Comparing Pakistan’s Islamists to India’s Maoists

December 16, 2009

chhattisgarhOne of the more controversial arguments doing the rounds is the question of whether you can compare Pakistan’s Islamist militants to Maoist insurgents in India. Both claim to champion the cause of social justice and have been able to exploit local grievances against poor governance to win support, and both use violence against the state to try to achieve their aims.

The differences are obvious:  the Islamist militants come from the religious right; the Maoists from the far-left. In Pakistan, the militants have become powerful enough to strike at the heart of the country’s major cities. In India, the Maoists remain largely confined to the country’s interiors, although their influence is spreading through large parts of its rural hinterland.

In Pakistan, the military initially nurtured Islamist militants to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan – with U.S. and Saudi support – and later to fight India in Kashmir. In India, the Maoist movement has grown organically from its origins as a local 1967 uprising by communists over a land dispute in the village of  Naxalbari in West Bengal, from where its followers derive their name as Naxalites.

In Pakistan, the question of whether support for Islamist militants is underpinned by local grievances over social injustice is highly contentious.  Many in Pakistan dismiss the Pakistani Taliban as right-wing ideologues, fired up by an alien religious philosophy imported from the Middle East by al Qaeda, and joined by a motley crew of criminals and thugs bent on the pursuit of pursuit of power and money.

bows and arrowsIn India, even those who oppose the Maoists’ violent methods acknowledge that poverty and the alienation of its rural poor – especially among the indigenous tribal people - have contributed to their appeal.  (I have rarely been so powerfully struck by the desolation of hunger than on a trip some years ago to Chhattisgarh, the heartland of the Maoist revolt.  It is a state where deep in the forests you find children with the protruding bellies and vacant eyes of the seriously malnourished, whose fathers use bows-and-arrows to catch animals (see pix).  It also has vast mineral resources which villagers hope might one day make them rich, and which Maoists argue will be exploited by international mining companies.)

But granted the obvious differences, some of the similarities offer a perspective which at the very least allows room for discussion about the challenges faced by national governments in dealing with insurgencies, both from the Islamist right and the far left.

In Pakistan, the Islamist militants are recognised by many as an existential threat to the state. In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as “perhaps the gravest internal security threat our country faces”.

Both the Islamists and the Maoists have aimed to take control of parts of the country, using violence to keep out the writ of state. In this respect, argued Faisal Devji in an article in Britain’s left-leaning Guardian newspaper, insurgencies behave more like private companies which operate independently of the state.

“Pakistan’s Muslim militants are developing into the analogues of Maoist rebels in India, who also take over certain areas and attack government forces there to provide an alternative but non-governmental form of order. Managing territories within a state without apparently wanting to form a new government suggests a privatised and non-political ideal of governance, one that both Indian Maoists and Pakistani militants seem to espouse. The task before both governments is therefore not to de-politicize but rather bring these groups into the political arena…” he wrote.

“In Pakistan, however, this task has been made difficult due not to the extent of militant support and firepower, but because institutions of the state appear themselves to have become a set of non-governmental actors like their enemies. In this sense Pakistan is not a failed state so much as the perverse culmination of a more familiar process of privatisation that affects us all,” he said.

Both Islamists and Maoists have also been able to exploit the divide between rich and poor opened up by globalisation in two countries where rapid economic growth failed to make a significant difference to the poorest sections of the population. As a result the poor have been able to catch only a glimpse of the consumer gains offered by global capitalism – at least enough to know what they are missing. Al Qaeda and its Islamist allies have rejected this capitalist model wholesale; the Maoists have taken up arms against its perceived excesses.

In openDemocracy, Paul Rogers argues this gap between rich and poor will be aggravated by climate change and ultimately present a far greater security challenge to governments than al Qaeda.

“A more relevant symbol of the pattern of conflict that will result from an increasingly divided and constrained world is less al-Qaida than the resurgent Naxalite rebellion in India,” he says. ”India has achieved impressive economic growth since the 1990s, but it is facing pervasive internal dissent from the marginalised and dispossessed. The same can be said of China … The experience of these Asian giants is but one part of what is likely to become a much wider predicament – and it cannot be controlled by force.”

Citing a study from the Oxford University Group titled “Global Security after the War on Terror”, he says: “In a divided and increasingly constrained world, an elite minority will not be able to prosper at the expense of the majority – a transition to a sustainable security policy rooted in emancipation and justice is essential.  The war on terror has been a disaster, but recognising its failure might at least help us develop our understanding of global security in a manner appropriate to the 21st century.”

No two insurgencies are the same.  But in understanding the challenges in bringing stability to the region, their similarities are worth studying, if nothing else but to understand the risks they pose in a world where competition for scarce resources, food and water is likely to intensify.

(File photos from Jashpur, Chhattisgarh/Kamal Kishore)

29 comments

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Myra:

“If Taliban attack India, we’ll fight them” say Maoists in India, adding “India’s enemy is not their friend”.

http://www.menafn.com/qn_news_story.asp? StoryId={BB396E6F-67C0-4183-BA61-EFC4FFE 992CD}

Naxalites and their supporters belong to the margin of the society who do not have hope of tasting the fruits of economic boom in India. Historically Naxalbari movement was the fight between rich and poor over land and other related land owner-peasant issues. That’s why Naxalites liked Mao who redistributed land from rich people among poor in China. Naxalite movement has evolved with time, becoming intense and spreading. The naxalite movement has picked up inn intensity after the economic boom, while the govt continued to sleep. With increasing economic growth, the socio-economic gap has widened a lot and the movement has become a monster to tackle. Force, arguably, is not the only way to deal with it.

