This is India's dirty war: a brutal struggle over valuable real estate that pits the Naxalites against some of the nation's most powerful commercial interests. What began 43 years ago as a small but violent peasant insurrection in Naxalbari, a West Bengal village, is now a full-fledged conflict led by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) across 20 of the country's 28 states (see map below), affecting 223 districts. The fight is over land, much of it in the interior, that has rich deposits of coal and bauxite. On one side of the struggle are the rebels--perhaps 10,000 of them armed and out in the field every day, and a militia of 100,000 who can be called up on short notice. Driven by a violent ideology, the Naxalites claim to be fighting for the land rights of the poor, especially farmers and small indigenous tribes who know only an agrarian way of life. On the other side are the wealthy families behind Tata Steel, Jindal Steel & Power and Vedanta Resources (run by mining mogul Anil Agarwal), who want to develop the untapped resources. (The three companies rank 345, 1,131 and 923 on the Global 2000 list.) Caught in the middle of the conflict between Maoists and billionaires are thousands of villagers.E, a esse respeito, The Economically Illiterate Have No Property Rights, por Kevin Carson, no Center for a Stateless Society:
It's no mystery why things have gotten worse. "India's boom period has coincided with maximum dissent and dissatisfaction in rural India," says Ajai Sahni, executive director for the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi think tank. Over the last decade the Indian government has been trying by legal and other means to lock up the land for public projects like power plants and, more recently, for private enterprises like Tata. (Under the Indian constitution nontribal people are prohibited from directly acquiring land in certain parts of the country, so the government must obtain it on their behalf and sell it to the companies.) That trend has put the state more and more in conflict with the Maoist rebels, and it has ratcheted up paramilitary operations against them. The government has also squared off more frequently against those who have farmed the land for centuries, using various legal entitlements--and, villagers often claim, resorting to fraud or force--to gain possession of the property. Other times the state simply seizes the land, labeling any resistance rebel-inspired. Hundreds of thousands of people have been dispossessed and displaced. Many now live in what could become permanent refugee camps, where they are prey to both sides of the proxy war and easy converts to radicalism.
But especially noteworthy is the reaction from the sorts of people on the Right who talk most about “free markets.” One reader at Forbes, for example, commented that “the Maoists are no better,” because “for the most part its activities are criminal.”E, sem ter nada directamente a ver com isto, um artigo de há 4 anos atrás de Chris Dillow.
And then this clincher from the same reader: “Also Can in India afford to hold back Industries that will give employment to thousands directly (many more indirectly) because 1750 families have to be moved? Is that Justice? Proper Rehabilitation and compensation is a must. The activists will better serve the locals by ensure that they get proper compensation and are rehabilitated appropriately instead of opposing industries blindly.”
Another Forbes reader writes: “The overly populist tone of the article pitting billionaires against Maoists is a little simplistic. If you are sitting on substantial deposits of iron ore, coal, bauxite or other precious minerals, I think the government has a right to acquire that land, but only after paying you adequate compensation.”
Another reader comment sounds oddly familiar, given some of the usual suspects’ responses to my own work published in free market periodicals: “Who would have thought, Forbes publishing an article supporting Communists/Socialists and basically Terrorists….” The Indian government, he says, “should do what USA and China does all the time, apply Emminent Domain in such cases and get it over with. Trying to convince farmers/NGOs/Communists to give up land for factories is a futile excerise.”
Meanwhile, at Reason, a reader responds to Walker’s “upshot” by saying: “There is no upshot. Maoists are not for property rights.”
So what it all boils down to is that, when the beneficiaries of theft are large corporations, the victims are peasants with traditional land tenure rights, and the people who resist it are Maoists, property rights don’t apply.