Monthly Archives: July 2010

India Shuffle: Jihad Council, Kashmir Killings, Kerala Terror

JIHAD COUNCIL – There’s been another get-together of jihadist militants in Pakistan, where a bunch of people who are (definitely not) protected by the state meet up to see who can froth with rage the most about India. The United Jihad Council is comprised of 12 banned groups, including Lashkar-e=Taiba, who despite their status find it easy to hold a big rally with lots of press and politicians in attendance.

There was one of these back in February, notably attended by former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Hamid Gul. That came a few days before the attack on the German Bakery in Pune that killed. This week’s bash comes as the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan prepare to achieve nothing in the latest round of high-level talks. For a start, the Indian government keeps pulling up more involvement of Pakistani state involvement in the Mumbai attacks (today, there were direct accusations of the ISI “literally controlling it from the beginning till the end.”)

MAJOR KILLED IN KASHMIR – A senior army officer has been killed in fighting across the Line of Control, apparently by members of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

KERALA TERROR FUNDS – Six of the 14 cases currently being investigated by the National Investigation Agency are apparently focused on the southern state of Kerala. Known as the calmest and most pleasant of India’s states, it has apparently become a hub for terrorist financing.

UH OH – This won’t go down well at all. Around 60 people have already been hospitalised in Mumbai after a chlorine gas leak from an industrial park. With the Bhopal case still rumbling on, this is awkward.

DUPED BURMESE REBELS – A group of insurgents from the Karen National Union and National Unity Party of Arakan in Myanmar have finally been sentenced after 13 years in jail. The 32 men were apparently duped by Indian officials into visiting the Andaman Islands where six were shot and the rest taken to jail in Calcutta. They will now spend 3 ½ more years in jail for immigration offences.

KASHMIR DEFORESTATION – Jason Burke reports on the illegal timber trade that is leaving the mountains of Kashmir bare.

MICROFINANCE LISTING – SKS Microfinance is due to make an initial public offering at the end of the month, expected to raise $280 million. It’s the first IPO by a microfinance company in India.

India Shuffle: Poverty, Cremation, Mutiny & Deregulation


From today, I’m moving the blog on to Current Intelligence and the name is changing to Subcontinental. You can find it here…

RSS feeds and so forth to follow soon. For the next few days, I’ll keep posting here as well, but I hope you’ll migrate with me.


MAOIST OR KIDNAP VICTIM? – Looks like the story of a media studies Maoist is as unsubstantiated as it sounded yesterday. Chhattisgarh police had accused Lingaram Kodopi of being the mastermind of the attack on a state politician earlier this month. In a tearful press conference at a Delhi University, he described being kidnapped by police last year and held for 40 days without charge as they tried to force him  to become a Special Police Officer (SPO) and fight the Maoists. When he finally got out, he escaped to Delhi. Chhattisgarh is famous for arming a people’s militia, called the Salwa Judum, to fight the Maoists. It has generally been seen as the least effective and most brutal tactic yet adopted in Indian counterinsurgency, encouraging a mounting cycle of violence in which villagers are turned on their neighbours, often against their will. Despite repeated rulings by the Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission, and promises from the state government, little decisive action has been taken to reverse this policy.

INDIA POORER THAN AFRICA – A new measure of poverty, the Multidimensional Poverty Index, which is being adopted by the UN Development Programme, has found that india’s eight poorest states contain 421 million poor people, more than the total for the 26 poorest African nations.

GREEN CREMATION – India uses 50 million trees a year for funeral pyres, emitting 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. It’s also a very expensive business for families. Are new eco-friendly crematoriums that use less wood the answer? [IPS]

BANGLADESH MASS MUTINY CHARGES – An astonishing 824 people, most of them members of the paramilitary forces, have been charged en masse for their role in the brutal mutiny of the Bangladesh Rifles in February 2009. There are already 3,500 soldiers facing separate prosecutions in military courts for joining the mutiny, which led to the death of 74 people, mostly officers, in a row over pay and conditions. There have also been rumblings that the mutiny was encouraged by anti-government forces, unnerved by the accession of the secular AL government the month before.over pay and conditions. There have also been rumblings that the mutiny was encouraged by anti-government forces, unnerved by the accession of the secular AL government the month before.

MAOISTS ATTACK MINING CO. – The Maoists have apparently attacked a complex run by the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) in the Bacheli region of Chhattisgarh with around 50 men, leading to a battle with Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) troops. This is not the first time there’s been an attack like this – an NMDC bauxite mine in Orissa was attacked in April 2009 and Hindalco’s bauxite mine was attacked in May 2005. This has nothing to do with the fact they are mining in tribal areas, and more to do with wanting all the dynamite they keep there.

