The Bold Voice of J&K

Don’t fret over Raqqa, focus on Red corridor

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Ashok K Mehta 

We have to thank the British for locating cantonments in the hills across India to escape the blazing heat of the plains and increase longevity and productivity of the troops. Last week, the maxim was ably demonstrated by the Army Brigade at Kasauli while organising a strategic seminar on terrorism, the brainchild of veteran Lt Gen Kamal Davar. Assembled at the picturesque Kasauli Club were renowned specialists in the trade like Ajay Sahni, Lt Gen Vijay Kumar Ahluwalia, Manoj Joshi and myself. Collectively they brought to the table the knowledge and experience of combating militancy, insurgency, terrorism and Left-Wing Extremism (LWE).
In this day and age, the scourge of terrorism heads the charts of threats and challenges to mankind. The 13th century assassins, recalls Marco Polo in his travels along the Silk Road to meet the great Mongol, Kublai Khan, were terrorists “drugged and manipulated to do their masters’ bidding” – much like contemporary terrorists. The Americans spearheaded the international response (crusade) to 9/11 with the ‘global war on terrorism’, soon tweaked it to ‘US military engagement/commitment overseas’, and now call it ‘combating violent extremism’. The focus of the terrorism seminar was on key aspects of India’s internal security.
The good news: Despite forecasts of doom and gloom, a chart on fatalities due to terrorism between 2005 and 2016 displayed at the seminar showed a dramatic decline in figures, from 1,739 in 2005 to 174 in 2015 in Jammu & Kashmir. Across the board, there is a sharp drop in insurgency in the North-East (717 to 273) and in LWE (717 to 251). Islamic extremism and Hindutva extremist figures have dropped from double to single digits.
The Islamic State, which is losing ground in Syria and Iraq, has made no headway in India. We were told that in the country with the second largest Muslim population in the world of 183 million, only 23 Indians had joined the Islamic State of whom six had been killed in Syria. Two years after the declaration of the Caliphate, all-India figures of Muslims who are in the Islamic State net are 25 arrested, 30 detained and 35 deported.
The communal situation in the country is also on the mend since the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the 2002 Gujarat violence, though it is still sensitive and vulnerable. Overall, statistically atleast, the internal security scenario is looking up. This, it was noted, was in conformity with the end of the era of World Wars and the arrival of the most peaceful period in recent history – a claim not in sync with popular perception.
The LWE picture is more promising than in the past mainly after the wake-up call on 6th April, 2010, when 76 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in Chhattisgarh. 2009 and 2010 were the most violent years with fatalities rising to 997 and 1,180 respectively. Of the 640 districts, the Maoist-affected ones have dropped from 239 to 106 districts, of which 39 are critically affected. This is a significant reduction in the Maoist hold of the mainly rural, tribal and Dalit population with low human development indices. The centre of gravity of LWE is in the Bastar belt which accounts for 60 per cent of the violence.
Notably, several myths have been created around the Maoists about the Red Corridor from Pashupati in Nepal to Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh. Also, there are no Maoist Liberated Zones as claimed. Liberated regions are those which are not contested by the State and have their own administrative machinery, which is not the case. These counterclaims are valid only on account of terminological in exactitude though Government has admitted there are large tracts of areas in Bastar where the Indian flag is rarely flown. Following the 2010 Chhattisgarh ambush, the State panicked and called in the Army to carry out a typical psy-ops by deploying troops for training in the heart of Maoist land.
In July 1971, two Army Divisions and the elite Parachute Brigade were launched in West Bengal to subdue the resurgence of Maoist terror which had the subsidiary effect of ensuring a Congress electoral victory. While the Army should assist and train paramilitary forces, it must not get involved in operations.

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