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Thursday, October 6, 2022


Tunnel Vision


Persistent populism at the altar of the country’s security is dangerous
PRAKASH SINGH | Issue Dated: February 23, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Lashkar-e-Taiba | Jaish-e-Muhammad | Harakat ul-Mujahadeen |

The internal security situation in India has taken a turn for the worse. With a slew of non-issues dominating the political agenda, not enough attention is being paid to law and order. India is currently confronted with many problems which include terrorism, dangers faced from Maoists and the security of the North East and Jammu and Kashmir.

Let us talk about terror. The situation is going to escalate, magnify and become far more complex with the withdrawal of the international security assistance force from Afghanistan. Statements emanating from terrorist groups in Pakistan like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Harakat ul-Mujahadeen have been on the rise to deliberately keep their focus on Kashmir problem.

In the case of Left wing extremism, thanks to security forces incidents of violence may have come down but this by no chance means that the extremists’ fighting capacity has been blunted. Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has accepted that the core strength of extremists remains intact and they can cause spectacular attacks. On ground there are improvements in West Bengal and Maharashtra but what about the other four effected states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh on which there has been adverse comments from both Shinde and former home secretary RK Singh?

Coming to the North East, we have witnessed a number of  violent incidents. Steps taken by the central government have remained inadequate. Naga talks have been going on interminably and now there are reports that Maoists are setting foot in Arunachal Pradesh. The handling of tribal issues has lacked any coherent vision.

The situation in Jammu Kashmir is dicey with no restraint on the activities of Hurriyat while cease fire violations continue with impunity. Corruption-related issues have plagued the state, a situation where development, law and order and coordination between security agencies are getting increasingly questioned. In fact, politics clearly overshadows national security concerns.

What is important to understand in all these issues is that decline in violence may not necessarily be a good index of improvement in the situation. In Delhi, authorities do not have much knowledge of the North East. It is important to understand that while the problem in Kashmir may be bigger, the North East is far too complex due to issues of affiliations and ramifications. In the case of North East, no single politician has a basic understanding required to tackle the problem. Arun Shourie in his time had tried to do justice but mostly people have remained ignorant and have allowed problems to fester.

The Padgaonkar Committee on Jammu and Kashmir did the politically correct things and gave some regressive recommendations which have fuelled the problem further and serious issues including the Armed Forces Special Power Acts (AFSPA) have been trivialised. AFSPA is a mechanism which requires very serious handling.

 Issues pertaining to other parts of the country suffer due to lack of political determination and ambiguity in policy related to the security forces. Shinde may be a well meaning person but he has no comprehension. The prime minister may have understanding and comprehension but he has been ineffective. The solution on ground - security balance and development - have been stuck in problems because of the lack of a clear mandate and transparent policy making apparatus.
 As for the effective deployment of force coupled with development activity, ideally state governments and the centre should be on the same page. But, in the current scenario security forces are employed with no supportive development activity - or development activity undertaken goes in vain as security forces are not used to ward off the extremists.  They are asked to operate on their own so long as they do not land the state government in some problem. And, if anything happens which raises a question on the functioning of a state government or central government, they are inevitably made the scapegoats.

There is utter lack of vision. Policy making requires vision which we don’t see in the current home minister. His predecessor P Chidambaram had some understanding and was a driving force. All problems can be solved if there is will in our politicians to be firm and decisive on matters of internal security. The chair becomes so important that vote bank politics, groupism, casteism and regionalism are given precedence and these are cutting at the very roots the roots of national security. Here 67 years after Independence, we have not produced a national security document.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017