Society works according to the same principle as nature: it abhors a vacuum. And there are large tracts of India from where the State has either vanished or is in such a state of disrepair that the infrastructure of civil society has to be propped up by others — or hijacked by them. That is the daunting tale of insurgency in India that this paper is tracking in the ongoing series, ‘India Besieged’. There is one picture that emerges by scanning the country when it comes to following the thread of insurgency. Whether in Chattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Nagaland or Manipur, there is no invisible hand or autopilot when it comes to providing people amenities, infrastructure and a living. It is the State’s failure to provide all this, and the cynicism that comes with being an ‘absentee landlord’ that has led to terrorists not only gaining ground but also hearts. Worse still, governments are using insurgencies as an excuse to avoid doing what they should have in the first place.
More than 170 million Indians live under the shadow of militancy. Parallel non-State ‘governments’ exist across states — Manipur being the ‘most failed state’ where insurgency rules the roost literally outside the Government of India’s line of vision, control or concern. It would be downright silly, if not naive, to expect an abandoned citizenry to still be sympathetic to the authorities of the Indian State, especially when, in many cases, insurgency groups double as NGOs. Certain State policies, such as the Salwa Judum in Chattisgarh that involves arming locals and making them, rather than government forces, fight the Naxals, has actually made matters worse. Despite the government digging its heels in over the matter, what it actually has done is to outsource its job — i.e. protecting people — to the people themselves.
India’s vastness provides the State with excuses. But if the state and central governments have indeed decided to continue being the custodians of one nation, they cannot shirk their responsibilities. And as the rising figures of extremism in our own backyard show — not always visible because it doesn’t paint the whole picture — the government cannot afford to treat its absence across the country with such nonchalance. There are enough enemies of the State out there to take advantage of this apathy. And they are not necessarily seen as enemies by the people they operate among.