Gill Sans

KPS Gill makes several good points on Naxalism. And one bad one

Tehelka’s Harinder Baweja uses KPS Gill’s shoulder to fire a salvo against the central government-led counter-insurgency operation targeting the Naxalites. Mr Gill makes several good points: among others, that the Naxalites run the biggest extortion mafia in the country, that the corrupt state officials are part of the problem and that the solution to the fundamental problem involves giving property rights to the tribals. He also makes a bad point when he argues that Operation Green Hunt is unnecessary.

He is entirely right when he says that strengthening local police is an important part of the strategy. In fact, as we have argued, the counter-insurgency strategy must focus on improving the overall capacity of the local government such that it can deliver basic public services—law & order, protect property rights, deliver education, healthcare and justice. But in states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand such a strategy will deliver results, at best, in the medium-term. Also, because Naxalites will use violence to block progress in this direction, it is quite likely that such a strategy alone will prove to be ineffective.

Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand are quite unlike Punjab, which Mr Gill alludes to, in important ways: Punjab had a robust agricultural-industrial economy, its administrative machinery was much better developed and the insurgency there was not caused by poor or absent governance. The Naxalite affected regions are tribal/subsistence agriculture-based societies, have primitive administrative machinery and have therefore fallen victim to the dubious promises of Leftwing revolutionaries.

The upshot is that the counter-insurgency strategy for the Naxalite-affected regions needs a well-equipped and well-directed “clear” phase that will create the conditions for Mr Gill’s proposals to stand a chance. That is why Operation Green Hunt is necessary.

22 thoughts on “Gill Sans”

  1. Gill also makes another mistake. As a person of considerable influence on the public mind, he should choose who will speak to wisely. Are tabloids that are known to have used questionable methods (such as employing prostitutes to trap people) to get scandalous stories acceptable? I guess not. Decency, decorum and ethics are important.

  2. In the context of Waziristan, I noticed Nitin’s recent tweet that aerial bombarding of its own citizenry by any state is a terrible way to go

    I couldn’t agree more

    And yet, India is moving down the same path wrt the Maoists. Why?

    Even this right-leaning national security hawk who despises Maoist ideas and actions is taken aback that we are even considering this

    On reflection, though, this is not an aberration. The Indian state has repeatedly brutalized groups of citizens it has deemed as threats. It has done so not only with the likes of Maoists (who are vicious brutalizers themselves) but also with ordinary Indians who for one reason or another emerged in its crosshairs

    The repeated reports of armed instruments of state gunning down innocents across the nation in “fake encounters” should be humiliating for any liberal democracy. In India, our elitist echo chamber merely shrugs and move on

    I say all this to simply suggest that the Indian state is far from innocent. In fact, it thinks nothing of using force to serve the reigning plutocracy of the day. It is servile to those who it deems as superiors and brutal to those it deems as inferiors

    Something has gone terribly wrong in India that this menace of Maoism has taken root. Equally horrendous is the casual willingness of our elite to embrace violence by the state against its own citizens. Do we really believe that following a blood-soaked “clear” phase, good governance and liberal ethos will prevail? Count me as a skeptic

    I’m sorry to say but I simply do not understand the strategy we have to reverse the disillusionment of clearly a lot of Indians. Has anyone explained this to us? I want to know what happens after the state has killed or captured all the Maoist leaders. I want to know how this war will end. I want to know how prosperity and democracy will come to these areas light-years removed from the 21st century nation we live in? I want to be convinced that someone has thought this through. If so, who?

    Absent this, let me humbly register my firm opposition to the idea of using the military to kill Indians in their own motherland.

    Best regards

  3. Primary Red, The Army is not being used, that is a complete falsehood.

    Only the paramilitary forces are being used in the initial phases of rolling back the current state of affairs.

    Once the ground is cleared of weapons and cadre that do not submit to giving up violence are themselves wiped out, the govt. can start doing what it should have been doing in the first place — bring back good governance from the panchayat level all the way up to the state. Impose president’s rule if that will help in speeding up the path to normalcy.

  4. link

    “The Indian Air Force has created a task force for the counter-Naxalite offensive and has appointed a Group Captain as its commander.

    The involvement of the air force in the counter-Naxalite operations being carried out and planned to be intensified next month is turning out to be much bigger than was originally envisaged.

