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The rise of Maoists in Nepali politics: from ‘people’s war’ to democratic politics March 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Ramesh Sunam and Keshab Goutam

Since its formation in 1994, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has gone through a number of radical transformations, shifting from a guerrilla warfare unit to a key democratising force within Nepali politics.

The party’s early history is defined by its role in launching the ‘people’s war’ of 1996, a decade-long civil war that resulted in the loss of some 16,000 lives and halted the country’s economic development. The Maoists’ original aim was to benefit the poor and marginalised sectors of Nepali society by uprooting the monarchy and feudalism.

Today, many people question the necessity of the war. But the conflict did succeed in providing marginalised populations – particularly dalits (the so-called untouchables), women, the landless and ethnic and indigenous people – with a wider political space to articulate their grievances. The result was a series of protests and rights movements across the country by the Madhesi (people from the Tarai lowland) and ethnic populations. Such incidents have in turn facilitated the democratisation of Nepali politics. In the first Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, minorities gained substantial representation for the first time in Nepali history, with dalits receiving over 8.17 per cent of seats, women 33.22 per cent, ethnic and indigenous people 33.39 per cent, and Madhesis 34.09 per cent.


Mining protest in Andhra Pradesh: silence, then bursts of noise October 16, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Oskarsson, Patrik , comments closed

Patrik Oskarsson

Bauxite mines in the so called Jerrela group of hills received environmental approval by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in 2009 to provide ore for the upcoming aluminium complex of ANRAK Aluminium nearby in the foothills of Visakhapatnam District. But the opposition to mining is significant in the local area with a lot of support in larger civil society as well as from certain parts of the national government such as the Tribal Welfare Minister Kishore Chandra Deo. Despite all statutory clearances having been received, apart from a final approval to remove forest, it is this pressure which continues to prevent the mines from opening or even preparatory work from commencing. A day before our visit to the nearest town Chintapalli and Jerrela in June 2012 Maoists rebels (usually known as Naxalites) had added to the otherwise peaceful protests by beating up road workers who were in the process of widening a road to allow ore trucks to carry their heavy loads from the mines to the refinery.

Protesting CPM activists in front of the APMDC mining office in Chintapalli, Visakhapatnam

Protesting CPM activists in front of the APMDC mining office in Chintapalli, Visakhapatnam. Source: Photo published in the Andhra Pradesh newspaper Eenadu, Visakhapatnam rural edition on 1 July 2012


SAM recommends …’India: The Next Superpower?’ March 21, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, South Asia Masala Recommends , comments closed

Two recent works are of great interest to those of us who have traced India’s rise to power over the years.  The pieces question whether India will ever become a superpower, and even if it should aspire to that role.  One is a single authored article by the eminent Indian historian, Ramachandra Guha, titled ‘Democratic to a fault’, and the other a more in-depth analysis by a team put together by the London School of Economics and including Guha, on the subject: ‘India: the next superpower?’.

The pieces argue that India should concentrate on its manifest internal problems of governance and related issues before it can hope to rise as a world power.  These problems have recently been highlighted by the massive 2G scam and other cases of mega-corruption.  Such pathology and corruption is, in turn, closely connected to the social dislocation engendered by poor performance in areas such as nutrition, health and education at the grass-roots.  Failure to share the benefits of development, not so much through lack of policy but more because of issues of governance, has  in its turn been a significant factor in the Maoist insurgency – to take one of a number of available examples – now troubling nearly a third of India’s districts.  And development itself is leading to substantial  environmental problems, which will need to be addressed before India can advance on a sustainable basis.

SAM leaves the reader to judge for herself.  And we would also welcome any opinion or commentary.  For references, see below:

Guha, Ramachandran, 2012, ‘Democratic to a Fault?’, Prospect Magazine, 25 January 2012, as at  http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2012/01/democratic-to-a-fault-ramachandra-guha-indias-future/.

LSE Team: ‘India: The Next Superpower’, as at http://www2.lse.ac.uk/IDEAS/publications/reports/SR010.aspx and follow the links.

India’s government works with NGOs in the fight against insurgency March 7, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Jay Vella

First published in Future Directions International on 29 February 2012

Maoist insurgents in India are harming the livelihoods of rural communities. Access to food is being lost in areas under Maoist control, as a result of violence and coercion. In an effort to reach vulnerable sections of the population, the government is employing new strategies, with the assistance of NGOs.

