Friday, July 15, 2011

Mass Violence in India

With the news of a coordinated terrorist attack in Mumbai this week, I thought of my friends outside India who don't know much about what is going on here. So I am summarizing about the kinds of mass violence we see in the newspapers. By mass violence, I'm talking about multiple homicides from the same origin (either in planning or in execution), and so I'm not including accidental deaths like temple stampedes, derailed trains, and the usual murder case (which happens everywhere on the planet).

I'm only going to give examples of 5 years ago and less. Otherwise, that would be too many links.

#1 Officially State-Operated Mass Violence
This first category is when agents of the State bring violence to the civilians. Recently, the Supreme Court demanded the disbanding of SPOs (Special Police Officers) in Chhattisgarh who were supposed to hunt down Maoist insurgents but did a lot of 'collateral damage'.

The same happens with paramilitary forces of the Central goverment. The first references to come to mind are the Assam Rifles in Manipur. Almost the same situation happens in Jammu-Kashmir, but with a mix of military and paramilitary forces (from memory: the Army, Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force). They are protected by a law that prevents all prosecution against them, unless an authorization is granted by the government - and that never happens.

#2 Unofficially State-Operated Mass Violence
The second category is when the government uses their own private forces to hurt the people. This happened not too long ago in Nandigram, when Communist cadres tagged along with the police and went trigger happy against protesting villagers. Again, there has been no accountability for this.

#3 Inter-communal Mass Violence
This type is often orchestrated by politicians, and it aims to bring one community to unleash destruction to another. In 2007-2008, Christians in Orissa received a nasty Chrismas gift in the form of murders, rapes, burn buildings and dismemberments. Again, there has not been any real punishment for the perpetrators.

#4 Revolutionary Groups-Operated Mass Violence
Insurgent groups typically gain support in the aftermath of #1. The most famous of such group is the Maoists, who are leading an insurgency against the government (and not really winning much). These will typically target the agents of the State and infrastructure like cellphone towers and railway tracks.

#5 Externally-Sponsored Terrorism
This is the one that give diplomats headaches. The acronyms we see normally around those cases are LeT and ISI. The 26/11 Mumbai attacks were one of those. The perpetrators were trained in Pakistan and there are some hints of a backing by the Pakistani government.

#6 Internal Terrorism
There are a few bombs that detonate every year in various cities in India. They are unpredictable. They are typically the work of radical 'muslim' groups. I put that word between quotes because I know enough Muslim friends who will tell me that such terrorists are not Muslims at all

The last three are typically getting the headlines and big budgets are set up to react against them.
My impression is that the first three bring a lot more people to the graveyard than the last three, and that they get conveniently swept under the rug. If anyone knows any hard numbers on these, please let me know!

So now you know why I'm not too preoccupied by the terrorists.

1 comment:

  1. nice post! and good observation about terrorism not being our biggest threat. we've a long way to go in making india safe. but having grown up in the 90's, urban life has surely become safer to a degree. i remember every area having its own gang(s), frequent gang fights out of both religious and political motives. the death of a big politician or movie star, or the announcing of election results would always be followed by violence on the street, mostly without loss of life, but heavy damage to cars, bikes, commercial buildings, etc. today, indians are more literate, informed, and ambitious. this, however, is the case in urban india. much of the rest of india is still living in the dark ages.