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Maoist (Naxalbari) movement in India

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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.

South Asia

The pendulum gradually swings towards international engagement with the Taliban

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Food and blankets are handed out to people in need in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, by © WFP/Arete

The Taliban and Pakistan, both viewed warily by the West and others in the international community, appear to be benefitting from mounting concerns about the humanitarian and security situation in Afghanistan.

The European Union, in a move that could put the United States in an awkward position, is close to reopening its mission in the Afghan capital and offering member states to use it as an operational base for their own diplomats.

The move would enhance European engagement of the Taliban but stop short of diplomatically recognizing the group as Afghanistan’s new rulers. The Taliban government has yet to win recognition from anyone in the international community.

The EU, its member states, and the United States had moved their diplomatic missions to the Qatari capital of Doha in August as they evacuated Kabul in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the city.

European officials said a reopening of the EU mission was necessary to manage a €1 billion emergency humanitarian aid package.

The United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) and its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said this week that some 19 million Afghans, or 45 per cent of the population, were experiencing “high levels of food insecurity.” That number is expected to jump to 22.8 million between November and March unless immediate action is taken, according to a report that was just released by the two agencies.

Senior United Nations officials, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said earlier that one million children were at risk of starvation and death. They said Afghanistan’s poverty rate had soared and basic public services were on the verge of collapse. The crisis was worsened by the fact that hundreds of thousands of people had been made homeless as a result of recent fighting in the country.

A reopening of the EU mission in Kabul would effectively align Europe with US allies Qatar and Turkey, Pakistan, a troublesome friend, and America’s rivals, China and Russia that all favour some degree of engagement with the Taliban and in most cases a lifting of US sanctions that have blocked the group’s access to government deposits and assets abroad.

Chinese Foreign Minister, in his first meeting with the Taliban since the US withdrawal on Tuesday in Doha, called for the lifting of the sanctions, and pledged to help the group to “rebuild the country.” China has repeatedly said it was willing to work with the Taliban but has so far refrained from taking concrete steps in that direction.

The reopening of the EU mission serves the Taliban’s purpose not only as a breach in the group’s difficulty in garnering international acceptance but also because it would extend doubts about the United States’ ‘over the horizon’ counterterrorism strategy to the humanitarian and diplomatic realm.

The withdrawal from Afghanistan deprived the United States and its NATO allies of many of their on-the-ground intelligence and information-collection assets. It also means that US drones and aircraft when operating counterterrorism missions will have to fly long distances from ‘over the horizon’ facilities such as a US airbase in Qatar or naval vessels in Indo-Pacific waters.

One beneficiary of cracks in the international barrier erected around the Taliban may be Pakistan that has long been criticised for its alleged support of the Taliban.

Pakistan is like to earn brownie points for reportedly giving the Taliban intelligence and technical support in its fight against the Islamic State’s South Asian affiliate, Islamic State-Khorasan. Much of the international community is concerned about the Islamic State but has been unwilling to engage with the Taliban to counter the jihadist group.

The Islamic State has since August launched scores of attacks on Taliban targets although its three most devastating bombings struck Kabul airport in August during the US evacuation and more recently two Shiite mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar. In doing so, the Islamic State has raised doubts about the ability of the Taliban to stabilise Afghanistan.

Pakistan would likely use a successful Taliban offensive against the jihadist group to push the need for others to also engage with the Taliban.

Pakistan and some other proponents of engagement partly pin their hopes for Taliban moderation on the fact that the group is increasingly populated by a generation that came of age during the US-led occupation but has yet to make its mark.

“Routinely portrayed as archaic and extreme by critics and opponents, the new generation of Taliban are in fact a product of their times: more open to the prospect of gradual social change than their forebears yet politically more militant; English-speaking but mistrustful of the West; well-read yet wary of free expression; keen to help their country move forward but defined by its past,” said Afghan journalist Fazelminallah Qazizai.

Mr. Qazizai could well be correct. If he is, the Taliban have so far been unwilling to communicate unequivocally what their 2.0 means. Pledges on women’s rights, including secondary and tertiary education, have yet to be fulfilled.

The Taliban botched an opportunity to inspire confidence when the leader of the notorious Haqqani network, acting Afghan interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, recently convened family members of Taliban suicide bombers to celebrate the actions of their loved ones.

Rather than apologising to the victims, Mr. Haqqani, who has a US$10 million bounty on his head because of his close ties to Al-Qaeda, told the gathering in Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel that was twice targeted by the group that the bombers’ “sacrifices are for religion, for the country and for Islam.” He said the Taliban would not have been able to fight the United States without the support of suicide bombers.

