It seems that Modi government’s success in the current term will depend to a large extent on managing domestic politics more than anything else, including foreign policy. I intend to highlight two key domestic concerns and their political management: negative social dynamics and dissident conflicts. It is expected that paying closer attention to these issues would positively influence the domestic political position of BJP as well as the image of India as a whole. It would protect India’s immediate political and security interests, and assuage domestic political tensions by limiting the scope of damage through internal conflict.
Currently, the key domestic issue is the negative social dynamics generated by class, race, and religion in India. The questions over minority rights and security in India remain unresolved. Although BJP has the support of a majority of the electorate, it is not the size of the electorate supporting BJP or Modi which matters, rather the fringe elements that oppose him and his party’s political management. To what extent will loss of trust in India’s ruling political elite hinder the functioning of the society? How big a threat is the pursuit of self-interest by dominant religious groups and victorious political parties (under the religious pretensions of Hindutva) to India’s social fabric? What roles do the minorities, faced with declining compassion and tolerance, play in undermining social relations and institutional systems in India? These must be addressed carefully for India to have a stable and healthy social fabric. For India, success in domestic politics is closely intertwined with concerns of public order and internal security that place more emphasis on freedom of religion and expression.
Fuelling the above is the Maoist build-up, another internal security issue, the fourth-generation war, in which tactics of the minorities confound the majority and the state loses the monopoly of the war. India has been experiencing this for at least a hundred years. Maoists are only one of several insurgent and guerrilla groups. The communist political movement in India started in the 1920s, and the Maoist insurgency has its roots in the Naxalite peasant revolt that took place in 1967. Recent Maoist actions include the murder of an SSB (Sashastra Seema Bal) jawan, five policemen, a young man (by beating), and an off-duty policeman (by stabbing). In response to the Maoist-Naxalite activities, successful state operations include recovery of gelatine sticks, detonators, G3 rifles, and arrest of couriers of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) party. While many countries face insurgent problem, what is politically worrying in India’s case, apart from the sheer violent impact that any insurgent attack leaves behind, is that BJP attributes the creation of Maoist insurgents and the birth of Pakistan to the Indian National Congress (INC), and the secessionist movement in Jammu and Kashmir to the INC and its ally, the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party). The divide between BJP on one hand and the INC and its allies on the other, on such issues, has the potential to create a deep rift in the Indian domestic politics.
During his first term in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pursued a somewhat tried and tested way of solving the insurgency in a political way, namely by wooing rebel leaders into politics. It follows not only from the legacy of the internal conflict management strategy in India but also from elsewhere in the world. Laldenga (1986-88) and Zoramthanga (1998-2008), both of whom were in the Mizoram insurgent group, were chief ministers. Several militant leaders such as Usman Abdul Majid, Hakim Mohammad Yasin Shah, Bhaskar Sarma, and Kushal Duwori chose their post-rebellion careers in politics.
On July 21, 2018, eight ex-Colombian rebels were sworn into the Congress of the Republic of Colombia, ending more than five decades of a bloody conflict. Although such political management of internal conflict in India has been criticised by some public officials as “an incentive for violence that encourages reward for criminality”, pointing towards a virulent saga of Modi, the fact of the matter is that any government facing internal political rifts caused by insurgent violence needs to explore, design, and follow a political architecture that would allow the minority dissident groups to have their stakes in internal politics, as a measure to allay their fears and in recognition of a scope to build on their aspirations. The shortest argument against Modi’s critics is that if bullets can be exchanged for ballots as the price for peace, there is no harm in it.
However, for the political management of Maoists and other dissident groups’ activism within a sustained political architecture, the Modis and their opponents should accord singular meaning to fourth-generation war, and come up with unified recommendations in the following days. They must address the root problem of power equation for the dissidents. Conflict management strategies and policies adopted by political parties that overlook and compromise the inherent power equation do not, and will not, yield any sustained result. Politics, policy and institutionalisation are three strands of political management of insurgent crisis. Without measures to address the cause of violence inherent in power structures, the political architecture will crumble into dust. Addressing the psyche of the minorities based on shared and applied democratic values is essential to create a stable political edifice.
Political efforts and domestic diplomacy such as through replacing bullets with ballots by the BJP government are, no doubt, a good first step towards creating a good foundation for peace. However, no matter how elitist these political efforts and domestic diplomacies may seem, they are only short-term measures, as they may not necessarily embrace all proponents of the causes of dissidence within a group. As such, even if certain persons from the insurgent groups might have preferred ballots over bullets—and these are seen as outreach outcomes by Modi and his people—political parties must use the time gained through this by implanting such measures in institutionalising subsequent measures that would build state capacity for eliminating inequities across the power spectrum so that the voids are filled for the minority dissidents. Prudent political judgement along with actions, which take into account the dangers of the paradoxical nature of power, within this broad set of recommendations will likely seal the penetrative paths of external interference and limit the scope of transborder terrorism for India.
Badrul Alam Siddiqui, PhD, is a retired Major of Bangladesh Army.
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