India's Greatest Threat: Maoist Not Islamist Militants
With the news from India that in Chhattisgarh, Maoists have ambushed and killed 75 paramilitary police it is perhaps worth looking at some of the background to the attack. While the West worries about Islamic terrorist activities India sees the biggest threat to its democracy coming from Maoist Naxalite militants rather than Islamists.
The economic rise of India has seen many Indians have a huge rise in wealth and lifestyle but many millions more have seen no such benefits and in fact the gap between richest and poorest in India has increased.
This inequality in wealth has proved a ripe ground for left wing Maoist groups known as 'Naxalites' or 'Naxols', named after the violent left-wing uprising of 1967 which started in Naxalbari, a village in West Bengal.
More than a third of India's districts are thought to be controlled by Naxalites and other Maoist affiliated groups leading Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to describe the Maoist threat as India's "greatest internal security challenge".
Kishenji's 20-year fight for communist rule has seen thousands of people killed and yet has not made great news coverage outside of India. The Maoists say that they are fighting for the rights of millions of India's rural poor that are living in sometimes abject poverty.
Kishenji speaking of why despite the terrorist methods the Maoists have secured support from many poor communities said in 2009:
"We organize camps in villages so they can voice the grievances. We deal with the villagers with a lot of compassion and kindness, which is why they love and protect us. We also work for women’s liberation. There are many women who are tortured by their (parents) in-law, husbands or parents. But they cannot protest because they are dependent on them. We fight for liberation of such women. Women are very important for our movement. Many oppressed women have joined us in our struggle across the country."
In March 2006 Kishenji said:
"We will overthrow the Indian government much before 2050"
That the world's biggest democracy is under threat from a communist uprising should perhaps ring bells somewhere in western democracies that have hailed India's economic growth as something special and a model for other developing countries. The biggest suppliers of oxygen to militants of all kinds, left, right and religious are poverty and inequality. The new India whilst having more 'rich' people and wealth making industries also has greater gaps between the richest and poorest than ever before too.
To a lesser extent western democracies might too be seeing a rise in home grown extremist militants as the recent economic downturn showed the banking and political classes as perhaps morally and sometimes actually corrupt.
For many in the west the idea of a communist threat in the 21st century has been the furthest thing from their minds in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the move towards capitalism in terms of trade models in China, and greater links with Russia. Many believed Marxist and Maoist communist philosophy and action to be a dead or at least dying doctrine. Events in India prove otherwise.
For the Indian mainstream Maoist communism feels like a real threat but to millions of the poorest Indian's it perhaps feels like their only hope as they see the richest get richer and the poorest poorer.
Indians are increasingly aware that the Maoists represent an even greater threat to their country’s security and prosperity than the Islamist militants based over the border in Pakistan.