Troubled galaxy Destroyed Dreams, Chapter- 794
Skype ID: palash.biswas44
The central government is all set to pass Border Security Force (BSF) Amendment Act, 2011 despite protests from the states violating the federal structure of the nation. West Bengal has joined the protesters recently. Under which Sections 4 and 139 of the BSF Act, 1968 are being amended to extend the area of operation of the BSF. This force is to be deployed to (a) to counter insurgency operations and anti-naxal operations; (b) for internal security duties, (including duties during elections, communal riots, maintenance of law and order).The Border Security Force (BSF) is a Border Guarding Force of India. Established on December 1, 1965, it is a paramilitary force charged with guarding India's land border during peace time and preventing transnational crime. It is a Union Government Agency under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs.Border Security Force was created in the wake of the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and is mandated to be deployed for the security of the borders across the country. Given the fact that in the past few years the Government of India had had to deploy the BSF in counter insurgency operations and for internal security duties, an amendment has been proposed in the Act to make it available for deployment for internal security duties in aid of civil authorities. The Border Security Force (Amendment) Bill, 2011 has been put through Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, where the Government had reply to probing questions on why this amendment is needed. The general tenor of the arguments put forward is that like the CRPF, the BSF too would be deployed only on demand of States in aid of civil authorities.
Anand Bazaar patrika published a front page story citing writers sources that the state government is opposed to BSF amendment act as it would empower BSF to interfere in police affairs and BSF Personnel would trespass their limit to harass citizens in interior remote areas.Mind you, West Bengal border areas are highly overpopulated with minorities. West Bengal government kept silence all the way during the debate on general internal security issue with centre`s unilateral notifications in March, April and May, while many chief ministers lodged protest. In fact, Mamata Banerjee, as then Railway Minister of India proposed RPF amendment act which opened the pandora`s box. But keeping in view the newly found minority vote bank, it seems Ms Banerjee has changed her mind. But she has not said anything in open. Only her officials are making it clear that the state is against the violation of federal structure.On the matter of NCTC, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did say that "it upsets the federal structure of the country. I have already written to you (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) on the matter and will elaborate my views at length and in detail at the separate meeting being convened (on May 5)."But eventually, she skipped the meeting.Thus, Ms Mamata Banerjee could not represent the state on the controversial issue. Without taking any public stance, rather she is trying to send message to minority vote bank. It would not work as the centre is always enabled to mobilise support for anti people legislation with strongest ever corporate lobbying.Empowering its agencies to maintain internal security, not to mention, involves very high stakes of corporatet India and MNCs. Understandably as the industry is quite not happy with her government and complaining lack of investment environment in rather very harsh tone, the populist chief minister is seeking an escape route to appease her vote bank only withotout provoking corporate irritation and it would not stop the intiative the central agenda to strengthen and enhance the police state.In gist, the Chief Minister could not have put her State Government's position on the controversial notification by the Union Home Ministry on the setting up of the even more controversial National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and its imports on larger issues of Centre-State relations and equations under the Constitution than describing it and allied notifications of the kind as "autocracy consisting of a government by the Centre, of the Centre, for the Centre". The allied notifications in this regard confer policing powers in matters of investigation and arrests on the Border Security Force (BSF) the Railway Protection Force (RPF), neither of which were considered for such powers when established in the first place. Ironically, Mamata cries foul against media all the time but she uses the media to boost her image and vote bank time to time without any hesitation.While Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Sarkar had been raising strong voice of protest against the proposed NCTC notification, all the anti-NCTC allies, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had taken the slip long back by skipping meetings on the topic one after another.
Gautam Chikermane, Hindustan Times rightly argues that it's neither theoretical nor economic. India's rapidly-slowing GDP growth is no longer an issue to be debated among economists, policymakers, businesspersons, central bankers. Its impact has expanded and is now hurting the key constituency economics was supposed to address and serve but has forgotten — people. And in the overall environment of economic inertia that gets the government to throw a few crumbs of hope every other week, we are increasingly being led like lambs towards an economic slaughterhouse that could result in it mushrooming into an internal security issue...So, the economic question narrows down to a choice between which is worse: high inflation rate or low economic growth. By and large economists are arguing for keeping interest rates high until the government fixes its fiscal backyard in a wider context of global uncertainty. Why should RBI do the government's job, they ask. Besides, if the inflation rate is allowed to skyrocket, it will have repercussions on internal security, as food prices get out of the hands of the poor. There will be food riots, they argue. The good news here: no government likes a high inflation rate, so the issue will get political backing.A new and bigger internal security question, however, is now coming on the growth side. "Every percentage point fall in economic growth reduces the number of new jobs created by 10 million," a senior official told me. "If these young people remain unemployed, they become a key constituency of Maoist intrusions and ideology. At some point, it becomes a matter of internal security." Economic growth, he argued, was of crucial importance. The idea of economic growth as a national priority, however, is new and will take some time to settle down before its security ramifications are understood and taken seriously. Particularly, when the present political dispensation believes that growth is an elitist idea.(http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/GautamChikermane/Of-growth-inflation-rates-and-internal-security/Article1-906104.aspx).
