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Dozens Massacred as Divided India Confronts Communist Insurgency

The Maoists brought the convoy of politicians to a halt by felling trees across the road in a heavily forested area of India’s Chhattisgarh state. Then they blew up a landmine under one of the cars and opened fire.


Reports say there were over 200 fighters involved in the ambush. They killed at least 24 people, including a former state minister, Mahendra Karma, and the regional Congress Party chief. The Maoists—who are sometimes called Naxalites and have waged an insurgency against the state in several Indian provinces for decades—have targeted Karma in the past because of his role in setting up the Salwa Judum, a militia that fought back against the Maoists but was accused of atrocities against tribal Indians. “Such tribal groups are among the most marginalized citizens in Indian society and constitute the backbone of the Maoist insurgency that has kindled across the eastern middle of the country,” reports the NYT.

The brutal attack threw India’s internal divisions into sharp relief—the marginalized tribals, the Maoist rebels, the politicians of opposing parties. Indians must decide if “our democracy is worth killing for,” writes security analyst Praveen Swami in Firstpost. “Large elements of India’s elite don’t have the stomach for a long and dirty war—which is what all insurgencies involve. For years, there’s been a complicity with the killing—on the Left because of misplaced guilt over India’s hideous failures to ensure equity for citizens; on the right, because of the misguided belief that geographical distance allows for apathy.”

“Doubts about the Maoists being engaged in anything short of a civil war should now be laid to rest. This is no longer just a battle between the Maoists and the police and paramilitary forces. It is an all-out war against the Republic of India. By attacking the political class in this manner the Maoists have made it clear that they will give no quarter and that the war will not stop until they are decimated,” reads a strongly worded editorial in the Hindustan Times.

Indeed, Congress Party leaders immediately painted the attack as an assault on everything India stands for, “an attack on democratic values,” said Sonia Gandhi. For observers in the West, it’s a reminder that India (and China, too) has serious internal issues that its leaders must address as the country develops.

[Naxalite image courtesy Wikimedia]

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