Defence Minister A.K. Antony expressed concern about frequent requests from state governments for deploying army. He was addressing the top brass of the military at the Unified Commanders’ Conference, which concluded on Wednesday.
The West Bengal government has turned to the army to defuse the ethnic violence in Darjeeling. A senior army official told HT on Thursday: “The state government is in talks with the Kolkata-based Eastern Command on the probable role and deployment of the army to clear the mess in Darjeeling.” This comes on the heels of the army being called in to control Gujjar violence in Rajasthan.
But the widespread phenomenon of states wanting the army to set their house in order does not find favour with the defence ministry. Even the army is concerned about its role being reduced to that of a para-military force, as first noted by the Kargil Review Committee way back in February 2000. “Such requests should come only as the last resort when all other options have failed,” Antony said. He referred to army’s intervention in handling law and order problems as an “unhealthy development in democracy.”
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had noted last year in a report that the use of army as a substitute for state police diverted its attention from its prime objective — safeguarding the borders.