The Supreme Court in July this year only sought responses of the Union and West Bengal governments and National Human Rights Commission on a PIL alleging more than 200 cases of torture and extra-judicial killings by Border Security Force (BSF) personnel near the Indo-Bangladesh border between 2005 and 2011.A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar also issued notice to the BSF and west Bengal human rights commission on the PIL filed by NGO 'Banglar Manabdhikar Surakhsa Manch', which requested the court to set up a "special task force consisting of police officers from outside West Bengal to investigate incidents of gross human rights violations and prosecute the offenders".
The NGO sought a declaration from the court "that all actions of BSF personnel of torture, extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape and other acts of violence against civilian population are punishable in law and that there is no immunity whatsoever for BSF personnel in respect of such actions".
Requesting the court to seek the report of inquiry by R R Jha, joint secretary (human rights) in the home ministry, into some of the alleged incidents in 2011, the petitioner said most of these crimes were never investigated by the police and taken to its logical conclusion.
The NGO said the common stand taken by BSF was that troops fired on people who attacked them on being intercepted for alleged smuggling activities on the border. The petitioner alleged that the West Bengal police accepted the BSF version to close the cases, adopting a farcical procedure and the magistrates concerned mechanically put their stamp of approval on this procedure.
It said, "This is a case involving either torture or torture followed by extra-judicial executions of more than 200 Indian nationals by the BSF between 2005 and 2011. In over 100 cases, there are eye-witnesses to the BSF taking into custody the persons concerned and there are eye-witnesses to torture in custody of the persons concerned leading to their death."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the recent blasts in Pune were a reminder that more needed to be done to improve internal security although success has been witnessed on this front in many areas.In his address to the nation on 66th Independence Day, he said Naxalism was still a serious problem and that schemes have been initiated in areas affected by the menace.
Noting that there has been a reduction in violence in the north eastern states, Singh said the government was engaged in dialogue with many groups there so that they can join the mainstream of development.
"We have initiated new schemes of development in areas affected by Naxal violence to ensure that the grievances of the people residing there, especially our brothers and sisters belonging to Scheduled Tribes, can be removed and their lot can be improved," he said.
"We have achieved success in many areas of internal security. In Jammu and Kashmir, people participated in large numbers in the Panchayat elections," Singh said.
"...However, we need to be constantly vigilant as far as internal security is concerned. Communal harmony has to be maintained at all costs. Naxalism is still a serious problem," he said.
BSF is one of many law enforcement agency of India.It currently stands as the world's largest border guarding force. Once the amendments are passed, the BSF will have the power to arrest under many sections of the Criminal Procedure Code. The sacrosanct principle of Indian federalism wherein law and order is a state subject will be violated.Mind you, BSF has always been accused of torture and violation of human rights along the border areas. Specifically in West Bengal. Masum has been fighting these cases for long. In fact,the central government's attempt to empower its agencies with the power of arrest must not be countenanced, as this being done by infringing the sacrosanct principles of federalism and undermining the supremacy of the judiciary. A number of bills currently being discussed in Parliament reflect the dangerous precedents.Armed forces special power act is the rule of the land all over the Himalayan zone from kashmir to Manipur excluding Himachal, Uttarakhand and Sikkim. Darjeeling is not under AFSPA, but the situation is not better than AFSPA zone in any means. Central India and parts of Eastern, Northern and south India are siezed within by forces with draconian power all on the name of development or Maoist menace under different operations.The BSF amendment act would open up floodgates to arm up the paramilitary forcs with police and army powers to strengthen the repression machinery further. Controversial NCTC is not the only contentious issue, where the government has faced resistance from Congress CMs. The Border Security Force (Amendment) Bill that seeks deployment of the border guarding force in hinterland so that it can exercise its powers of arrest, search and seizure, too, has attracted opposition from certain Congress-ruled states.While the Congress CMs of Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya had raised objection to NCTC during the meeting on May 5, the other two party-ruled states - Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra - have submitted their written objections to the proposal to amend the BSF Act, 1968.
More over,union cabinet gave its nod to fresh amendments in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to bring activities affecting economic security of the country under the ambit of the law.The definition of Terrorist Act has been expanded to include such activities which threaten the economic security of the country and damage its monetary stability by production, smuggling or circulation of "high quality" counterfeit currency.The amendment bill, which is likely to be tabled in Parliament, was approved at the meeting of the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.The amendment bill seeks to bring private companies, societies or trusts under the ambit of the 44-year old legislation, which was widened in 2004 to bring terrorist activities under its ambit.On conviction, such persons may be sentenced to a minimum seven years of imprisonment and the term may be extended to life imprisonment. Convicts will also be slapped with a fine of Rs 5 crore, which may extend to Rs 10 crore.It also stipulates to make the raising of funds for terrorist activities a punishable offence under the law even if such money is collected through "legitimate sources" by an individual or an organisation.The proposed amendment further provides for enlargement of the scope of "proceeds of terrorism".
