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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 43, Dated October 30, 2010
CULTURE & SOCIETY  
BOOKS

The Axe Falls on Itself

Neelesh Misra and Rahul Pandita slam the State for India’s three worst insurgencies. They are quite right, says VED MARWAH

Double trouble Authors Rahul Pandita (left) and Neelesh Misra

Double trouble Authors Rahul Pandita (left) and Neelesh Misra

THIS IS an unusual book, more than just a collection of journalistic stories. The perceptive authors have used the stories to highlight the Indian State’s basic flaws primarily responsible for the explosive internal security situation. In this attractively brought out slim volume, they’ve succeeded in conveying “the tensions, frustrations and heartbreaks, and the challenges and justifications” in the three most troubled parts of the country: Left extremism-affected states, Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. This isn’t an academic work and yet it gives us a brief glimpse into the history of the issues and the Indian State’s mishandling, its casualness and culpability. Neelesh Misra and Rahul Pandita have resisted the temptation of taking sides and have been objective in their dispatches from the “battle zones”. I have served in all these areas covered by them and have no hesitation in fully endorsing their finding.

In most parts of these insurgency-affected areas, “the State and its symbols have long been invisible: functional schools, medical facilities, even police stations do not exist”. There are few roads, little water and no electricity. “Social discontent, unemployment, poverty, ethnic and tribal rivalries, forced recruitment by rebels, the high handedness of the security forces” have all contributed to the escalation of the current conflicts — “Policemen fighting an impossible battle for their own survival in a land of cruel geography where even ferrying rations is like participating in a war”.

In the chapter called ‘The Naxalite Surge’, the authors report stories of brazen loot and rampant corruption in the administrative system. Illegal exploitation of these mineral rich areas has contributed significantly to the situation’s deterioration. The local inhabitants are some of the poorest and backward people in the country. The policemen deployed in these areas too live in poor conditions. They are as much victims rather than perpetrators of this venal system.

THE ABSENT STATE
Neelesh Misra &
Rahul Pandita
Hachette
350 pp; Rs. 495

ON JAMMU and Kashmir, the authors touch on some basic issues responsible for the unending conflict there. The burden of bitter memories has formed the foundation of popular unrest, while unscrupulous politics greatly adds to the situation. The book gives an interesting account of how Yasin Malik and Yusuf Shah (alias Syed Salahuddin) were driven to take to the gun. The stories of the tragedy of Kashmiri Pundits, of the collapse of governance, the problems of Rajouri and Poonch and Jammu regions make convincing reading.

The very short chapter on ‘Manipur and Parallel Government’ is really only a glance into a very complex situation. It briefly describes the numerous ethnic insurgencies and unbridled corruption in the political and administrative systems. A politician-police-contractor-insurgent nexus has developed, and the unprotected borders with Myanmar only adds to the problem. While it’s true that “the government of India is funding insurgency in Manipur”, I don’t agree with the prescription that prolonged imposition of President’s Rule is the solution here.

The Absent State is an extremely readable and timely book. It will be of considerable interest to both lay readers and experts and should be compulsory reading.

Marwah was governor of Manipur and Jharkhand and as an IPS officer served in J&K, the Northeast and left extremism-affected states of Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 43, Dated October 30, 2010
 

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