An expert on parliamentary practices once asserted that the most effective responses to queries in the legislature were those that furnished the least information. Often that translates into calculated brevity.

Sometimes, however, the words of an old song Little things mean a lot kick-in ~ as they do in a written reply from the home ministry to a query on terrorism. Mr Hansraj Gangaram Ahir presented a few statistics on what obtained in the last three years (till 2 December) and left it at that.

Actually, the minister of state had lifted a veil. From 322 incidents in 2016 the number had increased to 342 the next year, and then 587 ~ with 11 months still to go in 2018. That tells a story of failure. Mr Ahir’s department cannot camouflage the collapse of a mechanism that registers close to two terrorist strikes a day ~ even if the intensity varies, and the police try to wriggle out of professional discomfort by attributing every major crime to terrorism.

Even conceding that written replies do not lend themselves to elaborate explanations, the mindset of North Block was revealed by the ministry stating that during the same period the number of terrorists killed had risen from 150 to 238 (the casualty-rate among security personnel “martyred” was 82, 80 and 86).

Does an attrition rate point to success? What must disturb those who deem managing home affairs more than a “police” issue is the continued focus on the gun being the sole response to terrorism.

Surely Mr Rajnath Singh has been involved in political activity long enough to understand that the roots of terrorism lie in the discontent of people with the prevailing socio-economic- political conditions. And that to only point an accusing finger across the border is an alibi for ineptitude. So too is fanning communal passions ~ why has divide and polarisation become so pronounced since the NDA assumed office and permitted cow vigilantes to run amuck?

The collapse of the police apparatus actually has directed correspondence with the political priorities of those who claim to be “national” leaders and slam those who think differently as “seditionists”.

That one High Court judge goes as far as saying that India ought to have been declared a Hindu state in 1947 points to the corroding of Constitutional values (will the apex court allow that line to be advocated?) only confirms the extent to which cancer has spread. And a pet campaigner for the saffron brigade dares to declare that a minority leader will be driven out of the country.

Without in any way endorsing recent electoral verdicts, it brings a degree of relief to bear when noting that the government’s muscular approach has not impressed the voter, nor has the “goal” to eliminate rivals. Intolerance and terrorism are closely intertwined, and until a few years back India was consistently proud of its “unity in diversity.”