    At first, the air force was called upon to deploy its helicopters to fulfil a role that should have been the central forces’, specifically that of the Border Security Force, which has dedicated helicopters.

    But now the home and defence ministries have concluded that the BSF’s helicopters are not enough. Anticipating that its role may increase, the air headquarters has sought permission from the defence ministry to open fire in self-defence, a senior IAF source said here today'”

    Does anyone credibly believe this is about self-defense?

  5. If the maoists are well-entrenched in their positions in the jungles, and if Air cover is necessary to reduce casualities of soldiers and civilians, then what is wrong with it?

    Or is the prevailing sentiment that soldiers and civilians need to die while fighting maoists (who have refused to lay down arms) so that people like can feel all morally wonderful? Because the IAF is only being used for the Initial phases of cleaning the jungles of armed insurgents who have declared war on the constitution. It is all very easy to get one’s moral underpants in a bunch and start declaring that wars need to be fought “within parameters”…never mind that more people will die…hey, it is only someone else’s life, eh?

  6. The maoists have every opportunity to participate in elections and control the same areas they do by usurping the constitution, so any sympathy for the these armed terrorists is misplaced. Kobad Gandhy is a violent and cold-blooded killer and murderer and seems to be the typical member of the Maoist politburo. Why do any of these people deserve to live for all the violence they have heaped on unarmed civilians?

  7. IAF providing air cover to Indian citizens fighting the enemy IS all self-defense and nothing else. It sounds like something else only for people who are confused about their constitutional rights and responsibilities as citizens of the state.

  8. I have little sympathy for Maoists, for they are evil

    My sympathies are with the Indian constitution (and related jurisprudence) which only envisages the capital punishment only in the rarest of the rare case. Surely vengeful language like “Why do any of these people deserve to live for all the violence they have heaped on unarmed civilians?” from its “defenders” is inconsistent with this sentiment

    I share your anger but am astonished that you would suggest that mere questioning of Governmental actions of such gravity constitutes confusion about “constitutional rights and responsibilities as citizens of the state”. Last I checked my constitution gives me the right of free speech and the responsibility of dissent. Which constitution are you reading?

    Best regards

  9. #1 – my firm opposition to the idea of using the military to kill Indians in their own motherland

    Isn’t that absolutely over the top? LWE/Naxals control some 150 districts (out of 600). Studies show the rate of violence increasing at 4%, while casualties are increasing at 18%. It is described by the PM as the greatest internal security problem.

    Your understanding of the decision to use armed forces (military) appears …well at least flawed. It is not a simple yes-no question, let’s go kill the bad guys stuff.

    There will be a time when use of the armed forces of a nation may be considered inescapable even in internal situations- when the very existence of a nation may be in question. Has that arisen? Is it not about time? Would you like to wait for a SW or Swat sit to develop? May I suggest some soul searching.

    The use of force (esp the armed forces) must be the last option. Who takes that call? The government of the day (after analysis and advise by a broad cross section of its machinery). Such an exercise would definitely take into account all aspects of the problem. The why part too!

    That said, I hasten to agree with you that the people of these areas are victims of insensitive governance. But the present Naxalite problem is one of extortion and lawlessness and must be tackled firmly with force.

    # 2 – The Indian Air Force has created a task force for the counter-Naxalite offensive and has appointed a Group Captain as its commander.

    A task force is the usual way to go. The appointing of a TFC is routine Command & Control proceedure. The TFC would be chosen on the basis of certain QRs. Familiarity with eqpt, terrain, experience of CI ops etc. Routine.

    #3- air headquarters has sought permission from the defence ministry to open fire in self-defence

    Some have even questioned the CAS’ need to go to GOI on it, citing that “It is every citizen’s right to retaliate in self defence”. Naiveté. When deadly force (I think the legal term is excessive force) is used as self defence, you are not legally protected. IAF heptrs will protect themselves using tactics, firm and secure bases, operating outside small arms envelope etc. But they could have also used on board weapons. The weapons on board an armed helicopter are designed to protect themselves against a contemporary adversary. When employed against insurgents armed with small arms in CI situations, even with ROE such as mandatory warning shots, casualties would accrue. These would constitute ‘deadly force’. The fall out in the media apart, such a situation would not have been in the best interests of any one. The CAS was only spelling that out to the government.

