03 July 2007, Tuesday
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While India gears up to celebrate 60 years of its independence, almost 40 per cent of the country is reeling under violence. It is therefore time to introspect and take course-correction measures before the situation spirals out of hand.
AS INDIA DECKS up to celebrate the 61st anniversary of its independence from the shackles of British rule, it is a time for us to reflect and ponder over what we have achieved in the last 60 years. These days India is the cynosure of eyes around the world, having been termed as an emerging economic superpower. Besides, it is the world’s largest democracy. But behind the shining exteriors, there are some bitter realities. The internal security scenario is one such bitter reality, which escapes the notice of many who are singing paeans to India’s success story. A study has estimated that almost 231 of the country’s 604 districts are afflicted by militancy, ethnic strife and terrorist violence. Some of the major areas of concern in the internal security front include:
JAMMU AND KASHMIR
Jammu and Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan right from 1947. The militants are still active and the militancy shows no sign of abating. Since the beginning of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, almost 40000 lives have been snuffed out. In 2006 alone, around 1,100 lives were lost in this seemingly unending spiral of violence. The peace process between the two countries has run into rough weather with Pakistan harping on its one-point agenda on Kashmir. The effects of the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir have been felt in other parts of the country too with militants based in J &K targeting civilian populations in cities across the country.
Life in Northeast India has been torn asunder by a series of conflicts that have engulfed almost the entire region. The civilian population in the region has been caught between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea, being at the receiving end of both the militants’ and the security forces’ ire. States like Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya are reeling under violence. The porous borders between this region and countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar have further compounded the problem. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has upset the demographic balance in many parts of the region especially Tripura and Assam. There is a great deal of unemployment forcing educated young men and women to take to guns. Around 620 people lost their lives in various incidents of militancy-related violence in the Northeast in 2006.
The Naxalites are also proving to be a thorn in the flesh for the government. Almost fourteen states across the country have been affected by Naxal violence. Around 740 people lost their lives in Naxal-related violence last year. According to intelligence reports, Naxals have been working towards establishing a Red Corridor extending from Bihar to Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Some of the recent incidents of Naxal violence stand out for their audacity and brazenness. These include the attack on the Jehanabad jail, where Naxals freed around 340 prisoners including Naxal leader Ajay Kanu, the slaying of the MP Sunil Mahato besides the attack on a police camp in Bastar where they mowed down 56 policemen.
COMMUNAL AND CASTE-RELATED VIOLENCE
Communal and caste riots have reared their ugly heads time and again. The recent agitation by the Gujjars in Rajasthan and other states has seen the caste-cauldron simmering again. The Meenas and Gujjars are at loggerheads in Rajasthan in their claims for ST status. So is the case in many other parts of the country where people belonging to different castes and tribes are on the warpath against each other.
At least 270 people died in terrorist violence in India in 2006. There were a series of attacks on public and religious places. On March 7, 2006, around 21 people were killed and 62 others were injured in serial bomb blasts in Varanasi. Mumbai was the scene of horrific bomb blasts on July 11, 2006 when around 200 people were killed and over 700 others injured in serial blasts in Mumbai’s railway network, which is considered to be the lifeline of the city. Terrorists have not spared people of any religion. The dastardly bomb attacks of September 8, 2006 at Malegaon in Maharashtra snuffed out forty lives while injuring 65 others. On May 18, 2007, 13 people lost their lives in a bomb blast in Hyderabad’s famous Mecca Masjid and subsequent police firing.
THE ROAD AHEAD
So where are we heading? Is India moving away from “Bharat”? These facts point to some harsh realities, which the government much accept. The political leadership has to wake up to the fact that there are many genuine grievances within its populace, which have been shoved under the carpet. It has in many cases been taking the people for a ride. This is why people need to be educated, not just made literate. Only with the spread of education, will power devolve into the grassroots and it is from the grassroots that a new leadership will emerge which will take the country forward. The criminalisation of politics is a big deterrent to India’s march towards progress. Only with education will people be able to reverse this trend.
What is needed is a new approach wherein the ordinary populace is taken into confidence. India’s economy is booming, however this “boom” has completely bypassed a large swathe of this population. Therefore the growth has to be more inclusive. As far as terrorist-violence sponsored by neighbouring countries like Pakistan is concerned, intelligence gathering needs to be spruced up and there should be more vigil at sensitive locations. As they say, the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.