India: Maoists attack as Bush arrives

India’s long and forgotten war with the Maoist Naxalite rebels in the impoverished east claims scores of lives in Chattisgarh state just as Bush arrives in the country. Note that the right-wing BJP is forming anti-guerilla paramilitary groups in the region—an ominous echo of the dialectic of terror that has engulfed neighboring Nepal. From, March 1:

Dozens die in Maoist blast

Raipur/New Delhi: Maoist rebels set off a landmine under a truck yesterday in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, killing 55 people and wounding at least 20 belonging to a government-backed anti-Maoist group, police said.

However, an AFP report said 23 people were killed in the blasts and an unspecified number abducted by the rebels. “As per reports received so far, 23 people have died and 33 others were injured in the blast,” said Ajay Chandrakar, Chhattisgarh’s Legislative Affairs Minister.

The attack came on the eve of a visit to the country by US President George W. Bush and was one of the worst single acts of violence by Maoists in the past three decades.

Analysts said the attack showed New Delhi could ill-afford to take the growing Maoist threat lightly, saying that the rebels posed a bigger danger than Kashmiri militants.

“Maoists set off a landmine in Darmagura area in Dantewada district, killing 55 people,” senior police officer S.K. Paswan told Reuters, adding those killed were tribal members returning from an anti-Maoist meeting organised by the state.

Some of the wounded were taken to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state by helicopter.

Last year the local Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government set up and started funding local anti-Maoist groups in impoverished and underdeveloped areas and provided arms to some members to fight the guerrillas.

Officials said hundreds of police reinforcements had been sent to the area to search for those behind the attacks. Darmagura, 500km south of the state capital Raipur, is a stronghold of Maoists who claim to be fighting for the rights of peasants and landless labourers.

Indian Maoists, who operate in at least nine of the country’s 29 states, have stepped up attacks in the past year, killing dozens of people, including police. India’s home ministry said there are about 9,300 Maoist guerrillas operating in the country.

Security analysts say New Delhi ignores the seriousness of the Maoist threat in the country at its peril. “This is a great error of judgment and the country will pay for this for decades,” said Ajai Sahni, executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management.

He said Maoists were already operating in 165 of the country’s 602 administrative districts.

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