Counting the Losses

Counting the Losses
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India cannot take its peace and internal security for granted

RECKONING WITH UNPLEASANT facts of life is a task usually left to later months of the year. But there are some such matters that cannot—and should not—escape notice. For a country like India, terrorism is a prime candidate for early discussion.

The global terrorism index (GTI)—perhaps the most comprehensive tracking of terror events across the world— ranks India fairly high on its list of countries afflicted by this scourge. The 2016 edition of GTI ranks India among the top ten. Specifically, it is eighth out of a total of 130 countries, placing the country just below Somalia.

But rankings can often be deceptive and only offer a snapshot as it were of a phenomenon that has much longer cause-and-effect sequences. The GTI tracks another number: that of persons killed over time. The GTI 2016 report has data for 15 years from 2000 to 2015. Here, India takes a much bigger hit, even more than countries ranked above it. Over this period, India lost 7,835 lives to terror attacks, much more than Syrians, Somalians and Yemenis did during the same span of time. This reflects a sad detail of how acts of terror are viewed: immediate and large ‘hits’ get immediate attention—and Syria is an example of this phenomenon—while countries like India, which are on ‘slow burn’ but see more people die, get relegated to the ranks of mere ‘difficult countries’.

Other statistics may show a lower count for India. One reason for this could be that the GTI includes Maoist violence in India as part of terrorism. This makes people queasy. It should not. Fundamentally, the idea behind terror is the use of violence to further any cause or ideology. It is not clear why Islamist violence should be classified as ‘terrorism’ but indiscriminate killings inspired by Left extremism merely as ideological strikes. The single biggest terror attack listed for India in GTI 2016 resulted in 42 deaths at the hands of Maoists in east central India. It is baffling why this should not be a case of terrorism.

The lesson from these facts is crystal clear. As India continues to surge ahead in terms of economic growth, it cannot take peace for granted in the long run. It is time the country—and particularly its government—devotes a larger portion of its resources to the maintenance of internal security.