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Maoist (Naxalbari) movement in India

Amjed Jaaved

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According to India’s home ministry “more than two-thirds of Maoist related violence is now restricted to only 10 districts of the country. However, media reports reflect Maoists are well entrenched in at least 68 districts.  The movement could not be quelled despite tall claims by Indian authorities over the past 53 years. Indian home ministry has a whole division dedicated to dealing with the movement.

Origin: Charu Mazumdar is given credit for making the Naxalite movement (“left wing extremism”) a practical reality. He started the movement as a “revolutionary opposition” in 1965.  The world came to know of the movement in 1967 when the Beijing Radio reported “peasants’ armed struggle” at Naxalbari (Silliguri division of West Bengal). In July 1972, the police arrested Charu Mazumdar.  They later tortured him to death on the night of July 27-28.

Aim: The Naxalite ideology has great appeal for marginalised strata (particularly dalit and adivasis) of India’s caste-ridden society. The Naxalites aim, as contained in their Central Committee’s resolution (1980) is: ‘Homogenous contiguous forested area around Bastar Division (since divided into Bastar, Dantewada and Kanker Districts of Chhatisgarh) and adjoining areas of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Khammam, East Godavari Districts of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrapur and Garchehiroli district of Maharastra, Balaghat districts of Madhya Pradesh, Malkagiri and Koraput districts of Orissa would comprise the area of Dandakarnaya which would be liberated and used as base for spreading peoples democratic revolution’.

The Naxalites want to carve out an independent zone extending from Nepal through Bihar and then to Dandakarnaya region extending upto Tamil Nadu to give them access to the Bay of Bengal as well as the Indian Ocean’.  Several pro-Naxalite revolutionary bodies (People’s War, the Maoist Communist Centre and the Communist Party of Nepal) merged their differences (October 15, 2004) to achieve their sea-access aim.

Appeal and influence: Roots: The Naxalbari revolt began in the villages under three Police Stations including Phansidewa, Naxalbari and Khoribari of Darjeeling district in West Bengal. These areas covered about 274 kms with a population of nearly 1.5 lakhs.  More than 30% were labour population, mostly  ‘adhiars’ (the share-croppers) varying from 60.1% in Naxalbari to 50.01% in Khoribari area.

The ‘adhiars’, tribls like Rajabansis, Oraons, Mundas, and Santhals, were exploited like bonded labours’ by their Jotedars (land owners) who owned tea gardens. The Naxalite revolutionaries supported by CPI (M. L) were violently active in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala between 1967-72. They  later moved to Madhya Pradesh,  Bihar and Orissa.  Comrade Asim Chatterjee organised the movement in Orissa in 1971 in Mayurbhanja district . With his arrest on 3, November, 1972, the movement lost momentum. The  movement was shifted to South-Orissa districts, including  Koraput, Gunupur, Malkangiri and Ganjam.

 Prominent Naxalite leaders of Orissa included Purusottan Palai. Jagannath Misra, Nagbhusan Pattnaik, DBM Palluik, P.C. Gomongo, G. Suryanaryana, Dinabandhu Samal and other. During 1973-83, following death of founder Charu Mazumdar, the Naxalite activities were at low ebb. The Naxalite violence has resurged in the South-Orissa districts as manifested in murders, bank-dacoities, kidnapping of officials, attacks on police Stations and looting the arms and ammunitions.

The tremendous appeal of the Naxalite movement is due to the popularity of their agenda for the common man _ land distribution and development of agricultural sector, ridding World Bank’s influence, social justice to the dalits, and creation of Talangana state, development of coastal Andhra and Rayaseema region, and eradication of corruption.

The movement is growing more and more popular.  It has already engulfed 13 Indian states and is spreading to the other states.  Chief ministers of India’s 13 states, at their coordination conference, admitted their incapacity to meet the Naxalite menace.  They appealed to the centre to raise a joint task force to meet the Naxalite insurgency.

India’s home minister promised (October 20, 2004) that 50 battalions of ‘India Reserves’, employing 50, 000 personnel, would be raised to meet the ‘Naxal terror’_ He stated that ‘till November 30, 2004, 420 civilians and 98 security forces personnel were killed in Naxalite violence in 10 States, against 410 civilians and 94 security forces personnel during 2003’. Despite lapse of so many years, Indian government has not been able to uproot the movement.

It is the Naxalites in several states who dictate who will contest (and win) elections. ‘Out of 40 districts of Bihar, about 32 are Naxal affected’ (“150 companies of para-military to be deployed”, Indian Express, September 16, 2005). According to a report in  The Times of India, ‘The Intelligence Bureau has presented a grim picture of Bihar in its report to the home affairs ministry, marking 32 districts as quite sensitive in view of Naxalite presence’ (TOI, September 16, 2005, Naxals tightening noose: IB). 

