The fires in 20164 min read . Updated: 25 Dec 2015, 02:44 AM IST
A look at some conflict and human rights issues for India in 2016
Sure, be jolly. But consider jeopardy too—to you, your business, this country, one or all of the above. Here’s a brief wrap of some conflict and human rights issues for India in 2016.
Isis/Radical Islamism: Some analysts view the spread of the Islamic State, or Isis, as a precursor to its sowing of fertile grounds in India and South Asia. If Indian youngsters are heading to Syria to fight for a warped Islamic caliphate, goes such wisdom, how much longer then to connect to hearts and minds in India, and similarly minded folk in several neighbouring countries? Will India soon have to put up with a France?
The thing is, India has experienced intermittent insanity in cities big and small even before the advent of fundamentalist kooks born of the West’s misadventures in West Asia. The word of Islamic religious leaders here who condemn Isis and its older cousins does bring comfort, but that could be rudely shattered were India to join, say, a United Nations-led effort—to which theoretical reality defence minister Manohar Parrikar has alluded—to take on Isis. Fire may fight fire, but fire usually lights fire.
Radical Hinduism: The fundamentalist motormouths of the Bharatiya Janata Party, its overarching sponsors in conservative Hindu organizations among the National Democratic Alliance and out of it have been asked to tone down warped pro-Hindu and pro-caste invective. While such optics is good for governance, undercurrents simmer. It would be good to keep a watch on those temple pillars accumulating in Ayodhya. Think of 1992. Consider that explosions from that disastrous year and the next are still driving India, still driving a wedge between Hindu and Muslim, still infecting the CV of much of India’s political leadership.
Jammu & Kashmir: Don’t write off as paranoia the searching article in Hindustan Times that just days earlier mentioned resurgence of militancy in a state that to most Indians is now little but constant battle drone—even a durable disorder (credit academic Sanjib Baruah for this remarkable phrase). This wound by a thousand cuts that Benazir Bhutto helped to intensify during her premiership of Pakistan is India’s most visible political, military and human rights weakness. Combine Kashmir with Isis-like sentiments sponsored by Pakistan or India’s political imbecility and you get more chaos.
The Maoist rebellion: It isn’t India’s greatest internal security threat. Poverty, illiteracy, corruption and poor governance are. But the anger of the rebel that feeds off these abundant inputs exists in spite of a steady erosion of territory, leadership, cadres and influence across eastern, central and southern India on account of the massive presence of paramilitary and police personnel.
The Communist Party of India (Maoist) remains capable of major action. India’s trademark trickle-down economic pursuit won’t reclaim hearts and minds in such places without security drives morphing to bottom-up delivery of the criminal justice system, livelihood security, basic healthcare, access to clean water, education and connectivity in every way. Funds exist. The mindset must, too.
North-east India: This landmass is nearly a seventh of India’s, the East in look-and-act-east policies. But political battles have again raised the profile of Assam as an ethno-religious tinderbox undermining great strides made to dampen rebellion. Fully half of Meghalaya has emerged as lawless in 2015. Manipur remains a conflict and humanitarian nightmare where state and non-state players alike hold this resource-rich gateway province hostage to great greed for influence and deliberate poverty of ideas. The peace process in Nagaland is a welcome development, but it could dangerously backslide if rebel groups and the current political leadership fail to reach accommodation in 2016.
Business and human rights: The dishonesty and obtuseness with which the central government repeatedly attempted to ram through ordinances to acquire land in 2015, diminishing consent, will remain a red flag through 2016. It’s a tragically underrated internal security threat. For all the welcome moves to streamline administration and network with the world, this government remains petty in the way it dialogues with the socio-economic arena, let alone any opposition. The government in New Delhi, various state capitals and their confederates in business will increasingly be watched. The attempt to scare away Greenpeace in 2015 by declaring it an economic enemy of India has backfired. It has sharpened local and global scrutiny. Amnesty International India, for instance, plans as its Mission 2016 to try and “ensure that governments protect and corporates respect human rights", and support human rights defenders “in their work in hostile environments".
Tread carefully. And, erm, happy holidays.
Sudeep Chakravarti’s latest book is Clear.Hold.Build: Hard Lessons of Business and Human Rights in India. His previous books include Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country and Highway 39: Journeys through a Fractured Land. This column, which focuses on conflict situations in South Asia that directly affect business, runs on Fridays.
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