Myra, right next to bow/arrow-holding Naxalites, you should have shown Kalashnikov-totting Taliban. Actually, bow/arrow is quite an inaccurate illustration of firepower of Naxalites in India. Naxalites derive sympathy via such pictures and those of the naked malnourished kids and inflict terror by their brutality against whosoever comes in way of their ideology—poor or rich.

Both Naxalites and Islamist insurgents are against Capitalism and Imperialism. In theory, naxalites will find satisfaction if poor become rich. Will poverty elimination alone take care of religious fundamentalism? No, I do not think so.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@ Rajeev,

“Myra, right next to bow/arrow-holding Naxalites, you should have shown Kalashnikov-totting Taliban. Actually, bow/arrow is quite an inaccurate illustration of firepower of Naxalites in India.”

I am not suggesting the Naxalites use bows and arrows, nor that the people in the pictures are Naxalites. These pictures were taken in a remote part of Jashpur, and are meant to show the isolation and poverty of some of the tribal communities living in Chhattisgarh.

Also you said:

“Naxalites and their supporters belong to the margin of the society who do not have hope of tasting the fruits of economic boom in India.”

Do please read to the end of this story I linked to on villagers hoping that one day they might get rich from the mineral wealth in their lands (in their case, diamonds):

http://www.mindfully.org/WTO/2003/India- Walk-On-Diamonds9mar03.htm

Of course that would depend on how it is done, and as mentioned in the story, the evidence from elsewhere of the impact of diamond mining is not very promising — at least as far as local villagers are concerned.

Finally I see that Pak Tea House has a similar discussion running — if you scroll down to the comments, you’ll see the Maoist/Islamist/anti-capitalism debate.

http://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/2009/12  /16/is-the-check-in-the-mail/#comments

While the naxalite movement is now almost 40 years old, it has gone far beyond its original agenda, born in a small village nurtured by two rural leaders. It is now a shadow of that original movement, the only commonality perhaps being the preference for violent means.

While I don’t think this applies to religious militancy, the naxal movement was able to thrive, not because the government in India ignored it, but because it reacted to it as a law and order problem only and ignored the social aspects. It did what govts. do best. Set up committees and commissions which pinpointed problems correctly but as happens with all reports they gathered dust.

Though predominantly a rural/tribal movement, to-day the naxal leaders are also from the urban class and the intelligentsia. Some wellheeled chatterati with celebrity status find it convenuient/pc to extend support. Though it touts justice for the downtrodden and exploited, its end game is not a peaceful or democratic society. Like religious militancy, it may talk of freedom from one yolk but it’s ultimate solution is ‘our way or else’, democratic functions do not feature in its vision statement.

The other commonality I see is that over time, both movements create severe disillusionment amongst followers. This in turn leads to resorting to strong arm, press gang tactics to garner recruits.

Both forms of militancy, have set up basic schools, provided some rudimentary medical facilities in tribal/rural areas, even collect taxes which has degenerated to extortion. The leadership is in the hands of despots who will brook no interference nor heed any suggestions that curtail their authority. So while both proclaim to set up a revolutionary new order, that order is as ruthless, authoritarian and autocratic as the previous one was corrupt, unjust or class based.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Myra:

Thanks for the informative links. some good discussion at Pakteahouse.

@I am not suggesting the Naxalites use bows and arrows, nor that the people in the pictures are Naxalites. These pictures were taken in a remote part of Jashpur, and are meant to show the isolation and poverty of some of the tribal communities living in Chhattisgarh.”
—My fault-my slip of finger on the keyboard! Yes you are right, photo is of tribals. Not all tribals are Maoist insurgents and those who are, use guns.

I have one question for you: If the comparison is between “Pakistan’s Islamist militants to Maoist insurgents in India”, and you show bow/arrow-holding poor malnutrishned tribals from India, which picture would you like to insert there as a comparison from Pakistan.

Media sometimes presents as if hungry and naked people are fighting for Maoists. Example is Arunadhati Rai, the Goddess of Small things, who writes in Outlook (Pl. read article below):
http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?262 519

“Right now in central India, the Maoists’ guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa.” And “Even if the ideologues of the Maoist movement are fighting to eventually overthrow the Indian State, right now even they know that their ragged, malnutritioned army, the bulk of whose soldiers have never seen a train or a bus or even a small town, are fighting only for survival.”

Unfortunately, this reactionary Maoist movement has nothing to offer to poor people.

@ Of course that would depend on how it is done, and as mentioned in the story, the evidence from elsewhere of the impact of diamond mining is not very promising — at least as far as local villagers are concerned.”
–I agree, not promising. Also read AR’s article.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@Rajeev,

“I have one question for you: If the comparison is between “Pakistan’s Islamist militants to Maoist insurgents in India”, and you show bow/arrow-holding poor malnutrishned tribals from India, which picture would you like to insert there as a comparison from Pakistan?”

I don’t think there is a direct comparison. You don’t get “hungry and naked people” in FATA, do you? As I said in the original post, no two insurgencies are the same, but the similarities can offer perspective.

Thanks for the link to Arundhati Roy’s article. I know she has her critics but that one seemed to raise a lot of questions. See this piece from Le Monde (you have to scroll down to read it) about Vedanta’s mining interests in Zambia:

http://www.counterpunch.org/servant05292 009.html

Do you, or Dara, who also posted here, have a solution to offer to places like Chhattisgarh that would both accommodate the need for economic growth with the interests of villagers and tribals?

@ Dara,

“Like religious militancy, it may talk of freedom from one yolk but it’s ultimate solution is ‘our way or else’, democratic functions do not feature in its vision statement.”

One question. Given the way the tribal vote bank has been exploited, do you think democracy has served them well? From what I’ve seen, virtually all groups have been guilty over the years of manipulating Adavasi opinion — from the Congress (the A in the KHAM factor) to Christians to the RSS, and now, of course, to the Maoists. Perhaps there has to be some kind of alternative narrative?

