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Baramulla to Bastar

Baramulla to Bastar

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 19, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/157362/Baramulla-to-Bastar.html

Democracy defeats terrorism

In an otherwise bleak scenario, two good news stories published by this newspaper serve to highlight the fact that there is no reason to lose hope, at least not yet, although every additional day the UPA remains in power further erodes the people's faith in Government. The first story relates to young Kashmiris turning up in large numbers at the Army's recruitment camp in Baramulla, which till recently was a hotbed of separatism and terrorism. The young men, many of them from Anantnag and Kupwara, are eager to don the Indian Army's uniform which, ironically, had come to be seen as a symbol of 'oppression' in the Kashmir Valley, thanks to the vitriolic anti-India campaign by the All-Party Hurriyat Conference and other Islamist, pro-Pakistan organisations. The recent Assembly election, which saw the political patrons of the separatists taking a severe beating -- the poll boycott call failed to keep people away from voting booths -- was a clear indicator that Kashmiris had begun to tire of violence and the futility of waging war against the Indian state. The huge turnout at the Army's recruitment camp confirms that view: People want to get on with their lives and for them a job in the Army is gainful employment in a job-starved State. The second story emanates from Chhattisgarh's impoverished Bastar region where Maoists have been leading a murderous campaign, slaughtering police personnel and killing those tribals who refuse to subscribe to their ideology of hate. Here, too, people were asked not to participate in last November's Assembly election and the Maoists had threatened terrible retribution if their diktat was defied. Yet, there was high voting on election day. Now, with the political process firmly established and the State Government clearly in command of the situation, big industrial houses have begun eliciting interest in setting up factories in Bastar which would generate thousands of jobs and thus lessen the burden of poverty for the region's people.

Of course, neither the crowds at the Army's recruitment camp in Baramulla nor the possible investment in setting up industrial units in Bastar suggests that violent Islamism and Maoism have been comprehensively defeated. It is anybody's guess as to how the separatists in the Kashmir Valley and the Maoists in Bastar will respond to the surge of optimism and the popular urge to join the national mainstream. But it would be incorrect to view either cynically, just as it would be premature to celebrate the triumph of the state. What the two stories mean is something that is often ignored while dealing with extremism: Democracy has the inherent strength to survive the harshest of attacks and, at the end of the day, liberty and freedom, coupled with the desire for a better life lived with dignity, prevail over the fear of the terrorist's gun. It is this strength that has kept India united even as other countries which became independent along with ours have fractured and fragmented -- for evidence, witness the rapidity with which Pakistan is imploding. It is the responsibility of the state to keep alive the flame of liberty and protect democracy; to do so, often tough measures have to be adopted: Anti-terrorist operations in Jammu & Kashmir and salwa judum in Chhattisgarh are two examples of how not to allow those who militate against the nation to achieve their evil objective. Simultaneously, the state must also extend a helping hand to those who are exploited by terrorists of all hues. It's happening in Baramulla and Bastar.

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