October 30, 2020
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'...Of Saffron Terrorism...'

'The home ministers refers to the 'recently uncovered phenomenon' that 'has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past' while cautioning that the threat of terrorist attacks has not gone away'

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'...Of Saffron Terrorism...'

Excerpts from the home minister's speech inaugurating the 3-day conference on DGPs/IGPs 

The past 11 months have been quite eventful. As always, the tidings are mixed, but more on this later. I wish to begin by paying tribute to the men and women of the security forces who have bravely confronted the many challenges to internal security. Some of them have made the supreme sacrifice. I am certain that the vast majority of our countrymen and women acknowledge and salute the work of our security forces. Like any other body of men and women, the security forces too have their shortcomings, but nothing that is said or written can take away a jot from the fact that the security forces are the first line of defence of our democracy and liberty.

It is customary on this occasion to award police medals for meritorious service to officers of the Intelligence Bureau. I do so with great pleasure and offer my warm congratulations and good wishes to those who have received the honour.

Through 2009, and in the first 8 months of 2010, the security situation was severely challenged by forces inimical to India both within and outside the country. Contrary to perceptions in a section of the media – and, consequently, among sections of the people – the Indian state has been able to stand up to these challenges and face them with confidence and courage. Here, I must acknowledge the willing cooperation extended by the state governments. In my view, the prime mover is always policy. Experience shows that if there is clarity of purpose and a well-enunciated policy, the security forces will be able to deliver. For example, we announced a policy of zero tolerance of cross border terrorism, and we initiated a number of steps to build capacity, augment intelligence, raise special forces, acquire modern equipment, impart better training and take counter-terrorism measures. As a result, save for one incident, the last 21 months have been remarkably free of any terrorist attack. The attack on the German Bakery in Pune was indeed a blot. I sincerely hope that the suspects will be apprehended as soon as possible.

That does not mean that the threat of terrorist attacks has gone away. I wish to caution you that there is no let up in the attempts to infiltrate militants into India. There is no let up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India. Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past. My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build, at the Central and state levels, our capacity in counter-terrorism.

Apart from containing terrorism, our best record of achievement has been in the North Eastern states. While the year 2009 was a distinct improvement on the year 2008, it is in 2010 that we have seen a dramatic decline in the number of incidents and in the number of casualties. There have been only 464 incidents until August 15, 2010, as against 1,297 and 1,561 for the whole year in 2009 and 2008 respectively. Only 52 civilians have been killed, as against 264 and 466 respectively, and we have lost only 15 men of the security forces. Nevertheless, I must admit with regret that Manipur and Assam have been affected by long-duration blockades and bandhs and by intermittent violence. 

It is a matter of great satisfaction that a number of groups are engaged in talks with the government of India. Among them are NSCN (IM), NDFB (PT), DHD (Nunisa), DHD (J), UPDS, ANVC, KLNLF, KNO and UPF. We have appointed two Interlocutors: Shri R.S. Pandey to talk to the NSCN (IM) and Shri P.C. Haldar to talk to NDFB (PT), DHD (Nunisa), DHD (J), KLNLF, UPDS and ANVC, besides ULFA. It is my hope that ULFA will also formally come forward to begin talks with the government of India and the government of Assam. There is no denying that the success achieved in bringing so many groups to the negotiating table has contributed immensely to the decline of violence in the North Eastern states. I would appeal to the groups – or factions of groups – that have stayed away from talks to give up violence, accept the offer of the governments to hold talks, enter into agreements of ceasefire or suspension of operations, and begin talks with the governments’ representatives. I am confident that solutions can be found within the Constitution of India to the demands of various groups for recognition of their identity, history, culture and desire for self-government. The best example is the Bodo Territorial Council which has turned out to be a model of self-governance within the state of Assam and within the Constitution of India.

I shall now refer to Jammu & Kashmir. As you are aware, beginning 2005, and with the exception of 2008, the law and order situation in J&K has been extremely benign, with few incidents and fewer casualties. Unfortunately, since June this year, there has been an unexpected turn of events. I am afraid J&K is now caught in a vicious cycle of stone-pelting, lathicharge, teargasing and firing, leading to casualties, and resulting in more stone-pelting. The security forces have been instructed to act with great restraint. The situation has not yet returned to normal. Nevertheless, amidst serious disturbances, 457,324 yatris completed the Amarnath Yatra, exceeding the number of 392,000 yatris last year. So far, 516,970 tourists have visited J&K, and that number also exceeds the 355,960 tourists of last year. The Central government has acknowledged that a political solution must be found to the problems of J&K. The Central government has offered a dialogue with all sections of the people of J&K and all political parties and groups. We are concerned that we have not been able to stop the vicious cycle in which that state is caught. However, it is my hope that, in the next few days, we would be able to find that elusive ‘starting point’ from where we could reach out to the protestors, reassure them of their rights and dignity, restore peace and order, redeem the promises made, and re-start the process of dialogue that will lead to a solution.

Last year, I dwelt at length on the challenge of Left Wing Extremism. It is often forgotten that it is the state governments that have been, and continue to be, in the forefront of fighting the menace of Left Wing Extremism. As far as I know, all state governments are committed to the two-pronged strategy of development and police action. In November 2009, we persuaded the states to adopt a coordinated strategy and we provided more para-military forces to the states. We made it clear that it would take several years before we were able to contain the CPI (Maoist) and roll back their offensive. I think the people of India understand – even if the critics do not – that the conflict will be a long-drawn one, that patience is the key, that mistakes will be made, and that the security forces need material and moral support to carry out their tasks. In the last 10 months, despite setbacks in Gadchiroli, Silda, Tadmetla and Chingavaram, the security forces have been able to re-assert the control of the state in several affected districts. While the loss of every life is a matter of grief and regret, nothing is more painful than the killing of innocent civilians after naming them as ‘police informers’. This year alone, so far, 424 civilians have been killed and, of these, 192 were killed after being named ‘police informers’. Who shares the grief of their families, who speaks up against their killings? We have called upon the CPI (Maoist) to abjure violence and come for talks. I regret to say that there has been no direct and credible response to our offer of talks. 

