Thursday, July 8, 2010

Northeast (July 8, 2010)

Two reports + 1 response with promise of a few more cooking in the works, hopefully by the friday gets done :)

1) Vijay commented:
Stan garu,
Regarding the commentary about Bihar and Jharkhand being indifferent to maoist problem, it seems states have to first go through the hardships and it has to become unbearable before they take action against them.Case in point are the WB and AP governments. It's sad to see that other police dept.s are not learning lessons from the AP police, which they have perfected over the years taking some losses.

Hi Vijay,
I dont think West Bengal has come to the maturity level needed to tackle the maoist menace. The CPM government is bumbling from one fiasco to another as it pursues the next elections. From what I can read from telegraph, and I have nt watched WB enough to pass a worthy comment (but still!), there is an enormous flux with every TD&H expecting Mamta Bannerjee to finally put it past the CPM this time. Both sides are courting the maoists in some strange ways. While the CPM has taken the brunt of the maoist attack (among the TMC and CPM, that is), of late, TMC has also started getting attacked. Will this mean a course correction and finally putting it past the maoists and the frontal organizations such as PCPA? God knows.

I can put the genesis of the maoist menace in AP to the linguistic assertion business when lots of ideas moved back and forth from what is now WB to what is now AP. While much of the linguistic assertion settled down after 1956 and Op. Polo, the core network that got established has been hijacked by the worthies who are now the maoists. The profile of the maoist Politburo member is: i) Brahmin or forward Caste elite, ii) very-well educated elite, iii) from AP or WB, iv) blooded in the late 60s and 70s, etc. It is almost clear that these worthies are using the tribals and socially backward people as pawns for their ideological games. I dont know much about agrarian reforms in AP, but I do know that GoI schemes meant for the socially backward have been very inefficient in almost every state. So why the takleef, beats me. AP has done very well over the last three to four years, but sadly who is there to learn from their mistakes. Dissidents to tackling the maoists seem to be putting their eggs in tackling the long-term solution of empowering the needy. But we in India have far more of the "needing empowerment" than there is a political will to empowering the people. Besides that, AP's case will tell one that empowerment is too far away and facing the realities of law and order is even more crucial. But as Muppalla said, if one goes to fixing law and order in places such as Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, one is changing the unstable equilibrium and one has to face the consequences of that. How long will that take, even God would nt know.

2) Linky

‘Northeast’: A Concept of Isolation

India’s Northeast is a strip of land linked to the rest of the country by a narrow corridor of just 20 km. Owing to its geographical isolation from the rest of India and the tribal societies existing here, the region has remained virtually cut off from the rest of the country. This situation of isolation has continued in one form or the other. The term ‘‘Northeast’’ was coined by the British colonialists to identify a geographical area, later on adopted by Indian officials, intellectuals and media for administrative and other political reasons. During the British rule, India was depicted as heterogeneous and confused conglomeration of different races, castes, tribes, dialects, regions, religions and sects. The aim was two-fold: to weaken it, and to strengthen the British Raj.

The British policy damaged the cause of Indian solidarity in another way. In the case of northeastern region, the effect was even more harmful. They successfully projected the empire as the liberator, the deliverer of goods, unifier of India, and the best guarantee for safeguarding the interests of the tribals of this region. The British administrators wanted to facilitate the spread of Christianity and to weaken the influence of Hinduism. Unfortunately, the colonial thinking continues to influence our people in post-independence period also. So the term “Northeast” certainly requires scrutiny in the light of contemporary political realities. It is really unfortunate that the distance between Delhi and Assam is perhaps lesser than the distance between Delhi and the States of South India, yet Assam feels isolated and is indeed isolated. In fact the very concept of ‘‘Northeast’’ reflects on the fact that the region is an isolated one, cut off from the ‘‘mainstream’’ Indian society. Who can deny the fact that we are still seen as people with separate and different identities that do not match with the ‘‘mainstream’’ Indian society and culture?

In fact, more than sixty years of democratic governance have resulted in only expansion of government and not governance. The failure of the state to deliver has led to alienation and negative responses of the people and at times threatened India’s integrity. Federalism has been dispensed with and power has been centralized. This is one of the major causes of the sense of isolation of the northeastern region. Insurgency, secessionist demands, and upsurge of ethnocentrism are post-independence phenomena in this region. Unfortunately, it is only the issue of insurgency that catches our attention. But insurgency is the manifestation of many other conflicts. There are social, economic and political issues that affect people’s lives and contribute to their feeling of deprivation and continued isolation. Demographic invasion from across our borders is another cause of despondency.

The development work has halted several times in many States. Mobilization of local resources has never been tried sincerely in some of them. Uncontrolled and unproductive employment has resulted in a situation in which the State governments remain busy in bringing funds from Delhi and distributing the same among its employees! The State machinery has become all-consuming. The reality is obviously tragic. Terms like ‘‘mainstream India’’ and ‘‘Northeast’’ still persist. It leads to a sense of isolation. But what is meant by ‘‘mainstream India’’? Cross the Sagolia or the Srirampur check post, and you are in ‘‘mainstream India’’. But the areas of Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts of West Bengal bordering Northeast are facing the same problem as the people of Northeast. There are ethnic, linguistic and cultural similarities. Nevertheless, these parts of West Bengal are in the ‘‘mainstream India’’ and the parts of Assam bordering it belong to ‘‘Northeast’’. Is it not ridiculous?