    It may interest you to know that since Independence, IAF has been employed on CI situations regularly (and even in armed roles). However, barring the use in Naga Ops, firing has never been resorted to.

  10. Primary Red,

    I agree that we should not use our armed forces against our own citizens. See two posts by my co-blogger on INI Pragmatic Euphony (here and here) on this subject.

    The practical problem is: our civil COIN forces do not have the capacity and the assets for some of the tasks. The question then is—should we wait until these capacities are acquired (or transferred) or should the forces that have the capacity be used as a temporary measure? The latter is an easier route, and the government appears to have gone this way. (Note, however, that while the term “use of air assets” seems to imply everything from a UAV to an IL-76 Gajraj, what is being considered is using choppers for troop movement).

    Like you, I don’t like the idea of using armed forces’ assets for this purpose. But I also confess that I can’t think of an alternative either.

  11. SR Murthy, use of ‘IAF cover’, however couched in euphemisms, is very worrying and I would say, has the potential to create swats, as much as prevent them (I personally wouldn’t use a swat analogy at all, chalk and cheese).

    I am with Primary Red on this and I hope IAF will only be used for logistics.

  12. The Naxalite affected regions are tribal/subsistence agriculture-based societies, have primitive administrative machinery and have therefore fallen victim to the dubious promises of Leftwing revolutionaries.

    Well, on the other hand, Maoists seem to have won over tribals oppressed thus far by those other ‘leftwing revolutionaries’, at least in Bengal, who were ostensibly going to make sure the tribals weren’t landless and voiceless. Add to that various land grabs…

  13. PR,

    I agree with you overall and hope that military engagement is limited to the smallest possible extent.

    But I read that Maoists fired at choppers that were carrying polling eqpt EVMs etc. into remote areas of CG. Its entirely acceptable to me to fire back.

    “…The weapons on board an armed helicopter are designed to protect themselves against a contemporary adversary. When employed against insurgents armed with small arms in CI situations…”

    I really disagree with this idea. If the only collateral damage is a few trees and birds, I dont care if they respond with advanced weaponry. If there is some sniffling in the ‘media fallout’ that this is adharmic or something: not fighting sword with sword, revolver with revolver etc. so be it.

    rgds,
    Jai

  14. @Jai_C:

    Only in fiction do people fight on equal terms. I consider it sound tactics to overwhelm an opponent with numerical and technological asymmetry.

    The point was on excessive force in self defence by IAF heptrs. They have traditionally enjoyed a reputation of “..so that others may live”. Most units use a motto Apitsu Mitram

    The LWE/Naxals are not yet enemy in the classical sense. A motivated Police Force ably led, trained and equipped should have done it. But that doesn’t exist and the cows will come home before that happens. So use capabilities to enforce and compel surrender. Disarm & Reintegrate. Use restraint ..speak softly…but carry big stick.

  15. PR:

    “Why do any of these people deserve to live for all the violence they have heaped on unarmed civilians?” from its “defenders” is inconsistent with this sentiment”

    There is no inconsistency. Why should we apply consitutional norms to handle the maoists when they themselves have rejected the constitution and indeed the very notion of Indian citizenship? The maoists have chosen the same set of rules as a Pakistani terrorist — THE MAOISTS made the choice to fight the Indian state and ignore the Indian constitution.

    Your position is that of claiming to respect the constitution while you also want the constitution to be applied to people who are fighting the very constitutional rules you want to apply to them — that is what is inconsistent.

  16. Nanda Kishore wrote:
    “use of ‘IAF cover’, however couched in euphemisms, is very worrying and I would say, has the potential to create swats, as much as prevent them (I personally wouldn’t use a swat analogy at all, chalk and cheese).”

    What euphemism, boss? Since when is “air cover” and euphemism? Air cover is used to create chaos in the enemy’s lair to take out key capabilities that can cause more civilian/security casualties. Taking out these capabilities before ground operations can proceed would reduce overall number of civilian casualties.

    There is nothing more honorable and ethical than providing support to people who are giving up their lives so that you and I can flatulate on internet fora like these. Any more “intellectualization” of these facts and comparisons to SWAT are ignorant and misguided.