Second peasant movement: :  Naxalbari is the second most powerful peasant movement in India. The first one, the Telangana Rebellion (1947-51), was launched in the feudal state of Andhra Pradesh against the former Nizam of Hyderabad. The movement was outpouring of resentment against the Reddies and Kammas brahimina traders and moneylenders. They reduced cultivators tenants-at-will, sharecroppers or landless labourers. Like Naxalbari movement, the Telangana peasant struggle was not an overnight exploit. There was simmering cauldron of resentment for  four decades. Who spearheaded? It was led  by revolution by communists of Communist party of India. The CPI in its second conference in March 1948 undertook to wage a Guerrilla war. The movement happened to be crushed. Yet it left a permanent footprint. Later on, the movement had to suffer a lot. But its outcome. The party split in ideology. Those believing in traditional electoral system and others committed to armed fighting.

Naxalbaris Peasant Struggle (1967): It was a violent peasant agitation launched in March-April 1967 in a place called Naxalbaris, in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. It gave rise to the Naxalite Armed struggle. Naxalbari is a police sub-station in Darjeeling. The Naxalite leaders like Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Punjab Rao, Kumar Kishan, Jail Singh, Vinod Mitra and others had played a key role in this Naxalbari movement.

Demands: The immediate demands were a reasonable distribution of benami lands, nationalisation of forests, and end of exploitation by the moneylenders. The long terms objectives were to change the socio-economic structure of the society by annihilation of big farmers, landlords and jagirdars.

Why it failed? The common man could not be sufficiently indoctrinated in Marxism to become self-less. He continued to hanker after narrow selfish political interests. The divided leaders relied more on violence than on indoctrination. Despite its shortcomings, the movement remains a powerful social movement, are evolutionary movement of peasants and labour-class people, in India in the post-independence years. Naxalite groups were violently active in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala between 1967 and 1972. Thereafter, their activities got shifted to Bihar and Madhya Pradesh also.

People’s War Groups: A teacher,  Kondapath  Satyanarayan.  started Peoples War Group (PWG) in the  Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh in 1979. It later spread to  the districts of Azelabad  Khamam, Warangal, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam in Andhra  Pradesh. Since April, 1996, the Naxalites have organised People’s War Groups is operating in the southern districts of Orissa thus paralyzing the government.

The PWG is very active  in Malkangiri and Raygada Districts. In Malkangiri Dist., 58.36% of the total population of five lakhs are tribals.

According India’s Ministry of Home Affairs’ reply in the Lok Sabha recently, the Naxals have links with Maoist groups operating in Philippines, Turkey and Europe. Minister of State Home Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha that the CPI (Maoist) is “a member of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia.”

In a written reply, Rijiju said “The so-called ‘People’s War’ being waged by the CPI (Maoist) against the Indian state has also drawn support from several Maoist fringe  Organisations located in Germany, France, Turkey, Italy etc.” Inputs indicate that some senior cadres of the Communist Party of Philippines imparted training to the cadres of CPI  (Maoist) in 2005 and 2011, the MHA reply said.

Source of funds: The Naxals receive funds from a host of sources. They made Rs 2,000 crore in 2009.  In 2010, the then Home Secretary GK Pillai estimated Naxals’ annual income at Rs 1,400 crore while the Intelligence Bureau’s estimates put a roughly similar figure at Rs 1,500. The Naxal revenue comes also from ‘levy’ (extortion) is collected from contractors who win the bid for development works in areas dominated by insurgents Individuals Forest produce contractors Mining companies, transporters, large- and small-scale industries in the regions, growing poppy or ganja, illegal mining. A total of 1, 61,040 mines were found in Naxal dominated areas spread across Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha in 2010. Besides, they thrive on extortion by kidnapping government functionaries.

Shortcomings: The Naxalite intention to capture political power was not well-received by the Indian voters. Its association with CPI (M.L.) did not have mass appeal. However, its recent appeal to intellectuals of India has been welcomed throughout India. China has failed to supply arms to them surreptitiously. China is itself worried at infiltration and exfiltration of Tibetans from the Nepalese porous border.  

Advantages:  Naxals are better informed with topography of the forest land and the hills than the Indian security forces. Naxals have sophisticated weapons. These weapons are either smuggled through the porous international borders with Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh or snatched from the armed forces including police during targeted raids by the Naxals groups. Naxals collect small old guns from the local population.   They snatch and loot arms from local police outposts. They bribe security forces to buy their firearms. They have now established small foundries to manufacture their own arms.

Naxals effectively put up children and women as human shield against an advancing team of security forces. Even in the case of the latest Sukma attack, the security forces had advance knowledge of Naxals presence in the area. But, the Naxals obstructed the attack through human shield in the form of local tribal people.

In the absence of metalled roads, the security forces can’t do hot pursuit. Slow work is on progress on  road connectivity between Jagargunda and Dornapal in Sukma’s, with Bijapur in the west and with Dantewada’s Kirandul in the north. The Naxals attacks often disrupt Under-construction roads.  

Militant clout:  The Naxalite movement would the biggest headache for the Centre in the next few years. After short lulls, Maoists continue to attack Indian security forces. Most attacks take place in Chhattisgarh.  In June 2019, two Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in Naxals attack in Chhattisgarh. The gun-battle took place near Keshkutul village under the Bhairamgarh police station area when a joint team of the CRPF’s 199th battalion and local police was out on an area domination operation (The Statesman,  June 28, 2019). Earlier, on April 6, 2010, 76 CRPF jawans were killed in a Naxals attack in Dantewada, Chhatisgarh.

