Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07NEWDELHI1297
2007-03-16 12:51:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

NAXALITES KILL 55 IN ATTACK ON SECURITY FORCES IN

Tags:  PGOV PREL PTER IN 
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 001297 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER IN
SUBJECT: NAXALITES KILL 55 IN ATTACK ON SECURITY FORCES IN
CHHATTISGARH

REF: A. MUMBAI 351

B. MUMBAI 358

C. MUMBAI 906

D. MUMBAI 1119

E. MUMBAI 1253

F. MUMBAI 1265

G. MUMBAI 1317

Classified By: Political Counselor Ted Osius for reasons 1.4 (B,D)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 001297

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER IN
SUBJECT: NAXALITES KILL 55 IN ATTACK ON SECURITY FORCES IN
CHHATTISGARH

REF: A. MUMBAI 351

B. MUMBAI 358

C. MUMBAI 906

D. MUMBAI 1119

E. MUMBAI 1253

F. MUMBAI 1265

G. MUMBAI 1317

Classified By: Political Counselor Ted Osius for reasons 1.4 (B,D)


1. (C) Summary. Hundreds of Naxalite insurgents stormed a
heavily-fortified security post in the Dantewada district of
southern Chhattisgarh during a pre-dawn raid on March 15.
After three hours of fighting, 55 security and police
personnel were killed. This unfortunate and gruesome attack
could wake up the rest of the nation to the plight of
Chhattisgarh, which is fighting an insurgency that it does
not seem able to suppress on its own. End Summary.

Bloody, Surprise Attack
--------------


2. (U) Naxalite (a.k.a. Maoist) insurgents--numbering
between 300 and 400--stormed a heavily-fortified security
post in the Dantewada district of southern Chhattisgarh
during a pre-dawn raid on March 15. They surrounded the
forest-encircled camp and launched a highly co-ordinated,
surprise attack around 2:00 a.m. using guns, home-made petrol
bombs, and hand grenades. The rebels overran the 75-strong
force in a three-hour battle. By the time of their
withdrawal, the Naxalite insurgents killed 55 people, 16 of
whom were Chhattisgarh Armed Forces personnel and the
remaining 39 were "Special Police Officers"--members of the
Chhattisgarh government-sponsored "Salwa Judum" anti-Naxalite
civil militia. The rebels escaped into the neighboring
jungle with a cache of arms and explosives, and left behind
landmines that hindered early efforts to reach the post.
There have been no reports of rebel casualties. This attack
is being reported as one of the worst in the decades-long
Naxalite insurgency.

Worst Yet Ahead?
--------------


3. (U) In reaction to the gruesome attack, Ajai Sahni,
Executive Director at the New Delhi-based Institute for
Conflict Management, was quoted in the press as warning,
"This (latest) period has been a period of planning and of
consolidation, and you will now see the consequences... You

can expect a fairly abrupt escalation of violence over the
coming weeks and months." Thousands of policemen are
currently combing the area of the attack to apprehend those
responsible, but are reportedly reluctant to enter the forest
out of fears of additional attacks. "We can't go blindly
into the forests," one commander was quoted in the media.

Part of a Decades-Long, Vicious Rebellion
--------------


4. (C) The Maoist-inspired Naxalite movement started in the
late-1960s in West Bengal, and came to Chhattisgarh in 1984.
In June 2006, there were an estimated 3,000-4,500 Naxalite

NEW DELHI 00001297 002 OF 003


fighters, who typically disaggregate into camps of about 30
to 40 fighters. The Naxalite rebels are reported to have a
strong presence in eight of Chhattisgarh's 16 districts.
Geographically, the insurgency is concentrated in the
northern and southern regions of Chhattisgarh, which are
densely forested and rank among the least developed and
poorest regions of India. The attack took place in the
southern district of Dantewada, which is a known stronghold
of the Naxalite rebellion.


5. (C) Around 6,000 Indians are believed to have died since
the Naxalite uprising began several decades ago. In
Chhattisgarh alone, 316 civilians, 88 Naxalites, and 147
security personnel have been killed in Naxalite attacks since
January 1, 2006. In addition, escalating violence displaced
more than 60,000 individuals in 2006. One of Chhattisgarh's
27 camps for internally-displaced persons fell victim to a
Naxalite attack in July 2006, resulting in 32 deaths in the
Dantewada district. Five security personnel were killed in a
landmine explosion earlier in March 2007--also in the
Dantewada district.

Groping for a Solution
--------------


6. (C) In an effort to stem the increasing levels of
violence, and largely deprived of forces and/or meaningful
assistance from the Indian Armed Services, the government of
Chhattisgarh has tried several methods to combat the
Naxalites. Since June 2005, the government has funded and
trained the "Salwa Judum" anti-Naxalite forces, a civil
militia billed as a spontaneous uprising of the villagers
against the Naxalites. Numbering about 5,000 in June 2006,
the existence and involvement of this militia has been partly
blamed for the spiraling level of violence since Naxalites
now target those populations whom they perceive as helping or
collaborating with either the state police or the "Salwa
Judum." Nor is it clear that the "Salwa Judum" is having a
positive impact on Chhattisgarh's efforts versus the
Naxalites. The government of Chhattisgarh also brought on
K.P.S. Gill, former Chief of Punjab Police, as a special
adviser in 2006 to help lead the fight against the
insurgency. He is credited with the successful conclusion of
the Sikh insurgency in Punjab in the mid-1990s. In addition,
the Chhattisgarh police force was doubled in 2006 to
16,000-strong.

Attack Could Remind Delhi of Chhattisgarh's Plight
-------------- --------------


7. (C) Comment: If Ajai Sahni's comments are true, India
should brace itself for yet more terrible news from this
highly troubled corner of Chhattisgarh, a young and
struggling state. This attack attracted heavy media
attention, with both The Hindu and The Times of India
reporting this attack as leading stories--the headlines were
"Naxalites massacre policemen in Chhattisgarh" and "Red
terror strikes again," respectively. Post reporting on the
Naxalite troubles in Chhattisgarh paints a decaying security
situation over the past year, and--most worrisome--an
ambivalence at the Center about the plight of Chhattisgarh.
In March 2006, however, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did say

NEW DELHI 00001297 003 OF 003


that Maoist (a.k.a. Naxalite) groups pose the greatest threat
to India's internal stability and democratic culture. This
latest attack could be a catalyst for the Center to match
rhetoric with deeds and take a more proactive role in
stemming an insurgency that the government of Chhattisgarh
cannot seem to suppress on its own. Ultimately, greater
social justice and enhanced economic opportunity will be
necessary to end this long-simmering rebellion. End comment.
PYATT