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Mao’s Shadow Lengthens In India’s Northeast?

POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2009

ARUNAV GOSWAMI
FELLOW, CENTRE FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE STUDIES

Maoism is a term which is not so easy to define. If we go for a definition, it can be defined as a variant of Marxism derived from the teachings of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong and which delves on the ideology of revolutionary struggle of majority of people against the exploiting classes. Maoist ideology also talks about the use of guerrilla war tactics and bringing of political transformation by the mass involvement of the people in the society. Maoism was applied as the political and military guiding ideology in the Communist Party of China (CPC) during the days of Mao Zedong.

In India, the term Maoism is used in parallel with naxalism. The Maoist insurgency started in India as a peasant rebellion in the eastern Indian village of Naxalbari in 1967. It has now spread over 2,000 police station areas in 223 districts of 20 states out of the 28 states of India. The growing influence of Maoists have prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare in a conference of Directors-General and Inspectors-General, held during 14-16 September 2009, that rebels imbibed with Maoist ideology now pose the gravest threat to India's internal security.

At present, the country is reeling under violence from three fronts: militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, insurgency in the Northeast and the Maoist insurgency. So when news comes that Maoists have now strong links with the insurgents in the Northeast, it is a further cause of concern for the authorities. The news of these links was confirmed by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram at a conference of Directors-General and Inspectors-General held at New Delhi during 14-16 September 2009. He said that in a bid to expand its network and influence, the CPI (Maoist) has been seeking ideological resonance and tactical understanding with the Northeast insurgents and has begun to lend support to their secessionist ideology and demands. There had been talks earlier on the nexus between the Northeast insurgents and Maoists but official confirmation now shows that it is indeed a threat that needs to be seriously considered.

One of the most active militant outfits in the Northeast, the United Liberation Front of Asom or ULFA, had links with the Maoists in Nepal from many years. ULFA leaders had first come into contact with Maoist leaders in Bhutan where there is a sizeable Nepali-speaking population. Those links got stronger after the Royal Bhutan Armyís operation in 2003 to flush out the Northeast Indian insurgent outfits from Bhutanís soil. ULFA established three new bases in Nepal with the help of Maoist guerillas and shared their training resources with them. The outfit also started using the country as a shelter point after Bhutan's operation against it. This information was revealed by ULFA cadres who had surrendered to the security forces.

The Maoists in India have also imparted training to ULFA cadres. Recently in July 2009, intelligence agencies in Assam received information about plans of a 300-member group of youths to sneak into the state for carrying out subversive activities. These youths were reportedly trained by Maoist rebels in Jharkhand for a period of three years. The ULFA in turn are helping the Maoists in procuring arms, ammunition and powerful battery operated indigenous explosive devices.

In a newspaper interview in May 2009, Koteshwar Rao, a politburo member of the CPI (Maoists) and in-charge of their West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkand operations, disclosed that they had signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the NSCN, ULFA and PLA for helping each other in the fight against the state.

At the 6th Indo-Bhutan Border Meeting held in September 2009, Bhutan Home Secretary Penden Wangchuk said that the Northeast insurgent outfits are linked to Maoist groups in Bhutan and Nepal and they are a threat to Bhutanís security. A member of the Indian delegation also said there were links between the Communist Party of Bhutan and Northeast rebel groups like ULFA and NDFB.

On August 8, 2009 an article was published in the website of the government-controlled China International Institute for Strategic Studies (www.chinaiiss.com) in which the writer talked about breaking India into small factions with the help of Indian rebel groups. The writer wrote in particular about the ULFA and said that China should help the outfit to achieve independence of Assam. The content of the fragmentation design articulated in the article had lots of similarities with the plans of Indian Maoists. In recent interviews with media, leaders of Indian Maoist groups had said that they had plans to create independent countries with states like Assam, Bengal and Bihar. Many northeastern insurgent outfits like ULFA, NLFT and UNLF are fighting for creation of independent states. All these outfits had established links with the Maoists through the ULFA. This shows that the relation between the northeastern insurgent outfits and the Maoists could actually be getting support of elements in China.

It is a known fact that insurgent groups in the Northeast have links with Pakistanís ISI. Now, if the Indian Maoists are in an alliance with the Northeast insurgents, there is a very high probability that the Maoists are also in direct or indirect contacts with these groups. The LeT chief in Nepal, Mohammad Omar Madani, who is currently in Indian custody, has confessed that he had been responsible for forging ties with the Naxalites and then sending them to Pakistan for military training. This shows how the various militant outfits are now intertwined in a global terrorist network.

With the nexus between the Maoists and Northeast insurgents coming to the fore, it is sure to be a new security challenge in the already volatile region.