When Islamists attacked Mumbai, India's New York, many people called it that country's 9/11. Although it certainly was the most high profile attack, it was far from the first in this country of over a billion people. India faces terrorist attacks of one sort or another multiple times each week. The South Asia Terrorism Portal collects figures on terrorism here and calculated that 47,371 Indians have died in terrorist attacks since 1994. Since 2006, about two-thirds of the fatalities occurred as a result of Islamist attacks; the rest came at the hands of radical communists.
Earlier this week, Indian officials said that the greatest threat to the nation's security was the Maoist insurgency. The Naxalite movement started in 1967, but only became a real insurgency during the past decade and a half. The name comes from the village where the movement started, Naxalbari in West Bengal. I slipped into Naxalbari last year to find, ironically enough, that the communist movement no longer exists there. Different Indian governments have tried various methods to fight or appease the Naxalites, but nothing dulled the terrorist threat-- until now.
As reported in The Times of India earlier this week, the Naxalites have for the first time cried "Uncle." Speaking through the banned Communist Party of India/Maoist (as distinguished from the non-insurgent Communist Party of India/Marxist, which still holds of power in three Indian states), the Naxalites said they were ready for peace talks with the government. They ask only that the government release several of their leaders that it has captured in the recent and ferocious counterattack on Maoists throughout India. As Mohua Chatterjee noted in the Times, "Though the ‘offer' can be read as a bid to earn some respite from the ongoing crackdown, the bid for talks also marks a climbdown of sorts [for the communists]" Previously, the Naxalites have scoffed at the very notion of talks with the government and consistently vowed to press "the revolution."
The Indian government, however, recently ended its traditional policies of tough talk with little commensurate action, and has engaged in a massive offensive against Naxalite leaders and forces. On the day of the Naxalites' retreat, the government captured eight more of their leaders in the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh. One of them earned a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, long known as a hotbed of communism, where I recently became one of the first openly anti-Communist and anti-Islamist speakers. Significant student movements indicate that there is a growing current among the student body decidedly to the Right.
The Maoists' General Secretary admitted that the radical movement may be losing intellectual support it once enjoyed, because of "the enemy's onslaught."
"This (anti-Maoist operation) is a brutal campaign of repression aimed at the suppression of the political movement of people." The communist leader, neglected to mention that this ‘brutal campaign' was undertaken only after years of appeasement and the resulting death of 3120 Indian citizens in the last five years alone.
For its part, the government seems to have recognized that and has said that it will entertain talks only if the Maoists lay down their weapons and stop "all violent actions." Assuming that this will not happen, sources told The Times of India that the government's battle plan is "nothing short of a blitzkrieg."