Monday, October 15, 2007

Urban terrorism in India

These days we are hearing a lot about “urban terrorism” in India. Many Indians now wonder if that will be a part of our daily lives. Such noise became lauder after some recent bomb blasts in many Indian cities like Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ajmer shrine, Ludhiana etc. Modern day terrorism almost always target urban areas to maximize damage and collateral impact. Though the foot soldiers are recruited form the impoverished population in both rural and urban areas. On the other hand rural India always suffers from terrorism, be it by religious fundamentalism/superstition, oppression by landlords, politicians and police/bureaucrats. Rural mass in India accepted terrorism as a way of life since independence. After some sporadic violent movements in the past (e.g Naxal movement in West Bengal in 70's), rural India is now showing some sign of systematic opposition against rural terrorism and neglect by the political masters and ruling class of India. Now we see in almost all the states in India are affected by extremist Mao-ist, communist movements. Proponents of such violent movements think that they can cure cancer by infecting with HIV-AIDS virus. On the other hand, such movements can simply be described as an expression of frustration against existing law and order system and social and economic injustices. Many Indians think that India never got true freedom on 15th August 1947; only the power to rule India and its people simply changed hands. Before it was the British and later a few “brown sahibs” of Indian origin got that power. Situation for common Indians did not change. Quality of lives of majority Indians could not keep pace with that of common people in many other countries in the world and also with India’s own economic prosperity since 90's.

The “hunger index” of India is worse than even Pakistan in recently published report (2007). A recent (2008) BBC article citing International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) report ranks India at 66 out 88 countries, so far hunger is concerned. That report also points out that economic prosperity of a state in India does not always translate to a better, overall situation for common people. Highly prosperous states like Gujarat and Karnataka (that houses Indian silicone-valley, Bangalore) are worse in hunger index as compared to less developed states like Assam. India is slipping down in that key index as compared to its own position in 1990, despite a spectacular growth in GDP. Now India has the second fastest growing economy in the world and third largest in Asia. But, like many other social and environmental issues, the target fixed by India itself to reduce hunger was fallen far behind. The “Corruption index” for India is deteriorating further (1). India now has the highest death due to diarrhoea in the world. Nearly two-third of India has no access to sanitation even today. In terms of malnutrition among children, India today found itself ranked with Ethiopia. India is now home for one third of the world’s 146 million undernourished children according to a recent Unicef report. As expected, India is widely off track of the child mortality target as well. Judiciary is as good as non-functional (1).

What does it all mean? Only a handful of people are being benefited by the economic prosperity so far. Common people are facing the same hardship, all round corruption and environmental pollutions. So it’s not surprising that people in many states are not reporting crimes to police but punishing any suspected criminals by their own. Mass fury is unleashing against alleged corrupt “fair price” shop, popularly known as “ration” dealers in rural areas in West Bengal state. Now there is almost no one to complain to, against any social or economic injustices and expect a speedy redressal. What options people do have but to take laws in their own hands? It was the same for rural India since independence. But now due to wide reach of TV, Internet and other sources of information, they are becoming aware and have started demanding their share. We are generally oblivious about rural India, as that does not affect our daily lives in the cities with sparkling shopping malls, flyovers, 5-star hotels etc. But when a bomb rips apart a bus or a train or a temple, we suddenly wake up and start shouting about “urban terrorism”. We never think that it was inevitable. India is facing and will continue to face this modern form of urban terrorism unless overall change in the system is enforced. Huge unemployment, poverty and lack of impartial law and order implementation (please don’t confuse that to laws and clauses in the constitution) will always add fuel to the religion and caste based hatred and violence. Indian society and politics are too weak and fragmented to stop it. Although we will hear the same song and excuses by our political masters after every instance of terrorism, be it in Ajmer or Ludhiana or Hyderabad or Mumbai or Kashmir or NE states, the list is too long. After every act of terrorism our masters will congratulate us for “showing courage” in ignoring terrorism. They probably are too scared and/or too shrewd to admit that common Indians have no option but to go to their works for their families to survive.