17.6.10

50,000 troops for Naxals?

I understand the Indian state is trying to tackle the Naxal problem. But the latest case of anti-insurgency, where eight (some say 12) Maoists were killed reveals that they were between 16 and 23 years of age. Has anyone tried to figure this out?

The government is readying 50,000 troops. I have a few questions.

In contrast to the highrisk jungle warfare that paramilitary forces resort to against the Naxals, the army plans, if and when called in, to create a security grid which would isolate the civilian population from the insurgents.


What if the insurgents are the civilian population? Can insurgents not infiltrate civilian areas?

The anti-Naxal training module focuses on acquiring intimate knowledge of the topography and the tactics used by Maoists. All this would require the soldiers to unlearn many of the lessons imparted to them for conventional warfare, and use tactics different from those in vogue in J&K and northeast.


The emphasis on tactics may not work. Killing does not require much effort.

The army, which has identified four senior officers for appointment as security advisors to the worst Naxal-affected states, plans to keep the specially-trained divisions in “ready-to-deploy’’ condition.


While there are Naxal areas, there is no reason why these forces will not use other locations to make a point.



And while the army needs good public relations, it is making things worse for itself by sending out such pictures. It is against human dignity. Many may riposte that the insurgents have done far worse. That is not the point. Here we are talking about protectors. They represent the State, an institution that is answerable to the public in a democracy; militants are not.

If they plan to show off their machismo, this is absolutely not the right way to do so. It comes across as a spurious form of warfare where the dead will be seen as victims.

This does not send out a message to the Naxals, who are ready to die for their cause. And it does not send out any message to civil society. The last thing people need to believe they are safe from militants is to see armed soldiers enacting a theatre of the absurd.

20 comments:

  1. FV, If the dead body is to be carried any other way by the troops, then 4 people are needed or the soldiers have to be provided with state-of-the-art carriers that do not have to be carved out from something in the vicinity of the body...no chance of that, as we all know. The photograph clearly made its way to publication channels via some maoist propaganda organization directly to the Times of India, and from there to other outlets.

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  2. I believe no justification can make this act of carrying dead body sensible. One can easily relate this snap to hunters carrying whatever animal they haunted (killed) or man-eaters taking human. Extremely depressing.

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  3. FV, "I believe no justification can make this act of carrying dead body sensible."

    While the picture is certainly depressing and the state must make every effort to not get people killed, there is only so much that can be done to preserve the honour of the maoist dead bodies, I find it hard to be judgemental about the soldiers' actions in this contextm, since I do not have to trudge many miles with that load on my shoulders. In this case, if leaving the body behind is not an option and there are not enough soldiers and the locals are unwilling/not allowed to help in the carrying of the body.

    A practical question that arises to those in charge is the question is whether spending more public money in providing, say for example, a portable stretcher to every soldier for this particular conflict. It may well be justified if this conflict between maoists and Indian soldiers continues for a long time. This kind of stuff is bad PR for the troops and endangers their lives (if these are circulated among the locals by troublemakers) and the Indian govt. is responsible for the protection of the people who are doing its dirty work.

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  4. Farhan:

    Absolutely.

    Al:

    The soldiers are not doing the government's "dirty work". We are talking about the citizens of our country and understanding their needs. The GOI bloody well not think of it as dirty work.

    One is not blind to the flaws of the insurgents, but as I said there is a difference in how the state machinery operates.

    How many wars have been fought and how many soldiers have carried dead bodies around? They are usually left there and there is mass burial. Since this was a raid, it was well-planned so it is not as though they had no other option. This was designed to be a parade. You can see it.

    If your theory is that the picture was planted by the Maoists, then please tell me since when has the mainstream media become their spokespersons? The media will always side with the establishment, unless they see hope of an opposition taking over. And if, to give you the benefit of doubt, some Maoists stood around to watch their colleagues getting killed and took pictures, then why were they not killed? It also does not alter the fact that this image stands as it is.

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  5. FV: " The GOI bloody well not think of it as dirty work."

