Thursday, August 12, 2010

Three reports

1) Caste bias in the maoist apparatus Linky
Two points on the report: a) This very important report has NOT drawn the attention it deserves, which is amazing given that many had "predicted" such a division in not-so-crystal-clear terms because of the political incorrectness involved.

Over the years, a caste system has taken root within the Maoist organisation that is now on the verge of a revolt against alleged exploitation of tribals and scheduled castes who are being confined to the armed wing, while dominant castes are grabbing all senior posts in the rebel network across states. Interrogation of Andhra Pradesh’s top Maoist leader N. Narsimha Reddy, alias Gaganna, who was arrested from Nawadih in Bokaro last week, has revealed that more than four dozen women were part of the rebels’ army in Jharkhand, but not a single one of them was from the Mahto community. All the girls, he alleged, were either tribals or belonged to scheduled castes, a trend being followed by the Maoists in all the other states.

Reddy said if it was the Mahtos in Jharkhand, it was the Yadavs in Bihar and the Reddys and Raos in Andhra Pradesh who were members of local area committees that had exclusive rights to collect levy. “If this is the way the rebels continue to function where tribals and those belonging to lower castes like Manjhi, Bhuiyan, Ganju and Kharwar would work for the armed wing to fight security forces, while the upper castes collected levy, the Maoists will have to pay a heavy price in the coming days,” Reddy said during interrogation by senior police officers including IG (operations) R.K. Mallick, CRPF DIG Alok Raj and Bokaro SP Saket Singh. “A revolt is now a distinct possibility,” added Reddy.

Reddy claimed local villagers, along with disillusioned young Maoists, were getting close to the police. That was the reason behind his own arrest and that of cadres like Anuradha Sharma, Ravi Sharma and Mohammad Hussain, alias Anna, that had left a vacuum within the Maoists leadership in Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand. In fact, Reddy claimed he was made in-charge of the Jharkhand sub-committee in 2007 and sent to the Palamau and Latehar areas to try and stem the tide of villagers turning against them.

Reddy admitted there were serious differences between the Maoists’ central leadership and its sub-area committees and said that on several occasions junior cadres had openly refused to toe the line. Reddy, who was lodged in Tenughat jail, was brought to Bokaro yesterday for interrogation after he was remanded to the custody of the district police. He will be questioned for the next two days by the senior police officers. Bokaro SP Saket Singh said Reddy also revealed several names. Those entrusted with collecting levy were Rajesh Mahto, alias Saranda Tiger, Ramchandra Mahto, Santosh Mahto, Ajai Mahto, Udai Mahto, Dharmendra Mahto, Nago Mahto and Bhuvneshwar Mahto. And those who were part of the armed squad that was forbidden from collecting levy, were Navin Manjhi, Kundan Pahan, Ravi Manjhi, Pravir Manjhi, Pratiram Manjhi, Misir Besra, Pandu Manjhi (arrested) and Varun Manjhi.

b) The alias Gangana is used by Nambala Keshav Rao (see my post at Linky for the maoists op-chart). This guy, Narsimha Reddy, seems like a different chap using the same alias. If Nambala keshav Rao had been caught, that would have been a major major coup that would have resulted in some splashes in the maoist outlets, that I dont see.
2) Meanwhile, Linky
It took close to a bloody year, eh?! Wheels turn surely, but slowly in India.

The IAF has got the government's permission to fire back at Naxals in extremist-hit areas in self-defence, highly-placed Indian Air Force sources said today. The government's nod to the IAF's request made in September last year comes at a time when a debate is raging on whether India should use its armed forces against left-wing extremists, whom prime minister Manmohan Singh has described as the gravest internal security threat. The IAF currently deploys two of its Mi-17s and two Dhruv helicopters in anti-Naxal operations. It had lost one of its personnel when a helicopter ferrying election officials and material during the Chattisgarh assembly polls was fired at by suspected Naxals a couple of years ago.

The government had given permission to the IAF to defend itself from the extremists' fire and had laid out conditions on the use of small arms in self-defence sometime in October-November last year. Consequently, the IAF has fitted sideward-mounted machine guns on its helicopters flying in Naxal-affected areas basically for logistics, personnel transport and casualty evacuation of paramilitary forces engaged in fighting the Maoists, the sources said. These guns would be operated by IAF commandos belonging to Garud units, who would be on board the helicopters every time they go out on sorties, the sources said.