FUEL DEREGULATION IS A SCAM – Here’s a proper, hardcore critique of India’s decision to deregulate fuel prices from left-wing journal, Radical Notes. I wish I was enough of an economist to discuss it, but I’m not. Nonetheless, it seems to raise some excellent points, particularly: The government’s main argument is that under-recoveries in state-owned oil companies is bad for fiscal stability and pushes up inflation, but has this point really been proven? Under-recoveries have been effectively absorbed in the past. So is deregulation just about the private sector looking for windfall profits and won’t that have its own inflationary impact, this time more specifically targeted against the poor?

PRODUCTION DOWN – Industrial production grew by 11.5% year-on-year in May, down from 16.5% in April. Is another slowdown on the way? [FT]

IRON ORE BAN – India is considering a complete ban on iron ore exports to help it meet its domestic demand (and to stick two fingers up to China). [FT]

India Shuffle: Hindu Terror, Gujarat Corruption, Kashmir Death-Throes…

HINDU TERRORISM, NOT ISLAMIST – The government has been reluctant to accept that some of the high-profile terrorist attacks of recent years are not the work of Pakistan-based Islamist extremists, but actually Hindu nationalists with direct links to the RSS. Outlook says there is evidence of political pressure on the police to go slow on investigations (the RSS has deep political links, particularly to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party), including the Ajmer shrine bombing, the Hyderabad mosque bombing and attacks on a Muslim mosque in Melagaon, Maharashtra, between 2006 and 2008. In all these cases, suspicion has initially fallen on Islamist groups only for evidence to later emerge of Hindu groups being involved. It even emerged last week that a prime suspect in the Melagaon bombings was able to vote under his real name in the 2009 general elections in Madhya Pradesh, despite being a fugitive.

DEEP CORRUPTION IN GUJARAT – A man was killed in November 2005 by police, allegedly on his way to kill chief minister Narenda Modi. In December 2006, an alleged witness to the killing was also murdered by police. Now, it has emerged that the state’s Home Minister Amit Shah made something like 400 phone calls to the officers suspected of carrying out the killings. The alleged motive? These people had some serious dirt on Modi and his gang of thugs. It’s all very murky. One Criminal Investigation Directorate chief who tried to file a corruption case against Shah in 2005 was transferred to the Goat and Sheep Department.

INDIA BIGGEST COUNTRY BY 2026 – according to a new study by the National Population Stabilisation Fund, which estimates the current 1.1 billion-strong population will add an extra 371 million people over the next 16 years and overtake China, thanks largely to the uncontrolled number of teenage pregnancies.

SCHOOLS DEMOLISHED FOR GAMES – A school in a Delhi slum is one of the many “eyesores” demolished to make way for the Commonwealth Games in October. In The Guardian.

MAOISTS IN GUJARAT?Tehelka rages against the arrest of 13 civil rights workers in Gujarat, which the police say are covert Maoists, running training camps and other nefarious activities in a state that has so far seen no Maoist violence. Regardless of their innocence, there are certainly some anomalies in the procedures of the arrest and detention.

PRAVEEN ON KASHMIR – Praveen Swami argues that the rioting in Kashmir since 2006 marks “the death-throes of an old political order” and that the current stone-throwing violence is “driven by despair, not coherent political design.” The Hurriyat Conference, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani “simply doesn’t have the political networks needed to sustain a large-scale, coordinated movement. Instead, young Islamists appear to have acted locally in response to its calls, using everything from mosque public address systems to mobile phone text messaging to prepare for marches through their neighbourhoods.”

MEDIA STUDIES MAOIST – The Chhattisgarh police reckon the mastermind of the attack on a Congress politician on 6 July is doing media studies in Delhi. Do people still do media studies? That’s so 1990s. They also claim he’s in touch with famous civil rights workers including Arundhati Roy. Chhattisgarh’s government had tried to have Roy arrested earlier this year for supporting the Maoists, but the local police were having none of it.

The Drones Are Coming

It was always going to happen. India has announced it is searching for vendors to sell it unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) equipped with precision weapons and satellite data links, according to Jane’s. The Indian Air Force is also going to induct 10 IAI/Malat Harop UAVs, worth about $100 million, in 2011. Harops are basically kamikaze drones, launched from ground or air, capable of loitering and then crashing into their target before blowing up. India already has 30 combat drones, but to my knowledge uses drones primarily for surveillance and targeting. Some of its 70 Searcher drones are now due to be upgraded to combat models.

