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Identifier
Created
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Origin
10MUMBAI12
2010-01-11 10:57:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Consulate Mumbai
Cable title:  

ANTI-MAOIST OPERATIONS IN CHHATTISGARH BEGIN: ACTIVISTS

Tags:   ASEC  PGOV  PHUM  ECON  EAID  EMIN  ENRG  SOCI  PTER  IN 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MUMBAI 000012 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PHUM ECON EAID EMIN ENRG SOCI PTER IN
SUBJECT: ANTI-MAOIST OPERATIONS IN CHHATTISGARH BEGIN: ACTIVISTS
WORRY ABOUT POTENTIAL HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

REF: A. A. 2008 MUMBAI 325

B. B. 2008 MUMBAI 326

MUMBAI 00000012 001.2 OF 004


UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MUMBAI 000012

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PHUM ECON EAID EMIN ENRG SOCI PTER IN
SUBJECT: ANTI-MAOIST OPERATIONS IN CHHATTISGARH BEGIN: ACTIVISTS
WORRY ABOUT POTENTIAL HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

REF: A. A. 2008 MUMBAI 325

B. B. 2008 MUMBAI 326

MUMBAI 00000012 001.2 OF 004



1. (SBU) Summary: The Indian state is finally getting serious
about tackling the Maoist insurgency in India's "Red Belt." As
it does so, NGOs and human rights activists working in southern
Chhattisgarh, one of the areas worst affected by Maoist
violence, are expressing concern that a concentrated,
coordinated, paramilitary operation against Maoist insurgents -
dubbed "Operation Green Hunt" by the media - may have a serious
adverse impact on tribal people living in the area. While India
central government officials have downplayed these
anti-insurgency efforts, state officials in Maharashtra and
Chhattisgarh have announced aggressive anti-Maoist operations,
involving police and central paramilitary units. In tandem,
state police in Chhattisgarh are also clamping down on access to
Maoist-affected regions for activists. NGOs claim that, under
the guise of security, authorities are attempting to suppress
reports of potential abuses. NGO leaders in Chhattisgarh argue
that the government's emphasis on major infrastructure
development programs - such as roads, electricity,
telecommunications, and industrial projects - at the expense of
basic human development efforts - such as education and health
-- are exacerbating the insurgency. Overall, however, the main
conflict continues to be over the control of land; tribals fear
that the state plans to forcibly move villages and communities
to make way for industrial projects, while officials claim that
tribals have partnered with the violent Maoists. Human rights
activists point to potential risks of collateral damage to
civilians during any expanded operations -- from the police,
paramilitary troops, and the Maoists - in this poor and remote
region. End Summary.




"Operation Green Hunt?"

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




2. (U) Media reports have indicated since September that the
Government of India (GOI) plans to launch an anti-Maoist
initiative, known as "Operation Green Hunt," in the seven states
most affected by the Maoist insurgency - Maharashtra,
Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Andhra
Pradesh. GOI officials have not discussed "Operation Green
Hunt", but have indicated that a comprehensive approach to the
Maoist insurgency - especially development efforts - is being
coordinated with affected states. Nevertheless, the Indian
Express claims that 58 paramilitary battalions have been
deployed to Maoist-affected states, mostly from the Central
Reserve Police Force (CPRF), with 25 positioned in Chhattisgarh.
On January 2, Vishwaranjan, the Chhattisgarh Director General
of Police, told media that joint operations between the state
police and units of the Indo-Tibetan Border Forces (ITBF) and
the Border Security Force (BSF) had begun in Kanker, north of
Bastar. These operations, he said, were designed to stabilize
an area so that development initiatives could be undertaken.
State police units plan to "intensify" their anti-Maoist
operations elsewhere in the state. NGOs and journalists who
have traveled to the area have not seen signs of increased
levels of paramilitary forces in these areas, and claim that
police operations had been underway for months.




3. (SBU) In Maharashtra, State Home Minister R.R. Patil told the
Legislative Assembly on December 9 that simultaneous operations
with the Chhattisgarh police will be undertaken in the second
half of December to flush out Maoists. In addition, the
Government of Maharashtra (GOM) heightened security measures for
the Nagpur Assembly session December 8-December 22, with the
newly-trained counter-terrorism unit, Force One, guarding the
Assembly house and the residences of major ministers and
opposition leaders. On January 2, the Indian Express reported
that the Maharashtra police, along with CRPF and other
paramilitary forces, had launched anti-Maoist operations in the
forests in Gadchiroli district, on the Chhattisgarh border, in
order to "flush out" Maoists and cut their supply lines in
Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.



