Incredible India: It is Still Surviving!

Consider the state of the nation. Then consider the political response to issues that confront it. Begin with the north-east. The entire region is bleeding from separatist insurgencies that started decades ago.

The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) was founded in 1986. NDFB seeks a sovereign Bodoland. Within India it has links with the United Liberation Front (ULFA) which seeks a sovereign Assam. Outside India, NDFB has links with groups in Myanmar. Among other things, it propagates ethnic cleansing of Bodo areas.

ULFA was founded in April 1979. It has grown so strong that recently it could extract obedience from the Assam government over the issue of the National Games in Guwahati. It is most active in the wealthy tea-growing and oil-producing areas of Assam. Since 1990 ULFA has been linked to Pakistan's ISI which has given it arms and training. ULFA leaders receive sanctuary in Bangladesh. This year, 172 persons have already died in terrorist-related violence in Assam.  

Nagaland has the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) which demands Naga sovereignty. It was formed in 1980. It is split in two ' NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K). Both outfits have governments in exile, receive foreign arms, and raise funds from drugs. In 2007 an estimated 46 people were killed in Nagaland's terrorism-related violence.

Manipur has two major separatist insurgent groups. The United National Liberation Front (UNLF) was founded in 1964 and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 1978. Both seek independence for Manipur. The Manipur PLA seeks to unite the entire north-east under one revolutionary front. This year 99 people were killed in terrorism-related violence in Manipur. 
In Meghalaya and Mizoram there are insurgent groups seeking separate statehood or autonomy. This year insurgent violence resulted in 24 people killed in both states.

Tripura has two main insurgent groups. The All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) seeks autonomy for tribals and expulsion of Bengalis from the state. But the other group, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), formed in 1989, seeks independent Tripura by armed struggle for liberation from 'Indian neo-colonialism and imperialism'. This year, 14 lives were lost to terrorism-related violence in Tripura.

To retain the fiction of normalcy in insurgent areas the government for decades has allowed the army to operate alongside the normal civilian democratic process. This unnatural arrangement leads inevitably to army excesses. It alienates the army from citizens. Meanwhile the government's sporadic negotiations with insurgent groups make no headway. The government has no clear idea about the least it can accept, or the most it might concede. This abnormal normalcy has led to political parties colluding with insurgents for votes. Consequently, extortion and crime have spread. Insurgent groups have penetrated the government. Last weekOutlook reported how Maoists obtained the minutes of a top secret meeting chaired by the PM.

However, Tourism Minister Ambika Soni announced last week that tourism will be promoted in the north-east by lifting curbs in restricted areas for tourists. Will the insurgent groups show restraint in dealing with them? Did Ms Soni discuss these measures with Home Minister Shivraj Patil before announcing them? Is Mr Patil in touch with the army and our intelligence agencies? Is anybody really in charge?

The various Maoist groups have created a Red Corridor across one third of the districts in India's heartland: their writ runs in the Corridor. This year 178 people have been killed in Maoist-related violence. There is endemic insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. This year 184 people were killed in terrorist-related violence in J&K. That is, an estimated 693 people have already been killed in India's terrorist-related violence in 2007. All these figures are taken from the South Asian Terrorism Review, headed by Mr. KPS Gill.

Most insurgent groups, regardless of ideology or stated objectives, cooperate with each other and with the LTTE of Sri Lanka. Most are known to have received arms and expertise from Pakistan, sanctuary in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Authentic official sources have confirmed that in the mid-1990s China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) was aiding and directing Pakistan to provide arms and training to insurgent groups in India's north-east. Has China's use of Pakistan as its proxy for destabilizing India ended?

One cannot say. What one can say is that this month the Indian police, quoting warnings by America's CIA, tightened security for the Dalai Lama. According to the police, the CIA had warned of an attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) against the Dalai Lama, directed by a foreign organization. LeT's links with Al Qaeda, and the latter's links with China's PLA, have been confirmed in the past. In light of this, one must ask: what interest can Al Qaeda have in eliminating Dalai Lama unless a Chinese angle is involved?

And, what is the government doing about Kashmir? It continues discussion with Pakistan without any idea about its final objective. Simultaneously, it promotes SAARC in a manner that effectively kills the prospect of an EU-like South Asian Union ever emerging. It may be recalled that in Europe the NATO security treaty preceded the European Common Market. In South Asia, Pakistan and Bangladesh have defence treaties with China which are obviously directed against India. By allowing China and other powers to enter SAARC as observers, the government has succeeded merely in consolidating a billion-plus population market for them to exploit, while India wrestles with security problems created through SAARC neighbors.

Indian politicians are themselves busy dividing society. The government is obsessed with caste-based reservation in higher education while it ignores primary education. On April 10 HRD Minister Arjun Singh conceded that India was 'still quite some distance away' from providing eight years of education to every child. For votes the government is tearing castes and communities apart: Consider the government's poll-inspired gestures appeasing Muslims, compounded by the BJP's hate-Muslim policies. This, while the government is lifting curbs on Special Economic Zones without addressing the concerns of farmers: they continue to commit suicide.

Governance has collapsed. Law and order have disappeared. Corruption is rampant. A discredited CBI is wrestling with the Volcker case, the Bofors case, the Naval War Room case, and the Scorpene Submarine case. All these cases involve the government itself. And it is happening under a government with questionable legality. If the flawed Office of Profit Law is struck down by Supreme Court when Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi's petition challenging it comes up, 50 to 100 MPs could be unseated. The UPA government could lose its majority. The judgment is expected before the presidential election in late July. It could rock the system.

India does not need miracles. India itself is a miracle: it survives.   


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

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