23 April, 2010

The Bad War

Newsline 24 April 2010, http://www.newslinemagazine.com/2010/04/the-bad-war/

Boloji 27 April 2010,

Uday India 07 May 2010,

War is bad. Isn’t it a platitude to reaffirm and reassert this aphorism? However, the war that we are focusing on in the world’s largest democracy is not a war having simple connotations.

It is a war emanating from within. It is a war which engulfs about a third of the landmass. It is a war which makes the marginalized tribal groups squeal.
It is a war which perturbs the mind of the ordinary citizenry in the sprawling conurbations. It is a war with divided opinions. It is a war by virtue of which the country’s Home Minister proposes to put down his papers. And it is a war where even the Armed forces are not overtly willing to take part.

Nonetheless, it is a war. And it is being fought in the ‘fat strip’ of land hanging from the Indo-Nepal border down to Nizam’s Hyderabad; oh no, Sania Mirza’s Hyderabad. The capital of the insurgency is concentrated in the dense forests of Dandakaranya in the Central Indian province of Chhattisgarh. Adding spice to the meaty war, Chhattisgarh is ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the major opposition to the ruling coalition in New Delhi led by the Indian National Congress (INC). Thus, BJP and INC may bicker on every trivial issue umpteen numbers of times at every nook and corner of the sub-continent; but on this very aspect are exhibiting strong resilience and camaraderie.

Now, who are the protagonists in this war? Activists and sympathizers say the tribals are spearheading the movement whereas the ruling elite castigate a group of ‘hoodlums’ termed as the Maoists to be behind this mayhem. The sleeping power structures of India have been forced to wake up and take into cognizance the increasing ‘threat scenario’ lurking around the socio-political dimensions of the nation. After all, 200 districts out of 600 are feeling the soaring temperatures of Improvised Explosive Devices, Pressure Bombs and Light Machine Guns; sometimes sophistication galore through the Insas and AK-47 rifles.

Skirmishes between security forces, basically police and the paramilitary on one side and the tribal-ultra combo on the other have consumed countably finite lives since 2004; when the resurrection of the Maoist activity in India took place.

But, surpassing limitations and belying imaginations, the Leftist ultras have dented the pride and esteem of the security forces on a number of occasions.

Nevertheless, the latest blow inflicted on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the wee hours of Tuesday 06 April, has surely given the biggest ever conceivable jolt to the authorities since 1967, when the ephemeral and chimerical ‘revolution’ actually started off. A bunch of urban intellectuals centered in Kolkata manned the movement; effortlessly embraced their tribal brethren in the hinterlands and dreamt of overthrowing the vestiges of the colonial form of ‘parliamentary democracy’.

Political equations have evolved since then. Dynamics, both intra-party doctrinal conflicts amongst the splinter groups of the Maoists as well as their ‘territorial spread’ and ‘hold’ on the psyche of the tribal population, have also undergone robust structural changes. Rapid economic growth in the cities has to a large extent widened the gulf betwixt the rich and the poor in India. Hence, poverty thrives in the majority of the areas which makes these places more vulnerable to insurgency; non-violence being a largely outmoded option, long buried in the coffins of Satyagraha of pre-independent India.

Now, the talk of the town at the present juncture is obviously not the justification of the insurgency or evaluation of the exactitude of the government’s anti-insurgency policy; rather the present imbroglio that has cropped up after the mass assassination of the CRPF personnel on 06 April needs to be strategically measured.

Security analysts and former army personnel have left no stone unturned in chastising the lack of preparedness of the CRPF jawans, in criticizing their top brass for improper assessment of the ground situation and in clobbering the infrastructural architecture of the region: for instance, a CRPF jawan has to tread an arduous 3 km to access water; potability being a remote possibility.

The ‘atomic salary’ not being commensurate with the demands of the job, mass murder of this unprecedented scale is bound to de-scale the morale of the paramilitary.

Few pertinent questions still need to be answered. By whom, is not a matter of strangeness at all.

First, what was or is the role of the state police in combating the terror unleashed by the Leftist ultras. Since law and order is a state subject as per the Constitution, the affected states have to take up the cudgels and not ‘pass the buck onto the Union government’.

Amusingly, on the day of carnage which left around 75 CRPF personnel in the graveyard, there was hardly a sizeable contingent of state police along with them. As a matter of fact, only one state police personnel were butchered. The 62nd battalion of the CRPF, half of which was assassinated had gone for a ‘combined operation’ of area domination(1) in the core Maoist belt. Does this indicate that the state police are not efficient enough to be included in such ‘combined’ operations or is the CRPF taking up too much responsibility?

