By Alan Hart
The starter question I asked myself when I was thinking about what I might usefully say here today was this: How serious a threat to stability, and perhaps even democracy, are India’s insurgency movements?
From afar the insurgency situation in India is, to say the least, very complicated. There are two types of insurgent movements: movements for national self-determination – Assam, Kashmir and the Sikhs; and movements for social or economic justice and often both.
In all there are said to be some 30 armed insurgency organizations, but in 2007 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the growing influence of the born-again Naxalites or Maoists as “the most serious internal threat to India’s national security.”
Two years later (last year), the data seemed to confirm that view. The Naxalites or Maoists were by then active across 220 districts in 20 states – about 40% of India’s geographical area. According to the Research and Analysis Wing of Indian intelligence, there were 20,000 armed Naxalites and 50,000 regular or fulltime organizers and mobilizers. And all of those numbers are, apparently, growing.
It seems to me that it’s not too much of an exaggeration – and possibly not an exaggeration at all – to say that India is at war with itself. That was, in fact, the title of an article in 2007 by Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights in New Delhi.
How are the Indian authorities fighting this war?
As announced by Prime Minister Singh, there’s a two-pronged strategy – “effective policing” and “accelerated socio-economic development programmes”.
Events on the ground since that strategy was implemented suggest that “effective policing” is a euphemism for central and state government counter-violence and repression. Put another way, India’s security services (central and state) have at least matched the excesses of the Naxalites, including unlawful killings in fake encounters – incidents fabricated by security forces to justify the murder of dissidents.
The judgment of those who don’t have to peddle official propaganda seems to be that the counter-insurgency policy of the security services is counter-productive. Chakma put it this way. “Whenever security forces are deployed in a concerted manner, they only accentuate the conflict through gross human rights violations.”
As the conflict escalates, human rights monitoring is becoming next to impossible, but Chakma still insists that, “despite the difficulty of such a route, the Naxal conflict can only be addressed through the rule of law and rights-based approaches to development.”
On the former, Chakma said, the government “must” ensure compliance with articles of the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of the victims of non-international armed conflicts, the forcible displacement of civilians, the destruction of the means of survival of civilian populations; and accountability for violations by security forces.
Chakma concluded: “Insurgent movements like that of the Maoists are in large part sustained by the human rights violations of the government. India has never before relied on the rule of law to combat its rebels. Such an approach may be New Delhi’s best and only option.”
That conclusion makes sense to me as far as it goes. Counter-insurgency operations anywhere are doomed to failure if the security forces don’t put appropriate and necessary effort into winning hearts and minds. But the main point I want to make to you today is this.
The insurgency in all of its manifestations and the counter-insurgency operations of the security forces in all of their manifestations are only the casing of the ticking time-bomb under India’s democracy. The explosive substance inside the casing is, in a word, POVERTY.
Way back in the early 1970’s when I made Five Minutes To Midnight, my documentary on global poverty and its implications for all, some of the most revealing sequences were filmed in India. On locations up and down and across the country, I asked the poorest parents what they most wanted. One woman – her answer was to be echoed by many in India and on all the continents of the world – replied, “Education for my children so they don’t have to live like animals as we do.”
More than three decades on, India, despite its emergence as something of a development tiger, has the highest illiteracy rate in the world – 70% if my information is correct. But the lack of formal education is only one measure of poverty. The others are the lack of the basic necessities for life – adequate shelter, sanitation, clean water, nutrition, health care and work and job opportunities.
In the years that have passed since I made Five Minutes To Midnight, India’s population has doubled to 1.1 billion. Of those about 800 million – more than 60% of the total – are poor, many living on the margins of life and lacking some or all of the basic necessities as I’ve just summarised them.
Once upon a time the poor of India (and the poor of the world) didn’t know they were poor. Today, and because images of anything can go global in minutes if not seconds, they do know. Today the poor of India are becoming more and more aware of the affluence of the relative few who are benefiting from the country’s development boom. And that as I see it is why the rich-poor division is the ticking time-bomb under India’s democracy.
On recent visits to India I was shocked by the way in which the relative few are flaunting their wealth. And I came to the conclusion that unless India’s politicians commit themselves to fighting and winning the only war that matters, the war on poverty, there will come a day when the country will be torn apart by the despair and rage of the poor.
If that was only the conclusion of a visiting Englishman, I suppose it would not matter too much if at all. But let me tell you this.
One of my dearest friends in India is Zafar Saifullah. He is the only Indian Muslim to have served as Secretary to the Cabinet of Central Government. On one of my recent visits, Zafar hosted a lunch for me to meet and talk with a number of retired Permanent Secretaries to various Central Government Ministries. They were, in other words, the real life Sir Humphreys of their time. (I’m assuming that you’re all aware of the fictional Sir Humphrey as in the BBC’s Yes, Minister and then Yes, Prime Minister).