The National Counter Terrorism Centre (Organisation, Functions, Powers and Duties) Order, 2012, proposing to establish a new body under the Intelligence Bureau to coordinate the anti-terrorism efforts of the Union government with and among the States, has elicited strong discordant voices from several non-Congress ruled States. The meeting organised by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Monday April 16, 2012 witnessed divergent and dissonant voices from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi leading the anti-NCTC band. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, an ally of the UPA, thought it too frivolous a meeting for her presence, she sent her Finance Minister Amit Mitra to proxy for her with a speech that he read out.These CMs in fact have been expressing their disagreements in any case much before the meeting organised by the Home Minister. Mamata Banerjee has continued to be among the shrillest critics of any central initiative, whether or not it infringes 'federalism' and States' domain. To be fair to the States, it must be underlined that this consultation was not planned initially and the Union Home Ministry not only drafted this order, it also decided to promulgate this order in March 2012. The Chief Ministers' protests were clear and loud that it violated the principle of division of powers enshrined in the Constitution of India and was an infringement of their constitutionally ordained police powers. Though Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh told the Chief Ministers that the idea was to create a framework for the Union and the States to work together, it did not satisfy those who had reservations.It is also worthwhile to recall that the controversy over Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in India's North East and Jammu and Kashmir is still alive. Aside from Irom Sharmila's 'force-fed' fast in Manipur since November 2000, there have been stirrings in the Kashmir valley too and state Chief Minister raised this matter in the Union Home Minister's meeting on the NCTC. The proposed NCTC purported to be created in exercise of the Union Government's executive powers under Article 73 of the Constitution that entitles its domain to States too, also considers it 'necessary and desirable that the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre should not duplicate the roles of other agencies and that it should work through the existing agencies in the country(.)'. This Centre has been put under the Intelligence Bureau and shall be headed by an officer titled Director but of the rank of Additional Director IB. Though the Director NCTC is proposed to be Distinguished Authority under section 2(e) of the UAPA, 1967, there is ambiguity regarding the linkage between the Directors of IB and NCTC. Clauses 3.2 'power to arrest and the power to search under Section 43A' of the UAPA, 3.5 empowering it to seek information and 5.1 directing all civil authorities of the Union and the States to aid the NCTC appear to be what are causing consternation amongst the States.
Considering that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) is tasked as the nodal and supervising agency under NCTC, it is anybody's guess if the Centre is keen on acquiring powers that are not available to the Union Government at Independence, and for deliberate reasons that has since been respected by Parliament and State Legislatures in terms of treating Law & Order as a State subject and Defence and Foreign Relations as Central subjects under the very same Constitution. These have political and constitutional consequences, not to mention the practical problems in execution. The 'Rajiv Gandhi assassination case' is a classic example, wherein the arrival of the SIT chief at the Konnakunte hide-out of the LTTE killers gave away the surrounding cops to those hidden inside a rented house. They committed suicide, the class LTTE way of consuming cyanide, and/or shooting the self, by the time the top man arrived, ready to command the operation. Such problems are institutional, and under the proposed scheme, could get institutionalised, as well.
As per the present legal position, BSF can be deployed only along or adjoining the borders of India. However in recent times, BSF has been deployed in the hinterland, especially in Chhattisgarh and Odisha, the said deployments have been questioned.Besides, in their current deployment in remote districts, a question has arisen whether they can exercise the now available powers under Section 139 of the BSF Act. Hence, the government had proposed to amend the relevant provisions of the Act to correct the legal position, permitting deployment of this force in other parts of the territory (hinterland) as well.The major objections raised by the CMs are related to conferring of powers of arrest, search and seizure to BSF, when deployed in hinterland as states believe that such powers may be in conflict with functions of the local police. The states have also argued that such powers given to the BSF would weaken the federal structure as it would violate the 'rights' of states.
Though the opposition to both the NCTC and the BSF (Amendment) Bill has primarily revolved around the 'powers' given to these central agencies, states have taken 'different' positions on these matters.Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya, which raised certain objections to the proposed NCTC in its present form, have concurred with the BSF (Amendment) Bill. Among these three states, Assam had raised objection to the NCTC proposal most aggressively, opposing any unilateral power for central agencies to conduct search, seizure and arrests in state.Some of the non-Congress-ruled states like Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Goa and West Bengal that opposed to NCTC, describing it an anti-federal proposal have supported proposed amendment in the BSF Act.
BSF in particular is a para-military force, which from time to time has nonetheless been deployed to help the civilian uniformed services and the civil administration to manage situations. That followed the early realisation that the armed forces, trained and prepared for the sole purpose of defending the nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity, from external aggression in formal adversarial situation from outside the nation's borders, should not be deployed against one's one people even in the worst case scenario. Yet, the BSF was deployed even capture brigand Veerappan, again when Jayalalithaa happened to be Chief Minister. There again, saner counsel reportedly prevailed and the BSF was found not to be the agency to be called upon to go after a 'common criminal', whose offences fell under civilian laws like the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act.Between them, the BSF and the RPF have the depth and the reach that is not available to any State police in the country --- or, all of them put together. If the idea was to empower the BSF only to prosecute cases pertaining to illegal border-crossing and related offences, and the RAF with offences committed to and on Railway property, sooner than later, the questions of similarly empowering the Customs and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) with policing powers of the kind would arise. The day of having to confer the Coast Guard with those powers, even while it continues to be clubbed with the Navy, otherwise, would also find adequate justification - even as there is the need, however. It is another matter that the notifications in this regard have not clarified anything of the nature, either. Better or worse still, in theory first - and practice later (hopefully not) - a situation could arise in which the "Big Brother" would begin "watching"!The current series of notifications has the potential to create a 'police raj', under the Intelligence Bureau (IB), when that may not be the intention even of the Union Home Ministry at present. However, as the Emergency era and the abuse of Article 356 until the Supreme Court intervention in the 'Bommai case' (1994) showed, the tendency of a politically-cornered Government at the Centre to use, misuse and abuse the instruments under its hands is something that needed to be ab initio checked. There is thus no need to introduce a practice that was not there in the first place - and the introduction of which now does not come with any guarantee that it is going to change the situation on the anti-terrorism front, drastically or in any meaningful and substantial way.
