The upsetting culture of negotiations was injected into the Indian security discourse by India’s then Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, for the release of his daughter Rubaiya Sayeed who had been taken hostage. Thereafter, 13 years down the line there have been series of humiliating capitulations by the Indian state. In each of these, the State appeared effete and inept. With every capitulation, terrorist organisations inimical to India, within and outside, grew in stature, strength and sway. Jihadi terror spawned SIMI (Student Islamic Movement of India) and later IM (Indian Mujahideen). Consequently, this terror has traveled from Kashmir into the Indian heartland. Similarly, Maoist terror is consuming large parts of India with nearly 200 districts being affected as of date.
A matter of concern now is the link being developed between jihadi terror and Maoist terror. Of greater concern is the role of the over-ground white-collared jihadi and Maoist activists residing in New Delhi. On 21 October 2010, a seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way’, was held in the capital attended by Ali Shah Geelani of the Hurriyat Conference; People's War Group supporter poet Varavara Rao; Dr. N. Venu, secretary general of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Harcharanjit Singh, president of Dal Khalsa; Malem Ningthouja from the Committee for Peace and Democracy, Manipur; G N Saibaba, deputy secretary, Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF); Sujato Bhadra, Gursharan Singh and writer Arundhati Roy. The seminar was conducted by none other than SAR Geelani of parliament attack infamy. During the seminar, Arundhati Roy had made statement to the effect, “A direct confrontation with the state is not enough. It is necessary to know ones enemy and make alliances locally, as well as internationally.”
The frequent visits of French and Italians nationals to India belonging to ultra-leftist organisations should be seen in this backdrop. The internal linkages as Arundhati Roy suggested have manifested in forging links between Maoists and insurgent outfits in the Northeast, and Kashmiri militants. Externally the links have been extended to ISI, Dawood Ibrahim, fundamentalist groups in Bangladesh, insurgent groups in Myanmar, and China.
With every capitulation, the audacity and reach of the terrorist groups is increasing with the Maoists openly declaring that their targets are now India’s elected representatives. This is a direct threat to India’s democracy and must be challenged with all the resources at the command of the state. The prevailing situation in the so-called ‘liberated zones’ of the Maoists has strong resonance in the Communist capture of China led by Mao. Today, the Maoists have acquired the stature wherein terms like ‘negotiation’, ‘talks’, ‘interlocutors’, and ‘agreement’, which should have been pejorative terms in the country’s internal security discourse, have entered the lexicon of the government. Such a development is retrograde.
The role of white collared activists in the form of lawyers, teachers, journalists, social-activists, and so-called intellectuals needs to be carefully monitored. A few of these people may have genuine social concerns but a larger proportion appears to be on the pay roll of the Maoists. Some of them live in plush extravagance and see no dichotomy in espousing the cause of the Maoists who paradoxically are the worst exploiters of the tribal people. They are taking advantage of the innate intellectual innocence of Indians, who by virtue of their cultural moorings treat people with ‘formal education’, more so education in western countries, as sensitive and well meaning human beings. We need to be careful on this score and expose their real face.
The over-ground Maoists have traditionally been attracting criminals with vitiated and diabolical intellect. Amongst them are sizeable number of teachers and professors. The nodes of such indoctrination have traditionally been some universities in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and even in New Delhi. These nodes are proliferating at a frightening pace with their products getting into influential segments of the national discourse, more importantly in the media and academia. They exploit both the legitimate and illegitimate spheres and thus have the best of both worlds.
In most abduction cases, the truth is the first casualty. The abduction of Rubaiya Sayeed in 1989, Vinil Krishna in 2011 and the recent case of Alex Menon are pointers in that direction. It may be reiterated that in the entire history of insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir, no collector or police official has been abducted. Obviously, adequate precautions have been taken to prevent such an occurrence. One wonders then why due diligence was not shown by the government servants who were abducted by the Maoists? If a Collector decides to play foolhardy, he must be prepared to face the consequences; because with his abduction and consequent capitulation of the State, a part of the State dies. It constitutes a sinful negation of the hard work and sacrifices of the police forces of the Centre and the state. While benefit of the doubt can be given to Vinil Krishna, as it was the first instance, it would be difficult to accept the case of Alex Menon in similar light. And the sad part of the whole incident has been that the two bodyguards of the Sukma Collector were killed at point blank range – but their death received no response from the state or the media. By disregarding the sacrifice of our police personnel who are fighting a very difficult battle, we are weakening the very strands that hold the nation together.
We need to also question the role of the so called social-activists or interlocutors. Why is their assistance sought, when what is needed are professionals who have been trained in the art of negotiation. Negotiation does not mean surrender. It simply means buying time till other options can be exercised. In any case, what is most needed is a uniform policy on tackling such menaces. While the state must negotiate for the release of hostages, it sends a wrong message when the state succumbs to the demands of the terrorists. That is perhaps the first lesson that must be imbibed. The state must never give in, even if it leads to the death of the hostages. The state also must develop capacity for hostage rescue through the use of force. Such forces need to be well trained, equipped and led to carry out a wide range of missions. Succumbing to terrorist demands is already leading to disquiet in the security establishment as seen in Odhisa when swap deals were being negotiated for the release of the MLA Jhina Hikaka. We cannot allow that to happen. One SHO in a police station in a Maoist dominated area lamented that Maoist cadres involved in several murder cases are given bail while ordinary criminals are not. It is time that the Indian establishment and also large number of Indians are disabused of the notion that ‘Red means Revolution’. It is simply the garb of the criminal to subvert India’s democracy.
If we continue to negotiate, we will perish.
RSN Singh is a former R&AW Officer and author of book ‘Military Factor in Pakistan'
Views expressed are personal