Counter-Terrorism: Recruiting Teenagers Backfires


April 24, 2016: In eastern India the Maoist rebels, under heavy attack since 2010, are losing popular support and with it people willing to join and, worse, parents willing to allow their teenage children to be recruited. In the past teenage children were willing to join for non-combat jobs, especially if it led to some useful training that could later help them get a well-paying job. Parents went along with this, even though it was common knowledge that once the Maoists had your kids they would indoctrinate the impressionable ones and convince them to eventually volunteer for combat jobs. Often the Maoists would simply lure the kids away and more and more families, and entire rural villages, became very anti-Maoist because of that. In some areas the lack of willing recruits and hostile parents led the Maoists to try a lottery which, if parents entered, the Maoists would only accept recruits from a few of the eligible families. The lottery has not helped much and the Maoists are losing more and more popular support as the security forces regain control of more rural areas where the Maoists were long able to move about freely.

India has been fighting leftist (Maoist) rebels since the 1970s. Since 2004 the Maoists have been losing ground but remain a threat in rural areas of eastern India that the security forces have yet to enter in force. The years of losses have caused the leftist rebels to be less effective and frequent in their attacks on economic targets and to be more often fighting internal dissidents.

Since 2006 the Maoists have lost (dead, captured or surrendered) over 18,000 members. The losses were heaviest in 2010 (3,354) and lowest in 2007 (1,987 members lost). The Maoists are still recruiting, but they are on the defensive and have been increasingly avoiding battles with the police. The Maoists have adapted, by building their camps in more remote areas and using roadside bombs to attack military convoys or patrolling troops in vehicles. This is done after carefully determining where nearby police units are, because the paramilitary police will quickly go after Maoists who have just ambushed convoys or patrols.

The anti-Maoist campaign is largely a police operation, with little military involvement. The air force, after years of cajoling, finally provided some helicopters. The military prefers to stay out of any war against internal rebels. Kashmir was considered an exception because most of the Islamic terrorists were trained and armed in Pakistan then sneaked across the border. The military quite accurately see the Maoists as largely the product of corruption and bad government in the affected states. Since Indian states have a lot of autonomy, each of the states with a Maoist problem is under pressure to improve social and economic conditions for the populations who feel angry enough at the government to support, and often join the Maoists. The police have made inroads in damaging Maoist fund raising and weapons purchasing. This has led to more senior Maoist leaders being arrested or at least identified (which makes it more difficult for these people to travel freely).

The current offensive began back in 2010 when India sent a force of 75,000 paramilitary policemen to eliminate the communist (Maoist) rebels. These communist rebels and terrorists have been at it since the 1970s and are still going strong after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and seeming defeat of the communist movement in 1991. These Indian terrorists belong to the Maoist movement, an organization trying to establish a communist dictatorship similar to the radical communist movement of the 1960s, when Chinese ruler Mao Zse Dong sought to "purify" the country with a lot of chaos and millions of dead. The Cambodian Khmer Rouge was the first copy-cat Maoists, and they killed over a million of their countrymen in the 1970s. The Communist Party of India is a powerful political force, and supports the Maoists, while officially disapproving of the Maoist terrorism. Thus many Indian leftists see dead Maoists as victims.

Since 2008 the Maoists have become more of a problem than Islamic terrorism in Kashmir. As a result the government has moved many of the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force, a paramilitary organization that deals with terrorism) battalions from Kashmir to areas in eastern India where the Maoists operate.


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