What Indians really feel about terrorism, Pakistan and the ‘peace process’
Interpreting the results of a nationwide poll on how Indians think about security, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar write that the findings challenge
…`security experts’ (who) have made us believe that security has become a paramount national concern, that people have become much more anxious about terrorist attacks, that they hold the Centre responsible for the lapses, and that they would support hard, aggressive policies to tackle terrorism. [The Hindu]
The survey proves the obvious—that most people are concerned about immediate threats like theft, robbery and attacks on women. Nothing unusual in such a finding, as most people are likely to see themselves more at a risk of coming down with a flu or food poisoning than ending up with coronary heart disease. That does not mean that coronary heart disease is not a major health risk.
The survey is clearly about perceptions rather than actual facts. Still, if the The Hindu set out to prove that terrorism is not even perceived as a significant threat, or that Indians are satisfied with their government’s response, or that they advocate a ‘soft’ approach towards Pakistan, then the survey findings tell a very different story.
More concerned about theft than terrorism? Hardly, when almost one out of every two Indians feels threatened by terrorism. The threat perception is slightly stronger among city dwellers, 55% of whom see terrorism as a threat. The threat from terrorism outweighs that from robbery or from riots, and even comes close if the two are taken together.
In the composite view, only one-third of the respondents are satisfied with the UPA government’s response to the terrorist threat. A majority of the respondents feel that it has failed, while about 30% of them can’t say either way. One-third of the government’s own supporters can’t say that it has succeeded and another third agree that it has failed.
Only one in ten Indians actually disagrees that Pakistan is responsible for terrorist attacks against India. But far more Muslims are either ambivalent on this or actually disagree that Pakistan backs terrorism in India. The Hindu’s spinners may wish to gloss over this out of political correctness, but this shows that Pakistan’s strategy may even be succeeding. Flagging this as a problem is the first step towards its resolution.
Almost 60% of the respondents advocated adopting a hawkish posture towards Pakistan, with a clear majority in favour of attacking terrorist bases in Pakistan. That’s hardly an endorsement of the ‘peace process’. Moreover, from the way the question was framed, it is difficult to conclude that the 31% who favoured negotiations implied that the negotiations should involve conceding anything to Pakistan. If The Hindu or CNN-IBN (who jointly commissioned the survey) wanted an endorsement of the peace process, the respondents to this survey did not provide it. In fact, it is reasonable to conclude that a majority actually repudiated it.
Contrary to the spin its interpretators have put on it, the survey neither suggests that Indians are not concerned about terrorism, nor does it endorse the UPA government’s spinelessness in tackling it. It also highlights something disturbing—while it is reasonable for a majority of India’s Muslims to deny that terrorists find local support within their community, that only a minority among them blame Pakistan should give everyone pause for thought.
Related Link: Only tactless politicians rig polls. Newspapers and TV channels rig results. Apollo highlights a recent case.