Posts Tagged ‘Naxalites’

Let’s move on, Mr Singh

September 14, 2010

The mood in India after the Mumbai attacks was ugly. All India had to offer was revenge. One recalls being confused that official India, not the Indian herd, was acting in the manner that it was. Its stance was so naïve, so self-defeating, so Americanesque that one actually began to fret, much as one does here at the utterances of our leaders.

Why was Manmohan Singh acting so? Did he not understand that Mumbai was a terrorist ploy to keep India and Pakistan at daggers drawn and wreck years of painstakingly constructed agreements emerging from the Composite Dialogue. Or was he, like his best friend Bush, also someone who speaks a moment or so before he thinks? And was he so weak, so much a populist, so given to bending with the wind, that he would rather wager war than risk unpopularity for the sake of preserving peace? We have the answer to that question from Mr Manmohan Singh himself.

After Mumbai Indian public opinion demanded that Pakistan be held to account. India had hoped that this would give it leverage to coerce Pakistan into paying greater attention to India’s concerns, but unfortunately that had not happened; the results were not as expected. That is why, at Thiumphu, his effort was to find ways and means of getting the two countries once again back on the path of a dialogue: “If we don’t want to go to war, then engagement and dialogue are the only way forward,” as he told Indian newspaper editors on Sept 7. Welcome aboard, Mr Singh; you have got it right, finally.

If Mr Singh cares to recall, this is what some of us had said would occur. As for the Indian herd, namely the public and their opinion, Disraeli said there is no such thing as “public opinion,” there is only “public sentiment.” Besides, one knows how this sentiment is formed. It is a brew of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy, sound bites, headlines and newspaper paragraphs. As a politician Mr Singh must no doubt bear public opinion in mind for the next election, but as a statesman he must think of the next generation. Hence, he should not let truth go a-begging. He should tell his compatriots that nations do not make peace with friends but rather with unsavoury enemies, like Pakistan, and persuade them to let him work at it. It appears that he may be getting around to doing so. He therefore deserves support.

In case Mr Singh fears for the future, so do we; because the closer India and Pakistan get to cobbling peace the greater the prospect-nay, certainty-of another terrorist attack on India emanating possibly from Pakistan soil or with Pakistani connections. Hence, when that happens, despite all our precautions, Mr Singh should not go tub-thumping and making menacing gestures, and accuse Pakistan of promoting it; or queer the pitch for negotiations once again. We need to get a grip on the terrorist monster more than India does. By helping Pakistan Mr Singh will be helping India. Threaten Pakistan, and Osama bin Laden, if dead, will be smiling in his grave; attack Pakistan and bin Laden, if alive, will be doing a jig around his dialysis machine.

Mr Singh should now proceed with alacrity because he has wasted enough time to:

Announce that India is now ready to resume the Composite Dialogue where it was broken off; offer to conclude the agreement on Sir Creek that has been finalised, and remove the persisting small difference on Siachin.

Announce, further, that he will be sending/allowing Indian officials to testify against those arrested and now on trial in Pakistan for complicity in the Mumbai attacks in the hope of securing their conviction and not to let the guilty off merely on account of non-fulfilment of procedural requirements.

Understand that while he can deal with the Naxalites as he wishes, when it comes to Kashmir he cannot, at least not without enraging us across the Line of Control. Mr Singh should deal with the Kashmiri leadership; and to understand how they define Azadi and to see if there can be a meeting of minds. It is true Pakistan cannot wrest Kashmir by force from India. But is it not equally true that India cannot retain Kashmir by force and expect that India’s image and peace of mind will not suffer the consequences, to say nothing of its security?

Be prepared to address Pakistan’s reasonable military concerns, and specifically what meaningful measures could be taken that would lessen the threat of an armed Indian incursion into Pakistan. India will not need to disarm to appear accommodating because there are many ways of skinning this cat. And, of course, to abandon Cold Start, a pernicious doctrine that has triggered endless preparations for a hot response.

