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India’s Internal Wars:POLITICAL, ADMINISTRATIVE BLUNDERS, by Dr. Nitish Sengupta,20 January 2010 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 20 January 2010

India’s Internal Wars




By Dr. Nitish Sengupta


There was some heated discussion, a few months ago on India’s internal wars, at the release function of veteran IPS officer and former Governor of Manipur Ved Marwah’s excellent book “India in Turmoil”. But little did the author or any one else present there, realise that these internal wars will only snowball in intensity in the days ahead. That is what has happened.


The Jehadis in Jammu & Kashmir have become bold enough to go on shooting innocent Kashmiris at random, while followers of the Hurriyat Conference are giving bandh calls with impunity. In Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh the Maoists have made their presence felt as never before and even tried to stall the Assembly elections. In West Bengal, the Maoists have, for practical purposes, gained physical control over the whole of West Midnapore district and large areas in Bankura, Hooghly, Burdwan and Purulia districts. In Darjeeling the resurgent Gorkhas are launching fast unto death for a separate State, taking the cue from Telangana.


In Assam, despite the recent discomfiture suffered, the ULFA rebels have made their presence felt with bomb blasts and other disruptive actions. In fact, the way the Centre’s announcement on Telangana was followed by agitations from Vidharbha, Gorkhaland, Bundhelkhand, Harit Province, Cooch Behar, Bodoland and other regions it looks as if there was a computer programmed reaction in India to the notorious blogger article in China advocating secessions.  


Finally, there are intelligence alerts from both the US and other sources about a repeat of 26/11 Mumbai type of situation, either in Mumbai or Delhi or Kolkata. Undoubtedly, India’s internal wars are going to occupy a lot of her energy in the future.  The only relieving feature is that China seems to have quietened down following international compulsions in the wake of the Copenhagen talks and the felt need for both Beijing and New Delhi to stay together in the face of the western countries aggressiveness on the climate issue. But even this is somewhat counter-balanced by the Nepali Maoists, who are clearly dependent on China, and are hell-bent on helping Maoists in India and creating disturbances (see Prachanda’s warning to New Delhi not to interfere in Nepal’s internal affairs.)


Marwah, who has served in nearly all the troubled areas in the country in various capacities, has blamed our political class for many avoidable blunders, whether in Kashmir or Nagaland or Jharkhand, which is mainly responsible for the deteriorating situation. He also points out to the negative role of the administrative leadership and the police and forcefully brings out that had they functioned more effectively and imaginatively, external forces could not have so easily exploited the situation.


Successive governments have shown tendencies during the 1980s and 90s for politicians to try to be one up on their counterparts of the preceding government. He has quoted several such examples in J&K.  In Nagaland, there is the classic case of a successor Central government reopening talks with a breakaway Naga group after a long history of successful talks with Phizo’s movement and the history of elected governments in Nagaland for nearly 10 years. There was little justification for recognizing this breakaway group, except that they are speaking more on behalf of the Nagas living in Manipur than those in Nagaland. Interestingly, the State government has been kept out of this discussion and so also the Government of Manipur.


Starting with J&K, Marwah has traced the rise of the Jehadi terror through several stages. He has blamed the generosity that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi showered on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pakistan at Shimla.  The fact is that our leadership was never able to gauge the true feelings of Bhutto or, for that matter, his successors and, above all, the fact that Islamabad, backed by the ISI, took a firm decision to take revenge on New Delhi for Pakistan’s miserable defeat in 1971 by openly encouraging terrorism all over India and bleeding it at thousand places.


The fact is that no matter who is officially in power in Pakistan, it is the hard core Army establishment, led by the ISI, which is totally anti-Indian, that rules the country. Our leaders failed to understand this and take the necessary corrective action. He also blamed V. P Singh’s government fairly and squarely for bringing about a situation where 90 per cent of the Pundit population had to flee the Valley and that the Jehadi elements were allowed to occupy a dominant position in the Valley, which they have held for at least two decades.


He also points to the lack of trust between Governor Jagmohan and the Centre, and the confusion which prevailed during V. P. Singh’s government, when Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s objective was to embarrass Farooq Abdullah rather than bring stability in the Valley. Had the agitation in 1990 in Srinagar, specially the funeral procession of the Mirwaiz, been handled more competently, maybe the situation could have been controlled then itself and need not have taken the turn it did later.  


He regrets that we continue to make the same mistake even today, and the Director of I & B and the National Security Adviser (NSA) who may have never served in the police in his entire service career, continues to advise top brass of the government on police matters. This has complicated the political management of the crisis.


Turning to Left extremism, it is pathetic to note that the Maoists are active in 15 States, i.e. over half of the country, and that 165 districts out of the 602 are seriously affected. The Naxalites have become so powerful in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa that they strike at any target they like and at any time with impunity.  


This has been the case for several years, and yet the government turns a blind eye. On the other hand, political parties take advantage of the Naxalite cadre in their election campaign. In Jharkhand, the Naxals played an important role, in some case ensuring the election in favour of their favoured candidates. There could be no two opinions that the elimination of poverty and exploitation of the backward, especially tribal population, are the core problems. And yet, except for a lot of rhetoric and development schemes which remain largely on paper, successive governments, both at the centre and the States, have done little.


Interestingly, even in West Bengal, which is ruled by the Left Front government, development has on the whole bypassed the affected areas, such as West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and Birbhum. For several years there was a government department for Jhargram development. But nothing noteworthy has happened and recent instances illustrate how the general population continues to be ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-housed.  Thus, concentration of development must be first priority which has to be accompanied by serious and anti-militancy actions, if necessary with the backing of the Army.


Improving communication network in also a top priority. Marwah points out how as Jharkhand Governor he could not communicate with the Officer-in-Charge of a police station on phone or wireless because the communication system was obsolete. One would whole-heartedly agree with his conclusion that Left extremism has gone beyond the stage of being a local law and order problem left to the State governments, and that the Centre has to take charge.


Many of us had thought that conferring statehood on some of the backward areas like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand would largely sort the problem. But the opposite has happened. Problems have grown. Marwah had also quoted many examples of high level corruption in some of the States.  His final chapter “No soft options, back to basics” is an excellent prognosis which needs to be carried out. 


His observation is that the power to delay is the most effective tool in the hands of the bureaucracy to harass citizens by indefinitely delaying even the most trivial decisions. He quotes examples such as the decision to storm the Golden Temple at Amritsar by the Army in 1984, or sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka in 1986, which were ill-thought, hasty decisions which cost the nation dear. This has to be avoided. This is a ‘must read’ book for all those who sincerely wish to see India succeed in fighting her internal wars. --- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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