In conversation with these distinguished gentlemen, I expressed my fear that if real progress was not made on tackling poverty and closing the rich poor gap, there would come a time when India would be torn apart by unthinkable violence. My expectation was that these real life Sir Humphreys would respond to me with something like: “No, no, Alan. You’re exaggerating. Things will never get that bad.”
What they actually said was, “We share your fears for our country.”
Let’s now return to the Naxalites or Maoists.
The success of the Maoist Movement of Nepal, supported, ironically, by the Indian Government, has given further impetus to the Maoist or Naxalite Movement in India. In Nepal, the forest dwellers have taken over the country and are now its rulers. And it’s what happened in the forests of India that is a key to understanding.
The lowest of India’s forest dwellers are the adivasi. According to one of the legends that support India’s diabolical caste system, the adivasi were punished by the gods for killing a Brahmin (a member of the highest caste – the 5% which more or less rules and controls India. One could say that Brahmins are the Zionists of India). The punishment was that the adivasi should live with animals like animals. Like other animals in the forest they own nothing and they prey on the weaker. When mineral deposits were discovered in some of the forested areas, the authorities decided that the adivasi should be relocated. But they refused to be moved. Because they had no title, they were determined to hold on to what they actually held. That set in motion a cycle of resistance and reprisals – the latter including rapes and murders – which assisted the insurgency movement to grow and become more powerful.
The leaders of the Maoists or Naxalites of India speak the language of the poor, but are they only doing so because it serves their ultimate purpose – winning power in New Delhi? I think that’s a fair question but it’s also irrelevant. The point is, surely, that the Naxalites or Maoists and all other insurgency groups can only benefit – grow in strength and power – from the despair of the impoverished masses.
From the perspective of the central and state authorities, the Naxalites or Maoists and all other insurgents are terrorists. For the sake of argument, let’s say they are and then ask the question – How can terrorism be defeated?
I address this question in Volume 3 of the American edition of my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. I say it is not complicated and that I can answer it in a very few words -147 to be precise; and that I would expect an averagely intelligent child to grasp their meaning. (Actually the shortened quote I am about to read from my book is only 122 words).
As all real experts on what is called counter-terrorism know, terrorists cannot operate, not for long, without the cover and the practical, emotional and moral support of the community of which they are a part. When that community perceives itself to be the victim of a massive injustice, and if that injustice is not addressed by political means, the community will cover, condone and even applaud the activities of those of its own who resort to terror as the only means of drawing attention to the injustice, to cause it to be addressed. It follows that the way to defeat terrorism – the only successful and actually proven way – is by addressing the genuine and legitimate grievances of the host community. The community will then withdraw its cover and support for its terrorists; and if they continue to try to operate, the community will oppose them by exposing them –reporting them to the authorities if reasoning fails.
Those are my 122 words of basic explanation. There are many case studies to support it. In Northern Ireland, for example, the British Army did not defeat provisional IRA terrorism. The terrorists called off their campaign when they had no choice – because the Catholic host community would not cover and support them any longer. And that happened only because the British government summoned up the will to risk the wrath of militant Protestantism by insisting that the legitimate grievances of the Catholics of Northern Ireland be addressed.
If the logic of that explanation is applied to the insurgency in India, it follows, surely, that the only effective counter-insurgency strategy will be one that addresses the legitimate grievances of the impoverished masses – those who will support the insurgency organizations in greater and greater numbers if only out of despair and no hope for anything better from central and state governments.
It has been argued by its defenders that the caste system has kept a sense of order and peace among the people and that it still works well because it is a way of “preventing society disintegrating into chaos”. (In verbal parenthesis I’ll add that it also sanctions honour killings, as the case of Nirupama Pathak, a 22-year-old journalism graduate student from northern India, demonstrates. Her Brahmin family fiercely disapproved of her engagement to a young man she met at school who was from a middle-upper caste. When she told her family of her plans to marry him, she was accused of “defiling” her Hindu religion. Nirupama was subsequently found dead in her bedroom. She had been suffocated. Police eventually arrested her mother on suspicion of murder. The charge may or may not be dropped). My own view is that a continuation of the caste system – I’ve already described it as diabolical – will contribute to the despair and lack of hope that is fuelling support for the insurgents.
Question: WHAT, REALLY, IS THE EXPLANATION FOR THE FAILURE OF THE GOVERNING AUTHORITIES IN INDIA TO GET CLOSE TO DEFUSING THE TICKING TIME-BOMB OF POVERTY?
