A WAR ON MUL­TI­PLE FRONTS

The spi­ralling un­rest in Kash­mir and re­cent Maoist strikes are giv­ing the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment night­mares

India Today - - 30 YEARS OF MODI GOVERNMENT | HOME - By San­deep Un­nithan

AS THE MODI GOV­ERN­MENT en­tered its third year in May 2016, in­ter­nal se­cu­rity seemed to be well and truly un­der con­trol. This was chiefly be­cause two of its big­gest in­ter­nal se­cu­rity chal­lenges— mil­i­tancy in Jammu and Kash­mir and Maoists in cen­tral In­dia—had been tack­led. It would seem sus­tained de­ploy­ment by the nearly 1.2 mil­lion-strong cen­tral armed po­lice forces, as big as the In­dian army, had helped put a lid on the sit­u­a­tion.

Just how fleet­ing that mo­ment was has be­come clear this year. The Kash­mir Val­ley in par­tic­u­lar is on the boil again, suf­fer­ing a cy­cle of mil­i­tant vi­o­lence and civil protest not seen in seven years. The new phase of civil un­rest be­gan last July, after the death of Hizbul Mu­jahideen com­man­der Burhan Wani in an en­counter trig­gered an epi­demic of stone-throw­ing against the se­cu­rity forces. A sil­ver lin­ing to this oth­er­wise dark cloud, the on­line ter­ror­ism data­base South Asia Ter­ror­ism Por­tal noted, were fig­ures that showed 2016 as hav­ing the low­est num­ber of civil­ian fa­tal­i­ties in J&K since the begin­ning of Pak­istan-spon­sored ter­ror­ism in 1988—just 14 deaths, the low­est in the past five years, even though the num­ber of ter­ror­ist-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties, 267, were a marked in­crease over the 174 deaths in 2015. The Septem­ber 29 sur­gi­cal strikes on ter­ror­ist tar­gets in Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir seem to have only mo­men­tar­ily stunned the Pak­istani deep state as it restarted its ma­chin­ery that re­cruits, trains and launches ter­ror­ists across the bor­der.

This year, in a sud­den flare-up in cen­tral In­dia, Maoists killed more para­mil­i­tary forces in four months than they had all of the past year.

The Kash­mir pol­icy has mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers. Even the Union home min­istry, with its mo­nop­oly over Cen­tre-

state re­la­tions, is only one of many stake­hold­ers, which in­clude the In­dian army and the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice. Still it is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant play­ers with its con­trol over the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices and the para­mil­i­tary forces, in­clud­ing the Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force along the in­ter­na­tional bor­der. Home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh mon­i­tors the dis­bur­sal of a Rs 80,000 crore as­sis­tance pack­age for J&K an­nounced by PM Modi in 2015.

One no­table suc­cess for the min­istry has been in blunt­ing the ISIS re­cruit­ment drive in In­dia. The ISIS threat came closer home through a toxic on­line re­cruit­ment ma­chin­ery. At least 23 In­di­ans are be­lieved to have joined the out­fit. Six are dead and two have re­turned and are un­der de­ten­tion. A larger num­ber among at least 30 po­ten­tial re­cruits has been tracked, in­ter­cepted and ar­rested be­fore they could leave the coun­try.

The North­east is an­other se­cu­rity worry as it is home to 13 of the 39 ter­ror­ist for­ma­tions cur­rently banned by the min­istry. Vi­o­lence in the re­gion is at its low­est level in two decades. The South Asia Ter­ror­ism Por­tal es­ti­mated that apart from th­ese 13 banned out­fits, 30 other groups re­main ac­tive in the re­gion and 23 are in un­cer­tain peace talks or have signed cease­fire pacts. The war against the Maoists in­volves five states, but this is where the home min­istry plays a cru­cial role by rush­ing in para­mil­i­tary forces, fund­ing in­fra­struc­ture schemes, mod­ernising the ne­glected state po­lice forces and co­or­di­nat­ing counter-Maoist strate­gies be­tween the states.

Singh, who con­tin­ued the de­vel­op­ment and se­cu­rity strat­egy against Maoists ini­ti­ated by his pre­de­ces­sors, has re­assessed the pol­icy. He called upon cabi­net mem­bers, from rail­way min­is­ter Suresh Prabhu to roads and high­ways min­is­ter Nitin Gad­kari and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Manoj Sinha, to make pre­sen­ta­tions in a May 8 meet­ing with the chief min­is­ters of states af­fected by Maoist vi­o­lence. At the meet­ing, Singh launched a se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions doc­trine, Sa­mad­han—an acro­nym, ap­par­ently for the un­wieldy ob­jec­tive of smart lead­er­ship, ag­gres­sive strat­egy, mo­ti­va­tion and train­ing, ac­tion­able in­tel­li­gence, dash­board-based key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors, har­ness­ing tech­nol­ogy, ac­tion plan for each threat and no ac­cess to fund­ing. This even as there are crit­i­cal gaps in his min­istry in the train­ing and equip­ping of para­mil­i­tary forces and a pre­cip­i­tous fall in funds for mod­erni­sa­tion of po­lice and se­cu­rity-re­lated ex­pen­di­ture for the de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture in Maoist-af­fected ar­eas. Per­haps Sa­mad­han is an ac­tion plan Singh needs to im­ple­ment in his own min­istry first.

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