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India's Misunderstood War

T. Ananthachari

By Sudeep Chakravarti
Penguin/Viking, New Delhi,, 2008, pp. 352, Rs. 495.00

Edited by P.V. Ramana
Pearson Longman, Delhi, 2008, pp. 240, Rs. 550.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 12 December 2008

The books under review are about 'naxalism’ as much as about naxalite violence. The Indian security scene has been dominated by terrorist as well as naxal violence. Whereas the Naxal Movement has been basically of Indian origin, and in the initial stages the leadership of the movement made attempts to get moral, philosophical and material support (from outside) particularly China, the same cannot be said of (global) terrorism which continues to be the handiwork of extremely well organized international net-working (groups). Notwithstanding this basic difference, both continue to be a matter of major concern for our country. Because of the challenges that both pose to the stability and overall integrity of the country it is necessary to avoid comparing and contrasting them, particularly to evolve strategies to counter them.   It is perhaps true that more ( most) people in our country know more about terrorism than about naxalism. ‘For much of middle-class India, Maoism is something vaguely alarming, to do with shifting lines on the country’s map that they see every once in a while in the mainstream media. … these are significant as the lines of control on India’s western border with Pakistan and northern borders with China. These lines within India mark the ideologies of the “oppressor” and the “oppressed”.’ This is not a healthy sign. It is hoped that books like the one under review would help in giving a proper perspective to the many facets of naxalism—socio-economic, political and its impact on security. The two books contain a lot of facts and narratives which will serve this purpose.   The subject dealt with in these books is intriguing for a variety of reasons. Naxals are fired by economic inequalities including social injustice. At the same time, they have not hesitated to target the innocent and poorer segments of the society. They have changed gears from merely fighting for economic justice to capture power and bring about (a) ‘regime change’. And, in the process, the use of violence has been consistently justified. These make the dividing line between ‘naxalism’ and ‘terrorism’ rather thin. What is more important, it also poses enormous practical difficulties in countering ‘naxal violence’ as opposed to ‘terrorist violence’. This is also perhaps one of the reasons the government and its concerned machineries have not been able to follow any consistent policy or strategy in facing them and while tackling the naxal problem. As ...

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