It is by now common wisdom that political failures are the root cause of secessionist violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh. Like all received wisdom, this prognosis, too, has become a bit dated. The fact is that from the word go, the two states have suffered from governance failures.

Illustration: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint

In J&K and Chhattisgarh there is a strong demand for governance institutions and capabilities. There is woeful lack of them in both states. While the relationship between lack of governance and violence is complicated, there is no doubt that the absence of governance capabilities adds to the problem. Take J&K first. What is required to douse the daily flames in Srinagar and other parts of the state? First, a paramilitary force that can handle such crowds with the right mix of coercion and tact. Second, a good intelligence network that can provide information for the troops to strike at the right place instead of a poorly administered and counterproductive dollop of violence. After the right coercion-tact balance has been attained, comes the domain of politics. State leaders such as chief minister Omar Abdullah then need to assure their constituents that their economic aspirations will be taken care of. All of this is missing in the J&K of today. The institutional underpinnings of this strategy are non-existent and state capabilities rudimentary.

Chhattisgarh, too, is no different. The same force (the Central Reserve Police Force, or CRPF) is being used on a very different terrain with the same results (failure mostly) in South Bastar as well. Unlike J&K, this part of Chhattisgarh is pretty much facing militarized combat between an ineffective CRPF and the Maoists. Raipur and all notions of governance are polite fiction here. The problem is that a new state was created without adequate infrastructure and thought to future problems. Politics has little role in such situations.

What ails J&K and Chattisgarh: governance failures or political failure? Tell us at