The government of India plans to enlist the support of NGOs in reaching rural communities in central India that have been isolated by Maoist insurgents, reports the Hindustan Times. Government services, such as welfare and agricultural support, have been obstructed by the terrorist activities of the insurgents. The public-private partnership will aim to implement development programs in areas that have previously had their economic progress hampered by India’s conflict. This will take place under the umbrella of the Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation (BRLF), an organisation comprised of government bodies and NGOs that will deploy resources to badly affected communities.


Nepal: politicking without governing February 10, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

It was high farce on the streets of Kathmandu recently when Raj Lal Yadav attempted – unsuccessfully – to resign from his ministerial post in Nepal’s coalition government. Yadav is a member of the Madhesi Janaadhikari Forum-Republican Party, a junior partner in the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN(M))-led coalition. His dissatisfaction with his post was due ultimately to its meaninglessness. Despite frequent and well-publicised expressions of frustration, he remained minister without portfolio four months after his elevation to the ministry.

Two weeks ago Yadav finally decided his role was never going to grow substance and scheduled an appointment with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to tender his formal resignation. Unfortunately, the date of that appointment coincided with a bandh. Bandhs, city or nation-wide shutdowns called and enforced by various interest groups, are a much used political device in Nepal. During a properly enforced bandh motorised transport is prohibited (except in the case of emergencies, or tourists).

Not to be deterred, Yadav, along with his aides, took to the pavement to walk to the Prime Minister’s office at Singha Durba, the seat of Nepal’s government. Upon arrival he however discovered his efforts had been in vain: while it could not stop Yadav, the bandh had acted as a deterrent to the PM who decided against venturing to his office that day.


Inching closer to sustainable peace in Nepal November 4, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

On the evening of Tuesday 1 November 2011, leaders from each of Nepal’s major political parties reached agreement on the integration of former Maoist combatants into the country’s military. The agreement resolves the chief outstanding issue in the country’s protracted peace process, and should allow the Constituent Assembly to turn its full attention to the task of constitution drafting.

The seven-point agreement, designed to provide a “detailed blueprint for the completion of the peace process”, comes five years after the original peace agreement ending the decade-long People’s War, and three and a half years after Constituent Assembly elections, held in April 2008 (The Kathmandu Post). Since those elections – in which the Maoists received the highest share of votes but not an outright majority – Nepal has seen the back of four Prime Ministers, three of them arguably casualties of the former combatant integration issue.

Singha Durbar, Kathmandu


India’s internal security conundrum September 15, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest author: Ashutosh Misra

Blood has spilled on the streets again, right under the nose of India’s symbols of democracy and power – the Indian parliament, President House and the Supreme Court, all situated within few kilometres of the Delhi High Court where 11 people died and over 45 were injured in a suitcase bomb blast on 7 September. Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami (HUJI), the Bangladesh-based outfit has taken has the responsibility as a mark of protest against the impending hanging of the 2001 parliament attack accused Afzal Guru. Initial investigations have shown traces of Indian Mujahideen  (IM) involvement as well and several arrests have been made in this connection in the last couple of days. This second major incident since the 13 July serial blasts in Mumbai and 25 May blast at the same spot outside the Delhi High Court has yet again put the spotlight on India’s intelligence agencies and police force, questioning whether India possesses the wherewithal to rein in these unrelenting attacks.

As the government struggles to recover from the battering it received from the Anna Hazare-led nationwide movement against corruption, India’s internal security situation remains delicately poised. City after city continues to be targeted brazenly by terrorist groups indicating that a decade after the watershed September 11 attacks India’s situation has remained unaltered. Ironically, in contrast to India’s global prospects, domestically the situation does not appear too promising. The country’s recent experiences in dealing with domestic challenges demonstrate a stark mismatch between its global potential and internal capabilities. In particular, two key threats deserve attention here which could impede India’s global rise and economic growth: home grown terrorism (HGT) and left-wing extremism (LWE), both described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the two most serious threats facing the country. (more…)

FEATURE ARTICLE: India’s ‘strategy’ as an emerging power September 2, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

This paper is a short version of a paper submitted for publication.  It is not to be quoted or cited without the author’s permission.