The Naxal attack almost wiped out CRPF’s 82nd  Battalion. :  On April, 26, 2017, 25 Central Reserve Police Force jawans were killed in an ambush by Naxal forces in Sukma, Chhattisgarh.

To control Naxal influence in elections in Bihar, India’s home ministry sent three additional battalions of border security force (over 3,000 men) along with a fleet of helicopters to the Naxalite-influenced areas to join the already-deployed nearly 4,000 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force. Yet, on ground, the Naxalite held sway. 

To maintain peace in elections, the Centre had to ‘deploy 150 companies of para-military forces, 75 belonging to the Border Security Force, 65 to the Central Reserve Police Force and ten belonging to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force’.

Realising their ineffectiveness against the Naxalites, India’s Central Reserve Police Force has ‘withdrawn around 1450 officers and men from over 200 battalions’, trained them in technical and signals intelligence, to set up  ‘CRPF’s own intelligence wing to minimise casualties and dependence on the state machinery’ (“CRPF to set up separate intelligence department”, The Hindustan Times, February 27, 2006) .

Hardly a day passes without a Naxalite attack on government’s forces or installations, attacks on convoys, banks, railway stations, kidnapping of informers and assassination of anti-Naxalite figures.  Some recent incidents include blowing of police posts and forest department’s towers, killing of four policemen to loot the sum of Rs 12 lac (railway-men’s salary), hacking 16 policemen to death, slaying of Bandwan CPI-M leader Rabindra Nath Kar and his wife, and killing of Madhya Pradesh Transport Minister Lakhiram Kaware (Congress).

According to IndiaTV News dated August 30, 2018, police is of the view that the Naxalbaris are trying to establish links with Kashmiri freedom fighters. The police intercepted eight letters that revealed links between activists charged in Bhima Koregaon case, Naxals, and Kashmiri freedom fighters. The acused were charged with procuring weapons and arming the rebels through international routes.

Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra are among the states affected by the Maoist violence. “Maoists are confined to Sukma in Chhattisgarh, Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Malakangiri in Odisha and Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh,” said the second official.

In addition, security agencies have flagged increased Maoist activity in the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In particular, the Centre is keen that communist rebels do not gain any foothold in the southern states. “The home ministry in consultation with the states has opted for pre-emptive police action in these areas”.

No writ of government: In Naxalite-influenced rural areas, there is no trace of India’s judicial system.  There, the Naxalite organisations act ‘virtually like policemen, arresting, meeting out “justice” and in some cases even executing the guilty’ (“Internal security situation”, India’s National Security: Annual Review 2004, New Delhi, India Research Press, 2005, p. 87). 

With merger of pro-Naxalite revolutionary bodies, the Naxalites are the sole arbiters of justice in rural areas.  To counter rising Naxalite influence, the BJP and the Congress-coalition parties are cooperating in anti- Naxalites operations.

The term “Naxalite” is rooted in Naxalbari village (West Bengal) where Kanhu Sanyal presented the concept of “forcible protest against the social order relating to holding of property and sharing of social benefits”. They  started Naxal movement on March 3, 9167 at Naxalbari village, near Siliguri sub-division in West Bengal. It is 30 to 50 miles from Sikkim. Tibet and Bhutan in the, Nepal in the West and from Bangladesh in the east.To him the purpose of the protest was “organizing peasants to bring about land reform through radical means including violence”.

Naxalite movement in India is viewed as an internal security problem.  However, the populist appeal of the movement’s ideology reflects that it would soon assume international dimensions.  India’s Lieutenant General KM Seth laments, ‘Unfortunately, the threat to internal security from Naxalites has acquired dangerous proportions and can no longer be wished away.  …they are also developing links with Turkish and Philippino terrorist organisations…We have suffered and bled patiently and have taken huge human casualties, which could exceed 13,000, uniformed personnel and 53,000 civilians during the last 25 years… As of today, their overall strength could be put to approximately 20, 000 undergrounds, 50,000 overgrounds and more than a lakh in frontal organisations. Their armoury  is reported to comprise approximately 900 AK-47 rifles, 200 light machine guns, 100 grenade firing rifles, 2 inch mortars, thousands of .303 rifles, self-loading rifles and .12-bore guns with a huge quantity of explosives at their disposal’. (“Naxalite Problem”, U. S. I. Journal , January-March 2005, New Delhi, p. 19, 23).

India may blame Pakistan for the freedom movement (‘insurgency’ or ‘militancy’) in occupied Kashmir.  But, who shall she blame for the Naxalite insurgency in Andhra Pradesh and other Indian states? This is a movement against economic deprivation and brutality of the state or central government’s law-enforcing agencies.

