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India launches attack against Maoists

The Indian government has started a major offensive against Communist rebels in the country's so-called “Red Corridor” that covers India’s central and eastern states.

The operation to root out insurgents is planned to continue for two years and is aimed at stabilizing the resource-rich regions.

Fifty thousand troops are being sent on Operation Green Hunt to fight the Naxal insurgents in five states across India.

In the state of Jharkhand, they are helping the state administration grapple with an armed movement that has killed 2,600 people in the last three years.

Their target is guerrillas who, inspired by Maoism, have been waging a low-intensity war against the Indian state for the past 40 years. Naxals believe that power flows from the barrel of a gun, and their aim is to create a classless society.

Naxalism began in 1957, as a response to the lack of development in India's poorest rural areas. Yet ironically, the Naxals themselves are the biggest stumbling block to development. Jharkhand is heavily forested and rich in minerals, but few companies will invest in areas which are in violent turmoil. This is frustrating for the local population, who are desperate for jobs.

“We need work and food, only then can the people in this village survive. We get only one crop in the year with rainfall. When there is no rain we don’t even get that. People are surviving by going into the forest to collect wood and selling it,” says local villager Suresh Singh.

Following years of neglect by the administration, there is some local support for the Naxal, and the insurgents keep a violent check on their support base. Any villager who questions them or demands development is killed.

“Naxals have an all-India structure and well-defined structure from the village to the Central Committee and Politburo,” explains Commandant B. K. Sharma from Central Reserve Police Force.

He says the insurgents have been quite “efficient” in financial terms:

“Basically they are organized into those structures and operating in remote areas. The finance is through levy…basically now they are drifting into a money-collecting organization.”

The infusion of military tactics by the police has already begun to pay dividends. They now conduct search operations, living off the land in dense forest for weeks, pursuing Naxal guerrilla squads.

Commandant B.K. Sharma admits it is no easy task:

“The terrain is the biggest advantage for [the Naxals], and that terrain provides them safe sanctuary. For us it is the most disadvantageous thing. Despite that, we are overcoming the disadvantage and moving ahead.”

The federal government and the special forces maintain that they are determined to end the Naxal insurgency and have the resources to see it through.