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17 Apr, 2012

India: “Left-wing Extremism” Now the “Most Formidable” Internal Security Threat”

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New Delhi, April 16, 2012 (Press Information Bureau) – Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram provided a comprehensive round-up of India’s internal security situation at a Conference of the State Chief Ministers on Internal Security in New Delhi on April 16. Mr Chidambaram said that “left-wing extremism” has now become the “most formidable threat to internal security.” They chalked the progress being made in improving security in Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeastern states and regretted the continuation of local communal conflicts. In one very important remark, the Prime Minister noted the importance of the “holistic approach to the problem” which involves “paying simultaneous attention to security, development, good governance and perception management.”

The conference, the fifth in a series that began in January 2009, was attended by the Finance Minister, Chief Ministers, Ministers of State Governments, Ministers of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Lt. Governors, Administrators, senior officials of the Central Government and State Governments. The texts of the two speeches follow:

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s speech:

“I welcome you to this very important conference on Internal Security. This forum has proved its utility over several years as a platform to exchange ideas and to build consensus on the possible ways and means to strengthen our internal security apparatus.

Since we last met in February 2011, the internal security situation has by and large been satisfactory. I commend the efforts of the States and the Centre for their joint efforts to maintain peace, amity and harmony throughout this diverse land of ours.

But I am sure all of us would agree that much more is required of us. Serious internal security challenges remain. Threats from terrorism, left wing extremism, religious fundamentalism, and ethnic violence persist in our country. These challenges demand constant vigilance on our part. They need to be tackled firmly but with sensitivity. The forces behind them must not only be contained but should also be effectively rolled back.

This is undoubtedly a complex and onerous task. It is an endeavour that requires the united effort of us all both or two centres and in the states. Internal security is a matter in which the States and the Centre must work together, hand in hand, and in harmony.

Take for instance Left Wing Extremism. The year 2011 was a better year than 2010 in terms of the number of deaths caused by Left Wing Extremist groups. But we still have a long way to go, both in terms of including people in the affected areas in our growing economy and society, and in terms of providing them with adequate account of security. The so called “protracted people’s war” waged by Left Wing Extremists against the state and society continues to target civilians and security forces, and economic infrastructure such as railways, mobile communications and power networks. In the recent past, naxalites have also resorted to abducting foreign nationals.

I am glad that you are devoting a separate session this evening to Left Wing Extremism. Our holistic approach to the problem remains valid and necessary, paying simultaneous attention to security, development, good governance and perception management. In the last two years, the Integrated Action Plan has brought development to villages in the most backward and violence affected districts in our country. We have also extended the Plan from the original 60 districts to 78 districts. Given the inter-state ramifications of Left Wing Extremism, the Action Plan has been deliberated in detail with the seven affected states.

At the same time, we should work together to find better and more effective ways and means of implementing our holistic approach.

Like other internal security matters, we need joint and coordinated efforts to deal with the challenge of terrorism, whatever be its origin, whether internal or external, and whatever its motivation. This is a struggle in which we cannot relax. When we see turbulence in the region and growing factors of instability around us, we must strengthen our defences against terrorism. Today, terrorist groups are nimble, more lethal than ever before and increasingly networked across frontiers.

Accurate and timely intelligence is a prime necessity if we are to defeat terrorism, preventing it and countering it effectively. We have made some progress in this regard, strengthening our intelligence gathering apparatus and establishing NATGRID. The operationalising of four NSG hubs and NIA branch offices and MAC-SMAC connectivity are other instances. We will discuss the National Counter Terrorism Centre on May 5 in a separate meeting, as some chief Ministers suggested.

There is no question that the burden of the fight against terrorism falls largely on the States’ machinery. The Centre is ready to work with the states to put in place strong and effective institutional mechanisms to tackle this problem.

In Jammu and Kashmir there has been a perceptible improvement in the security and law and order situation. As a result, the state witnessed the highest inflow of tourists and pilgrims during 2011. The Panchayat elections were successful and were more proof of the people’s desire to be able to lead normal lives free from the shadow of violence and terrorism.

The situation in some of our North-Eastern states has, however, remained complex. There was some improvement in terms of incidents of violence, but there is no question that much remains to be done to restore calm and eliminate extortion, kidnapping and other crimes by militant or extremist groups on the pretext of ethnic identity. The pilferage of development funds by militant groups is hurting our efforts to improve the lives of the people of the region. Inter-factional clashes, such as those in Tirap and Changlang, are another source of insecurity.

The answers to these problems lie in strengthening the law and order capabilities of the states concerned and in reasserting and rebuilding normal democratic political and developmental processes. More proactive state police forces reducing reliance on central armed police forces would be a useful step forward. The Centre will continue to work with the states of the region to make this possible. I would hope that the implementation of infrastructure projects in the North-East will create conditions for the return of normalcy.