Indian media has now begun to report that the counter-insurgency forces are fearful of grappling the Naxalites.  In Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), the Naxalite announced a cash reward of five lac rupees per policeman (“Reward scheme sends forces into huddle”, Indian Express, August 25, 2005). IG (Guntur Range) Rajwant Singh admitted, ‘My men are removing the posters and convincing the villagers to inform them about the activities of Naxalites’.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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An Indian perspective on Afghan peace-process

Ganesh Puthur

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image credit: UNAMA/Mujeeb Rahman

Afghanistan is staring at a massive political uncertainty with the United States preparing to exit the war-torn nation by 2021. America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan could ultimately end up in the coronation of the Taliban in Kabul, hence returning to the despotic times of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan. Even though the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks involving the nominees of the Afghanistan civilian government and the members of Taliban are pacing up in Doha, chances of materialising these assurances are slim. Due to the emergence of factions within the Taliban and other terrorist outfits trying to establish their bases in Afghanistan, there are possibilities of a prolonged civil war once the American forces are pulled out. The result of peace-process will have a massive impact on the region itself. Therefore the Taliban’s possible access to power in Afghanistan has worried New Delhi since Pakistan could make this an opportunity to create fresh troubles in the region to further expedite their doctrine of ‘bleed India with a thousand cuts’.

The United States entered Afghanistan in 2001 to avenge the killings of 2,977 of its citizens by an Al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Centre. Al-Qaeda had the patronage of the Taliban and was operating from Afghanistan. America’s military invasion had lead to the removal of the Taliban government. Later Hamid Karzai got appointed as the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with the blessings of U.S. For the past two decades, U.S troops were in constant encounters with the Taliban terrorists and lost over 2,441 soldiers to the rebel onslaught. Even after the U.S indulging in fully-fledged warfare and spending billions, the Taliban still controlled around 20% of districts in Afghanistan. They were in constant fights with the allied forces for taking the procession of another 50% districts. The U.S was successful in exterminating the prominent terrorists of Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), new leadership kept on popping up regularly. Hence, the ultimate motto of cleansing Afghanistan from the Jihadi elements was never met. 

President Obama was keen on exiting Afghanistan from the later part of his first presidency. Even though the number of troops decreased gradually, the process had to be stalled multiple times due to various terrorist attacks. But back home there was a rising rage among the public for spending their money in a far off land yielding nothing. At this juncture, the U.S government was quick to realise that that they had no military solution to put on the table. Thus through interlocutors, the American government reached out to the Taliban to formulate a respectable exit plan for the U.S. This plan reached a milestone when the Taliban and the United States signed an agreement on February 29, 2020 paving way for the Intra-Afghan talks beginning from September 12, 2020.

Afghan government released 5,000 Taliban rebels in exchange of 1,000 Afghan soldiers who were held as hostages by the Islamic radicals. With the peace talks gaining progress, there could be a demand for the release of more rebels. These people are trained in modern warfare and have the experience of combating U.S troops in strenuous mountainous terrain. Following the abrogation of Article 370, there has been a military crackdown on the terrorists and their affiliates in Kashmir. Many of the terrorist organisations operating in the valley face leadership vacuum since the Indian military is quick to identify prominent terrorists and then neutralises them. Pakistan, which is known for its proximity with the Taliban, might use them to create trouble in Kashmir. It was during the Taliban’s regime Indian Airlines flight 814 was hijacked by the terrorists and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan. India had no option but to free terrorists like Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in return of 160 passengers.  Also, Afghanistan is notorious for the production of Cannabis, Opium and other drugs. Taliban earns around $200 million a year selling Opium alone. Pakistan has been using narcoterrorism as an instrument to create social unrest in India. The Indian state of Punjab, which shares international borders with Pakistan, has been thoroughly affected by the drugs menace. Taliban’s total control over the drug production and its supply can be smuggled to India through ISI backed channels, further deteriorating the existing situation.   

Afghanistan is of immense strategic importance as far as India is concerned. This landlocked country is seen as India’s pavement to Central Asia since Pakistan cannot be a trusted ally for historical reasons. India has contributed more than $3 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan which includes their Parliament, Dams, Schools and many other projects. India had even allotted Lucknow’s Ekana Stadium as the home ground for the Afghanistan national cricket team. Bollywood movies are still popular in Afghanistan. What needs to be seen is the Taliban’s approach towards India. The Spokesperson of Taliban, Suhail Shaheen’s tweet read “The statement published in the media about Taliban joining Jihad in Kashmir is wrong…. The policy of the Islamic Emirate is clear that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.” This tweet caught the diplomatic community by surprise. It is a known fact that the Taliban’s deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani operates the Haqqani network which has organic bonding with the Kashmiri separatist groups. 

Sirajuddin Haqqani, in a recent op-ed piece that he wrote for the New York Times shared the vision that the Taliban has for Afghanistan. He wrote “liberated from foreign domination and interference, we together will find a way to build an Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam.” What Taliban did to the minorities and women in Afghanistan during their 5 year rule was brutal and condemned by the global community. But Haqqani concluded this essay on a positive note by saying that “the new Afghanistan will be a responsible member of the international community”. But it needs to be seen whether the Taliban relinquishes its claim for strict Sharia laws and makes concessions on democracy which they consider as a western poison.

