f_0020460_17222 - Megha Bahree is a staff writer at Forbes...

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© 2010 World Policy Institute 83 CHHATTISGARH STATE, India—It was 4 p.m. one March afternoon in 2008. The vic- tims were living in a relief camp in a village called Matwada. Two dozen members of a government-backed civilian militia, accom- panied by at least one police officer, burst into their homes. They dragged four men out onto the street, across from a paramili- tary office, and began to beat them with sticks. They paused to pour water over the Matwada men, waking them when they fainted out of pain and fear. When their wives flung themselves across their hus- bands’ weakened bodies, they were beaten too. Then the men were dragged from sight, into the forest. One managed to escape. The next day the remaining three were found buried next to a stream, stabbed in the eyes and the neck and finished off with a knife stab to the head. The men were suspected of being informants, of aiding the nascent Maoist insurgency in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The survivor and three widows filed a criminal case against the state, and a court decided recently that the State of Chhattisgarh would compensate them for the wrongful attacks. Fifteen months later, a village leader named Vimal Meshram was gunned down by Maoists in a market in Bastar, in a dis- trict adjoining Matwada. Meshram was an outspoken supporter of a Tata Steel plant that the multinational—one of India’s largest industrial companies—has been try- ing to build for the past five years. Meshram was one of at least 1,700 villagers, all police or police-supported vigilantes, who’ve been killed by Maoists in this district alone. In the bloodiest attack, at least 80 paramilitary troops were gunned down in early April as they tried to flush Maoist rebels from the Dantewada forests in Chhattisgarh. A little more than a month later, the rebels attacked again, this time placing a landmine on a na- tional highway in Bastar, killing eight para- military troops when they ran it over in their truck. Less than two weeks later the Maoists blew up a bus in the same district, killing at least 50 civilians. Scarce Resources There is a proxy war underway in India’s in- terior—a bloody conflict raging over that rare and valuable commodity in this too crowded country: land. On one side, power- ful rebel groups claim to be fighting for the poor—farmers and small agrarian tribes in particular. On the other side, the govern- ment is locking up land and the resources buried beneath it (particularly coal and bauxite) for some of India’s biggest private Megha Bahree is a staff writer at Forbes , specializing in Asia and the India-Pakistan region. The Forever War: Inside India’s Maoist Conflict Megha Bahree
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84 WORLD POLICY JOURNAL • SUMMER 2010 companies. In its attempts to exterminate the Maoists, India’s military and police forces have killed at least 1,300 insurgents since 2004. Trapped in the crossfire, some 2,900 villagers have also died; at least 100,000 have been displaced. The clash in-
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f_0020460_17222 - Megha Bahree is a staff writer at Forbes...

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