On Monday, LeT militants dragged two teenaged sisters from their house in the Kashmir Valley and killed them in the most brutal manner. It served as reminder that the situation in the valley has not changed and the calm that has prevailed in the last two months was misleading. The protest against these killings has been muted. If the perpetrators had not been militants, the Kashmir valley would have been on fire. The silence of human rights groups on the incident is conspicuous. This is indicative of the level of intimidation by the militants in the Valley.
Every efforts by the security forces to dispel this environment of fear is thwarted by anti-nationals, which includes pro-Pak elements, religious fundamentalists and some human rights and media organizations. The same is true for the Maoist affected areas as well.
The Union Home Minister, in the ongoing Chief Minister’s Conference on security has relied on low civilian casualty rates to prove the point that security had improved in most terrorist and insurgency affected areas in the country. The Home Minister must realize that low civilian casualty is also an indicator of common people increasingly yielding to the Diktats of terrorists and insurgent groups.
Our attention span and emotional engagement with incidents relating to internal security has become directly proportional to the magnitude of the ‘visible violence’, like 73 CRPF personnel killed in Chhattisgarh or the hostage of crises in Bihar or the attack on Gyaneshwari Express in Bengal.
As we get inured, our tolerance levels and appetite for ‘visible violence’ also increases.
But what about ‘invisible violence’!
The press does not report because it is not tangible and therefore has no news value, the legislators could not care because they have benefited from it, and in absence of political direction, the bureaucrats have neither the backing nor the courage to influence the environment on ground. In the process, the state apparatus begins to erode, making way for anarchy.
The policy-makers must realize that reacting to “˜visible violence can buy them temporary reprieve, but their inability to read and deal with “˜invisible violence will cost them India as a modern and democratic nation-state.
Some real settings and related incidents highlight physical, economic and psychological havoc that ‘invisible violence’ can wreak on the lives of people and whole generations as such are narrated below.
A 24-year old girl walked into a security forces camp and insisted on meeting the commander. She confided in the commander that a militant from across the border had been forcibly stretched the hospitality of her family for past several years in the name of jihad. Sometime later, she said, he also began to abuse her and a stage came when he began to draw perverse pleasure in burning her with cigarettes. She said she could not take it any more and wanted to see him killed. One morning, based on her information, an operation was launched and the militant was killed.
In another incident, a Kashmiri boy studying in Class-VIII sought appointment with the Commanding Officer of an Infantry Battalion. On meeting him, the boy became inconsolable. He then narrated that a militant often came to his house and forced himself on his college going sister. One day, based on the information by the boy, a cordon and search operation was launched and the militant was eliminated.
There are thousands such stories regarding atrocities by the Pakistani jihadis on women of Kashmir.
Privately, the separatist (read pro-Pakistan) leaders in Kashmir ask the women to endure the assault on the dignity quietly for the larger cause of jihad.
Setting-B: A Village in Bihar
The Maoists in order to make inroads into the village decided to terrorize the villagers by murdering one of the most respected persons in that area. One afternoon, about 200-300 Maoist cadres descended on his house and ignoring the wailing of his wife and children, carried him to the nearby fields and beheaded him. The village was terrorized. The police did come to investigate, but in times to follow, could do nothing to disabuse the terror from the minds of the villages. Some of the inherently criminal elements amongst the some villagers joined the Maoist ranks. Nobody in the village could thereafter question their writ.
In the next 10 years, these very Maoist cadres met their cruel end at the hands of their comrades. One of them was cut into pieces for hobnobbing with the rival leftist group. Yet another committed suicide after some of his comrades on a night patrol came to his house and physically exploited his wife.
Few years later, another cadre, who committed a murder at the behest of the Maoists, managed to reach the nearby police station and died there, but not before handing over a note that he had consumed poison due to atrocities perpetrated upon his son, also a Maoist.
Setting-C: A Village in West Bengal
On 5 September 2010, on the Teacher’s Day, the Maoist beheaded a primary school teacher in West Bengal in full view of little school children, who had terror on their faces and hearts, indelible for the rest of their lives. The Maoists reportedly suspected the school teacher of being a police informer. The primary school since then is closed and so are many schools in the Red Corridor due to the terror of the Maoists.
He (common man) is bewildered, why the government or the civil society should even entertain the idea of having “˜talks with criminals, and what right does the government have to pardon them. He wonders whether it pays to be a law abiding citizen. He does not know which principles and values to live by and to live for.
A newly Commissioned Army Officer, was stopped from coming home in Manipur by his proud father because he felt that his life was in danger because he had chosen to join the Indian Army. Terror in Manipur and Nagaland has driven youth to violence and drugs. Many of them have been consumed by HIV. A sizeable section of Manipuri students outside the state are meeting their educational expenses by resorting to drug smuggling.
