Making the Ingush Dissent More Radical

On Saturday, a group of people in Ingushetia who were attempting to organize a protest against alleged vote rigging was violently dispersed. In addition, two journalists were beaten.

This harsh reaction to public dissent is hardly surprising. After all, this is not the first time that Ingush police have beaten either opposition activists or the journalists trying to cover them.

In November, three Ren-TV journalists who came to Ingushetia to cover a Dissenters' March in Nazran were abducted from a local hotel, beaten, and then abandoned in a field. When the journalists turned to police for assistance, they were held at a station without cause to prevent them from filming the protest.

This weekend, it was a reporter for national daily Zhizn and a freelance journalist who bore the brunt of Ingush police clubs when they tried to cover an attempt by the local opposition to protest the results of the December State Duma elections, in which the pro-Kremlin United Russia party somehow got 99 percent of all votes cast in Ingushetia.

The protest ended badly for the pro-government media as well. One group, which organizers of the protests maintain were provocateurs, somehow got through police cordons to throw Molotov cocktails into the editorial offices of the Serdalo newspaper.

Ingush President Murad Zyazikov and his sponsors in Moscow should realize that cracking down on dissenters and beating journalists will not banish opposition from the streets or the pages of newspapers.

Moreover, the continuous and violent crackdown on opposition in one of the most volatile and poorest of Russia's regions will lead to further radicalization. The assault on the Serdalo offices, if carried out by protesters, is a case in point.

The abuses of human rights, including silencing opposition voices and cracking down on the people's right to practice their faith, have been a large contributing factor fueling the ongoing insurgencies across the entire North Caucasus.

The authorities should stop the persecution of political and religious dissenters and channel their energy to stopping government abuses, promoting tolerance, improving living conditions and creating jobs. They should also hunt down and prosecute violent rebels and terrorists, who seem to feel much more at home in Ingushetia than they do even in Chechnya.