Deadliest Maoist Raid Highlights Mittal, Posco India Challenge

Madelene Pearson and Abhishek Shanker, Bloomberg via Business Week
The deadliest attack on Indian security forces in four decades of left-wing conflict underscores the challenge companies including ArcelorMittal, Posco and NMDC Ltd. face in investing in mineral-rich states.

Maoist rebels killed 76 officers in an ambush yesterday in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, where NMDC operates its biggest iron-ore mine. In neighboring states, ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, and South Korea’s Posco have yet to start their $32 billion projects because of protests over land.

… Yesterday’s attacks are a setback to India’s efforts to rid the eastern states of left-wing guerillas and open up regions rich in iron ore, coal, bauxite and manganese to investment.

“If the global players had got a footprint in India they could have really made a good return on their investment,” said Abhisar Jain, metals and mining analyst with ICICI Securities Ltd. in Mumbai. “India as a whole will stand to lose if no global player is able to put up its plant here.”
(7 April 2010)
Related from WSJ: Violence in India Not to Deter Investors .

Maoists represent a greater threat to India than the Islamist militants

Jeremy Page, UK Times
… India’s boom has enriched a consumer class of 50-100 million people but largely failed to improve living standards for more than 800 million people living on less than $2 a day.

The latter are the Maoists’ primary recruits – poor farmers landless labourers, untouchables and tribal minorities in remote areas – although they also have long-standingenjoy support within India’s urban intellectual elite.

Experts have advised the Government to address the root causes of the problem — poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and the caste system — and to boost investment in local policing — but it appears determined to seek a military solution to the problem, throwing thousands of poorly trained paramilitary forces into unfamiliar territory to hunt down the rebels.
(7 April 2010)
Related: India minister Chidambaram reviews Maoist rebel attacks (BBC)

Maoists threaten Gandhi’s legacy

Eric Randolph, Guardian
Peaceful resistance in India has fallen by the wayside as Naxalite rebels believe their violence will be justified

… Let’s not be naive about this, people get killed in wars. The adivasis (a collective term for tribal and lower castes) who form the core Maoist constituency face insane levels of police repression – murders, dispossession, rapes. Maybe I would be killing people, too, if I hadn’t grown up in a comfortable corner of Dorset where the worst form of state repression I faced was the introduction of speed cameras.

But repression does not automatically mean the Maoist insurgency has the answers to India’s problems. They have yet to articulate a realistic alternative system of government for an urbanising 21st-century India. For all their talk of overthrowing the state, the Naxalites are only really as strong as the government is weak. Their followers are drawn to them for defence – from police harassment, from government corruption and from a model of development that has displaced an estimated 26 million people in the past 40 years while compensating only 1 million.
(5 April 2010)

Gandhi, but with guns

Arundhati Roy, Guardian
The Booker prize-winning author and activist gains rare access to the tribal people and Maoist guerrillas who – from their camps deep in the Dandakaranya forest – have taken up arms against the Indian state

… The antagonists in the forest are disparate and unequal in almost every way. On one side is a massive paramilitary force armed with the money, the firepower, the media, and the hubris of an emerging superpower. On the other, ordinary villagers armed with traditional weapons, backed by a superbly organised, hugely motivated Maoist guerilla fighting force with an extraordinary and violent history of armed rebellion. The Maoists and the paramilitary are old adversaries and have fought older avatars of each other several times before: Telengana in the 1950s, West Bengal, Bihar, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh in the late 60s and 70s, and then again in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra from the 80s all the way through to the present. They are familiar with each other’s tactics, and have studied each other’s combat manuals closely. Each time, it seemed as though the Maoists (or their previous avatars) had been not just defeated, but literally, physically exterminated. Each time, they have re-emerged, more organised, more determined and more influential than ever. Today once again the insurrection has spread through the mineral-rich forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal— homeland to millions of India’s tribal people, dreamland to the corporate world.

It’s easier on the liberal conscience to believe that the war in the forests is a war between the government of India and the Maoists, who call elections a sham, parliament a pigsty and who have openly declared their intention to overthrow the Indian state. It’s convenient to forget that tribal people in Central India have a history of resistance that pre-dates Mao by centuries. (That’s a truism of course. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t exist.)
(27 March 2010)