 For all these years, India was hesitant to deal directly with the Taliban. But an evolving approach towards the Taliban is on cards with the Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar virtually attending the Intra-Afghan peace talks. He even gave India’s warning to the rebels that “Afghanistan’s soil shouldn’t be used for anti-India activities”. It will be interesting to see how China deals with the Taliban after wooing Iran with a $400 billion deal. With the possibility of enormous political changes after the signing of the agreement between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, its after-effects will be experienced in the entire South Asian region. India has no other choice but to engage with the about to be formed dispensation in the Kabul. 

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Rohingya repatriation: Has the world forgotten about the Rohingya crisis?

Shariful Islam

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Rohingya refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Myanmar (file photo). IOM/Mohammed

In August 2017, the Myanmar army committed atrocities to the Rohingya people in Arakan state of Myanmar including rape, torture, burning the houses, killing. To escape from death, the Rohingya people fled to Bangladesh. The Rohingya crisis has been identified as one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.The United Nations (UN) has defined the crisis as the ‘textbook case’ of ethnic violence.

And considering the sufferings of the Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh opened doors for them from a humanitarian ground. Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, including the Rohingyas who came earlier (before August 2017) in the country. Notably, Bangladesh is providing shelter, food, medicare and other facilities/services to the Rohingyas for a long time. The local people of Cox’s Bazar also showed great sympathy to those refugees sacrificing their lands, forests and other resources. Bangladesh has made tremendous sacrifices, including the forests. Initially, the country made Rohingya camps in 6,500 acres of land. It is already three years passed. But a successful Rohingya repatriation seems a dream to many given the current contexts. In this article, I attempt to show why successful repatriation is essential, why it failed, and the role of the international community in this regard.

Why repatriation necessary?

First, Rohingyas are creating an extra burden for Bangladesh, given the socio-economic realities of the country. Notably, being one of the densely populated countries in the world with limited resources, it becomes a daunting task for Bangladesh to continue its wholehearted supports for the Rohingyas in the days to come.

Second, Rohingya refugees have clear security implications for Bangladesh and beyond. It is reported that Rohingya criminals are becoming involved in the deterioration of the law and order situation in Cox’s Bazar, which becomes a grave concern for the locals. The local people who showed wholehearted support to the Rohingyas are worried now due to the increased criminal activities by the Rohingya criminals. It is reported that there are instances of murders in the Rohingya camp. In addition, after the murder of Jubo League leader Farooq by the Rohingya criminal, there were tensions among the locals.

It is argued that the longer the refugees stay in the refugee camps, the more likely they become a threat to peace (cited in Bariagaber, 1999: 605). Thus, prolonging the Rohingya repatriation will be problematic for Bangladesh, which merits serious attention from the international community. In this context, successful repatriation of the Rohingyas becomes essential.

Third,one can also argue that there are regional and international security implications of the Rohingya crisis. The international community can also consider this factor and take significant steps to resolve the Rohingya crisis and provide a better and secure life to the Rohingyas.

Finally, as a human being, Rohingyas deserve a better and secured life with dignity and fundamental human rights. Thus, ensuring their basic human rights becomes a moral responsibility of the international community.

Why Rohingya repatriation failed?

Bangladesh-Myanmar signed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017, though no progress has been observed in making repatriation successful. On July 29, 2019, Bangladesh handed over a list of 55, 000 Rohingyas for verification for repatriation. Myanmar only cleared 3,450 Rohingyas for beginning the repatriation. Notably, Rohingya refugee repatriation to Myanmar has been failed twice, one in November 2018 and another in August 2019. Against this backdrop, one can ask: What factors have accounted for to the failures of Rohingya refugee’s repatriation to Myanmar? To answer this question, one can identify the following factors.

First, the absence of conducive conditions/environment in Myanmar is the major hindrance to the successful repatriation of the Rohingyas. Myanmar government showed apathy towards repatriation. One can also argue that the Myanmar government did not show firm commitments in the repatriation process. Though in the declaratory postures they are showing the international community that they are interested in the repatriation, when it comes to operational policies, they are reluctant in the repatriation process through not creating favourable conditions/ conducive environment for the Rohingyas. Rohingyas are scared that if they are back, the Myanmar army will kill them.

Second, the failure of the international community to repatriate the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar becomes another critical factor.It seems that international community has confined its role in providing reliefs, foods, healthcare services, money to the Rohingya refugees and sometimes made an occasional visit to the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar and took photographs and shared those (photos) in the social media and beyond. To a larger extent, the international community has bypassed their key responsibility to repatriate the Rohingyas to their homeland through pressurizing Myanmar. Thus, it will not be wrong to claim that the international community has totally failed to create a conducive environment in Myanmar which makes security concerns among the Rohingyas. Thus, those Rohingyas are not interested in to repatriate in Myanmar.

