India’s Top Driven Internal Security Strategy
Post Mumbai 26/11, India’s counter terrorism capacity has enhanced exponentially thanks mainly to the drive and determination of one man, the Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram. The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has given Mr Chidambaram a free hand, thus we saw the rare sight of a country’s internal security chief meet the US Secretary of State in Washington trying to put across the case for more pressure on Islamabad. Mr Chidambaram has galvanized the Ministry of Home Affairs and the central police forces into action. However with a security challenge that is spread from Kashmir to Kohima and law and order being a state rather than a federal responsibility how far will top driven strategies work remains a moot question?
Take for instance the Annual Director General’s of Police Conference coming approximately a month after the Chief Minister’s Conference held on 17 September in New Delhi. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram provided a top down perspective with Dr Man Mohan Singh focusing on larger issues of socio-political convergence while the latter touched more on the operational facets. Police modernization was a central theme with technology and human resources requiring qualitative and quantitative up-gradation.
The objectives of the Conference were to provide an interactive platform for senior police professionals and security administrators in the country to freely discuss and debate diverse national security related issues, as also various operational, infrastructural and welfare related problems faced by the police in India. But what were the take aways for the police chiefs with their boss in the state capital being the Chief or the Home Minister, even states ruled by the Congress may not see eye to eye with the Centre on law and order issues.
This was evident with the Prime Minister’s remarks on Naxalism, he was clearly disappointed with the results indicating that, “We have discussed this in the last five years and I would like to say frankly that we have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace. It is a matter of concern that despite our efforts, the level of violence in the affected States continues to rise”. So why the results not forthcoming, a soul searching would reveal that the differential approach by states to the problem with lack of capacity building has allowed the wound to fester over the years.
This was evident with the statistics provided by the Home Minister with Left Wing Extremism spread in 2000 police station areas in 223 districts in 20 States partially or substantially affected by the menace. The CPI (Maoist) the largest and the most potent of the Naxal groups had a presence in 17 states and a 90% share in Naxal violence and was determined to expand its activities. Violence has been consistently witnessed in about 400 police station areas of around 90 districts in 13 of these States. In 2008, a total of 1591 incidents of Naxalite violence resulting in 721 killings were reported from 399 police station areas of 87 districts of 13 States. In 2009, 1405 incidents of Naxal violence resulting in 580 killings have already been reported (up to August 27) from 355 police stations in 78 districts in 11 States as per the Home Minister.
80 SF personnel killed in 53 landmine-based attacks by the CPI(Maoist) in 2008. while 123 SF personnel have already lost their lives in 2009 in 61 landmine-based Maoist actions. The increase in the level of violence is indicated by loss of lives of 231 SF personnel in Naxal violence in 2008 while 250 SF personnel have lost their lives in 2009 up to August or September as indicated by the Home Minister. The Naxals have established linkages with North-East insurgents and has begun to lend support to their secessionist ideology and demands thereby creating a synergy with other terrorist groups.
Take another area, the North East. The Prime Minister highlighted the situation particularly in Assam and Manipur where criminal nature of terrorism with extortion and intimidation hampered implementation of a number of development projects
The Prime Minister as well as the Home Minister has provided a very focused and clear cut view of internal security challenges faced by the country. Their prescriptions have also been holistic based on the cardinal principles of synergy, operational efficiency through numbers and quality and motivation of the force. A modern research based approach has also been recommended.
However with law and order being a state subject, implementation is left to the Chief Ministers, Home Ministers and Director General Police of various states. The main rub in the top down approach lies at this level raising many questions of effective implementation. While the Centre can influence by providing para military forces and funds for police modernization, it is states that have to ensure peace and tranquility. The response of the States in this respect has been to say the least largely pathetic.
And this is not related to political differences alone. Take for instance Manipur a Congress ruled state where violence has become a way of life for the people continuously subjected to extortion, encounters and kidnapping with a car bomb discovered in the Governor’s residential complex this month. Maharashtra is another state which in 2008 had more number of civilian deaths than Jammu and Kashmir, though these included the numbers who died in the Mumbai 26/11 attack, as the most industrialized state in the country this remains a dubious distinction.
Naxalism has been touted as the biggest challenge over the past five years by the UPA government but the threat is growing each year. The Prime Minister has indicated concern over the Naxal situation in particular and it appears that the government has not got many options at present given that there is a difference of opinion in the political parties on the manner in which this is to be treated with a large number of people including the liberal class indicating support for the Naxal cause.
While “flushing out” or “sweep” is being planned with a coordinated approach across Naxal affected states, with governance failing to reach the masses in the Naxal areas there is continued spread of the Red influence which is translated into acts of terrorism against the state and thus the overall contagion is spreading. The government’s at the Centre and the State would have to come to some speedy political conclusions and consensus to spread governance and be more effective if better results are to be achieved.
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Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
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