@Myra,

The best way to defeat the Maoists is by non-violent means. The best mechanism to defeat communism and extreme right wing Islamic Militants is by capitalism.

India needs to bring corporations, growth and socially responsible capitalism to those impoverished areas and let the locals participate and prosper from the wealth below their feet. The biscuit for the corporations have to be there as well to make profit, but maintain good image, good environmentally responsible development in collaboration with the Indian government. These people need jobs. India must do more to bring these people into the greater Indian family to strengthen the Union, otherwise the Chinese will opportunistically exploit this crack left by Indian democracy.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

Myra:
I said “I have one question for you: If the comparison is between “Pakistan’s Islamist militants to Maoist insurgents in India”, and you show bow/arrow-holding poor malnutrishned tribals from India, which picture would you like to insert there as a comparison from Pakistan?”

You said: I don’t think there is a direct comparison. You don’t get “hungry and naked people” in FATA, do you? As I said in the original post, no two insurgencies are the same, but the similarities can offer perspective.”

–Myra: You did not get the point. If “hungry and naked people” are poster people for Maoist movement?—the reason for Maoist insurgency, what is the reason for the insurgency of Islamists? you need a collage of Regan, Zia-ul-Haq, Bush, Musharraf, Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and a Madrassa. Talibans as reports said are better paid than Pakistan soldiers. Money is in plenty.

More later.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@DaraIndia, excellent analysis as always. I have tried to respond to you on the earlier post multiple times but every time my comment just vanishes into thin air. I have begun now to copy my comments for posterity. I think you are a wise man, and between you and me and Ganesh Maharaj, we could solve most, if not all our differences if we could just sit at a table and work it out for the two countries.

I think there are some similarities between the Indian Naxalites and the Pakistani Talibites. They have both been called the existential threat to their respective states, both have destroyed public property, both are aiming to gain political power using similar pretexts and both use intimidation to subdue the locals when ideological pretexts become stale and ineffective. However that is where the similarities end.

Pakistan’s Talibans are a by product of Pakistani policy in Afghanistan and subsequently keeping a hands off policy in the FATA, which gave rise to this criminal element of the so called TTP. Unlike the Naxalites, they have not risen out of resentment for the central government’s actions in their area. They were not persecuted nor were they driven off of their land. The Pakistani government has not taken to systematic annihilation of their age old customs nor their way of life.

Not taking into account the prevalent conspiracy theories in both countries, the current reasons for the Naxalities’ rise to prominence is the state’s priority given to industrial development and ignoring the fact that India’s primary strength is agriculture and not industry. The Naxals are also different from the TTP in the sense that the Naxals have support among not just the indigenous, so called ‘Tribals’ (implying that they are all uncivilized savages, fighting with bows and arrows), they have a following in the educated class as well. Technically they should be called the ‘Adivasis’ –the indigenous aborigines who have led their lives for the past few centuries cultivating and living off their land. However, if there is one classification that describes them more than any other is the word ‘Dalits’. Forcing these tribals off of their ancestral lands leaving their generations old ways behind them without offering them an alternative has caused the fear and resentment of the central government. Some of these people have been resettled three times already in the last few months. One recent example is Tata’s forced eviction of inhabitants of ten villages to make room for its 5000 acre plant.

The irony of the situation is that the Pakistani government has been treating the Pakistani Taliban problem as a purely ideological issue whereas the Indian government has been treating the Naxalites as a purely law and order one. For all practical purposes it should have been vice versa. Even the unfortunate name ‘Green Hunt’ for the operation against the Naxals should have been reserved for hunting the TTP like the animals that they are and a more humane way should have been found to deal with the poor and downtrodden Dalits on the Indian side.

Posted by AhmedS | Report as abusive

The Maoist support base is growing exponentially thanks to the nonchalance of the Indian political and administrative establishment towards genuine problems of deprivation and marginalization of the country’s poorest citizens- ‘CITIZENS’, almost farcical to use that grand word eh? Other than at the time of elections, when else are these supposed ‘Citizens’ made to feel that they are part of the ‘CITIZENRY’.
Not doing enough for the people can be called by a variety of euphemisms but actually snatching away whatever infinitesimal semblance of existence the poor have, that is downright terrorism- in Niyamgiri (Orissa), UK based mining major Vedanta’s rapacity is guaranteeing that the peaceful and self sustaining tribal population there is faced with health hazards such as TB, drying of rivers which supply water for agriculture and eventually displacement and maybe even extinction. The bemusing thing is that while there was an outcry in the UK over this, the Indian govt. has pretty much played ball with these neo-colonialist thugs! Now, extrapolate this situation over maybe 30 districts and lo and behold! you’ve created a potential Naxal problem.
Until and unless the government takes absolute steps to integrate these sections into the mainstream (like Spain did in the Basque region) and pass on to them the fruits of a booming economic growth curve, the status quo will persist, possibly worsen.
To speak in actual terms, the govt, should expand the scope and intensity of the brilliant new National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and ensure its proper implementation. Perhaps take it a step further by realizing the proposed Food Security Bill. Let’s see how the Maoists continue to incite rebellion when that is done. JAI HIND.

Posted by dwijaa | Report as abusive

Myra,

Your question; whether democracy is serving tribals fairly and their being used as vote banks. I admit to knowing squat about social engineering. I really have no clear cut responses to your questions except for some thoughts on reading your post.

I maintain that democracy has no total solution for all that ails society. More so in this part of the world, because of the sheer numbers involved and the abject conditions that prevail. It is more of making the most of a bad bargain. But it is what many nations have chosen and we have to accept it, warts and all, till we find something better. Is a perfect system possible?