    "Dirty work" is my opinion, not the GoI's, and the reason I say that is because this entire situation has arisen because of the misgovernance of the politicians and bureaucrats, which has caused seething resentment against the state. Now that the situation has approached crisis proportions and armed forces help is required, the politicians/bureaucrats send in the troops, but do not provide the support needed when the name of the troops is muddied by the publication of such pictures. The only reason the body is not being carried in a more respectable way is because these same civilian/military leadership has fallen on the job.

    How many wars have been fought and how many soldiers have carried dead bodies around? They are usually left there and there is mass burial. Since this was a raid, it was well-planned so it is not as though they had no other option.

    " This was designed to be a parade. You can see it."

    Maybe I am missing the signs that you obviously see to make that statement.

    As far as I can see, the log seems like something hacked out of a nearby tree, and the soldiers are carrying the body on the shoulder because most likely there are no operational roads where this is happening.

    I am not condoning the obvious disrespect being done to the body, but just saying that this is not some deliberate display of the "we are more violent than you" attitude from the government. If they did have such an attitude they would not be vacillating on the decision of how exactly to proceed forward while minimizing the number of people killed.


    "If your theory is that the picture was planted by the Maoists, then please tell me since when has the mainstream media become their spokespersons? "

    At the very least, that theory is certainly as valid as the theory that these maoists were being deliberately dishonoured after death -- to be clear, there is certainly callousness being exhbited by the state against the citizens, which is deplorable. My only complaint is against fixing blame on that on the Indian army.



    " It also does not alter the fact that this image stands as it is."

    No doubt. If such images do not result in making the life of the maoists easier(and do not result in making the lives of the troops more difficult), I have no trouble with it.

    Peace

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  6. This is internal war so becomes difficult for govt to make sure innocent people are ok.The photo is sad so what you say happens, more sympathy for naxals

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  7. Al:

    If I understand it right, you have a problem with the state/bureaucracy but not the armed forces.

    Yet you state:


    I am not condoning the obvious disrespect being done to the body, but just saying that this is not some deliberate display of the "we are more violent than you" attitude from the government.

    So do you see the army and the GOI as the same?

    The government did not expect such a resurgence and there are several aspects to the issue.

    This raid was planned, so we cannot assume they were ill-prepared for dead bodies. If live people can go there, then surely removal of corpses ought not to be a problem. That log does not look like it has just been hacked off a tree.

    If you do not wish to blame the Indian army - and it is not a blanket call I am making either - then at least let us understand that certain norms are expected of the state machinery.

    We have blamed the media. Now, it is an iffy situation. What should they report? Today's papers mention that the teenager captured as a dreaded Maoist turns out to be a mentally challenged kid. Why would the Maoists promote his picture and then have this report planted, if we go by your theory?

    Had this picture not made it to the media, would things at the ground level change?

    I wonder if you recall that The Hindu had carried Rajiv Gandhi's pictures after his assassination with a warning of sorts about their gruesomeness. It was disgusting.

    The videos of the Taliban shooting are disgusting too.

    The question is: what beyond the pictures...and what is the message being conveyed.

    We are at odds here...again.

    KB:

    J&K and the NE are also internal wars. Are you trying to say there are outside forces, so it ceases to become our problem?

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  8. FV:"So do you see the army and the GOI as the same? "

    FV, clearly not, else I would not try to be differentiating between the roles and responsibilities between the two.

    The Armed forces are working on clearing out an area of armed insurgents, and the root cause of the creation of the armed insurgents is the incompetence and corruption of the bureaucracy and politicians.

    I have a problem with any segment of the Indian state not performing its due role and screwing up things for all of India. The roles of these various branches of the state are clearly defined, but obviously never clearly implemented.

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  9. FV: " if, to give you the benefit of doubt, some Maoists stood around to watch their colleagues getting killed and took pictures, then why were they not killed?"

    FV, Good question. For one thing, it reinforces the point that the army is not just going around shooting wantonly at everything in sight. People are still allowed to take pictures and the army does not harrass such people, as that probably causes the army more trouble than just ignoring photographers.

