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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06MUMBAI1253 2006-07-05 11:42:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Mumbai
Cable title:  

HOW SOUTHERN CHHATTISGARH BECAME INDIA'S HUB OF NAXALITE

Tags:   PTER PINR PHUM PGOV ASEC CASC IN 
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VZCZCXRO9175
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH
DE RUEHBI #1253/01 1861142
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 051142Z JUL 06
FM AMCONSUL MUMBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3967
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 5267
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 8726
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 1113
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 1023
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0582
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 0074
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 0189
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0479
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0574
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0593
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MUMBAI 001253 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/5/2016
TAGS: PTER PINR PHUM PGOV ASEC CASC IN
SUBJECT: HOW SOUTHERN CHHATTISGARH BECAME INDIA'S HUB OF NAXALITE
VIOLENCE

REF: A) MUMBAI 358, B) MUMBAI 1119

CLASSIFIED BY: Michael Owen, Consul General, Consulate, Mumbai,
State Department.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)



Summary
-------



1. (C) Southern Chhattisgarh has become the epicenter of
Naxalite violence in India, with 214 insurgent-related
casualties to date in 2006 and every indication that numbers
will continue to rise. There are several causes for this
escalating crisis. After the state was established in late
2000, the Government of Chhattisgarh (GOC) has attempted to
establish control over and develop Naxalite-administered
territory in the southernmost Kanker, Bastar and Dantewara
districts. This has prompted insurgent attacks and compelled the
GOC to militarize its police force and double it in size. At
the same time, Naxalites from Andhra Pradesh reportedly shifted
significant operational capacity to southern Chhattisgarh during
and after the 2004-05 failed peace talks in AP. Finally, a
counter-insurgency movement, "Salwa Judum," began in June 2005
among the region's tribal population, which has resulted in
violent civil conflict among the people of Dantewara district
and record numbers of civilian deaths. Our contacts recommend
public-private partnerships as the best method for bringing
peace and development to southern Chhattisgarh, while noting
that corporate giants Essar, the National Mineral Development
Corporation, and Tata all intend to build steel plants in
Dantewara. End summary.


2006 Casualties


--------------------------





2. (SBU) In February 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
described Naxalites as "the single biggest internal security
challenge ever faced by [India]." Currently, India's most
severe Maoist insurgent challenge is in southern Chhattisgarh.
According to the South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) there
have been 214 Naxal-related casualties in 2006 through June 27
in Chhattisgarh, almost all of which occurred in the
southernmost districts of Kanker, Bastar and Dantewara.
Official state police statistics are not yet available for this
period but our sources in the department confirmed these
numbers. The reported deaths include 45 police, 50 insurgents
and 119 civilians. The next closest Indian state by comparison
is Andhra Pradesh, which, according to SAIR, experienced 63
fatalities over the same period.


Creation of a New State and the Origins of Conflict


--------------------------



--------------------------





3. (SBU) Until achieving statehood in 2000, Chhattisgarh was
the most neglected part of Madhya Pradesh, itself one of the
more underdeveloped states in India, EconOff heard at a
conference on Naxalism hosted by Mumbai's Nehru Centre on June


23. Even within Chhattisgarh, the state's southern third is
considered a backwater. As described in ref A, the sparsely
populated Kanker, Bastar and Dantewara districts in southern
Chhattisgarh are hilly and heavily forested. "Scheduled Tribes"
as a percentage of the total population in this region increase
as one travels south, from 56 percent in Kanker, to 67 percent
in Bastar, to 79 percent in Dantewara. Scheduled Tribes are at
the bottom of India's social-caste structure, and in southern
Chhattisgarh they continue to live in primitive farming and
hunter-gatherer communities deep within the forest. Exercise of
government authority and provision of state services in these
wilderness areas has been largely absent. The Abujhmar (or
"Unknown Land") region of west Bastar, for instance, is only now
being surveyed for the first time, and that by remote sensing,
according to civil society activist and journalist B.G.
Verghese.