Mr. Haqqani may well have been catering to the Taliban’s rank and file in a bid to prevent those who may object to gradual social change from defecting to the Islamic State.

If so, Mr. Haqqani was also communicating that the Taliban may for now be in a Catch-22 as they walk a fine line between maintaining some semblance of unity within their ranks and garnering the minimal international confidence needed to address Afghanistan’s huge humanitarian and security problems.

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The Khalistan nightmare

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 After several postponements, the “Punjab Referendum Commission has announced to hold the “Punjab Independence Referendum on October 31, 2021.  The Commission has been appointed by the US-based Khalistani separatist group Sikhs for Justice. The Commission” consists of “non-aligned direct democracy experts” who are to organise and hold a referendum on whether Punjab should be independent. The referendum will start in London on October 31 and then take place in other countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, and the region of Punjab, the commission stated.

Commission’ chairman M Dane Waters, based at the University of Southern California clarified that the commission’s role is to “help the SFJ conduct a referendum that is as consistent with international norms as possible”.  He added, ‘Although a non-governmental and non-binding referendum, the result will be used as the basis for the Sikh community to request an official binding vote from the United Nations on establishing the Indian governed region of Punjab as an independent homeland for the indigenous people of whom Sikhs are the single largest group’. India is irked y the date of referendum,  October 31, as on this date anti-Sikh riots, following Indira Gandhi’s assassination by his body guards, erupted, leaving 3000 to 17000 Sikhs dead.

India fought tooth and nail to forestall the intended referendum. It sent a dossier to the British government blaming Pakistan and Paramjit Singh Pamma, “an ordinary criminal”, for sponsoring the event. The UK rejected the request.

SFJ has promised help and assistance for those seeking visas to come to London to attend the rally. The organisation has booked rooms in a hotel in South all for participants travelling from outside the UK. From Britain’s Green Party, which has a lone MP in Westminster, Caroline Lucas and George Galloway, a former MP and former broadcaster respectively, have registered their support for the rally. Lucas said, `Sikh people have a right to determine for themselves whether they want to establish an independent Punjabi state’.

Why India fears the non-binding referendum?

Indian High Commission has planned a counter demonstration at the same venue few hours before the ‘Referendum 2020’ rally. India is worried that the referendum would open wounds of 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The riots resulted in genocide of thousands of Sikhs. Not only the Congress Party leaders like Sajan Kumar and Jagadish Tytler but also police colluded with the killers. India’s then foreign minister and later prime minister Manmohan Singh said , ‘If then home minister Narisamha Rao had paid to IK Gujarat’s suggestion to call in the army, the 1984 Sikh riots could have been avoided’.(1984 Sikh riots could have been avoided if Narrasimha Rao had listened to IK Gujaral: Manmohan Singh, India Today December 5, 2019).

Desire for autonomy

Guru Gobind Singh asked Sikhs to adopt Khalsa way of life. At the gathering of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Vani – “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh“. He named all his followers with the title Singh, meaning lion. He also founded the principles of Khalsa or the Five ‘K’s, kara, kirpan, kachha, kais, and kanga (a wrist bracelet, underwear, long hair and a comb). The five K’s have spiritual connotation.

Sikhs have a long history of fighting repression. In 1973, Akali Dal put forward the Anandpur Sahib Resolution to demand more autonomy to Punjab. It demanded that power be generally devolved from the Central to state governments. The Congress government considered the resolution a secessionist document and rejected it.

 Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a prominent Sikh leader of Damdami Taksal, then joined the Akali Dal to launch the Dharam Yudh Morcha in 1982 to implement the Anandpur Sahib resolution. Bhindranwale had risen to prominence in the Sikh political circle with his policy of getting the Anandpur Resolution passed. Others demanded an autonomous state in India, based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.

India used iron fist tactics to gag the demand. The high-handed police treated the protesters (Dharam Yudh Morcha) as ordinary criminals. The Sikh youth retaliated by starting an insurgency. By 1983, the situation in Punjab was volatile.

Operation Blue Star

It was launched (1 June) “to remove him and the armed militants from the Golden Temple complex. On 6 June Bhindranwale died in the operation. The operation carried out in the temple caused outrage among the Sikhs and increased the support for Khalistan Movement.

Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi killed

Four months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. Public outcry over Gandhi’s death led to the killings of Sikhs in the ensuing 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Convictions

Very few people were punished. In Delhi, 442 rioters were convicted. Forty-nine were sentenced to the life imprisonment, and another three to more than 10 years’ imprisonment. Six Delhi police officers were sanctioned for negligence during the riots. That month, the Karkardooma district court in Delhi convicted five people – Balwan Khokkar (former councillor), Mahender Yadav (former MLA), Kishan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal – for inciting a mob against Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment. The court acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. But, upom revision, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.  In the first ever case of capital punishment in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case death sentence was awarded to Yashpal Singh convicted for murdering two persons, 24-year-old Hardev Singh and 26-year-old Avtar Singh, in Mahipal Pur area of Delhi on 1 November 1984. Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Pandey pronounced the Judgement on 20 November 34 years after the crime was committed.

Investigations

Ten commissions or committees were formed to investigate the riots. But, most of the accused were acquitted or never formally charged. The commissions or committees include Marwah Commission, Misra Commission, Kapur Mittal Committee, Jain Banerjee Committee, Potti Rosha Committee, Jain Aggarwal Committee, Ahuja Committee, Dhillon Committee,

Narula Committee, and The Nanavati Commission, The most recent, headed by Justice G. T. Nanavati, submitted its 185-page report to Home Minister Shivraj Patil on 9 February 2005; the report was tabled in Parliament on 8 August of that year.

The Marwah Commission was appointed in November 1984. As Marwah was completing his inquiry in mid-1985, he was abruptly directed by the Home Ministry not to proceed further. The Marwah Commission records were appropriated by the government, and most (except for Marwah’s handwritten notes) were later given to the Misra Commission.

The Misra Commission was appointed in May 1985; Justice Rangnath Misra submitted his report in August 1986, and the report was made public in February 1987. In his report, he said that it was not part of his terms of reference to identify any individual and recommended the formation of three committees.

 While the commission noted that there had been “widespread lapses” on the part of the police, it concluded that “the allegations before the commission about the conduct of the police are more of indifference and negligence during the riots than of any wrongful overt act.”

The Kapur Mittal Committee was appointed in February 1987 at the recommendation of the Misra Commission to enquire into the role of the police; the Marwah Commission had almost completed a police inquiry in 1985 when the government asked that committee not to continue. Although the committee recommended the dismissal of 30 of the 72 officers, none have been punished.

The Potti Rosha Committee was appointed in March 1990 by the V. P. Singh government as a successor to the Jain Banerjee Committee. In August 1990, the committee issued recommendations for filing cases based on affidavits submitted by victims of the violence; there was one against Sajjan Kumar.

The Jain Aggarwal Committee was appointed in December 1990 as a successor to the Potti Rosha Committee. The committee recommended the registration of cases against H. K. L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Dharamdas Shastri and Jagdish Tytler.

The Ahuja Committee was the third committee recommended by the Misra Commission to determine the total number of deaths in Delhi. According to the committee, which submitted its report in August 1987, 2,733 Sikhs were killed in the city.

The Dhillon Committee, headed by Gurdial Singh Dhillon, was appointed in 1985 to recommend measures for the rehabilitation of victims. Although the committee recommended ordering the (nationalised) insurance companies to pay the claims, the government did not accept its recommendation and the claims were not paid.

The Narula Committee was appointed in December 1993 by the Madan Lal Khurana-led BJP government in Delhi. One recommendation of the committee was to convince the central government to impose sanctions.

Khurana took up the matter with the central government, which in the middle of 1994, the Central Government decided that the matter did not fall within its purview and sent the case to the lieutenant governor of Delhi. It took two years for the P. V. Narasimha Rao government to decide that it did not fall within its purview.

The Narasimha Rao Government further delayed the case. The committee submitted its report in January 1994, recommending the registration of cases against H. K. L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar. Despite the central-government delay, the CBI filed the charge sheet in December 1994.

The Nanavati Commission was established in 2000 after some dissatisfaction was expressed with previous reports. The commission reported that recorded accounts from victims and witnesses “indicate that local Congress leaders and workers had either incited or helped the mobs in attacking the Sikhs”. Its report also found evidence against Jagdish Tytler “to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organising attacks on Sikhs”.It also recommended that Sajjan Kumar’s involvement in the rioting required a closer look. The commission’s report also cleared Rajiv Gandhi and other high ranking Congress (I) party members of any involvement in organising riots against Sikhs.

Role of Jagdish Tytler

In March 2009, the CBI cleared Tytler amidst protests from Sikhs and the opposition parties.

Concluding remark

At present the Sikhs are distraught by farmers’ prolonged protest and pettifoggery among political leaders. Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’ rivals remind  him that Pakistani journalist Aroosa Alam, his sweetheart, is a Pakistani agent. Still, the referendum may gain momentum in future.

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South Asia

Did India invade Kashmir?

