Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indian Inequality Fuels Maoist-Insurgency

"The conflict between industry and farmers reflects a wider battle in India, where efforts to modernise the densely populated country have often met with violent backlashes from villagers who make up more than half the country's 1.1 billion plus population."

The government of West Bengal, India has initiated a new counter-insurgency campaign with the hopes of eradicating a Maoist-led "liberated zone". Historical conflict between India's poor farmers and large industrial businesses has fueled a growing Maoist insurgency, which the Indian government considers the country's "greatest internal threat". The insurgency began as a peasant rebellion in the Indian village of Naxalbari in 1967. Since then, the Maoists have been known throughout India as the Naxalites. There have been decades of military actions designed to squash the Naxalite movement, but all have failed.

But the Naxalites maintain widespread popularity reflecting discontent with India's uneven economic development model, which has earned it the position as one of the world's most unequal societies. Despite one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world, India has more poor people than any other country, with a third of the global poor there. To give a perspective, there are more people now living under the poverty line of $1.25 in India (425 m), than there are the entire population of the United States.

Aligned with the Naxalites are scores of landless farmers and tribal groups that are willing to risk their lives in order to gain a more decent life. As long as such miserable social conditions persist in India, radical movements for economic change are likely to continue.

This amazing video by Journey Man Pictures details the untold story of India's growing Naxalite movement and the issues of poverty and maldevelopment which continue to plague India. The video features commentary by one courageous author and advocate Arundhati Roy, who continues to speak truth to power on behalf of the poor and oppressed of India.


  1. I had a conversation about this with some Indian classmates. They talked about how their image of India is the complete opposite of the booming and bustling country that its growth rate and the media suggest. They also mentioned different cultural and economic reasons for why the "untold story" of India's poverty is surpressed, although I can't remember them... Any ideas?

  2. I'm not sure really. I think a lot of it has to do with class divisions. There are a lot of people who are entering the middle-class extremely fast. Those groups appear less likely to support a more even development model in India, that the poor are calling for.

    But what remains a mystery to me is why no one in the US media really highlights the enormous amount of poverty and inequality in India. It is like the only images we see are of the upside of globalization rather than some of its "discontents", as Jo Stiglitz called it. Hopefully, over time stories like these will get the attention they deserve.