At the two-day BJP National Conclave in New Delhi on January 12, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made the following claim regarding terrorist attacks in India.
Below is the video of Sitharaman’s speech where she makes a number of statements on the achievements of the NDA government, as recorded by ANI:
The meaning behind “major” terrorist attack as derived from this statement seems ambiguous, since it stands without a definition. BOOM looked into available data and information on terror and extremist-related incidents as per the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to examine if Sitharaman was justified in her claims.
Claim Status: False
Based on the data compiled from various reports, the country has witnessed several terror attacks since 2014.
Terrorism in the Indian Hinterland
On June 4, 2015, a group of insurgents ambushed a military convoy in Manipur, killing 20 army personnel. Eleven soldiers were also injured in the attack which was reported by the media as one of the worst attacks on the army in a decade.
On January 2, 2016, terrorists attacked the Pathankot Air Force base with the operation lasting over four days. One civilian and 8 security personnel were killed. After confusing signals sent out by the government over the completion of the operation even as firing continued, six terrorists were finally gunned down, ending one of the most daring operations by terrorists against an Indian Air Force base.
To add insult to injury, on September 18, 2016, four heavily armed terrorists attacked an administrative base of one of the army units in Uri, J&K. 19 security personnel lost their lives, prompting the Indian government to launch an attack by crossing the line of control and destroy launch pads of terror outfits planning to infiltrate the country. The counter-attack by Indian army commandos launched on September 18 was called a surgical strike by the government to send out a strong message to terror outfits operating from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
While the annual reports of MHA lists out the data for the overall incidents and casualties, it makes no mention of individual incidents in the country. However, the United States Department of State does outline some terrorist incidents faced by each country and their analysis on countries’ internal security preparedness in their annual ‘Country Reports on Terrorism’. The following are representative violent incidents since 2014 compiled from their reports on India, which can be found here:
Overall View of Extremist Incidents in India
Terrorist activities as a whole in India has been on a decline – a trend visible during the UPA administration (2004-2013) and followed during the NDA regime post 2014.
The data covers fatalities from government engagements with extremists/insurgents on three fronts:
- Jammu and Kashmir
- Left Wing Extremist (LWE) activity
- North-East insurgency
The above table shows –
- The NDA government keeps up with the declining trends in both the number of the incidents and the number of civilian and military (security forces) lives lost.
- In absolute terms, extremist incidents have declined by 27% since the NDA has come to power (2014 to 2017) and by 71% from 2004 to 2017.
The breakdown of casualties on these three fronts is given below.
Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir
The MHA releases casualty data on armed engagements with radical forces in Jammu and Kashmir through their annual reports and through responses to question in Parliament. The following data is from their annual reports except for 2018, which is from the South Asian Terrorism Portal.
Defence Minister Sitaraman refers to cross-border terrorism in her speech in the video above as “disturbances at the border.”
From the above mentioned data, one can observe:
- There was a 93% drop in the number of incidents of violence during the two terms of the UPA government between 2004 to 2013.
- Between 2004-2008 under UPA-1, terror incidents went down by 72% while during UPA-2 between 2009 to 2013, terror incidents saw a drop of 66%.
- However, the NDA government under PM Modi post 2014 has also managed to keep the number of incidents lower, despite a slight jump in the years 2016 and 2017. The year 2018 also witnessed a jump in the deaths of civilians, security forces. But the year also saw the highest number of terrorists killed (270) ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014. The last time more number of terrorists were killed in a calendar year was in 2008 when security forces neutralised 339 terrorists.
Left Wing Extremism (LWE)
LWE is the reference term that the MHA uses to refer to Maoist and Naxal activities that plagues certain regions in the country. The MHA has released data on the number of incidents and casualties in their annual report and through written answers when questioned in Parliament. The casualty data has been compiled from unstarred questions (or question mandating a written reply from the minister/ministry concerned) answered by the MHA in the Lok Sabha.
Chattisgarh was the worst-hit state by the LWE activity with almost a third of all incidents in 2017, followed by Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. The MHA also consistently names the CPI (Maoist) to be the most detrimental amongst LWE entities in the country.
Insurgency in the North-East
Below are the numbers behind insurgency in the North-East trends that the MHA provides for seven states in North-East India, namely Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Assam and Mizoram. The main units involved in the insurgency in the North-East are:
- United Liberation Front of Asom and its offshoots
- Garo militants in Meghalaya
- The Socialist Council of Nagaland and its offshoots
- All Tripura Tiger Force and the Liberation Front of Twipra/Biswamohan
Relative to 2017, insurgency in the North-East has declined by 36% year-on-year and by approximately 63% since 2014. In absolute terms, incidents of unrest in the North-East has been more before 2014.
No terror incidents have been recorded in metropolitan centres of India such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru (except for an IED blast in December 2014) during the NDA government. But India, as shown by the above data, is still plagued by terrorist activities, despite bold statements made by the Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.