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Monday, 26 April 2010

From Today's Papers - 26 Apr 2010

  AFSPA doesn't need change Harsh law helps in the fight against insurgents
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh ( retd )  Human rights activists and some political parties, both in J and K and the North-East, have been demanding scrapping of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Under pressure from these groups, the government is considering removing or amending some of the provisions in the Act which are considered offensive. It is also being projected that of the 160-odd cases taken up for the prosecution of military personnel involved in human rights violations. The Government of India has not given sanction even in one case.  As a result of prolonged agitation in Manipur, the government appointed Justice Reddy Commission to examine the need for abrogating the AFSPA. The commission did recommend that the Act should be scrapped and in its place some provisions such as immunity to security personnel against arrest be incorporated in the Unlawful Activities Act. While these recommendation(s) were not accepted, the need for making the Act humane appeared acceptable. The Prime Minister announced this while speaking at a function at the Kalinga Fort in Imphal.  The AFSPA, was promulgated to combat Naga insurgency in the North-East more than half a century ago. Later, when insurgency surfaced in J and K, its application was extended to that state too. Causes of insurgency in the North-East lay in complex and intractable politico-socio-economic areas, which led to the feeling of alienation among the people of the region. The underlying causes for the insurgency in J and K are altogether of a different genre. When appropriate measures are not taken in time in a comprehensive and vigorous manner, disenchantment and disaffection can spread among most sections of society. Where terrain favours insurgency and outside help is at hand, the problem can take a virulent form, making the task of the security forces all the more difficult.  It is not to argue that there have been no human rights violations by security forces, but invariably the issues have been sensationalised out of proportion by the media, more so by TV channels. Intense competition among them adds urgency to such news. Added to this is the lack of knowledge and understanding of the very nature of the fight against a brutal insurgency. The vicious nature of counter-insurgency operations carried out by the Indian Army is best judged by the fact that it has lost over 560 officers and more than 8500 troops in these operations.  Two incidents, one from the North-East and another from J and K which received vide publicity, would make the issue of false propaganda apparent. It may be recalled that a few years ago the incident of death of Manorma coincided with the extension of the AFSPA in Manipur. Secessionist elements linking the two incidents levelled all manner of allegations against the military (Assam Rifles). Manorma was a PLA member involved in terrorist acts of laying IEDs (improvised explosive devices) spread over a period of two years, leading to the death of six civilians and two military personnel. At the time of her arrest, a transmitter and grenade were recovered from her. While two independent autopsies ruled out rape and torture, the charge of rape against the security personnel was persistently being made out in the media. The nature of her bullet injuries confirmed the escape story.  The second, an equally sensational case, relates to the death of two women at Shopian in J and K, which kicked up great uproar in the valley and saw political skullduggery of the worst kind. The charge of murder and rape was pinned on the security forces. Local doctors, who performed the initial autopsies, confirmed rape and murder. Yet when these bodies were exhumed and an independent group of doctors performed the second set of autopsies, murder and rape were ruled out and death was attributed to drowning. In J and K the causes of alleged disaffection are entirely political. It suits the political class and fundamentalist to sustain the climate of uncertainty, and some in Delhi too have vested interests in continuing with this state of affairs.  In an insurgency environment, miscreants and their sympathisers are always out to discredit the security forces and that way they give further boost to the alienation of the people by portraying security forces as oppressive and anti-people. Where the exchange of fire between the security forces and insurgents take place in populated areas, civilians do sometimes get in the line of fire. In such situations often the insurgents inflict casualties on innocents caught in the crossfire in the sure belief that the blame for such casualties will invariably be pinned on the security forces.  The military, when called upon to combat insurgency, does not have even police powers. Without the AFSPA the military would be rendered toothless. It would find itself dragged into unending litigation on often trumped-up charges. Since action against insurgents is carried out at the section/platoon and even company level, an alleged fake encounter or human rights violation, the case in a civil court will tie all of them up for years in legal battle: some as accused and others as witnesses. Faced with such a prospect, too much caution and prevarication will come into play and success will invariably elude the military.  