Maoist alarm: On snooze mode

India’s listless response to the subcontinent’s Maoists

News reports after every new Maoist perpetrated attack in India dub them as wake-up calls for the government. There have been one too many of those wake-up calls in the last few days: an announcement that Maoists rebels in Nepal and India are fighting as one, the killing of 24 policemen in Chattisgarh and a declaration of an unilateral ceasefire for 3-months.

The timing of the announcement of unity, the ceasefire and an offer to engage in talks with Nepal’s opposition politicians indicate that the subcontinent’s Maoists have gained sufficient strength to enter the next phase of their ‘struggle’. This involves attempts to capture political space and legitimacy without quite abandoning armed struggle. Negotiations are pursued only to be abandoned, blaming their opponents for inflexibility and obduracy. And then, recharged and regrouped, the gun-barrel end of their campaign resumes according to plan. The Congress party government of India’s Andhra Pradesh state should know this pretty well by now.

The problem with the Congress-party led (and Communist supported) government has been that it has chosen a combination of irresponsible inaction and cynical connivance to underpin its policy towards this insidious threat. Apologists for the UPA government’s handling of the Maoist insurgency like to point out that the threat is exaggerated. The series of wake-up calls should be enough to prove them wrong. Besides, even if their argument is to be accepted, it makes good sense to nip the threat in the bud. Others cite the King Gyanendra’s shenanigans as a reason for India to hold back and allow Prachanda’s comrades to teach the despot a lesson. Inability to creatively (and resolutely) address the problems caused by Gyanendra’s games is yet another symptom of, rather than an excuse for, the Indian government’s inept handling of the Maoist crisis in Nepal.

But Mr Shivraj Patil, India’s home minister, is unlikely to be able to resist the temptation of hitting the snooze button again.

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In its original formulation by Mao, people’s war exploits the few advantages that a small revolutionary movement has– broad-based popular support can be one of them– against a state’s power with a large and well-equipped army. People’s war strategically avoids decisive battles, since a tiny force of a few dozen soldiers would easily be routed in an all-out confrontation with the state. Instead, it favours the strategy of protracted warfare, with carefully chosen battles that can realistically be won. A revolutionary force conducting people’s war starts in a remote area with mountainous or otherwise difficult terrain in which its enemy is weak. It attempts to establish a local stronghold known as a revolutionary base area. As it grows in power, it establishes other revolutionary base areas and spreads its influence through the surrounding countryside, where it may become the governing power and gain popular support through such programmes as land reform. Eventually it may have enough strength to encircle and capture small cities, then larger ones, until finally it seizes power in the entire country. [Wikipedia]