@Col Anil Kaul
Terrorism as we know it today is manifestation of poor economic policies, unequal distribution of wealth, exploitation of original inhabitants by migrants, using religious expediency towards personal gain, selective development coupled with a runaway population with a deliberate attempt not to educate the masses. Starting as dissent, it grew in various forms of conflict covering a vast canvas ranging from a non violent struggle as in India to armed revolution in various parts of the World and finally to coercion by present means of using terror as a tool. All of this with the sole aim of control of political and or military power in nation states.
Terrorism is therefore not a new scourge. It is all pervasive and can attack and overcome the simplest, quietest and most orderly of societies. It has no borders, it has no organization, it has very little or no discipline. It thrives on the characteristics of fear and threat, it uses time tested methods for belying the faith of the people in their understanding of modern, forward looking society.
On such a platform to achieve conflict resolution there is a need to try and make a wish list of what to do. The first and foremost requirement is for the political executive, the executing agencies and the judiciary for after action procedures to be on the same page. There should be a one window approach to those who are entrusted with this onerous task. To keep it simple should be the principle. In view of which a few steps enumerated below would pay rich dividends.
(a) The areas frequented by terrorists should be clearly demarcated.
(b) These areas must be then put under surveillance both electronic and human with the specific aim to identify and compile the following :-
(I) Routes taken by terrorists to enter and exit.
(II) Safe houses and other hiding places.
(III) Supply of food, water and other stores.
(Iv)Receipt and any other action with regard to cash transactions.
(V)Receipt of arms, ammunition and such like war related stores.
(Vi)Identification of leaders and ideologues.
(Vii)Identification of over ground sympathisers and underground activists.
This information once collected should be compiled, collated, corroborated, indexed, and then circulated on a need to know basis.
The political executive must then make it a public issue by offering a peace pipe to all terrorist groups to come clean and join the mainstream or face the consequences. All manner of media should be used to break the terrorist’s mindset of conflict.
Having given enough time, the areas demarcated should be cordoned off in blocks of 10-12 keeping in mind the force available and after a reasonable period of time start physical overt action. This action should be aimed at capturing terrorists alive. Killing them in an encounter should be as an outside option unless a tactical situation demands it. Catching them alive shows our intent to make terrorists see reason. On the other hand no quarter should be given to one who is obdurate to the core.
The physical action must be complimented by simultaneous attacks to cut off both flow of funds and weapons. The leaders must be taken into custody and neutralized. If a second or third string of leaders is available they too should be taken out. Killing outright should be avoided.
Finally the sympathisers and over ground associates must be rounded off and transported out of the state.
Once this is accomplished for one area move to the next area and start all over again. However if there are adequate forces available then simultaneous action in all areas must be undertaken.
The above is a simple approach and could be called the central building block; expansion can bring numerous options for solutions.
The key to the possible response probably lies in a phrase coined by me “The Doctrine of Pre-emption”. At the moment in most cases of terrorist attack they have the initiative and thereby the element of surprise. They also have the luxury of planning, coordination and training without any knowledge of the same to the target. To therefore call it a response would be to admit being reactive, defensive and playing on the back foot leading to hitting your own wicket nine times out of ten.
The title of this piece should therefore preferably be:-
SHAPING A COMPREHENSIVE COUNTER TERROISM SOLUTION
Let us now take up the case by specifics relating to India rather than talk in the abstract medium.
- We have already the identified the affected areas as: –
- Central India or the Naxalite Belt.
- It would be prudent not to brush the entire area as affected hence we would break it down to the most severely affected.
- In J&K it would be the five districts of southern Kashmir. A spill over to the Jammu region having been stopped for the time being.
- The states of Assam, Manipur & Nagaland are most affected.
- Chhattisgarh with a spill over to Oddhisha, Jharkhand & Maharashtra.
- Identification over it would be quite obvious to the discerning observer that the areas identified are run by the same political party that is at the centre alone or as a coalition. However the opposition parties possibly provide the ammunition to score petty political brownie points by using these radicalised elements as pawns and cannon fodder. To be specific it is the PDP in J&K, The CPI (M) in central India and the BJP/Congress as the case maybe with the support of regional parties in the NE.
To therefore achieve the aim of conflict resolution these political outfits have to come on the same page irrespective of their beliefs and party leanings.
