We pride ourselves on being free citizens of the world’s largest democracy. But the truth of the matter is, our freedom can go for a toss any moment and what passes as liberty is somewhat of a watered-down version.
Squeezed between two belligerent neighbours and riddled with numerous internal security threats, our sovereign status might even appear rather precarious.
Acutely aware of the fact, successive Indian governments have been pouring billions into the defence sector. Military capability has been ramped up and modernised and nuclear weapons have been built. So much so that India is now the fourth largest defence spender in the world after the United States, the United Kingdom and China. Governments have also adopted other strict measures to promote internal security.
However, the important question is: will this be sufficient guarantee against external and internal threats?
So as we prepare to pay tributes to the martyrs who made our freedom possible and soldiers who fortify our borders this 71st Independence Day, a closer look at the imminent danger to our nation is pertinent to better appreciate our privileges.
It’s no secret India’s bilateral relations with China and Pakistan have been tenuous at best. There have been instances of war with both of them and the fact that China and Pakistan consider themselves to be allies, should actually get us worried sick.
When it comes to China, poorly demarcated borders across remote mountainous tracts have been the bone of contention. Way back in 1962, it was a border issue that plunged the two nations into a full-blown war. Since then, similar problems have continued to simmer threatening to culminate into a military conflict anytime.
And, even as you read this, one such stand-off over the border at Doklam – a region in Bhutan where the Chinese troops attempt to construct a road has been stalled by Indian and Bhutanese troops – is being played out. While both sides have refrained from military confrontation so far, tensions continue to mount.
Against such a backdrop, one shudders to think what havoc a war between the two large nations, with a population of about 1.3 billion each, not to mention dozens of nuclear warheads, will create. Especially so, with India falling far short of ammo – despite having built up a formidable weaponry – to match the Chinese military might.
India and China are also competing on the global platform for the tag of the fastest growing largest economy – something that has led to China building a network of military and commercial facilities in the countries on the Indian Ocean, which India considers as its backyard. More reason for us to be unnerved.
What makes it grimmer is the fact that our arch rival, Pakistan buys about 35 percent of the arms sold by China. In fact, thanks to Pakistan, China is now the third-largest arms exporter in the world. Bangladesh, again, accounts for 20 percent sales of Chinese arms and ammunition.
Given our long standing tussle over Kashmir with Pakistan, dating back to pre-Independence era, any flare-up over it can be highly disadvantageous to India, if China sides with Pakistan (as it is wont to do).
Pakistan, already, to a great extent, has kept the Indian government on tenterhooks by importing insurgents since 1989 and fomenting Kashmiri dissidents. The beautiful state, called ‘heaven on earth’, remains embroiled in violence, with locals blaming the police and the CRPF of cruelty and vice-versa. Already, the two nations have been involved in three wars over the disputed Kashmir valley.
Seventy-one years down the line, Pakistan and China continue to remain two biggest threats to a free India. A war with any of them can lead to an existential crisis for us, result in enormous casualties, besides obliterating whatever growth we have achieved so far.
You’d be naïve to assume that external threats are the only ones having the potential to undermine India’s freedom. The nation has a number of home grown security challenges to tackle as well.
Take, for example, the Maoists, also known as left-wing extremists. They have continued to spread terror mostly in the poverty-stricken, underdeveloped regions in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.
Even though the government claims the threat from the leftist rebels have come down on account of Maoist top-rung leaders being almost eliminated, the threat may well be far from over, reason being central security agencies are still unaware about the second-rung of leaders, leaving them at a strategic disadvantage.
Besides, brutal attacks by Maoists continue to make headlines. It is said 67 personnel have been killed by the rebels in the first six months of this year. Compare this with the 65 murders in the entire of 2016.
The worst affected in the Maoist insurgency, however, are the hapless villagers. They are tortured by both the military and rebels on suspicions of being informers of the opposite parties. With little development in the red corridor – areas in which Naxalite rebels are most active – the word ‘freedom’ makes little sense for its inhabitants.
While Maoists continue to spread terror in far flung rural pockets, the urban dwellers are not safe either. Murders, rapes and dowry deaths are on the rise. Reports reveal that number of rapes has more than tripled in the past five years in the National Capital Region, comprising New Delhi and its adjacent urban areas, and 21 dowry related deaths occur in India every day, with conviction rates as less as 35 percent.
Public lynching and brazen moral policing – antithesis of a free democratic society – make headlines every now and then. The ‘saffron brigade’ has been attacked and even killed minority community members suspected of having beef, or selling cows for slaughter – all in the name of religion (Hindus consider cows as holy animals).
The Modi government had even imposed a ban on the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter at animal markets in India in May, which the Supreme Court later rejected. All these have served to create religious disharmony and is taking away a part of our freedom.
Not to forget, the anti-Romeo squads in Uttar Pradesh. Initiated by the state’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath to make it safer for women, it soon devolved into moral policing, resulting in unwanted harassment of men. This sure is no one’s idea of democracy or freedom.