The most concerning is that it seems that the Rohingya issue is losing interest in the international community. There is already shrinkage of funds for the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. If the international community totally fails to repatriate the Rohingyas, it will create a disastrous situation for Bangladesh. It is well known that Bangladesh is a densely populated country in the world with limited resources, as noted earlier. Thus, the country cannot afford to continue its supports to the Rohingyas. In addition, there is a stronger possibility of conflicts between the Rohingyas and local people in the days to come given the socio-economic realities of the society.

One can argue that the United Nations has so far failed to pressurize Myanmar and create a conducive environment for the repatriation. Considering the narrowly defined self-interest, Russia, China, India whole-heartedly supports the Myanmar government. Though China and India bear dissimilarities in many issues, in the case of Rohingya issue, they maintain a similar stand, supporting the Myanmar government. Notably, Myanmar is a crucial state for China’s Belt and Road Initiative project, while the country is key to India’s act east policy. In addition, the UNHCR, ASEAN, EU, USA, Japan also failed to pressurize the Myanmar government and facilitate the Rohingya repatriation.

Third, the political economy of the refugees/NGOs is also responsible for the failure of the repatriation process of the Rohingyas. Khaled Muhiuddin (2019) writes that foreign aid ‘is prolonging the crisis. It is common sense that if Rohingya refugees are having a better life in Bangladeshi camps than the one they experienced in Myanmar, they will see little reason for going back to Myanmar. That is why efforts to ensure safety for Rohingyas in Myanmar are more important than providing comfort to them in the Bangladeshi camps’. Thus, foreign aid is benefiting both the NGOs and the refugees.

Around 150 international and local NGOs are working in the 34 Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. It is claimed that the political economy of the NGOs also works as a major hindrance to the Rohingya repatriation process. A resident of Cox’s Bazar, Rafiqul Islam Rafiq claims that various NGOs, including the UN agencies, demotivate the Rohingyas to repatriate (Bangla Vision, August 25, 2019). Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, president of BAPA and CAB, Cox’s Bazar contends that both international and local NGOs are telling the Rohingyas that this [Cox’s Bazar] is your place, it was once your place, a part of Arakan State. Since this is your place, you do not need to leave this place (Bangla Vision, August 25, 2019). A. N. M. Helal Uddin, president, civil society forum, Cox’s Bazar claims that if these Rohingyas leave, their (NGOs) business will be stopped. They are motivating the national crisis. The government should find out those NGOs and take actions against them (Bangla Vision, August 25, 2019).

Fourth, the economic interest of some local people also works as a hindrance to the repatriation. A resident called Jasim Uddin points out that the Rohingya refugees have created a huge business for the hotel, restaurant, flat owners who do not want that Rohingyas leave Cox’s Bazar(Bangla Vision, August 25, 2019). He claims that economic interest is the main factor of these owner classes, who devoid of patriotism. Notably, 1000 locally made weapons including knifes were seized from the NGO office SHED (Society for Health Extension and Development) who was working in the Rohingya camp (Osmany, 2019). Notably, SHED failed to provide any legal documents i.e. operating license to use these weapons (Aziz, 2019). Thus, it becomes important to monitor vigorously and ensure the accountability of the local and international NGOs who seek greater profits from prolonging the Rohingya crisis.

Fifth, one can also look at the role of the scholars and scholarship critically to resolve the Rohingya crisis. The Rohingya refugee crisis did not receive serious attention from the intellectual community. Even the role of Bangladeshi scholars is minimal in producing serious scholarship on the issue. The scholars cannot avoid their responsibility to resolve the crisis.

Finally, international media also failed to internationalize the issue and influence the policy formulations regarding the crisis. In the initial days, though the mainstream global media provided enough attention to the issue, in the latter days, they totally forgot the crisis. I wonder, if the same thing happens in the developed world, would the global media response be the same?

To conclude, Bangladesh, alone cannot resolve the Rohingya crisis. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh strongly contends in addressing the 75thUnited Nations General Assembly that the Rohingya crisis has been created by Myanmar and thus has to resolve the crisis by Myanmar. In this case, since Myanmar is not interested in resolving the crisis, it is the international community that can pressurize the Myanmar government and facilitate successful repatriation. In fact, the role of the international community, including the major powers, international media becomes essential to encourage Rohingya repatriation. The role of the scholars and scholarship also becomes necessary. The bottom line is that for the greater cause of humanity, the international community must come forward to pressurize Myanmar government and facilitate successful repatriation. The world needs to remember that Bangladesh has already done a lot to the Rohingya refugees. Now, it is the responsibility of the international community. Isn’t it?

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South Asia

A Way Forward – Neutralizing the Surge in Insurgency With Diplomatic Empathy in Kashmir

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

Nationalismis slowly losing its emancipatory value as the progressive inclusion of minority groups in public policy decision making has become a myth in itself. I have always maintained that the politics and carnage of minorities, especially Muslim identity in India, goes beyond the constructed rationalization of religiously prescriptive and deconstructed narrative of legislative Islamic discourse. It is, by its normative birth, focus on the knotty issue of electoral manifestation, and the violence on both, the psyche and body of the minorities has become an active semiotic territory of political narrative, which, when aggravated, creates a ‘psycho-political ripple effect.’ This article will elucidate the ripple effect created by the deeply ingrained inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injustice and trauma transmuted within and among Kashmiris, because of the ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)’; a policy that provides complete impunity to the armed forces in Kashmir, and how diplomatic empathy can work as a successful catalyst in neutralizing the surge in insurgency and civil unrest in Kashmir.