Furthermore, the CRPF came back along the same route which evidently made them fall into the trap set by the Maoists who are extremely adept in that forested topography. The ambush was carried out to the finest precision. There were only 7 survivors to tell the macabre tale. The CRPF jawans were so terrorized that the first estimate of the numerical strength of the ultras which they presumed was close to 1000.

This is something which warrants surprise and rightly so. The basic tenets of Guerrilla Warfare do not recommend so many troops when they are fighting in a favourable terrain. Definitely, the forests and hills are their favourable domains and moreover, the village of Chintalnar-Tarmetia, where the paramilitary was actually ambushed at around 7 am in the morning is part of the core area of the Maoists.

In fact, the legendary revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara opines: “the aggressiveness of the Guerrilla band can be greater in such a terrain on account of the difficulties that the enemy faces in bringing in reinforcements. They can get closer to the enemy, fight much more directly, more frontally and for a longer time with very few guerrillas”. (pg 33, Guerrilla Warfare).

The experienced Guevara’s tactical reading has to be spot on. Later reports do indicate that about 200 to 300 guerrillas had surrounded the security forces. Also, the reinforcements to the paramilitary arrived quite late. By then the ultras had clinically finished their key job and even completed their ancillary work of looting the ammunition of the opponents.

Underdevelopment or overexploitation, a serious tribal insurgency or a petty ideological upheaval, counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism; jargons have overflowed the jar containing solution and analyses.

Well, how will the government react now? If spontaneity had prevailed, then the authorities would have stepped up the combing operations, brought in more troops into the region and even used the aid of the Armed forces for logistical purposes. But these did not happen due to multifarious reasons. Firstly, the morale of the security forces has been severely dented and if we go by recent media reports then one is led to believe that the CRPF is not really enthusiastic in carrying forward with the present operations against the ultras.

Secondly, the option of using the Armed forces received a jolt when India’s Army General uttered caustic rhetoric regarding deploying them ‘against their own people’. And thirdly, though the ‘wise heads’ of New Delhi have tripped on many occasions in dealing with internal insurgency, by no stretch of imagination are they fools. Presently, they are playing a ‘wait and watch’ game and most probably would strike back when the militants would be off-guard. But for that to happen, Indian security forces need to have a strong foundation in Jungle Warfare Tactics; from the bottom to the top echelons of the elite forces. And for all practical purposes, that would require a considerable amount of time.

Prima facie being a potent weaponry, but deployment of the Army is not a feasible option as that would by all means aggravate the wound.

In this scenario, how shall the militants respond?

The militants have made their stand pretty clear. They have vowed that if the government does not release their top leaders and not halt the ongoing operations, they would continue to harass and heckle the security forces at different points in space and time. If it is Chattisgarh now, it can be West Bengal (eastern province of India) or even Maharashtra (western province) later. It is no clandestine affair that guerrilla tactics thrive on ‘unpredictability’ and the Indian Maoists would tend to hold that line in near future.

Undoubtedly, the fall in security situation does not augur well for development of tourism and foreign as well as domestic investment. As sources of foreign exchange and rejuvenating factors of the economy, these need to be bolstered. Thus the containment of this lethal insurrection is a sine qua non for the maintenance of Indian economy. Interestingly, even indigenous corporate houses have come up with solutions to tackle this imbroglio. For instance, Tata Steel has called for social infrastructure development in the Maoist areas. Already, ITC has served the peasant community by introducing agri-marketing through Information Technology.

Whether it is a jawan or a tribal-transformed Maoist, whoever falls, it’s ultimately an Indian which succumbs. Isn’t it the onus of all the Indians to put an end to the ongoing anarchy before the ‘bad war’ reaches its ne plus ultra?

Till then, the war shall go on, somewhat sporadically, in the arboreous heartlands of the sub-continent, with masses falling like hairpins.

Before winding up, the writer would prefer to humbly suggest the following:

Kindly bring the ultras to the negotiating table. Yes, that portends the danger of letting them regroup and invigorate. Officials experienced with dealing the Maoists in Andhra Pradesh would bludgeon this argument. Nevertheless, talking seems to be a fair option. But it won’t be unwise to talk to the ultras from a ‘position of strength’.

But how to define ‘a position of strength’? May be a major counter-offensive by the police and paramilitary in some other stronghold of the Maoists would confer that position on the authorities. Then again, the cycle of revenge may go on in an unending fashion.

