Gautam Navlakha has a tremendous archive of writings from the 1980s to the present. For a full list of his articles with Economic & Political Weekly and the NewsClick newsportal, please use the below buttons. Below the buttons are some of his recent writings.
1. Dare I hope to be freed from the burden of yet another conspiracy trial? | The Caravan | 16 Mar 2020
2. Statement of an Urban Naxal | NewsClick | 1 Oct 2018
In a statement following his freedom from house arrest, Navlakha writes that he is “thrilled” to have won his freedom back. However, he emphasises the importance of rights of several other political prisoners who remain incarcerated on account of their ideological inclinations and dissenting voices.
3. Foreign Policy: Between Folly and Foibles | NewsClick | 28 Aug 2018
The mediocrity of Indian strategic scholarship reveals itself when it harps about Chinese base in Djibouti, where both US and Japan have bases and India is desirous of acquiring one there too
4. Jammu and Kashmir: Undoing Autonomy, Starting Assimilation | NewsClick | 23 Aug 2018
Lies, fake news and misinformation prevail in contemporary India, where truth matters little, and make-believe thrives. Thus, denying agency to Kashmiris, dismissing them as Pakistan’s proxy, eulogising brutal operations against civilians and defending the ignominious role of Indian armed forces (well-documented by the UN Office of Human Rights Commission in its well-researched report recently) dominate Indian discourse. So, let us consider the implication of a new governor – Satya Paul Malik – in light of changes that have been effected by previous governor’s rule.
5. Foreign Policy: A Double Whammy Awaits India | NewsClick | 11 Jul 2018
In diplomacy, ambiguity plays an important role, but there has to be the “balance between ambiguity and coherence”. This is where India was no longer able to maintain ambiguity on Indian rulers’ attempt to hide its burgeoning military ties with the US and its pursuit of membership of Quadrilateral Alliance between Australia, India, Japan and US.
6. Indo-US: A Janus Faced Government Snubbed by ‘Ally’ | NewsClick | 28 Jun 2018
What do India’s Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues say in private to visiting dignitaries, specifically to the visiting dignitaries from say, United States? Do they state and affirm India’s stance where interests diverge and are in conflict?
7. Kashmir Needs Solution not Suppression | NewsClick | 26 Jun 2018
While venal debate initiated, not just inspired, by the Bhartiya Janata Party, unreservedly joined in by the Indian National Congress, over ‘giving the armed forces free hand’ as well as who killed more militants in Jammu and Kashmir, rivets the “nation”, one is left wondering if the two parties of the ruling classes have any bit of enlightened self-interest left in them. Do they ever ask where search for military solution has got us to?
8. Turning Neighbourhood Into a Troubled Zone | NewsClick | 19 Jun 2018
It is claimed that under Narendra Modi, India has “redefined its approach to maintaining relations”. If foreign visits are a mark of decisiveness, then Prime Minister Narendra Modi wins hands down - having visited 44 countries in last four years. Due to all his “nimble footed” diplomacy in past four years, Indian foreign and security policy is grappling with its consequence.
9. Is the International Order Changing? | NewsClick | 12 Jun 2018
As the Indian ruling class is ideologically and materially invested in the US, investing in Eurasia now will pay dividend only in the future.
10. Reading between the Lines of the Concerned Citizens’ Group Report on Jammu and Kashmir | Economic & Political Weekly | 2 Jun 2018 | Full Text
Examining the situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir, the article argues that while the Concerned Citizens’ Group Report harbours a few blind spots in defining communalism and separatism, its contribution to comparing the situation in Jammu vis-à-vis Kashmir cannot be discounted.
11. Renaming Pacific Command: Rather than Feeling Ecstatic about the Change, India should Tread Carefully | NewsClick | 1 Jun 2018
While this renaming is touted as ‘strategically significant’ in that it reflects the growing connectivity between East Asia and Indian Ocean region, there is an inherent incompatibility between the definition of what constitutes the Indian Ocean for India in contrast to the US. That is why, instead of feeling ecstatic over this name change, it is better to tread carefully.
