The country’s internal security architecture continues to be fragile. In the wake of the 26/11 terrorist attack in 2008, a slew of measures were taken to strengthen the police forces, reinforce coastal security and decentralise the deployment of National Security Guard. However, after that, a complacency of sorts seems to have set in, mainly because there has been no major terrorist attack since then. Whatever upgradation of police has happened during the intervening period has essentially been of a cosmetic nature.
Meanwhile, terror clouds are gathering on the horizon and could burst upon the Subcontinent any time. The ISIS, which is committed to spreading “volcanoes of jihad” everywhere, recently perpetrated a horrific attack in Sri Lanka. The organisation has made significant inroads in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and has sympathisers in other areas of the country. It recently announced a separate branch, Wilayah-e-Hind, to focus on the Subcontinent. In the neighborhood, the ISIS has support bases in Bangladesh and Maldives. The government has been playing down the ISIS’s threat. It has been arguing that considering the huge Muslim population of the country, a very small percentage has been drawn to or got involved in the ISIS’s activities. That may be true, but a small percentage of a huge population works out to a significant number and it would be naïve to ignore the threat.
Pakistan has taken some half-hearted measures against terrorist formations in the country, which are euphemistically called non-state actors — largely due to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF.) These measures are more for show than substance. Besides, the ISI has been, for years, making well-orchestrated attempts to revive militancy in Punjab and trying to disrupt our economy by flooding the country with counterfeit currency.
It is necessary, therefore, that the country’s internal security is beefed up. The first responders to a terrorist attack or a law and order problem is the police and, unfortunately, it is in a shambles. Police infrastructure — its manpower, transport, communications and forensic resources — require substantial augmentation. The directions given by the Supreme Court in 2006 appear to have created a fierce reaction in the establishment and led to a consolidation of, to use Marxist jargon, counterrevolutionary forces. The government must appreciate that any effort to strengthen national security without reforming, reorganising or restructuring the police would be an exercise in futility.
The police in every major state should have a force on the pattern of Greyhounds to deal with any terrorist attack. The country must also have a law on the lines of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) to deal with organised crimes. Investigation of cyber-crime would require specialist staff. Training the constables and darogas for the job will not take us far. The police must draw recruits from the IITs for the purpose.
The National Counter-Terrorism Centre must be set up with such modifications as may be necessary to meet the legitimate objections of the states. The law to deal with terror — the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act — needs more teeth. Successive governments have only fiddled with the law. We have had the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), followed by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) followed by the present UAPA.
It is also high time that the government thinks of bringing police in the Concurrent List. Police problems were simpler and of a local nature when the Constitution was framed. Since then, the pattern of crime and the dimensions of law and order problems have undergone a sea change. Drugs trafficked from the Myanmar border traverse the Subcontinent and find their way to Europe or even the US. Arms are smuggled from China to India’s Northeast via Thailand and Bangladesh. They are then distributed to insurgent groups in different parts of the country.
States today are incapable of managing the slightest disruption in law and order. Central forces are deployed to assist the states round the year. Bringing police in the Concurrent List would only amount to giving de jure status to what prevails on the ground.
The CBI’s image needs to refurbished. It is time that an Act was legislated to define the charter and regulate the functioning of the premier investigating agency. It is ridiculous that the CBI draws its mandate from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946 and that the organisation was created through a resolution passed more than 50 years ago.
The Central Armed Police Forces are not in the best of health. It would be desirable that a high-level commission is appointed to go into their problems of deployment, utilisation, discipline, morale and promotional opportunities.
The major internal security threats today are in J&K, in the Northeast and from Maoists in Central India. These would need to be dealt with in a manner which — while addressing legitimate demands and removing genuine grievances — ensures that the intransigent elements are isolated and effectively dealt with. The Hurriyat leaders must be cut down to size and the cases against them pursued to their logical conclusion. The framework agreement with the Naga rebels must be finalised and the NSCN (IM) should be firmly told that the government can go thus far and no further.
The Maoists need to be dealt with in a more sensitive manner. Now that government has got the upper hand, it should seriously consider holding out the olive branch, inviting them for peace talks while taking precaution at the same time that the insurgents do not utilise the peace period as a breather to augment their strength.
This article first appeared in the print on June 6, 2019 under the heading “Bolster the first line of defence”. The writer was Director General of Border Security Force