By R N Ravi
Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, on June 5, while speaking to the chief ministers in a conference on internal security, informed the country about the status of security in the Country and toted his government’s achievements. His speech was banal, a load of trite, inanities and platitudes. Still worse, it was replete with half-truths- a devilish cousin of lies. With no flash of light or a fleck of hope, it was indeed a piece of dull bureaucratese!
One’s language reflects one’s train of thoughts and depths of understanding. Dr. Singh in his speech, once again, betrayed his bureaucratic-military orientation to internal conflicts and total absence of a statesman’s vision.
On all the fronts that constantly undermine the internal security of India; the Left Wing Extremism, militancy in Jammu & Kashmir and insurgencies in the North-East, Dr. Singh echoed the language and thoughts of his joint secretaries in the Ministry of Home Affairs. According to him, all that could be done have been done and are being done, and the Country should be beholden to him and his government for that!
Dr. Singh, on the Maoist front, claimed credit for the relative statistical decline in “deaths caused by the Left Wing Extremists” in 2012. He asserted that his “ Two-pronged strategy” against the Maoists- “Proactive operations”(read more militarization and indiscriminate killings including those of innocents) and “development” (read pumping more money) is bearing fruits and needed to be “pursued with rigor”. He reposed unwavering faith in his team of bureaucrats comprising the Cabinet Secretary, the Home Secretary and the PMO for overseeing implementation of this strategy for building ‘offensive and defensive capabilities’ against the Maoists.
Similarly on Jammu & Kashmir he seemed content with decline in terrorist violence and attributed it to effective ‘counter-terrorism operations’.
In both the theatres he touted his successes merely in terms of relative decline in the number of body bags in 2012. It is a simplistic military interpretation of a conflict. Anyone familiar with elements of guerrilla warfare knows that this is a grossly misleading account of the situation. Such a situation arises mostly on account of either the tactical retreat of the guerrillas or the corporate unwillingness of the state forces to take casualties. It conceals more than it reveals. It does not reflect the true ground situation, the plight of the people, or the actual capabilities of the guerrillas: their organizational morale, inventory of their ordnance, status of their political campaign and social reach, their strategic and tactical alliances with like minded entities and their future strategies.
He dubbed the situation in the North-East ‘complex’, essentially a cliché term, a fig leaf for lack of understanding. It is a pity that Dr. Sing did not invest himself in resonating with the region that has unwaveringly hosted him a seat in the Parliament all through his political career of over 20 years. If only he could care to return the gratitude with at least a little understanding of the region he would have soon realized the vacuity of his vaunted claims and saved the benighted people of the region of much gratuitous sufferings caused largely by the flawed policies of his government.
He patted his back with assertions that ‘considerable’ progress in dialogue with ‘several insurgent groups’ had been made by his government, ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ had been signed with the DimaHalamDaoga, an ethnic militia of Assam and three Meitei militias of Manipur.
His government has the dubious distinction of cutting perverse deals with over thirty sundry militias- non-state agents of violence in the North-East with money bags and other largesse. The hallmark of such preposterous deals, euphemistically called by his government ‘ceasefires’, ‘suspension of operations’ or ‘memorandum of understanding’, is that the security forces and the militants agree to live in mutual peace leaving the people sandwiched and vulnerable at both ends. Militants are free to kill, maim and extort the people with impunity. The cavalier commanders of security forces must kill and apprehend certain numbers for their career enhancement.
These deals are so alluring to the unemployed youths that hundreds of them join the ranks of militants with an understanding with militia leaders that they will be discharged from active militancy after a few years for availing the benefits of it. A few years of gun toting give them the badge of militants and make them eligible for the spin offs of the deals. Every deal promises blanket impunity to the militants for all the gruesome killings done by them besides monetary and other gains. Quite a few among them continue carrying guns even after the deal. During Dr. Singh’s term as the Prime Minister, in Assam, his foster state, alone over eight thousand youths have come ‘over ground’ although at no point of time the aggregate number of ‘undergrounds’ in the state have been more than a thousand. That aggregate is still valid! Dr. Singh has fostered a culture of the gun and created an entrepreneurship of violence.
His government has finessed the art of raising militias and then cutting ‘deals’ with them. The militias proudly mentioned in his address by Dr. Singh for having signed ‘Memorandum of Understanding” with are all examples of it.
The first ever attempt by Delhi to woo a rag-tag small band of Meitei gunmen began in 2008 with a very tiny splinter of KCP, one of the Militias in Manipur. The state government aware of dangerous potentials of such an enterprise opposed it. When the Intelligence Bureau also expressed reservations over it, I was asked by the then Home Secretary for a ground assessment. I visited Manipur and met the leaders of the outfit. The rag-tag group could not muster more than 12 men. The DGP Manipur was peeved with the Assam Rifles for sheltering these ‘criminals’ wanted by the police in a local AR camp. I reported the facts to the Home Secretary and warned him of the dangerous implications of wooing them. Within the next two years, with the patronage of Delhi this group grew to over four hundred. Indeed a respectable number by any standard to have a deal with! Manipur is rife with rumors about shenanigans of a buccaneer bureaucrat in the Home Ministry, flush with slush fund, how he helped revive another defunct Meitei militia in the later half of 2012 and lured them to sign a ‘Memorandum of Understanding in February 2013’. The misfortune of the Country is that the PM has no ear for the people.
If Manipur is in mess today, Dr. Singh shares a lion share of the blame. He has built a reputation for making false promises. His stance on the AFSPA is a naked betrayal of the people of the state. The killers of Manorama and many others have escaped the course of justice thanks to this abhorrent Act. The fact that his cynical policies have subverted the rule of law has pushed Manipur in anarchy.
Similar is the story of DimaHalamDaoga. In 2006 it was a band of hardly half a dozen criminals that indulged in petty crimes under the banner of Black Widow. By 2008, with blessings of Dr. Singh’s party colleagues in Guwahati it grew into a lethal militia of over 250 that killed several hundred innocent laborers in bouts of wanton violence to extract huge protection money from their employers. By 2010 it was a public knowledge that the ruling congress had co-opted it as a political asset for the ensuing Assembly elections in 2011. After the elections Dr. Singh’s government signed a deal with them and the National Investigation Agency, created with much fanfare by his government in the aftermath of terrorists attack on Mumbai, was forced to corrupt investigation of its very first case that was against leaders of this militia that had killed over 350 innocent persons. Being the first case of the NIA, political corruption of its investigation subverted the professional culture of this nascent institution.
Every Naga knows that the unending circular tour of the mulberry bush for the last over 16 years by the GOI and the NSCNI/M is a travesty of a peace talk, a deliberate hoax on the Nagas.
Political conflicts with deep social roots are not resolved through ill-conceived surreptitious deals. They require a bold political vision to resolve them. Dr. Singh’s vision is cynical, sterile and bureaucratic. The conflict resolution matrix of his government has only two elements, military and money. The most crucial element, the people, is woefully missing. India suffers!
(Author is a retired special director, Intelligence Bureau reachable at