That Asifa’s abduction, rape and strangulation, a particularly gruesome crime, aroused a virulent response from Jammu High Court Bar Association, as well as the Kathua Bar, in the name of “sentiments of the (Hindu) people”, invites attention to a phenomenon which has long been there but rarely acknowledged.
13. The Kashmir Question: Nation-State, War and Religion | Indian Cultural Forum | 27 Feb 2018 | Full Text
This is an updated and freshly edited version of an old essay by Gautam Navlakha, "The Kashmir Question: Nation-state, War, and Religion." Since Burhan Wani's assassination on 8 July, 2016, Jammu and Kashmir has been in an increasing state of unrest. Navlakha's reworking of the essay makes it more topical and relevant in the current political scenario.
With the National Democratic Alliance government pushing the entry of private corporations into the military sector, there are a number of ongoing tie-ups between Indian corporate oligarchs and foreign original equipment manufacturers. The former are saddled with huge debts and have a sullied record, while the latter are reluctant to part with their proprietary technologies. Concurrently, the public defence sector is being hollowed out and is shedding jobs. How do these developments advance India’s strategic interests?
The blatant sidelining of technologically-competent public sector undertakings in defence procurement and the promotion of select private sector companies as junior partners of foreign original equipment manufacturers are deepening the country’s technological dependence in the design, development and production of armaments.
The Maoists have come under relentless attack and have suffered a setback in their main stronghold, the Bastar division in southern Chhattisgarh, but, contrary to official claims, they are far from being wiped out over there. Fifty years after the Naxalbari uprising, the resilience displayed by the Maoists provides continued political relevance to the “spark” that lit Naxalbari in May 1967. But there is a long road uphill and ahead.
Instead of penny-pinching over the “One Rank, One Pension” scheme, the government ought to save precious resources by withdrawing the army from “internal security duty” and pursuing diplomacy and a political resolution of the Kashmir dispute. But tragically, it has chosen to keep both its soldiers and the areas where they operate (within the country) “disturbed,” and then dishonour the soldiers by being miserly and close-fisted over the OROP scheme.
18. Redeeming Ourselves as People in Jammu and Kashmir | Economic & Political Weekly | 24 Sep 2016 | Full Text
The approach towards Kashmir is based on the assessment that this phase of the azaadi movement will tire itself out. Instead, it is more likely that it will eventually result in the re-emergence of armed militancy. It is never too late to do the right thing and once the Indian state removes restrictions on civil liberties, it can reach out to the azaadi leadership for unconditional talks.
When the Government of India has neither the intent nor the political will to offer greater autonomy, and Kashmiris refuse to settle for anything less than azaadi, armed confrontation is only to be expected.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have sought to convey the message that they have strengthened national security by taking a realist strategic position and introducing a policy of defence production indigenisation through the "Make in India" initiative. This article takes a close look at these claims and finds that behind the bluster lies strategic confusion and ill-thought-out decisions.
Burhan and his comrades knew they would not survive for long: seven years is the average lifespan of a militant in Kashmir, as Burhan’s father poignantly stated long before his death. Not of their own choosing; it is the choice offered to a people beset by ruthless military suppression which refuses to accept that a popular demand for the right to self-determination even exists.
Deprived of Their Rights over Natural Resources, Impoverished Adivasis Get Prison: A Study of Undertrials in Jharkhand by Bagaicha Research Team, Ranchi, Jharkhand, 2016
Yet another Prime Minister has tried to "solve" the Kashmir problem by throwing money at it. Security experts, in parallel, have started talking about the infl uence of the Islamic State in radicalising Kashmir's youth. What this indicates is that the Indian establishment is unwilling to learn from its own past mistakes and remains trapped in the hubris of its own propaganda.
