Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Scourge of terrorism

RED SUN — Travels in Naxalite Country: Sudeep Chakravarti; Penguin-Viking, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017. Rs. 495. Reading Sudeep Chakravarti’s Red Sun, a travelogue-cum-political narrative of his travels through India’s ever lengthening Red corridor, is intimidating. The picture of young Indian intellectuals, a collection of educated, unemployed and unemployable youth coming out of schools in JNU fashion is demolished by the stories that Sudeep unveils. One better watch, he warns of the imminent peril that a large chunk of India may explode any moment, for the stories are real. Perpetual losing war

When we gloat over the expanding list of native billionaires, and a shining India, Sudeep pours freezing water with the travails of a perpetual losing war. As we turn the pages, one is frightened by the tragic image of a growing India that is being perilously and needlessly, but increasingly, taken over by a revived combination of naxals, fanatics, parochial chauvinists and insane insurgents of many sorts.

After 9/11, we thought the rest of the world will be afflicted with the destructive terrorism of the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and our native brands may cause us some “concern” but not enough to cause us any insomnia. I don’t think any minister has publicly admitted to losing his sleep over what is happening in Chattisgarh or the liberated districts of Orissa or the expanding troubled parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka or the explosions in Mumbai and Coimbatore. The fluid flow of violence all clubbed under the label “Maoists and Naxals” is now turning into a flood that it is time the country does not wish it away as just a “law and order” problem.

Home-grown movements

Chakravarti reminds us that from Pasupathy to Tirupati there are home-grown movements that do get help from Nepal to Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Years ago, when there was a police firing in Naxalbari, one of the warriors of the People’s War had observed, “from now on, the map of India will not be as it was yesterday.” Only a few days ago parts of Orissa were under siege. The basic point that Sudeep drives at is that we are not taking a comprehensive view of the insurgencies assailing us. Suicides of farmers are first denied, then grudgingly admitted as an irritant, and swiftly swept under the carpet. That they are connected with the overall growing unrest in the country is never thought of. We should admit that in India the grammar of terrorism and violence of various shades defy precise definition.

Bewildering forms

We have a bewildering collection including the Al-Qaeda and Taliban outrages, perfect mindless destruction, ideological class killings, peasant unrest and immolations, suicide deaths, tribal revolts, caste conflicts, a multitude of causes, genuine and imagined, igniting one part or other of the body politic. The question is, are we to dismiss it as causing “some concern” necessitating strengthening of the law and order machinery, and getting the local people involved by what is called Salwa Judum or in other words, local militias and setting one set of thugs against another? It will finally end up turning an undercurrent of rising anger, constantly bruising the nation’s body, and jolting our democratic institutions into a major destructive killer.

History tells us that no nation has lost its freedom by external invasions more than by the collapse of internal security, political, social and economic. It is here that the spirit of Nandigram spreading from West Bengal to Orissa to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with echoes even in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, let alone Maharashtra and others is part of a national “hara kiri”.

K.P.S. Gill was a hero in the Punjab but his method was good for the Punjab and to the Punjab only, and the Punjab of that period. He has not succeeded in Chattisgarh and he himself according to the author, is not sure whether his diagnosis and therapy will hold good today. The fact is, the ageing barrier has made him lay down his arms and he may soon put away the hockey stick.

The author laments the lack of strong and proper democratic governance, free of corruption. The “Red Sun” is being fed by widespread corruption, a diagnosis with which most of us will agree. Sudeep Chakravarti has now had a good look at the patient. It is for him to suggest in the succeeding volume the therapy that has been eluding us. A book that every MP, MLA and minister should read before entering office. Needless to say, sociologists and senior bureaucrats should treat it as compulsory study material.

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