TC Malhotra contributes to MetalMiner from New Delhi.
The rising trend of Naxalites attacks on mining and related activities across Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa, which is known as India’s mineral heartland, poses a serious threat to the growth of India’s mining industry.
During the last few years, Naxals and other Maoists have targeted critical infrastructure, transportation, energy, and resource systems in Indian states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
Industry analysts say that rising Naxalites attacks on mining activities are a deliberate attempt to slowdown India’s economy. Available figures suggest that as of 2009, Naxalites were active across approximately 182 districts in ten states of India accounting for about 40% of India’s geographical area. Naxalites are especially concentrated in an area known as the “Red corridor”, where they control some 92,000 square kilometers.
The area affected by Naxalism stretches from the border with Nepal to Karnataka state in the South India. In West Bengal areas west of Howrah are affected by the insurgency. It is believed that Chhattisgarh state is the epicenter of the conflict.
According to India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, as of 2009, some 20,000 armed cadre Naxalites were operating in addition to 50,000 regular cadres and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them to be the most serious internal threat to India’s national security. With rising naxal attacks, the Indian Central government has announced in February 2009 its plans for broad, coordinated operations in all affected states to plug all possible escape routes.
Naxals and other Maoists target mining operations as and when they get the chance. In April, 2009 Naxalite had attacked the National Aluminum Company’s (Nalco’s) Panchapatmali bauxite mines near Damanjodi in Orissa state, in which 11 personnel of the Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) were killed. Nalco had suffered a production loss of over 100,000 tons of bauxite due to the suspension of the mining operations.
Reports suggest that the Maoists are engaged in illegal mining activities. Nexals are also reported to have engaged in theft of explosive material like RDX from the mines of Nalco and some other companies. NALCO uses RDX for explosion in mining related activities. A more recent report suggests that dispatch and transportation of bauxite from Pakhar mines in the Naxalite-hit area of Lohardaga district in Jharkhand state have come to a grinding halt since June 1, 2011 after a group of naxals torched six vehicles.
Pakhar mine supplies bauxite ore to different units of Hindalco in and outside Jharkhand state. Bauxite is required for producing aluminum.
The Naxalite-Maoist insurgency is an ongoing conflict between Maoist groups, known as Naxalites or Naxals, and the Indian government. Currently, it represents the longest continuously active conflict worldwide. Naxalites claim to be supported by the poorest rural populations. They have frequently targeted tribal, police and government workers in what they say is a fight for improved land rights and more jobs for neglected agricultural laborers and the poor. However frequent killings of villagers, using women and children as a shield, harassment of cadre, illegal mining operations, attacks on schools and infrastructure projects and using children, as young as 6 years old have called into question the Naxal claims of ‘fighting for people’.
Naxalites are a group of far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology. Their origin can be traced to the splitting in 1967 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Initially the movement had its center in West Bengal. In recent years, it has spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
We will explore the issues and risks of terrorism in India in future posts.