FROM keeping a watch on universities where people may indulge in “activities threatening the country’s integrity” to infiltrating their WhatsApp groups — these are among the many initiatives listed in a note circulated to top police officers in states after the annual conference of Directors General of Police (DGPs) and Inspectors General of Police (IGPs) held in December in Pune and addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Police officers who attended the conference and who later reviewed the set of directives told The Indian Express that the objective is to be aware of activities taking place on university campuses. “Emphasis has been laid at the conference on being in touch with the student community, to have prior knowledge of any potentially sensitive situation and prepare for it. We should not be caught in a situation where someone springs a surprise on us,” said a DGP who attended the conference, but did not want to be named.
These instructions are part of a lengthy list of the ‘action points’ which were recently circulated to police forces across the country after the three-day-long conference at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune between December 6 and 8, 2019. Each police station is required to list the actions it has taken over the course of the year with regard to these objectives. The action taken reports will then be collated and analysed by each state and agency and submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs before the next conference.
Another senior IPS officer said maintaining a watch on WhatsApp conversations is standard policing practice. “At every level, we make sure our people are part of WhatsApp groups run by different political parties, by those of right-wing and left-wing thought, of Muslims, Dalits, trade and labour unions, students and other organisations and bodies planning protests or demonstrations,” said the official.
The directives, which have since been conveyed to senior police officers, also include reading tweets and retweets of citizens to analyse public mood, a proposal to treat speeches causing inter-religious divisions as hate speech, increase police presence in schools, organising visits of students to police stations and having police bands playing regularly. Also part of the directives was to find out why recent alleged terrorist conspiracies and attacks either originated in or are have some link to Hyderabad.
The format of the conference underwent a change in 2015, when it was expanded from a day-long affair in New Delhi to its present three-day duration, during which committees of DGPs present findings on key aspects of internal and external security such as terrorism, Naxalism, coastal security, cyber threats, combating radicalisation and narco-terrorism etc, according to a statement issued by the PMO on December 8, 2019.
The Prime Minister’s directives stem from the presentations made by these committees. The statement further mentioned, “Commending the Conference for generating good inputs for policy planning and implementation, Prime Minister laid emphasis on emergence of concrete outcomes from the finalised action points.”
At the 2018 conference, the Prime Minister had directed the country’s police forces to publicise the “negligible participation of Indian Muslims in international terrorist theatres” in a bid to counter radicalisation “in any corner of the country.”
At the 2016 conference, he had directed police to “curb fake money, arms smuggling, and other anti-national activities so that the objectives of demonetisation are fully accomplished” and to “educate people to enable them to move to cashless transactions”. The 2016 conference was held weeks after the Prime Minister announced withdrawal of high-denomination currency notes.
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