4. (SBU) The few state officials posted to southern
Chhattisgarh were frequently accused of misconduct by villagers

MUMBAI 00001253 002 OF 004


there, according to former intelligence officer Anjaneya Reddy.
By the mid-1980s, Naxalites from Andhra Pradesh gained a
foothold in the area by offering to protect tribal communities
from abusive police, forest officials, timber mafia and
money-lenders. In return, Naxalites forcibly recruited one
child from each local family, and "taxed" local farmers,
contractors and traders at 12 percent. The then state government
in Bhopal had generally abdicated its rights and obligations in
the area, and the Naxalites increased in size and influence
without facing much resistance. Annual levels of
insurgent-related deaths in Chhattisgarh were typically in the
single digits.




5. (C) This all began to change when Chhattisgarh became a
state in 2000. Abdication was abandoned in favor of extending
government control and promoting development, which inevitably
brought the state into direct confrontation with the insurgents,
Verghese concludes. (Comment: Whatever past expediencies local
politicians may have traded with area Naxalites surely must have
paled in value to developing India's most mineral rich state
from the government's newly won seat of power in Raipur. End
comment.) The GOC, accordingly, has doubled the size of the
state police force and is giving every officer a six-week
paramilitary training program at the Counter-Terrorism and
Jungle Warfare Training Center in Kanker (CTJWTC - ref B).
Naxalites, in turn, have increased attacks against police and
banned most new development initiatives, especially roads,
bridges, and schools. Preventing connectivity to the outside
world, administrative penetration, and educational empowerment
are fundamental to preserving power from the insurgents'
perspective, several conference participants argued. Naxalite
tactics include election fraud, threats, infiltration and
misinformation. They divert local resources from state and
private development projects and subsequently attack respective
administration offices to destroy evidence of their wrongdoing.
The director and staff of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in
Chhattisgarh report that many NGO projects in southern
Chhattisgarh are now closed due to Naxalite pressure. The NGO
community's inability to provide disaster assistance to
Dantewara district's growing IDP camps - also due to fear of
Naxalite retribution - is another result of this tactic, which
will be further detailed septel.


Naxalite Profile in Southern Chhattisgarh


--------------------------





6. (C) Today, the Naxalite insurgents operating in southern
Chhattisgarh are the former People's War (PW) element of the
recently created CPI (Maoist) organization and led by Telagu
speakers from Andhra Pradesh, with Chhattisgarhi tribal people
filling out the preponderance of rank-and-file membership. An
estimated 3,000-4,500 Naxalite troops are based in southern
Chhattisgarh, usually in bands of 30-40 fighters, according to
Director General of Police Rathode. Brigadier General (ret.)
B.K. Ponwar, Special Inspector General of Police and Director of
the CTJWTC told ConGenOffs that "Kosa" took over command after
former Naxalite state commander "Sanyal" was captured this
March. Like his predecessor, Kosa is from Andhra Pradesh.
Shailesh Pathak, Secretary to the Governor of Chhattisgarh,
earlier told us that the state's insurgency problem escalated
during and after the failed October 15, 2004 - April 4, 2005
peace talks in neighboring Andhra Pradesh, as the insurgents
used the ceasefire period to consolidate greater operational
capacity in southern Chhattisgarh.




7. (C) Chhattisgarh's insurgency problem increases as one
travels south. In May 2006, ConGenOffs rode with police escort
from the state capitol Raipur to the CTJWTC in central Kanker
district (ref B). Despite the heavily reported presence of
Naxalite operatives existing throughout Kanker, daylight road
traffic seemed normal. John Ash, a veteran expat resident and
local tour operator, told us that travel is risky in Bastar and
becomes consistently dangerous south of the Bhopalpatnam to
Jagdalpur highway in Dantewara, an area where he refuses to take
customers. Insurgents have not targeted tourists to date, and
are not likely to do so in the near future, according to Ash and
the police, but their frequent use of land mines and IEDs make

MUMBAI 00001253 003 OF 004


travel in almost all of Dantewara wholly unsafe.