It is not realistic to see all the States that constitute the northeastern region from the same perspective. The problems and the issues of Assam are different from that of Nagaland, Arunachal or Manipur. The causes of insurgency in different States of the region are also different. Culturally, linguistically and ethnically there are many differences between the States of the region. There are boundary and other disputes, and one is confronted with issues like greater Nagaland. Then how meaningful is it to have a single policy to solve the issues of the northeastern States?

Thanks to the author (Shibdas Bhattacharjee) for pointing this out. It is a sad commentary on India and Indians (everyone, including me) that we dont understand our very own countrymen. The "tryst with destiny" that PM Nehru imagined will remain a tryst unless we do better.

If the term ‘‘Northeast’’ is to mean an isolated block of the country, it is really unfortunate. It is the root of all problems. We never use terms like Dravidian States, western, northern or central India to mean some blocks. Then why do it in the case of States lying in the northeast of the country? More importantly, even if we use terms like Northern India, Southern India, Hindi heartland, all these will seem to be in the so-called mainstream India except the States of northeastern region.

Lack of knowledge even among the educated section of people in the so-called mainstream India has created the problem. Their perspective is biased, which often trivializes the rich ethnic and cultural diversities of this region. There are people who think that the people of this part of the country are still in a primitive stage. It is high time things were seen realistically. India is a vast country of so much diversity — and so it is often called a mini-continent. The Constitution of the country itself respects the diversity. Unity in diversity is the real strength of India.

If the term ‘‘Northeast’’ is leading to a sense of isolation, it is not only unfortunate but dangerous too when it comes to national unity and integrity. This means that we have failed to reinvent ourselves despite being the world’s largest democracy. Each community has the right to preserve its own identity. The northeastern region has this right too. It is for the people of the so-called mainstream India to understand this. The northeastern region is an integral part of India. The separatist movements that are going on in this region do not reflect the opinion of the masses. But if the term ‘‘Northeast’ continues to mean an isolated block, it will be disastrous for the integrity of the country. No one should be allowed to do that.

While I agree that we in India have not understand ourselves well enough, the above whine is tricky to side-step. The author has not suggested any other name for calling the northeastern part of India. What else do I call it, please throw me an alternative. The fact that people tend to get insulted when the term NE is used is basically the sense of alienation. I dont tend to get alienated if I am said to be from South India. I also disagree with the fact that the separatist movements do not reflect the opinion of masses. Why else is there sustenance for it? It is important to understand the whines, before passing judgment on them. Fact is, we dont understand the whines and we have already pre-judged (biased that we are), that is the cause for alienation.

3) DHD case gets murkier Linky

Black Widow Equations

The re-arrest of Niranjan Hojai, the Black Widow supremo, and his interrogation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) promises to open several Pandora’s boxes. It is also likely to establish that the NC Hills Autonomous District Council (NCHADC) swindle is certainly not to the tune of just Rs 40 crore, but is more likely to be of the order of Rs 1,000 crore as the magazine The Week had claimed in its story. And apart from the speculated involvement of some ministers and bureaucrats of Assam, Niranjan Hojai’s interrogation is very likely to reveal how senior police officers of Assam had helped him to flee from Assam after he was first captured and managed to escape. It will be recalled that Niranjan Hojai had surrendered before Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Union Home Secretary Navin Verma on October 2, 2009 with 400 other DHD(J) cadres. After his surrender, he had been put in a designated camp with other cadres of the outfit. However, he fled from the designated camp when his name figured in the NIA charge-sheet in connection with its second case. He was eventually re-captured probably in Nepal on July 2, but the reports say that he was captured from Motihari in Bihar along the Nepal border because India does not have extradition arrangements with Nepal.

On being presented before a magistrate, he was remanded to the custody of the NIA for seven days just as the NIA had requested. According to reports, what has been revealed in the course of the preliminary interrogation is that two senior police officers helped Niranjan Hojai in all possible ways to escape to Nepal. It is expected that the two police officers named will also be interrogated by the NIA and that due penal action be taken against them for helping a terrorist to escape to another country. Something else that has been revealed in the course of the preliminary investigations is that Niranjan Hojai had transferred a lot of money siphoned off from development projects and invested over Rs 100 crore in the hotel and tourism industries in Nepal. According to Niranjan Hojai, the two senior police officers who had helped him to flee to Nepal had their eyes on Hojai’s investments there. Niranjan Hojai has apparently revealed to the NIA that he had managed to siphon huge sums of money intended for development projects. Much of it was used to run his outfit and to buy arms for it. However, as reported, he had also been able to extract over Rs 100 crore from the contractors working on the four-lane East-West expressway and the conversion of the metre-gauge rail track to a broad-gauge one. Much of this money he had kept in his own bank account. There is also fairly informed speculation that in addition to bank accounts in Nepal, he may have bank accounts in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia as well.

As we said at the beginning, Niranjan Hojai’s interrogation by the NIA bids fair to open several Pandora’s boxes that may turn out to be extremely embarrassing for the Tarun Gogoi government. It may also establish that the NC Hills swindle is much larger than he pretends it is and that some of his ministers and bureaucrats might well be involved in it. What is already established, however, is that (a) huge sums of government money have been made available to terrorist groups by public servants who had sworn by the Constitution of India to protect both country and constitution; (b) senior police officers helped Niranjan Hojai to escape to Nepal; (c) we already have the kind of super-terrorism or criminal terrorism that Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies had spoken of in their seminal article titled “The Future Face of Terrorism” written in 1994, that had predicted that police officers would help terrorists; and (d) the failure of South Asian countries to have vital extradition treaties among themselves despite having an umbrella organization like SAARC. If the ease with which terrorists like Niranjan Hojai can escape from custody is any indication, much of the terrorist activities in the region might be flourishing due to active or tacit help from the security forces.

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