19 December, 2011

Maoists, North-East and China

Uddipan Mukherjee

Centre for Land Warfare Studies


When Mohammad Kora was paid an amount of Rs 20 to carry a parcel, he hardly had inkling that it would turn out to be his nemesis. A poor rickshaw-puller by profession, Kora discovered the article to be an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the hardest way.

The spot where the incendiary exploded on November 30, 2011, was about 50 metres away from City Convention Centre and the Manipur Film Development Corporation’s newly constructed auditorium which have been prepared for inauguration by Dr Manmohan Singh on December 03. In the process, the Sangai festival in Imphal received a jolt. Kora was attempting to plant the IED, albeit unknowingly, near the gate of the exhibition. But the IED burst in an untimely fashion.

Before breathing his last, Kora divulged to the police that the IED was given to him by a member of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), a party which was formally proclaimed on April 13, 1980 under the leadership of Y Ibohanbi. During its formative years, the KCP under the leadership of Ibohanbi and Ibopishak had decided to follow the communist ideology. But with the passage of time and the death of the two leaders, the outfit split into many factions. Police sources in Imphal indicated the existence of about dozen of them.

Exploring the Maoist - North-East Alliance
Since the eighties, the KCP has been waging a bloody struggle for a sovereign Manipur. In 2009, a faction of the outfit has embraced Maoist ideology to carry on its armed movement like the ultra-left wing guerrillas in other parts of India. In a signed document, W. Malemnganba Meitei, spokesperson of the newly-floated maoist wing of KCP said, “Our immediate aim is to carry on a new democratic revolution in Manipur to establish a communist society through armed revolutionary war. We will carry out the Protracted People’s War by joining hands with other Maoist revolutionary parties.”

However, such hobnobbing with the Maoists is not new for insurgent groups of Manipur. According to The Workers Dreadnought, in the early 1970′s during  the Bangladesh Liberation War, a number of Manipuri activists and leaders, ended up in prison; especially in Tripura, where they came into contact with Naxalite prisoners who also were being arrested at the time. This had a profound influence on the Manipuri groups as a number of key leaders were released from prison in the mid 1970′s with a new ideology, Mao Zedong’s thought and the military strategy of Protracted People’s War.


Interestingly, though a branch of KCP professes the ideology of Maoism, on November 30, it was a dastardly act of blatant terrorism. And quite expectedly, it didn’t find the major Maoist party in India by its side.
However, if one goes somewhat back in time; in November 2010, the KCP had shown solidarity for the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in their 24-hour All India Bandh. On November 03, 2010, Malemnganba Meitei, the Secretary for Publicity and Propaganda of the KCP (Maoists) came out with a declaration which read thus:

“Kangleipak Communist Party will extend unconditional support to the 24 hours All India Bandh on 8th November called by our fraternal group Communist Party of India (Maoist) but it can not be effected in Manipur because Manipur is going to celebrate Ningol Chakouba on the same day, a traditional largest festival of Manipuri Society. So KCP apologize for that reason.”

The rest of the text was the usual vitriolic stuff heaped against the Indian Union as the bourgeoisie political structure. Nevertheless, one statement demands attention. Though the KCP openheartedly extended its support for the CPI-M, they clearly fell short of implementing that support on the ground. And the rationale put forth in defence was the celebration of a social festival involving the Meities of Manipur. Hence, it was clear that the KCP was still guided by ethnic moorings and were yet to be completely driven by the secular doctrinaire of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist philosophy as their comrades in CPI-M.

The explosion of the IED a year later carried exactly the same signature of ethnicity as the KCP was basically protesting against the Manipur blockade by the Nagas and the Kukis. The issue was largely a local one. However, that doesn’t rule out any tactical collusion between the Maoist parties; more so on the part of the CPI-M.

Ratnadip Choudhury writes at Tehelka.com that CPI-M was attempting to spread the idea of a Strategic United Front (SUF) of all rebel outfits operating in the restive North-East. Tehelka claims to have accessed secret letters between the Maoists and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) leadership. These reveal how the nexus between CPI-M and PLA was formed and this scheme was the brainchild of the recently eliminated CPI-M politburo member Kishenji aka Koteswar Rao.

In fact, such a revelation was reported on November 25, 2011 in The Telegraph. It said that the Manipur-based PLA and the CPI-M convened a meeting at Champai in the comparatively peaceful state of Mizoram on July 15, 2010. This information was extracted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). NIA also came to know that similar meetings between the two proscribed outfits had taken place in Kolkata, Guwahati and Rourkela.