Armed Forces Special Powers Act 

The history of breeding insurgency in Kashmir goes back to the 1980’s, and since then, Jammu and Kashmir have been a propagating ground of separatist ambitions, demanding either complete independence or seeking ascension and amalgamation with Pakistan. Often called ‘Kashmir Intifada’, this insurgent group is a manifestation of the failure of Indian governance and inter-state diplomacy at the root of the initial disaffection and the coercive policies imposed on Kashmiris. Today, with more than 6 lakh security personnel (Army, Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed in J&K hinterlands, Kashmir has become the most militarized zone in the world, surpassing the combined presence of Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza strip and West Bank alone. The Indian security personnel have been implicated in multiple reports for torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of thousands of Kashmiris, and rape and sexual abuse of women in the valley with absolute impunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA); a policy that provides impunity to any member of the armed forces without the permission of the central government. This act legitimizes and normalizes routine violence on Kashmiris, while parturiating victims with dissipating subjective agency and no legal mechanism to seek justice. 

Countless incidents of extrajudicial killings have been reported, and multiple unmarked graves have been witnessed; all with absolute impunity given to military personals involved. For example, a State Human Rights Commission inquiry in 2011 had confirmed that there were thousands of bullet-ridden corpses buried in unmarked graves in Kashmir. Of the 2,730 bodies uncovered, 574 bodies were identified as missing locals, in contrast to the Indian government’s confirmation that all the graves belonged to foreign militants. In the most haunting military violence imposed on Kashmiris, personnel of the 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army were involved in gang rape of at least 40 women in Kunan and Poshpora villages in north Kashmir(February 1991), as they conducted an anti-insurgency operation in the region. Although the Press Council of India committee led by BG Verghese and K Vikram Raovisited the villages post the violence, but gave a clean chit to the soldiers, and the countless consecutive mass rapes by Indian soldiers followed – Chak Saidpora (1992), Wurwun (1995), Bihota (2000), Gujjardara-Manzgam (2011) etc. Post the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019; the situation has worsened.  

The Psycho-political Ripple Effect – Violence with absolute impunity begets violence with stern liability

“You lock us up during the day. You lock us up at night,” a middle-aged man shouts angrily, wagging his finger. As the policeman ordered the man to go inside his house as Kashmir was under the longest lockdown of a union territory in the history of the Indian constitution, the diminutive old man stands his ground and challenges him again. “This is my only son. He’s too small now, but I will prepare him to pick up a gun too,” he said. This man belonged from Khanyar, a local town in the heart of Srinagar, which is famous for protests against military violence and Indian hegemonic rule in Kashmir. In the same report, Mr. Malik, a Kashmiri native, predicts that every Kashmiri will join them. “It was said that in every family one brother is with the separatists and the other is with the [Indian] mainstream. The Indian government has united the two.” To understand the unwavering commitment of locals – who are teachers, vegetable vendors, workers in local manufacturing outlets, fruit sellers, etc., and their determination to prepare their future generations to become insurgents, is mandatory. This is a direct result of the internalized trauma and feeling of injustice that has transmuted in and within Kashmiris– both inter-regional and inter-generational. But, what has caused this transmutation? To know this, it becomes imperative to explore the phenomenon of ‘psycho-political ripple effect’.

A ripple effect, in a simple term, refers to the indirect effect that expands out from the organic source and reaches areas or populations far positioned from its intended purpose. To understand this phenomenon in a political-social environment, one needs to deconstruct the psychological effects of the ‘initial political disturbance’ created within the system of a targeted group of civilians and how it propagated outward to disturb an increasingly larger portion of the population within the system. This ‘initial political disturbance’ is a manifestation of normalized violence by placing the Indian military under an impunity umbrella, which has methodized and regularized routine violent acts against Kashmiris, including detention of small children, curfews, extrajudicial killings, torture, gang rapes, kidnapping of civilians, etc. The trauma is no longer confined to the victims of Konan and Poshpora mass rape or restricted to the pain of the community of human rights activists like Jalil Andrabi, Zafar Mehraj, Burhan Wani and Farooq Sheikh, who were brutally killed by the military forces, or limited to the medical community who are attacked for providing medical care to the insurgents, or to the families of Kashmiris who has been a victim of extrajudicial execution or reprisal killing, alone. 