MUMBAI 00000012 002.2 OF 004




4. (U) Media reports from Chhattisgarh indicate continued
low-level Maoist violence, including vehicles damaged by IED
explosions, skirmishes between Maoists and security personnel,
leading to a small number of casualties and the suspension of
iron ore shipments from the Bailadila mines of National Mineral
Development Corporation from December 2 to 8 during a general
strike declared by the Maoists (dispatches resumed December 10).
One NGO activist who was to meet with Congenoff in Raipur
reported that he was forced off the bus and beaten by Maoists
who suspected him of being a government sympathizer. The level
of sophistication of the Maoist training is beginning to come to
light. In the first week of December, a major Maoist leader,
Rainu, surrendered to the Maharashtra State Police. He told
media representatives that in 2001, he received training from a
Filipino rebel in the jungles of Bastar. He also claimed to
have received training from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
at a jungle training camp in Bastar.



NGOs Fear Tribals Will Be Victims of Anti-Insurgency Efforts

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




5. (SBU) The challenges of traveling to remote and
conflict-ridden areas of southern Chhattisgarh make it difficult
to assess the realities on the ground; moreover, many of those
who have visited or tried to visit these areas hold strong,
biased views, making objective assessments hard to come by. For
instance, in recent weeks, several groups of human rights
activists have alleged that police in southern Chhattisgarh have
impeded "fact finding" delegations to these areas and arrested
peaceful tribal protesters. On a visit to Dantewada in late
December 2009, noted academic Nandini Sundar claims that police
harassed her and a colleague, threatened hotel owners to not
rent them rooms, and assigned armed groups of Special Police
Officers (SPOs) to follow them, under the ruse of "protection,"
making inquiry into human rights violations difficult.
Separately, 39 women seeking to investigate claims of rape
against tribal women claim they were blocked by police from
travelling to Dantewada. (Comment: It is not clear why the
police stopped these visits and protests; while human rights
activists allege that the police sought to impair peaceful
inquiry, there are legitimate security reasons to prohibit
highly visible travel into the most dangerous parts of
Chhattisgarh. The police also have a strong incentive to
prevent known opponents of the state's approach to anti-Maoist
operations from roaming freely in these areas. Either way, the
state police have been largely successful in preventing human
rights activists from visiting this region, making it very
difficult to ascertain what - if any - abuses are occurring.
End Comment.)




6. (SBU) Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Indian human
rights groups continue to voice concern about the risk of
collateral damage to civilians during these operations. In
recent meetings in Raipur, NGOs working in Bastar expressed
grave concern to Congenoff about the central and state
governments' plans for a concentrated, coordinated, paramilitary
operation against Maoist insurgents and its potential impact on
tribal people living in the area. According to NGO leaders, in
Maoist-held areas of Chhattisgarh, villagers face the threat of
violence from the Maoists, from police operations, and from the
armed "Special Police Officers" (SPOs) -- villagers armed by the
state -- and reportedly human rights violations have been
committed by all three. Meenakshi Ganguly of HRW warned that
both the Government and Maoists, claiming to act on behalf of
India's poor, undermine their legitimacy by committing
atrocities against the people they claim to defend. "Local
people are at risk of being caught in the middle - killed,
wounded, abducted, forced to take sides and then risk
retribution," she said.




7. (SBU) Sushanta Kumar Bhuyan, Deputy General Manager of Naandi
Foundation, an NGO focusing on girl-child education in

MUMBAI 00000012 003.2 OF 004


Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, said the Maoists
blend into the community, making it difficult for government
forces to distinguish the insurgents from villagers. He argued
that the villagers are in a "no-win situation," and must appease
both sides by providing aid or information. Other interlocutors
expressed doubt that an anti-insurgency effort would be
effective. Pointing out that state institutions - such as the
police, and health and education agencies -- have failed to
penetrate the region in the 60 years since independence, they
argued that central government forces, unfamiliar with the
terrain or the people, could not hope to gain control of the
region.



It's the Land, Stupid

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




8. (SBU) According to NGO activists, the fear of confiscation of
tribal lands by the state for commercial enterprises continues
to be the leading cause of conflict. Manisha Sharma, head of
the Raipur-based NGO Sankalp, claims that the government has
uprooted entire villages and transferred the land to mining
companies. While the state provides some financial
compensation, villagers with little contact with the cash
economy and no education are unable to relocate and successfully
change their livelihood activities, she said. Maoists have
taken up the cause of those who fear their lands are threatened
by mining development. Maoists attacks have often sought to
prevent infrastructure development in tribal areas, destroying
roads and telecommunications towers, which leads to accusation
that they are "anti-development," she said.




