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Web Letter

Perhaps Ramachandra Guha is pulling a few punches in this article. I have read the report he helped file with the Independent Citizens Initiative and I think this article downplays exactly how terrifying the Salwa Judum really are. In his own report the human rights activists were harassed by a mob of Salwa Judum members and had their camera confiscated. An excerpt from a police transcript they printed said that the police were ready to shoot journalists if they got too close to the real story of Salwa Judum.

Two weeks ago I traveled through Chhattisgarh while working on a radio story for a major American broadcaster and I saw roving mobs of axe- and AK-47-carrying cadres threatening everyone who passed their checkpoint. The local police chief of a refugee camp called Dornapal said he was too scared to leave his station to meet us because the day before he had been assaulted by the local mob.

Salwa Judum is a classic example of the cure being worse than the disease. While I agree with Mr. Guha that the Maoists are dangerous and refuse to negotiate with the Indian government, at least they have an ideology. You can sort of predict what the Maoists might do next. Salwa Judum have no ideology. They understand only power.

One police officer I spoke to said that arming the Salwa Judum SPOs may have been their biggest mistake. He fully expects that in a few years the police will be fighting two insurgencies instead of just one.

Scott Carney

Chennai, India

Sep 24 2007 - 6:04am

Web Letter

Perhaps it took a foreign publication to frankly discuss, as Guha does so well, the Indian "self-congratulatory" urban/yuppie press, who evidently do not wish to disturb the possible corporate investors that are their masters, as well as the indolence of government figures in those parts.

From all I've gathered, the Salva Judum are actually a government-sponsored force for co-opting the desperate villagers, in order to clear the forest areas of both Maoists and tribals and open them up for "development." The government will then ghettoize the tribals like Native Americans and exploit the valuable untouched forest reserves. I had always hoped India would learn from American history, but I'm afraid they've learned all the wrong things.

From a Nepali perspective, the resemblance to our Maoist situation is complete. Maoists paid attention to the situations the big-city politicians ignored. And despite their championing of Adivasis, the leadership of the Naxals, like that of the Maoists, is solidly Bahun-Chhetri (Brahmin-Kshatriya). So much for social change.

But the Indian Naxals need not worry about the Nepali Maoists having "sold out" by "giving up weapons." All they've really done is lock up the worthless arms and stash the good stuff elsewhere. You heard it here first.

Caroline Martin

Kathmandu, Nepal

Jul 16 2007 - 12:44pm

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