The siege within

J S Kataria, Feb 11 2018, 23:33 IST
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"Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak when power to flattery bows?"

- King Lear, Shakespeare

The two major events that stood out in the week preceding the 69th Republic Day of India were Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the ASEAN summit at New Delhi and the violence unleashed by the Karni Sena over the movie Padmaavat despite the Supreme Court's favourable decision for its release. We need to look at this paradox that could be the stumbling block in India's march towards 'Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World' under the ambit of the ancient Indian philosophy of inclusive prosperity with wealth, health and internal wellbeing as stated by the prime minister at Davos.

Terrorism has engulfed virtually every part of the world. According to the 2017 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) released by the Institute for Economic Peace, 25,673 people died due to terrorist activities. Its impact on the global economy in 2016 was to the tune of $800 billion. These are conservative estimates as the associated costs of fighting terrorism and its indirect cost on business are excluded. Terrorist groups receive funds through money transfer, donations, trafficking, taxation and extortion.

The funding of various terrorist groups shows that many of them are supported by nation states to propel their respective national aims. As the space for full-scale wars has shrunk due to the presence of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism has emerged as the new tool of power projection and assertion of hegemony by slowing the target nation's economy. The number of countries directly affected by terrorism have increased from 64 in 2015 to 77 in 2017. It has divided the world, and nations are beginning to look inwards.

Terrorists or insurgents in India have been getting both material and ideological support from external sources. Insurgents in the North East and the Maoists are known to have had links with China since the 1950s. Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is supported overtly by Pakistan. It doesn't look like it will abate in the near future.

Peaceful protests and agitations are a part and parcel of democracy. Unfortunately, violent agitations by fringe elements have emerged as the new tool of power-play in the hands of the political parties and the state machinery. Inaction on the part of the states and the central government is a direct infringement of the 'Oath of Office' taken by our political leaders as enshrined in Schedule III of the Constitution of India.

It states that s/he "will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that he will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that he will faithfully and conscientiously discharge his duties€¦without fear or favour, affection or ill-will."

Endangering national security

The agitations that altered the social fabric of India are the All-Assam Student Union agitation of 1984, the 1985 anti-reservation agitation of Gujarat and the anti-Mandal agitation of the 1990s. Among the recent ones are the Gujjar, the Jat and the Patidar reservation agitations. These agitations paralysed northern India, especially Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Gujarat. Besides, the agitations over river water disputes between Punjab and Haryana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and between Karnataka and Goa also impacted the safety and security of our citizens. Due to the indirect involvement of political parties and the state machinery, agitations of this kind are impacting our national security and prosperity in three discernible ways.

First, the loss to public and private property. The Jat agitation alone caused damage to public and private property worth approximately Rs 35,000 crore; the 2016 agitation over the Cauvery water dispute in Karnataka caused a loss of approximately Rs 25,000 crore. The recent Karni Sena agitation cost could be between Rs 1,500 to 2,000 crore. No nation can allow wanton destruction of public and private property. This is especially so for developing countries like India where 30% of our population lives below the poverty line.

Second, the impact on youth. Some 65% of the Indian population is below the age of 35 years. In a survey conducted by the Labour Bureau in 2016, it was found that almost 80% of India's labour force was either self-employed or working as casual labour. Some 18% of this population is jobless. It is this segment which is exploited by the wily politicians to run riots for their political gains. A blind eye is turned to their acts of violence, loot and arson. Jobless youth become susceptible to crime and exploitation by the terrorist groups operated by inimical states.

Thirdly, disregard for the law. The Supreme Court, in a case on 'Destruction of Public & Private Properties vs State of A.P', in 2009 gave detailed guidelines on the conduct of protests and the manner in which recovery is to be made from the culprit and the organisers of such protests. The states and the law-enforcing agencies have done little to enforce this judgement. Inaction against the Karni Sena is a case in point. It has a direct impact on the country's development and prosperity.

Modi's laudable push at WEF and the efforts to propel the Indian economy into top gear will yield result only if the fringe elements do not occupy the centre stage and hold the country to ransom. To succeed in countering terrorism sponsored by our inimical neighbours, we need to look inward for good and bad terrorists.

As in King Lear, the modern heads of states, too, are surrounded by flatterers and sycophants - the so called loyalists. It would be a good idea for our PM, the cabinet ministers and the chief ministers to re-read the 'oath' and renew their allegiance to the Constitution for the inclusive growth and wellbeing of India.

(The writer retired as a Major General in the Indian Army)

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