For a State that considers itself a democracy, it's no minor decision to declare war against its own people. Especially if the target of the military campaign is patently the poorest and most emarginated part of the population, as is the case with the millions of Indian adivasi peasants who inhabit the Tribal Belt. These people live on the margins of "the economic miracle", from whose benefits they are totally excluded, despite being called upon to sacrifice their lands and their very survival on its shining altars. It's not surprising, therefore, that before sending in its troops the Indian government is at least making a last-minute attempt to establish some kind of dialogue.
The Green Hunt military operation. In order to stamp out the resistance of the tribal populations to the expropriation of their ancestral lands (destined for mineral and industrial exploitation by multinationals from all over the world), the New Delhi government has opted for a military solution, announcing the forthcoming implementation of the Green Hunt operation: 75,000 troops to be used to "re-conquer" the tribal areas of the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. A full-scale war waged by the state against those not functional to the development of Indian turbo-capitalism and who even go so far as to obstruct it. A war of conquest and exploitation disguised as an anti-terrorist operation: the Tribal Belt, as it happens, coincides with the so-called "Red Corridor" where the peasant guerrilla movement of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is the official target of the Green Hunt operation.
One third of India under rebel control. The Maoist descendants of the "Naxalite" rebels of the 1960s have been waging guerrilla warfare against the Federal government since the 1980s. They may appear an innocuous and romantic anachronism, but for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh they represent "the most serious threat to internal security ever faced by the nation." Today, via its own parallel government structures, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) controls more than one third of the Federation's districts (roughly 220 out of a total of 600) and can count on 10,000 regular combatants, 40,000 local officials, and above all the support of millions of disinherited peasants who see the "red combatants" as their only defence against a government which for years has raped their women, tortured and killed their men and burnt their villages in the attempt to drive them away from their lands. And which now declares war on them.
The government's negotiations offer. But before definitively embarking on the road to civil war (because this is what operation Green Hunt really amounts to), the Indian government has decided to offer the Maoists a chance, recognising for the first time the social - and not terrorist - nature of their struggle and declaring for the first time their willingness to negotiate in order to find a political solution to the problem of poverty in the tribal areas. "These are not terrorists attacking India from the outside: these are rebels who have raised serious issues such as the lack of development in the tribal areas", declares P. Chidambaram, the Federal Minister for the Interior. "We are prepared to discuss with them the possibility of alternative government structures in those regions in order to facilitate the cause of development. I'm not saying that the State will surrender and lay down its weapons: I'm simply asking the rebels to renounce violence and open the path to serious negotiations."
A propaganda manoeuvre. "He's offering peace and negotiations at the same time as sending federal troops wherever we operate: who does he think he's kidding?", replied the Maoist leader Koteswara Rao, who just one month ago made a proposal to the government involving dialogue in exchange for the suspension of preparations for Green Hunt, only to see his offer flatly refused.
Minister Chidambaram's declarations sound very much like a propaganda manoeuvre for the benefit of Indian and international public opinion, intended to demonstrate that the Indian government has done everything it can to avoid the use of violence. When in reality the Singh government has done nothing but fan the flames of tension, intensifying the land expropriations and the terrorist-style repression of every kind of organised dissent. This repression has been entrusted not only to the regular security forces but also to specially created civil militias (such as the Salwa Judum) which have been responsible for the worst violence, repeatedly denounced by international civil rights organisations and by Indian intellectuals such as the world-famous writer Arundhati Roy, according to whom "the concept that India is a democracy is the greatest publicity hoax of the century."