Furthermore, on a more alarming note, it has been discovered that the PLA had imparted arms training to the CPI-M cadres at the Saranda forests of Jharkhand between September 11 to November 20, 2010. The Telegraph further alleged that the CPI-M had paid money to the PLA for procuring Chinese made arms and communication devices.

Moreover, there are reports of plans of conducting joint training camps of CPI-M and the PLA in Myanmar. And through this channel, their expansive connections with ULFA can hardly be ruled out. To add fuel, the CPI-M had already signed a joint declaration with the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), the political wing of the PLA, in October 2008.

Amitabh Bhattasali for the BBC on November 23, 2011 quotes an officer Iftiqar Hussein, who administers five sensitive districts of Upper Assam. Hussein told BBC: “"The Maoist guerrillas are getting food and shelter in the area. There were several cases of arms-snatching. Even extortion letters were sent to some rich people.”  Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has repeatedly expressed his feelings on this issue. He seems to be of the firm opinion that anti-dam movements have a Maoist hand behind them. Moreover, there were reports of Maoists trying to spread their ideological base in Assam through the tea plantation workers.

To understand the gravity of the matter, a December 12, 2011 news in The Telegraph states that Assam police have urged Dispur to create the post of Superintendent of Police (operations) in Upper Assam to co-ordinate offensives against Maoists which have been trying to gain a foothold in the area.
Analyst Ajit Singh for The Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi goes deep into the subject of alliance between North-Eastern outfits and the Maoists. He cites an official source “ISI and PLA are in touch and supplying Maoists with arms. They are supposedly using China as the alternative route." However, STRATFOR’s analysts Fred Burton and Ben West indicate to the contrary.

The China Factor

The China factor has been corroborated by Tehelka.com: “The PLA was given a contract of procuring Chinese-made rocket-propelled grenades, automatic rifles and high-end wireless sets.” Tehelka was also informed by an insider from the anti-talk faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) that Kishenji was in touch with ULFA army chief Paresh Baruah, who led him to Anthony Shimray, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah) or NSCN(IM)’s chief arms procurer.

In this regard, it is noteworthy to quote then home secretary G K Pillai’s statement: “Chinese are big smugglers... suppliers of small arms. I am sure that the Maoists also get them.” (Times of India, Nov 9, 2009)

Furthermore, a December 07, 2011 report in The Sangai Express, a Manipur-based daily re-iterates the above. It states that insurgent groups in North-East are procuring arms in China and South-East Asian nations before smuggling those into India through Myanmar and Bangladesh. And Yunan province in China seems to be the breeding ground for such activities; Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran had said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.

According to intelligence sources, Paresh Barua flew to Kunming in China’s Yunan province from Dhaka and had meetings with Chinese military intelligence brass. The PLA had urged the Chinese to help the Maoists and an “assurance” from the Chinese was sent through the PLA.


Even Mao Zedong’s China was apprehensive in explicitly acknowledging a helping hand towards then Naxalites of the late 1960s. Though Kanu Sanyal and others had gone to China to learn the basic tenets of guerrilla warfare and Naxal cadres had their [in]famous slogan: “China’s Chairman is our Chairman”; Mao never openly encouraged an ideology-based proxy-war in India. In the 21st century, with a booming trade between India and China, it hardly appears logical that the Chinese foreign policy establishment would support the cause of the Maoists like the ISI does in Kashmir. At worst, China would abet the insurgent outfits by selling small arms, which again suits their business interests at large.

Dr Pushpita Das at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses opines that overall, 2011 has been a good year for India’s internal security. However, she warns that “to ensure 2012 also turns out to be a quiet and secure year, New Delhi not only has to consolidate the gains made in 2011 but also undertake new initiatives.”

At the other end, India’s task is cut out. On December 03, 2011, Prime Minister Dr Singh and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi addressed the previously planned public function at Kangla in Imphal. The dignitaries were provided tight security and no untoward incident occurred. But if this expanding net of terror in the North-East is not nipped in the bud, then it is easy to comprehend the futuristic implications of such a scenario.

1 comment:

  1. Though we never really acknowledged the north east as a part of mainstream political activities,it continues to run an interesting parallel world of its own.The people in north east,in general,have been exploited and discriminated against,for a long time.As a result,a lot of anger has accumulated in the people and it takes absolutely no convincing to make them declare a war against the system.The result of such nexus is yet to be seen and I can't honestly say that I'm looking forward to it.