Maoistes sans frontières

Wednesday, 15. April 2009     0 comment(s)
Kristian Kurki
Research Assistant

Some may remember that 2008 saw the rather surprising inauguration of the Maoist Prachanda as prime minister of Nepal. The country’s Maoist insurgence was largely treated as an isolated case, yet it should be heeded as a forewarning – fertile grounds for similar uprisings abound in Nepal’s neighbour of much greater scope: India.

In fact, India, the world’s most populated democracy, is already rife with Maoist activity. India’s Maoist rebels, referred to as the Naxalites, are a splinter faction of the Communist Party of India that went its own way in 1967, denouncing the Communist Party’s participation in India’s electoral process. They are active in almost half of India’s 25 states, exerting real influence in many parts of them. While the number of cadres in their ranks is fairly low at 10,000 in a country of a billion, they possess an increasingly formidable arsenal and, crucially, their supporters are reportedly numerous. Naxalite operations are reminiscent of those of the Nepalese rebels: they ambush police forces and plunder weapons depots to bolster their firepower, while also targeting other arms of the Indian government in a more sporadic manner. In July 2008, at least 21 police commandos were killed after hitting a landmine in a district largely under Maoist control in Orissa Province. A Maoist attack in February had already claimed some 13 lives, another one in June left 35 dead.

Where there’s poverty and discontented people, there’s usually compromised faith in the legitimacy of the government. This spells breeding ground for popular support for movements that vow to challenge the presiding authorities in the name of the disadvantaged labourer, farmer or panhandler. Indeed, this is what the Naxalites do, even though their commitment to best practices of governing is more or less non-existent.

Nevertheless the presence of Maoists in India, a country often hailed as an accolade of democracy in the developing world, demonstrates once more that democratic values are not a priority issue for the starving. People need to be fed and educated before they can afford to appreciate the luxury of managing their lives through civil liberties. As long as poverty remains unaddressed, nothing should be taken for granted.

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