Coming specifically to the tribals, yes they have been exploited, but then so have the weaker sections of society. The weaker the section the more it is exploited through raising false hopes. There is no system of governance or group (political, religious or social) which practices inequality. All strive for, proclaim and swear it is their goal, none really wants to get there. There will always be the ruled and the ruler. For politics to stay alive, there has to be someone who needs to be given hope, not relief, just hope and someone to give that hope. That hope is what gets votes and therefore the need to maintain vote banks.

An alternative? If only someone would discover it! I think the more one looks at China and how it operates to-day, perhaps there is a pointer. If one can design a system with clear, crisp goals (Manmohan Singh) coupled with strong but not ruthless leadership (Margaret Thatcher type) and a corruption free market economy (New Zealand or Denmark), maybe substantial equality would be achievable.

Everyone knows why naxalism flourishes, no one really wants to rock the boat. Look at Copenhagen, all agree that something MUST be done, but hey! don’t look at me. It’s almost a death wish!

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Myra, Rajeev,

Arundhati Roy lives upto her reputation. I enjoy reading her in order to understand a problem in depth. Beyond that she has nothing to contribute. Every time I read her, I think she is absolutely right in most of what she says, but what exactly does she recommend be done? Here again, the issues are genuinely well researched and presented, but other than justifying the naxals right in taking up arms and the govt being wrong in using force to counter that, what else is she saying by way of a solution?

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Ahmed,

Just read your comment, thanks for the compliments. If only the world was left to us armchair analysts what a perfect world we could create!

Sorry am rushed having already spent more time than I should have here and have an extended week end ahead so will get back later. Incidentally, I have the same problem of losing comments to the ether – not to worry.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Ahmed:
@so called ‘Tribals’ (implying that they are all uncivilized savages, fighting with bows and arrows)”
—who says that? That is your assumption. Those Islamist militants from Mehsud tribe in 4X4 trucks with AK-47 are SAGES!

Also, you are confused about Adivasis (Tribals) and Dalits vocabulary. These are not mutually interchangeable words—Dalit is not a synonym of Adivasis or Tribals. Adivasis fall under “Scheduled Tribes” (ST) and Dalits include “Scheduled Castes” (SC)—so called SC/ST category.
@ … the current reasons for the Naxalities’ rise to prominence is the state’s priority given to industrial development and ignoring the fact that India’s primary strength is agriculture and not industry.”
–Agriculture alone is not a panacea and most people who are relevant to discussion do not even own agriculture land forget about deriving prosperity out of that. Tilling land for landowners is not a way to prosperity. Population explosion, a generally higher number of kids in poor means that even the minority that owns land, the land per person is nothing. A certain minimal land is required for a decent and meaningful harvest and livelihood. All sectors need to be invested in and maintaining balance is the trick. The fact that 80% of India lives in villages does not equate with these 80% people owning agriculture land. Even if today agriculture is the answer, tomorrow it will not be.

BTW, good luck to problem solving with elite club of 3 wise men, but stay tuned for interceptions.
_____________________________________

Myra:
@ Given the way the tribal vote bank has been exploited, do you think democracy has served them well?”
–Obviously, democracy has not served them well. Disadvantage of democracy is that it is about satisfying 51% of people, meaning 49% can be ignored. Ideally, this will still work if none of the voters become part of the vote bank, leaving political parties unsure who votes for them, meaning they will work hard for 5yrs keeping in mind 100% of uncertain voters. But we know the reality is differnt. India (not all) is used to democracy and the freedom associated with it and cannot be happier in any other. A fine tuning of democracy and changes are needed to make many more happy. I am not suggesting that you pointed to moving away from democracy. I agree with you that many are guilty of manipulating Adivasi opinion.

Majority of people will recognize that marginalization of the tribals has led to the problems. But one needs to look at the social structure (I am not an expert here; there are many out there). There are a variety of tribals with unique customs and historically they have not been interfered with. Just because they are the original inhabitants and Hinduism (Sanatan Dharam) is native to the place, Hinduism was not imposed on them. Even now, the Hindu Marriage Act in Indian constitution does not govern scheduled tribes, meaning in post-1947 India, unique customs of tribals are recognized. At social and economic level, India has changed a lot since then. Democratic system of India means that tribals do count in making govts. While new economic boom in democratic India has given some people lot of wealth, tribals and many other poor people (not only Tribals or Dalits) are excluded except once in 5yrs for votes. The expectations of tribals have not remained the same when kings and emperors were in place. They not only want but need to be part of the changing system. Reforms are needed for the integration of tribals (while letting them maintain their customs) for the basic human rights of food, shelter and cloth (A digression: Talking about food, I just came back from usual lunch meeting in USA and half the food got wasted).

@ Do you, or Dara, who also posted here, have a solution to offer to places like Chhattisgarh that would both accommodate the need for economic growth with the interests of villagers and tribals?”
–Cannot provide a solution myself. Arunadhati, the complaining queen, cannot suggest a solution on any topic that she cries over. But all I can say is that poor are justified in their complaints and Maoists have used that platform to violently throw a system but have no idea but what exactly they are offering. PM Singh should sit with Maoists. I suggested this to my Bihari friend (living in Delhi all his life and now in USA) and he laughed that Maoists are beyond negotiations (quite true). But I feel that force alone is also not the way out. My friend’s dad retired from Delhi and made a house in his native place in Bihar (where there is no electricity in the village) to help the poor in his native village post-retirement—social activist. But Maoists threat is making anyone with visible money insecure. He thus far is holding his ground but the threat of violence to innocent middle class/upper middle class is rapidly destroying the social fabric.

Theoretically, it is better to give economic benefits from the natural resources of “minerals” and “diamonds” that these areas have and plan for the underdeveloped areas at war footing. It is better and cost-effective than force alone that is expected to intensify and provide further justification for the insurgency. But will everyone in India start asking for a cut on the natural resources derived from their lands—like river water etc. Still not a bad idea if that is the case.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@ Rajeev

“Myra: You did not get the point. If “hungry and naked people” are poster people for Maoist movement?—the reason for Maoist insurgency, what is the reason for the insurgency of Islamists?”

