Is insurgency in India an excuse for misgovernance? (IANS Book Review)(With Image)September 28th, 2010 - 10:06 am ICT by IANS
By Sarwar Kashani
Book: “The Absent State - Insurgency As An Excuse For Misgovernance”; Authors: Neelesh Misra and Rahul Pandita; Publisher: Hachette India; Price: Rs.495
They found “the absent state” in their journey to find out what ails India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world that is fighting many wars with itself.
To tell the story in a 272-page book, “The Absent State”, Neelesh Misra and Rahul Pandita, both journalists, travelled over 1,000 km for close to three years to far corners of the country that represent the heart of India’s internal battle zones.
At the end of their arduous trek, the duo may not have found solutions to Indian insurgencies. But they have brought to the fore some startling facts.
India is surely battling many wars with its own people, albeit sponsored or supported by some of its neighbours. It has the world’s largest communist insurgency, the world’s oldest ethnic insurgency and the most complex Islamist insurgency. The crisis of insurgencies is spiralling, from Jammu and Kashmir to the northeast and to the mineral-rich central India, and the book disturbingly makes you plunge deeper into the darker side of shining India.
India, it says, may be “assiduously” wooed by global investing powers but “in many rural areas, the Indian state simply doesn’t exist”.
Misra says the book doesn’t over-emotionalise any side of the debate for or against the rebels. As such it is not about the rebels but about people and governance, or the lack of it.
And if your interest or responsibility is India’s security and the mess around it, “The Absent State” is a must read. It gives a poignant account of people, including security forces, lost in conflict.
It is not that the book overlooks the huge development funds the government has pumped into conflict-hit areas. In fact, its premise begins with those figures. Around 11 percent of the budget of the rural development ministry in recent years has been allocated to insurgency- affected districts across Kashmir, Maoist-hit areas and in the northeast but “the central government does little to monitor it”.
In many of the country’s militancy-wracked regions, “the state and its symbols have long been invisible…schools, medical facilities, even police stations don’t exist.”
The three parts of the brilliantly researched book detail the account of “The Naxalite Surge”, “The Valley of Denial” and “The Collapse of the Northeast” - though much of it focusses on the “biggest internal security challenge” of the Maoist rebellion.
They give examples to illustrate the absent state. For instance, in forested areas of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, where leftist rebels run a parallel administration, some villages have not been mapped for more than 400 years.
In many places it is the insurgents who set benchmarks for rural administration. “We found policemen fighting an impossible battle for their own survival in a land of cruel geography where local insurgents can ambush and kill them and vanish without a trace.”
About Kashmir, the book highlights the de-escalation of violence, until the upheaval of the 2010 uprising. “Tragically,” it says, “this was seen as the primary barometer of normalcy. The snapshots we encountered showed that Kashmir was on autopilot with little accountability in governance and limited efforts being made to decrease the military presence.”
“In the northeast, underground groups often decide and influence administrators on how tax payers’ money should be spent. In many areas where justice has failed the common people, they approach militants and not the courts of law when rapes, murders and abductions take place.”
New Delhi has “mostly looked the other way” while finding a solution, the book summarises. “It is content that there is a government in place at all.” But as one reads through the pages of the book, one discovers that there is not even that.
The country offers to other conflict-ridden regions of the world an example “of how not to deal with armed rebels. For, it has made insurgency a convenient excuse for mis-governance,” the book says.
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at email@example.com)
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