Decoding the PM’s security breach
- The safety of India’s top political functionary should transcend political considerations
Irrespective of how it happened, the blocking of the Prime Minister (PM)’s route by protesters in Punjab was a security breach. Without imputing motives, explaining how protests are a part of democracy, or hypothesising how other PMs from the past may have dealt with this — there has been a lot of all three — it is important to acknowledge this fact. It is also irrelevant to even wonder whether the PM was in any real danger. What matters and is relevant is that there was clearly a security breach. That it happened in a border state where there has been heightened drone activity from across the border, ahead of state elections, and soon after a lengthy protest by the state’s farmers against the Union government, makes the breach that much more significant (and worrying).
There are four components of the PM’s security – the Special Protection Group, which forms the inner ring; the Central Reserve Police Force, which sort of forms the outer ring; the local police, which is responsible for the logistics and the security along the route; and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), which assesses threat perceptions. It’s important to ascertain who messed up, for someone clearly did. At first sight, the responsibility for what happened seems to lie with the state police, which should have secured the route, and IB, which should have known of the protest. Interestingly, the chief minister of Punjab is on record saying that he told the director of IB that the roads had been cleared at 6.30 am on Wednesday. Still, only a perusal of the so-called advance security liaison in which all aspects, including the routes are discussed with all stakeholders, and an investigation can establish which agency made the mistake. It may well be that it was just that, a mistake — as Hanlon’s razor puts it, “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” — but this judgment can wait till the investigation, which should also go into the mobilisation of the protesters and their seeming knowledge of the route, is complete.
The Union home ministry and the state government have already started work on this, and it is very likely that the SPG, the best protection force in the country, is conducting a post-mortem examination of the incident. Answers will emerge over the next few days, and it is important that the politics as well as speculation about those responsible for the lapse and their motives wait till then. The safety and security of an individual holding the country’s highest political office should transcend political considerations or personalities.