Internal Security is a phrase in our political and social lexicon that is much used, abused and misunderstood. When heinous murders occur in broad daylight on the streets of Ghaziabad or Dhanbad, when a feeling of lawlessness pervades large parts of Uttar Pradesh (the ghastly murders in Noida are the most recent and most macabre examples), we rightly feel outraged. But, we tend to forget that these are essentially law and order problems. Even public disorder on a large scale does not qualify as an internal security problem. What, then, are the boundaries of this nebulous concept of internal security?
Since the time India adopted a federal structure, our Constitution distributes legislative (and executive) powers over three lists — one list each for the Centre and state governments, and the third for both, normally subject to supremacy of central over state legislation. External security and defence fall exclusively under central competence while law and order, and public order, fall exclusively under state jurisdiction. Internal security, somewhat curiously, is not mentioned in any of the three lists — indeed, it is not used anywhere in the Constitution at all except for a reference to “internal disturbance” in Article 355, which provides for special central intervention in states in extraordinary situations.
Internal security is thus a hybrid, nowhere specifically mentioned, and yet, straddling all the three lists. In this backdrop, a good working description of internal security would include the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-east, the Naxal issue and its territorial contours. Internal security would also necessarily subsume the entire gamut of the three ‘I’s — infiltration, interception and information gathering.
Researching a recent debate in the Upper House, I discovered to my pleasant surprise, that facts and figures did not
reflect as dismal a position on internal security as is usually portrayed and that India has a lot to feel satisfied about, without, of course, letting our guard down for even a moment. I also realised that much of the ‘feel bad’ factor and knee-jerk reactions against the Home Ministry arise from a common perception that links law and order and public order with that department, though it has nothing whatsoever to do with it (except for in Delhi).
Statistics, analysed over a period and from different angles, rarely lie. The figures from J&K reflect a dramatic improvement in the internal security position. The number of terrorist incidents has dropped from 2,565 in 2004 to 1,442 till October 2006. Security forces killed over the same period dropped from 281 to 131. Civilian killings decreased by half, from 707 to 340. The number of terrorists killed also declined from 976 to 516. This was accompanied by significant development initiatives. The Prime Minister announced a comprehensive reconstruction plan in November 2004, allocating Rs 24,000 crore for several designated activities like road and bridge building, construction of housing, schools, power plants, infrastructure maintenance and so on. Working groups are in place to to delineate schemes to improve relations across the LoC, for the development of J&K and for improvement in J&K-Centre relations. Meanwhile, the other two regions, Jammu and Ladakh, largely remain peaceful.
The North-east analysis is revealing. In Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, terrorist activity appears to be on a steady decline. In Nagaland, the killings continue but the majority are internecine. Assam reflects fluctuating figures — but although there remains cause for concern, the number of incidents outweigh deaths.
The Naxalite issue reflects a dramatic improvement in almost every affected state, barring Chhattisgarh. It is the latter which spoils the average, accounting for over 49 per cent of all incidents and 59 per cent of total casualties. In Andhra Pradesh, the improvement is considerable — over one-third in number of incidents. Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa have also improved, though nowhere as dramatically as AP. A comprehensive carrot and stick policy is underway and informed sources predict a further remarkable decline in 2007. The so-called Naxalite corridor from Nepal to Tamil Nadu is an exaggeration. A simple but telling example illustrates this. The present method of counting requires one to designate as Naxalite-affected the entire district, even if only one village suffers Naxal trouble. The result is that whole districts and, therefore, entire states are designated as Naxal states, presenting a skewed picture.
The correct method would be to mark out and highlight the police stations most vulnerable to Naxal activity — the result is likely to be a pleasant set of dots and not swathes of Naxal-controlled territory.
Abhishek Singhvi is MP, Congress National Spokesperson and Senior Advocate
Email Abhishek Singhvi: firstname.lastname@example.org