Invisible War Becomes Visible
During the last half decade this scribe wrote almost two dozen articles related to terrorism. One article in January 2007 was titled “India ‘s Invisible War”. It started by stating: “India is in the midst of an invisible war. It is an unrecognised war.”
Well, the war has become very visible now. Over seventy policemen killed in one Maoist ambush compelled even our media, besotted with sports weddings and Bollywood brand ambassadors, to take note of the attack. Newspaper headlines blared: “This is war!” Stirring words! But is terrorism being recognised for what it really is undeclared war against the Indian State? Do people who lightly toss around the word realise the implications of fighting a war? Wars are fought for conquest or for survival. India is fighting for survival. To triumph it must be prepared to pay whatever price required. For an effective war against terror there are six aspects that should command attention.
First, the government must recognise the enemy. The enemy is not maoism or jihad or separatism. There is authentic evidence of terrorist groups with avowedly different aims assisting each other. That suggests all groups are branches of the same trunk. One Congress leader reportedly said: “While terrorists are basically sponsored by foreign powers … Naxalites are our own misguided indigenous people.” This is the kind of nonsense to be discarded. ULFA leaders, Kashmiri separatists and Maoists are all indigenous. Both ULFA and Maoist leaders get sanctuary in China. Both are aided by People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Now even foreign-funded Hurriyat leaders, acting as the voice of Kashmiri terrorists, are openly seeking China’s help. The Pakistan army is nothing but a clone of the PLA. It has discarded the army culture it shared with the Indian army bequeathed by the British. Pakistan army generals are into big business. They have access to independent funds like their mentors in the PLA. Like the PLA they control politicians, not the other way around. The government does not have to state that China’s PLA is the mastermind directing all wings of terrorism in India. It has merely to recognise this truth. It should ask itself why Chinese hackers accessed secret Indian government documents dealing with Maoists and Northeast insurgencies.
Second, there must be law and order reform. Insurgencies in India may propagate different grievances. They all have the same aim. They serve their foreign master by destabilising India. There may be sincere dupes committed to a cause serving these outfits. They are manipulated by their commanders who serve the PLA. When the enemy has a unified command, can India afford to have split command structures? Parliament and government must immediately establish a central federal agency empowered to fight insurgencies throughout India. This agency must have its own independent intelligence
network in all states.
Third, there must be economic reform. Human rights activists mistakenly assume that Maoists fight for economic justice. If the grievances of tribals were removed the Maoists would seek another issue. However legitimate the grievance—whether related to identity, language or economic deprivation the insurgency is predetermined. Grievances are not the cause of insurgency, but the excuse. That is why the government must remove all legitimate grievances regardless of insurgency to decrease the nation’s vulnerability.
Economic disparity and lack of governance in India are horrendous. Out of 602 districts 165 are affected by Maoist violence. This is not surprising.
The World Bank’s poverty line for India is set at Rs 1400 a month. According to a 2005 World Bank estimate 42 per cent of Indians fall below the international poverty line, according to the criterion used by the Planning Commission of India 27.5 per cent of the population was living below the poverty line. There are also 700 million below 35 years of age. The unemployed number 300 million. At present a mere 5 million new jobs are created every year. Over 70 per cent of the population is rural. Less than 30 per cent is urban. The publicised benefits of economic reforms are limited in the main to the English speaking class in urban India. With or without insurgency, are such conditions tenable? A massive stimulus package for rural employment and infrastructure from resources acquired through disinvestment in cooperation with trade unions is imperative.
Fourth, there must be governance reform. Political parties collude with terrorist outfits in order to garner votes. Terrorist penetration of the government makes nonsense of secrecy in intelligence. In Andhra huge consignments of rockets manufactured in Tamil Nadu were seized. These were meant for Maoists spread across five states. In Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra police stumbled on huge catchments of crude RDX bombs meant for nationwide distribution. Can such factories operate without some official connivance? Can government owned State Bank branches continue to distribute fake currency that facilitates terrorism without official complicity? Can such lax governance fight terrorism? To stem this rot one is led to the fifth aspect.
Fifth, there must be systemic reform. Two basic reforms are vital. The Constitution must be followed as written to allow the President who is above partisanship, who represents parliament and all assemblies, to exercise due authority assisted by a full-fledged secretariat. The proposed federal agency to fight terrorism, along with various other bodies, should be made accountable to the President. That will eliminate collusion between vote-seeking politicians and terrorist outfits. This will not violate the Constitution but implement it. At the same time genuine Panchayati Raj as directed by the Constitution must be established. To achieve it a new primary police tier accountable to the assembly of the urban or rural Panchayat must be created. Basic law and order and security entrusted to the primary local body will ensure effective monitoring of suspicious activity in each locality. This primary police force could become an invaluable intelligence source for the anti-terrorist federal agency utilising cyber connectivity.
Sixth, there is need for foreign policy reform. The government must follow the law of reciprocity while dealing with all nations. It must talk bluntly with America, China and Pakistan. This week a hotline was established between New Delhi and Beijing. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao emit positive vibes. That is not enough. Neither of them ever served in China ‘s army. Are their intentions translated on the ground by the PLA? Are they more effective in dealing with their army than President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani are in dealing with Pakistan’s army? India does not need words but deeds.
The enemy does not aim for revolution in India. Revolutions strengthen nations. The enemy seeks to balkanise India. It is the people of India who should seek revolution as suggested by these reforms. It is not enough to defeat the Dantewada Maoists. The goal must be to secure India against all subversive terrorism fomented from abroad.
By Rajinder Puri