India Maoist Movement: Rebels Slaughter Senior Government Leaders in Surprise Ambush


Mahendra Karma surrendered himself to the rebels and pleaded that the other Congress workers be spared. The rebels accepted, dragged him a few yards, and "pumped bullets into him" before singing and dancing on his lifeless body. India has been plagued by the rebels for decades as a result of the hackneyed attempt to unite the country's culturally, economically, and politically diverse segments.

200 Maoist rebels attacked Karma's convoy of ruling Congress Party officials in an "audacious" attack involving gunfire and a bomb in the central state of Chattisgarh. The Associated Press reports that the convoy was returning from a campaign event with an indigenous tribal community in a densely forested area. The Press Trust of India reported that the attackers blocked the road on the path of the convoy by felling trees.

The attackers then triggered a land mine, blowing up one car as the convoy jerked to a halt. They rained gunfire on the cars and went car-by-car killing people. The death toll at last count is 27 people, with at least 37 injured.

Karma is reportedly the main target of the attack but other senior officials were also gunned down as they tried to surrender in the grisly attack. Karma, 62, was a prominent Congress Party leader in the state of Chattisgarh. He spearheaded an anti-Naxalite militia, according to the Hindustan Times. This was the fifth attempt at his life by the Maoist rebels.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describes the rebels as "India's biggest internal security threat." India's Home Ministry states that the rebels are active in 20 of India's 28 states and have enlisted "thousands of fighters." The Maoist rebels, known in India as Naxalites, have been waging similar guerrilla battles against the central Indian government since 1967.

Drawing inspiration from the Chinese Communist icon Mao Zedong, the rebels claim to represent the interests of tenant farmers and the poor. They adopted their name from the eastern West Bengal village of Naxalbari, which was the home of the movement. 

The boundaries of modern India were patched together by the British without actual consideration of territorial rivalries. Groups like the Naxalites and the Tamil Tigers in the south want to "liberate India from the clutches of feudalism and imperialism." They have protested the central government's control over their "sovereign" territories using nearly identical guerilla tactics. In 2006 alone, the Naxalites conducted 1,600 violent attacks, killing 699 people across a swath of tribal and rural areas.

The central government has responded to these groups by deploying paramilitary soldiers to repress and contain the groups' operations. The two parties have tried negotiations in the past, but talks always fail when the Naxalites demand soldiers be removed from tribal areas. The government has always refused that demand, fearing further violence and chaos if the rebels start controlling rural and tribal swaths of the country.

This latest attack was a show of might and power by the Naxals aimed to remind the government that they are not done fighting.