It is noteworthy that ‘talking’ to the Leftists shall grant ‘time’ to the government too; something which is necessary so as to devise a coherent policy framework.

The ‘Andhra Model’ of tackling the Maoists by unleashing ‘terror versus terror’ may be kept in the reserve, lest the talks fail. The elite ‘Greyhound’ anti-insurgency forces built by Andhra Pradesh in the 1990s paid rich dividends in terms of obliterating the Maoists from that province. By all probability, personnel from that force can ‘coach’ the state police.

But the ‘den’ of the ultras should not be attacked. Rather, the peripheral outgrowths in other provinces should be pruned off first.

The guerrillas plan to ‘circle out’ and capture the Indian cities. The authorities should ‘circle in’ and capture their redoubts.

Human intelligence network of the police has to be improved. To achieve that, if needed even ‘bribing’ the local population to alienate them from the ‘core elements’ can be tried. But a grisly methodology like the ‘Salwa Judum’ (using tribals against the Maoists by supplying arms to them) has to be resisted.

Now for all these to fructify, the training procedure of the security forces has to be revamped. The political will has to be discovered. Unity of command needs to be coordinated.

A mammoth job indeed.

1: “CRPF team had just no chance: Dantewada SP”, Rajeev Deshpande, Times of India, April 7 2010, pg 6

10 April, 2010

All Jungle No Mahal

The following piece has been published in "Uday India", Vol 1, No 18, April 17 2010

Abstract: This essay is a non-partisan attempt to present a critique of the ruling power-elite of West Bengal. It delves into the underlying causes of the emaciated state of Bengal. Furthermore, the piece forebodes a ‘change’ in the offing.

If one ambles around the streets of Kolkata these days, he is bound to see a change amidst the infrastructural bouillabaisse that one is so accustomed with. A glance toward the main road (still recuperating from the inherent damage that it suffered when first constructed) shall bring into view the preened new buses, quite contrasting in style and make-up compared to the ramshackle old ones.

These are the products of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). They have been unleashed in the City of Palaces quite recently.

In fact, some of them are fully air-conditioned, a matter of immense delight for the Kolkata-ites; since time immemorial they are undergoing a life of penance and austerity. In that life of theirs, it was routine to save electricity and supply it to richer but ‘wanting’ provinces while they themselves burnt candles and carried lanterns.

Hence, to expect air-conditioning while commuting is to go to the extreme levels of hedonism.

It would be better to shake the memories. The Calcutta Metro Rail (underground railway), at the time of commencement, had air-conditioning. With time, the “Calcuttans” have become ‘conditioned’ to accept the non-existent.

If anybody thought the ‘bad days’ are over for Kolkata in particular and Bengal (the term West Bengal has become cliché, let’s use Bengal) in general, there is a catch. The prices of the tickets of these AC JNNURM buses are on the higher side. And very few Kolkata-ites have struggled to improve on their pay-package, exceptions notwithstanding.

The result? The beggarly haggard would slaver when he has the sight of the ‘running limousine’ but ‘financially coerced’ to jump onto the decrepit chassis.

Since 1977, Bengal has maintained the status quo: in terms of lack of industrialization, dilapidation of the education system and enrichment of the cadre-strength of the ruling party.

Bengal has shown utter disregard to improve the wherewithal of agriculture, power and infrastructure. And consequently stagnation of jobs has been the order of the day.

But surely, Bengal has mustered a few things, which is worthy to be emulated for any power-elite. It has shown the world how to ‘rule’ in the guise of ‘people’s friend’, without disclosing the stratagems (at least the ruling elite thought so!).

The process of manipulation was simple and not ahistorical. It did not demand any hyperingenuity. Still, it had to be implemented.

Therefore, one has to prostrate in front of those ‘geniuses’ of Bengal who really brought the plan to fruition.

The theorization of controlling the state machinery under the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is extant. Who can forget Lenin’s thesis: “Party as vanguard of the Revolution”. The stalwart had faced contestations on this contentious issue from none other than his German compatriot Rosa Luxembourg. It is quite possible if Lenin had not expired so early, he might have reconciled with Rosa’s ideas later on. He was pragmatic enough. In fact, just after the Bolshevik Revolution, he adapted the bourgeoisie New Economic Policy, in order to stabilize Soviet Union.