In a counter-insurgency setting the environment is akin to a war zone, yet in the midst of own people where either one kills first or gets killed. When death lurks around every corner and is only one false step away and such a state prevails for long periods, it can turn men into monsters. It is only the iron discipline and effective leadership, which is up-front and shares the same set of dangers as the men, that retraint is exercised and excesses don't take place.  Counter-insurgency operations are a messy affair and under certain circumstances, collateral damage is inevitable. Sometimes this can be due to the error of judgment and at other times because of the need for immediate elimination of insurgents. In an insurgency environment, the line between an insurgent and a peaceful citizen can be hazy, especially where intelligence is poor or faulty, which is often the case. An insurgent can just drop a weapon in a bush and pose as a peaceful citizen. Troops often face such dilemmas.  It would be incorrect to contend that troops never indulge in human rights violations. Though Indian troops are God-fearing, religious and refrain from inhuman acts, there have been a few cases of killings, torture and custodial deaths, both in the North-East and J and K. The military authorities do not accept the violation of human rights by their officers and troops even against insurgents. Every case of alleged violation of human rights is fully investigated through the military's own internal mechanism. During the last 15 years, 1400 cases of violation of human rights were reported against the Army. From detailed investigations of these, it transpired that only 54 had some substance. This resulted in a large number of court-marshals where the punishment ranged from life imprisonment to termination of services. As many as 37 officers were punished.  Abrogating the AFSPA or removing some of its key provisions in an attempt to make it "humane" could place the security forces at a great disadvantage in their fight against a vicious insurgency. Any watering down of the Act will result in de-motivating the troops whose lawful actions may expose them to decades of litigation in civil courts. Violent nature of counter-insurgency operations, the Army's own casualties and its action against those found violating human rights should give some comfort to the votaries of human rights. Human Rights activists target only the military. The nation should be aware of the sacrifices made by our troops daily to combat this scourge. Altering the basic structure of the AFSPA in an effort to make it "humane" will place the troops in a most unenviable position and will be a de-motivating factor in the fight against insurgency.

IAF airfield modernisation project from mid-2010
Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, April 25 A project to upgrade and modernise infrastructure at the IAF airfields is expected to commence by the middle of this year. With budgetary estimates pegged at Rs 1,000 crore, the first phase of the project would cover 31 airfields.  The time frame stipulated for this phase is about three years from signing the contracts with the selected firms, following which airbases would don a new look and be equipped with state-of-the-art operational facilities. At present commercial negotiations are reported to be underway between the air force and the participating firms.  The IAF airfields in the coming years have to increasingly sustain the bulk of operations by aircraft of the Su-30 class, including the multi-role medium combat aircraft for which the evaluation process is on, aerial refuelling aircraft, airborne warning and control systems and the proposed C-17 heavy lift aircraft.  In addition, the growing civil aviation sector resulting in a large number of airbases having co-located civilian enclaves, require support operations of heavy and wide-bodied aircraft. This would require improved facilities for operations like strengthened runways, air traffic control services, navigational and metrological aids to sustain operations in varied operational environments.  The IAF operates from over 60 airbases spread across the country with perspective plans to enlarge some of them and construct a few new one at strategic places.

2 Pak militants, two cops killed in Pathankot
 Bharat Bhushan Dogra  Policemen inspect the bodies of militants killed in an encounter at Ratrawan village in Gurdaspur district on Sunday. Policemen inspect the bodies of militants killed in an encounter at Ratrawan village in Gurdaspur district on Sunday. — PTI  Pathankot, April 25 Two Pakistani militants who had infiltrated into the country from across the Indo-Pak border were killed in an encounter at Ratrawan village in Bamiyal sector, about 50 km from here, today. Two policemen also lost their lives while as many of them were injured in the fierce gunfight that lasted for an hour-and-a-half.  Addressing mediapersons, Punjab DGP PS Gill said the militants had infiltrated via the Bamiyal sector in Gurdaspur district. He said the cops who lost their lives — head constables Narinder Singh and Surinder Singh, both posted at Gurdaspur police station — were part of a 16-member team, led by DSP Garib Dass, constituted for the purpose.  Notably, Ratrawan residents had spotted two heavily-armed strangers in their area yesterday. The cops were informed who launched a manhunt later. And at 6 am today, the police found the militants hiding in a garden, following which the encounter ensued. Gill said two AK-47 rifles, 16 magazines, 500 rounds, two detonators, nine hand grenades and Rs 2,390 were seized from the slain terrorists. He said the entire area had been cordoned off and the search operation was on. The DGP has announced financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh each, apart from Rs 1 lakh from the Police Welfare Fund and a job to a family member, for the kin of the deceased policemen.  