it appears that Naxalite groups are taking up the organized cultivation of opium poppies in the territories they control.
This development is distinctly different from Pakistani terrorism funded by ISI involvement in the illegal drug trade, because in that case, the actual production of drugs took place outside of India (largely in Afghanistan).
On one hand, this meant that the opium producers themselves were beyond our reach or capacity to punish on a large scale.
On the other hand, it meant that we were spared some of the ill-effects of having the opium grown, refined and manufactured right on our own soil.
Firstly, we did not have to worry about the havoc wreaked by the great stresses that the widespread incidence of drug cultivation brings to bear on the rural agricultural economy at the local level. The influence that drug cartels (and their sponsors) are able to gain by virtue of their vast resources, as well as their presence and activity on the ground in rural areas, was not a problem we ever had to deal with. This is not a threat to be underestimated.
If a drug economy is allowed to establish itself in impoverished rural India, it will thrive and completely displace the incompetent organs of the state at every level. From dispensing justice to financing micro-loans, it is with the drug cartels that villagers in remote areas will prefer to sign their social contract, rather than a corrupt, indifferent and largely absent state. Just as the "bhai-log", the Pakistan and UAE-based underworld gangs, have become arbiters of justice and financiers of enterprises at the urban level, we can expect to see a counterpart emerge in rural India, which has thus far remained unscathed by the effects of organized crime on an international scale. Once the narco-machinery digs in and integrates itself with the rural economy and political structure, it will prove practically impossible to weed out, as numerous examples in Latin America have shown us over the decades.
Secondly, India was not directly in the path of Afghan opium's distribution channels. Certainly ISI-distributed Afghan heroin found its way to Mumbai and other Indian cities en route to wealthier international markets... but even more wound up on the streets of Karachi and other Pakistani cities. However, the amount of Afghan heroin actually sold on Indian streets is the merest tip of an iceberg, compared to the situation we would see if the length and breadth of rural, small-town and metropolitan India were crisscrossed by distribution routes for heroin produced by Naxal terrorists in the Indian heartland.
Thirdly, it was necessarily more difficult for foreign interests to sponsor terrorism in India via funds generated by production of heroin in Afghanistan, than it would be if the production, distribution and terrorist utilization of funds were all taking place within India itself. The ISI, for example, would then have no need for intricate BCCI-type financial networks to get drug money into anti-Indian terrorist groups' hands... networks that have become increasingly unreliable, from our enemies' point of view, following the monitoring that they have been subject to post 9/11. Foreign interests aimed at destablizing India would find things much more profitable with the whole operation contained on Indian soil... sort of like a Japanese automaker opening low-cost auto plants in rural China to manufacture low-cost cars for consumption in urban China.
The problem needs to be examined in the light of recent developments (albeit set against long standing historical backdrops) in Latin America. The following ingredients that we see emerging in Naxal terrorism were all part and parcel of internal security problems faced by many nations there:
1) An emergence of anti-government terrorist groups espousing a far left-wing ideology, active in "isolated hinterlands"... remote, mostly rural regions of these developing countries, largely devoid of meaningful infrastructure, where government machinery was largely absent or indifferent. For example, FARC in Colombia, and Shining Path in Peru.
2) The nexus between these groups and drug "cartels". Such cartels include the rural producers of drug crops, the manufacturers of drugs from raw materials in back-country refineries, and the distributors in urban areas and along international routes. The drug crop is mostly coca in Latin America, but opium poppies are commonly cultivated in Southeast Asia. India is the world's *only* producer of legal opiates for medicinal purposes (morphine, codeine etc.) and there is a large amount of governmentally regulated opium poppy cultivation.
3) The growth in economic, financial, military and political power of these groups, fueled by the drug trade, into quasi-state entities that exercise almost as much authority as national governments across vast swathes of territory.
4) The involvement of such groups in proxy war situations.
This is what we are seeing right now in Colombia and Ecuador. Yesterday, March 3rd, Colombian troops crossed into Ecuadorian territory where FARC had a major base (allegedly facilitated and supported by the Ecuadorian government in much the same manner as Bangladesh supports ULFA). The Colombians killed 17 FARC terrorists inluding a high-level leader named Raul Reyes.
Now the Ecuadorians are massing troops on the Colombian border, and the Venezuelans are doing so on their border with Colombia as well.
The background to all this is a wider Latin American conflict that has been brewing for some time. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, using his nation's oil wealth and allegedly assisting left-wing drug-related groups, has been trying to play godfather to leftist governments throughout Latin America... much as Castro was wont to do in his heyday. Chavez is the chief sponsor of Ecuador's left wing Rafael Correa government, which has been accused by Colombia of harboring FARC. Meanwhile, Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe is on the other side of the political spectrum... pro-America and pro-neocon, he was one of the few Latin American leaders to support the US invasion of Iraq. Given the animosity that existed between Uribe and the Chavez camp, this latest development involving FARC has led northern South America to the brink of a major security crisis.
