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For nearly five years now the world media had been celebrating India's rise. From the state of its stock market to its demographic advantage, from the strength and depth of its democracy to the vast reservoir of talent that flourished in its diversity, it was as if the world could see nothing wrong with India. There are now signs that some of that is changing.
And no, it is not just because of those thousand-rupee bundles displayed in the Lok Sabha. It is because of something much more serious, in fact a failure so serious it could, by itself, lose the UPA the next election. These four and half years are the worst in India's history of fighting terrorism. Surely somebody in the UPA will bring out statistics to show that overall deaths were more in some other regime's five years. But this is not just about numbers. It is a spectacular four and a half years of mayhem when not one terrorist has been caught, not one major case solved. Even by the modest standards that Shivraj Patil's home ministry may have set for itself, this is a spectacularly disastrous record.
The world press, if anything, has been late in catching this. Last week, Somini Sengupta of The New York Times quoted a stunning fact from a report of the Washington-based National Counter-Terrorism Centre. It said, between January 2004 and March 2007, India had lost 3,674 lives to terrorism, second only to Iraq. And we can't even claim that this is happening because some imperialist occupation army is running amok here. In fact that number, by now, must have crossed 5,000. If this notion spreads globally, it would do more to damage India's image as an oasis of democratic stability, pacifism and economic growth than any twists in its politics, or even a half-decade reform holiday.
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