By Aakar Patel
March 2, 2013
Under Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, terrorism has decreased in India and Indians have become safer.
In the eight years the Congress has governed India, terrorism has declined each year, according to data from KPS Gill’s South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). Deaths from terrorism have fallen from 3,259 in 2005 to 804 last year. The other aspect is that almost all of these deaths are from Maoist violence and from army operations in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), not violence, by what are called Islamists.
And even in these three areas, the number of Indians being killed is in sharp decline. Deaths in Maoist violence were 367 last year (of whom 117 were terrorists, according to SATP). This is down from 602 in 2011 and 1,180 the year before that.
J&K saw 117 deaths last year (of which 84 were terrorists), down from 183 in 2011 and 375 (including 270 terrorists) the year before that. The problem area is the northeast, which we don’t usually think of when we say terror because it is so violent all the time. Here also, the trajectory of violence is downward. The numbers of deaths are 317 last year (including 209 terrorists), 246 in 2011, 322 the year before that, 852 in 2009 and 1,051 in 2008. The most violent state in India is actually Manipur, and most of the “terrorism” related deaths there are from exchanges between army and militants.
The last full year Atal Behari Vajpayee was in power, 2003, as many Indians were killed in terrorist incidents (3,702) as the total for the last three years under Manmohan Singh. How many times have you heard that said before?
This is even more remarkable when we learn that the figures under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) excluded all Maoist violence because that wasn’t compiled under “terrorism” till 2004, when Singh came to power.
Now let us turn to Islamist, Hindutva and other terrorist attacks in our cities. This is the subject the media has been writing and broadcasting about since the Hyderabad attacks, a few days ago. How unsafe are our cities?
Outside of the three areas that we looked at, the total number of Indians killed in all the other states of India is already low and it is falling.
Last year, there were only three deaths (all three terrorists, no civilians) from terrorism in India. That is fewer than those killed from terrorism in the United States that year. In 2011, there were 42 deaths in India; in 2010 there were 25, and only eight in 2009. To put this in some perspective, last year, there were 6,211 deaths from terrorist violence in Pakistan, including the killings of 3,007 civilians and 732 security forces personnel. That wasn’t exceptional and there were 6,303 deaths the year before that, and 7,435 the year before that.
Pakistan is exceptional. But in all the nations of Western Europe, whose combined population is 400 million, or one-third of India’s, the total number of fatalities in terrorist incidents in 10 years after 9/11 was 439. This is not too different from the number for India, excluding those three areas that are disturbed, and even there, as we have seen, India is becoming more peaceful every year. It is correct to say that Indian citizens are as safe as the citizens of Europe and America against Islamist terrorism. You would think that a performance so demonstrably successful would earn Manmohan and his team applause. Instead, we have the inane commentaries that issue from a media that is convinced the Congress is doing something wrong here.
The numbers indicate that the Congress government is doing something spectacularly right, and it was actually the BJP that was soft on terror.
After the violence of 2002, in Gujarat, there began a spate of attacks against Gujaratis in Bombay. There were bombings in Zaveri Bazaar and Ghatkopar. The man investigating these, Rakesh Maria, told me then that the attacks would continue for a very long time. He worried that because there was such anger among Muslims for what was happening in Gujarat, ordinary people were taking to violence. But this violence soon stopped.
It did because there is also another side to India, the larger side, which is inclusive and secular. It cancelled out the viciousness of Gujarat, and it always will.