The next most important point is the availability of the enforcing agency/ies in all areas simultaneously or as an area by area deployment. Fortunately we have adequate forces to be employed simultaneously. The following force deployment is are recommended: –
- J&K: HQ Northern Command with all BSF, RR, state Police placed under command. The joint command concept under the Chief Minister being irrelevant today. A political representative however must be a member of the decision making body.
- Central India: HQ Central Command with similar arrangements with CRPF and state police being operative. Army and Air Force assets to be employed when required.
- NE: HQ Eastern Command with Assam Rifles, BSF and state Police similarly placed.
- The overall control should be exercised by the PMO through MoD, and COSC, with MHA providing support through IB, R&AW, CBI and any other intelligence sources it controls.
- All of the above organizations must have embedded media journalists who can report factual and need to know reporting.
As can be seen it would need a multi lateral approach with all hands on deck, so to speak, from the common citizen upwards. A recent phenomenon noticed in J&K of a younger generation wanting to get on with it and shun violence, must be taken note off, provided security and their example utilized elsewhere where needed.
Once these measures are in place a squeeze must be affected to reduce and finally stop the flow of funds, arms, ammunition, and other war like stores, food & medicines to all identified leaders, active cadres & sympathizers. The aim being to cut life lines starve them off essentials and ensure they cannot carry out strikes at will. Once they reach this stage, desperation is likely to set in and may lead to the following state in these inimical organizations.
- An internal revolt against the leadership.
- Mass surrender.
- A lasting truce.
An example in our country so well organized and executed by the state police of the erstwhile states of UP, MP, & Rajasthan against the Chambal dacoits is a case in point. The action by Punjab police post Op Blue Star with a little help from the Army also makes one believe that given the will, direction and resources this can be achieved in the identified areas given above.
Each such movement has some dissenters or those who feel marginalized. The power of social media must be fully exploited to bring in factionalism, intra group dissent and finally a state where such elements would rather side with the enforcing agencies rather than with their handlers. A point to note in all this is an extended tenure of those who shape up as negotiators or enforcers. It is only with a sustained effort over a reasonable period of time that results would be seen.
Simultaneous to the above action, certain redressal of local grievances must carry on. As we know in J&K it is rampant unemployment, In the Naxalite belt it is the perceived exploitation of natural resources by outsiders leaving the tribal’s high and dry, whereas the North East presents a purely political expedient in power struggle under the garb of an Independent state on one hand and the uncontrolled influx of Bangla Deshis on the other.
A commonality in J&K & Assam being the bending of backwards to the requirements of a particular community as a pure vote gathering gimmick exercised by all parties, in the form of secularism, irrespective of their political leanings on both sides of the centre line.
A point of interest is the situation in West Bengal that led to so called clashes by Naxalites whereas they were between the then ruling party the CPM and the opposition of TNC. The TNC having won at the hustings and established almost a brute majority all form of unrest in WB seems to have gotten over. The Centre – Naga (IM) accord seems to have brought the curtain down on the unrest in that state.
The possibility of creating jobs with security provided for such initiatives in J&K, the handing over of raw material asset management to tribal’s as a management and employment avenue with at least 50% of revenue being ploughed back in Central India and deportation of unauthorised migrants back to Bangla Desh must be taken by a comprehensive administrative task force consisting of the Central and state administration cadres by moving them from their plush offices to ground zero. Over the years some improvement has been seen in the reduction of areas where insurgency was and is still rampant. We have a long way to go though.
The one agency that further needs to be neutered in our context is the Pakistan ISI. Much of our ills in J&K specifically and other parts through dormant sleeper cells as also ingress through Bangla Desh can be ascribed to them. One can only rue the day when due to immature strategic thought by wannabe Prime Ministers like IK Gujral and Manmohan Singh agreed to dismantle R&AW assets in Pakistan towards the early nineties and the disbandment of the TSD recently on advice of some ill informed advisors of the Aman Ki Aasha variety. The Chinese connection through our very own communist parties also needs negation.
In Conclusion one can only say that a solution is possible, however firstly that eradication of terrorism is upgraded from a state law & order problem to one of National Importance. If the JUSBRL can be a National Project then the War on terror would possibly be placed a notch higher. A dedicated, multilateral approach, burying all political acrimony and differences, without playing to the gallery and with no vote economics may rid us of this scourge. If not Indians will keep meeting violent deaths with regularity. That is the stark truth.