Setting-E: Andhra and Jharkhand
In 1989, the former Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Dennis La Fontaine, who had chosen to settle in rural Andhra Pradesh, was robbed of his pistol by the Maoists. In fact, he was tied up with the chair and he remarked whether they were revolutionaries or dacoits? Twelve years down the line, i.e. in November 2001, he was again robbed of another pistol. Comparing the two incidents La Fontaine said: “The confidence of the teenagers this time was much higher because they were better armed.” In 1989, he maintained: “That seemed a ragtag bunch while this one came in jungle fatigues, boots and caps.” The State, however, did not show any resolve to tackle the menace of Maoism in the intervening years.
Now, the latest victim is a Group Captain of the Air Force, R K Prasad. He was made to pay Rs. 10 Lakhs for the release of his brother who was kidnapped by the Maoists in Jharkhand in this very year. The officer wrote to the Home Minister and was subsequently given a very patient and concerned hearing by the Defence Minister and the Defence Secretary.
Armed forces personnel hailing from the Red Corridor are being subjected to intimidation and extortion by the Maoists for at least two decades now. The families of the servicemen residing in their native places are being forced to part with their hard earned money to fill the coffers of the Maoists.
Manifestations of Invisible Violence
In the areas where the government has forfeited its writ to the Maoists and other insurgent groups, a whole generation has been brought up in an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and depravity. They are subjected to extortion and Kangaroo courts. Their movement is restricted, their interaction is restricted, their communication is restricted, and their occupational choices are restricted. All government plans and programmes reach them after the filtering process of the Maoists / insurgents. In the tribal areas, even worship of traditional deities has been forbidden by the Maoists and have been forcibly supplanted by Mao.
No development is allowed to take place in the Maoist / insurgency affected areas. Inaccessibility and backwardness is of critical importance to the Maoists. It is for this reason that they blow up schools, hospitals, bridges, railway tracks and target road construction parties.
A visit to the Red Corridor will reveal the huge swathes of agricultural land lying uncultivated because of Maoist ban or threat. The Prime Minister can keep talking about the second ‘Green Revolution’, but he must realize that it can only take place in a conducive and fear-free environment.
There is a thriving extortion industry worth Rs.14,000 crores in the Red Corridor. The Maoists have emerged as the mining mafia. In Kashmir, the people are benefiting from money coming from the central government and Pakistans ISI.
In these Maoist controlled areas, elections are held under the shadow of the gun and therefore their legitimacy is in question. It is for this reason that the mainstream political parties do not hesitate to tie-up with the Maoists for influencing the voting pattern in their favour. The people are very well aware that after the elections, the government will retreat and they will be back to the mercy of Maoist masters.
Insurgency has played havoc with the demography within the country. With the insurgents running a parallel government in the rural areas, a large number of people are moving towards cities and towns in search of security and progress. The rural areas are devoid of doctors, teachers and rural businessman due to incessant extortion by the insurgents. Maoist insurgency has caused the sky-rocketing of property prices even small towns like Arrah, Asansol, Jamshedpur and Raipur because of exodus in villages. People feel that at least they will be able to buy peace and government’s writ in these areas.
For the insurgents there are many payoffs of invisible violence. There is a thriving extortion industry worth Rs.14,000 crores in the Red Corridor. The Maoists have emerged as the mining mafia. In Kashmir, the people are benefiting from money coming from the central government and Pakistan’s ISI. In the Northeast Manipur and Nagaland have become a bottomless bit. The reason contribute nothing to India’s coffers, but the insurgent outfits run an insurgency industry on tax-payers’ money. The insurgent leadership thrives. Most of the leaders have acquired huge properties in cities and state capitals. They ensure that their own families and children are not victims of the invisible violence.
Maoism has brought in terror in hitherto some of the most peaceful states like Orissa and begun to make inroads in Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand.
The common man is confused by the debate over Maoism and other insurgencies, which he thinks are criminal activities. He is bewildered, why the government or the civil society should even entertain the idea of having ‘talks’ with criminals, and what right does the government have to pardon them. He wonders whether it pays to be a law abiding citizen. He does not know which principles and values to live by and to live for.
Meanwhile the security forces are confused over the shifting definition of their ‘adversary’ and ‘enemy’. They feel that if the insurgents, who have declared ‘war on India’, are country’s ‘own people’, whom are they fighting against. They are not sure whether their actions in line of their duty will have the backing of the country’s leadership. They wonder, is it worth fighting or is it worth losing their lives for ungrateful set of people and VIPs. When they are vilified for their role in counter-insurgency and praised for protection duties of VIPs, they are visited by doubts about being used as a cannon-fodder.
The policy-makers must realize that reacting to ‘visible violence’ can buy them temporary reprieve, but their inability to read and deal with ‘invisible violence’ will cost them India as a modern and democratic nation-state. The nation must therefore define its core values and defend it irrespective of human and other costs.