In response to a Parliament question on the BSF (Amendment) Bill, the home ministry in its written response in Lok Sabha said, "So far, the state governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and NCT of Delhi have concurred with the proposal".
After objecting to the Centre's proposal to set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has said the move to amend the Border Security Force Act to give it powers of arrest should also be put on hold.In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh , Jayalalithaa said the recent conference of chief ministers on internal security had ended on a note of optimism for the state governments, with the ministry of home affairs agreeing to step back in areas concerning public order and the police. In this context, she said the proposed amendments to the BSF Act, 1968, were as objectionable as the NCTC.She said this item was contained in the supplementary agenda notes that reached the chief ministers only on the day of the conference. 'Hence my views expressed at the conference did not carry my state's response to this matter'.She said members of the Rajya Sabha had, as early as on March 29, 2012, requested that the subject be discussed in the conference of chief ministers. With more than two weeks at their disposal, 'I am surprised that the ministry of home affairs had proposed this as a supplementary agenda item'.The provisions of the proposed amendments to the BSF Act 'smack of a desire to smuggle in a mechanism inspired by the same goals as those behind the setting up of an operations division in the NCTC, through the back door'.Interestingly, another chief minister, Narendra Modiof Gujarat, too had raised similar objections in a letter to the prime minister sent .
Criticising the Centre, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar expressed his anguished over several steps, including notification of NCTC and proposed amendments to the RPF and BSF Acts, being taken by the Central Government with serious implication on federalism and tantamount to encroachment upon the rights of the States. "The concern expressed by several state governments on the tendency of the Central Government to invade into the functional domain of state governments must be looked into seriously", he said.
Battalions of para military forces will stand guard around the naxal affected mines of India's iconic Bhilai steel plant as government workers slog it out in the pits.Hence, it should be understood in proper context how the central government is streamlining paramilitary forces.
Twelve battalions of BSF, anti naxalite Cobra force beside Chhattisgarh policemen will straddle the Rowghat iron ore mines in the state to ensure Steel Authority of India Limited is able to feed its largest steel plant.The security forces will also patrol a 95 kilometre railway line that is being built to move the ore through Kanker and Narayanpur districts. The Union home ministry, in a meeting with the top brass of SAIL and the state government, last month was informed that Bhilai would not have iron ore in 4-5 years if these measures were not undertaken. Rowghat has an estimated reserves of over 500 million tonne of iron ore. The steel plant expects to increase steel production capacity to seven million tonnes per annum by March 2013 from the current five million tonnes a year.
The mine has been out of bounds because of naxalite menace. Approximately, over 2,000 hectares of area in Kanker and Narayanpur districts, strongholds of naxalites, have got necessary clearances but security concerns have blocked work from commencing.A source present in the meeting said said that "(Home secretary RK Singh) asserted that this was a project of national importance and a test of government's resolve against the designs of the naxalites."The presence of security forces would ensure Rail Vikas Nigam Limited can lay railway tracks for the project. Depending on the need for additional forces, the government may also deploy newly-raised CRPF battalions for the purpose, a source said.
Even as the horrors of 26/11 unfolded in Mumbai, exposing a vast hole in India's internal security architecture involving the Mumbai police and a host of Union agencies before, during and after the event, the second Centre State Commission and its Task Forces were at work. Task Force 5 on 'Criminal Justice, National Security and Centre-State Cooperation' (http://interstatecouncil.nic.in/Suppl_VolI_Task_Forces.pdf) deliberated on the issue. Defining internal security as 'security against threats faced by a country within its national borders, either caused by inner political turmoil, or provoked, prompted or proxied by an enemy country, perpetrated even by such groups that use a failed, failing or weak state, causing insurgency, terrorism or any other subversive acts that target innocent citizens, cause animosity between and amongst groups of citizens and communities intended to cause or causing violence, destroy or attempt to destroy public and private establishment(.)', the Task Force underlined the need for a specialized agency. It said: 'While such threats cannot be defined as falling either within the traditional law and order realm or military threats from across the border, they cause both kinds of threats simultaneously, aimed at causing detriment to societal peace and national security. Naturally, they cause a peculiar dilemma for an affected state and its agencies. This necessitates a clearly defined and delineated threat perception and a coordinated, synergized strategy implemented through a designated agency that is mandated to create a structure of cooperation with other concerned departments.' It went on to propose a National Counter Terrorism Agency as a federal body to coordinate efforts in dealing with terrorism. It proposed that this Agency 'should have criminal jurisdiction over all terrorist crimes and other scheduled offences covered in the NIA Act, as also activities like planning, preparation, financing, aiding, abetment etc. connected thereto'. However, it also prudently proposed as its duties (a) (t)o coordinate the work of, and function in tandem with, the state law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to prevent, and to take action against those who commit, the specified offences'; and (b) '(t)o provide the necessary assistance, support and guidance to the state agencies, in law enforcement functions relating to the specified crimes'.