My short answer begins with the observation that they have learned nothing from the mistake made by the major Western powers when they were exploiting their control of the world’s resources including peoples for their own development purposes.
Simply stated, the problem is not capitalism – in my view it’s the only system that can deliver. The problem is the short-sighted and stupid way capitalism has been managed.
How different and better would the world be today if in the early 1960’s or thereabouts those responsible in the West for the management and oversight of the capitalist system had taken stock of the global situation and said to themselves something like the following:
“We are very good at the supply side of the equation – manufacturing, producing and selling, but we live in a world in which the vast majority of its inhabitants, actually about 80% of them, are too poor to buy what we have to sell. Unless we are prepared to invest in these people and in other ways assist their development, in order to bring them into the global market place as consumers, we will run out of customers in the numbers needed to buy what we have to sell, and our capitalist system will be doomed.”
Because stock-taking of that kind did not happen, those responsible in the West for the management and oversight of capitalism pumped their societies with credit, to keep the consumerism of 20% of the world’s people going. Throughout the West citizens were not only encouraged to want more and more of everything, they were assisted to buy more and more of everything, even when doing so required them to live way beyond their means and get deeper and deeper into debt. A crash was made all the more inevitable when the major banks stopped being concerned with assisting the creation of real wealth for all and turned their institutions into gambling casinos with various kinds of debt instruments that did not represent real money.
Simply stated the Western economies are now in a terrible mess – in my view a mess that could take us all the way to World War III – because of what I have described as the shortsighted and stupid way capitalism has been managed. This management failure has demonstrated that a system which encourages and serves the greed of the few at the expense of the many is not sustainable.
And that in my view is the lesson India’s governing authorities must learn if at a foreseeable point in the future democracy in India is not to be undermined and destroyed by violence – the product of the despair of the poor – on an epic and unthinkable scale.
The India that is known to the world is a country of Gandhian non-violence. In reality it is ruled by central and state authorities which look with favour on the excesses of the military and other security services which are fuelling the insurgencies. Should we in the outside world care?
I say “Yes!” and here’s why.
Major wars often start because Governments feel the need to deflect the attention of their own peoples away from the mess within and have somebody, some outside party, to blame.
That being so, there must be at least the possibility that if ever the authorities in India fear they are going to be overwhelmed by the insurgents, they could opt for war with Pakistan. Flashpoint Kashmir. If that happened, and because of the disparity between Indian and Pakistani conventional forces, Pakistan’s leaders would have to decide, possibly within two days or less, whether to agree to end the war on India’s terms and effectively surrender, or to go nuclear.
In my view the best way to guarantee that such a catastrophe won’t happen, either by design or default, is through open and honest dialogue about the real causes of the insurgencies in India.
Among the questions open and honest dialogue would need to address is the extent to which outside forces are having a significant influence on India’s drift to war with itself. It’s not too much of a secret that for more than a decade (and perhaps much longer) Israel’s Mossad has been advising, some say directing, India’s intelligence agencies. The cover story is co-operation in the “war against global terrorism”. But it’s not unreasonable to speculate that agents of Zionism and its neo-con associates are complicit in stoking Hindu-Muslim tensions.
By giving Zionism and its neo-con associates something of a free hand, I think India’s authorities have seriously compromised their country’s independence on counter-insurgency policy. If, as Chakma said, India must “rely on the rule of law” in order to have a chance of defeating its rebels, that is never going to happen as long as Zionism is allowed to call at least some of the counter-insurgency shots. Zionism has complete contempt for the rule of law. An India which takes Zionism’s advice is, in my opinion, an India that will be torn apart by unthinkable violence in a foreseeable future.
I prefer to end my presentations on a hopeful and inspiring note. On this occasion I have some difficulty but I’ll try this.
In Bangalore in 2007, I participated in an Empower India Conference organised by the Popular Front of India, and which apparently took a year to organise. The climax was a public meeting in the grounds of the Shaheed Tippu Sultan Nagar Palace. It was a most inspiring event. It was attended by in excess 100,000 people. Quite a good number, but most impressive of all was the fact that about 80% of those who came to listen were young people. Unlike so many young people in so many nations, they were opting into and not out of politics. They not only wanted new politics, they were demonstrating their wish to participate.
That tempts me to say in conclusion that although there is good reason to fear for the future of democracy in India, it’s not yet time to abandon hope that it could be renewed and strengthened. If India can find the way to make capitalism serve the needs of ALL of its people and give new life to democracy, it could become a model for the whole world.
At the present time it seems to me that India has a choice of futures. One is something approximating heaven on earth. The other is hell.
Alan Hart is a frequent contributor to www.oly.com.pk