8. (C) West Bastar's Abhujmar area, which shares a hilly border
with Maharashtra, is home to large pockets of insurgent fighters
and is another no-go zone, Ash told us. Likewise, increasing
violence in eastern Dantewara towards and into the town of
Jagdalpur, which stems from attempts to link Dantewara- and
Orissa-based Naxalite operations, makes travel there
inadvisable. CRS staff in Chhattisgarh agreed with this
assessment and added that significant insurgent encampments also
exist in the Konta, Gangalore and Bijaput areas of Dantewara, on
the state's southernmost border with Andhra Pradesh. Insurgents
concentrate operations in state border areas so as to better
flee between police jurisdictions, our police contacts told us.


The "Salwa Judum" Counter-Insurgency


--------------------------





9. (C) India's only active anti-Naxalite, grassroots
counter-insurgency is the "Salwa Judum" campaign in Dantewara
district, which is primarily responsible for Chhattisgarh's
escalating casualties among civilians. The origins of Salwa
Judum as either a true people's uprising, or a GOC organized
offensive was the matter of much debate at both the Naxalite
conference in Mumbai and in the Indian press. Leftist elements
within the UPA government in Delhi have publicly accused the
BJP-led GOC of instigating the bloody counter-insurgency, and
are demanding that the GOC put an end to Salwa Judum. However,
Dantewara MLA Mahendra Karma, who also is leader of the Congress
opposition in state parliament, told EconOff that his
constituents began the movement on their own and then drafted
him as Salwa Judum's leader. Karma claims that he convinced the
GOC to support Salwa Judum as a means of securing resources from
Delhi. His account was confirmed by BJP insider Pathak.
(Comment: Regardless of how it started, the counter-insurgency
would appear difficult for the GOC to unilaterally end, even if
it were so inclined, because GOC forces currently exert little
control over the relevant actors in the movement or the district
in general. End comment.)




10. (SBU) Droughts in 2004 and 2005, as Karma and Verghese tell
the story, limited the harvest of wild tendu leaves that are the
major source of cash income for southern Chhattisgarh's tribal
people (tendu leaf is used locally to roll inexpensive
cigarettes). To make up lost "tax" revenues, the Naxalites
demanded that wholesale buyers pay twice as much for this
product, which was rejected. The Naxalites then banned all
tendu harvesting from April to May 2005. This deprived tribals
of sales revenue and the customary annual government bonus they
receive after the final market sale of the season.




11. (SBU) Resentment sparked tensions and on June 5, 2005, in
Ambeli village, Dantewara, eight Naxalites were beaten and
apprehended by supporters of Mahendra Karma. Naxalites
retaliated by killing eight innocent villagers in nearby
Kotrapal village. What followed next is unclear, according to
our contacts. Fighting, abductions, torture, reprisal killings
and burned villages, in any event, have created deep divisions
among the tribal people, over 50,000 of whom fled or were
forcibly brought to roadside IDP camps. (Comment: The ferocity
of the Naxalite's response is not without precedent. They
killed 70 tribal people to quash a 1992-93 rebellion in the
region. End comment.)




12. (C) Today, Salwa Judum has approximately 5,000 members. Of
these somewhere between 2,500-3,000 have been made Special
Police Officers. They receive 1,500 rupees a month salary
(roughly $35) and rudimentary training and are placed alongside
CRPF and other paramilitary units to provide camp security and
to operate road-blocks and checkpoints. Some have received
guns, but many use bows and arrows. They are an "aggressive,
out-of-control rabble," according to Verghese, who visited
Dantewara in March 2006 to inspect IDP camps and interview Salwa
Judum members. Verghese accuses Salwa Judum of atrocities
similar to those committed by Naxalites, including in particular

MUMBAI 00001253 004 OF 004


widespread burning of suspected Naxalite sympathizers' villages.


Comment: Suggested Solutions


--------------------------





13. (SBU) Conference participants recommended public-private
partnerships to bring development to southern Chhattisgarh,
noting that corporate giants Essar, the National Mineral
Development Corporation, and Tata all intend to build steel
plants in Dantewara. Local villagers should be given a place at
the negotiating table and a greater role in governing and
policing themselves, it was agreed. If the security situation
improves enough to make such investment possible, then these
recommendations have obvious merit, but given that it will also
upset thousands of years of social order, bringing development
to the area's Scheduled Tribes may have unpredictable challenges
of its own. End comment.
OWEN