Noting that guarding the Indian coastline was a "challenging" and "herculean" task, Defence Minister AK Antony on Saturday said implementation of the coastal surveillance network will enhance electronic surveillance capability of the Coast Guard.
Inaugurating the Maharashtra cluster of chain of static sensors aimed at improving real time surveillance cover along the coastline, he said the government decided to operationalise this chain in Maharashtra and Gujarat first as the western coastline is a "highly sensitive one".
The sensors are operational with radar stations fitted at Tarapur, Korlai, Tolkeshwar and Devgad as part of the chain of static sensors project by the Coast Guard.
"The fast changing coastal security scenario and the varied threat perceptions require proper coordination and alertness. The role of fishermen community acquires a singular importance. We must ensure maximum community participation to strengthen our coastal security," he said.
"The implementation of the coastal surveillance network is a major step in enhancing the electronic surveillance capability of the Coast Guard," he said.
All together 46 such stations are planned in the first phase.
He also said that cyber security threat is becoming a major problem and the government is taking measures to counter it.
"Cyber threat is becoming a major problem. The armed forces have been mandated to deal with it," Antony said.
The defence minister also expressed concern over ceasefire violations along the border."Ceasefire violations have occurred and we are concerned over the violations". Internal security and national security are the same, he said, adding that after the 26/11 terror attacks there has been a sea change in the attitude of government and security agencies and all are working together.
A few years ago that was not the case, he said.
"We saw during Mumbai terror attacks that even a fishing boat can be used by anti-nationals to carry out dastardly strikes," Antony said.
"I would like to strike a note of caution. With the coastal surveillance network project coming up along the coast, any interpretation that the coastline would be completely secure would be a misnomer, till such time complete physical verification takes place," he said.
PM's speech at the Conference of CMs on internal security
Full text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech at the Chief Ministers' conference on internal security in New Delhi.
I welcome you to this very important conference on Internal Security. This forum has proved its utility over several years as a platform to exchange ideas and to build consensus on the possible ways and means to strengthen our internal security apparatus.
Since we last met in February 2011, the internal security situation has by and large been satisfactory. I commend the efforts of the States and the Centre for their joint efforts to maintain peace, amity and harmony throughout this diverse land of ours.
But I am sure all of us would agree that much more is required of us. Serious internal security challenges remain. Threats from terrorism, left wing extremism, religious fundamentalism, and ethnic violence persist in our country. These challenges demand constant vigilance on our part. They need to be tackled firmly but with sensitivity. The forces behind them must not only be contained but should also be effectively rolled back.
This is undoubtedly a complex and onerous task. It is an endeavour that requires the united effort of us all both or two centres and in the states. Internal security is a matter in which the States and the Centre must work together, hand in hand, and in harmony.
Take for instance Left Wing Extremism. The year 2011 was a better year than 2010 in terms of the number of deaths caused by Left Wing Extremist groups. But we still have a long way to go, both in terms of including people in the affected areas in our growing economy and society, and in terms of providing them with adequate account of security. The so called "protracted people's war" waged by Left Wing Extremists against the state and society continues to target civilians and security forces, and economic infrastructure such as railways, mobile communications and power networks. In the recent past, naxalites have also resorted to abducting foreign nationals.
I am glad that you are devoting a separate session this evening to Left Wing Extremism. Our holistic approach to the problem remains valid and necessary, paying simultaneous attention to security, development, good governance and perception management. In the last two years, the Integrated Action Plan has brought development to villages in the most backward and violence affected districts in our country. We have also extended the Plan from the original 60 districts to 78 districts. Given the inter-state ramifications of Left Wing Extremism, the Action Plan has been deliberated in detail with the seven affected states.
At the same time, we should work together to find better and more effective ways and means of implementing our holistic approach.
Like other internal security matters, we need joint and coordinated efforts to deal with the challenge of terrorism, whatever be its origin, whether internal or external, and whatever its motivation. This is a struggle in which we cannot relax. When we see turbulence in the region and growing factors of instability around us, we must strengthen our defences against terrorism. Today, terrorist groups are nimble, more lethal than ever before and increasingly networked across frontiers.
Accurate and timely intelligence is a prime necessity if we are to defeat terrorism, preventing it and countering it effectively. We have made some progress in this regard, strengthening our intelligence gathering apparatus and establishing NATGRID. The operationalising of four NSG hubs and NIA branch offices and MAC-SMAC connectivity are other instances. We will discuss the National Counter Terrorism Centre on May 5 in a separate meeting, as some chief Ministers suggested.
There is no question that the burden of the fight against terrorism falls largely on the States' machinery. The Centre is ready to work with the states to put in place strong and effective institutional mechanisms to tackle this problem.
In Jammu and Kashmir there has been a perceptible improvement in the security and law and order situation. As a result, the state witnessed the highest inflow of tourists and pilgrims during 2011. The Panchayat elections were successful and were more proof of the people's desire to be able to lead normal lives free from the shadow of violence and terrorism.