Finally, offer to revisit the Indus Waters Treaty to take into account Pakistan’s concerns. Eventually this treaty will have to be revised. Climate change, rather than any other factor, has made this obvious.

Such steps and/or others similar in nature would have a huge impact on the atmospherics. They will lend efforts for peace considerable momentum. They would also put Pakistan under considerable pressure to respond. They would strengthen the hands of those here who believe that an equable relationship with India is not only possible but essential. If then Mr Singh truly desires peace, as many feel that he does, he should not follow a path that makes it impossible.

Needless to say hurdles will arise and on occasions despair may result. That is in the very nature of India-Pakistan negotiations. Often we are our own worst enemies. However, that is not reason enough to give up. Moreover, his having been instrumental in righting India’s economic policies, what would be a more fitting legacy for Mr Singh than to complete a distinguished period in public life by aligning India’s relations with Pakistan in a manner that the single-biggest threat to India’s security and steady economic growth is diminished, if not entirely removed.

Go for it, Mr Singh; you have cogitated long enough. The globe-trotting Shah Mehmood Qureshi would be in Delhi in a jiffy at the first signs of a change of heart on your part. Let’s not live as if we are going to live forever.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:

Imploding Bharat: Exploding India

September 8, 2010

Rupee News

The Danger by Bharat Verma

Insurrection India: India cracks map of insurgency: Naxalites, Maoists, Seven Sisters, Kashmir, Punkjab, Tamil

Very few policy makers in India dare to acknowledge the danger to the nation’s territorial integrity. The security and integrity of the nation has become hostage to vote-bank politics. Democracy and more than eight per cent economic growth will be of no avail if the country as such withers away. India is not only being frayed at its borders by insurgencies, but its very writ in the heartland is becoming increasingly questionable. The rise of a nation is predicated upon unity, peace and stability, which are essentially determined by good governance. The prevailing security scenario poses the serious question: Is India’s development and economic growth becoming unsustainable due to poor handling of the security? There are three dangers to the territorial integrity that bedevil the nation.

India danger list-1-2-3 map: The India government has identified three major areas that are a threat to the national integrity of the country

The security forces, primarily the Indian Army, have held the state of Jammu & Kashmir physically since Independence. The politicians and the bureaucrats have contributed nothing to resolve the situation. The danger has since magnified. After all the wars, export of terrorism, inconsistent and weak policies by New Delhi, Islamabad could not win Kashmir only because the Indian Army held its ground. If the ghost force succeeds in making locals (Kashmiris) rise against the Army, it will be an unprecedented achievement for Islamabad. It is a matter of grave concern that New Delhi is so prone to issue statements without thinking it through, as long as it appeases the adversary even temporarily. With China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh becoming more strident, as evidenced by its recent stance on Tawang, the danger to the Siliguri Corridor stands enhanced. This corridor has been facing internal turmoil for many years.

Kashmir map: Kashmir is part of Pakistan. The green area is the Pakistan province of “Gilgit Baltistan” (formerly known as Norhtern Areas)

Danger-1: New Delhi and the state capitals have almost ceded the governmental control over 40 % of the Union’s territory to the Naxalites. The Naxal’s are aided and abetted by the crime mafia that runs its operations in the same corridor from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh, as well as Maoists of Nepal who in turn receive covert support from other powers engaged/interested in destabilising India. The nexus between ULFA and Maoists in Nepal is well established. In a recent attack in Chhattisgarh, Maoists of India and Nepal were co-participants. There are also reports to suggest that Indian Maoists are increasingly taking to opium cultivation in areas under their control to finance their activities. The Maoists – crime – drug nexus is rather explosive.