There are other concerns too. One of our principal concerns is the maintenance of communal peace and harmony. I am particularly dismayed by the fact that petty disputes and imagined slights trigger conflicts between communities and groups. The Scheduled Castes are especially vulnerable. While it is a matter of satisfaction that there has been no major outbreak of communal or caste violence in the last 12 months, I would urge you to remain vigilant. At the first sign of communal or caste violence, you should depute senior officers to deal with the situation firmly and without fear or favour.

We are always mindful of the fact that ‘police’ and ‘law and order’ are state subjects and the primary responsibility rests with the state governments. At the same time, we recognise the responsibility of the Central government to provide resources, intelligence, training facilities and para-military forces to the state governments. We have found that the Conference of Chief Ministers is a useful mechanism to deliberate and decide upon matters relating to internal security. Since we last met, we have held two meetings, one with all Chief Ministers on February 7, 2010 and the other with Chief Ministers of LWE affected states on July 14, 2010. Many of you were present at those meetings. You will agree with me that the humongous task of building capacity to deal with the challenges to internal security can be described, at best, as ‘work in progress’.

Let me share with you what we have done in the Central government in the last 12 months: 

  • The allocation for internal security in 2008-09 was Rs.25,923 crore. In 2009-10, it rose to Rs. 38,114 crore (RE) and in 2010-11, after the first supplementary, it stands at Rs.40,582 crore.
  • The two schemes of Modernisation of Police Force for the states and for the CPMFs have been extended to 2010-11.
  • We have sanctioned the raising of an additional 38 Battalions in the CRPF, 29 Battalions in the BSF, 32 Battalions in the SSB, and 14,259 personnel in the CISF.
  • We have raised the level of support to the state governments affected by Left Wing Extremism and, in the meeting on July 14, 2010, we obtained the concurrence of the Chief Ministers concerned to a new plan that includes creation of an Unified Command in 4 states; provision of helicopters for logistics support; establishment or strengthening of 400 police stations; appointment of additional SPOs; and implementation of an Integrated Action Plan with emphasis on road connectivity, primary education, primary health care and drinking water in the affected districts.
  • The hardware and software to connect the S-MACs in the state capitals to the state Special Branches are in place. The connectivity will be completed by December 31, 2010.
  • We have augmented the training facilities for security forces. Work has begun on the third and fourth regional institutes of the IB to be located in Jodhpur and Delhi. We have decided to set up one Central Academy for Police Training (CAPT) at Bhopal, two Central Detective Training Schools (CDTS) at Lucknow and Ahmedabad and 20 Counter Insurgency and Anti-Terrorist (CIAT) Schools of which 3 are operational and 12 more are likely to become operational in the current year.
  • We have drawn up Phase II of the Coastal Security Scheme and intend to implement it with effect from November 1, 2010.
  • We have received the final report of the consultants on modernising and upgrading the forensic science system and we have initiated the process of implementing the key recommendations.
  • The review of state cadres of the IPS has been completed and the sanctioned strength has been increased from 4013 on 1.1.2010 to 4730 at the end of the review.
  • We have made it mandatory for every IPS officer to undergo a course of training at three levels in his/her career at the SVP National Police Academy.

As I said, modernising the police forces and building capacity is ‘work in progress’. Having listed the key measures that we have taken, I think I am entitled to ask you about the steps that you have taken since the last meeting. You will recall that at the last meeting I had raised some questions that were considered, at that time, quite provocative. On reflection, most people agreed that those questions deserved to be raised and deserved to be answered. Therefore, I hope you will tell us whether you have succeeded in ensuring that every police officer, appointed to a post, has a reasonable tenure in that post. I hope you will also tell us whether your governments have increased, in real terms, the allocation under the head ‘Police’. Moreover, do you think that you have been delegated adequate financial powers to spend the money allocated to your department? Should we try to put in place a system for transfer of funds under the MPF Scheme directly to the DGP of the state? Is your state making the required 25 per cent contribution to the MPF Scheme? 

At the end of the Conference of Chief Ministers on February 7, 2010, I had suggested that the states set for themselves the target of recruiting another 150,000 police personnel by the end of September, 2010 and I hope you would be able to tell us how close you are to achieving that goal. We also recommended that states adopt the Transparent Recruitment Process (TRP) and I hope you will tell us whether you have done so. CCTNS is an important project that will enhance the efficiency of policing in your states. I hope you would tell us the progress you have made and the difficulties, if any, you face. And finally I hope you would be able to tell us what steps have been taken in your states to enact a new Police Act based on the model Bill that was circulated to the states and what steps have been taken to set up the state Police Establishment Board and the Police Complaints Board.

In conclusion, let me take this opportunity to assure the people of India that the governments and the police forces of India welcome criticism. At the same time, I want to tell you, on behalf of the people, that when faced with a threat or a crisis or a tragedy, everyone – and I mean everyone – turns to the police. Imagine a town or a district without a police force; imagine a state ravaged by Left Wing Extremism without special forces venturing into the jungles; or imagine Manipur or Assam without security forces confronting armed militant groups. Whatever the critics may say, there is no substitute for an efficient and effective police force. It is your duty to raise and lead such a force. In fact, each one of you assembled here should consider it an honour to be able to head such a force. The force under you may not yet be the ideal one, but as long as you head that force you should work untiringly to make it a force that is admired and respected by the people of your state.

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