The situation in some of our North-Eastern states has, however, remained complex. There was some improvement in terms of incidents of violence, but there is no question that much remains to be done to restore calm and eliminate extortion, kidnapping and other crimes by militant or extremist groups on the pretext of ethnic identity. The pilferage of development funds by militant groups is hurting our efforts to improve the lives of the people of the region. Inter-factional clashes, such as those in Tirap and Changlang, are another source of insecurity.
The answers to these problems lie in strengthening the law and order capabilities of the states concerned and in reasserting and rebuilding normal democratic political and developmental processes. More proactive state police forces reducing reliance on central armed police forces would be a useful step forward. The Centre will continue to work with the states of the region to make this possible. I would hope that the implementation of infrastructure projects in the North-East will create conditions for the return of normalcy.
I am very happy that political processes of negotiation and dialogue are underway with several insurgent and ethnic separatist groups in the North-East that are committed to finding amicable solutions to their problems. These ialogues, which are being undertaken by the Ministry of Home Affairs in close consultation with the states concerned, are making steady headway.
The Centre will continue its support to capacity building and police modernisation efforts by the States. State governments are the primary responders in most internal security situations. We have extended the police modernisation scheme and we are continuing the Coastal Security Scheme and the Border Area Development Programme. I would urge the States and Ministry of Home Affairs to carry forward police reform and modernisation to their logical conclusion.
Before I close there is one other issue that I would like to put forward for consideration. No system or structure can be better than the people who man it. The internal security structures of India are no exception. It is therefore important that we find ways and means of improving not just the number but also the quality of our police personnel. I hope that your meeting will suggest new and innovative ways to address this issue and to make rapid progress in improving the conditions under which our personnel work. If we are able to do so, we would be repaying in some measure the dedicated and loyal service of our police and defence personnel which has helped us to make our country safer.
With these words I wish you well in your deliberations. I hope that this conference will make constructive and practical suggestions that will enable us to further improve internal security in India, strengthening the rule of law, and enabling every Indian citizen to realise his or her full potential in an environment of peace and security. That must be our common goal, and I look forward to working with you towards that end.
'Muslims in India have reason to believe they are being persecuted'
NC Asthana, Inspector General, CRPF COBRA, and wife Anjali Nirmal, who holds a doctorate in police administration, have taken an objective look at India's security establishments. To be launched in August-end, India's Internal Security: The Actual Concerns is a critique of various issues, including intelligence failure, the media's role in the age of terror attacks and the victimisation of Muslims. The writers discuss some of these concerns with Kunal Majumder
EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
Is the Indian security establishment not addressing actual concerns?
We do not doubt the sincerity of the government. But the system as a whole is not yielding results. Whether it's Kashmir, Maoist-affected areas or the Northeast, the returns are dismal. In Kashmir, we have 70 battalions of the CRPF, an equal number of BSF forces, three corps of the army, and yet insurgency has been on for 23 years. Northeast insurgencies have been on for 58 years. Naxalism has been around for the past 45 years. Our purpose is to point out that there is a serious problem. Kashmir and the Northeast are fringe areas and a large part of the country where Naxals are based doesn't concern the great Indian middle class.
Your book touches upon almost all major internal security crises. You say a strong anti-India sentiment persists in Kashmir.
There's no doubt about it. We have been there twice — in the mid-1990s and then in 2010, when there was unrest. We have given concrete examples. It is not merely reflected in slogans. For instance, we conduct anti-terrorist operations in a village in which a terrorist may be killed, who probably doesn't even belong to Kashmir. If a local boy is killed, some resentment is understood. But even when a man patently from outside Kashmir is gunned down, there is very strong protest action.
Even if the man is not a Kashmiri?
Even if that person is an outsider, he is eulogised. Sitting MLAs lead the protest. In 2010, during an ongoing operation in Sopore, the crowd attacked the police party and someone fired from the crowd, injuring an inspector in the leg. A police gypsy was set ablaze. There is a strong undercurrent against India. Even in minor accidents involving outside vehicles, people start shouting slogans: Naare-e-takbir. That's still fine; they're asserting a religious identity. But, when it is followed by Hum kya chahate hai… azaadi, how does it make sense? As we write in the book, are we to treat them like spoilt brats? Even Naxalites don't put up slogans like 'Go [away] India'. Everybody speaks about the Kashmir problem as if we are on the defensive; as if we have done anything wrong somewhere and we are trying to justify our action and existence there.
You have also said that increase in tourist in-flow or peaceful elections should not be read as normalisation of Kashmir.
Our contention is that elections don't prove that people are reposing their trust in the Indian system. People want representatives to help them with their day-to-day issues — a word with the local sub-inspector or local patwari. The 2009 election saw a reasonable voter turnout. But 14 days after the elections, the Shopian incident happened. Bodies of two young women were recovered from the Rambiara river. There was no evidence of rape, no medical examination that could confirm rape. But Kashmir burnt for 47 days.
You have also written about how Islam has been driven towards terrorism.
Yes, we have written about it in one of our earlier books on urban terrorism. We have a history of communal riots. But we never attributed terrorism to Muslims. That's the West's way. America always needs a hate symbol — first the Germans, then the Japanese, then the communists.
So you think 'Islamic terrorism' is a bogey created by the West?
More than that. We in India tend to regard the West as the font of wisdom. Whatever their distorted concept of Islam, we copy it verbatim. But the concept of jihad has nothing to do with terrorism. Terrorism is a modern phenomenon. Jihad has existed for hundreds of years. The West has created the image of a bearded man in a kurta with a Kalashnikov in hand, hell-bent on converting people to Islam or killing them.
