The Calculating Chidambaram

The tribals of Lalgarh

We expect the home minister of a country to, at the very least, speak with some level of proportion if not propriety. P. Chidambaram is not only counting the dead in violent incidents, but comparing the whudunnit statistics. One is aware that this unity in diversity business only works at the polite social level and for political need and greed. However, when you are in power, you have got to see each attack as not just an isolated case but with its history and the response to it.

By saying that Naxalism is more dangerous than other forms of terrorism, he is behaving like a village headman rather than a statesman:

"The most violent movement in India is not terrorism or insurgency but Left-wing extremism. While 26 people were killed in terrorist violence and 46 killed in insurgency (27 in Jammu and Kashmir), 297 people were killed in Naxal violence. That is ten times of those killed in terror incidents.”

  1. Is he saying that what happens in Jammu and Kashmir automatically becomes insurgency-related terrorism? Is he not aware about local groups that operate? Has he factored in security-related killings?
  2. What are the factors that differentiate terrorism from Naxal violence, according to him?

To this, his idea is puzzling:

"Unlike any other movement, this movement is driven by a very fearsome and brutal idea. The goal of Left wing extremism is not to bring about development but to overthrow Parliamentary democracy... their goal, their methods are directly in confrontation with the goal of the elected governments.”

Amazing. Are other forms of terrorism less brutal and fearsome? Is their intention to bring about development? Are they not in conflict with parliamentary democracy? Do they give a damn about elected governments? Why, some of these groups that are well-entrenched do not contest elections because they believe that democracy is a fa├žade.

There are indeed ideological differences between different separatist movements, but by making this ‘fine’ distinction he is in fact alienating the populations where some of these groups do have support. How did this come about? Where was the Centre? Regarding the Maoist-ridden areas, he says that the government "does not have that much human resources”. How does the CRPF unfailingly manage to reach those districts then?

One is aware of the immense loss among the security ranks too, but here I think the home minister is clearly using a political card. The Naxals are thus far relegated to non-Congress governments, so putting the onus on the states is a strategic move and also a long-haul vote-catcher. As the home minister, he should also cast a glance at the record number of crimes committed on a regular basis right under his nose. Only because they do not have an ideology, it does not make them any less reprehensible and worrying.

Instead of providing a plan of action that entails talks with the groups, he is indulging in homilies:

"The battle is to restore hearts and minds. Not many Chief Ministers and Ministers have visited the affected areas. They should spend a night there.”

And one night will reveal all? What will the report show? "Lalgarh's lumpen"? "Danger at Dantewada"? Holed up in government accommodation, these ministers will not manage to restore their own equilibrium let alone organs of the people.

"If villagers think that Naxals are their friends and the government is their adversary, you cannot win the battle.”

This is not a Dale Carnegie book. The villagers are not in the battle. They are caught between two sides. Think about that. Some of them may be sympathetic to the Naxal cause, but they are not tying friendship bands. Democracy is not about co-opting the government by the people, but of the Establishment to make certain that the people are with them beyond electoral politics. And democracy does mean dissent as well. It is not all about winning minds and hearts.

Many terrorist movements have often managed to do so where elected governments have failed. This needs some introspection, not a head count.


  1. FV,

    Is this inadvertent or intentional? What Chidu the Great said was simple "... 26 people were killed in terrorist violence and 46 killed in insurgency (27 in Jammu and Kashmir)"

    while your question is "Is he saying that what happens in Jammu and Kashmir automatically becomes insurgency-related terrorism? Is he not aware about local groups that operate? Has he factored in security-related killings?"

    ???? I confess I did not understand. I will await an explanation before making a comment.
    Home Minister is indeed using a political card. He is a politician after all! It is gratifying to see though that he is not being showered with mass murderer and such other terms of affection. Some people have all the luck!

  2. FV,
    PC is right in what he says. Take it at face value without political overtones.
    1. There is an ideological difference between Naxalites and Maoists. You cannot interchange the terminology ... most people do.
    2. There is a difference between terrorism and insurgent violence, though their methods may be similar.
    3. i would recommend Saleem Shahzad's book "Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban" to anyone who may be interested.
    4. I have some notes on the subject which I can share, if you are interested.

  3. F&F:

    It is nice to know you find the home minister's stmt simple. As a person in a position of responsibility, he cannot start tapping on a calci. It might have helped had he spoken about the different kinds of dangers posed.

    Re. what you did not understand, just read his quote where he mentions deaths specifically due to insurgent activity, seemingly not taking cognisance of the other factors.

    I guess he has all the luck and is not called a mass murderer. Not until he feel the need to go on a fast, at least.


    Don't agree with you. There are political overtones. Even if statistically he is right, you cannot differentiate where victims are concerned. It is not like how many died to to dengue vs malaria.

    I agree about ground level differences between Naxalism and Maoism, and one tends to use them interchangeably because the core is similar. Naxalism is a Maoist ideology.

    Insurgent violence is terrorism, too. Motives may differ between homegrown and outside forces.

    Do share your notes.

  4. FV

    Naxalism is Marxist-Leninist ideology, not Maoist.

    I'll dig my notes out sometime. I'd started a book on the subject ... may just help to revive!!!


  5. TE:

    Chicken and egg argument can ensue, but I'd rather wait for your book. Revive!


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