As India rises to power, some critical questions need to be answered both by analysts of that rise and those in the Indian government determining the strategies to be adopted. The most fundamental of these questions relate to the relationship between India as a rising power, its neighbourhood (South Asia), its region (Asia) and the world. How do these different levels of security inter-relate in the context of a rising power? To what extent does a great power aspirant such as India need to ensure competitors cannot garner undue influence in its South Asian neighbourhood? What strategies might India adopt to deal with the enmeshed nature of dissonance between its domestic and neighbourhood arenas?

A measure of power that includes analysis at different levels of the global structure is somewhat different from, but not inimical to, more traditional measures. These tend to assess power in relation to population and economic strength, while often ignoring the geopolitical and regional circumstances within which a rising power is required to operate. For example, power transition theorists, and for that matter their critics, often tend to look at issues in this way. (Gideon Rose, ‘Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy’, World Politics, Vol. 51, No. 1, October 1998, pp. 144-72, p 146).

A number of analysts – especially of South Asia –  have, however, become interested in emerging powers in relation at least to the regional and global levels, if not the domestic, neighbourhood, regional and global levels we canvass here. This view of power acquisition from the point of view of a power’s region or neighbourhood ipso facto brings the domestic perspective on power acquisition into sharper focus, since the domestic-neighbourhood linkages are inevitably close – a phenomenon strongly evident in South Asia. It thus differs from the perspective of ‘offensive realists’, who claim that factors relating to the international order are always dominant.

India falls well short of a power that can function with ease within its South Asian neighbourhood. Indeed, policy makers in New Delhi are caught in a tightly woven, negative inter-relationship between dissonances within India and dissonances in South Asia. And events in South Asia are, in turn, heavily influenced by global developments. India appears powerless to sever these links.


India’s Maoist threat: ‘state power’ versus state malaise June 8, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

In 2005, PM Manmohan Singh claimed that the Maoist challenge was India’s “most serious security problem”.  That surprised many commentators at the time, who were fixated on violent jihadi terrorism.

Singh is an economist and would have been keenly aware that the 200-odd Maoist affected districts (out of over 600 – see map) are spread over India’s minerals and energy (coal) provinces and its timber-bearing, broadleaf forests.  In other words, they constitute a ‘dagger at the heart’ of India’s vital extractive industries.

This general co-location of Maoists (also known as ‘Naxalites’) and extractive industries is no surprise.  India’s tribal population (Adiwasis) inhabit the less urbanised and more forested regions where the minerals, coal and timber happen to be.  They have a deep, spiritual relationship with the land somewhat similar to the Australian Aboriginals.  Corruption and incompetence mean that they are often dispossessed by extractive industries with little or no compensation.  This has forced many into the arms of the Maoists.

India’s so-called ‘Red Corridor’.  Source: Wikimedia


Red Terror, sloppy state October 28, 2009

Posted by sandygordon in : India , comments closed

Guest author: Dr Nihar Nayak, Associate Fellow, IDSA, New Delhi

This article first appeared in The Pioneer on 24 October 2009.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram has good intentions but would do well to carry out a SWOT on the government’s position before launching his operation to end the Maoist menace.

October 2009 will be recalled for long as the ‘red’ month. Maoist insurgency has captured the collective imagination of India on an unprecedented scale. The resolve of the government, as articulated by the Home Minister, is also one of the most significant in our times because though Maoism/Naxalism has been around for a while, the ruthlessness and brutality with which these Communist terrorists operate was somehow accorded less attention than the more glamorous  jihadi variety.

Also starkly evident  is the lack of preparedness of the Indian State to meet this kind of terror. The security forces don’t seem to have learnt from past incidents involving Naxalite violence. They have repeatedly ignored, at considerable cost to themselves, the standard operational procedure circulated by the Centre to states affected by the menace. Such negligence becomes even more worrisome in the light of the resolution passed by the Communist Party of India-Maoist Politburo to prepare and mobilise the People’s Liberation Group Army (PLGA) and sympathisers to carry out tactical counter-offensives and various forms of resistance to inflict maximum losses targeting the security forces. (more…)