Tag Archive for 'Insurgency'

Harud (Autumn) — a film

Actor Aamir Bashir turns director with Harud. The film has been shot by Shanker Raman and stars Reza Naji.

From Harud website: Rafiq and his family are struggling to come to terms with the loss of his older brother Tauqir, a tourist photographer, who is one of the thousands of young men who have disappeared, since the onset of the militant insurgency in Kashmir.

After an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border into Pakistan, to become a militant, Rafiq returns home to an aimless existence.

Until one day, he accidently finds his brother’s old camera.

India’s hidden war

How India’s economic rise turned an obscure communist revolt into a raging resource war. Jason Miklian and Scott Carney in Foreign Policy:

The richest iron mine in India was guarded by 16 men, armed with Army-issued, self-loading rifles and dressed in camouflage fatigues. Only eight survived the night of Feb. 9, 2006, when a crack team of Maoist insurgents cut the power to the Bailadila mining complex and slipped out of the jungle cover in the moonlight. The guerrillas opened fire on the guards with automatic weapons, overrunning them before they had time to take up defensive positions. They didn’t have a chance: The remote outpost was an hour’s drive from the nearest major city, and the firefight to defend it only lasted a few minutes.

The guards were protecting not only $80 billion-plus worth of mineral deposits, but also the mine’s explosives magazine, which held the ammonium nitrate the miners used to pulverize mountainsides and loosen the iron ore. When the fighting was over and the surviving guards rounded up and gagged, about 2,000 villagers who had been hiding behind the commando vanguard clambered over the fence into the compound and began emptying the magazine. Altogether they carried out 20 tons of explosives on their backs — enough firepower to fuel a covert insurgency for a decade.

Four and a half years after the attack in the remote Indian state of Chhattisgarh, the blasting materials have spread across the country, repackaged as 10-pound coffee-can bombs stuffed with ball bearings, screws, and chopped-up rebar. In May, one villager’s haul vaporized a bus filled with civilians and police. Another destroyed a section of railway later that month, sending a passenger train careening off the tracks into a ravine. Smaller ambushes of police forces on booby-trapped roads happen pretty much every week. Almost all of it, local police told us, can be traced back to that February night.

The Bailadila mine raid was one of India’s most profound strategic losses in the country’s protracted battle against its Maoist movement, a militant guerrilla force that has been fighting in one incarnation or another in India’s rural backwaters for more than 40 years. Over the course of the half-dozen visits we’ve made to the region during the past several years, we’ve come to consider the attack on the mine not just one defeat in the long-running war, but a symbolic shift in the conflict: For years, the Maoists had lived in the shadow of India’s breakneck modernization. Now they were thriving off it. More:

Mao vs. Gandhi in Chhattisgarh

Salil Tripathi in the Wall Street Journal:

Maoist insurgents ambushed Indian security forces in the dense forest region of Chhattisgarh state in central India on Tuesday, killing over 70 troops of the Central Reserve Police Force. Analysts are calling it the worst single-day loss in fighting domestic insurgencies.

But despite such massacres, not everyone in India regards the Maoists with horror. One such apologist is the talented and articulate novelist Arundhati Roy who has, since her Booker Prize-winning 1997 novel “The God of Small Things,” focused on bigger things, such as attacking Indian economic reforms, foreign investment, free markets, the United States and Israel.

In a rambling 19,500-word essay published a week ago in Outlook magazine in India and the Guardian newspaper, Ms. Roy writes of recent experiences following the Maoists in the Dandakaranya forest, near where the security forces were ambushed this week. The piece was headlined “Gandhi, but with guns.”

The comparison is obscene. Not only does it suggest an amoral nihilism, it also represents a rewriting of history. A Gandhian with a gun is as absurd as a Maoist pacifist. India’s founding father Mohandas Gandhi may not have been as perfect as some would make him out, but he did believe that only the right means could be used to reach an end, however noble. In 1922 he suspended a nationwide civil disobedience movement, when some Congress followers burned a police station in Chauri Chaura, killing over a dozen policemen and officers. Maoist ideology is precisely the opposite: The ends justify the means. More:

From The Independent: Who are the Naxalites?

What do the rebels want?

Theoretically, the leadership of the movement says they are committed to a “protracted armed struggle” in order to seize power from the state. Yet the Maoists also stress that they are fighting to protect the rights of India’s most oppressed communities, the adivasis or tribal people, and dalits, or untouchables, whose land and resources have often been taken by Indian and international corporations. While some of the rebel leaders were originally educated urbanites, their rank-and-file fighters are made up overwhelmingly of tribal people and other marginalised people. The government routinely claims that the rebels are opposed to development and progress, yet GN Saibaba, an activist and professor at Delhi University, said: “The government has no other explanation to offer for why there is an uprising. It is not true that the Maoists are against development but the questions they ask is ‘whose development’ and ‘what sort of development’.” More:

‘The astonishing embrace of nonsense’

Armed with the experience that tackled Punjab militancy, “supercop” KPS Gill reports on Lalgarh for the Telegraph. In a daring attack, Maoist rebels, who are expanding their influence across the country, had “captured” this rural town  just 170 km (100 miles) from Kolkata, the capital of the communist-ruled state of West Bengaland, and declared it a “liberated zone”.

kpsgillAs I briefly toured West Midnapore district during the police action in Lalgarh (I was prevented from going into the affected area on “security” grounds), the most dramatic lessons of the crisis, through all its phases – the slow build-up over seven months of state denial, appeasement and progressive error; paralysis in the face of rising Maoist violence; and the final, almost effortless resolution, as the rebels simply melted away in the face of the first evidence of determined use of force – were abundantly clear to me: the complete absence of historical memory in the institutions of the state, and the need for each administration to repeatedly reinvent the wheel.

