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J. Singh asked: Who is more dangerous for India Islamic Terrorism, Hindu Terrorism or Naxal?

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  • S. Kalyanraman replies: Naxals pose the more serious challenge to India today because they seem to enjoy a measure of popular support particuarly among the tribal people. Naxals have gained popular support among the tribals because they have taken up the tribal cause and tribal discontent -- tribal peoples in India's heartland feel that they have not adequately benefited from the mineral wealth being extracted from their "land"; and that they have been generally neglected by the government which has not been providing them with governanance and civic amenities; etc. Popular support has enabled Naxals to expand their armed cadre, given them the advantage of operating more freely in tribal-dominated areas and to gather adequate intelligence about the movements of the security forces. If the Naxals manage to consolidate their presence and entrench themselves in these areas, then it will be natural for them to seek to expand the areas under their influence. While it may be too early to say whether the Naxals will be able to expand thus, what can be said with greater assurance is that a Naxal consolidation in tribal areas will prolong the insurgency, militarise the people of the area, and generally hold back the region's and the country's progress.

    In contrast, neither militant Islamists nor Hindu radicals enjoy any degree of popular support within India, which makes them that much less dangerous. But this is not to discount that they pose a serious security challenge given that they mainly target innocenet civilians in places of worship, markets, suburban trains, hotels, etc. Here, the threat from militant Islamists is more dangerous than that posed by Hindu radicals because militant Islamists are much better organised and trained and linked, going back to the Afghan jihad of the 1980s. India faces a terrorist threat not only from Indian militant Islamists but also from Pakistani militant Islamists. In addition, linkages exist between Indian and Pakistani militant Islamists on one hand and criminal networks like the D-Company on the other. And all these actors have links with the Pakistani Establishment -- Dawood and his lieutenants are based in Karachi and are under Pakistan's protection, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and other anti-India groups continue to enjoy protection in Pakistan, and Indian Islamists receive training in Pakistan and their travel is facilitated by Indian criminal networks.

    In contrast, Hindu radicals are new to this game, and, under the present circumstances, it appears unlikely that there will be state support or international support for the organisation of a group or groups committed to waging a holy war of any sort. Nor do these groups appear to enjoy any popular support.