Role of State and Non State Actors
India’s internal security problems are a manifestation of internal weaknesses and external attempts at waging a proxy war. Inadequate socio-economic development, apathy towards the genuine grievances of the people, political brinkmanship amongst other reasons, has created internal contradictions, which have led to over five decades of internal strife. Similarly, a number of internal security challenges faced today are fuelled and controlled from Pakistan.
If we divide the internal security challenges into four main groups, to include, Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast India, Left Wing Extremism and Terrorism in the Hinterland, then the first and the last are a direct manifestation of Pakistani influence.
It is part of Pakistan’s state policy to bleed India through a thousand cuts, given its obvious disadvantages on the conventional war fighting front. The use of non-state actors is essentially the employment of a proxy element, which gives the state of Pakistan a degree of deniability.
However, there is no doubt that none of the so called non-state actors like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) could have operated with impunity without the active funding, logistical and military support of Pakistan. The close linkages of the ISI and such groups are well documented as is their direct involvement in attacks like 26/11. These groups aim to not only create instability in states like J&K, they also have a larger aim of destabilising the country. This is done through sporadic terrorist strikes, which spreads terror and panic. This could also adversely affect the ability of the Indian state to pursue economic modernisation. The flooding of the country with counterfeits is also a way of weakening the economy. Therefore, the non-state actors operating from Pakistan are the proxies of the state, functioning under a clear charter of state policy.
Several factors underscore the sustained threat of terror in India and the likelihood of additional attacks in 2016. One is the withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan. This presents anti-India groups (such as LeT) that had been helping the Taliban fight foreign troops in Afghanistan with an opportunity to redirect their attention back to India.
Another factor, perhaps linked to the first, is the slow reemergence into the public sphere of several top anti-India militant leaders who had been quiet in previous years
India will need to better understand the unconventional and asymmetric modes of warfare used by terrorists who are agile, fast-moving, technology-savvy and—above all—ready to die. Such adversaries pose great problems for plodding conventional militaries used to fighting those like themselves, and for law enforcement forces used to targeting common criminals.
Given the heightened threat of terror in India today, the country can scarcely afford to keep failing to learn lessons from the past.
Types of Non State Actors
The definition of non state actors or civil society cannot be univocal and universal.
Bearing in mind the constraints linked to the variable nature of NSAs and civil society within each ACP country, it is still fundamental that the notion remains firmly grounded in the characteristics and common elements of each individual context. On the one hand, the inclusive capacity of the civil society (and NSA’s) notion, so as to avoid excluding key actors that could be relevant in contributing to development goals.
As regards inclusion, the notion must reflect the plethora of organisational structures adopted by non state actors (and, in particular, civil society), where community organizations, often informal, at grass roots level hold the same social and political legitimacy as the platforms, networks and NGOs (women, development, human rights) that can be found at an intermediary level.
Factors contributing to threats in Internal Security
Since the advent of independence, India has faced multitude of security challenges to its nationhood – both external and internal – and to its emergence as a deservingly significant player in the global order. Located in one of the most security and politically stressed regions of the world, and with some not so friendly neighbours, sharing nearly 7000 km of active international borders with seven nations, and a coastline spanning over 15000 km, India’s external security challenges are indeed formidable.
External challenges, in today’s increasingly troubled world, are by no means, exclusive in their orientation and impact. India’s internal security challenges, since decades, have also been pronouncedly sponsored and largely influenced by external machinations and subterfuge. However, it is also an accepted reality that, in recent times, external and internal threats do overlap seamlessly, apart from having multiplied in their intensity. Asymmetric and proxy wars are part of this new dynamic.
Over the last 70 years, India’s internal conflicts have ranged from Pakistani planned and supported insurgency, terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and other Indian states, on-off-on internal unrest in some of India’s restive North Eastern (NE) states including Assam.
Additionally, persistent efforts by Pakistan’s notorious spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), to foment communal trouble in Punjab and fan ‘Khalistani’ separatism, growing Naxal-Maoist Left Wing Extremism (LWE) threats in India’s hinterland, occasional sectarian, communal and language tensions, organized crime, money laundering, drug trafficking and now cyber driven crimes are the major internal security challenges confronting the Indian state. That since the last 2 years or so there has also been an upsurge in undesirable right wing extremist tendencies among some fringe elements inside India cannot be denied.
Common Factors Impacting Internal Security in India
Internal Security has many constituents and apart from external influences impacting it, there exist certain common factors which, historically, impinged its contours in the Indian context.
India is home to countless faiths and sub faiths, cultures, castes, languages, regions, customs and its diversity, though uniquely beautiful, is indeed mind boggling. By conservative estimates, India is home to nearly 1660 languages (22 official) and dialects, nearly 3000 castes and sub-castes and virtually all known world religions – making India, indeed, a microcosm of the world.