You are forcing me to guess here, but I would have thought that for al Qaeda, the photo would be of Gaza, or maybe Abu Ghraib. I’m not sure about the other Islamist militant groups, but your question is a very good illustration of how looking at the differences and similarities between Maoists and Islamists can force us to think about both of them in ways we had not considered before.

@ All,

There have been comments about Arundhati Roy complaining without coming up with solutions. But there are two highly reputed South Asian economists who have done a lot of work on development economics – Muhammad Yunus and Amartya Sen (curiously enough both Bengalis) who never seem to get that much attention. Why is that?

Does this mean we are actually going to examine (publish) the differences between defined terrorist groups now???

Sounds great, maybe we can finally come to a better understanding of why this problem exists!!

Or is this simply a careful attempt to separate qualities between two terrorist groups enough for us to want to take sides against religion?

Personally I wouldn’t bother tiptoeing, just tell us what you think about the evils of religion..

Posted by brian-decree | Report as abusive

Myra:

@but your question is a very good illustration of how looking at the differences and similarities between Maoists and Islamists can force us to think about both of them in ways we had not considered before”
-Myra

Myra: you are smart. you responed but did not attempt addressing the question of islamist militants—you did that for A-Q terrorists though.

The reason for insurgency by TTP type and Af-Tal is US/NATO/ISAF and PA forces. addressing the cause is important because what we have got now are the hardened militants with a demonstrated ability to take on the armies from 40-plus countries. These forces will leave gifting these mutant hardnened militants who can thump their chest by saying they defeated the best armies in the world. These militants will remain militants (nature will change) and will quench their thirst on regional problems.

If US et al is the reason for insurgency, it is unimaginable that these guys will quit doing their suicide bombings until US is gone. what cannot be done in 8yrs cannot be done in 18months even with additional troops and even with PA acting against these guys in S. waziristan.

Allah save the region.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

Taliban is an outcome of Islamic radicalism and religious hatred. Keeping people backward deliberately has helped create this monster. Backwardness is an ideal situation for religious radicalism to spread. And it is a weapon that can be unleashed against others. Pakistan realized the advantage of it and nurtured it as a state policy. It is the presence of Americans and their allies in close vicinity that has made the off-shoots of the Taliban turn against their own sponsors. And Pakistan does not have the means and infrastructure to contain it. Radicalization happens in the hearts and minds of ignorant people. It cannot be contained by military strikes and bullets.

In the case of Maoist insurgency in India, it was not created by the Indian military as a proxy element to fight external enemies. It grew out of misery of suffering people who got no justice for a long time. People have been suffering for centuries in this region. Before the politicians and government came into existence, there were feudal landlords and small kings who ignored the poor the same way. Presence of the British helped in keeping the feudal lords from over exploiting the poor and down trodden because the feudal lords and kings were kept busy fighting for their own survival. Once the British left, India eradicated the kings and feudal system. But there were too many things to handle. The system was too big with attention being required on many fronts at the same time. So the government focused on what it felt was the top priority. Corruption can proliferate in this environment very quickly and that led to further injustice. In some states people who did not get justice became famous bandits. They co-existed alongside others with encounters with equally corrupt security men once in a while. People played neutral to both parties.

Now some power crazy individuals have been trying to hijack this system by leading the Maoist campaign. They are no different from the secessionist leaders that are in many parts of the country or leaders of parties like the Shiv Sena. And all of them have been around for as long as the country has existed. Sometimes they get involved in the political process and gain power through that. Those who run the government know the advantages of getting their vote banks. So any central or state government does nothing and see if there are any political gains to be made in the long run. That allows these systems to breed and grow. Very soon the Maoists will become a political force and might even win a huge chunk of electoral votes. If that happens, most politicians will sell their mothers and jump ship with them. At that time India might even shut down all capitalistic ventures and start dancing for the poor man’s wishes.

In India it is all internal to the system. Through the Maoist movement, the downtrodden will figure out a way to have a say. And the politicians will gladly oblige. But if it is a part of the democratic growth of the nation, it is all right with me. After all there are more than 400 million people under poverty line and more are being added. They should have a say in the destiny of the land. So the Maoist movement might take India in a different direction in the coming years, by the power of vote. India already has states with well established Communist governments. I’d say it is not as threatening as the Taliban.

If Taliban gains control inside Pakistan, they will wage a holy war against India in order to divert attention from their lack of governing capabilities. And it will go nuclear. But if Maoists take a majority voting block in the nation, India will tone down on capitalistic front and might turn socialistic so that the poor can get some relief. India is not in as much danger as Pakistan is.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Myra:

Since not many comments are coming, let me suggest one more comparison that at least I find very interesting and deserves another similar blog.

It is worthwhile to compare Punjab in Pakistan with that of Indian Punjab. This is very relevant and significant and you can make such comparisons at different levels.

You would have heard enough Indians and non-Punjabi Pakistanis calling Pakistani-Punjabi hegemony in Pakistani politics/Army and steering foreign policy in the wrong direction, especially the use of Punjab-based terrorists as strategic tools for achieving regional objectives by Pakistan and then these terrorists having their own and global aspirations—–messing up the whole region. Most of hatred against India comes from Pakistan Punjabis, representing majority of Pakistani Army which has either lost wars to India or other wars (Operation Gibraltar and Kargil wars) ended in stalemate and did not achieve the goals the wars were fought for. 1971 is the deep and unhealed wound that Pakistanis in general and Punjabis, specifically, have.

