Creating Social Unrest is the New Terror in India
The national capital Delhi has been through an uneasy calm last week as troublesome events in Jahangirpuri, located in the North West corner of the city, witnessed violence for a few hours and then further tension over an anti-encroachment drive launched by the municipal authorities. Though the stone-pelting and violence on the day of Hanuman Jayanti procession over a week ago was limited to one block of Jahangirpuri and brought under control in about an hour, it became a chilling reminder of the riots Delhi had gone through two years ago. A tensed silence descended on the residents which was broken by further trouble as bulldozers rolled in to demolish some of the illegal encroachments on the narrow thoroughfares. The location and the timing of the drive sent some activists rushing to Supreme Court and obtain a stay on the municipal operation and now the entire drive is in the purview of the apex court for at least a fortnight.
Could the police have prevented the first round of violence and rioting with better intelligence gathering and was the subsequent demolition drive carried with mala fide intent are questions doing the rounds in the media circles. Politicians made a beeline to the spot to cash in on the simmering discontent by giving it a communal colour even though the facts confirmed otherwise.
But Jahangirpuri is not an isolated incident. Nor is the recent spate of violence in half a dozen states reported in the past one month or so. Even if we were to overlook the sporadic incidents during the intervening period, the brutal Delhi riots in early 2020 and the recent spate of communal violence have a distinct pattern. Added to that are the highly charged protest demonstrations, statements and political activities on seemingly innocuous issues like Hijab, Vande Mataram, Tricolour, marriage, divorce and others. Only a naïve person would think that these chain of events, both social and political, are one-off incidents and one is not related or does not have a bearing on the other.
The genesis of these troubles have to be examined keeping in perspective what was happening till a few years ago and the scale must not be limited to India. Terror attacks in various cities across the country, blasts in market places, temples, court complexes and even hospitals were common. The army and the para-military forces were constantly under attack and terror had moved beyond the expected territory of Jammu-Kashmir and North-East to engulf the whole nation. But security forces rose to the occasion, a firm and no-nonsense approach of the Modi govt coupled with greater awareness among the citizens made the job of terrorists much more difficult. Meanwhile, the global scenario was also undergoing significant change. Consequently, merchants of death, global terror organizations and their cohorts in India perhaps realized that it was not only near impossible to carry out big terror attacks but it would invite global condemnation as all continents are adopting zero tolerance towards terror, barring a few usual suspects like our western neighbor Pakistan.
Experts are of view that this has led to a strategic change in the terrorists' modus operandi. Their focus has now shifted to playing upon social and religious fault lines, fan socio-religio-political sentiments and project them as organic movements spearheaded by the women, the elderly, the deprived sections and the poor. These 'unrests' which are anything but organic are a low cost, high impact operation. They spread fast, kindle reactions across states and societies and though they may not kill as much, they can go far in destablising our country. To keep India in a constant state of flux seems to be the goal. We have seen it happening during the anti-CAA protests, the farmers protests, more recently over the Hijab controversy and now Jahangirpuri. Often, gullible citizens have neither the information back-up nor the vision to see through the game plan and thus they become pawns in the hands of a nexus whose ultimate target is peace and progress of the nation, our social fabric and our politico-economic stability.
This new social formula can wreak havoc on our nation if it succeeds even partially. But to foil the game plan is easier said than done. Young women, the elderly, the poor and the downtrodden cannot be treated with the same iron hand as dreaded terrorists are. Our security forces cannot crack down on them as they would on a terror module or hide-out.
It needs deft handling to go into the root of the problem, identify and expose their masterminds while ensuring the social fabric remains intact. It needs patience and full co-operation of the common citizen like you and me.
(Smita Mishra, Advisor, Prasar Bharati)
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