Out­sourc­ing state ter­ror

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - J a wed Naqvi

They are the world's most pow­er­ful and largest democ­ra­cies, re­spec­tively, but the United States and In­dia have some­thing most un­demo­cratic in com­mon.

They both out­source means to kill, tor­ture and co­erce peo­ple to pri­vate mili­tias and law­less mer­ce­nar­ies. They do it un­der the cloak of na­tional se­cu­rity.

The US govern­ment has out­sourced its high-tech killing ca­pa­bil­i­ties to cor­po­rate groups such as Black­wa­ter to as­sist in its hunt for Al Qaeda and to bet­ter se­cure the oc­cu­pa­tion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The In­dian govern­ment has made it a tra­di­tion to raise armed mili­tias to sub­due re­volts in its more restive re­gions. Both these chest-thump­ing democ­ra­cies have used the dimly lit back­door to sub­vert their own con­sti­tu­tions and le­gal covenants. Last week, Dr Bi­nayak Sen, a doc­tor who has spent his life work­ing among the poor­est of the poor in In­dia's tribal dis­tricts and for­mer sec­re­tary of the Ch­hattsi­garh chap­ter of the Peo­ple's Union for Civil Lib­er­ties, was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment by a trial court.

His pur­ported crime is to have been a courier for mem­bers of the banned Com­mu­nist Party of In­dia (Maoist). His real crime was to have been among the first to ex­pose the crimes of the vi­cious, gov­ern­mentspon­sored tribal mili­tia, the Salwa Judum or 'Pu­rifi­ca­tion Hunt'.

Copies of Marx­ist lit­er­a­ture and a fab­ri­cated let­ter were cited to link Bi­nayak Sen with the Maoist rebels. Salwa Judum was be­gun in Ch­hat­tis­garh on the model of the Ikhwan-ul-Mus­limoon, Kash­mir's no­to­ri­ous vigilante mili­tia that was propped up by the state. The In­dian govern­ment de­nies us­ing pri­vate groups to deal with its se­cu­rity is­sues.

The lid was blown in­ad­ver­tently when US diplo­matic ca­bles from Delhi were pub­lished by Wik­iLeaks. In a ref­er­ence to an ac­tive mem­ber of Kash­mir's dreaded Ikhwan mili­tia, the then Amer­i­can am­bas­sador in Delhi coun­selled that the man be de­nied a US visa. The se­cret cable sent by US am­bas­sador to In­dia David Mul­ford on June 4, 2007 in ref­er­ence to Us­man Majid's visa ap­pli­ca­tion, said:

"Majid is a leader of the pro-GOI [Govern­ment of In­dia] Ikhawan-ulMusilmeen [sic] para­mil­i­tary group, which is made up of for­mer Kash­miri ter­ror­ists who have sur­ren­dered to the GOI. Be­gin­ning in the early 1990s, In­dia's se­cu­rity forces used Ikhwan to com­bat ter­ror­ism in the Sri­na­gar Val­ley. Known for its bru­tal and cor­rupt prac­tices, Ikhwan is no­to­ri­ous for its use of tor­ture, ex­tra-ju­di­cial killing, rape and ex­tor­tion of Kash­miri civil­ians sus­pected of har­bour­ing or fa­cil­i­tat­ing ter­ror­ists."

The cable spoke of a nexus be­tween the Ikhwan and In­dia's do­mes­tic In­tel­li­gence Bureau. In a way, what the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador said about the Ikhwan Dr Bi­nayak Sen knew to be true of the Salwa Judum, or per­haps worse. As the facts have re­vealed, the Judum was founded not so much to track or hunt down Maoist rebels as to clear the pas­sage of lo­cal re­sis­tance groups to en­able cor­po­rate ac­cess to Ch­hat­tis­garh's largely un­tapped min­eral re­sources.

The Front­line mag­a­zine made the fol­low­ing con­nec­tion. "In an in­stance of truly Or­wellian co­in­ci­dence, the Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing for the Tata steel plant was signed on June 4, 2005, two days af­ter the for­mal launch of the con­tro­ver­sial Salwa Judum pro­gramme in the Bas­tar and Dan­te­wada dis­tricts, and marked, in the eyes of many, the point of co­a­les­cence of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­dus­try and the se­cu­rity agen­cies. The state govern­ment also signed an MoU with the Es­sar group the same day."

Mean­while, the Tata pro­posal had kicked off a con­tro­versy in Raipur, the state cap­i­tal, with the is­sue be­ing raised in the assem­bly too. Soon af­ter the deal was signed, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Ch­hat­tis­garh govern­ment re­fused to share the de­tails, claim­ing that dis­clo­sure was specif­i­cally pro­hib­ited by a clause in the MoU.

It re­fused to give copies of the MoU to mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion in the house. The MP for the con­stituency en­com­pass­ing Lo­handiguda - the area ear­marked for the project - went on record stat­ing that he had no de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about the project. Copies of the MoU were leaked over a pe­riod of months and by the time the doc­u­ments be­came eas­ily avail­able a full-scale protest was un­der way in the 10 vil­lages ear­marked for the project.

As democ­ra­cies, the US and In­dia should be seen as global pace­set­ters for pro­bity and jus­tice. But are they that? One or two key mark­ers sug­gest that far from be­ing com­rades in a joint quest for lib­eral ideals they swear by, both will­ingly ig­nore if also in­dulge each other's trans­gres­sions of fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights. A sep­a­rate Wik­iLeaks ex­posé put the fo­cus on Kash­mir's tor­ture cham­bers. Damn­ingly for the US, the rev­e­la­tions came just weeks af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama, look­ing for Amer­i­can jobs via In­dian eco­nomic en­ter­prise, was forced to ob­serve a dis­creet si­lence on the is­sue in Delhi.

(The writer is Dawn's cor­re­spon­dent in Delhi)

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