Ravi Krishnan Khajuria adds from Kathua: The Bamiyal border outpost (BOP) where the gunfight took place lies close to the Tinda BOP near Simbal Skole village and the Paharpur forward BOP. After the Paharpur BOP that falls in Kathua district of Jammu, comes Tinda followed by Bamiyal in Punjab.  Kathua district SSP Gareeb Dass said: "We had launched a manhunt for the two militants since April 19". Official sources said the fleeing ultras had approached a couple in Kot Punnu village on the forward post of the Paharpur BOP on this side of the state, asking them about certain routes.  Of late, Pakistan troops had resorted to heavy firing in the Bamiyal-Tinda sector reportedly damaging a major portion of the fence on the border. Security forces in Kathua had been scanning Chabechak, Billawar, and Ghati, including the Ujh river, since April 19 when the two militants had fired upon a police party before disappearing from a forest nursery in Chabechak the next morning.  On April 20, the security forces, which had claimed that they had laid a cordon around the nursery, found a rucksack from the area and recovered wire cutters, eatables and some documents from it. The Kathua police chief had earlier said that going by their guerrilla warfare tactics, it appeared the two terrorists might be members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

US preparing most advanced conventional weapon?
Press Trust of India, Sunday April 25, 2010, New York The US is devising an advanced conventional weapon of new strength called 'Prompt Global Strike' which can reduce dependence on atomic weapons, as it aims to accomplish great tasks without crossing nuke threshold, a media report said today.  President Barack Obama, in the coming years, will have to decide whether to deploy such weapons cutting the US reliance on nuclear weapons, the New York Times said in its report.  Concerns about the technology are so strong that the Obama administration has agreed to Russia's demand that the US decommission one nuclear missile for every one of these conventional weapons fielded by the Pentagon. The Times describes that weapons as "designed to carry out tasks like picking off Osama bin Laden in a cave, if the right one could be found; taking out a North Korean missile while it is being rolled to the launch pad; or destroying an Iranian nuclear site all without crossing the nuclear threshold."  "In theory, the weapon will hurl a conventional warhead of enormous weight at high speed and with pinpoint accuracy, generating the localised destructive power of a nuclear warhead," it wrote.  In a previous interview with the daily, Obama alluded to the concept, saying it was part of an effort "to move towards less emphasis on nuclear weapons" while insuring that our conventional weapons capability is an effective deterrent in all but the most extreme circumstances.  The Obama national security team scrapped the idea of putting the new conventional weapon on submarines, the Times said. "Instead, the White House has asked Congress for about USD 250 million next year to explore a new alternative, one that uses some of the most advanced technology in the military today as well as some not yet even invented."  Under the Obama plan, the Prompt Global Strike warhead would be mounted on a long-range missile to start its journey toward a target. It would travel through the atmosphere at several times the speed of sound, generating so much heat that it would have to be shielded with special materials to avoid melting, according to the report.

Withdraw troops, revoke AFSPA for peace: Mirwaiz
April 25, 2010 20:28 IST Tags: Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, AFSPA, New Delhi, Reshi Mohalla, Kashmir Email this Save to My Page Ask Users Write a Comment  Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq on Sunday demanded withdrawal of troops from residential areas and revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), terming it as a "black law".  "The presence of troops in residential areas is a grave threat...  the sooner the rulers understand this, the better," Mirwaiz said addressing a religious function at Reshi Mohalla locality of Habbakadal in downtown city, shortly after authorities lifted restrictions on his movement.  Mirwaiz was placed under house arrest on Friday to keep him away from leading protests against the death penalty awarded to three convicts including two Kashmiris in connection with Delhi's [ Images ] Lajpat Nagar blast and alleged unabated human rights violations.  Strongly condemning the killing of a person and injuries to four others allegedly in Army firing at Keller area of Shopian on Saturday, Mirwaiz said: "Such incidents will continue till the black laws are not revoked and the troops withdrawn from the inhabited areas."  "New Delhi and the state government should take practical steps for early withdrawal of troops from residential areas and revocation of black laws," he said.  Stressing the need for resolution of Kashmir [ Images ], Mirwaiz said nuclear clouds are hovering over the region because of the long-standing dispute.  He asked India [ Images ] to give up "traditional rigidity" and start a composite dialogue with the concerned parties for peaceful and everlasting solution to Kashmir issue.