5) The involvement of Christian organizations, especially certain clerical orders as the Jesuits who have a stated "social justice" agenda, cannot be overlooked as another ingredient in the nexus of ultra-left terrorists and drug cartels in Latin America.
We have seen hints of this in India as well, evinced by the involvement of individuals having close ideological links to Jesuitry and evangelical Christianity with Naxal terrorism.
Once again I refer you to Liberation Theology
, which this TOI article cites as the ideological motivation for such individuals as Arun Ferreira, himself a Jesuit-in-training and nephew of a prominent Mumbai Jesuit, to involve himself in the leadership echelons of the Naxalite terrorist movement.
I would also draw your attention, in this context, to the widespread co-existence of Maoism and evangelical Christianity as the founts of ideological motivation for any number of separatist terrorist groups in India's northeast.
Likewise, I would remind readers of the coordinated assault against the Hindu tribals of Orissa (and the state of Orissa itself) in December last year, with a view to examining the nexus of forces involved.
First, encouraged by evangelist missionaries, Christian converts in Orissa's Kandhamal district deliberately defiled Hindu temples and religiously significant sites, seeking to provoke tensions with Hindu tribals to the point where communal violence was imminent. When Hindu spiritual leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati
visited the region to investigate, he too was physically assaulted by Christian converts.
The subsequent retaliation by outraged Hindu tribals against their missionary-inspired tormentors, on December 25th 2007, was predictably the only aspect of the story covered by the Indian English-language media. The incident was portrayed as unprovoked violence by bigoted, extremist Hindus against a hapless Christian minority. However, this was not the end of the story.
The nexus between evangelical missionaries and maoist groups came to full light in the carefully staged counterattack following the Hindu tribals' retaliation.
On the military front, Maoist groups went on premeditated rampages targeting Hindu tribals as well as symbols of state authority. For example, on December 27th 2007, Three Thousand "Miscreants" Armed with Automatic Weapons"
mounted an assault on the police station of Brahmanigaon, where over 800 homes were also set on fire.
On the propaganda front, Evangelical groups took up the effort with a vengeance. In a December 31st, 2007 press release by the "Episcopal Conference of India", they attempted to blame the Naxal groups' armed violence on "Hindu extremists". Playing every available cheap-publicity card, they stooped to the recruitment of Australian Missionary Graham Staines' widow Gladys to act as their mouthpiece. Predictably, India's English-language media lapped up this angle with relish, substituting it for an accurate investigation of the facts.
The Orissa story continued with the Naxalites mounting an assault on the state's economic lifelines on Republic Day
. More recently, there was the February 16th
attack on Nayagarh police station by 600 naxalites who looted a large quantity of sophisticated weaponry and ammunition.
The correlation between the districts of Orissa where Naxal terrorist groups are at their strongest, and those where Christian missionary activity has produced a large number of converts among the tribal population, is a trend to be watched carefully.
Kandhamal District, the site of the 27th December 2007 assault by 3000 armed Maoists, has seen an increase in its converted Christian population from6% in 1970 to almost 27% in 2001.
The evangelist website IndiaNetZone
, which keeps track of Indian tribes and targets them for systematic proselytization, refers to the Sitha Khanda tribe of Orissa as ardent converts to Christianity. It describes their population as being highly concentrated in Phulbani (Kandhamal) and Koraput districts, as well as the Udaygiri area of Ganjam district (which is actually on the border of Gajapati district). This map
of Orissa shows the location of Kandhamal, Koraput and Gajapati districts mentioned as having a high concentration of converted Sitha Khanda tribals. Please compare with this map of Naxalite activity in India
which shows Koraput as a "severely affected district", and Kandhamal and Gajapati as "targeted districts".
Absent the kind of data that our politically correct government makes almost impossible to find, it is difficult to track the correlation further with the information readily available. However, given what we know, the apparent trend is immensely worrying.
To summarize, the most alarming developments relevant to the rise of the Red Menace in the recent past have been:
1) The Naxalites' developing nexus with the illegal drug trade, to the point where terrorist groups are involved in the cultivation of drug crops, prompting speculation that they intend to finance their activities and establish their influence in rural areas along the lines of Latin American ultra-left militias;
2) An emerging geographical and temporal correlation of Maoist activity with Christian missionary activity, suggesting that Christian tribals have been targeted for recruitment by Naxal groups with some success, and raising questions about the ideological, organizational and financial connections between Maoist terror groups and international Christian organizations.
Both angles must be explored thoroughly in order to determine the identity, nature and designs of the Maoist and Naxalite terror groups' international backers.