    Development cannot come to maoist areas without removing the armed and violent elements hiding among the populace -- not doing so would just leave future administrators of the area at the mercy of the maoists whenever any attempts are made to improve governance.

    For this reason alone, the phase of clearing out the armed extremists needs to occur before any attempt is made to develop these maoist-infested areas.

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  10. Farzana,
    A good article at Countercurrents providing a good perspective on the "violence of Maoists" - perhaps you have read it already - but still putting up the link :
    http://www.countercurrents.org/navlakha170610.htm
    Not many of your blog readers - especially those bought in on the notions of "formal democracy" practised in our country may find it palatable.
    Cheers,

    Mahesh.
    p.s.: Have a nice weekend and do enjoy the onset of monsoon in mumbai. It was wonderful today evening.

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  11. Mahesh,

    I would like to hear your view on what that alternatives are to "formal democracy" that you seem to be pretty dismissive about.

    The articles of these Arundhati and Navlakha types would be more credible if either of them provided an inkling as to what they think should be the substitute to proper governance.

    Indian citizens must be pretty stupid to think that the maoists and their overground supporters like Navlakha and Roy actually have a solution to the "problem" that they are pretending to care about.

    The maoist, Roy/Navlakha attitude makes it clear that this is all an exercise to replace the "empire" of state with the "empire" of the maoists....


    "Last night the word came down, ten dead in Chinatown.
    Innocent, their only crime was being in the wrong place, at the wrong time
    Too bad, people say what's wrong with the kids today
    I tell you right now they've got nothing to lose

    They're building EMPIRE!

    Johnny used to work after school
    at the cinema show.
    Gotta hustle if he wants an education
    Yeah he's got a long way to go.
    Now he's out on the streets all day
    selling Crack to the people who pay.
    Got an AK-47 for his best friend
    business the American way.

    Eastside meets Westside downtown.
    No time, the walls fall down

    Can't you feel it coming? EMPIRE! Can't you hear it calling?
    Black man, trapped again. Holds his chain in his hand.
    Brother killing brother for the profit of another,
    Game point, nobody wins. Declines, right on time.
    What happened to the dream sublime?
    Tear it all down, we'll put it up again. Another EMPIRE?"

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  12. Al:

    This makes me actually want to agree with you, it is so unbelievably innocent:

    FV, Good question. For one thing, it reinforces the point that the army is not just going around shooting wantonly at everything in sight. People are still allowed to take pictures and the army does not harrass such people, as that probably causes the army more trouble than just ignoring photographers.

    What can I say to this? So the army allows Maoist photographers so that they can take pictures of their comrades being killed/arrested and get brownie points from the media and some in the public? Because if the army does not permit it then those guys will start harassing and remember to put away their cameras and shooting with more potent weapons?

    Moving on, re your reply to Mahesh, agree with you about Roy (though not about solutions), as I have already stated. More will come...

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  13. Mahesh:

    Thanks for sharing the link...I had seen it but did not read it. I will perhaps do so later. As I have already stated here, I do have issues with the operative idea of the Roy types, and the liberal media will not publish THAT.

    However, my POV is here...

    PS: I stay indoors and watch the rains, so enjoyment is introspecting with monsoons.

    Hope you have a more extroverted experience, that is if you like that!

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  14. FV/Mahesh, hope I am not too annoying in my argumentativeness. :-)

    FV: "So the army allows Maoist photographers so that they can take pictures of their comrades being killed/arrested and get brownie points from the media and some in the public?"

    FV, the media is only supposed to report, not give opinions on what went through the journalist's mind as he did the reporting. In this case, publishing a photo of the way the body is being hauled way is perfectly fine, if the message being given to the government is on how poorly its citizens are being treated, but the media does more than that by supporting the maoist ideology itself, including its intent to subvert the state.

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. However, I will note this funny bit in the article, where a Soldier tries to justify the AFSPA using religious texts and how they are not followed...bad idea, Sri BS Jaiswal, Sir.