  17. I think people are analyzing the options all wrong:

    1. What capabilities are available on the ground to fight naxals?
    NONE (otherwise we would not be having this discussion as there would be operational police stations and courts that are not run by the maoists).

    2. Can these operations be allowed to prolong indefinitely, just because some people want the govt. to adhere to constitutional norms….never mind that the maoists have already ripped up the constitution and set it on fire.

    3. Should the GoI restrict itself to fighting with one arm tied behind its back providing crucial gaps where the maoists can regroup and reconsolidate?

    4. If we accept that security operations are but the initial and a small part of fixing the overall maoist problem, the IAF will be long gone after the initial parts of the operation to remove heavy weapons that are now floating freely among the civilians thanks to the maoists. Allowing these maoists to retain weapons is not an option, as that will only result in a resurgence down the line.

    Taking all of these together, we see that the Indian govt. has a small window of time to successfully complete the operations, so that development can start sooner than later.

  18. If avoiding casualties is not an option (when the other party is armed and motivated to kill), then the next best option is to do whatever is necessary to reduce the overall number of casualties when conflict subsides.

  19. PR & others, IAF is well aware of the “fighting own citizens” sentiment:

    He said the request was to ensure that the IAF could protect its personnel and platforms and suppress the fire coming on to a helicopter.

    “We are not indulging in any armed aggression against any citizen of India. We would only like to undertake operations to protect our helicopters and men and women who fly these (air) hospitals,” he said.

    Stating that the helicopter’s commander should give permission to open fire in case of a decision by the CCS, Naik said, “There will be very stringent stipulations to help identify where the fire is coming from, and where to use minimum force to ensure minimum collateral damage.”

    He maintained that the Air Force was not deploying its armed helicopters or aircraft to bomb any area in Naxalite-affected regions.

    Imagine the propaganda value if Maoists can bring down an IAF chopper – like in Somalia! IAF has to be very careful. But, at the moment, there is nothing that indicates IAF assurances can’t be taken at face value.

  20. Maoists maybe ‘citizens’ technically, in spirit they aren’t. China’s chairman is theirs too. Nothing wrong in deploying the army to flush out these anti-national elements. Generally, two minutes into a discussion of this sort the words “unacceptable collateral damage” pop up, but then who is responsible for the damage? If the leftwing extremists surrender, there won’t be any damage at all, and there won’t be any more Maoist-perpetrated killings either.

  21. Oldtimer,

    True, but only up to a point. In a normal society, the establishment is supposed to get ahead of problems like these, like mass revolts, and if it does happen one uses police forces or, at most, paramilitary forces. The establishment ignored the problem for so long, because their commie rhetoric sounded like what it wanted to hear and, also, because it is not set up to deal with trans-state armed revolts.

    Beyond concern for innocent lives, using military would make it a civil war. I don’t think anyone wants to define it as such.

    Ultimately, the fight will strengthen the nation’s core and as an added bonus, may be, marginalize commies in the society forever.

  22. I THINK VICES LIKE FEAR, GREED, ETC ARE THE ROOT CAUSE AND WHEN NOT CONTROLLED BY THE INDIVIDUAL AT THE FIRST INSTANCE (IF HE/SHE IS CONSCIOUS ENOUGH TO BE AWARE OF SELF) CAN LEAD ONE INTO THIS MORE EVOLVED EVIL CALLED EXTREMISM/TERRORISM/FUNDAMENTALISM.
    SO IT BOILS DOWN TO THE BASICS IN ONE’S LIFE, LIVING CONDITIONS, ENVIRONMENT, EXPOSURE, ETC.
    SO MR.GILL’S APPROACH WITH A LITTLE TWIST HERE AND THERE MIGHT BE APPLIED WELL TO TACKLE LONG LOST FELLOW BEINGS TURNED WILLFUL, COLD BLOODED VIOLATORS OF THE CONSTITUTION, IF NOT LAWS OF UNIVERSE.
    NO WONDER IN THE QUEST FOR ‘FIGHTING’ FOR THEIR OWN ‘RIGHTS’ THEY ‘FORGET’ OTHERS RIGHTS ALONG WITH THEIR OWN!

    “NO ONE CAN TAKE YOUR FREEDOM UNLESS YOU GIVE IT AWAY” …

    MAY THE BEST MAN WIN…

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