Danger-2: The security forces, primarily the Indian Army, have held the state of Jammu & Kashmir physically since Independence. The politicians and the bureaucrats have contributed nothing to resolve the situation. The danger has since magnified many times as displayed by the presence of thousands of supporters of LeT flying their flags in a recent rally of dissidents. Under the garb of peace overtures, heavily armed infiltrators with tacit support from the Pak Military-Intelligence establishment continue to make inroads into Kashmir. They are at present lying low, waiting for an opportune moment for vicious strikes on several fronts to undermine the Indian Union. This ghost force reared its head in a recent rally organised by Geelani. Musharraf and his sympathisers in India are working in a highly synchronised fashion for demilitarisation of the Valley. Simultaneously, there is an insidious campaign to malign the Indian Army on one pretext or the other as part of the psywar being waged by the ghost force under Islamabad’s directions. After all the wars, export of terrorism, inconsistent and weak policies by New Delhi, Islamabad could not win Kashmir only because the Indian Army held its ground. If the ghost force succeeds in making locals rise against the Army, it will be an unprecedented achievement for Islamabad.

Map of Kashmir Showing the river flow from Kashmir and beyond

The talk of demilitarisation is therefore merely a ploy that aims to achieve the Kashmir objective even as Pak Military-Intelligence establishment expands its tentacles not only within the Valley but in other parts of India as well. While the Pak dispensation talks of peace, terrorist cells are proliferating in the country including new frontiers in southern part of India. Islamic fundamentalism / terrorism footprints, as evidenced by Bangalore centered incidents, are too glaring to be ignored. Islamic terrorism in the garb of freedom fighting in Kashmir is therefore de-stabilising the entire country. Islamabad is using Kashmir as a gateway / launching pad to rest of India.

Danger-3: Given a modicum of political will, Danger-I and II may still be manageable, however, Danger III to its territorial integrity in the northeast may prove to be the most difficult. In fact the entire northeast can easily be unhooked on multiple counts from the Union. First, these are low populated areas having contiguity with the most densely populated and demographically aggressive country in the world, i.e., Bangladesh. The country has also emerged as a major source of Islamic fundamentalism, which impacts grievously on the northeast. To add to these woes, New Delhi because of sheer vote-bank politics legitimised illegal migration for 22 years through the vehicle of IMDT. Many border districts now have a majority population constituting illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Naxalites insurgency and Seven Sister states of the Northeast

In near future, this leverage will be used to create an internal upheaval against the Centre as in the case of the Valley. It’s a classic Islamic fundamentalist principle of asymmetric warfare. What cannot be achieved by conventional wars, can be done through infiltration and subsequently internal subversion. They call it “jihad!” Second, the northeast if not addressed appropriately could unhook from the Union before the Valley given the acute vulnerability of the Siliguri Corridor, which is merely 10 to 20 kilometer wide and 200 kilometers long. If this critical corridor is choked or subverted or severed by force, the Union of India will have to maintain the northeast by air. With poor quality of governance for which the country is infamous, the local population may gravitate towards other regional powers.
Third, with China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh becoming more strident, as evidenced by its recent stance on Tawang, the danger to the Siliguri Corridor stands enhanced. This corridor has been facing internal turmoil for many years. The area may well be further subverted by inimical regional powers. Chinese intention to bargain for Tawang to secure Tibet is deceptive. Subsequently, it would covet entire Arunachal Pradesh to protect Tawang.

India China border dispute. Bharat occupies the territory of South Tibet which it calls Arunchal Pradesh. In an era of increased tension, Chinese forces have built a robut network of roads and rails to the border and Bharat has placed SU planes Tezpur to 3200 km or 8500 km with fuel tanks

Chinese are known for expanding their areas of strategic interests with time unlike the Indians who are in a tearing hurry to convert Siachen Glacier into a “mountain of peace” or LOC into “line of peace” or equating Pakistan as an equal victim of terrorism. It is a matter of grave concern that New Delhi is so prone to issue statements without thinking it through, as long as it appeases the adversary even temporarily. Therefore the northeast – with the internal turmoil in the Siliguri Corridor, with low population surrounded by overpopulated Bangladesh exporting Islamic terrorism under tutelage of Islamabad, with China gaining influence in Nepal and Bangladesh and its upping the ante on Tawang – the danger to the region is grave. Manipur is a stark indicator.

The insurgents have nearly weaned the state from the Indian Union. The writ of the Indian Union has ceased to operate; insurgents (freedom fighters), compelling people to turn to South Korean music and films, ban Hindi music and films.