The effects of this violence and the internalization of trauma has impregnated the psyche of most Kashmiris and has given birth to what I call is a ‘psycho-political ripple effect’ for future formations of popular resistance against Indian rule in Kashmir. With the institutional denial of justice, loss of subjective agency due to trauma, and erosion of indigenous Muslim culture, the mass-suffering has reshaped the response of Kashmiris towards military and political power. Here, military violence with absolute impunity is begetting violence with stern liability from the local Kashmiris, and the surge in insurgency activities is a testament of it. Apart from mass carnage and destruction like Pulwama attack (2019), Srinagar attack (2013), Amarnath Yatra attack (2017), Uri attack (2016), carried out by Islamist terrorist groups against the Indian militancy presence in Kashmir, many quasi-violence incidents has become a methodized way to confront Indian security forces. The effect of the political ripples is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of the locals that indulgence in the act of reciprocation against military force has become more imperative than the strategy to execute the ‘act’ itself. These incidents often involve collective participation of local Kashmiris demonstrating acts of resistance, which orthogonally represents assertiveness and visible symbolism rather than clandestine nature. The most common forms of this quasi-violence involve stone pelting at security forces, causing hindrance and interdiction of military operations to help the insurgents, attending insurgent funerals, etc. Although the participants are usually unarmed, the employed tactics are methodologically designed to incite, provoke, and coerce Indian security forces to dismantle the central government’s legitimacy and control over Kashmir. These quasi-violent ripple effect can be seen in Palestine as well, where Palestinians deploy the rock-throwing method as a mechanism to display resistance against IDF presence in their land. Psycho-political ripple effect can be witnessed in both of these conflict-infested geographies, where internalized trauma and feeling of injustice have transmuted among and within the native population – both inter-regional and inter-generational. 

Incorporating Diplomatic Empathy to neutralize the surge in insurgency 

It has been a year post the abrogation of Article 370. The surge in military brutality, human rights violations, increased unemployment, and a Rs 40,000 crore hole in the economy, has aggravated the spread of the psycho-political ripple effect. With Kashmir precariously poised between the two extremes, and an efflux of quasi-violent and strategic insurgent attacks on Indian security forces, it orthogonally points towards one thing – inter-state diplomatic failure. What diplomats and central lawmakers must consider is that the principle of “no negotiation with insurgents”, although seems logical, but fails to understand the primordial foundation of fortification of – what is terrorism? If insurgents and quasi-violent Kashmiri locals are willing to go against a robust military force and governance of BJP in power and risk the lives of self and other civilians, it only reflects that the cause of their insurgent activities is not being effectively addressed and is being alienated from mainstream political policies. The deeply ingrained inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injusticecaused due to impunity given to the Indian security forces in Kashmir has created psycho-political ripples that is manifesting into insurgent activities.

On the other hand, this internalization of trauma and conflict has also created a negotiating space of diplomatic activity through transmittal of empathy and the development of trust. For this reason, the traditional consultative decision-making process of negotiation from ‘top-to-bottom’ should be replaced by a ‘bottom-to-top’ diplomatic strategy where the principle of inclusion should be propagated, lessening the distance between the self and the other. Validating this, Marcus Holmes and Keren Milo (2016) writes, “Fisher and Ury’s (1983) classic work in negotiation theory notes the importance of what is now termed cognitive empathy in order to derive the interests that motivate one’s positions. Since negotiators do not have perfect information about their counterparts’ interests, those who do not try to take the other side’s perspective may fail to find rational conflict-resolution. Put another way, in order to rationally find a zone of possible agreement, both sides must understand the interests and positions of the other, including their best alternative to a negotiated agreement”. 

Diplomats and lawmakers must derive a solution that not only neutralizes the surge in the insurgency, restore human rights, but also stagnate the spread of psycho-political ripple effect within the Kashmiri community to restore civil rest and prosperity. To achieve the optimum conflict-resolution that modern diplomacy seeks to attain, empathy with the interlocutor is opulent. Re-structuring the Armed Forces Special Powers Act by ensuring that security forces – the army, the Border Security Force (BSF), and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), are trained in using lawful use of force in accordance and alignment with international standards, and those who breach these parameters would legally held accountable. To gain credibility and trust among the civilians, it is crucial that a sense of justice is restored within the system, which would neutralize their inter-regional and inter-generational sense of injustice and trauma. This can be effectively achieved  by the central BJP government, if they publicly commit to bring justice to all victims involved in human rights violations, which should involve legally prosecuting Indian armed forces, whether involved actively or participated in permitting the violations to be covered up.I remember reading an article about an elderly woman , who was one of the victim of Kunan Poshpora mass rape, and had died as she awaited justice to be served to her. Ghulam Mohidin, her son-in-law said, alleged that , “She died in 2010 as she was waiting for justice till her last breath, but nothing happened. The culprits are still roaming freely. Our family is still suffering ” he said. This psychologically intimate narrative reveals what I have been discussing throughout the article – the psycho-political ripple effect caused due to inter-generational and inter-regional transmutation of deeply ingrained sense of injustice and trauma, can itself become a synthesis to the initial theistic problem , which is the surge in insurgency in Kashmir ; if diplomatic empathy is tactfully and humanely deployed to neutralize these ripple effects by fortifying and preserving their human and constitutional rights. And, if diplomats and law makers fail to do so, these psycho-political ripples will multiple and increase exponentially, only to proliferate the psyche of the many generations to come by.

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