The Prime Minister’s schedule usually has him deliver a speech or two everyday. So it would not be surprising if the man-in-the-street glosses over the remarks of a particular day. We hope, however, that people have paid close attention to what he had to say on Tuesday to a group of Chief Ministers on the issue of internal security. The PM did not mince words. He cited the warning of intelligence agencies that there could be intensified terrorist attacks launched by sleeper cells that have taken root in some urban centres. Referring to the Northeast and the rising threat of Maoism, he said the country faced a complex set of internal security challenges that required effective coordination between the Centre and the states, and the states among themselves. Nowhere has the lack of coordination — and its baleful consequences — been more apparent than on the subject of confronting the spread of Maoism in the country.
Over the years each state’s approach has been to separately fight or accommodate them, or simply pretend that the menace did not exist. The growing coordination of the various Maoist outfits, and their growing clout, has now made it imperative for the states to coordinate their policies along with that of the Centre. Among the areas needing attention are the importance of ground intelligence and better policing. To this end, there has been a decision to create a special group of ministers, headed by the Union Home Minister, to coordinate strategy to address the challenge.
Characteristically, Mr Singh’s remarks were not merely tough talk. He stressed upon the need for sensitivity in dealing with the issues, and understanding that these were not merely about law and order situations, but development and identity politics as well. The PM’s forthright remarks on the need to allay insecurity among the Muslim community is timely. Reports from Mumbai about the draconian police methods being used serve to underscore his remarks. Terrorist actions are carried out by small secretive groups, so targeting an entire community is counterproductive. The police needs to change its act altogether, because at the end of the day, countering internal security threats is about winning the battle for hearts and minds.