Commenting on the Maoist threat UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi said: “While we must address acts of terror decisively and forcefully, we have to address the root causes of Naxalism.” This statement on the face of it appears unexceptionable. However it masks widespread confusion about the root cause of terrorism. Maoism thrives in areas inhabited by tribals who are denied justice. Their grievances need to be addressed. They should have been addressed regardless of the terrorist activity into which tribals have been drawn. But to think that by addressing their grievances terrorism will disappear would be fallacious.
The root cause of terrorism is not any grievance. Grievances create fertile ground for terrorism to grow and flourish. Grievances, all legitimate grievances of any community, need to be addressed by the state. The root cause of terrorism is its deliberate instigation by an enemy of the state that seizes any appropriate grievance to incite a community. Terrorism is seldom if ever spontaneous. It is organized and motivated. In the case of India it is organized by hostile foreign powers.
Many nonsensical statements have been made by so-called liberal Congress leaders drawing distinction between Maoists and Jihadis. The Maoists are described as indigenous while the Jihadis are from across the border. The Maoists are described as agitators for genuine grievances of the people. To demolish this nonsense a couple of things need to be understood.
Maoists are an organized army. The Jihadis are hit and run terrorists.
The Maoists succeed in recruiting tribals into their army precisely for the same reason that the Indian police and army succeed in attracting recruits. Because the grievances of the tribals are genuine there is as much a feel-good mood among the Maoist terrorist recruits as there is among patriotic soldiers of the Indian army. Both are comforted by the conviction that they serve a legitimate cause. But the major consideration that motivates recruits in both cases is the aspect of career. Like army recruits the vast bulk of the Maoist cadres acquire economically a better life as terrorists than they had earlier. This is the harsh cynical truth.
It is only the leaders of terrorist armies who are ideologically driven and who derive training, material support and sanctuary from foreign enemies of India. There are confirmed reports by official intelligence agencies of Maoists visiting China, seeking sanctuary and training there, and of visiting America to attend meetings organized by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) in Chicago. The foreign connections of the Jihadis are more visible. But can anyone deny that there are home grown Indian Jihadi terrorists too? How are they different from indigenous Maoists?
There is the question of genuine grievances of the Tribals for whom the Maoists ostensibly fight. Are the grievances of Kashmiri people less genuine? Consider these bald facts. At the time of Independence the Jammu and Kashmir princely state had contiguous borders with both India and Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh of J&K contemplated independence. The Pakistan army led by General Gracy sent tribal invaders into Kashmir. In reaction Maharaja Hari Singh hastily acceded to India. These facts can be verified from Dr Karan Singh, the Maharaja’s son. Prime Minister Nehru accepted the accession of J&K subject “to the will of the people”. There was no talk of plebiscite at that time. Why this caveat?
In the hostilities that followed the Indian army was on the point of driving out the Pakistani invaders out of J&K. On the advice of Lord Mountbatten Nehru took the matter to the UN. A ceasefire was imposed. Kashmir since then remained divided. Pakistan has no case in Kashmir but it remains relevant because it occupies half of J&K that is legally claimed by India. But what about the people of J&K? Given this background do they not have the right to self determination? Should not Kashmir’s accession to India be subject to their will as Nehru had envisaged? In the six decades since Independence over 60 thousand Kashmiris have lost their lives to violence. Four lakh Kashmiri Pandits had to flee their homes So, is their grievance any less than that of the people in India ’s tribal belt?
Islamabad has cleverly exploited this issue to harp on a solution based on the will of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan ’s intentions are entirely hypocritical. But can one deny the logic of its demand? If the Congress seeks to redress the root cause of tribal discontent that is exploited by Maoists, should it not also seek to redress the root cause of discontent in Kashmir that is exploited by Jihadis aided by Pakistan ?
This scribe offered a solution of the Kashmir dispute that does not bear repetition. That solution may be discarded. But is it not obligatory for the government to offer some solution to the Kashmir dispute that addresses the grievances of its people? Whatever solution may be attempted by India, or by India and Pakistan jointly, closure of the Kashmir dispute will come about only after its people give to it their stamp of approval. The same holds good for insurgencies in the Northeast and elsewhere.
The wake up call to the ruling establishment created by spreading insurgency will do good only if there is radical reform in the system. Tribals are in large clusters and therefore lend easy access to terrorism. The Sikhs had grievances. They formed a cluster in Punjab. The Khalistan insurgency was created. It failed. Now the Naxalites are trying to exploit grievances to spread Maoism in Punjab. Pro-Naxal posters are beginning to appear in Punjab towns. Aggrieved clusters are potential terrorist armies. Although ill-suited to terrorism scattered communities suffer no less. If the World Bank’s criterion of Below Poverty Line (BPL) were to be accepted over 90 percent of the Indian people are poor. Our so-called middle class is illusory. It is only a microscopic privileged class lording over a vast mass below the poverty line. Is that not a sobering thought? So if the Congress seeks to address the root cause of tribal discontent let it not stop there. It is time to seek the root cause of the nation’s discontent.