Hindu Liberation Army wants to rule the entire planet. Mr. Bharat Verma is a strong proponent of the destruction of Pakistan and conquest of Afghanistan

New Delhi continues to fiddle while the Northeast burns which in turn poses a grave problem to the territorial integrity of the Union of India. The world once again is getting polarised into two camps after the end of the Cold war – democracies and authoritarian regimes of all hues, which includes Islamists, communists, and the Maoists. Their perspectives are totally totalitarian. Therefore with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal (Maoists), being neighbours, the danger to the Indian territorial integrity stands enhanced.Bangladesh: The Danger III for India! 01 Sep, 2009 Bharat Verma. (The author is editor, Indian Defence Review)

Videos Link:

45 killed as Maoists blow up bus in India

May 18, 2010

* Police officials killed were returning after successful operation in which two Maoists were killed

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: At least 45 people were killed after Maoist rebels blew up a bus carrying police and civilians in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Monday.

The Maoists known as Naxalites attacked the bus in remote forests of Dantewada district 400 kilometres from state capital Raipur. The attack came within a month of killing of 76 paramilitary forces personnel in the same region.

The SPOs, who are civilians assisting police in fighting the Naxals, were returning after a successful operation killing two Maoists, while their commander ran away.

Reports said while most of the operation team was walking back on foot, some of them boarded a civilian bus. Rebels had planted an IED on a metalled road and detonated it as the bus rolled over it.

Early reports said at least 30 people had been killed in the landmine blast. But Special DG V Raman said, “I fear at least 50 dead, we are checking.” Information is hard to access in this Naxal-infested area.

There are dense forests and nightfall shall make rescue operations even more difficult with landmines dotting the area.

The attack came a day before the Maoists’ call for a 48-hour bandh in five states, including Chhattisgarh, from Tuesday in protest against the security operations launched against them.

As soon as the news of the attack came, Home Minister P Chidambaram called on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to apprise him of the situation. It is believed that Singh is upset over the spate of attacks. An additional secretary is monitoring a special control room set up in the Home Ministry to collect complete details to pass on to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Sources said the PM was so disturbed that he was even talking in terms of postponing the celebrations planned for next Monday to mark the sixth anniversary of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule.

They were, however, unable to state if the prime minister would also call off the press conference slated for the occasion.

“The PM has to make the final call in the matter,” a PMO official said.

The Maoists on Sunday also killed six villagers, including a sarpanch, and threw their bodies outside the villages.

They also shot dead and then burnt alive a Youth Congress leader, Hemant Bage, in nearby province of Jharkhand.

Bage was a block president of the Youth Congress. The Maoists left behind posters warning that there would be more such killings if Operation Green Hunt, the counter-offensive launched against them, was not withdrawn immediately.

India’s Dirty War

May 7, 2010

Megha Bahree

A violent struggle over resource-rich land is pitting billionaires against Maoists. Thousands of villagers have been killed and displaced.


Video: A Violent Struggle in India

Early one morning last October police forces surrounded the residents of Gompad, a remote village in the state of Chhattisgarh in eastern India, and attacked. Sixteen people were killed, including an older couple and their 25-year-old daughter, who was stabbed in the head with a knife and had her breasts sliced off. Her 2-year-old son survived, but three of his fingers were chopped off. A neighbor who witnessed the massacre was shot in the leg as she tried to escape. What prompted the rampage? The cops suspected the villagers of sympathizing with Maoist insurgents, believing that some were informants. A criminal case has been filed by the survivors against the state.

Business as usual in this part of the world. The Indian government is trying to exterminate Maoists known as Naxalites and since 2004 have killed 1,300 of them; trapped in the crossfire, 2,900 villagers have also died.