OTOH, Indian Punjabis find themselves close to Pakistani Punjabis due to cultural, food and language similarity. Pakistanis must also be having such people but at the same time terrorists are created out of common Punjabi people using hate propaganda. Indian Punjabis are criticized for extrapolating the cultural, food and language similarity between Indian Pakistani Punjabis to Pakistani Punjabis, and wrongly labeling this similarity as a similarity between India and Pakistan. Manmohan Singh sometimes has been criticized for his pacifist approach due to being a Punjabi, especially right after 26/11. At some blogs I have seen comments such as that it is the fault of Punjabis about the attack (meant for LeT) and no retaliation (meant for PM Singh). Also, talking about wounds, Punjab in India also has scars of Khalistan movement that although failed, was strongly supported by ISI/PA.

Myra, I will appreciate your thoughts on it? Are these comparisons relevant or not yet? I think they are.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@ Rajeev

“It is worthwhile to compare Punjab in Pakistan with that of Indian Punjab. This is very relevant and significant and you can make such comparisons at different levels.”

Yes agreed. But where would you suggest is the best place to start?

The two provinces split apart by partition were Punjab and Bengal so do we go back to 1947 (or in the case of Bengal, back to 71, again?)

I’d be more inclined to go back to the Sikh kingdom, but I don’t know enough about how it started up (British history tends to focus on how it ended).

Did people in Punjab feel a greater need to stress their religious identity over the centuries? Or did all this start in 1947?

The only books I have read about Sikh rule have been about its impact in Kashmir — where Muslims were treated fairly badly.

But I have no knowledge of what happened elsewhere. Do you?

Rajeev,

Frankly I am at a loss to answer your question about Chattisgarh and marrying the economy to tribal progress. However, generally I think the answers are well known to all. Decent governance, starting with health care, education, respect for tribal traditions and customs, vocational training designed to cater to their specific fields of occupation and expertise and improving communications and infrastructure. Tall order, but it is the only way to remove ages of neglect. Actually it is nothing but what one expects a good govt. to deliver on.

I also feel that right now with the naxals holding strong, it is going to be impossible to achieve. They will hinder all official attempts. There has to be a concerted action to neutralise them first, no wishy washy Shivraj Patil type half measures. Fortunately, if one man can deliver, I think it is Chidambaram, he needs the total backing of his cabinet.

Really there is nothing special to be done; first establish law and order and genuinely look after tribal welfare without behaving as if the govt. is doling out charity to them.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Myra,
” But there are two highly reputed South Asian economists who have done a lot of work on development economics – Muhammad Yunus and Amartya Sen (curiously enough both Bengalis) who never seem to get that much attention. Why is that?”

Your observation is correct. I think there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, both are highly respected by ordinary people for their work, which people can identify with. However, speaking for myself, economy and economists are not readily understood by laymen. I read Sen’s “The Argumentative Indian” and freely admit that very often had to read portions repeatedly to even understand the gist. Sen is too philosophical for me in his writings. On the other hand, I have heard both separately on TV and there I find they talk at a very basic level and have the ability to explain things in a plain and easy to understand manner. So the short answer to your question is that their subject is more specialist than generic.

Arundhati on the other hand writes mainly to be controversial and raise tempers by her attacks on individuals. She is more personal and forces reactions from people. That is what accounts for her being discussed more by the ordinary Joe public.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Myra:

@Yes agreed. But where would you suggest is the best place to start?

@“The two provinces split apart by partition were Punjab and Bengal so do we go back to 1947 (or in the case of Bengal, back to 71, again?)”

@ I’d be more inclined to go back to the Sikh kingdom, but I don’t know enough about how it started up (British history tends to focus on how it ended).

Myra: You are right about starting with Sikh Kingdom. The best work in this area is by Khushwant Singh–”A History of the Sikhs”, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Read this to know what happened in this area (today’s Pakistan and Indian Puunjab) over 6 centuries starting from 15th Century to 20th Century (post-1947 time). This is recognized to be the best work on what happened in this region during that time with emerging Sikh religion and Sikhs as the major players to fight against Mughal rule and British Armies. Khushwant Singh writes by using lots of references/huge bibliography, footnotes. For this blog, relevance is Sikh Kingdom with Lahore as the capital. Kashmir is a separate issue and can be left aside or up to you.
I cannot comment on Bengal and some of it has been discussed in 1971 blog, isn’t it? What has not been discussed are the happenings in Indian Punjab post-1971.

@ The only books I have read about Sikh rule have been about its impact in Kashmir — where Muslims were treated fairly badly.”
Myra: I again suggest you read the above Volumes to see relationship among religions, especially to see how Muslims were treated during Sikh Kingdom. I have read “A History of the Sikhs” Volume 1 and still reading Vol 2. Ranjeet Singh, the Sikh ruler is widely known NOT to discriminate based on religion—you will find references from British sources and other historians, newspapers and lot more on this. During those times when decapitation and execution were norm, Ranjeet Singh, who ruled for more than 4 decades and established Sikh Kingdom with British at door step, has been cited not to execute people except death through wars and he has been cited to include people of all religions—Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus–in his administration and army–his foreign minister was a Muslim and he was not just one cosmetic example. He even hired several able generals from many European countries, including Britain, to modernize his army. When Ranjeet Singh died, his last rites were performed according to all Sikh, Hindu, Muslim religions because that’s what all people from these communities wanted. So I do not have any idea of your comment about Muslims being treated badly (in Kashmir).

@“The two provinces split apart by partition were Punjab and Bengal so do we go back to 1947 (or in the case of Bengal, back to 71, again?)”
Myra: Although it is a good idea to go back in history to study the issue but you cannot and do not have to dig everything to write—like you did not write why tribals were left alone historically in India—but now being said marginalized/in-alienated. I commented briefly on that in one of my posts.

