Indian government starting 5-year military offensive against revolutionary forces

The Spark November 2009
Jared Phillips

 The revolutionary movement in India, under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), has expanded its base over the last three to four years through regroupment of the movement and also through consolidation of its support in urban centers. Consequently, the Indian state has extended its ban on the party. Previously the political ban was imposed on the party in several states mainly in the east of the country. Now there is an ‘all-India’ ban on the CPI(M). The party has established peoples’ committees in three states, and has done so in-part in other states.

  The armed apparatus of the party – the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army

– is active in 15 states throughout India, and is engaged in more intense insurgency fighting in several of those states.

  As well as being outlawed, the movement – with its base mainly amongst poor or landless peasants, is facing a new wave of repression from the government military forces. The central Government has announced ‘Operation Green Hunt’, which is a five year offensive starting in November 2009 with the objective of wiping out the revolutionary movement. The plan for the offensive consists of a seven-phase strategy, with each of the seven phases focused on a different guerrilla ‘area of operation’, building towards the eventual encirclement of the guerrilla forces.

 What this means is that the central government has been forced to centralise counter-insurgency strategies, rather than rely on state-by-state counter-insurgency methods.

 The central government’s offensive, approved by the United Progressive Alliance

(UPA) government’s Cabinet Committee on Security, will be based on the creation of a new Special Forces School, a new Special Forces Unit, and a new military headquarters at which they will be based. The physical base granted for this plan is 1,800 acres of land, which shows that the government is making significant structural changes to its military infrastructure in order to fight the insurgency.

 The offensive will also consist of the deployment of 27 battalions (approximately 800-1000 soldiers each) of the Border Security Force, and the movement of Indo-Tibetan Border Police into guerrilla strongholds.

  There will also be an increased presence of Indian Air force helicopters. Ostensibly these are to be used for ‘search and rescue’ activities. But the air force has been authorised to use force where necessary. The counter-revolutionary forces in India have a long history, documented by human rights organisations, of creating ‘false encounters’, which are massacres disguised as firefights. So in the context of a general offensive, the deployment of helicopters with the ability to use force ‘where necessary’ spells bloodbaths.

 Advisors to the military and the government have warned the government of the dangers of pursuing such an open counter-insurgency strategy. They protested that such open statements about strategy may give the guerrilla forces the upper hand, both in terms of military information and public sympathy. The government response was that the openness about the offensive was part of conducting psychological warfare against the guerrillas. The factions which oppose open statements on the offensive have responded to this by pointing out that if the efforts fail they will look like bigger losers and lose any psychological advantage.

  With regard to previous counter-insurgency operations, a revolutionary leader, Gonapathy, has said that despite some severe losses, the movement has continued to grow, including by region, and has continued to gain victories and influence. Getting to the centre of the matter, he pointed out that fighting against and withstanding government-military offensives is simply a part of guerrilla strategy. The truth is that over the last year government forces have sustained more casualties than the movement.

  Separate to this offensive, but potentially impacting on the people’s war in general, the U.S and Indian governments announced Exercise ‘Cope India-09’ in October. It is a joint military exercise conducted by the air forces of both countries. Further joint exercises of their regular armies are taking place, involving 1,000 military personnel. Speaking to these joint exercises, the U.S ambassador to India said that military co-operation is a core part of the U.S-India relationship.

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