The Naxalites have claimed their share of victims, too. A few months before the Gompad attack Vimal Meshram, a village head, was gunned down by Maoists in a market in the same district (Bastar). His crime: He was an outspoken supporter of a plant that Tata Steel, one of India’s luminary companies, has been trying to build for the past five years . He is one of 1,650 or more people–villagers, police and police-backed vigilantes–who have been killed by Maoists, just in this district. In the bloodiest attack yet, 80 or more paramilitary troops were killed in early April as they tried to flush out Maoist rebels in the forests of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.

This is India’s dirty war: a brutal struggle over valuable real estate that pits the Naxalites against some of the nation’s most powerful commercial interests. What began 43 years ago as a small but violent peasant insurrection in Naxalbari, a West Bengal village, is now a full-fledged conflict led by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) across 20 of the country’s 28 states (see map below), affecting 223 districts. The fight is over land, much of it in the interior, that has rich deposits of coal and bauxite. On one side of the struggle are the rebels–perhaps 10,000 of them armed and out in the field every day, and a militia of 100,000 who can be called up on short notice. Driven by a violent ideology, the Naxalites claim to be fighting for the land rights of the poor, especially farmers and small indigenous tribes who know only an agrarian way of life. On the other side are the wealthy families behind Tata Steel, Jindal Steel & Power and Vedanta Resources (run by mining mogul Anil Agarwal), who want to develop the untapped resources. (The three companies rank 345, 1,131 and 923 on the Global 2000 list.) Caught in the middle of the conflict between Maoists and billionaires are thousands of villagers. (See: “My Family’s Narrow Escape From India’s Dirty War“)

In principle there ought to be an economic answer to the economic question of whether a steel mill is a better use of land than a farm. If the mill is so valuable, why can’t its owner offer the peasants an irresistible sum to leave? But here the market takes a back seat behind politics and thuggery.

It’s no mystery why things have gotten worse. “India’s boom period has coincided with maximum dissent and dissatisfaction in rural India,” says Ajai Sahni, executive director for the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi think tank. Over the last decade the Indian government has been trying by legal and other means to lock up the land for public projects like power plants and, more recently, for private enterprises like Tata. (Under the Indian constitution nontribal people are prohibited from directly acquiring land in certain parts of the country, so the government must obtain it on their behalf and sell it to the companies.) That trend has put the state more and more in conflict with the Maoist rebels, and it has ratcheted up paramilitary operations against them. The government has also squared off more frequently against those who have farmed the land for centuries, using various legal entitlements–and, villagers often claim, resorting to fraud or force–to gain possession of the property. Other times the state simply seizes the land, labeling any resistance rebel-inspired. Hundreds of thousands of people have been dispossessed and displaced. Many now live in what could become permanent refugee camps, where they are prey to both sides of the proxy war and easy converts to radicalism.

Dantewada in Bastar is the epicenter of Naxal activity, where the New Delhi government launched a “cleansing” operation last fall. It also happens to be 50 miles from the town of Jagdalpur, the site of a planned factory by Tata Steel that will produce 5 million tons a year, and close to iron ore mines that could feed the plant. For the past five years the government has been trying to acquire 5,050 acres across ten villages that will affect 1,750 landowners but has met with resistance even as it is being accused of bullying and pressure tactics. Tata washes its hands of those allegations. “Land acquisition is the government’s job,” says a spokesperson.

Acres of rice, chickpeas and lentils stretch to the horizon. Standing among rows of chickpeas on his 6 acres, Hidmo Mandavi, the village head, says Tata reps have been telling him and other farmers to sell the land and have offered them jobs in the new steel factory. “We’re not engineers,” he says. “We’ll get jobs–but jobs where we’ll be serving water to others or sweeping the floors. Right now we live like owners. Why should we become servants?”

Their defiance doesn’t go down well, even in the world’s largest democracy. The police have been breaking up gatherings of as few as five people. A couple of winters ago two busloads of villagers were on their way to meet the governor of Chhattisgarh to complain about being bullied into selling their land for the Tata plant when the police stopped their buses and hauled them off to jail. Mashre Mora, 46, a farmer in the nearby Dabpal village who refused to sell out, was arrested a third time after returning from a weekly village gathering where farmers discuss issues like water supply, crop infestation and disputes with their neighbors. Charge: disturbing the peace. That evening about 40 cops came to his house, broke the lock and dragged him out. “I’ve told them I won’t give up my land,” he says. “I’m uneducated and can’t get a job in an office, so once the money runs out what will I do? I only have the support of my farming, I don’t have anything else.” (The police say they have no involvement in land acquisition and show up only to hunt Maoists.)