HAL,BEL beat pvt rivals to win Rustom project
The defence ministry will take time to involve the private sector in equipment manufacture, design, say analysts K. Raghu Bangalore: State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) have jointly won a bid to design and build Rustom, an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, for India's defence research agency. Unmanned aerial vehicle: DRDO's Rustom prototype displayed during Aero India 2009 at Air Force Station Yelahanka, Bangalore. Hemant Mishra/Mint Unmanned aerial vehicle: DRDO's Rustom prototype displayed during Aero India 2009 at Air Force Station Yelahanka, Bangalore. Hemant Mishra/Mint HAL and BEL edged out private firms in the race for the project—the first Indian military aircraft programme to invite the private sector to design and build a plane. Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T), Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) and Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd were the other contenders. Rustom would be a medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, to be designed to fly at least 250km at a stretch. It's the third large Indian defence project in the race for which private firms lost out to public sector rivals. India opened up defence equipment development and manufacturing to the private sector in 2002 in a move aimed at stepping up indigenization of military equipment. India still imports nearly 70% of its weapons and aircraft. In the US, the government encourages private sector firms such as Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to compete for military projects and funds only the development cost of planes and weapon systems. "HAL-BEL gave us a clear road map for manufacture," said Prahlada, chief controller of research and development at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He goes by one name. In 2008, HAL was preferred over Godrej, L&T and Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd to build Saras, a 14-seat passenger plane, by National Aerospace Laboratories after its main customer, the Indian Air Force, insisted on the military plane maker. BEL was selected in March this year to build the Indian Army's tactical communication system, a contract of at least $1 billion (Rs4,450 crore). It was to be the biggest military project till date thrown open to domestic private companies. Seven firms, including L&T, the Tatas and Roltas Thales Ltd, a joint venture of Roltas India Ltd and France's Thales Group, bid for the contract. "This is a disappointment for us since we had been told that the projects would be open for participation by the private sector on a competitive basis," said M.V. Kotwal, vice-president for the aerospace and defence business at L&T, India's largest engineering firm. "Otherwise we would not have spent the time and efforts in preparing for the bids. Detailed plans for execution had also been presented as required," he said. L&T, which makes submarines and ships for the Indian Navy, bid for all the three contracts. TASL did not respond to emails for comment. A defence ministry official, who is familiar with two of the three projects mentioned, said decisions were taken in favour of the defence public sector undertakings after assessing the capability of vendors for specific projects. He did not want to be named due to the sensitive nature of the business. An HAL official, who did not want to be named, said though the firm had been invited for technical talks, the Aeronautical Development Establishment, a DRDO agency, is yet to place an order. In the Rustom contract, firms need to invest Rs400 crore in prototypes and trials that could take at least a decade, but there was no guarantee of an order from the armed forces once it is completed, said one official at a private firm who did not want to be named or his company to be identified. An HAL official confirmed this. "If there is no assurance of an order, why should the private industry come forward and invest? We know it takes time to profit, but at least we don't want to lose money," the same company official said. Analysts say that it would take time for the defence ministry to involve private participation in equipment design and manufacturing. "The process does take a little time. There are efforts made in DPP (the defence procurement procedure) to involve private industry. But I think much more can be done," said N.S. Sisodia, director general of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. He did not comment on individual contracts. The defence ministry has brought in a made-in-India category in its latest DPP, which favours local firms in defence equipment design and manufacturing.