But the communists of Bengal, primarily those who joined the party after the revolution in 1977, neither belonged to the same league as of the members of the then Bolshevik Party, nor had to go through an exertion to purify themselves. They kept on and still keep on proclaiming about the legendary Mao Zedong’s “Long March”. But they are nothing but windbags and their version of the ‘march’ is to proceed toward the Maidan in Central Kolkata and jam the roads and bring the whole city to a standstill.

And that has what has been in Bengal and Kolkata for the last three decades.
The citizens’ minds have been so amputated that even a single “Nandan” has been interpreted to be an amphitheatre and a single football stadium accommodating hordes has been projected as the ‘Garden of Eden’.

Nobody has bothered that there is not a single urban conurbation in Bengal which can be compared to even the collapsing Kolkata. Nobody has exhibited grievance against the daily bouts of power-cuts. Nobody uttered a single word against the blatant nepotism in the recruitment process of the judiciary, education et al. And nobody recriminated when the muscular communists of Bengal termed Netaji as the ‘quisling’. Just nobody.

Nirad Chowdhury had lamented in his “Autobiography of the Unknown Indian” when the trams of Calcutta were burnt during the freedom movement. This perception of his may be construed as blasphemous but ‘burning trams and buses’, breaking anything constructive and useful has become a culture in the last three burdensome decades for Bengal.

The countryside was deliberately kept ‘countryside’, distanced from the only city and towns were nobbled from growing into cities. The ‘outsider’ was asked to believe in the mysticism of the ‘fertile soil’ while the economist and the agronomist were befooled alike.

This mammoth task was achieved by inculcating the spirit of the 1977 revolution in the minds of the citizenry, stoking the so-called ‘cultural revolution’ along the lines of Mao Zedong and building a potent group of ‘cadres’ whose sole aim was to sustain the party structure and nothing else. The cadres and their families got the share of the pie while ‘others’ were simply alienated and forced to lead a life of penury.

A systematic build-up on these lines makes even Lenin salute the Bengal Communists and their cohorts.

Perhaps, some ‘light’ peeps in through the dark clouds. Like the JNNURM AC buses, like the burgeoning engineering colleges, like a few IT firms, like some ‘Pizza Huts’; items the communists have been forced to co-opt under the market forces. Well, after all Soviet Union collapsed and China survived by implementing ‘State controlled Capitalism’ and at the end of the day, our Bengal communists have been only blind followers of either China or USSR since the days of the Communist International.

However, the ‘light’ is not the modicum of capitalist items imported to the ‘land of the red’. Rather, the ‘light’ is the change in mindset of the masses, of the proletariat, of the ‘subalterns’; whom the communists vowed to protect, nurture and uplift to the utopia of communism: where ‘from each according to his faculty, and to each according to his need’.

The communists doctored the ‘needs’ of these ‘subalterns’, infiltrated in their domestic domains and stymied ‘their growth’.

Time seems to be up. The power-elite of Bengal is feeling the palpable ‘heat’ of ‘change’. The ‘change’ is not merely at the top. It shall not be just a ‘defeat’ at the assembly polls. It shall not be just the ‘juggernaut’ of the opposition party. Rather, it is the ‘change’ of ‘attitude’ of the ‘subalterns’.

Whether it is the Maoist-dominated Jangalmahal area or the Sundarbans or Darjeeling or the townships or Kolkata itself, the ‘change’ is visible. The ‘subalterns’, after decades of repression and arm-twisting which choked their vocal-chords, are gradually breaking the ‘communist’, rather the ‘Stalinist’ yoke.

Today if there is a prolonged power-cut, the ‘subaltern’ has the temerity to come out of his ‘hut’ and block the road. Today, he generates the steam to defy the diktat of a party-goon. And today he can march with impudence toward the Writer’s Building housing the babudom and their patriarchs.

A ‘subaltern’ in Bengal has invigorated himself.

This ‘change’ might be very well and quite naturally be cashed on in by the opposition in the coming assembly elections. In fact, the coalition did a similar thing in the concluded Lok Sabha polls. But the bells of warning need to be appreciated by the opposition too. A mileage in the elections may turn out to be an elegy in the long run if they too falter in the ‘path to deliverance’.

It has been all jungle-raaj here in Bengal for the last three decades. Mahals have been brought to dust, slowly but surely. The City of Palaces, through a quirk of fate has been reduced to an ‘urban disaster’. This has not been a ‘joyous’ phenomenon for Bengal’s masses.

The state has acted as a Goliath. Today, the Davids of Bengal are unidirectional in their approach and unequivocal in their assertion.

Can Bengal again have a set of palaces? Will the jungle-raaj evaporate? Or is this a quixotic desire?