Red Tide
The spread of the Maoist insurgency.

Some villagers have found their names on lists of people who have sold their land–even though they say they haven’t. Kamal Gajbiya, 40, is a towering, muscular figure with a thick beard. A resident of Kumbli village, he owns 8 acres along with his brother, sister and mother, and has met the same fate as Mora. On each trip to prison, he says, people he thought were Tata reps, accompanied by government officials, asked him to part with his land. (In its blanket denial of abuses, Tata declined to address specific incidents.) “They said, ‘We’ll let you go; take the money,'” Gajbiya recalls. “I said, ‘I’m a prisoner, and I cannot talk to you.'” Last May he found out his name and those of his sister and mother had been struck from the revenue records because they had supposedly sold their farms. Gajbiya filed complaints with the Ministry of Information before he finally received a copy of the records. He also got copies of letters from 1,750 farmers–all of whom had purportedly sold their land–stating their opposition to selling.

There’s nothing subtle about the threats. A teacher, Retu Ram, was told he’d be transferred to another district if he didn’t sell. That’s what happened to a colleague. In another village, Banga Peeta Aito, a farmer of 60 or so, had been in prison for a month on charges of disturbing the peace. His sons were told that unless they agreed to take the check from Tata, their father would rot in jail. They finally accepted it–and their father was released the next day, they say.

Tata says it was invited in by the government of Chhattisgarh and that it is bringing economic opportunity to the area, a frequent claim made by corporations. “Although rich in mineral resources, Bastar is among the most backward regions of the country,” says a Tata spokesperson. “[The plant] will give a fillip to all-round development in the region.” The company, he adds, paid double the amount per acre set by the government; it plans to offer to exchange real estate, perhaps acre for acre for up to 2.5 acres of land lost, as well as technical training and jobs to one member from each affected family. Moreover, Tata says that 70% of the residents have accepted its offers and the rest are coming around. (Villagers dispute the assertion that the payments were generous and say there are still many holdouts.) “Youth of the area is in favor of industrialization, in which they see their future,” says the spokesperson.

Roughly 400 miles north, the thickly forested area in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh gives way to black, as soot blankets shrubs, the road, everything. Jindal Steel & Power dominates the region with its steel plant, coal mines and a 1,000-megawatt coal-powered plant. Naveen Jindal, executive chairman and Member of Parliament (Congress Party), has transformed the company from a moderate performer into a star. (His mother, Savitri, is chairman of the holding company, O.P. Jindal Group, and ranks number 44 on the forbes billionaires list with an estimated net worth of $12.2 billion.) Naveen’s is among the lowest-cost steel producers, thanks to supplies of iron ore and electric power and use of sponge iron, which takes cheap bituminous coal transported by a 4.2-mile-long pipeline instead of the more expensive imported anthracite. To keep up this cycle of growth, Jindal needs more land. That push has created strife.

Residents say they aren’t allowed to voice their concerns at public hearings to decide whether Jindal can build an additional $2.4 billion, 2.4-gigawatt coal-fired power plant in the same region. At one such meeting in January 2008 seven people, including Harihar Patel, the Khamaria village head, were beaten by police; some were hospitalized for a week. “The company has a ‘no objection’ certificate okaying the project, but we never gave it,” says Patel. “Most of these hearings are being forged,” adds Ramesh Agrawal, who runs an Internet cafe that funds his efforts to pursue court cases against Jindal and to inform villagers about their legal rights. “[We] had no role in conducting the public hearing except for making a brief presentation about the project,” says Jindal. “I believe some people wanted to create trouble and the police had to intervene to maintain peace.”

