Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency

While speaking at the 60th raising day of Sashatra Seema Bal [SSB] in Assam’s Tezpur on January 20 Union Home Minister Amit Shah vowed to eradicate the problem of ‘Naxalism’ in the next three years under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Ironically, only 10 days later there was an ambush between the maoist guerrilla army and the Security Forces in Tekalgudem region in Chattisgarh. In the ensuing exchange of fire between maoists and policemen, three police personnel succumbed to their injuries and some sustained serious wounds. The persons in power have been talking about eliminating ‘Naxalism’ for the last fifty years only to see the spectare of ‘Naxalism’ returning with a regular interval defying all their repressive measures and disinformation campaign. They kill the naxalites in fake encounters and arrest hundreds of innocent people branding them maoists but fail to bury their ideology. They are in no position to fight them politically. After setting up a new police camp in Tekalgudem area they resorted to massive search operations terrorising local tribals who are denied their right to forest at the point of gun. Incidentally the maoist insurgency in some parts of India is the only insurgency with Marxist orientation and the rest, operating  mainly in J&K and NE, are aligned with religious orthodoxy or ethnic sub-nationalism.

The Congress regime described the naxalite movement as the principal threat to internal security and made elaborate arrangement to destroy it militarily by continually enhancing police budget with special emphasis on anti-naxalite operations. The BJP dispensation carries the same action blue print with more ruthlessness and brutality while silencing every voice of dissent in cities and semi-urban localities in the name of curbing urban Naxalism–a troubled way to define naxalite politics as there is no such thing as urban Naxalism and rural Naxalism.

When a movement is ideologically motivated it is not that easy to crash it physically. So the maoists who have boycotted parliamentary politics permanently during their New Democratic phase of revolution make news every now and then despite their set -backs in recent years.

In most third world countries insurgency and counter-insurgency go hand in hand. Even super powers initiated- counterinsurgency plans failed in a number of countries. What happened to USA in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan is known to everybody. When an insurgency has a rear and gets external help, in most cases counter-insurgency becomes ineffective. The Indian maoists have no rear. Nor do they get external assistance. So their influence is limited to a few difficult terrains where tribal people live. But Indian revolution is not only the question of mobilising the tribal people only. The authorities have nothing to worry about so long as the naxalites fail to mobilise masses in their millions against the system. It is not really the case in J&K where the jihadists with religious extremism as their ideological weapon has the backing of a powerful rear in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It’s the main reason why militancy in Kashmir never dies, notwithstanding huge deployment of Indian military and Para-military forces.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and to some extent Cuba provided support to communist- backed insurgents in Angola, Greece, South Africa and Vietnam. And humiliation of imperial America in Vietnam is now history.

But America worked with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to arm the Afghan Mujahedeen against the Soviet Red Army throughout the 1980s and the mighty Soviet troops finally had to withdraw after a lot of bloodshed. Moscow’s Afghan adventure–or mid-adventure was one of the main reasons for the collapse of Soviet Russia. The Afghan insurgency succeeded. Then the Taliban with the covert support of Pakistan and some Mid East countries defeated the superpower America. In other words external support was essential to the insurgents’ ability to continue fighting much longer than they would have otherwise and, in many of these instances prevail. Without a rear it is difficult even for a better equipped militant group to sustain activity in the face of state repression.

After partial withdrawal of Israeli regular combatants Gaza may be a new theatre of Hamas-led insurgency and Israel-scripted counter-insurgency. What began as an essentially conventional war may be morphing into something altogether different: a counter-insurgency campaign by Israeli forces? But rather than bringing the violence closer to an end a counter-insurgency campaign in Gaza would produce a forever war! Peace is unlikely to return to the flashpoint of Middle East anytime soon.

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Vol 56, No. 35, Feb 25 - Mar 2, 2024