It is argued that the armed forces should not “dabble” in politics (“Politicising the Military,” EPW, 19 September 2015). It is believed that this is the way to ensure civilian control over the military and avert a military takeover. Yet, the armed forces exercise veto power over withdrawal of troops from “Disturbed Areas” and removal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). This is military rule in areas considered to constitute India, and confirms that “war is continuation of politics.” Besides, the politics of the rulers dominates the armed forces.
25. Military Acquisition: ‘Double Whammy’ | Sanhati | September 16, 2015
We ought to realize jingoism helps camouflage India’s role as a supplicant. More RSS gets shrill, know that ruling class is feverishly engaged in hawking India. This time it is to foreign military behemoths.
The “national” affixed before “security” is incongruous because it is the self-serving “nationalism” of the moneybags that RSS caters to. In other words, to set up an army hub in Maad or with Adani, Ambani, Vedanta, and other notorious corporate houses entering the military sector the nexus between Armed Forces and the Corporate will get sanctified through mutually beneficial industrial activity.
27. Defense: Audacity of Illusion | Sanhati | 18 July 2015
Thus ‘Make in India’ claim as being an innovation actually shows itself to be yet another vacuous ‘idiom’ designed to push us into greater dependence on foreign manufacturers and foreign powers.
The financial implications of the "one rank, one pension scheme" for the armed forces, and other associated issues, are quite startling. Even if the government must accept the scheme, having committed itself to it, the issue of its financial burden and the underlying policy assumptions cannot be sidestepped. This article looks at some of the wider financial, political and administrative implications of implementing OROP.
The following are extracts from an open letter sent to the Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, protesting against the decision to freeze Greenpeace India’s accounts. This letter was from A Vaidyanathan, Achin Vanaik, Achyut Yagnik, Anand Patwardhan, Aruna Roy, Ashish Kothari, Bittu Sahgal, Claude Alvares, Gautam Navlakha, Harsh Mander, Justice H Suresh, Madhuri Krishanaswami, Medha Patkar, Meenal Tatpati, Nikhil Dey, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Rajeev Dhavan, Ravi Nair, Shabnam Hashmi, Shripad Dharmadhikary, Sudha Bharadhwaj, Tapan Bose, and many others from different parts of India.
India is planning to push up domestic defence production by roping in the private sector, especially multinational corporations. Though this seems a laudable aim at first sight, the wisdom of letting in private players inspired by profits and a reluctance to be regulated into the strategically significant defence sector is suspect. The argument that the public sector has shown itself to be incapable of meeting the country's defence needs rests on flimsy ground. Above all, the government has so far shown that its dogmatism is its own worst enemy.
31. Jammu and Kashmir: Communalizing Amarnath Pilgrimage and Demonising a Movement | Sanhati | 31 Mar 2015
It is necessary, therefore, to ask ourselves if J&K was an “integral” part of India then why has Indian state and society been so cruelly indifferent to the concerns of the local people? Why were they singled out for unprecedented savagery inflicted on them by the Indian military? Is it because Indians looked upon J&K, and jealously guard it, as a trophy of war, a conquered Muslim majority territory won by India in a war with Pakistan in 1947-48?
32. Motivation as a Barometer of Real Politics | Sanhati | 27 Feb 2015
Why are personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), called Crown Reserve Police Force under British Raj, quitting the force in fairly large numbers? What weighs on the jawans’ mind which makes them less inclined to wage war against our own people? Are there limits to ruling classes preference for waging a savage war for big capital’s entry into mining and mineral based industry?
The floods that overwhelmed Jammu and Kashmir last month were a terrifying natural disaster on their own without the civilian government or the military authorities having to make it any worse. But confused priorities and a lack of preparation and coordination ensured that this happened. The Indian Army plunged into rescue work, and did a creditworthy job, though it is debatable whether its efforts matched the high praise the media showered on it. It was the local people who helped themselves and their neighbours when outside assistance was slow in coming, and they were undoubtedly the heroes in this cataclysm, which was worsened by a history of neglect and an unresolved conflict.
The author responds to the President's address to the nation on 25 January, 2014.
