'India must end exploitation and victimisation of tribals'

Ending violent attacks on those Naxalites who have already entered politics, enacting comprehensive land reform and other measures aimed at dismantling the rural feudal power structure that oppresses India's poorest citizens: This is the American prescription for convincing Naxalites to renounce violence and embrace parliamentary politics.

At the same time, a cable from the United States Embassy sent on December 8, 2005 (47006: confidential), by Ambassador David Mulford said: "There is little sign that the GOI [Government of India] is willing to take such steps." As long as India's political parties and elites are willing to accept the status quo and not take on feudal interests, the stalemate and the violence will continue.

According to the cable, "Despite India's rapidly expanding economy, Naxalite groups in poor rural areas and their educated urban sympathizers continue to spread and have extended their areas of influence into 12 states, proving they can launch spectacular attacks on government facilities."

Indian economic development, the Embassy noted, has missed large portions of the countryside. "India's scheduled tribes, and scheduled castes who live in these remote areas, often face lives of desperation and view Naxalites as the only groups willing to defend them. There is no chance Naxalites could threaten the Indian state and the GOI is unlikely to eradicate Naxalism through police action. The most likely prospect is a continuing and bloody stalemate."

However, the Embassy also pointed out that India's Maoists are closely eyeing events in Nepal, and if their Nepali comrades eventually give up armed struggle, it could encourage the Naxalites to do the same.

Above ground support

In its analysis of the "Naxalite menace," the Embassy said: "Although Naxalites claim to represent the interests of India's oppressed Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the leadership is almost entirely from the upper castes, including some highly educated individuals. The same applies to the extensive Naxalite support network, including above- ground organizations of educated middle class persons from academia, the media and the legal profession."

Without this middle-class, above-ground support, the Naxalite movement would not have been able to expand, it added.

Another cable, sent on December 20, 2005 (48157: confidential) by Charge d'affaires Robert Blake said the government's unwillingness and inability to make the difficult decisions required to prevent destruction of the forests and to end the exploitation and victimisation of tribals plays into the hands of the Naxalites. "Most tribals have little or no faith that the GOI will protect them, and over time may see little alternative but to turn to the Maoists as the best of a bad set of choices."

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)