9. (U) Himanshu Kumar, director of Vanvasi Chetena Ashram
(VCA), an NGO implementing various foreign-funded projects for
social development in Bastar - one of which is with UNICEF for
primary education in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps --
told Congenoff that actions by the State Police and the "Salwa
Judum" over the past five years to clear tribals from their
homes and move them into camps has fueled the sense that the
government plans to allocate these lands for mining and
industrial projects. His group has urged the state to work with
civil society groups to understand the concerns of the tribals
in a peaceful way; his group has not addressed, however, how to
counter the militarized Maoist insurgents. (Note: Kumar is a
vocal critic of Chhattisgarh's anti-Maoist efforts, and claims
that the state ordered part of his facility destroyed in May

2009. On January 3, Kumar was detained by police in Kanker
while escorting a woman who was injured in anti-Maoist
operations to Raipur to receive medical treatment. A
previously-planned peace march was stopped by the tribals
associated with the son of Mahendra Karma, the Congress party
tribal leader most associated with the Salwa Judum anti-Maoist
force. End Note.)




10. (SBU) An Indian journalist who recently traveled to
Maoist-affected areas in Orissa and Chhattisgarh described a
scenario to Congenoff in which tribals in Orissa, who had
earlier signed away or been swindled of their land, started
organized efforts to reclaim their former properties. Many of
these lands were once remote, but are now of interest to
landlords or business interests due to expanding settlements and
farming areas, or due to potential resource finds. These
tribals, she said, had launched small political organizations to
promote these efforts, which often attracted the attention of
Maoists. The Maoists, then, would express support for the
tribals' cause and threaten local landlords, police, and
government officials with violence should they attempt to
reclaim the land. The journalist claimed that few of these
tribals were Maoists, but their political mobilization over land
threatened local interests and, predictably, made it easy for
the security forces to cast them as Maoists and justify their
operations. She said that many of these tribals knew only
agriculture, and considered their lands essential for survival.
While they wanted schools and health clinics, they did not want

MUMBAI 00000012 004.2 OF 004


them at the expense of their land.




11. (SBU) NGOs and activists routinely claim that villages have
been cleared to make way for major industrial projects in the
resource-rich regions in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and other states.
One journalist who has traveled in the region surmised that NGO
claims stem from a habit of "expecting the worst" from the
Indian state when matters of tribal land, resources, and big
business collide in rural and remote areas. However, activists
in Chhattisgarh were not able to point to any specific instances
of land re-allocation or forced resettlement by the state for
industrial projects since June 2005. Indeed, a coal power
project planned by the American company AES has been stalled for
years to obtain the consent of tribal villagers in northeast
Chhattisgarh to purchase their land. The Chhattisgarh Mining
Development Corporation recently announced it will open a new
bauxite mine in the Keshkal area of Bastar region, the fourth
such project in Keshkal, but NGOs have not identified any
illegal procedures used to obtain the land. On the other hand,
Indian companies employ resources - and aggressive tactics -
that raise questions about the motivations of the Maoists. A
senior representative from Essar, a major industrial company
with large mining and steel-related facilities in Chhattisgarh,
told Congenoff that the company pays the Maoists "a significant
amount" not to harm or interfere with their operations; when the
Maoists occasionally break this agreement and damage Essar
property or threaten personnel, Essar sets different Maoist
groups against each other to suppress the situation.




12. (SBU) Comment: The facts on the ground in southern
Chhattisgarh are, as always, foggy. Some aspects of a
coordinated, multi-state counter-insurgency effort are underway
in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. Since the police tend to
exaggerate their efforts, and the press enjoys uncritically
embellishing these exaggerations, it is difficult to determine
the nature of police operations in these remote areas. NGOs and
human rights activists rightly fear that heavy-handed efforts to
end the insurgency will cause suffering to the vulnerable
civilian populations in these areas, though GOI and state
officials have repeatedly emphasized the role of development in
any coordinated operation. Nevertheless, NGOs and human rights
activists often idealize the lives of tribals, who often are
struggling to survive on some of the least arable land in some
of the most primitive of conditions, and wrongly condemn the
real benefits of exposure to health and education facilities,
local markets, and the non-agricultural jobs that development
would bring. Moreover, the Maoists pose a real threat to
development and security in the region and efforts to bring
these areas back into the orbit of the government is warranted.





13. (SBU) The potential for human rights abuses by state
security forces in Chhattisgarh is high. All the key
ingredients are there: the state police are preventing any
oversight from civil society groups; the central government has
surged large numbers of paramilitary forces unfamiliar with the
language, communities, and terrain of the region; state
authorities have given a free hand to security forces, who are
suspicious that politically-organized tribals may be Maoist
sympathizers; the Maoists and tribals are virtually
indistinguishable to outsiders, making it extremely difficult to
separate friend from foe; state efforts to recruit tribals as
special police officers has stoked intra-tribal conflict,
raising civilian casualties; and the Maoists for their part,
have proven willing to use opportunistic brutality on civilians
and security forces alike, provoking even more cycles of
violence. End Comment.
FOLMSBEE