Krishna Lal Sao doesn’t seem like a troublemaker. In 2003, he says, Jindal Power dumped 1,100 truckloads of mud on his 2 acres of arable land before his crop was harvested. Sao, a police employee who farmed on the side, says fellow cops wouldn’t let him register a complaint and harassed him to the point that he resigned in late 2005. In March 2007 a district court gave him title to his land and directed the police to restore his property. However, without his permission, Jindal put up a cooling tower and warehouse on that same acreage. Sao has given up and started a stationery store. Raghunath Choudhary lost his 5.5 acres, he says, after Jindal put a boundary wall around it in 2004. He tried to fight in court, to no avail. Choudhary blames both the 2007 suicide of his younger son and his wife’s recent fatal heart attack on stressful circumstances caused by Jindal. A separate 1.5-acre plot, he says, fell to the company in October when it set up a mixing plant there. Now he and his remaining son are forced to farm someone else’s land.

Jindal Steel says Sao’s and Choudhary’s land was acquired after the Chhattisgarh Industrial Development Corp. followed due process. The two farmers say their land was seized to develop a “greenbelt.” (Today the belt consists of a cooling tower and warehouse.) Their review petitions were rejected by the High Court of Chhattisgarh. Naveen Jindal adds: “There is some initial resistance as villagers are obviously aspiring to obtain maximum prices for their land and other benefits.”

Many villagers–some driven out by the Naxalites, others by police on orders from state officials–end up in refugee camps. Dornapal, in the heart of the conflict-riddled Bastar district, is one of 23 camps, containing 45,000 or more people, run by a state-backed civilian militia known as Salwa Judum (literally, “purification hunt”). Row after row of single-room mud huts with thatched roofs line the camp, punctuated by occasional piles of garbage and hand pumps, where women fill buckets and children (who should be in the camp’s elementary school) bathe. There is no work for the farmers. A few may chance a day trip to check on the land they were forced from, even sneak sowing a crop. Most just hang out; the air is filled with the acrid smoke of bidis, the cheapest cigarettes.

Kathar Ganga arrived at Dornapal roughly five years ago. He says that Maoists held a meeting in his village and accused his son, then 20 years old and newly married, of being a police informant. They killed him in front of everyone. Another resident, Markam Joge, 21, earns $46 a month as a police officer for the Judum and supposedly protects the refugees. He’s married and has a 5-year-old child. “I will raise my daughter here in the camp,” he says. “I do miss my village, but now that I’ve picked up arms I can’t go back.”

Salwa Judum members aren’t merely the protectors of the villagers, as they claim. “There is a complete collapse of the rule of law–with the root cause of violence in the area being the Salwa Judum and Naxal counterattacks,” says Nandini Sundar, a sociology professor at the Delhi School of Economics. Some 15 miles from the Dornapal camp, deep in the forests and inaccessible even by mud road, is Naindra village, inhabited by an indigenous tribe. In 2006 the Salwa Judum raided the old part of Naindra and burned down homes before attacking new Naindra. Those who didn’t escape, like Muchaki Ganga’s father, were killed. “They slit his throat with a knife and left [his neck] hanging by a piece,” he says. “I’m too scared to go to the police. They’d finish us off if we complained.” Not so, says Amresh Mishra, superintendent of police for Dantewada. “There are many incidents where Naxals have done this and blamed it on Salwa Judum and the police.”

After the houses were torched, Maoists came and gave the villagers clothes. The Judum returned twice more, set fire to the homes and abducted two boys and a girl who have never been seen since. The village was lately rebuilt by Himanshu Kumar, who has run an ashram and a nonprofit to teach literacy and basic hygiene in the heart of Naxal territory for the past 18 years. An ardent supporter of the tribals, he has recorded atrocities by the police, the Judum and the government. He has also supported perhaps 600 legal complaints against them, many still grinding through the court system. The cops are now trying to tag him as a Maoist. Kumar says there’s an easy way out of this mess: “If you want peace, give the tribals schools, hospitals, ration shops–the Naxals will never interfere with any of this.”

