Much of the discussion sparked by the 8th report of the Veerappa Moily-led Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has centred on Mr Moily endorsing the need for tougher laws to deal with terrorism. While this gave the BJP’s tough law-campaign second wind, the presence of so-called tough laws did little to prevent serious terror attacks when the BJP-led NDA was in power — as Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal’s multi-part article in a national daily helped to establish. While this debate on cause and effect will go on (the BJP’s Arun Jaitley responded that the tough laws didn’t prevent the attacks but helped apprehend their perpetrators faster), it has deflected attention from some interesting facts that Mr Moily has presented in his report on India’s most troubled regions. The home ministry data that Mr Moily draws from say that there were a total of 1,597 terrorist incidents in 2003, in which 515 people died; the number of incidents fell marginally to 1,565 in 2007, but the number of those killed rose to 696. In other words, while the UPA’s performance on attacking terrorism has been under attack, the data do not suggest any dramatic deterioration in the over-all situation.
The more interesting picture is presented by the detailed break-up of the numbers. The data show that the number of terrorist attacks as well as casualties in Andhra Pradesh, long considered the home of the Naxal movement, have fallen from 577 incidents and 140 deaths in 2003 to 138 incidents and 45 deaths in 2007. The state government’s aggressive policy on attacking Maoists is clearly paying dividends. In Chhattisgarh, by way of contrast, the government has been encouraging the arming of citizens and herding them into artificial clusters, under the much-criticised Salwa Judum programme. This has not worked, because the casualties have gone up significantly, from 256 incidents and 74 deaths in 2003 to 582 incidents and 369 deaths in 2007. This also tends to support the thesis that, when it comes to dealing with Maoists, the real action has to be at the level of state governments.
The other point to note is that the situation has been steadily improving in Jammu & Kashmir, with a sharp decline in both the numbers of incidents and casualties. This is in contrast with the north-east, where there has been no improvement in the situation over the past four years. When it comes to Jammu & Kashmir, either the 2003 cease-fire with Pakistan along the Line of Control has made a big difference, or Pakistan has had other pre-occupations on its western border. Whatever the reason, the insurgency in India’s most troubled state was demonstrably losing steam—until the latest uprising occurred. Indeed, deaths from violent incidents are four-fold in the north-east (mostly Assam) when compared with Jammu & Kashmir. While 498 civilians died in 1,489 incidents in the north-east last year, the figures were 131 in 887 incidents for Jammu & Kashmir. So, while events in Jammu & Kashmir take up more mindspace and resources, the bigger battle is in the north-east. Meanwhile, since Pakistan needs to move more of its troops to its troubled western border, India could facilitate things by disengaging on the Line of Control in return for the closure of terrorist camps in Pak-occupied Kashmir. This could well be an opportunity to successfully wage peace with Pakistan
6 months ago