India Heading For A Bloodbath 
By Rohini Hensman  25 April, 2010  To people desperately trying to avert a bloodbath in the forest belt, the recent PUDR statement on the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans in Dantewada caused considerable consternation, and Sumanta Banerjee's response to it even more so. According to the PUDR statement,  'As a civil rights organization we neither condemn the killing of security force combatants nor that of the Maoists combatants, or for that matter any other combatants, when it occurs'.  Sumanta Banerjee objected to the equating of Maoist violence and state violence, saying that  'these soldiers, by being cannon-fodders of the Indian state, however tragic it might be, suffered the fate that – I'm sorry to say – they deserved…To come back to the latest incident of the Maoist attack on the CRPF camp in Chhattisgarh…. if we accept it as a part of a civil war, such killings are inevitable (just as the CRPF killings of Maoists) in a violent system that has been institutionalized by the Indian state. The difference between the CRPF violence (involving 'false encounters', raping of tribal women, burning their homes, etc.) on the one hand, and the Maoist violence on the other (which means attacks on oppressive landlords and the police and para-military forces like the CRPF which come to the aid of the landlords) - has to be distinguished by civil society groups'  Both the statement and the response assume that a civil war is already in progress, and therefore the killing of combatants is not illegal. But given the Centre's decision not to send in the Army and Air Force, thereby implicitly recognising the conflict as a law and order problem rather than a civil war, is this assumption correct? Shouldn't democratic rights activists examine the impact of escalating the conflict on the local civilian population? After the attack, villages close to it emptied, as their inhabitants fled fearing reprisals. This could have been foreseen. Is provoking such 'collateral damage' justifiable? Moreover, the deaths of rank-and-file combatants, all of whom come from the poorer strata of society, are surely also of some concern to civil society groups?  In its other statements, PUDR accepts that even in a civil war the combatants have to abide by the laws of war. Therefore it condemned the beheading of Francis Induwar and the massacre of civilians by Maoists in Jamui in February. By contrast, Banerjee assumes that all Maoist violence is justifiable as the violence of the oppressed. Yet it is not clear that state and Maoist violence are so different, apart from the larger scale of the former. There are, of course, many examples of state security forces carrying out encounter killings for every case like that of Induwar, and massacres of civilians by security forces (as in Gompad) are also routine. Even if it is true that a full-fledged war is going on, these are war crimes. So is the recruitment of children, which both sides are doing in Bastar. Transfer of population from their villages to camps (which state forces have carried out in parts of Chhattisgarh) is a war crime or crime against humanity, as is rape, which has been used widely by the security forces in many states. Both sides are waging a dirty war, if war is what it is.  Who started it? According to the Maoists and their supporters, their violence is merely a response to state violence; according to Home Minister P.Chidambaram, it was the Maoists who first declared war on the state. But here, too, the situation is not as clearcut as either side would like to present it. Spokesmen of the Maoist leadership (and they are always men) use some degree of subterfuge in presenting their case. For example, in the recent interview given by Azad to The Hindu, he claimed that Lalgarh's peaceful mass movement against police atrocities turned into a revolutionary armed struggle due to brutal suppression by the state. But this is a travesty of the truth. In fact, the non-violent uprising organised by the People's Committee against Police Atrocities, a mass organisation including Maoists but not confined to them, was undermined when the Maoists started beating and killing tribals who failed to comply with their orders, and it was only when they sidelined the PCPA and announced that they had taken over the area that the state government, which had been kept at bay for seven months, moved in. Furthermore, in the very same interview Azad said that 'we want to achieve whatever is possible for the betterment of people's lives without compromising on our political programme of new democratic revolution and strategy of protracted people's war'. This merely confirms, as other Maoists have affirmed, that protracted people's war to capture state power and carry out a new democratic revolution has been the strategy from the beginning, when the Naxalites began their struggles. So it appears that they were the first to declare war.  Yet this view is also too simple, because it conflates the leadership of the party and its tribal cadre. For the leaders, it is true, protracted war was the strategy all along, it was not a matter of self-defence. But for the bulk of the tribal cadre that joined it, taking up guns was a response to experiences of horrific state violence, and motivated by self-defence and/or revenge. There is a short-term overlap between their aim of fighting against state oppression and the leadership's aim of overthrowing the state, but the longer-term goals diverge sharply. This comes out clearly in Santosh Rana's account as well as the Tehelka interview with Gurucharan Kisku, alias Marshall, a former tribal Maoist area commander. Kisku described how  'Instead of the existing gram samitis (village councils), the party started creating alternative committees within the village consisting of people who were either close to or members of the party. The party's declared objective was that all activity — social, cultural and economic — would be controlled by these committees. However, the leadership is non-tribal, and does not understand what it means to be Adivasi. The Adivasi identity is based on our village life, language and customs. I felt that this way, our culture was being destroyed.'  He felt the whole strategy was wrong from the standpoint of Adivasis, but could not make his view prevail; indeed, 'Whenever a tribal raises his voice against the Maoists, he is killed,' he complained. It is very likely that the vast majority of tribal cadre, like Kisku, have no interest in capturing state power to carry out a new democratic revolution. From their point of view, it was the state that first declared war on them and pushed them into the ranks of the Maoists.  