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Sunday, July 19, 2009

#2405, 30 October 2007
Haldighati II: Implications for Internal Security Firdaus AhmedFreelancere-mail:
A ring leader of the Naroda Patiya massacre during the Gujarat carnage of 2002 has been captured on hidden camera boasting that on completion of the killings he felt like Rana Pratap at Haldighati. This tells of something more than a disconcerting world view.
The latest sting operation, 'Operation Kalank', by the intrepid Tehelka team could prove profitable for national security yet again. Their last effort 'Operation Westend' brought about streamlining of the weapons procurement system. This time round it has a bearing on internal security. Security analysis would require delving into the expose to eke out these implications.
The more obvious aspect can be disposed off at the outset. Forces championing Hindu fundamentalism - 'Hindutva' - have time and again transcended their right to propagate their version of nationalism through recourse to violence amounting to 'pogroms', as against 'riots' which are as two-sided. While the state has rightly acted with dispatch in pursuing cases of terrorism to their rightful conclusion, similar urgency has not attended actions of the judicial system in relation to carnages witnessed in Mumbai and Gujarat. A strategic intervention to break this cycle can only be through purposeful political assertion.
Tehelka has brought to fore what has been apprehended by some: that India is not adequately sensitive to the threat posed by majoritarian communalism to national security; and worse, that, though aware, it is not willing to face up to the threat.
India has often been called a 'soft state'. The remark has origins in India's seeming inability to firmly deal with terrorism to which it has been repeatedly subject. With the Tehelka revelations, the 'soft state' thesis has acquired an added dimension that those who use it most are wont to perceive. Though the 'threat within' has always had a saffron hue - complementing the popularly acknowledged one posed by Islamists - the past record of the principal political parties reveal they have stayed their hand when in government.
That this facet of internal security has been missed equally by the strategic community can be attributed to its distance from the Urdu press. Activist Jyoti Punwani brings out the perception, amounting to a conviction amongst the minority community, that there is more to the accidental blasts in Nanded, and resulting leads on clandestine bomb making, than has been pursued to its logical end by the investigating agencies ('Blatant Double Standard', TOI, 22 Oct. '07). A plausible perspective is that the blasts at Parbani, Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer may have their origin in the machinations of elements internal to India's polity, in addition to the trans-border forces generally blamed. There is a persuasive case for broadening the ambit of security analysis.
The alacrity of the state in one direction has useful fallout in dampening passions of those seeking retribution. However, high profile cases such as the saga of filmstar Sanjay Dutt, as part of the wider Mumbai serial bomb blast case of 1993, serve also to obscure and deflect attention from the proverbial 'dog that did not bark'. The absence of avidness in following up cases of politically organized riots indicates a nexus between the beneficiary political forces and the institutions of state. It gives rise to the disquieting possibility that sections of the state, particularly those dealing with law and order and intelligence, are being subverted, indoctrinated and politicized.
A necessary precondition for the state to retrieve the moral high ground is to be mindful of the fallout. Ironically, the suspect apparatus has to be relied on to regain lost ground. Turning it around to perform apolitically to constitutional standards is therefore the internal security challenge requiring enlightened and courageous political leadership, at the federal rather than provincial level. Such an initiative could do with securitization of the issue and thereby the mainstreaming of it.
The identity of the state has been under concerted, if covert, assault for about two decades now. The more visible crisis points, such as Punjab, Nagaland and Kashmir, have been restricted competently to its periphery; but have been given analytical attention at the cost of other candidate issues. The singular attention paid to the Islamist threat has served to camouflage what is arguably the more insidious threat. Recognizing a threat for its worth is the first step in addressing it - a function of the security community.
The problems of Pakistan next door from a majoritarian interpretation of the nation-state serve as a constant reminder to the outcome of treading down such a path. India's diversity and democracy has led to complacency in recognizing and grappling with this, the more consequential threat to both. The latest 'tehelka' is an opportunity to face up to this threat.

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