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Mainstream, VOL LV No 27 New Delhi June 24, 2017

Language of Counter-insurgency in Kashmir and Chhattisgarh

Saturday 24 June 2017



Giorgio Agamben reminded us in his short piece, titled “Security and Terror”, that in the course of a gradual neutralisation of politics and the progressive surrender of the traditional tasks of the state, security “now becomes the sole criterion of political legitimation”.

Recent developments in Kashmir and Chhattisgarh bear testimony to Agamben’s seminal observation. The blatant instance of human rights violation in Kashmir in recent times, in the name of “security”, is to tie an artisan, Farooq Ahmed Dar, to the bonnet of a military jeep to drive past alleged stone-pelters. Major Gogoi, who ordered his men to commit this act, was awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation Card for his “sustained distinguished service” in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir. In the context of the public outcry against this gross instance of human rights violation, the Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley, reportedly made the press state-ment that Army officers should be allowed to take decisions on how to deal with a situation in a “war-like zone”.

Similar is the story in Chhattisgarh. Reportedly, a road is being built diagonally across the Sukma district in south Chhattisgarh through the heart of the Maoist insurgency. In the discourse of development, road construction is treated as one of its basic components. But, in Chhattisgarh, the discourse of development merges with that of counter-insurgency. Interestingly, a CRPF officer stationed in the region, who lost 26 colleagues in the Maoist ambush on April 24, said to a visiting reporter: “The Central Government should review why they have stationed us here because the villagers don’t seem to want development.” The following experience of road journey of adivasi villagers in Chhattisgarh, reported in Outlook (June 26, 2017), gives us a hint as to why the villagers are sceptical about “development”:

“Several paramilitary camps dot the Dornapal-Jagargunda stretch of the road. Most personnel do not venture out, except for planned operations...Villagers are often stopped at such checkpoints as intelligence reports had suggested involvement of locals in the April 24 ambush. Most of those prevented from going ahead are the ones without Aadhaar cards—now the standard proof of identity in these parts.”

The above micro-stories from Kashmir and Chhattisgarh testify to the fact that the Indian state’s concern for “security” forces the ordinary people of the two States to live “bare lives” without dignity.

Arup Kumar Sen, Kolkata

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