Defence minister AK Antony had told Parliament in November last year that though no offensive military action had been envisaged while using the IAF helicopters in anti-Naxal operations, there was no specific approval required for action in self-defence. However, the IAF has proposed a draft 'rules of engagement' to regulate such action, in order to avoid any ambiguity and damage to the helicopters or injury to their occupants, he had said replying to members' questions. Among the conditions laid out were that no indiscriminate firing should be carried out and that the Garuds should be sure of the source of the attack on the helicopters before retaliatory fire was unleashed. These guidelines were issued to ensure there were no civilian causalities in case the IAF used its guns in self-defence, the defence ministry had explained then.

"The IAF helicopter crew will not use the conventional heavy fire power weapons such as rockets and other guns on board, but only the sideward-mounted machine guns. They will use the weapons only if fired upon," the sources said. "Fortunately, in these months that we have been allowed to defend our assets, there has been no occasion when we had to use the sideward-mounted guns," they said. The IAF, the sources said, had obtained the government's approval recently to withdraw 17 of its Mi-17 helicopters that are currently in operation with various UN missions. Once the number of its helicopters increased, it could think of sparing more choppers for the paramilitary forces that were combating the Maoists after assessing the situation, the sources said.

They said for the use of its helicopters in Maoist-hit areas, the IAF had asked the state police and the paramilitary to take a number of precautions such as sanitising the helipad areas. "If the Naxals have rockets, as it is being suggested, the security forces would sanitise the area up to the range of these rockets, be it 600m or more, from the helipads," the sources said. Admitting that the IAF had imposed an 80-hour per month per helicopter limit for flying, they said it had, in fact, done more hour-sorties in the last four months than the prescribed limit. The helicopters had done an average of 169 hours in April, 91 hours in May, 118 hours in June and 89 hours in July this year, they said, denying media reports that the IAF had refused to fly in the Naxal-affected regions during certain operations recently.

They said the time limit was set as per IAF's norms for all its helicopters, keeping in mind the maintenance and repairs required for these machines after they had flown for a specified number of hours. It was also to have a certain number of platforms available for operations at any given time. "In case of a crisis, like the Leh cloudburst, there is no question of IAF helicopters being denied, so let's not get into a blame game," the sources said. On the question of paramilitary forces wanting a separate air wing for themselves, the sources said the issue of operating an aircraft or a helicopter fleet was "complicated and not simplistic" as it sounded. They said an air fleet required a large supply chain for spares, support systems and other logistics, which was not an easy task. "Some state governments bought helicopters but found it difficult to operate them due to the lack of support systems," they said.

3) Cell phones and cancer: Having read some of the literature in this area 5-6 years back, I will just say this. There is NO proof as of now that cell phones have anything to do with cancer. The key operative word is "as of now." But it is not before long a link will be found. For one, the number of devices that use the EM spectrum is only increasing and will not do anything but proliferate exponentially. The second matter is that cancer is poorly understood and seems like will remain poorly understood for quite a while (unless there is a dramatic advance somewhere else). Short of that, take away cell phones from kids and adolescents. If I were a parent, I would ban cell phone usage for kids modulo emergencies.

In any case, Sandeep Joshi avers that "The Union government finally seems to have woken up to the health hazards related to radiation from mobile towers and handsets." Linky I am not that optimistic about the inevitable gap between the cup and the lip. Use hands-free, use cell phones sparingly, go back to land-lines if need be, etc. I have a more detailed pdf on this issue by one Neha Kumar and Prof. Girish Kumar of IIT Bombay. However, the pdf seems too dense for a non-electromagnetics audience. I wish blogspot would allow a pdf upload.
4) Nepal update: Former Indian diplomat posted in Nepal, Shri KV Rajan, has made a visit to consult with the political spectrum to bring a consensus government. Hard task, obviously. Rakesh Sood, the Indian ambassador, was in South Block for consultations right after Shyam Saran left. Prachanda dilly-dallying is boring, for later.

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