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Army in CP

Army in CP

Author: N.V. Subramanian
Publication: NewsInsight.net
Date: August 14, 2008
URL: http://www.newsinsight.net/archivedebates/nat2.asp?recno=1708

Politicians are making it impossible to secure India, writes

About eight-thirty last evening, the army took over some tall buildings in Connaught Place as part of Independence Day security measures. The sight was not reassuring, although the contrary is suggested when soldiers take position. The army was doing the job that police commandoes should have done, or the police side of National Security Guards (NSG). The army should have been in the barracks training for war which should never happen. Alas, all this seems so Utopian.

It is axiomatic that if borders are secure, places like Connaught Place, downtown Delhi, could be secured by police. Not just CP, but all of the interior. But since the mid-Eighties, when Pakistan incited low-intensity war in Punjab and then Jammu and Kashmir, and after the American pressure after 9/ 11, forced terrorist groups to relocate to Bangladesh, so that India's east and North East could be destabilized, the country's zones of security have terrifyingly shrunk. Parliament was attacked. The garrison in Red Fort, symbol of India's military power, and from which, in a few hours, prime minister Manmohan Singh will address the nation, was penetrated by Pakistani terrorists. And simultaneous with this shrinkage of secure public space, politicians have competed to gain higher alphabetic levels of personal security.

The ultimate perversion is that one of the most venal politicians, Amar Singh, has just won a security upgrade, although all he has to fear, as someone wrote, are news TV sting operations. And there is Mayawati, who has scant regard for constitutional politics, who frequently speaks of assassination threats surrounded by commandoes.

To return to the army in CP, what's after this "state instrument of the last resort"? In recent weeks and months, the army has "aided civil authority" in Leh, Bishnah (J and K), Vadodara, Ahmedabad (both Gujarat), Dausa, Sawai Madhopur, Alwar, Dhaulapur, Kota, Jhalawar, Bayana, Bundi, Gharsana (all Rajasthan), Siliguri, Calcutta (West Bengal), Sonitpur, Kokrajar, Jorhat and Dhubri (all Assam). Anywhere that the local police or paramilitary fails, the army is called. Successive army chiefs have warned against this trend, and the defence minister, A.K.Anthony, repeated the warning recently. Ask senior army officers, and they blame it on political failure and collapse of

While the army, for instance, fully understands its role and responsibilities in Jammu and Kashmir, it also realizes the limits to military peace. At best, the army can bring down the threshold of violence, but the rest has to be done by politicians in Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir. Besides the tragic deaths from police firing, the most troublesome news from J and K is that assembly elections may be postponed again.

With all its drawbacks, democracy is the only solution for J and K. With peace, or relative peace, in that state, it is possible for the government to repair the situation in the rest of the Periphery. And unless peace, security and democracy are robustly enforced in the Periphery, we can no longer expect to normally celebrate Independence Day. Connaught Place will be a ghost district even before this is published, and it will remain so till the PM returns to the absolute security of five and seven Race Course Road after his I-Day speech. No complains. Let him live long. But are the rest of us to board up and celebrate our Independence in fear and hiding? Is this independence?

Clearly, things cannot go on like this. The army has to go out of normal sight. The borders must be turned over to the Border Security Force. Paramilitary forces like the CRPF must return to becoming premium state instruments to assist police in peace-keeping. The NSG should revert to its mandated role and not be diluted with VIP security, which an expanded and intensively-trained police force can take over.

But the bulk of police must return to classical policing, which means knowing the beat, being intimate with the pulse of the city or town, being on top of criminality, and making studied transformations to combat urban terrorism. What is required is change with continuity, while respecting institutional charters.

But the roadblocks are absent political will and a construct called secularism twisted to win votes of defrauded and affrighted minorities. As one more Independence Day approaches, politicians are making it impossible to secure India. What's next after the Indian Army in Connaught Place?

- N.V.Subramanian is Editor, NewsInsight.net.

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