estimation, the UPA will rely more on the police than the NDA. This is because the LF, which keeps the UPA in power, is a sworn enemy of the Naxalites, as the CPI(M) used harsh police methods to crush Naxalism in West Bengal.
10. (C) Verma urged the GOI to differentiate between revolutionaries and terrorists. Terrorists, he emphasized, have no mass base, while Naxalites have a popular following throughout India. The Naxalites, unlike terrorists, target their violence and do not engage in mass killing of innocents. This was demonstrated in Jehanabad, when they warned civilians to remain indoors and assured them they would not face attack. Verma emphasized that the GOI must stop jailing illegally leftist activists who speak out on behalf of STs/SCs, especially those that are landless laborers and poor peasants, and should release those currently in illegal detention. Arguing that India is basically a “”criminalized state,”” he noted that the left parties and Naxalites are the only parties in India that are not corrupt and entrenched with criminal mafias.
11. (C) Verma urged Poloff not to take Naxalite assertions of eternal class war at face value. In his estimation, Naxalite violence is a bargaining tool and a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Saying that “”this is not the 1960’s and there is no possibility of a violent overthrow of the Indian state,”” Verma insisted that the Naxalites want to see a negotiated settlement, an end to violence, and their acceptance as above-ground political parties. The GOI should hurry this process along by declaring a cease-fire, and ending violent attacks against the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the above-ground political party formed by former Naxalites.
Comment – Naxalism as Prelude to Bargaining
12. (C) Naxalites cannot overthrow the government of India, and are unlikely ever to control more than a few remote areas of the country. Likewise, the GOI is unlikely to eradicate Naxalism, as the crushing poverty, lingering feudalism and inherent discrimination of Indian society has nurtured desperation that finds its only outlet through violence. Without a radical change of tack by both sides, the most likely outcome is an extended stalemate that can only grow bloodier as the Naxalites acquire more sophistication and better weapons. While the security forces can gain the upper hand in some Naxalite areas, they can expect to suffer reverses in others. Three factors hold the key to an eventual solution: events in Nepal, the development of India’s left parties, and the nature of Indian economic development.
13. (C) India’s Naxalites are watching events in Nepal closely. Nepal is a small and largely homogeneous state, with an entrenched feudal class, weak central government, and a desperately poor rural underclass, which provides much better conditions for a Maoist revolution than India. If Nepal’s Maoists eventually give up armed struggle and come to a negotiated settlement, it will provide the impetus to India’s Maoists to do the same, as the chances for a Maoist victory in India are much less than in Nepal. Some leftists, such as Verma, argue that Indian Maoists are well aware that they cannot win a class war, and intend to negotiate a settlement when conditions are right. A negotiated outcome in Nepal would provide a further impetus.
14. (C) The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is India’s leftist flagship and remains a committed enemy of the Naxalites. CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat dismisses the Naxalites as “”adventurists”” whose “”politics rely on anarchic violence directed at individuals and ordinary people.”” Karat argues that Naxalite violence only invites state repression, hurting the very people it intends to help. He has pledged the CPI(M) to “”counter politically and ideologically the false posturing of such ‘revolutionary’ activities.”” The fledgling CPI(ML) is committed to bringing the Naxalites out of the underground and into parliamentary democracy, but faces opposition from both the LF and the GOI. In order for India’s Naxalites to renounce violence, the GOI would have treat the CPI(ML) as a legitimate political party and provide reformed Naxalites an opportunity to join and agitate on behalf of STs and SCs.
15. (C) Desperation often drives Naxalism. The onus is on the GOI to demonstrate to India’s have-nots that it is crafting an economic development program that is genuinely aimed at alleviating this desperate situation. As long as India’s political parties and elites are willing to accept the status quo and not take on feudal interests, the stalemate and the violence will continue.