Shame on the Andhra Pradesh state government

Calling the President

State government negotiates with terrorists. Terrorists pull out of peace process, and resume armed struggle. Top terrorist leaders from all over India gather for a ‘plenary’ in the jungle. Special police forces corner them. Terrorists call central and state government ministers. Ministers ask police to stand down. Terrorists escape. Terrorists express umbrage. ‘Concerned citizens’ too express umbrage — at the government’s attempt to capture terrorist leader! The government is apologetic.

Unfortunately, you don’t wake up from this macabre dream. It is real, and it just happened in Andhra Pradesh.

The Congress-led government of Andhra Pradesh state is a danger to India’s national security. Far from being India’s second IT success story, Andhra Pradesh risks becoming its newest failed state. State governments have been dismissed for much less. The YSR Reddy government must be given the axe.

17 thoughts on “Shame on the Andhra Pradesh state government”

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  2. Andhra’s YSR has as much interest in governance as Zimbabwe’s Mugabe. With thugs like Jaipal Reddy forming his inner coterie, it is not a probability but a certainty that AP becomes a failed state and Naidu’s interregnum turns into a mirage that never happened. While this government may be booted out in the next election, the opportunity cost is a crying shame.

  3. Just remember, Naidu’s government was thrown out in favor of these clowns by the voters of Andhra Pradesh. As Mencken wrote, democracy is the theory that the people know what’s best for them…and deserve to get it good and hard.

  4. Hi,

    I heard about this blog from Amardeep. Most of the stuff here is quite sensible, but this last bit about the AP govt. was imo unduly harsh and I feel that the criticism is misplaced.

    The task of bringing groups overground is notoriously difficult. Most insurgent groups are prone to all sorts of impulses. The leadership is inevitably entangled in a number of illegal enterprises and when the state opens negotiation with them the emphasis is always on trading off short term security gains against a long term building of trust. So viewed in that manner the events of the recent past in AP are far from unusual. Heck I can think of some real horror stories from Kashmir where the security forces tried to bring HM people overground and failed – mind you this was individuals and not entire groups at once.

    Some of you may recall that there was similar cycle of events in the case of the Mizo National Front when B. Laldenga pushed hard for major political benifits in exchange for a cessation of hostilities. GoI nearly lost patience at that point and wolves were sent out after the wayward sheep, as chance would have it B. Laldenga returned to the table and negotiations resumed – for the last 25 years, Mizoram has been a zone of peace. I seriouly doubt to that would have happened if the wolf-packs had gotten to him before he changed his mind. There are pitfalls to being excessively aggressive.

    I am not saying that the Maoists aren’t a problem, but given their relationship with other elements of the Indian left. This isn’t like the old days when the GoPRC was backing the Maoists – these boys are now a local phenomena with highly local political connections – if you get a little too enthusiastic about chopping heads you will likely fracture the local polity in some unfixable way. I don’t really see a way to avoid bringing them back into the mainstream.

    Once that is accepted there is *only* this peculiar way of doing it.

    I am open to suggestions on alternatives – what should the AP Govt. have done?

  5. Sunil,

    First out, it must be recalled that the Naxalite threat is essentially inter-state and inter-national in nature. Unfortunately, the Manmohan Singh government, thanks to both cynical electoral calculus and its own ineptness, has allowed individual states to respond to the threat in their own way. So while there is a consolidated threat to national security, the government’s response has been disparate and disjoint. The Naxalites have been quick to exploit this in both time and space — pursuing peace talks (while regrouping) at various times and places, while pursuing ‘armed struggle’ at other times and places.

    Secondly, even in Andhra, the Naxalites had just abandoned the peace talks to resume their armed struggle. That means when the leaders were cornered last week, it was not parley mode, it was armed struggle mode.

    The state government must have attempted to arrest them; using force, if necessary. I’m sure there are quite a few sections of the penal code they could be booked under. There is a criminal element to the Naxalites that should be treated according to the law of the land – not even leaders of violent political parties should be immune from legal proceedings.

    And if the government wants to conduct peace talks with jailed criminals, then why not?

    But more than an issue of just the tactics, there is a more serious question at hand. Whether the Congress Party’s compact with the Naxalites has rendered it unable and unwilling to carry out its constitutional duties. In my opinion, it has failed this test. It is no longer an issue of whether it is ‘soft’ on terrorism. It is complicit in it.

  6. Hi Nitin,

    I beg to differ.

    If throwing the book at the naxalites was possible then I feel it would already have been done. The government resorts to negotiation with a violent group (esp. one that has killed police officers) only when it is established that all other strategies will not yeild the desired result.

