The internal security environment in India is highly complex and challenging. It is impacted by the external as well as domestic environment. Economic disparities, social discrimination and other causes have given rise to these problems. These are further compounded by the financial and logistic support of inimical neighbours. The perception that the tribals are being deprived of their rights is the cause of the prolonged Maoist insurgency in central India.
We have been constantly embroiled in one or the other internal security problems since our independence. That India has managed to control many insurgencies such as in Mizoram, Assam, and Punjab besides achieving tenuous peace in Nagaland to emerge stronger and united is another thing altogether.
The vastness, large population, and varying socio-economic environment give rise to newer challenges about which we must be vigilant and must be dealt with a combination of militaristic, socio-economic, and political initiatives.
Two Months On, Manipur Crisis Remains On The Boil
The biggest challenge that India faces presently is the unending cycle of violence in Manipur. The ethnic violence ignited by the order of the Manipur High Court directing the Manipur government to take action on the long pending demand of the Meiteis for ST status started on 3 May and has resulted in the loss of over 130 lives, displacement of more than 60000 persons besides loss of property worth crores of Rupees.
The law and order situation in the bordering state is precarious. The situation might take a communal turn with the burning of over 200 churches and around 20 temples. Continued violence might also reignite separatist insurgency in the Northeast with the Nagas demanding greater Nagalim and now Kuki tribals demanding a separate administrative area/State. Governance deficit and delayed induction of security forces are the two most important reasons for the situation remaining out of control for so long. The government must act decisively and work for reconciliation between communities. The security forces also must operate in an impartial manner and win the confidence of every ethnicity.
J&K’s Political Volatility & Punjab's Separatist Strains
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir remains a challenge even though things are much better now. However, it is essential to reinitiate the political activity by holding elections at the earliest in order to bring stability. We must however not let our guards down because militant sleeper cells aided and abetted by Pakistan are ready to exploit the situation. The reported act of a Major of making people in a Mosque shout “Jai Sri Ram” is something that must be avoided. Development agenda must be implemented and industrialists encouraged to invest keeping environmental impact in view. Early elections will create confidence in the democratic process and help obviate apprehensions.
The Punjab situation too needs to be closely monitored and efforts of rich NRIs to once again fuel separatist movement must be thwarted. Media must exercise caution and must not give separatist colour to small incidents and blow them out of proportion. Separatists lack ground support in Punjab. However, lack of employment opportunities, and widespread drug abuse are some accentuating factors which must be addressed urgently.
Intelligence and border guarding agencies must remain alert and prevent infiltration of militants as well as logistics from across the border. Urgent technological solutions must also be found for the threat posed by the use of drones by Pakistan to provide logistics to the militants.
Tackling Maoist Insurgency
Insurgency in Maoist affected region of Central India continues to drain our resources. The levels of violence have been gradually brought under control. This started with banning of CPI (Maoist) in 2009 and helping states to modernise the police. Gradual widening of the area of domination under "Operation Green Hunt” launched in 2009 and Intelligence coordination through structures like – Multi Agency Centres(MAC) and State MAC led to the moral ascendency of security forces and restricting the militant activities.
Additionally, large funds have been sanctioned for security-related expenditure for Police modernisation, surrender, relief, rehabilitation etc. The creation of better road network and establishment of mobile towers leading to better communication, focus on better training, and raising special forces has led to capacity enhancement and effectiveness of SF.
People-centric actions have focussed on the development, of infrastructure, poverty alleviation, health care, accessible education through Navodaya schools, and setting up of girls hostels etc, thus, helping improve human development indicators. Efforts have been made to transform the image of the State from a violent and exploitative entity by sensitising forest and police personnel and settling entitlements for 20 million tribals unsettled by mining operations.
Legal reforms through the Extension of PESA (Panchayat Extension Act) which provides that Adivasi hamlets are the primary stakeholders/owners of land and they cannot be Displaced without their vote, Forest Rights Act 2006 Land acquisition act 2013 have gone a long way in empowering the tribals.
The government implemented "National Strategy and Action Plan to address LWE” in 2015 besides SAMADHAN (Smart Leadership, Aggressive strategy, Motivation and Training, Actionable Intelligence, Dashboard-based KRAs, Key performance indicators, and no access to finances). These have brought the levels of violence down to manageable limits. Naxal-related incidents came down to 598 in 2022 from 674 in 2021. Additionally, 2853 Maoists gave up arms in 2022 compared to only 533 in 2021.
These successes must be built upon by ensuring that the benefit of development reaches the locals and the rights of local residents are protected through a combination of security and population centric initiatives besides filling the void created by the lack of political activity in these areas.
Some Emerging Threats
Besides the above militaristic internal security challenges, there are several emerging non-traditional security threats. These include region and language-based conflicts. The South Indians protest what they think is the imposition of Hindi on them. Regional chauvinism led to the exodus of people belonging to UP and Bihar from Maharashtra in 2010 and people from the Northeast and from Bengaluru in 2012. This is due to the feeling that people from outside the state usurp the limited avenues of employment available for locals. Rampant ill-treatment of so-called lower castes in spite of constitutional guarantees is another emerging internal security threat which needs to be seriously addressed.
Rising unemployment and radicalisation of society are threatening to convert our population dividend into disadvantage. The unemployed youth is increasingly getting involved in drugs, leading to increased cases of petty theft. Many unemployed youths are taking law in their hands and indulging in serious crimes like cow vigilantism and lynching of cattle traders, moral policing etc. Such youth also easy prey to the political parties for spreading their communal agenda thus leading to increasing distrust amongst different communities.
Communalism is one of the biggest threats to the integrity of our nation. We need to ensure adequate gainful employment for the youth in order to channelise their energies in nation-building.
To summarise, India faces several internal security challenges needing urgent attention. The government and society must remain vigilant and concerted efforts must be made to address these issues. This is the only way of achieving all-inclusive and holistic progress in India.
(Sanjiv Krishan Sood (Retd) has served as the Additional Director General of the BSF and was also with the SPG. He tweets @sood_2. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)