The accounts by Rana and Kisku are valuable because they come from the perspective of insiders. They make it clear that there is no semblance of democracy in the areas controlled by the CPI (Maoist). All mass organisations are dominated by the party, with independent organisations and committees either being taken over or shut down. All dissent is crushed, if necessary by killing the dissenter. There is no freedom of association or expression, no room for alternative viewpoints or democratic debate, no means by which the leaders can be changed or replaced. This is the authoritarian vision that the party seeks to impose on its base areas in the tribal belt in the first instance, and then extend to the whole of India; the disconnect between precept and practice is even greater than that between the Indian Constitution and its persistent violation by the state. It is hard to see why anyone would choose this over India's deeply flawed but vibrant democracy, with its multiple parties and innumerable non-party organisations, and differences of opinion at all levels (including within the cabinet) being aired in public.  In terms of the party's economic policy, this has been described in many pronouncements, including that of General Secretary Ganapathy in a recent interview . The party is committed to bringing about a New Democratic Revolution by a four-class bloc – workers, peasants, urban petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie – against comprador bureaucratic capitalism, feudalism and imperialism. These formulations are lifted from Mao's essay 'On New Democracy', which was written in 1940, at a time when a large part of China was occupied by Japan and the Western powers were jockeying for spheres of influence (hence 'semi-colonial'), capitalist industry was in its infancy and the working class minuscule, and pre-capitalist relations dominated the countryside (hence 'semi-feudal'). It was basically a prescription for a bourgeois revolution to be carried out by the four-class bloc under the leadership of the Communist Party. Agrarian revolution was aimed at breaking the power of feudal landlords and creating conditions for the development of a rich peasantry, and all this was expected to result in a mixed economy. Mao made it clear this was not a proletarian-socialist revolution. The Chinese Revolution was that country's equivalent of Indian independence, carried out under different circumstances and by different means. Today, the bourgeois revolutions in both China and India have been carried out, people in both countries are struggling for democratic rights, and India is arguably ahead, in that democracy is formally accepted as the principle of governance even if it is repeatedly violated. For China in the 1940s New Democracy was a revolutionary programme, but for India in 2010 it is reactionary: for example, the 'national bourgeoisie' with which the CPI (Maoist) is allied includes the most viciously exploitative, oppressive and environmentally destructive capitalists to be found anywhere in the world  This doctrine of New Democracy has few takers, certainly not enough to wage a protracted armed struggle. But the state governments in this region and their police, along with the central government and its paramilitaries, are guilty of acting as recruiting agents for the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army by their criminal neglect of the Adivasis in the forest belt resulting in appalling levels of poverty, malnutrition, sickness and premature death, by displacing and dispossessing these communities of even the meagre resources left to them, by responding to non-violent resistance with torture, rape and murder, and by branding non-violent tribal rights activists as 'Maoists' and jailing or killing them. (Binayak Sen is the most famous, but there are thousands of others, including some outside the forest belt in states like Gujarat and Goa.) It is true that the central government has passed progressive legislation – like the Forest Rights Act, NREGA and the Right to Information Act – but there has not been anything like sufficient effort to strengthen these laws and plug loopholes through which corruption can enter, nor to ensure their implementation.  Although the bulk of resistance remains non-violent, it is not surprising that a small minority of tribals have joined the Maoist armed struggle in the belief that it will get them justice. But in doing so, they betray their own cause. Unarmed civilians have no way of enforcing democratic control over armed forces who claim to act in their interest, and all such armed forces therefore become oppressors. Did the CPI (Maoist) consult villagers in the vicinity before launching its attack on the CRPF in Dantewada? If the majority of villagers had objected, would it have desisted? If the majority had remained silent out of fear and only one or two had objected, what would have happened to them? Why does it sound absurd even to ask these questions? The unarmed communities in the forest belt of central India are trapped in the crossfire of a 'class war' over which they have no control. And these communities suffer most from every escalation of the violence.  Unless there is a powerful intervention that spells out a practical basis for a durable ceasefire, we are almost certainly heading for a bloodbath. The most urgent requirement is that both government and the Maoists should declare a ceasefire which is unconditional on both sides, and then engage in negotiations aimed at arriving at a more permanent compromise. Demands like 'Abjure violence' or 'Withdraw security forces from Maoist base areas' should be subjects of the negotiations, not preconditions for them. Just as urgently, and regardless of whether or not there are talks between Maoists and the government, the Centre should hold talks with all the numerous independent mass organisations in the region. Their demands – ranging from ration cards, health care, education, electricity and employment under NREGA to halting displacement and dispossession, implementing Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 ( PESA) and the Forest Rights Act, disclosing the terms of the MoUs between state governments and various companies, and putting them on hold unless and until they obtain the consent of the local population – should be taken seriously, and immediate steps taken to implement them. There is no excuse for failing to do this, since these demands are all compatible with the legal and constitutional rights of adivasi communities.

