Indian security forces are now on maximum alert in the states of Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh after Maoist rebels launched a 48-hour bandh (general strike) to protest against the government, which began an offensive against the Maoists back in October 2009 to retake areas under their control. In less than a year, some 300 people have been killed in the operation whilst another 50,000 has had to flee their homes.
The Maoist revolt began in 1967 in the village of Naxalbari (West Bengal) when a group of peasants turned against local landowners over a land dispute.
In recent years, India’s economic development has led to more confrontations as peasants resist land seizures. Increasingly, they have backed the Maoist insurgency.
Naxalites and other extreme leftwing groups are active in states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. Here, Maoists can field a military force of some 10,000 members, organised in the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army, made up mostly of illiterate peasants.
In response to this threat, the central government has set up independent paramilitary forces outside of the regular armed forces.
Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), slammed the attacks, saying, “there is no justification for killing.”
“Maoists are the armed opposition group with the worst record of human rights violations,” he said. “They do not represent any democratic movement and conduct kangaroo trials by so-called People’s Courts, which summarily judge and execute their political opponents, after labelling them, ‘police informers’.”
For the human rights activist, the government has to shoulder some of the blame for the situation, especially after it unleashed an offensive using paramilitary groups. This has only fuelled the rebels’ violence.
In Raghuvanshi’s view, India is now faced with a new form of leftwing extremism, concentrated in a ‘red corridor’ that runs from Nepal in the north to Tamil Nadu in the far south. (N.C.)