    As I stated earlier, there is a trade off involved in this process. You have to look the other way on some offenses to bring the entire group overground. A defacto amnesty offer has to be made to incentivize a return to society. I sense that is what the government is currently trying.

    As for your point about a lack of a national policy on left wing terrorism, well there has yet to emerge a coordinating core to these left wing groups at the national level. There is no manifesto for action at a greater Indian scale, these groups at the present time are essentially disjoint and reports of a coordination at the national level are sporadic. Without a clear target where is the need for a national level initative on combating them. Left-wing violence in still below several major thresholds.

    These are not some internationally controlled terrorist groups. These are local boys with local agendas. It makes sense in that context to let the states handle these issues on their own accord atleast until the violence level crosses a threshold. That is the approach followed in the past.

    In AP the situation is particularly severe, you can look at the details of that attack that nearly killed CM Naidu; that’s how bad things really are. At this point you have two choices – negotiate with them and bring them into the mainstream or invest in a *huge* security operation paralleling the anti-naxal drive in West Bengal in the 1970s. I don’t know about you – but no government – Congress or non-Congress is going to go in for another major “hole-in-the-ground” security operation on that scale.

    At a time when we are working to bring disaffected groups like the HM in Kashmir, the NSCN in Nagaland etc… back into the electoral mainstream – it is understandable that we bring the Maoists in also. Without offering an incentive structure and building trust, there is no real hope imo of this happening.

  7. Sunil,

    There is the element of reconciliation that you suggest that I agree with — that there needs to be a way for terrorists to stop being terrorists; and that it is the government that needs to provide this way. I think a truth-and-reconciliation strategy is a good idea (what you call a general amnesty), provided that Naxalites (or terrorists/insurgents elsewhere in India) completely give up violence as a means to further their ends. Even if those ends are separatist, ideological, political etc.

    However, negotiating with anyone just because they have managed to successfully challenge the writ of the state somewhere is a very bad idea. A government that capitulates to a challenge by armed groups is a failure of democracy. Indeed, Indian governments have largely capitulated to such challeges (at least since the time of Indira Gandhi), and every time this happens, it sends a signal to vested interests that it is possible to achieve their ends by violently challenging the state.

    There is a deterrent value in a strong, military or police response. The objective of the government should be to deter vested interests from pursuing a path of violence, and instead choose non-violent, political means.

    That there is no political appetite for strong action is no excuse. Softness towards terrorists and violent insurgents has just created more of them.

  8. Hi Nitin,

    The “truth-and-reconciliation” phrase is a favorite of the PUCL types and they have bandied it about in the context of Punjab. Given the kind of things that happened to people SSP Ajit Singh Sandhu I am sure I don’t want to use it. Nor do I feel comfortable calling it a “general amnesty”. I am comfortable calling it a defacto amnesty which expires when the Government cannot forsee a return to the mainstream.

    An example I can offer you of this is in Punjab during the days preceeding the cancelled elections of 1991. In this period the government followed a policy of looking the other way and allowed several terrorist groups to float elaborate political fronts. These fronts in turn played havoc in the run up to the elections and as various groups competed for electoral space – a campaign of targetted killings began. The criminal element made its presence felt and soon terrorist groups were killing and bombing each others’ political fronts.

    The government machinery which was in the process of setting up the elections in Punjab after a decade of President’s rule could not protect the candidates and soon the elections had to be cancelled. The entire process of engagement which had begun after the Rajiv-Longawal accord came to a grinding halt. Not long after this, a more aggressive policing approach was used to eliminate the terrorist groups and rebuild the political process.

    I feel the policy of the AP government is not at variance with this overall approach. The approach has been found to be quite successful in dealing with local insurgencies like the GNLF. A variant of this approach has also resulted in sections of the ULFA coming overground.

    I am not saying your concerns are not justified but that the criticism is unduly harsh. The AP Govt. is imo making the best of a bad situation. If a strong policing regime could be put into place to tackle the menace, then it would have been done. Until it is done, one has no option but to negotiate.

    Calling for the removal of a government seems to me to be a bit over the top for this kind of thing.

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  10. “Calling for the removal of a government seems to me to be a bit over the top for this kind of thing.”
    That’s why I suggested an alternative: replace Shivraj Patil with Nitin Pai.

    The problem of Naxalites perhaps need to be fought on multiple fronts: economic, educational as well as through police action.
    When people prosper, Naxalites will have much lesser influence on them. People will actually go against these people for their economic development.

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