Saturday, January 14, 2012

Comrade Rehmati, a Maoist rebel, deep inside the jungles of Chhattisgarh in central India. Photo by Sami Siva

India's Failing Counterinsurgency Campaign

By Anuj Chopra

Tapping his fingernails on a tiny stainless steel lunch box, Comrade Vijay, a mustachioed rebel commander, made a startling assertion: There was enough bomb material inside to blow up a jeep. With 90 pounds of such explosives, he claimed, his comrades in the Indian Maoist rebel army had blown up land-mine-resistant armored vehicles the Indian government imported from South Africa. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are the "main strength" of the rebels, he told me, as he sat under a makeshift tarpaulin tent, rifle at his side.

In October 2009, on assignment for Abu Dhabi's National newspaper, I hiked more than 40 miles through the damp, malarial jungles of Bastar in central India, the deadliest theater of the country's decades-long Maoist insurgency, winding through mineral-rich hills and a spate of rebel-controlled villages to Comrade Vijay's hideout in a patch of forest clearing atop a hill. I had traveled all that way to ask the rebel commander whether there was any chance of a truce between his forces and the Indian government -- a possibility he and his men vehemently denied. As we spoke, Vijay's fellow comrades -- about 20 communist guerrillas, mostly teenaged boys and girls in olive green commando fatigues -- milled around the clearing, antiquated Enfield rifles slung on their shoulders, many of them snatched in raids on police stations.



Nisha said...

What a wonderful read. I can empathize with you on travelling to these places where one can not be sure of one's next moment.

Being a solo traveller, I also face similar (not as interesting as yours) situations when I wander into interiors of any state. :)

aashish Khadsare said...

Impressive... Mr.Chopra.

Keep writing.