You have two chapters on Indian Muslims and called them "Making of a Terrorist".
Muslims in India have a reason to believe they are being persecuted. After the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad, the police arrested 74 persons — all young semi-educated Muslims. All 21 who were chargesheeted, got acquitted. The state government even announced a compensation of 3 lakh for each at a public function. In the 2008 Jaipur blast, 14 people — all young Muslims, including doctors and engineers — were arrested. Each of them was acquitted at a trial court. But their lives were destroyed. This happened in Malegaon, too. Of the 194 cases registered against SIMI, only six got convictions.
Is the media biased against Muslims?
Yes. We have a chapter on Muslim-bashing by the media. Whenever a bomb blast takes place, you have some reporters attributing it to LeT and the HUJI. Have the accused ever been convicted? If the judiciary acquits someone, we have to believe he is innocent. As simple as that.
You also claim that there is lack of scientific investigation.
People don't know that in the case of Mrs Salvi vs the state of Karnataka, the Supreme Court ruled lie-detector, narco-analysis and brain-mapping tests as unethical and unscientific. When the apex court has itself decreed it, why does the media insist on them?
You have raised a lot of doubts about the NHRC report on the Batla House encounter case. Why?
The NHRC is not a court. It took recourse to dermal nitrate test, which was scientifically disapproved more than half a century ago. Since when did NHRC become an authority on scientific methods?
You also say the concept of Hindutva terrorism is a myth.
The conceptual difference between terrorism and communalism has not been clearly understood. Aseemananda has retracted his confession in any case. Even in Lt Col Purohit's case, there is a technical point that everybody in the media missed. Purohit's defence is that he was asked by the Military Intelligence (MI) to penetrate Abhinav Bharat. Even the Court of Inquiry accepts that. The charge against him is that he exceeded his brief. But what the media has missed is that, in fact, the MI was exceeding its brief. This is a matter of internal security, since when did the army start getting involved in internal security?
One of the biggest intelligence embarrassments has been Hafiz Saeed. Pakistan keeps saying we never offered any credible evidence.
You might have a watertight case against Hafiz Saeed, you may have all the dossiers but if the Pakistan Supreme Court has acquitted him, what can you do? How can you tell Pakistan to override its own Supreme Court's judgment? Pakistan may be abetting terrorism but there is nothing in international law to address it.
The Saeed issue aside, do you think Indian intelligence failed somewhere on 26/11?
It didn't fail somewhere. It failed everywhere. As professionals we know what kind of vague warnings are issued. Even in the recent Bengaluru case (Northeasterners' exodus), the alert comes a day late. Come any 15 August or 26 January, alerts are issued on every possible place under the sun. They say places of religious worship are going to be attacked. Now, in our country, we have 10 lakh places of worship and in the event of an attack the intelligence will claim that they had warned beforehand. The same thing is happening in anti-Naxal operations. There is nothing wrong with the forces dealing with Naxalism. People are prepared to lay down their lives fighting for the nation. The fact is, forces in Naxal areas are like blindfolded boxers in the ring. They don't know what to do, where to go, whom to capture. In a jungle of thousand acres, how do you know where the enemy is? The number of operations conducted is in access of 3,000. And, I guess, there is not a single operation in which the intelligence was accurate. Now, there are two kinds of intelligence. The first is of the vague kind, where you are notified that there's information of Naxal presence in such and such place. Now, this area is so big that you don't know where to look for them. The more you search the more the chances of getting exposed. Operations can be successful only when they are short and swift. The second category is when intelligence is more accurate. But when you go there, you find nothing, not even their <gutka> sachets. Before GPS came, they used to blame us, that we are lying, that we didn't even go to the spot. Now everything has changed. An operation requires accurate intelligence or else it turns into jungle-bashing.
You talk about how most anti-Naxal operations have been unsuccessful. Is inaccurate intelligence the only reason for the failure?
Intelligence is our Achilles' heel. The firepower our forces possess is overwhelmingly superior to that of the insurgents. However, even though the insurgents lack good strategists, they are intelligence enough to refuse to fight on the terms of the security forces. Whenever they see that the forces are in a strong position, they simply melt away. They attack only when the situation suits them. So, the tragedy of anti-Naxal operations is that we are not fighting on our own terms; we are fighting on the terms of the enemy. That's why the kill ratio is so skewed in their favour.
As a parting note, are you really so pessimistic about the Naxal situation?
It is not a question of being pessimistic, the reason why I think this is a no win-no lose situation is that we have not been able to eliminate them militarily in the past 45 years. At the same time, the Naxals have not been able to exponentially grow in the manner that Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal had hoped. They could not get the support of the agrarian community, industry workers or students. Eventually, the movement is confined only to the tribals and the other marginalised societies.
Kunal Majumder is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.
Dr Vivek Lall clarifies the government stance more tahn clear. he writes:
While India's internal security concerns may seem similar to those of other nations, India's geography – 7,000 km of coast and 15,000 kilometre land border – large population, social and political exigencies, dated security and scrutiny technological tools pose peculiar challenges.