Indian general praises Pakistani valour at Kargil
WASHINGTON: A retired Indian general expressed high praise here last week for the valour of Pakistani fighters in Kargil, singling out for special mention Capt Karnail Sher and Capt Hanifuddin, both of whom fell fighting and posthumously honoured.  Addressing a meeting at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Lt General M Y Bammi, who retired from the Indian army in 1995 and has just published a book on the Kargil conflict – Kargil: the impregnable conquest – said the Pakistani troops had fought bravely. It was a brilliant action militarily, which had taken India by surprise. However, diplomatically and politically it turned out to be disastrous. India, contrary to Pakistani expectations, retaliated with full force and though it suffered heavy casualties, the Indian army took back every single feature captured by Pakistani troops. He said initially Pakistan had pretended that those fighting in Kargil were "mujahideen" but it later admitted that they were regular Pakistani troops, though they had a smattering of others. In any case, all doubts as to the identity of those fighting in Kargil were set at rest when Pakistan announced 92 gallantry awards at the end of the conflict, many of them posthumous.  General Bammi, who was commissioned in a Gurkha regiment, said that while bodies found at Kargil by Indian troops at recaptured positions were almost without exception those of "other ranks" or non-officers, it was ironic that quite a few of the 92 gallantry awards had gone to officers. He put the number of Pakistani dead at Kargil between 597 and 1,000. Eight were taken POWs. However, those figures were estimated ones, he added, as Pakistan had provided no official count so far. India, he said, lost 481 men, while 1,151 of its personnel suffered combat-related wounds. Two men were to this day unaccounted for.  The Indian general said Pakistani artillery fire was effective and inflicted heavy casualties on the Indians. He said there were several explanations of why Pakistan launched the Kargil operation. Did the planners assume that India would not respond? Was it an attempt to internationalise Kashmir? Or was it to gain area? He said incendiary statements of the kind that emanate from former Pakistani generals such as Aslam Beg and Hamid Gul "make us pause and think." Meanwhile, the insurgency continues and Hindus keep getting targeted. India also worries if Pakistani nuclear assets are fully secure and in safe hands. How good is the control and command structure, it wonders?  General Bammi said there were several conflicting signals from Pakistan, such as a statement by Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan to the effect that the Line of Control should be accepted as the permanent dividing line or the statement by federal information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed saying that the Kashmir issue would be resolved in three years. He emphasised that at no time during the conflict in Kargil did the two countries reach a "nuclear flashpoint." He said the attack on the Indian parliament was a much graver provocation than Kargil. It was clear now that Pakistan had learnt a lesson from Kargil as the international community had come out against the Pakistani incursion. Pakistan had also realised that there could be no more Kargils, he added.  In answer to a question, Gen Bammi said Kargil was an Indian intelligence failure. Indian intelligence failed to read the signs or identify the activities that were going on since 1997. Indian planners were also misled by the Lahore visit of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. He said the Kargil Plan of the Pakistan army was a very good one, but it was not new. It dated back to 1987. He added that former Pakistan army chief Gen Jehangir Karamat on a visit to New Delhi had told him that it was not his plan, nor had he ever discussed it with Benazir Bhutto.  Asked if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been "taken for a ride" by the army, Gen. Bammi referred to a statement made by Gen Pervez Musharraf in September 1999 claiming that "everyone was on board" on Kargil. He said Sharif might have been informed but not given "the complete picture."

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