I agree with you what I suggested is complicated topic, but it is worth an effort due to the relevance—perhaps not relevant for US/NATO as yet, but why not media be a step ahead and try to understand the region and people.

The need to do so is what is happening today. As a Punjabi from India, I always thought in the middle of Khalistan movement that it is the govt/PA/ISI that is the problem but people on either side of Punjab border are not much different. Personally, I found that I was wrong because some Punjabis in Pakistan are so anti-India that they fall to Jihadi propaganda and ready to die for Allah by fighting against India. Others support the Jihadis by saying “Jihadis are acquaintance/cousins of people in govt and Army so hard to take an action against them”. We do not have this level of hate in Indian Punjab or someone can tell me if I am missing something. This is not to deny the existence of good people in Pakistan Punjab; I have personal experience. During my visit to Venice, standing at a bridge was an elderly couple who overheard us talk in Hindi/Punjabi and they were Punjabis from Lahore, settled in Vancouver. We talked for 20minutes and felt as if we know each other for a long time and departed with invitation next time we visit Canada BC. But my issue is discussing hate, the problem for which we need solution.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@ Dara,

“I read Sen’s “The Argumentative Indian” and freely admit that very often had to read portions repeatedly to even understand the gist.”

I’m glad you said that. I picked up a copy of “The Argumentative Indian” recently and am finding it very hard to get through. Do read his book “Identity and Violence” if you haven’t already done so as it is much clearer.

One thing that did come across in “The Argumentative Indian” is Sen’s view that India suffers from western misconceptions of India. He does not say this, but I’ve been wondering whether the foreign investment view of India as BRIC economy belongs in that category? (I am going way off topic here, but it has been interesting to see that nobody who has commented on this post has recommended foreign investment as the solution to poverty in Chhattisgarh and other places.)

@ Rajeev,

You are right. I should read Khushwant Singh’s “A History of the Sikhs”. (I agree that Kashmir is not terribly relevant here, but it just happens to be the area I’ve read about since I’ve been studying 19th century Kashmir history for an entirely separate project.)

“I have personal experience. During my visit to Venice, standing at a bridge was an elderly couple who overheard us talk in Hindi/Punjabi and they were Punjabis from Lahore, settled in Vancouver. We talked for 20minutes and felt as if we know each other for a long time and departed with invitation next time we visit Canada BC. But my issue is discussing hate, the problem for which we need solution.”

Much as it is risky to generalise, I’ve always had a sense that Punjabis are a bit like people from Glasgow and the west of Scotland (which is where I am from). The sectarian divisions there between Catholics and Protestants used to be extremely powerful, in part, but only in part, because of the Northern Ireland issue. That has changed only in the last few decades. But certainly when I was growing up Catholics and Protestants did not mix, went to different schools, supported different football teams (Rangers is protestant, Celtic is catholic) etc etc.

Obviously in the case of Indian and Pakistani Punjabis you have a division between two different countries, along with all the pain caused by partition that many people still carry. But it’s definitely a subject worth looking at a bit more closely.

Dara:
@Frankly I am at a loss to answer your question about Chattisgarh and marrying the economy to tribal progress.”
– I was trying to discuss the single issue of natural resources as a way of prosperity of tribals. This is the usual complaint by the likes of Roy and others so was handling just that. I was avoiding the obvious–”development” –a tall order as you said.

So can there be a mechanism where govt makes sure that big companies INCLUDE poor locals so that they enjoy a fraction of profits from minerals over which these poor locals walk? I do not know how but the suggestion is not to give free money to anyone. However, this problem of sharing the natural resources is not new and has given gives rise to rivalry at individual and state level– sharing water/and or minerals from Baluchistan to Punjab/Sind, Kashmir, Punjab, Karnataka/Tamil Nadu and now Chattisgarh and Jharkhand and other areas. So the question is would any policy in this region this set some precedence?

Even if some concrete steps in “development” are taken by govt—such as laying roads, schools, hospitals/dispensaries—the sources of livelihood is a different problem altogether.

I ruled out agriculture as a way to prosperity. Population explosion, limited land, already landless poor, Indian democratic system that does not have Mao in India (nor we need him) means those who till for others will keep on tilling for them and that’s no solution. Let us say even if the land is just enough today, it will not be so for next generation (most poor section of the society has higher number of kids) and will need to seek alternative employment avenues.

In addition, low wages for those who till the land in many parts of India is another issue because Biharis and others who do the same job in Punjab earn more. These Biharis who migrated to Punjab have tasted the profits of economy by working in highly industrialized Ludhiana. They earn enough to send some back home.

@……..vocational training designed to cater to their specific fields of occupation and expertise and improving communications and infrastructure.”
–This is important for the question of livelihood. Ensuring that the major beneficiary of the product is the business that produced not the middle men is very important. Mafias emerge with any industry.

I am not that optimistic of PC and his “Operation Green hunt”. Personally, I dislike this name and so will people there. Why not give a better name? It all matters in the end. US walks uninvited in foreign lands—Iraq and Afghanistan and calls the operations as “Operation Iraqi freedom”, “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Why not Indian govt give a positive name for a positive operation if it is about including majority of poor tribals by using force against gun-totting radical Maoists.

More later

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

Myra, thank you for the suggestion regarding Sen’s book. I’ll try it soon. Incidentally, in my mind I refer to Amartya Sen as the ‘good doctor’!

As regards Chattisgarh, I think any investment there, foreign or otherwise would be most welcome. But right now who is willing to put fresh money there? As far as I know, other than BALCO, most industry there is in the Public Sector. I think unless the law and order situation is brought under some reasonable control, investors are going to be wary. Once that happens, there is hope of faster development work.