Not so easy, says Dilip Choudhary, Additional Secretary to the Home Ministry. The Maoists, he says, “have refused to respond to the simple call to give up violence”–the condition the government has set for talks.

Next door, in the state of Orissa, villagers have been fighting off a five-year push by South Korea’s Pohong Iron & Steel Co. (PoscoPKX – news – people ), number 137 in the Global 2000) to acquire 4,400 acres in order to build what would become the world’s third-largest steel plant, producing 12 million tons a year. The resistance is headed by Abhay Sahoo, a leader of the leftist Congress Party of India–unlike the party of the Maoists, it is legal and largely supported by farmers and some labor unions. Farmers from four villages have barricaded and patrol all access roads to keep out police, government and company officials. The area is rich in cash crops, particularly cashew nuts and betel nut leaves that sell for 2 cents apiece. “[Everyone] from a 10-year-old boy to an 80-year-old man can earn at least $109 per month just from harvesting these leaves,” says Sahoo. “If Posco is allowed in, this economy and livelihood will be destroyed as no company can employ so many people or pay as well.”

Over the last couple of years, in two episodes, pro-Posco sympathizers have thrown homemade bombs at anti-Posco villagers, resulting in one death and multiple injuries. In January 2010 four Posco employees entered the villages to carry out a land survey and were captured by Sahoo’s men. They were held the entire day and released only after they signed a letter promising not to return. “We told them this is a warning–come back at your own risk,” says Sahoo, who has 37 police cases against him for his resistance and has served 10 1/2 months in prison on charges that include attempted murder and kidnapping. There are 150 or so cases against the villagers and warrants for 642 others hiding there. “If the state will create violence, retaliation is a must,” says Sahoo.

The land belongs to the government, says a Posco spokesperson. Villagers, he adds, have encroached on it for at least a couple of generations. “India is in grave danger of losing the development race against China,” he says. “India produces a twelfth of China’s steel and wants to double this in the next two years but can’t do that without such megaprojects.”

On the western side of Orissa there is push-back against Vedanta Resources. Run by mining tycoon Anil Agarwal (number 113 among the FORBES billionaires, with an estimated fortune of $6.4 billion), Vedanta is trying to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri Hills to produce aluminum. For generations the Dongria Kondh, an indigenous tribe of 8,000, has been has been living off the bounty of the thick forests–home to tigers, barking deer, elephants and bison, as well as to hardwoods like the flowering sal trees. The region also holds an estimated 2 billion tons of bauxite along a 300-mile belt. Mukesh Kumar, Vedanta Aluminum’s chief operating officer, says the mining and land lease is with the state-owned Orissa Mining Corp., which plans to acquire just 1,800 acres of Niyamgiri and intends to mine only half of that. Because of tribal opposition, though, Vedanta has been able to build only an aluminum refinery nearby. Profits are minimal because it must import bauxite from other regions.

The refinery’s emissions, along with the waste-disposal pond, may well be making life hazardous for residents. Last year villagers say nine people died of complications from tuberculosis and bronchitis; the government admits to only one. Kumar says the state is aware of the health problems and is investigating. In February Amnesty International issued a damning report on the refinery and the proposed mine–harsh enough that the Church of England and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust sold their $5.7 million and $2.9 million investments, respectively, in Vedanta. “Local NGOs are anti-industry and instigating people,” Kumar fumes. “This is not an agitation against a project but a movement against industry in Orissa.”

That may be. The Dongrias still come to sell their wares at a weekly market in the heart of the forest, bearing lentils, rice, dried fish, tobacco, potatoes, ginger, turmeric and bananas. “Other than salt I get everything from these hills,” says Ranga, a tribal member, through a translator. He earns his living with the ax that casually rests on one shoulder. But he’s apparently prepared to use it in defense of his way of life. “We will kill with this,” he says, gripping the handle. “We will not let the company come in here.”

See Also:

My Family’s Narrow Escape From India’s Dirty War
Special Offer: Free Trial Issue of Forbes