The West Bengal government is not the first to go through this fruitless cycle; or the first to allow immeasurable harm to be inflicted on its citizens as a result of what is nothing more than the suspension of common sense. Right from my days in Assam, I have seen this cycle afflict virtually every administration confronted with the threat of terrorism across the country – even in theatres of eventual and exceptional counter-terrorism success.

After visiting Midnapore and talking to various people, including police officers, I learned that the operations essentially comprised marching into areas supposedly infested by Naxalites. In the early 1970s, when the Naxalites started setting up cells in the district that I was then heading in Assam, we had relied on building up intelligence so as to pinpoint the hideouts of the Naxalite leadership. I recall that we had identified 85 such places, and when we raided these places, we were able to arrest 74 Naxalites, virtually breaking the back of the movement in the state. More:

A great divide

India is building a fence along its 2,500-mile border with Bangladesh. Jyoti Thottam in Time:

Photo: Prashant Panjiar

Photo: Prashant Panjiar

The village of Panidhar is a cluster of 18 mud, brick and bamboo houses in a poor, wet corner of eastern India. Its problems will sound familiar to anyone who has traveled through the country’s thick rural darkness. Panidhar’s 195 residents live on rice and fish from the surrounding paddy fields and ponds; lucky children get vegetables and lentils, too, but few go to school. The brick factory across the Ichamati River sends boats to fetch a few of the young men; the rest have left for cities many miles away.

An accident of geography turns these ordinary lives into one of India’s most surreal dramas. The border between India and Bangladesh, drawn in haste just before India’s independence in 1947, snakes through Panidhar. It runs right in front of the modest, thatched-roof home of Fazlur Rehman, 50, the village’s unofficial headman. His younger brother lives next door – in another country. “His child, my child are the same,” Rehman says. But in Panidhar, the children violate international law every time they run around the small patch of mango and betel-nut trees. A few hundred meters away, Indian and Bangladeshi border guards patrol on each side.


Insurgency’s scars line Afghanistan’s main road

A highway that was once the showpiece of the United States reconstruction effort is now a dangerous gantlet of mines and attacks. From The New York Times:

Saydebad, Afghanistan: Not far from here, just off the highway that was once the showpiece of the United States reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, three American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were ambushed and killed seven weeks ago.

The soldiers – two of them members of the National Guard from New York – died as their vehicles were hit by mines and rocket-propelled grenades. At least one was dragged off and chopped to pieces, according to Afghan and Western officials. The body was so badly mutilated that at first the military announced that it had found the remains of two men, not one, in a nearby field.

The attack, on June 26, was notable not only for its brutality, but also because it came amid a series of spectacular insurgent attacks along the road that have highlighted the precariousness of the international effort to secure Afghanistan six years after the United States intervened to drive off the Taliban government.


In Sri Lanka, the ethnic divide is worsening

Somini Sengupta reports from Colombo in The New York Times:


There are no eyes on this war. A truce between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is over, and gone are the Nordic monitors who kept watch over it.

The government has refused entry to United Nations human rights monitors. Independent journalists are not allowed anywhere near the front lines. Only occasionally does a glimpse of the war’s damage surface, as when the Red Cross confirmed that in the first six weeks of this year alone, 180 civilians had been killed, a toll it called “appalling.”

While it is impossible to gauge what is happening on the battlefield, that is where, it seems, the government has placed its bets to settle the long-running ethnic war, once and for all. As it does, the public mood in this country is more divided than in many years, like an old scratch that has festered into a gaping wound.


A bloody stalemate in Afghanistan

Elizabeth Rubin in The New York Times Magazine.


We tumbled out of two Black Hawks onto a shrub-dusted mountainside. It was a windy, cold October evening. A half-moon illuminated the tall pines and peaks. Through night-vision goggles the soldiers and landscape glowed in a blurry green-and-white static. Just across the valley, lights flickered from a few homes nestled in the terraced farmlands of Yaka China, a notorious village in the Korengal River valley in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Kunar. Yaka China was just a few villages south and around a bend in the river from the Americans’ small mountain outposts, but the area’s reputation among the soldiers was mythic. It was a known safe haven for insurgents. American troops have tended to avoid the place since a nasty fight a year or so earlier. And as Halloween approached, the soldiers I was with, under the command of 26-year-old Capt. Dan Kearney, were predicting their own Yaka China doom. [Photo: Specialist Carl Vandenberge, right, and Staff Sgt. Kevin Rice, left, are assisted as they walk to a medevac helicopter after being shot by insurgents in the ambush.]


Taliban revival in Peshawar

Jane Perlez in The New York Times


PESHAWAR, Pakistan – For centuries, fighting and lawlessness have been part of the fabric of this frontier city. But in the past year, Pakistan’s war with Islamic militants has spilled right into its alleys and bazaars, its forts and armories, killing policemen and soldiers and scaring its famously tough citizens.
There is a sense of siege here, as the Islamic insurgency pours out of the adjacent tribal region into this city, one of Pakistan’s largest, and its surrounding districts.
The Taliban and their militant sympathizers now hold strategic pockets on the city’s outskirts, the police say, from where they strike at the military and the police, order schoolgirls to wear the burqa and blow up stores selling DVDs, among other acts of violence.