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Friday prayers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. © John Isaac

Pakistan has decided to observe 27th October as Black Day. This was the day when, according to India’s version, it invaded the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State.  India says that Pakistan had earlier entered a lashkar (irregular forces) into Kashmir on 22nd October. But, it is eerie that India never approached the International Court of Justice, as pointed out by Josef Korbel  (the author of the Danger in Kashmir), or the  United Nations (under Chapter VII of the UN Charter) to get Pakistan declared an aggressor. It approached the UN under Chapter VI of the UN charter (mediation). India’s invasion of Kashmir is based on myths .

Myths

India claims that ‘Maharaja Hari Singh signed the treaty of accession with the Indian Dominion on October 26, 1947’. As such, India was justified in marching invading Srinagar. . As for the ‘accession instrument’ argument, curious readers may refer to Alastair Lamb’s ‘Incomplete Partition, Kashmir – A disputed legacy 1846-1990’, and ‘Birth of a Tragedy’.

On the question of who the ‘aggressor’ was, the factual position is that India marched its troops into Kashmir without Maharajah’s permission – a blatant act of aggression (Alastair Lamb, ‘Incomplete Partition , Chapter VI: The Accession Crisis. Lamb concludes: ‘According to Wolpert, VP Menon returned to Delhi from Srinagar on the morning of October 26 with no signed Instrument of Accession. Only after the Indian troops had started landing at Srinagar airfield on the morning of October 27 did VP Menon and MC Mahajan set out from Delhi from Jammu. The Instrument of Accession, according to Wolpert, was only signed by Maharaja Sir Hari Singh [if signed at all] after Indian troops had assumed control of the Jammu and Kashmir State’s summer capital, Srinagar.

Lamb regards the so-called Instrument of Accession, ‘signed’ by the maharajah of Kashmir on October 26, 1947, as fraudulent. He argues that the maharajah was travelling by road to Jammu (a distance of over 350 km). How could he sign the instrument while being on the run for the safety of his life? There is no evidence of any contact between him and the Indian emissaries on October 26, 1947. Lamb points out Indian troops had already arrived at and secured Srinagar airfield during the middle of October 1947. On October 26, 1947, a further airlift of thousands of Indian troops to Kashmir took place.

The UN outlawed the ‘accession’; the accession resolution, passed by the occupied Kashmir’s ‘constituent assembly’ is void. Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions, Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951, and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957, to forestall the ‘foreseeable accession’. It is eerie to note that the ‘Instrument of Accession’ is not registered with the United Nations. India took the Kashmir issue to the UN in 1948 under article 35 of Chapter VI which outlines the means for a peaceful settlement of disputes on Jammu and Kashmir State, not under Chapter VII dubbing Pakistan as ‘aggressor’. India knew at heart that she herself was an aggressor.

In his books, based on Nehru’s declassified papers, speeches and correspondence, Avtar Singh Bhasin debunked Nehru’s perfidious failure to hold a plebiscite. In Chapter 5 titled Kashmir, India’s Constitution and Nehru’s Vacillation (pages 51-64) of his book India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odd he makes a startling revelation. Nehru discarded Maharajah’s and Kashmir assembly’s ‘accession’; in a letter dated October 31, 1947, addressed to the disputed state’s prime minister, he shrugged off ‘accession’. He said in the letter, ‘after consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations’ auspices’ (p. 28 ibid..). He reiterated in New Delhi on November 3, 1951, that ‘we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’(SWJ: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228). Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked if the proposed the constituent assembly of Kashmir ‘decides in favourof acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?’ he reiterated, ‘We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question, and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimately flow from the Security Council proceedings’. He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi on November 3, 1951. He said ‘we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council or the United Nations’. Bhasin points out, ‘at a press conference on July 24, 1952, when asked what the necessity of plebiscite was now that he had got [accession by] the Constituent Assembly, he replied “Maybe theoretically you may be right. But we have given them assurance and we stand by it. Bhasin points out Nehru made a ‘tactical error’, one ‘of committing himself to the UN’.Accession documents are un-registered with the UN.

Concluding remarks

India’s prime minister Modi cartographically annexed the disputed state, spurning the UN resolutions and the Simla Accord. Let India know that a state that flouts international treaties is a rogue state: pacta sunt servanda, treaties are to be observed and are binding on parties. Mushtaqur Rehman elaborated why Kashmir is the most dangerous place in the world (Divided Kashmir: Old Problems, New Opportunities for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri People, 1996, pp. 162-163).No talks, no mediation. That is an open invitation to war, perhaps a nuclear Armageddon.

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