An amazing amount of money is spent on the armed forces, which depend heavily on imports of everything from weapons systems to spares, even as they are increasingly deployed to deal with internal conflicts. This article points out that both the dependence on arms imports and the expansion of the forces to tackle domestic troubles not only push up costs but also jeopardise the country's strategic manoeuvrability. It contends that it is high time the received wisdom on these matters was closely examined.
The report of the interlocutors on Jammu & Kashmir is a major disappointment, for in the end all that it does is unintentionally convince Kashmiris that there is little likelihood of a democratic solution within India that will guarantee them a life of dignity and freedom that they are aspiring for.
Why is it that the Anna Hazare-led movement against corruption does not seek to have the Lokpal cover NGOs, corporate houses and the corporate media?
38. No Blank Cheque for Resistance | Sanhati | 1 Nov 2011
A spate of crackdowns and arrests made by the security agencies in last two years in UP, Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa, West Bengal does suggest that Maoists have suffered setback, but it also shows how rapidly Maoists had spread in different parts of India! While not everyone arrested was a Maoist, there is no doubt that they had managed to spread to urban areas as well as having made sizable gains in the countryside. Their worst critics were proved wrong in claiming that their politics was leading nowhere. In Jangalmahal region of West Bengal they had managed to break the shackles and emerge as a strong fighting force of the people, just as they did in Dumka (Jharkhand). But they are weaker today than they were a few years ago. This needs to be explained.
On 12 October Mail Today carried a story on page 3 that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had last August sent a communication to 30 odd union ministries and agencies, including public sector units, asking them to stop issuing all advertisements to ﬁve newspapers of J&K (Kashmir Times, Greater Kashmir, Rising Kashmir, Buland Kashmir and Ethlaat). It quotes a ministry ofﬁcial as saying “The (home) ministry has decided that newspapers with anti-national agenda will not be given any government support.
40. Sowing Confusion: The Seductive Charm of Fighting Corruption | Sanhati | 13 Sep 2011
It would be churlish to dismiss Team Anna’s mass mobilization and its assertion of our collective right to protest, in support of freedom of expression. More so in view of the fact that chances have significantly brightened for the passage of a Lokpal Act by the 15th parliament, having waited four decades, since 1968. However, it would be naïve not to recognise that corruption is not a life and death matter for most Indian people fighting for their right to live in dignity or fighting for their right to life in regions where war goes on against our own people, in 136 out of 626 districts in India.
By Sahba Husain and Gautam Navlakha
Why were they so keen to stop us? Because people like us do not “understand” the situation in Kashmir, euphemism for not agreeing with the official version of ‘truth’. While perception of truth does vary and the truth of the rulers and the ruled are different, there is also a hierarchy of what constitutes ‘truth’, because, all truths are not equal, and some are more important than others. We became the sacrificial lamb to send a message to the democratic minded Indians that they should keep away from Kashmir , away from “politics”, don’t talk about the underbelly of ‘normalcy and peace’.
Ten years of Irom Sharmila's heroic fast and more than four decades of struggle against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 should convince us that the time has come to demand an end to war against our own people as the most principled and realistic stance.
43. Principled versus Piecemeal Approach: Repeal of AFSPA, Troops Pullout or Ending War against our People | Sanhati | 2 Nov 2010
In order to understand the significance of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and our response we must understand the role of the armed forces of the union in wars of suppression. It is my contention that our opposition to AFSPA is not ONLY because it protects Armed Forces of the Union (which is how Indian constitution defines Army, Navy, Air Force and the Central Para Military Forces) but also because we, in the Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights groups, oppose policy of military suppression of our own people in the first place (at least formally considered “our own”) because it is this that necessitates protection for military forces deployed to carry out the dirty task of brutally restoring state’s authority and in its turn creates the source of legitimacy for counter-violence.
44. From the Killing Fields of Kashmir to the Finishing Line | Sanhati | 21 Oct 2010
Where armed conflicts have gone on for a long period (decades) and where negotiations have been used by the State to win time or tire out opponents, or talks are deadlocked or cannot ensure compliance with whatever solution is reached, then making a reference to the people is the most sensible way forward.