01 April, 2010

Nuclear Energy from 823 Corpses

Published in Global Politician (01/04/2010)http://www.globalpolitician.com/26328-india
Uddipan Mukherjee, Ph.D. - 4/1/2010

Yesterday my friend was narrating the story line of a blockbuster Bollywood movie. As usual, it went like this. Once upon a time on the hills, a wealthy father had two sons. The elder one was sheepish and stolid whereas the younger one was rambunctious and hence unwieldy. One day, few bandits attacked their mansion. Actually they were in cahoots with the younger son. Since he was a cunning fellow, he fought and drove them away exhibiting histrionics. On the other hand, the elder one was slow to react and was dumbfounded in the process. The father was naturally too pleased with his younger son and proffered opulence to him. However, he was seized by greed and sought a blank cheque instead.

Aggravating frustration, my friend had to leave on an emergency, leaving the story unfinished at that critical juncture.

If you are not at all bewildered by the innovation of the script, no Oscar jury would express wonder either. Since you very well know that the above story conforms to reality, rather to a stark reality. And that pertains to the family of USA, India and Pakistan. No guesses for fitting in the characters though.

Pakistan has displayed perfect political acumen in 2009 vis-à-vis India in handling USA. Moreover, the Obama administration, since its inception has not been skewed toward the ‘Snorting Elephant’; quite unlike its predecessor George Bush Junior.

Furthermore, Pakistan received few full tosses, which were bestowed to it by both providence as well as its past deeds. Nevertheless, it bludgeoned those full tosses with impunity. Invasion of Swat was the first hit. But the second one was more productive as it had a direct bearing with US interests in Afghanistan. And the third hit crossed the boundary with élan. Presently, Pakistan is cruising towards victory. Still it needs to be cautious.

After Swat, the ground attack of the Pakistani Army in South Waziristan was crucial in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). They started the Operation Rah-i-Nijat (Path to Deliverance) on 17 October 2009 amidst a lot of speculation by media, analysts and the US government. The attitude of the military elite under Kayani was not beyond doubt. As time progressed, the zone of conflict spread to other agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); like North Waziristan, Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai.

US pressure was relentless and the Pakistanis had to comply. They not only adhered to the US dictates but also yielded more fruits as they clamped down on the top notch Taliban leadership like Mullah Baradar; which dealt a heavy blow to the Taliban Shura based in Quetta. Now, it doesn’t require only the US intelligence and General McChrystal to repeatedly stress on the need to dismantle the Quetta Shura so as to facilitate a smooth power transfer to Karzai’s fledgling cabinet.

On the eastern side of the Indus river, comfortably housed within the confines of South Block, the ‘wise heads’ of New Delhi could hardly chalk out the contours of policy required to handle the Af-Pak region. They stumbled and rambled but hardly gambled with a post-1991 foreign policy. Or did they at all have any such policy to play with?

Recent news is that the ‘wise heads’ of New Delhi have started crafting a ‘new’ ‘Afghan policy’! According to reports, New Delhi may even be ready to talk to the ‘reactionary’ Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami group headed by Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. That too while continuing their dalliance with the Northern Alliance. How would these contrasting and mutually antagonistic moves be reconciled is another question altogether.

The result of India’s inaction in Afghanistan has crudely manifested when Pakistan’s Foreign Minister smiled at the US Secretary of State, shook hands with her and even had the audacity to dwell upon a ludicrous 56-page ‘wish list’. Washington too, was flirtatious with its ‘tottering ally’ with not merely the assurance of weaponry, drone technology or dollars; rather pierced the comfort zone of South Block by allowing Qureshi to proclaim about a Pak-US civilian nuclear deal in the offing, in line with the Indo-US 123 deal.

From 2001 to 2004, India’s Prime Minister; the geriatric Vajpayee provided the momentum for an invigorated Indo-US camaraderie by igniting the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership. The move paid off handsomely for India, both technologically and in terms of political mileage; when after about five years the civilian nuclear deal fructified. India was too pacified with it and more so as US assured a ‘no-deal’ to Pakistan.

Well, India has just not been able to de-link itself from its amputated body part since 1947 and hence keeps on comparing itself to the ‘Land of Jinnah’.

2010 gives a bitter twist to the status-quo. It’s now Pakistan which has pulled off a victory through the Strategic Dialogue with White House. There’s no need to watch the ‘Next Steps’ with a telescope. They would be visibly clear but the issue of consideration here is whether Pakistan can clinch a Nuke Deal like that of India’s?