    "Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal, in his recent interview to a news channel, had said, "I would like to say that the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Power Act are very pious to me and I think to the entire Indian Army.

    "We have religious books, there are certain guidelines which are given there. But all the members of the religion do not follow it, they break it also. Does it imply that you remove the religious book or you remove this chap?"

    I think all of us sympathize with affected peoples in the maoist areas because it can happen tomorrow anywhere else in the country where governance is poor, and the root cause, as it turns out, is the corrupt bureacrat/politician. Now, Indian politicians operate in a risk-free zone -- hey, is the law inconvenient to your political ambitions, no problem!! Just change the law to your purpose and..."oh, you ask what about the consequences of changing the law?"...no problem again, we can just create a new caste or religious or parochial drama with the help of our handy group of political thugs, a few people will get killed, a few houses set on fire, but at the end of the day, the media gets their TRPs, all is well, and please don't worry, you common person, we hotshots in politics and bureaucracy have experience first hand with this kind of stuff for decades.

    1984 Sikh riots happen and the person who callously said "when a big tree falls, the ground shakes" and the guilty partworkers are now walking free after their day in front of many kangaroo cours. Bhopal happens, and suddenly, the great man PVN Rao (RIP) is being made the villian to save the image of Rajiv Gandhi, now that Rahul has walked his yearly 3 kms on the little political treadmill the Congress Party has built for him...rumours are that they are also building a little hamster cage (world's largest, human-sized hamster cage, apparently) for Rahul Gandhi....the Congress Working Committee is looking into the colour scheme for the the little artificial turf lining the inside of this hamster cage, so that it is all Feng-Shui-friendly etc., when taken in along with the treadmill next to it.

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  17. FV, deleted item after the mental equivalent of a "by the TSA(*) textbook" full body cavity search, what some people call "soul searching".

    (*) TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration. The almost wrote this in their HR pamplets...."This is the TSA, the good people who do such a lovely job of full-body cavity searches (FBCS) at various american airports today, making such voyages a very interesting experience for people of all shapes and sizes...no racial profiling here, we just give it a good old snap-on-the-glove-and-give-some-love FBCS treatment to one person from from every age group in the queue...even if we only need to do it to one person in the queue who is high-profile according to the TSA computer here...we have learnt in this hard and very rigid way here that the FBCS nobody feels profiled, and everyone is happy after some glove love. Copyright TSA 2010"

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  18. Let us say that New Delhi amends the AFSPA so that civilians can now "arrest" an Army officer if they think the army man has committed a crime in violation of the army rules, and a group of "civilians" infiltrated by terrorist groups does exactly that in J&K, and "arrests" a group of military men and then demand the release of a group of terrorists in exchange for the lives of the soldiers...what do we think these jokers in charge in New Delhi do in that case?

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  19. Al:


    The media or anyone can conjecture/analyse as to what a picture/commentary means. The media is not a uniform entity and there will be differences of opinion. Reporting is rarely non-partisan just as opinions are not. However, they carried this picture - you and I can see it how we wish. That is our problem, not the media's.

    Regarding your other comments, thank you. More information is always a good thing. I will take some time reading them.

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  20. Farzana, Good point re: media not being a uniform entity or non-partisan in reality.

    The problem is that even the courts recognize the intolerable level of corruption in the Indian government, but no one can do anything about it because the problem is so widespread.

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/majority-of-govt-officials-are-corrupt-hc/636650/

    BTW, the latest news regarding the outcome of this picture being published is that troops have been ordered to use stretchers whenever they are available and to make such stretchers available outside of the forest areas where the fightings usually takes place. Will this happen for real or not?

    Who know? The reality is that we will have to wait for more pictures to be published of this kind down the line, so just disallowing journalists into such troubled areas and banning reporting from such areas is not a good idea -- citizens need to be informed of both sides, and truly what is happening on the ground to make an informed choice as whether to support such govt. operations or not.


    Cheers

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