This is the second of a three part-article on the performance of the Narendra Modi government.
Safety of its citizens is an indispensable facet of a nation’s sovereignty and well-being; an element so crucial that its deficiency nullifies all other salutary components of a citizen’s life. The perpetual anxiety that a bomb may go off at the next street corner or at the next moment and the fear that one is not safe in even one’s home can turn a citizen’s life into a veritable hell. A government is duty bound to ensure that its citizens go through their daily lives with a certain degree of calm and confidence, without a Damocles sword hanging over their heads.
How did the Narendra Modi-led BJP government perform on the issue of safety? Was it effective? Are we safer in our homes today than five years ago?
Traditionally the Ministry of Defence breaks down internal security issues into four distinct categories: a) terror attacks in the mainland; b) Kashmir region insurgency; c) north-eastern states; d) left-wing or Maoist extremism.
Tables 1 and 2 give you the list of terrorist attacks in the mainland under the UPA and the NDA. There has been no major terrorist attack in the Indian mainland during Modi’s tenure. In fact, there have been only two minor terror related incidents in the last five years: a 2014 bomb blast in Bengaluru that killed one person and a bombing aboard the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train in 2017 that resulted in 10 injuries and no fatalities. Gurdaspur and Pathankot because of their proximity to Kashmir must be viewed as a fallout of the Kashmir issue; however, even if these two incidents are included to appease critics it still does not narrow the hiatus in the safety quotients between the two tenures.
The UPA government oversaw what was a heyday for terrorism as Table 1 indicates: at least 15 terror attacks with significant fatalities. This outcome was not an accidental phenomenon, but a direct result of a lack of political will to deal firmly with security issues; a compulsion prompted by vote bank politics. The blatant support for terrorist elements by senior Congress leaders like Digvijaya Singh in the Batla House encounter case in 2008 is a clear example of this Janus-faced approach.
In two (Northeast and Maoist insurgency) of the other three categories, the NDA does decisively better than the UPA as the accompanying graph (Figure 1) indicates.
With regard to Maoist insurgency it is important to note that the number of civilians and security personnel killed has gone down dramatically, while the number of insurgents killed has registered a sharp rise. The Northeast too has become relatively peaceful, with decreasing number of civilian deaths.
Kashmir remains an area of concern, with increasing number of deaths in recent years. While the number of terrorists killed has gone up, security personnel and civilians have suffered as well; in 2018 there were 451 fatalities reported, with 270 of them being terrorists (https://www.satp.org/datasheet-terrorist-attack/fatalities/india-jammukashmir). The surge in casualties could be the result of this government’s no-nonsense policy and the free hand given to security personnel to rein in the terrorists.
Overall the NDA has performed better than the UPA and the most important point to note is that there has been no major terrorist attack in the mainland: a defining descriptor of India’s security.
A review of the accompanying graph (Figure 2) indicates that there has been a decline and not an increase in communal violence-related deaths since the NDA came to power in 2014; in fact, the highest recorded annual mortality from communal violence—167 (2008) and 133 (2013)—occurred during the tenure of the UPA government.
In addition, there have been no major communal riots as defined by the number of deaths (a “major” communal incident is one that results in more than five deaths as per the Home Ministry; the other criterion of over 10 persons injured is too subjective for legitimate comparison) under the NDA and definitely not on the scale of 2013 Muzzafarnagar (62 dead) and 2012 Kokrajhar riots (77dead)—both during UPA rule. In all there were at least four major communal riots (2011 Bharatpur, 10 deaths; 2008 Dhule; 8 deaths) during the second term of the UPA.
While these figures may be open to small variations in interpretation, one thing is crystal clear and indisputable: there is no dramatic increase in incidents of communal violence to justify the hue and cry being raised by so-called intellectuals and certainly no large-scale major riots.
Here are two screenshots (Figure 3) from an NRCB (National Crimes Record Bureau) publication.
Crimes against SC/STs actually fell during the first full year of the NDA rule (2015) and registered a small increase in 2016, but remained close to the 2014 levels, indicating that there has been no dramatic increase in anti-Dalit violence under the NDA.
Anecdotes make for interesting reading; but to extrapolate isolated random acts into something far greater, to pick up an incident or two and project them as harbingers of a nation’s slide into vicious fanaticism or a sign of the nation’s increasing vulnerability is a dangerous, irresponsible ploy that only serves to further the interests of a few vested entities at the cost of the nation.
Such a modus operandi is also detrimental to the minority psyche; it disseminates fear and creates an unwarranted ghetto effect.
A national narrative has to be judged by the significance and quantum of incidents in play. True, one life lost is a life too many in a utopia. But unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world and we need to match the aberrations of society with this state of imperfection to come to a sane, rational and mature conclusion.
In summary the points to note are:
* No major terror attack in the mainland in the last five years, the Maoist insurgency on the decline and the Northeast is more peaceful.
* No large scale major communal riots.
* No dramatic increase in violence against Dalits.
We are safer in our homes and on our streets than we were five years ago.
Next week: Could we express ourselves without fear of reprisal?