'India seems to be withering away'

Last Updated: Tue, Sep 28, 2010 11:53 hrs

The second week of September 2010 was  a very grim indicator about the effete and compromising nature of our political dispensation, at the cost of the 'Union' of India.

Two issues - the Kashmir imbroglio and the Maoist menace - continue to mock at the ineptitude of the Indian authorities.

The Indian political leadership, obsessed with vote bank politics, is too shortsighted to recognize the importance of making quick decisions.

Every second day, our Prime Minister keeps upwardly revising his estimate of GDP growth, but he has failed to reconcile economics and security. Does he realize that the growth rate would be far higher than eight percent, had the eastern half of our country not been hijacked by Maoists and various insurgent groups? Road and rail movement, investment and the general business environment there is under the shadow of Red guns.

Bengal has been allowed to become a killing field and the efforts of some well meaning and progressive Chief Ministers in the country's eastern half are being stymied by the Central Authorities in conformity with their vote-bank agenda. This is going to cost the nation dearly as the instability in the eastern half has begun to spill over to the western half.
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The violence in both Kashmir and Maoist strongholds has seen a similar trajectory in the past few months.
Even as Kashmir was being violently manipulated by the Pakistan-sponsored elements within the country (which includes mainstream parties),  the Maoists' bandh caused more than 30 express and mail trains, including three Rajdhani Express, trains to be stranded on various railway stations between Mughalsarai and Dhanbad, a distance of more than 1000 km.
This was due to a huge explosion on the railway track near the Jain pilgrimage center of Parasnath. Also, as in many earlier Maoist bandhs, some railway stations were under siege and one goods train was derailed.

In various parts of the Red Corridor, no vehicles were on the road as the Maoists had threatened to chop off the hands of any driver who dared to defy the shutdown.

During the Maoist bandh, more than a dozen people were murdered in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bengal and Bihar. In the same period, 18 people lost their lives in Kashmir during anti-India demonstrations. The casualties in the Red Corridor, which was far more widespread, did not receive the same attention as Kashmir.

There is a frenzied recruitment drive on in Kashmir, the latest accent being on women and children. The large infusion of funds for payment to 'stone throwers' is intriguing. So is the increasing amount of funds available with the Maoists.

In the three adjoining Maoist-impacted districts of Bihar - Lakhisarai, Monghyr, and Jamui - the Maoists have put up posters issuing a diktat that every village must provide a stipulated number of boys and girls for their Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). The Maoists have offered to pay salaries at par with the government. They have also announced an enhanced package for computer literate cadres. 

In neighbouring Pakistan, the jihadi organizations pay a salary to their cadres which is at par with the Pakistani Army personnel. In Pakistan, therefore, it is not uncommon to find a jihadi and a regular soldier from the same family. The author has also come across a few families in India where two brothers are serving with the police and the Maoists respectively.

As far as the ordinary cadres of the Kashmir and the Maoist movement are concerned, it is the money, and not the ideology, which is the incentive. Six years ago, a group of armed Maoist cadres revealed to this author that they were paid Rs 3,500  a month. Therefore, the latest offer by the Maoist leaders is phenomenal jump and is indicative of the burgeoning financial muscle of the outfit.

To keep the law from tracing them, the Maoist leaders use the lower cadres for murders, and reward them with extorted money or captured land. Most Maoist leaders have their families in urban centres where they have acquired huge properties. Similarly, the Kashmiri leadership is never in the forefront; they only issue calendars and handle the vast amount of money pouring in both from India and Pakistan. Their own children are in the best institutions abroad.
Following the abductions of police personnel in Bihar, there is unprecedented impetus in recruitment and training activities by the Maoists. The forest reserve in Gaya serves as their training camp. Obstacles and concrete bunkers have been made for the purpose. The recruits are trained to handle explosives, hijack trains and aircraft and even to carry out suicide bombings. All over the reserve forest, there are warnings of dire consequences to trespassers and to forest rangers that they will be beheaded if they were to venture inside.

Similarly, in Kashmir, ordinary citizens are being trained at selected places in the nuances of stone pelting. The stone pelting activity involves very intricate logistics, mobilization and coordination, and is getting increasingly sophisticated in terms of the intended effect and calibration of media coverage.

The common man in Kashmir, who has a stake in the peace and prosperity of the region, only wants to get along with life. But such is the intimidation of the pro-Pakistan elements that they have to take to the streets for fear of being physically and financially targeted, or ostracized in the name of jihad. These pro-Pak elements have become a law-unto-themselves.

The Maoists are intimidating law-abiding citizens in a similar manner. Two days after the hostage crisis in Lakhisarai in Bihar, some 200-300 Maoists swooped down on the house of a local BJP leader in Darbhanga village, which is under the jurisdiction of Imamganj police station of Gaya district. The Maoists had brought tractors with them and snaffled the entire household of furniture, jewellery and food grains.

Earlier, the Kangaroo Court of the Maoists had issued a 'property attachment order'. The BJP leader was told by the Maoists that he was being punished for his association with the speaker of the Bihar Assembly, who is also the local MLA of the area.

A month ago, the PA of the speaker of the Bihar Assembly had his limbs broken by the Maoists in a Kangaroo Court. This author met a sitting High Court Judge from the same area in the Red Corridor, who lamented that the state machinery was unable to cope with the criminal activities of the Maoists. If this is the plight of politicians and other VIPs, one can imagine what the fate of the common man is. He was earlier torn between two parallel administrations, but now his choice is becoming increasingly limited in favour of extremists, for he must turn to the stronger side if he is to survive.

The state is increasingly finding it difficult to reestablish its writ in Kashmir and in the Red Corridor.

It is seen that insurgencies thrive only in those areas where subsistence is relatively easy. Ironically, the radical movements in both Kashmir and the Red Corridor are in overwhelming measure being sustained by the Indian taxpayers’ money. The central assistance to Kashmir is nearly 10,000 crore rupees, eight times more than the average given to other states. The poverty level in Kashmir is four percent as against the national average of 21 percent.

Thankfully, the separatist leadership in Kashmir has finally acknowledged that their agitation is not about governance, development and employment. The Maoists have also conveyed the same by targeting schools, hospitals, panchayat buildings, bridges, trains and railway tracks.

All major Maoist attacks in the recent past were carried out by four wheeler and two-wheeler borne cadres. The influx of funds has not only ensured high salaries for the cadre, but also modern facilities in their camps. Some of these have amenities such as regular electricity supply through solar panels. Most of these panels have been forcibly taken away from poor localities, where they were installed as part of government anti-poverty initiatives.

A lot of criminals from other parts of the country have congregated in the Red Corridor to rake in quick money from the thriving extortion and illegal mining industry of the Maoists. Both the Kashmir agitation and the Maoist menace are being abetted by the ISI, with the subtle indulgence of China. Both have links with jihadi groups in Pakistan and insurgent groups in the Northeast. 

In both Kashmir and Red Corridor, the government has allowed its instrument of governance - the security forces - to be denigrated, abused, disparaged, and demoralized by not only the extremists, but also respected academics and human rights 'activists'.

The moral and financial source of sustenance of these 'activists', and the media platforms that they utilize, remains a mystery.

Both the Kashmir and Maoist problem have been allowed to reach a situation where, in order to preserve the Indian nation-state, large casualties are inevitable. The government cannot deal with them without enormous collateral damage.

The state of affairs has emboldened other groups to challenge the residual might of the Indian state. One such group has even threatened to disrupt the Commonwealth Games. In psychological terms, India seems to be withering away.

Will we be able to ensure our motherland's physical integrity?

RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also Associate Editor, Indian Defence Review.

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