As soft as…bananas
Terrorists have scaled up their attacks in Jammu & Kashmir, setting off car bombs and attacking Srinagar’s city centre. Terrorists in their hundreds, albeit of different persuasions, besieged a prison in Bihar, setting numerous criminals and comrades free, while executing their imprisoned political opponents.
In the first instance, jihadi terrorists infiltrating from Pakistan have decided that with the Indian army engaged in relief operations and the newly deployed Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) engaged in finding its feet, they have tactical space to reassert their capability to create terror. In the latter instance, ultra-Left terrorists have decided that due to the UPA government’s unwillingness to work out a coherent anti-Naxalite strategy, they too have tactical space to reassert their capability to establish a parallel administration in the remote and increasingly, not so remote, parts of India.
That neither jihadi terrorism nor the Maoist ‘rebellion’ can defeat the Indian democracy is cited as an excuse for not getting overly worked up about these flagrant challenges to the authority of the state. That the ‘peace process’ paying or about to pay ‘dividends’ was cited as the reason to replace the battle-hardened Border Security Force (BSF) with the relatively inexperienced CRPF. A Pakistan-based jihadi leader’s announcement was cited as sufficient reason for India to consider suspending counter-terrorist operations in Jammu & Kashmir; until the jihadis own bombs silenced these calls. And even after its shameful response to India’s offers to help after the quake, Pakistan has sensed that the idea of opening up points along the Line of Control has opened up an opportunity for it promote its age-old agenda on Kashmir.
On another continent, incidents like the Jehanabad jail-break would have qualified the country where it occurred to be accorded the status of a banana republic. The Maoists ostensible struggle against class and inequality belies the serious danger their actions pose to communal harmony. In the case of Bihar, the central government’s inability and apparent unwillingness to prevent or punish armed groups that challenge its authority is highly likely to manifest itself in the worsening of violence along caste lines. Successful management of communal conflict requires the state to elevate itself into the most impartial and most efficient actor among the many antagonists; and unless the Indian state acts quickly and comprehensively, the effects of the Jehanabad jailbreak will lead to more and wider bloodletting.
While their sheer audaciousness have made them newsworthy, the attacks in Srinagar and Jehanabad are, unfortunately, neither new nor surprising. The government downplayed the former out of consideration for its partner in the peace process, and downplayed the latter out of consideration for its own political survival. Neither of these considerations looks set to change. So what’s new?