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HVK Archives: Combating Terrorism

Combating Terrorism - Daily

M.V.Kamath ()
August 9, 1998

Title: Combating Terrorism
Author: M.V.Kamath
Publication: Daily
Date : August 9, 1998

Only the other day, newspapers announced that several ULFA
militants in Assam had given them selves up to the army. And in
recent weeks reports have been appearing in the press that there
has been a marked reduction of terrorist activity in Jammu &
Kashmir, even taking into account the most recent massacre of
innocents at Doda. But this is no time for the security forces to
relax because of trouble in the tribal dominated belts of Bihar,
Orissa, West Bengal and Naxalitedominated Madhya Pradesh and
Andhra Pradesh.

According to the Home Ministry, 210 out of 535 districts in the
country are affected by insurgency, ethic conflict, extremism,
caste clashes and other crises, That is a frightful scenario. It
is a known fact that the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) of
Pakistan has been imparting training to youths, particularly on
the Indo-Nepal border. Indian security forces should know because
they have as of now, arrested 4,397 Pakistani trained militants
and intercepted 711 gangs from the border. They have also killed
1,501 terrorists and arrested 1,031

The Cause
What is behind all the terrorism militancy and insurgency? This
has been examined in sound detail by Col. Bhaskar Sarkar, a
highly decorated Army officer in this remarkable work. It is Col.
Sarkar's earnest belief that the country's response to these acts
of rebellion has been inconsistent and ad hoc and it is to his
credit that he argues his case persuasively. The book is divided
into two parts.

Part I deal with the essentials of insurgency and terrorism, the
influence of organised crime, the importance of external support
and the various insurgencies in Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, the North
East, not to mention the origin and growth of the Naxalite
movement. Part II deals with appropriate national aims and
policies, role of politicians and political parties, employment
of security forces and various counter-insurgency operations, the
role of the judiciary and ordinary people and finally and more
importantly, the role of the press.

There is much wisdom in Col. Sarkar's findings. By now it is
common knowledge that revolutions are not born in the hearts of
peasants or the proletariat, not does ideology spring from the
main concerns of the farmer or the industrial worker. As Col.
Sarkar puts it correctly, select group of intellectually
capable and politically alienated intellectuals are needed to
espouse a cause and stir up the masses. y now it is also common
knowledge that though most revolutions are organised ostensibly
for improving the lot of the poor, rarely, if ever do they
benefit from the revolution. Ask the Russians for first hand

The Support
But terrorists after some time do get the support of the
populace for a variety of reasons and terrorism to some extent
often succeeds. How can it be fought? Col. Sarkar holds that
combating violence of noticeable magnitude calls for a
coordinated effort in which the government, the political
parties, security forces, police and the press not to speak of
ordinary citizens are fully involved, so that each understands
the nature of the problem and the measures by which it can
successfully be tackled. Col. Sarkar has some shocking statistics
to reveal.

For example, in discussing organised crime and smuggling (which
is part of it) he notes that the value of gold smuggled into
India is to the tune of about Rs. 140 billion with the people of
India paying about Rs. 200 billion and the smuggler making a
profit of Rs. 4,000 crore. The figure is mind-boggling. Where
does this money go? To smother justice? Furthermore, according
to Col. Sarkar, the India drug lords could be netting as much as
Rs. 72,000 crore.

One only wishes he indicated how he arrived at these figures. On
what authority is he making his generalisation? Col. Sarkar is
not afraid to name names. He points an accusing finger at several
politicians like the late Suraj Deo Singh, once known as
Dhanbad's mafia king, Churchill Alamao, a school drop-out who
once managed to become the Chief Minister of Goa and numerous
others. If makes one hang one's head is shame.

The various insurgencies in the states named are carefully
studied in terms of (a) appeal for the cause (b) popular support
(c) quality of leadership (d) military efficiency(e) internal
unity (f) equipment (g) nature of terrain and finally (h)
sanctuaries. It is a novel way of assessing a situation and
enables one to under stand why insurgencies in some states are
hard to put down while in some others they are low keyed.

Judiciary's Role
Col. Sarkar has some wise things to say on how one can and should
- fight disturbance of all kinds from terrorism to secessionism.
He categorises counter- insurgency operations into three phases:
(a) preparatory (b) clearance and (c) consolidatory. Here is a
man talking and writing from knowledge and experience. Towards
the end Col. Sarkar discusses the role of the judiciary and that
of the press and one might be excused if one thinks these are
very vital ones.

In the regard to the judiciary, Col. Sarkar is of the opinion
that for good publicity, the judge for special courts should be
hired from abroad so that their impartiality cannot be
questioned. This is an entirely novel idea and worth following

It would make for an open system which is seem as a fair one. As
for the role of the press (and the whole media range), Col.
Sarkar comes down heavily - and very rightly- on the sensation
mongering press. Citing examples of how the US press
conveniently ignores unpalatable events that bring their county
into disrepute, Col. Sarkar asks: oes Time of New sweek publish
interviews with general Aideed, airing his anti-US tirade in the
same way as one of our top weeklies publicised the utterings of
Hizbul Mujahideen leader Mukhtar Ahmed?... When will the Indian
press learn to be a little more loyal, a little more patriotic
and a little more pragmatic?

The issue is rather ticklish, infringing as it does on the
nation's right to know, True, as Col. Sarkar rightly remarks, all
terrorists and insurgents thrive on publicity and one way to
defeat them is to starve them of it, Col. Sarkar, however,
insists that the media should NOT interview insurgent and
military leaders or publish their statements, or give them centre
state in the national and international press, but should ignore
their acts of violence. But this stance calls for further
discussion. For all that, this volume is a worthy contribution
to the understanding and eventual handling of insurgency every
where and for that reason most welcome.

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