A roundup of NDA’s performance on internal security is not flattering. It is little more than a series of recurring security lapses and failures, with no lessons learnt.
By Jyotiraditya M Scindia
A roundup of NDA’s performance on internal security is not flattering. It is little more than a series of recurring security lapses and failures, with no lessons learnt. “High-level review meetings” have seen no follow through. There is an expiry date to blaming the opposition, conveniently characterised as being made up of ‘anti-national’ citizens.
In India’s red corridor, the government’s callous approach has helped revitalise the insurgency. On April 24, we lost 25 CRPF men, ambushed and killed in Sukma, a month after 12 CRPF jawans lost their lives in Bhejji. Why was India’s lead counterinsurgency force of three lakh personnel leaderless for three months? Why are our CRPF personnel unable to detect a group of 300 odd Maoists, ostensibly due to lack of intelligence from the police? Or should we redirect this query to the state administration?
Why has a proposal to adopt faster road-building technology gathered dust with the state government for three years? If even one of these questions demands a rethink, we know we have a problem. But also potential solutions. The Centre needs to lay down a clear roadmap to tackle left-wing extremism (LWE), involving all state governments working together to tackle Maoists across state borders.
It needs to fill vacancies on priority and deploy local police forces, who are more familiar with the terrain and modus operandi of Maoists, in larger numbers in affected areas. Equally important is the need to take locals into confidence, not only for intelligence but also to expedite development works. Instead, NDA discontinued support to UPA’s Backward Regions Grant Fund and the Integrated Action Plan for LWE-affected districts – initiatives to meet the felt needs of citizens for health and education infrastructure, roads, water, etc.
The government cannot accomplish much by force or fiat alone. It must also offer a compelling alternative narrative to people – address their grievances, ensure basic infrastructure and services, and uphold forest and land rights of tribals. It is a protracted conflict involving more than two stakeholders and will require a long-term, calibrated, holistic response.
Now consider Pakistan, which continues to dare, bait and humiliate India. Till date, the government has not been able to get consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, sentenced to death on false espionage charges. Attack after attack in the Valley and LoC has inflicted heavy civilian, police and military casualties, including the recent mutilation of bodies of two Indian soldiers.
And yet inaction seems to be the Indian government’s defining response. India must assess its own options and employ them prudently – impose economic sanctions, reconsider Indus Waters Treaty, scale down diplomatic presence in Pakistan, escalate the conflict through covert/overt operations. This list of options is neither exclusive nor exhaustive.
Perhaps the biggest casualty of NDA’s arrogance is Kashmir. The opportunistic BJP-PDP post-poll alliance has not evolved into a responsible government that provides citizens a safe, enabling environment. Under UPA the Valley saw setting up of rail links, roads, power projects; domestic and international tourism, and business were looking up; GDP grew at 5.63% in 2013-14; the LoC was relatively stable; most importantly, the government had begun talks with everyone.
PM Modi had said in 2015 that he needs no advice on Kashmir. It is precisely this sort of aggressive posturing that explains the widespread, often leaderless civilian protests that have continued unabated for almost nine months, with young schoolgirls now joining stone throwing mobs. The first step is to involve all stakeholders from political and civil society to initiate dialogue, inspire confidence in Kashmiris, and then work together to re-articulate their terms of engagement.
In its 2014 election manifesto NDA had promised a radical overhaul of the intelligence gathering system, police modernisation and a tough approach to terror. But we have only witnessed half-hearted attempts to accomplish that.
The NDA leadership prides itself on being strong and tough, except proof has been hard to come by. It would be a disservice to our soldiers to judge the attacks on them based on number of casualties alone. But the same ministers who, while in opposition, asked for heads to roll and bayed for blood, are now asking for such sensitive matters not to be politicised. Will someone own up to the string of failures on the internal security front?
Times of India, May 9, 2017