Disturbing trend

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The spurt in the incidents of communal violence across the country must serve as a wake-up call for the government. The Union Home Ministry’s 2017-18 annual report makes a disturbing reading. It points out that the incidents of communal violence rose by 16% in 2017 as compared with the previous year.

Communalism is rearing its ugly head in different parts of the country as a direct fallout of religion dominating the politics. Unless nipped in the bud, the fanatic elements could pose a grave threat to the social fabric of the nation and undermine social harmony.

During 2017, as many as 822 communal incidents were reported in the country in which 111 people lost their lives and 2,384 people were injured. In 2016, 703 incidents took place in the country, resulting in 86 deaths and injuries to 2,321 people.

What is of particular concern is the way the festivals, meant to be pious occasions, are sought to be used as tools to whip up communal passions as was seen in West Bengal during Ram Navami celebrations. The growing attacks on Dalits and the belligerence of cow vigilantes have created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.

The rise in self-proclaimed guardians of culture targeting vulnerable sections, in the name of cow vigilantism, is an extremely worrying trend. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal have been witnessing a growing number of communal incidents.

In the strife-torn Jammu & Kashmir, the civilian fatalities have gone up over 166% and there was a 42% rise in the number of terrorists neutralised in 2017 as compared with 2016. In 2017, there were 342 violent incidents in the State, in which 80 security personnel, 40 civilians and 213 terrorists were killed.

While the situation has clearly worsened in the Kashmir Valley with home-grown radicalised youth joining the militancy in larger numbers, the incidence of violence in the naxalite-affected areas and North East came down during the year.

Contrary to the official claim that the demonetisation had a crippling effect on terrorist activities, there has been a spike in infiltration attempts from Pakistan, from 371 in 2016 to 406 in 2017. There is a need for greater coordination and intelligence sharing among various security-related agencies to safeguard the country from cross-border terrorism and to curb militancy.

For the first time in the last decade, local militants have outnumbered foreign terrorists in the Valley. The growing radicalisation of local youth, fuelled by hatred for India and an illusion of utopia, is a matter of serious concern. The ‘Azadi’ sentiment is now steadily transforming itself into a radical Islamist movement. The rise of a new breed of militants — educated and tech-savvy — is the disturbing new reality.