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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

the silence on majoritarian groups

The Fear That Does Not Speak Its Name
NN Vohra, the current governor of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, who spent the better part of the eighties and nineties on Raisina Hill in New Delhi, moving from South to North Block in between, ought to on that account know much more than he lets on in the first Jasjit Singh memorial lecture delivered at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis last month. Listing non-state groups that threaten internal security, he said,
Another phenomenon, relatively more recent, relates to the emergence of certain radical counter-groups which have been organised with the primary objective of countering the Jihadi terror networks. It needs being noted that the activities of such counter groups have the potential of spreading disharmony and divisiveness which could generate wide spread communal violence and result in irreparably damaging the secular fabric of our democracy (
Among the groups he lists are proxy war groups in J&K, the Indian Mujahedeen, Left Wing extremists, North East insurgents and Sikh militants. Since these are spelt out, it is curious that the hon’ble Governor leaves out mentioning who is the one he is referring to in the extract above. Why does the governor not put a name to the group he is talking about? Can this be a mere oversight?
Not quite. The governor no doubt has learnt as has the rest of India that among the first things the new government did on assuming office was have his successor in North Block, the incumbent home secretary, make a polite call to at least six other governors showing them the door. It is evident that there was no such call made to Srinagar. The criteria for choosing which capital not to put a call through to was that the governor there should have only two years left to retire and therefore could be allowed to serve out his tenure. This is not the case with Mr. Vohra, and yet he was spared a call, though he was appointed and his tenure was extended by the previous government.
Is there a clue in this as to why Mr. Vohra did not mention who refers to in this extract from his speech? Mr. Vohra apparently knows which side his bread is buttered and he is not interested in receving a mid night call as have his peers in other Raj Bhawans. Afterall the BJP-RSS combine may yet have aging stalwarts who have either to be placed out of the way or rewarded with sinecures. Aware of who is in 7 Race Course road, he has, practical man that he is, censored himself even as he has ventured bold to list the group without naming it.
The groups with no name are majoritarian supremacists. Terming them in this way one can get round the use of ‘hindu’ such as enters into ‘hindutva group’ or hindu extremists. Dragging the word ‘hindu’ into describing them is injustice to the religion they answer to. (Appending ‘Islamic’ and ‘muslim’ to counterpart groups is however now par for the course.) Even such a value neutral term elided Shri Vohra. But then from the velvet gloves he treats these groups, it is apparent he was not trying hard either.
He says they are a ‘recent phenomenon’. As home secretary in the early nineties he is well aware that their existence is not ‘recent’. In his speech he talks about the problems in the federal arrangement of getting the UP government, then under the BJP, to respond to the crisis in Ayodhya. He courageously, but delicately, lays the blame for the fall of the mosque and the fallout on its foot dragging. He has also led the task force on the criminal-politician nexus after the Mumbai terror attacks post Ayodhya. Though the report is classified, it surely would not have glossed over counterpart groups to Dawood Ibrahim’s from the majority community. Therefore, Mr. Vohra’s reticence, if not mischaracterisation, is strange.
But his delicacy in tiptoeing round the mention of the group without naming it, does not end at that. He says their primary objective is to counter jihadi terror networks. As is well known the jihadi terror network thesis is, unlike the presence of the majoritarian extremists who date to the first quarter of last century, a relatively recent phenomenon. It is arguable if at all there is this ‘network’ given the evidence that the hype surrounding minority extremists is just that, hype, some of which is through ignorance, some through peer pressure, but much more due to motivated commentary.
The latter owes also to planted intelligence briefings by officials who should know better, but were either ideologically inclined or doing a non-governmental ‘cultural’ organisation’s bidding. That apart, the so-called ‘sleeper cells’ that form this ‘jihadi network’ can be at best be dated to the Gujarat carnage. It is only after that the ‘network’ emerged as an internal threat. Though how that was manufactured is also known from the manner the Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jahan cases have turned out. What emerges then is that in case this so-called ‘network’ exists, it is the recent anti-supremacist phenomenon, rather than the other way round as Shri Vohra puts it.
That said, it is to Mr. Vohra’s credit that he spells out that the groups he leaves unnamed, in his words,
have the potential of spreading disharmony and divisiveness which could generate wide spread communal violence and result in irreparably damaging the secular fabric of our democracy.
This echoes the wikileaks revealed take of Rahul Gandhi on these groups. Now that Mr. Gandhi is in the political doghouse, he is no longer fashionable to quote. Nevertheless, it is clear from this clear sightedness that Shri Vohra deserves his Padma Vibhushan, awarded by the last government in 2007 for his admirable body of work in national security dating back to his days in the military and later as an administrator coping with the Khalistani militancy.
This reticence on Mr. Vohra’s part, and his equally prescient observation, together tell of the new era that India has transited into. And remember India is not quite two months into the tunnel yet.

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