This suggests combat drones are to play an increasingly role in killing Maoist insurgents, and that assassination is being embraced as a primary tactic. This may be objectionable on moral and legal grounds, but it is hardly new to Indian counterinsurgency – it seems likely that Maoist number three Azad was assassinated just last week. At least that was done at close range. The danger of shifting to the use of drones is the increased chance of collateral damage. The Maoists do not react well to assassinations, as we have seen with the retaliations of the past few days, and if security forces start blowing up weddings a la Afghanistan, then the rage at the heart of this struggle will only deepen.

At the same time, however, the Maoists are losing key figures at a precipitous rate (see this list). Unlike, for example, the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, the removal of top figures is likely to have a powerful impact on the Maoist movement, which relies on highly educated ideologues to articulate a relatively complex worldview and administrate a precarious and comprehensive shadow government. The fight in India is not just about attacking heretics and the state, but also implementing a thorough reorganisation of economic and social conditions, justified through a detailed reading of Marx, Lenin and Mao – not exactly a role that any old chancer can fulfil.

Assassination may effectively curtail violence and anti-state activity. But given the momentum of left-wing protest and violence in India in the past few years, the danger is that it may lead to a stupider, less organised movement. The threat of a decentralised insurgency was evident in the derailment of the Gyaneshwari Express in May that killed 148 civilians and seems likely to have been carried out by a group disconnected from the CPI-Maoist hierarchy.

Subversion In Kashmir

The last few weeks have seen a steady deterioration of stability in Jammu and Kashmir, with at least 14 protesters dead from police actions, huge marches in the streets and failed attempts by the state government to maintain order, prompting the central government to send in the army (the first deployment in Srinigar for 20 years).

Today, a member of the Hurriyat Conference, the multi-party grouping that wants self-determination for Kashmir, has been arrested after a conversation was intercepted in which he called for at least 10 to 15 more protesters to be martyred as a way of fomenting further unrest in the troubled valley. This fits neatly with the discussion of subversion as a primary tactic of insurgencies which I’ve been reading in David Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla:

Subversive groups often seek deliberately to provoke a government overreaction that alienates the population, increases support for their agendas, and creates opportunities for expanded subversive activity.

This has clear precedents in the urban subversion campaigns of the IRA in the 1980s, Che Guevara, Carlos Marighella and the Red Army Faction, among others. The lesson from these campaigns, argues Kilcullen, is that countersubversion campaigns must “focus primarily on strengthening, protecting and building networks of trust with at-risk communities … and should only apply active law enforcement measures to neutralize subversive actors as a secondary task.” By contrast, the Indian approach has been almost entirely force-led, with another 60 protesters arrested for trying to go to the mosque today.

The other point to make is that the government needs to present the current violence as instigated by a sinister cabal of insurgents, rather than a spontaneous expression of public anger, and today’s revelations of subversive engineering fit that need a little too neatly. Violence in Kashmir has fallen dramatically in recent years, from 1,116 fatalities in 2006 to 375 in 2009 according to the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, and tourism figures to the end of May were the highest in two decades. But the primary threat in Kashmir today is popular discontent at the lack of progress on political reform, and this is manifesting itself less in militant attacks and more in amateur stone-throwing, as John Elliott argues here. The reason for the recent disintegration has been the heavy-handed response of a poorly trained police, with every new death prolonging and deepening the crisis. This is not to say that a sinister cabal of militants is not interested in adding to the subversion, but given the current climate, the lack of political will for a comprehensive solution to the underlying problems, and the mounting civilian casualties, that cabal does not have to do much but sit back and watch.

India Shuffle: Maoist Report Censored, Al Qaeda vs LeT, Strikes Turn Violent

GOVERNMENT CENSORS MAOIST REPORT – Tehelka have managed to get hold of a crucial section from a report that the government didn’t want released. It’s from a report about the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, a piece of legislation which is supposed to give tribes more power to govern themselves and control their land. The chapter in question (which you can read here) shows how the abject failure to properly implement this Act has fuelled left-wing extremism. Typically, no one is accepting the blame. It’s all stupidly pointless – the government has released official reports before detailing their abject failings and how it contributes to the insurgency, although I suppose that was before their military strategy was also found to be a shambles. I’ll write about the missing chapter tomorrow.

AL QAEDA VS LeT IN INDIA – Praveen Swami discusses the announcement that Al Qaeda have turned their attention to India, which I mentioned the other day. He makes the interesting argument that this is a direct threat to Lashkar-e-Taiba – an attempt to muscle in on their territory at a time when they are being criticised for sitting on their laurels. He has these quotes from the Al Qaeda recording, which indicate that AQ feels the need to justify its entry into India along anti-Semitic lines:

“I bring you the good tidings,” he said, “that last February’s India operation was against a Jewish locale in the west of the Indian capital [sic., throughout], in the area of the German bakeries — a fact that the enemy tried to hide — and close to 20 Jews were killed in the operation, a majority of them from their so-called statelet, Israel. The person who carried out this operation was a heroic soldier from the ‘Soldiers of the Sacrifice Brigade,’ which is one of the brigades of Qaedat al-Jihad [the al-Qaeda’s formal name] in Kashmir, under the command of Commander Illyas Kashmiri, may Allah preserve him.”

