How Coal Fuels India’s Insurgency

In mineral-rich jungles Maoist militants find a foothold through violence and extortion.

The gunman at the jungle’s edge lived and died by different names. Some knew him as Prashant, others as Paramjeet. Occasionally he called himself Gopalji, trading the alias with another insurgent leader to further confuse the Indian authorities trying to hunt him down.

When I met him, he was fresh from killing, and called himself by yet another name. “Comrade Manas,” he said as he stepped from the shadows beneath a huge walnut tree, machine gun in hand, a slight figure, his frame and features burned out and cadaverous with the depredations of malaria and typhoid, war and jungle.

The day was already old and the sun low. The silhouettes of a dozen or so other gunmen lurked in the deepening green of the nearby paddy fields, watchful and waiting. Manas and his men were on the move and had little time to talk.

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