A federal system with multi and regional party system also throws open the challenge of centre and state co-ordination. Given the constraints, successive governments face a formidable task in identifying and containing security threats.
India has for long been a victim of terrorist activity.
The genesis of many terrorist movements has been internal, with motivations ranging from Marxism to ethnicity. The Ministry of Home Affairs has banned 35 organisations around the country under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Over the last few decades, the rise of terrorist groups in our neighbouring countries has increasingly become a source of threat to our internal security.
India is being repeatedly subjected to terror and cyber attacks and hostile groups have also established front organizations in cities. As India's counter-terror effort is yet far removed from the global sophistication levels, it has been estimated that by 2020, a significant 6 percent of the global procurement in homeland security (HLS) will be from India. That is huge.
Terrorism in 2012 has assumed different dimensions and is significantly different from its form a decade back. Terrorists are faceless, sometimes using sophisticated weapons and technologies which are supposed to be the domain of security forces. The metamorphosis of a petty criminal into a terrorist using sophisticated technology and weapons – as seen in 26/11 terror attack convict Kasab's case – is an indicator of their formidable training capacity.
These new dimensions of the threats India faces require a very agile security governance. Our state responses are gearing up to match the speed with which things are changing.
Post Kargil, several measures were put in place to enhance border security. The events of 26/11 Mumbai attack in 2008 forced the security agencies to look deeper into what is needed to secure the nation from internal and external threats. Three years later, the security situation in Indian cities has evolved but remains challenging. We will need fast deployment of manpower and technologies not just to secure cities but also to ensure that India's growth rate continues at over 8 percent per annum.
Many terrorist incidents in the last few years all over the world point to the ever increasing possibility of use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) materials by non state actors.
Although the setting up of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will provide the institutional and coordination mechanism at the national, state, district and local levels for disaster response and mitigation, India's preparedness for such an attack remains at a nascent stage.
Terrorists across the globe have steeped up the use of IEDs, the sophistication of which continues to baffle investigation authorities. Ammonium nitrate, a chemical which is primarily used in fertilizers, is also used as a main component in powerful IEDs for attacks, including in the Mumbai attacks. The need to secure the supply-chain of ammonium nitrate is urgent, requiring concerted efforts on the parts of government, organizations and people.
There are no accounting procedures in place to account for ammonium nitrate produced in the country. Domestic purchasers must validate legitimate use and suppliers must retain records and report theft or loss of ammonium nitrate to authorities.
Terrorists are adept at choosing new and different styles of terror attacks as illustrated by the use of a magnetic bomb employed to target an Israel embassy car in a high security area in New Delhi, injuring four people. The National Security Guard (NSG) Chief has admitted that sticky bombs have become a more serious matter of concern for the security forces than IEDs. These easy-to-use devices are fast becoming a preferred choice for many terror groups in other countries as well.
The cyber domain – the fourth security dimension after air, land and sea – offers its own unique set of challenges.
According to an answer given in the Parliament by the Government, 117 websites were hacked between January and June in 2011. In 2010, according to reports from Canada and US, the website of this very publication, India Strategic, several Ministry of Defence websites and that of India's leading think tank, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) were also hacked.
The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) carried out an analysis on the web server logs of the hacked websites and suggested specific steps and countermeasures to patch the existing vulnerabilities and strengthen the security of these websites.
As suggested by these statistics, Government websites getting hacked is becoming quite a regular occurrence indicating the fact that the infrastructure which powers important websites was very fragile. On the other hand, cyber threat actors are much more sophisticated and organized than they are given credit for.
In many cases apparently, hacking is part of the games played by spying and sabotage agencies from other countries.
India needs to move from reactive to preventive strategy which would entail significant IT and management effort. Technology has to, and will, play an increasing role in the entire gamut of security components – counter terrorism, border security, immigration, entry and exit point monitoring. More than 40 countries have already adopted biometrics while 12 to 13 countries require biometrics for granting visa.
India has disparate technologies and procedures that do not necessarily interoperate optimally. That is a big weakness. There are also plenty of cases reportedly indicating that foreigners from neighbouring countries are easily able to get some kind of identity cards which instantly, and illegally, turn them into Indian citizens.
The MHA's NATGRID initiative, the formation of an intelligence database designed to consolidate and make searchable data gathered by existing security and law enforcement agencies, will prove to be a vital link in India's intelligence infrastructure. In fact the robustness of the databases to be integrated would need to be shored up.
The CCTNS initiative of the MHA, to facilitate storage, transfer and sharing of data and information between police stations, their state headquarters and the Central Police Organisations will see large benefits accruing as its usage goes up. But data inputs have to be verified in two to three layers before acceptance is accorded. It has to be kept in mind that whatever system is accepted, rightly or wrongly, will be there for a long time.
It may be noted that in India, the Central Government and State Governments have primarily been involved in providing security whereas the private sector's role has been minimal. To assist the resources at the government's disposal though, the proactive involvement of private citizens and organisations in mitigating such threats is finding ever increasing support.
Keeping in mind the huge financial and infrastructure requirements, there is a large potential for corporates to play a role in the internal security sector. They can develop critical technologies for the country's unique challenges, supply sophisticated equipment and ensure timely implementation of a variety of security solutions.
Ultimately, in the arena of internal security, the race will be won by who makes effective use of the latest technology – the terrorist or the Government..