Rajeev,

I agree that agriculture is no longer viable because of the small land holdings brought about by constant redistribution of existing land into smaller and smaller holdings. It could perhaps be made lucrative, if and when the auxiliary tools that support agriculture such as storage facilities, food processing units etc are also locally available. Along with them communications are equally necessary. These ancillaries could then be tended to by other members of the family and leave fewer members to take care of the farming bit. That would perhaps ensure more income feeding fewer mouths.

As to jobs for locals, in mining or otherwise, I think that most industries actually prefer to recruit locals rather than import. In the long run it is cost effective and has lesser turn over. The problem really is that one is forced to look elsewhere because qualified man power is not available. If even basic education improves in these regions the locals have a better chance of doing better than in agriculture. I feel that using locals only as untrained, unskilled labour, is self defeating. If their lot is to substantially improve, they have to get on to jobs which offer prospects for the future. A labourer unfortunately will simply maintain basic sustainance level with no hope of the family improving its economic situation to any great degree. Mind you this is not to deny that most industries to-day do provide educational facilities for employees, yet their reach is restricted to their employees. The requirement is for something on a much larger scale.

At the end of the day we always come back to the basics….security, health, education, etc. We have let too much money just disappear into a black hole and no one is any better off.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Myra:

@Much as it is risky to generalise, I’ve always had a sense that Punjabis are a bit like people from Glasgow and the west of Scotland (which is where I am from). The sectarian divisions there between Catholics and Protestants used to be extremely powerful, in part, but only in part, because of the Northern Ireland issue. That has changed only in the last few decades. But certainly when I was growing up Catholics and Protestants did not mix, went to different schools, supported different football teams (Rangers is protestant, Celtic is catholic) etc etc.”

Myra: One can draw some similarities. But as you noticed that the difference here is an international border between 2 Punjabs. People 1 Km on either side of the border are exposed to entirely new environment. It is so different and makes it different from Catholic/Protestant Scotland problem. It is not sectarian here, but the gulf is bigger (or is it?)–the religion. People on either side read different newspapers and their source of information is very different. The buffering does not take place. But sure they do not cut each other’s throat—but terrorism has been one sided from Pakistan Punjab towards Indian Punjab. The pleasant difference is Cricket fever raises passions in India and Pakistan but it brings India and Pakistan closer unlike football-celtic/rangers, THE PLACE for sectarian violence in Scotland.

@Obviously in the case of Indian and Pakistani Punjabis you have a division between two different countries, along with all the pain caused by partition that many people still carry.”
–The pain of partition is there–people who migrated have died or were very small when them came here and have no memories of that place (like my dad)—same is true for Pakistan. Events of 1947 partition in the region will make a Punjabi like me in India not to have any false perception and hope that India and Pakistan can be merged (we here this emotional line once in while from some one). I am in much better position to have friendship due to similarities I mentioned earlier. A respectable distance will be healthy for both sides. A line drawn in blood does not mean enmity for generations but the line cannot be erased. The pain of partition is not that dominant that sometimes media tends to present in flow of writing without pause. It is the later events that are affecting the bilateral relationship–the terrorism–the single most important issue on an Indian’s mind with repect to Pakistan and Punjabis have experienced it first hand from my Punjabi friends on the other side.

@But it’s definitely a subject worth looking at a bit more closely.”
–It will be worth the effort. I am trying to use holidays and read Vol 2 of Khushwant Singh;’s book.

happy holidays!

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

I hosted a group of retired senior Pakistani and Indian military officers a year ago. And one of the points that emerged in the discussion was that Pakistan had a lot to learn from the Indian experience with the Naxals.

The Indians were more than forthcoming about the mistakes they made tackling the Naxalite problem in the past. But they did feel that they model had been tweaked and that they were now starting to see success. They cited the combination of law enforcement, the Black Cats/special forces, intelligence work, and socio-economic reforms as all vital to tackling the Naxalite insurgency.

And the Indians felt that the same model could be applied by the Pakistanis in the FATA. The Pakistanis were indeed curious about Indian methods and how they could be applied at home.

Also, everybody understood that the models are not perfectly transferable, because one has an overt religious dimension and the other has an equally strong secular political tinge to it.

There is a lot the two countries can share and learn from each other, if they can get past their animosity some day.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

Myra/Sanjeev:

I have one thing to say, which is not entirely relevant to this particular article but is relevant to in general to both India and Pakistan blogs. Btth of you and others have written on Kashmir/Jaswant Singh’s book/comments and discussion on the roles of leaders from India and Pakistan in 1947 partition, then one more blog on 1971 with discussion on Indian and Pakistan’s roles in the creation of Bangladesh. What we have not seen is a blog on the role of British in Indian independence and creation of Pakistan. This deserves a special blog. If not for me, please do that for millions dead and homeless during 1947. You know the best time to wrote this but I feel that with Indian and Pakistanis kicking each other, British are getting away with it too easily.

I am talking a bit out of context here, but it makes sense–at least to me. Let me know your thoughts.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

B.R.Ambedkar, in a speech in 1943 said:
“Some of you will take offence at what I have said about the demoralizing effect of the Hindu socio-religious ideal on Hindu Society. But what is the truth? Can the charge be denied? Is there any society in the world which has unapproachable,, unshadowables, and unseeables? is there any society which has got a population of Criminal Tribes? Is there a society in which there exist today primitive people, who live in jungles, who do not know even to clothe themselves? How many do they count in numbers? Is it a matter of hundreds, is it a matter of thousands? I wish they numbered a paltry few. The tragedy is that they have to be counted in millions, millions of Untouchables, millions of Criminal Tribes, millions of Primitive Tribes!! One wonders whether the Hindu civilization is civilization, or infamy.”
If you see the pictures in this article, Ambedkar’s words 66 years ago come to life. Maoists could be compared to Baluch in Pakistan but Taliban/al-qaeda are no indigenous expressions of tribal people. Peace.

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