Going by Pakistan’s credibility (A Q Khan issue and the territory being the breeding ground for extremists), this seems the ‘remotest of remote’ cases. However, ‘Realpolitik’ knows no bounds and ethics and morality can muster no force against the Realist Doctrine in International Relations.

Obama needs a feasible but ‘imperious’ ‘exit path’ from the ‘Graveyard of Empires’. And if the Kayani-Zardari-Gilani triumvirate can provide him such a route, clear it by sweeping away the pebbles and microliths; then anything is possible.

It may be beyond rational expectations the kind of gift and honour that Pakistan can generate through years of hobnobbing with the neo-imperialists.

When Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik was bloating in the Parliament that 823 militants have perished during the last five months in the Operation Rah-i-Nijat, the numbers being contested by his opposition colleagues; the trumpets had already been blown in front of her Highness Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Benjamin Franklin Room and concessions prayed for.

Is the Pakistani establishment honestly worried about its power-starved masses or is it merely wishing a political parity with its ‘childhood enemy’?

Would the Obama regime so easily allow its errant son or even for that matter its bovine son to run away with the nuclear stockpile without putting their thumb impressions on the asymmetric charter infamously called the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Uddipan Mukherjee has a PhD from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in the Department of Atomic Energy, India.

Don't Forget the Tajik Elections

March 29, 2010
By Uddipan Mukherjee, Guest Contributor

Amidst the election hullabaloo in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Iraq, the parliamentary election in the Central Asian state of Tajikistan proceeded with scant notice by international media.

Truthfully, the elections were too predictable to warrant much coverage. President Emomali Rahmon’s National Democratic Party of Tajikistan commanded the polls, as has always been the case, in post-Soviet Tajikistan; his entourage nonchalantly bagged 55 of the 63 parliament seats.

Rahmon overtly detests any remnant of the Soviet-era. Three years ago he even changed his surname from the Soviet-esque, “Rahmonov” to the more indigenous, “Rahmon.” Behind this façade, however, Rahmon mans his nation’s helm like a Soviet-style Communist Supremo—flouting democratic norms openly.

The man has quite literally ruled Tajikistan since 1992. He clenched power in three consecutive Presidential elections: 1994, 1999, and 2006 and has conveniently altered the Constitution to extend the presidential term from five to seven years.

Almost all opposition parties were banned by the Rahmon government in late 1992, with most Islamic activists exiled. While Political opposition does exist in the country today, it functions without any discernible effect. The Islamic Renaissance Party or the Islamic Revival Party (IRP), championed by Muhiddin Kabiri, protested alleged fraud and irregularities in the recent February parliamentary election, but has been wholly ignored.

Indeed, under the direction of Rahmon, the electoral democracy of Tajikistan has yet to see the light of the day. The United States, along with the Organization for Security and Cooperation’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, observed that the February 28 election “was beset by procedural irregularities and fraud, including cases of ballot stuffing”. Other electoral malpractice like use of coercion against the opposition candidates has also been reported.

Rahmon is poised to maintain power through his political musculature for many years to come. The moot point is whether the current situation in his country is fuelling any socio-political flutters.

At the very outset, Tajikistan’s history in the post-Soviet domination is indicative of a rebellious mindset amongst its citizenry. Furthermore, though secularism is part of its socio-cultural fabric, Tajikistan may turn to Islamism in the long run if there is a continuance of dictatorship. Lastly, neighboring Afghanistan is already squealing under the influence of Taliban-Al Qaeda and hence a corollary of that conflict is a spillover across the river Panj to Tajikistan. This scenario is more probable now as the United States is using the Central Asian territory to supply non-military goods to its troops in Afghanistan in the form of the infrastructure called Northern Distribution Network.

Thus it may be inferred that entropy could slowly be increasing in Tajikistan and the potentialities of chaos do exist. With the present war in Afghanistan taking ominous proportions and disgruntled Tajik youth returning from Russia due to lack of economic activity, the interiors of Tajikistan may turn out to be a cauldron of conflicts.

Divestment of political powers and democratic reforms must be adopted by the present dispensation to pacify matters. If not, an Orange Revolution might not be totally ruled out, at least on a theoretical plane.

It remains to be seen how the international players, especially United States takes cognizance of the state of affairs in the region.

Mukherjee holds a doctoral degree from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai (under Department of Atomic Energy of India). He is a Columnist at UPI Asia.com and has published widely in global publications. Presently he writes on International Relations and security issues pertaining to India.


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