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India's Violent Internal Dissent

India's ineffective plans to solve internal conflicts are encouraging new feuds to become just as entrenched as the ones that have been unresolved since independence.


groups of both combatants and innocent

India’s Violent Internal Dissent


Salwa Judum as Warlord

Namrata Goswami, Jason Miklian

India’s ineffective plans to solve internal conflicts are encouraging new feuds to becomejust as entrenched as the ones that have been unresolved since independence.

Namrata Goswami ( is with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Jason Miklian ( is with the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo.

Economic & Political Weekly

may 24, 2008

ndia faces a paradox of sorts with a functioning democracy on one hand and rising intra-state violence on the other. The latter includes Naxal battles in resource-rich but poorly developed areas like Chhattisgarh, and ethnic conflict over territorial change in India’s north-eastern Naga borderlands. At first glance, these two conflicts appear to be completely different, requiring unique approaches for resolution. However, many similarities exist, including anaemic administrative structures, lack of basic law enforcement mechanisms and security, absence of economic development, alienated and humiliated peoples, and human rights violations. In response, New Delhi often offers only overt military manoeuvres that sever local populations along tribal/caste lines. The consequences are disastrous: an increase of violence in affected states, internally displaced people, and fratricidal killings amongst divided

Chhattisgarh marks the frontline of the explosive Naxal battle. With official state capacity unable to effectively respond, in 2005 the Chhattisgarh government began to secretly fund and arm a counter-insurgency group called Salwa Judum in Dantewada district. However, Salwa Judum has not contained the conflict; it has exacerbated it exponentially. Thousands of combatants and civilians have been killed. Nearly 40,000 villagers have been forcibly herded into internally displaced persons (IDP) camps where they are virtual prisoners, killed if they try to return to their villages. The camps are recruitment havens for Salwa Judum, enticing children to join their ranks as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) workers look on helplessly. Tens of thousands more have fled to other parts of Chhattisgarh and neighbouring states.

To ask “Why isn’t Salwa Judum working?” misses the point. Salwa Judum is in many ways a complete success, operating


exactly as a its founders intended as a land and power grab masquerading as a local uprising. Its creation enriched its leadership both financially and politically and enabled corporations to exploit the veil of violence to mine the rich tribal land. Using funding meant for IDPs, and from mining companies who contract protection and “ground-clearing” services to them, local Salwa Judum leaders function as warlords with their own personal armies. Rural villagers are the primary losers, as their land has been stolen, their civil rights trampled, and their livelihoods ruined from a preventable conflict. Dantewada is now developing the embryonic characteristics of entrenched violence. The Supreme Court in two separate hearings on March 31 and April 15, 2008 has disapproved the arming of civilians for purposes of fighting the Naxals. In its April 15 hearing, it has sought from the National Human Rights Commission a report within two months on the alleged human rights violations by the Salwa Judum as also the Naxalites.

We argue that the Salwa Judum should be banned, channelling military, financial, and logistical assistance instead to official police that more lawfully and explicitly serve the country. Dantewada IDP camps should be dismantled, with a concurrent village security strategy ensuring that residents can enter and leave camps as they choose based upon their own security assessments. And the rule of law needs to be re-established through court prosecution of transgressions by both the Naxals and security forces.

Ravaged Naga Society

There are parallels in Nagaland, where the security forces and the insurgent groups have been violently engaged since 1956. Since 1988, the movement has been led by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM). Although the NSCn-IM signed a ceasefire with the union government in 1997, their political demands (including territorial unification and a separate flag, army and constitution) continue to be shrugged off. New Delhi promises resolution, but action is lagging. As recently as February 2008, prime minister Manmohan Singh promised to facilitate an honourable solution to the conflict, but did not spell out the political contours of that solution or act upon this pledge.

Ceasefires are designed to be intermediate steps towards meaningful resolution. Yet the only visible impact of the Naga ceasefire is the scaling down of violence between state security forces and the NSCN-IM. In the meantime, fratricidal killings between the NSCN-IM and its rival NSCN-Khaplang faction have increased as disagreements over the ceasefire itself fuel the attacks. Worse still, the NSCN-IM has further split with the formation of the NSCN-Unification (NSCN (U)) by some of its dissident cadres on November 23, 2007. This has further escalated the violence with an increase in killings on a daily basis. Although the centre does not officially encourage this violence, it also does little to quell it. This prompted the Naga civil society forum to pass a resolution in December 2007 calling for a ceasefire between the outfits and an end to the extortions by the Naga outfits that continue to ravage society. In the meantime, people live in a continuous cycle of fear – both from state forces and the insurgent actors.

Efforts to resolve either conflict will be ineffective until the benefits of violence are addressed. New Delhi’s develop mentas-security stance assumes that with economic growth, conflicts will dissolve of their own accord. Unfortunately, this “development” in reality is not schools and hospitals but the construction of roads for paramilitaries to better transit between outposts, and mining projects that expropriate far more wealth from rural citizens than they give back. Until development policy includes more than industrialisation benefiting corporations, “deve lopment-as-security” will remain nothing more than empty rhetoric.

A “use of force” policy combined with ineffective development is resulting in backwards steps in the battle to “win hearts and minds”. In order to increase authenticity in conflict zones, we need to go beyond the comfort of negotiated ceasefires and outsourcing security to honestly address the more complex political and socio-economic root causes of conflicts. Encouraging citizen militias to fight the state’s battles for it in Dantewada and divisions in insurgent outfits in Nagaland will only serve to further militarise civilians, taking resolution efforts in the opposite direction. India must devise more comprehensive strategies beyond military responses to tackle violence-based ideologies.

C S S, Surat is looking for faculty

The Centre for Social Studies, Surat, a multidisciplinary social science research institute, is looking for Professors, Associate Professors and Assistant Professors in social science disciplines. The Centre is recognised by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi and offers UGC salary scales to the faculty. Other things being equal, preference will be given to women, SC, ST, and OBC candidates. Candidates having Ph.D. or equivalent qualification and experience in social science disciplines may send their applications, with complete CV and at least two references within thirty days of appearance of this advertisement to the following address. Electronic version may be sent at

The Centre reserves the right to consider candidates who may not have applied.

Director, Centre for Social Studies, Veer Narmad South Gujarat University Campus, Udhna Magdalla Road, Surat - 395 007.


May 24, 2008

Economic & Political Weekly

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