Amidst the unprecedented success achieved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in establishing the image of India abroad as a country determined to build national strength and economic progress, there are trends at home that are beginning to hurt our internal security. In a democracy, political opposition can be as sharp as it chooses to be in its criticism of the ruling power, but on a non-political matter like national security, it is expected to have a convergence with the ruling dispensation. Likewise, the people can exercise their freedom of protest to voice their grievance publicly against any policy or executive action of the government, but they cannot call for violence to demolish the state or advocate secessionism.
In a democracy, preserving the coherence and stability of the nation requires that police, which is the only coercive arm of the state, should be in a position to operate without fear or favour to enforce the country’s penal code. It has also to be totally autonomous in coming down heavily on individuals and fronts that threatened India’s internal security. The prompt intervention by the Delhi Police in JNU to handle anti- the national elements who had given an open call for destroying India, to avenge the death sentence given by the Supreme Court to a terrorist, has to be appreciated. The university administration had completely failed to monitor campus activities. The autonomy of a university does not over-ride national sovereignty.
As the two years of the BJP government draw to a close, the internal scene of India is marked by a destructive bid by the Opposition and a whole lot of non-governmental forums that did not have a background of transparency, to show to the outside world that India had turned into a state that was intolerant of dissent. They have, at the same time, whipped up identity politics in a manner that has made the country vulnerable to communal tensions and conflicts. This is happening at a time when India facing a long-drawn proxy war at the hands of a determined adversary and has seen a fair number of our own people having been recruited by the latter as its agents and supporters.
The cause of internal security can get weakened if policing is ineffective. This was in evidence recently when the onus for an incident at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, resulting from communal prejudice, was put on the Centre, ignoring the direct responsibility of the state government in sternly dealing with it in the law and order plane, in the first instance. The campaign machinery of the parties in Opposition blew it up as another sign of an intolerant state.
In reality, what is happening is that the glaring failure of many state governments on the law and order front is causing greater loss of face to India abroad than any shortfall in the Centre’s performance in the development and security spheres.
It is time the Centre got out of any political inhibitions to firmly deal with elements—manoeuvred by domestic forces as much as by our adversaries outside—who have not only stepped up their assault on the government of the day, but also misused the argument of democracy to start subverting internal peace and security of the nation. How can any political party permit public mobilisation in favour of terrorists who had been punished by the highest judiciary of the country?
Without fear or favour, violators of law—from the suspects involved in all recent “scams”, big or small, to the agents of the enemy who used the JNU campus to call for recourse to arms to finish off India—should be brought to book. Our judiciary is our best bet to punish those who committed serious offences against the state on the plea of exercising their freedom. The government, on its part, has to be pro- active in the legal pursuit of all such offenders.
There is need for the government at the Centre to have it examined why the police in the states has not been able to keep law and order under better control. There is something wrong with the numbers and quality of personnel assigned to that basic instrument of all policing—the police station. The district SP (superintendent of police) and the deputy SP in charge of the circle must take responsibility for the malfunctioning of the station house officer (SHO). The biggest need for reform, however, is to select the DGP and the chief secretary of the state on the basis of competence-cum-seniority and give them some stability of tenure.
The Centre recruits and trains the officers of IAS and IPS and assigns them to the states. It cannot then wash its hands of them and watch a decline in the administrative standards in the states, which would necessarily be governed by different political parties at different times. The non-political role of the Centre in monitoring the state of law and order in the country needs to be upgraded in consultation with the highest judiciary.
Today, the integrity and stability of the nation is being affected because too much politics is creeping into the spheres of national security, inter-community relations and law and order. There should be a stricter prosecution of those who used a public platform to instigate sectarian violence, show disrespect to the national flag or voice secession. These legal prohibitions must be applied to social media as well since the latter is at par with a public platform. Also, it is time to sensitise the Censor Board towards film content that blatantly undermined people’s faith in national security.
In today’s environ, the country needs VCs of universities who combine academic qualification with administrative acumen and do not have any political affiliations. Why should so much time and energy of the students be wasted on activities that were purely political? Politics is destroying the academic standards of our centres of higher education. As adult voters, students can pursue their political ventures outside of the campus.
The performance of the Modi regime in the area of governance at home is likely to assume greater importance than the success it has no doubt achieved in pushing the foreign policy objectives forward.
India would do well to have a Minister of State Internal Security with a professional background under the Home Minister at the Centre to specially build the system of integral responses to security threats, keep the states and the Centre on the same grid on matters of national security and integrity, and oversee the modernisation of the police across the country.
D.C. Pathak is a former -Director Intelligence Bureau