Civilians are Dying

War or Peace civilians are dying in ever growing political violence across the globe. Violence may be variously described as ethnic, religious, communal, sectarian, Maoist, racist and all that but the end result is nothing but death. To be precise it is civilian death even in areas where security forces are combating militants or ‘terrorists’. How many families have been shattered due to political violence is not known.

Most middle-east nations are plagued by continuing political violence—a legacy of American gun culture. Since the 2011 US troops withdrawal, Iraq has been in a state of perennial violent atmosphere. People are divided on sectarian lines and sectarian violence is the major concern of peace-loving citizens. Not a single day passes without some regions being bombed by militants having the dubious distinction of being al-Qaida inspired or led by some hostile religious sect. Deaths in political violence in Iraq are staggering. UN figures showed that last year Iraq saw the highest death toll in attacks, with 8,868 people, ordinary people from different walks of life killed. There is no authentic figure about the injured but the number may be awesome. Just on the eve of the 30th April Parliamentary Poll Iraqi capital Baghdad witnessed several suicide and car-bombings in which dozens of people died. In the second week of April car bombs hit several, mostly shiite neighbourhoods of Baghdad, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens. Uncle Sam won’t allow Iraqis to live in peace, they are permanently divided on religio-sectarian lines and political violence is a way of life for hundreds of thousands of heavily armed militant groups, many of them were created by America during the Iraq war.

Nearer home Pakistan too is facing an identical scenario. Winter or Summer, some places of worship, or busy markets are being bombed by suicide squads owing allegiance to different militant outfits. On April 9, a powerful bomb ripped through a bristling fruit and vegetable market killing no less than 23 people and injuring over 100 others in one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan‘s capital Islamabad. Ironically this dastardly attack came at a time when the government of Pakistan was negotiating cease-fire and peace with Tehrik-e-Taliban (Pakistan) (TTP)—the main actor in anti-government violent campaign in Pakistan. Over the past one decade, 40,000 Pakistani civilians lost their lives in such attacks, and cross-fire between security forces and militants. Many say this is a conservative estimate, actual figures are much higher.

In India, how civilians are caught in a bind, particularly in the states of J&K, NE and Chattisgarh frequently gets media attention and yet death toll of civilians because of never-ending political violence is on the rise. They are dying in naxalite-related violence as well, without being noticed by any authority other than human rights bodies.

Over the last three decades, Maoist-Naxal violence has been raging across various states in India. As many as 11,742 civilians have been killed in Naxal violence between 1980 to June 2013. The political ultras suffered 4638 casualties, and the security forces lost 2947 personnel, during the period. Almost two-thirds of the deaths have been recorded from 2004 to 2013. Around 1797 security personnel were killed by the Naxals during the period. The attrition of security forces has been maximum during the UPA-I and UPA-II regimes. 40% of the fatal casualties suffered by civilians were recorded during the UPA regimes. Only one-third of the Naxals killed, from 1980 till June 2013, were recorded during the UPA regimes. From 2005 onwards, the casualties suffered by the security forces rose sharply. Between 2004 and 2012, an average of about 500 civilians were killed every year. The Naxals lost 296 ultras in 1998, the maximum number of fatal casualties for any year. The core capabilities of the Maoists have remained intact. Their lethal powers have been improvised over the years, inflicting higher fatal casualties on security forces personnel, trained in counter insurgency.

Relatives of slain policemen get compensation but it is not the case for civilians. Nobody raises the issue in any forum.

Vol. 46, No. 42, Apr 27 - May 3, 2014