I am very happy that political processes of negotiation and dialogue are underway with several insurgent and ethnic separatist groups in the North-East that are committed to finding amicable solutions to their problems. These dialogues, which are being undertaken by the Ministry of Home Affairs in close consultation with the states concerned, are making steady headway.

The Centre will continue its support to capacity building and police modernisation efforts by the States. State governments are the primary responders in most internal security situations. We have extended the police modernisation scheme and we are continuing the Coastal Security Scheme and the Border Area Development Programme. I would urge the States and Ministry of Home Affairs to carry forward police reform and modernisation to their logical conclusion.

Before I close there is one other issue that I would like to put forward for consideration. No system or structure can be better than the people who man it. The internal security structures of India are no exception. It is therefore important that we find ways and means of improving not just the number but also the quality of our police personnel. I hope that your meeting will suggest new and innovative ways to address this issue and to make rapid progress in improving the conditions under which our personnel work. If we are able to do so, we would be repaying in some measure the dedicated and loyal service of our police and defence personnel which has helped us to make our country safer.

With these words I wish you well in your deliberations. I hope that this conference will make constructive and practical suggestions that will enable us to further improve internal security in India, strengthening the rule of law, and enabling every Indian citizen to realise his or her full potential in an environment of peace and security. That must be our common goal, and I look forward to working with you towards that end.”

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s speech

In every (previous) meeting (of chief ministers on internal security) I have emphasised that the State Government is at the frontline of defending the internal security of the country. For example, on August 17, 2009 I said: “Nothing is more important than the assurance of security and none can contribute more to this sense of security than State Governments.”

It is customary to present a brief report on the internal security situation. We have shared with you notes on each item of the agenda. Hence, without repeating the facts and figures, I wish to place before you our assessment of the situation.

An overview would lead to the conclusion that violence had declined in 2011. Be it the North Eastern States, Jammu & Kashmir or LWE affected States, or the attempts to commit terrorist acts, there was indeed a decline in the number of incidents and the number of casualties. However, I must caution you that behind these figures lies a more worrying narrative – which is the spread and the reach of some adversaries, and their success in augmenting their weaponry and their military capabilities. The target is the Indian State and, naturally, every constituent of the Indian State, and, in his offensive, the adversary does not recognise State borders. His organisation does not match States’ territorial jurisdictions. And he makes no distinction between the Central Government and the State Governments.

The success stories of 2011 were the dramatic improvement in the internal security situation in Jammu & Kashmir and in the North Eastern States. Two factors seem to have turned the situation around: firstly, the effectiveness of the security forces and, secondly, our ability to reach out to the adversaries and convince them that the Indian political system allows space for every shade of opinion and has the capacity to resolve differences through talks and other constitutional means.

In J&K, we had a peaceful and splendid summer and winter and record numbers of tourists and pilgrims. In the North Eastern States, nearly all major groups are in talks with the Government. I am, therefore, confident that 2012 will see further advancement in bringing peace and development to these States.

At the last Conference, I had cautioned that there was no let-up in the attempts to strike terror whenever there was an opportunity. The International Border and the Line of Control in the West continue to remain vulnerable. Every week has witnessed attempts to infiltrate into India and new routes appear to have been opened via Nepal and Bangladesh.

There were two major terror attacks in 2011 – the serial blasts in Mumbai in July and the blast near the Delhi High Court in September. Thankfully, the conspiracies behind the two incidents have been unravelled and many suspects have been arrested. The chilling facts are that the principal suspects in the two cases are Indian nationals; they operated across States; and many of them had no previous criminal record. I have to conclude, regretfully, that thanks to radicalisation, there are many Indian groups which have acquired the capacity to carry out terror attacks.

Our security forces remained vigilant. In 2011, 18 terror modules were neutralised and 53 persons arrested. In the first three months of 2012, 3 modules were neutralised and 11 persons arrested. I wish to underline the fact that one half of the cases were cracked through the joint efforts of the Central Agencies and State police concerned.

This is the reality: at the operational level, there is no conflict between the Central Agencies and the State Police Forces. They work together, consult each other, share intelligence and, when necessary, mount joint operations to apprehend the suspects. In my view, such silent and invisible work of neutralising terrorist modules deserves as much praise as solving the terrorist cases.

What is a cause of worry, however, is that, in practically every case, a small section of the people springs to the support of persons who are detained for interrogation or arrested and charged. There is no apparent reason for such support other than the affinity of religion or sect. This is a dangerous trend and makes the task of the investigating agencies more difficult. I would, therefore, request you to join me in appealing to the people, and to the media, to observe caution and restraint and place faith in the integrity and impartiality of the investigation.