MAOIST STRIKE TURNS VIOLENT – Around 13 are dead as the Maoists enforce their bandh across six states in response to the killing of senior leader Azad last week. They attacked the home of a Chhattisgarh Congress legislator, killing a relative and employee. Meanwhile, a mediator between the government and Maoists says Azad was in the middle of negotiations with Home Minister P Chidambaram when he died.

AUSTERE POLITICIANS – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receives the lowest pay of any leader in the world, when measured against the country’s GDP per person, according to a table in The Economist. Of course, part of the problem in India is that politicians need to supplement their meagre income with a few things on the side, which is why the recent controversial bill to increase their pay should be passed.

VIOLENCE IN ASSAM – The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) are accused of blowing up a train in Assam, where they are fighting for a separate state for the Bodo people, killing at least one.

THE BRITISH ARE COMING – The new Tory government has made India its top foreign policy priority, figuring that all those happy years together must surely mean they can go grovelling back for some money now its economy is in tatters. This has barely registered in India, although new PM David Cameron will try to remind them during a visit later this month. A lot depends on whether India allows foreign investment into the retail sector, which it is currently debating, but which it has shied away from repeatedly in the past.

India Shuffle: Maoist Bandh, Kashmir Violence, Sino-Pak Ties, Punjab Militancy

MAOIST BANDH – The Maoists have started their two-day ‘bandh’ (focused on shutting down rail and bus links, particularly to mining projects) across six states in protest against last week’s killing of senior Maoist leader Azad, followed by five days of protest.

KASHMIR UNREST – The past two weeks have seen 15 people killed by police as protests, strikes and business shut-downs worsen in the valley. Now the army has been called in to Srinigar for the 1st time in 20 years as a “deterrent” with all the ominous implications that involves. Two border officers have also been killed in firing across the Pakistan border. As John Elliott argues, the Indians have failed to realise this is no longer primarily a problem of Pakistan-trained armed militants, but of stone-throwing youths, and yet the official response is still heavy-handed and rifle-first. This IDSA piece tries to argue in favour of keeping the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which has been widely criticised for encouraging human rights violations in Kashmir and elsewhere. There are some interesting details in there, but ultimately the AFSPA is a major contributor to the culture of impunity within the army that fuels all this amateur disaffection.

3.3 MILLION NGOs – That’s right, there is one non-governmental organisation for every 400 Indians, and that’s only the properly registered ones in 2008. In reality, every single person has his own NGO (probably).

PAKISTAN-CHINA TIES – CFR has an excellent overview on China’s interests in Pakistan (Zardari’s currently visiting Beijing), which are based on keeping India on its toes and making sure the Pakistanis help control the Uighur militants. This takes the form of military and financial support, and apparently includes a willingness to strike deals with militants that might threaten Chinese workers and interests (classic Chinese realpolitik). Jane’s is reporting that they’ve formed a Joint Investment Company, formalising their expanding trade links, which include the modernisation of the Karachi Shipyard to help build a Chinese-designed frigate, and the Pakistan Aeronautical Company where the Chinese JF-17 combat aircraft is being built. None of this will make India happy, especially in light of China’s planned sale of nuclear reactors to Pakistan, which it turns out was signed last year, despite the Chinese only informing the Nuclear Suppliers Group a month ago.

MAOIST LEADER TALKS FROM PRISON – Soutik Biswas interviews Venkateswar Reddy, aka Telugu Dipak, a Maoist ideologue believed to be behind some major Maoist operations in West Bengal. He was arrested in March. Doesn’t get a huge amount of information out of him, though interesting to hear him worry at the end that violence is getting out of hand, and that negotiations have to be considered. Is this pressure from police custody? The effect of a rehabilitation programme? Or genuine worry about the spiralling momentum of violence?

PAKISTAN MILITANTS BANNED – Pakistan’s Punjab state government has finally accepted there might be a bit of a problem with militants in its midst and banned 23 different organisations. The state government of Shahbaz Sharif has been accused of courting militants in the past, with law minister Rana Sanaullah campaigning alongside the extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan earlier this year. However, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely seen as a front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has only had its finances frozen and some restrictions placed on the movements of controversial leader (and suspected mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks) Hafiz Saeed.