Turning the Citizens’ Against Their Own State: Chanakya’s Tactics

For a state, maintaining its sovereignty is paramount considering the fact that every state attempts to secure its sovereignty, resulting in conflict between the different states. The conflict can get manifested in either hostility, strategic alliance, muted hostility or tactical cooperation which is dependent on different dynamics. However, for a state to secure its sovereignty, controlling the actions of people of other states for achieving their own objectives is necessary. This principle was not only recognized by Acharya Chanakya in Arthashastra, but he provided the detailed description of which category of people from enemy state can be utilized for achieving the ends by giving different incentives.
Acharya Chanakya classifies citizens of any state in two categories: कृत्य and अकृत्य, in विनयाधिकरण which is the first subject-matter of Arthashastra. कृत्य refers to the class of people who are not loyal to the state and ruler, and much more susceptible to being used by the enemy state; while अकृत्य refers to the group of people who are completely loyal to the state and ruler. कृत्य can be classified in four different categories:
क्रुद्ध.लुब्ध.भीत.मानिनस् तु परेषां कृत्याः॥” (01.13.22)
In the above verse, Acharya Chanakya delineates four classes of people who are not loyal to the state (कृत्य): क्रुद्ध ( the class of people angry due to the actions of state without committing any wrong); लुब्ध (the class of people who were earlier rich but now impoverished); भीत (the class of people who have been punished by the state for their crimes); and मानि (the class of people who desire a better status and honour). We will see how Aacharya Chanakya classifies कृत्य into these four categories and suggests the ways to use them for fulfilling the state’s objectives in the enemy territory.
In the course of administration, irrespective of how just a state is, it would have definitely angered or punished a group of innocent people either by mistake, or to achieve short-term objectives. Examples given by Chanakya include the ones who have been betrayed by the state after promising something, harassed by courtiers, imprisoned by the state, dismissed of their service by the state, punished secretly etc. If we look it in the current context, I’ll cite the example of Major General (R) Shabeg Singh. Major General Singh was a highly decorated army officer who was instrumental in setting up Mukti Vahini during the 1971 India-Pakistan conflict but later, he was dismissed on the last day of his service due to corruption charges by Army, which later turned out to be frivolous. Since this action by Army instilled the feeling of anger and humiliation in him, he was effectively used by Khalistani terrorists to provide military training to them, giving much required lethality to the Khalistani terrorists creating difficulty for Indian state.
To use क्रुद्ध class of people for our own benefits, they should be told that the ruler has gone rogue who is working against his own citizens, and he can be removed by the help of neighbouring state. Subsequently, assistance should be provided to him once he agrees to the proposal. In the example cited above, Khalistani terrorists were provided arms, ammunition and finances by ISI of Pakistan which is the enemy state for India. Pakistan used one of the people from क्रुद्ध class against India to inflict severe blow on the internal security of India, and destabilised a border state for close to two decades in the last century.
The nature of events in the world is often unforgiving and billionaires lose their wealth within a decade if fortune doesn’t favour them. लुब्ध includes the class of people who owned considerable wealth earlier and lost it later, the ones who have started an ambitious project but don’t have enough wealth to finance it, the ones who are caught in any sort of addiction etc. As this class of people are in dire need of wealth, but knows that gaining wealth via legitimate means is difficult, they’re prone to be manipulated. To use this class of people for a state’s benefits, Chanakya suggests to use psychological manipulation by convincing them that they’ve requisite talents, but the ruler is blind to those. They should take the employment or help of the enemy state to secure their owm interests. In contemporary intelligence world, many intelligence agencies use the fallen businessmen to gather intelligence in the return of sustaining their business on papers.
It refers to the class of people who have been punished for their crimes, their wrongdoings have been brought to public notice, reprimanded for their crimes, harboured enmity against the rulers etc. Since they know that they’ve been punished for their crimes, they don’t have any hope of receiving sympathy while many of them cultivate the feeling of vengeance. To use them, Acharya Chanakya suggests that they should be convinced by saying: As a venomous snake kills the enemy which it fears, the king may kill you one day. It’s better if you migrate to enemy territory of the king and live there. Through this suggestion, Chanakya seeks to achieve two objectives – convincing the person that his life will be secure and giving him the opportunity to work against the state which is his enemy. This tactic can be seen in action when we observe that leaders of almost all the insurgent movements be it whether Khalistani Movement, Naga Movement or ULFA, invariably reside in the territory of other countries to conduct and coordinate their operations.
This class of people refers to the people who are self-sufficient, enterprising, desirous of respect and honour, bereft of any addiction and sharp in their conduct. They’re interesting group of people since they don’t lack anything, but their desire knows no end. The prominent example includes Arun Shourie who was an important intellectual of the Hindu revivalist movement and supported Narendra Modi initially when he came into power in 2014. Probably Shourie was seeking a bigger role in government but when he was not inducted in the cabinet, he turned hostile to not only Modi government, but was seen in the company of secularists and Marxists whom he had opposed throughout his life. For such people, Acharya Chanakya suggests to convince them that if they persist with their own side, they’ll have no benefits; and the only possible way for them to realize their objectives is to change the sides.
As we have seen in the discussion above, Acharya Chanakya suggests different forms of tactics to manipulate the four classes of कृत्य. As अकृत्य people are completely loyal to the government, they can only be manipulated by using दंड and भेद while showing the fault of others. But this method doesn’t have the possibility to yield much dividends, and using कृत्य for achieving the ends is recommended.


1. Arthashastra of Chanakya (Hindi Translation by Pandit Udayveer Shastri)

Published by Satish Verma

Read. Contemplate. Write.

One thought on “Turning the Citizens’ Against Their Own State: Chanakya’s Tactics

  1. Very interesting, especially since it includes examples from real life.

    Would be interesting to know if we’ve done something like this.


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