I shall now turn to the most formidable threat to internal security. It is Left Wing Extremism. The decline in the overall number of casualties among civilians and security forces in LWE-affected districts may give a false sense of assurance, but that is not the true picture. Two States are very badly affected, four States are affected and three States are within the arc of influence of the CPI (Maoist). Assam has emerged as the new theatre of Maoist activity. There are also inputs about the links of CPI (Maoist) with insurgent groups in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

In recent months, the security forces have made bold forays into hitherto forbidden territories such as Saranda Forest and Koel-Sankh in Jharkhand and Abuj-maad in Chhattisgarh. However, the results remain sub-optimal, especially in areas under the control of Area or Zonal Committees operating in Bihar-Jharkand-North Chhattisgarh, Andhra-Odisha and Dandakaranya. Jan Adalats and military training camps continue to be held with impunity. Economic infrastructure and so-called police informers continue to be targeted. Extortion is rampant. We have held frequent meetings with the DGPs and senior police officers of the affected States. I find that there is broad agreement on the two-pronged strategy of police action and developmental work, but, I am afraid, our capacity to execute the plans is not commensurate with the nature of the challenge.

The Integrated Action Plan launched in November, 2010, with an outlay of Rs.3300 crore over two years, has been an outstanding success, thanks to the drive and determination shown by the District Administrations. Still, we do not have the upper hand because there are not enough police stations; not enough men, weapons and vehicles; not enough infrastructure for the CAPFs; not enough roads; and not enough presence of the civil administration – especially in the health and education sectors. There is more work to be done, and I pledge the cooperation of the Central Government in helping the States to overcome the challenge of Left Wing Extremism.

The challenge of Left Wing Extremism has been compounded by the capacity of the CPI (Maoist) to promote a number of front organisations and win the support of civil society groups. They use every instrument that is available in a democracy – from freedom of speech to bandhs to judicial remedies. Several urban areas have emerged as new centres of pro-Maoist activities. Even while we continue with the two-pronged strategy, it is necessary to find ways and means to blunt the propaganda offensive launched by the CPI (Maoist).

I shall now briefly touch upon the communal situation. By and large, the situation was peaceful and the graph of incidents is declining. Yet, it pains me to note that in 2011 91 lives were lost and 1908 persons were injured in local communal conflicts. The so-called cause was usually trivial, but there were also cases of deliberate provocation. I urge State Governments to remain vigilant, impartial and firm.

Lastly, I wish to refer to the unfinished tasks and seek your cooperation in utilising the funds that are made available and completing the projects. The Modernisation of Police Force (MPF) scheme was allotted Rs.1,111 crore in 2011-12, but we had to surrender Rs.311 crore because some States had large unspent balances. For the current year, we have been able to secure Rs.900 crore and I would urge State Governments to address the deficiencies in the implementation of the scheme to help me request the Finance Minister for more funds.

In 2011-12, under Security Related Expenditure (SRE) and Security Infrastructure Scheme (SIS), the Central Government released Rs.883.51 crore and Rs.185.82 crore, respectively. Release of funds and implementation can be more effective if proposals are submitted at the beginning of the financial year and greater financial and administrative powers are delegated to the Director General of Police in the State.

I have a vision of the overall security architecture that the country needs and deserves. Some elements are in place, for example, the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) and the Subsidiary MACs at the State capitals. NATGRID is work in progress. CCTNS, under implementation since 2010, has reached the crucial milestone of selection of System Integrator, but only 16 out of 35 States/UTs have completed the task. On the other hand, the development of Core Application Software (CAS) has been completed, field testing is under way, and agreements have been signed to establish nation-wide connectivity. The sum of all these, I am afraid, is that while CCTNS is progressing, it is 9 months behind schedule.

The NSG has moved into its permanent headquarters at the four hubs. Soon, the NIA will set up new offices at Mumbai, Kochi and Lucknow. Other elements have to be put in place to complete the security architecture and I earnestly seek your cooperation and support in that regard.

The BPR&D has published the first-ever compilation of data on police organisations in India as on January 1, 2011. It is an illuminating study and captures the hard data on the state of police organisations. There were only 100 civil police for a population of 100,000. The vacancies in all ranks were 501,069 or about 25 per cent of the sanctioned strength. States spent about Rs.50,000 crore on the police in 2010-11, but that was only 4.76 per cent of the total budgeted expenditure of all States. Of this, only about Rs.700 crore was spent on training. The findings speak for themselves. The study is a wake-up call to all of us, and I would urge you to take the corrective steps that are so urgently needed in order to enhance our capacity to meet the challenges.

Before I close, I would once again like to underscore my firm belief that, bound by the Constitution of India and working together, we can make this country safe and secure; ensure peace and harmony; and create an environment that will promote faster and more inclusive growth.

  • Ashok Pokharel

    Having sown left wing seeds in its own back yard for years, India can now take cold comfort that the problem has come home to roost. There is saying in Nepali that goes “malai khane bagle talai pani khancha” which roughly translates to “the tiger that can eat me is capable of eating you too”. GRRRR! Bon apetit!