I thank Kashmir Singh “False Proposition” (EPW, 21 August 2010) for taking the trouble to respond to my short article. However, I am disappointed by its contents. He writes that my argument (in “False Proposition on the Strength of the Police Force”, EPW, 17 July 2010) is based on “inadequate research and irrelevant assumptions”. I would be the ﬁrst one to agree with him had he proceeded to illustrate his contention.
The assassination of Cherukuri Raj Kumar a.k.a Azad on July 1-2, 2010 killed a senior leader of the CPI (Maoist) and scuttled a peace process thus virtually destroying the hopes of millions of Indians who wanted the government offensive against the Maoists to be halted. In this sense it was a double killing.
47. False Proposition on the Strength of the Police Force | Economic & Political Weekly | 17 Jul 2010 | Full Text
A major drive to expand the police force is under way and the government contends that "United Nations norms" on the police-population ratio have to be met. Are its arguments justified?
48. Book Review: Religion, Religiosity and Secular Concerns | Economic & Political Weekly | 5 Jun 2010 | Full Text
The God Market: How Globalisation Is Making India More Hindu by Meera Nanda; Random House India.
The central government insists that militancy is on the wane in Jammu and Kashmir. Yet the security forces in the state have been tightening their grip on the lives of common people in recent months. So much so that they even deny them the right to carry out legitimate protests and brand such activities as non-violent terrorism.
50. Book Review: Revealing a Spade in Its Own Identity | Economic & Political Weekly | 1 May 2010 | Full Text
The Starkness of It by Ashok Mitra.
Who are these Maoists who, according to the government, constitute the "single biggest threat" to India's internal security? What is their politics? Why and how do they justify violence? How do they perceive their "people's war," their political goals and themselves? How did the Maoists establish themselves in the Dandakaranya region of central India? How do they now live and operate in the "base area" they have constructed? How does their "Jantanam Sarkar" function in the guerrilla zone of Bastar? First-hand reports of the functioning of the CPI (Maoist) in central India have been rare. Based on a two-week long visit to the Maoist heartland, this article attempts to answer some of these questions.
When every abuse has been hurled and epithet employed against the Maoists, half-truths and untruths begin to acquire wings. They are diagnosed, dissected, and demonised; the intelligentsia are reluctant to face facts. Yet we are still compelled to demystify reality and to answer some fundamental questions: Why this war? Who are these people, the “single biggest threat” to India’s internal security? What is their politics? Why do they justify violence? How do they perceive their “people’s war”, their political goals and themselves? How do they intend to take a leap from their forest strongholds into the world outside?
53. In conversation with Ganapathy, General Secretary of CPI(Maoist) | Sanhati | 12 Feb 2010
Far inside the jungles of the Eastern Ghats we met the general secretary of the CPI (Maoists) Ganapathy aka Mupalla Laxman Rao. After welcoming us and inquiring from us whether we, in particular Jan Myrdal, faced any problem having to travel the rough terrain, the interview began. Following is the summary of the interview with him. We have retained the interview in the form in which it was given, read and approved by him with some minor language changes. In particular we draw attention of readers to the General Secretary laying down concisely his party’s stance on the issue of talks in light of the disinformation spread by the Union Minister of Home P Chidambaram that CPI(Maoist) had “scoffed” at the Indian Government’s offer for talks.
With the peace process increasingly getting scuttled, what with India and the two main political parties opposing the Maoist agenda of civilian supremacy and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006, the chances of non-violent, progressive transformation of the Nepali state and society seem increasingly dim in the near future. The Maoists have now gone back to the people to launch a mass protest movement. As the contradictions intensify, will there be a takeover of power by the president with the backing of the army, akin to a Bangladeshi-type coup? Will there be an Indonesia-like massacre of the Maoists, as some fear? Or, will a national government led by Maoists materialise?