Unquestionably, India’s quintessential strength lies in this diversity, yet it also lends itself to major internal strife when provoked both from within or by external influences. Pakistan, remains obsessively anti-India, grossly interfering in India’s internal affairs, fanning terrorism not only in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) but in some other states also besides endeavouring to foist separatist feelings in some states of India, notably Punjab, Assam and in Naxal-Maoist afflicted regions. Pakistan’s continuing mischief inside India has adversely afflicted India’s internal security health – a factor which successive Indian governments have tended to underestimate despite wars with Pakistan in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil conflict.
Mediocre and insensitive governance in some states, especially those reeking in poverty and caste divides, also lend themselves to adverse internal conflicts within the nation. One of the major reasons leading to the alarming growth of LWE can be clearly attributed to this factor plaguing the nation apart from other aspects which lend themselves to the growth in LWE.
Some politicians of varying ideological hues, pandering to their local vote banks indulge in electoral communal mobilisation by provoking imaginary divides, and stoke the fires of regionalism and separatism for temporary gains. That the people of India, through whom an invisible but an eternal strand symbolizing “Unity in Diversity” runs, have thwarted such devious ambitions of some politicians, time and again, is the saving grace.
India is now a youth- predominant nation, with over 65 percent of its population being under 35 years, which makes India into a very aspirational society. Millions of youth seek suitable employment, better living standards and a million dreams of theirs remain to be fulfilled. Any delays on such vital societal issues automatically contributes to economic and social frustrations which may lead to serious law and order problems besides youth finding their way to anti-national organizations including being influenced by international terror, smuggling networks et al.
The nuances of some of the serious internal security challenges and suggested national response to contain/manage/eliminate the internal conflicts within India are discussed briefly in the succeeding paragraphs.
Tackling Terrorism and Asymmetric Warfare
Since the last many decades, the phenomenon of terrorism has been an alarmingly spreading scourge of the modern age. One of the nations most affected by it has been India owing to its neighbour, Pakistan, having adopted terrorism as an extension of state policy to destabilize India.
India’s security establishment will also now have to be alive to threats emanating from global Islamic jihadi outfits like Al Qaida, the Taliban in the Af-Pak region and now, alarmingly also from Daesh (Islamic State, or IS). Though Indian Muslim youth have remained unaffected from their vile propagandas, yet a few appear to have been affected within the nation and thus monitoring the movement of Muslim youth to the Middle East will have to be ensured. Intelligence agencies will have to keep under surveillance social media channels which try to influence/ recruit Muslim youth for terrorist activities as exemplified by ISIS websites.
That these global jihadi outfits will collaborate their activities in the Indian subcontinent with Pakistani based so-called non-state actors like the Lashkar-e-Taiyabba, Jaish-e-Mohd, Hizb-ul-Mujaihdeen among many other terror ‘tanzeems’ in Pakistan, remains a distinct and dangerous possibility. As the security organs of the nation further streamline their functioning by synergetic endeavour and undertake better counter-terror capacity building, the central government has to speedily undertake additional measures to further strengthen our counter-terror and response mechanisms. All political parties in India must not politicize terror and a broad national consensus among all these parties must be reached on the national strategy and measures to be adopted to combat terror.
Secondly, in keeping with the nation’s resolve, India must prepare hard-hitting pre-emptive strike plans on terrorist infrastructure in POK and elsewhere in Pakistan, as and when required. Thirdly, India must determinedly endeavour to constantly improve its intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination machinery – both HUMINT and TECHINT. Pakistan has to be made to realize, both through dialogue and, failing which, by speedy and effective kinetic responses, that terrorism against India will not pay.
Stern action against all indigenous separatist leaders must be taken in case they continue to indulge in anti national or any form of secessionist activities. India must never be seen as a soft state, either by nations inimical to us and, importantly, by its own citizens. Importantly, India has to raise the costs for Pakistan whenever it indulges in mischief. Additionally, Pakistan has to be reminded that till date, India has not exploited Pakistan’s many fault-lines and India’s strategic restraint is not India’s permanent policy!
Challenges before India
The management of internal security, therefore, assumes great importance. If the internal security issues are tackled effectively, subversion by the external forces to that extent becomes more difficult. Unfortunately, the rise of contentious politics based on sectarian, ethnic, linguistic or other divisive criteria, is primarily responsible for the many communal and secessionist movements flourishing in India. The presence of hostile neighbours enables the internal conflicts to get external support, which includes money, arms and sanctuaries. The vested interests exploit these conditions to pursue their own agenda.
In a well-established political system and a developed economy, conflicts between the various group identities are kept under check as in due course they get assimilated into the national identity. But that has not happened in India as yet, where the wounds of the partition and the colonial rule have still not fully healed. Moreover, the dependence on the government by a large section of our people for their very survival sharpens these conflicts among them.
The democratic institutions and the state structures are still not strong enough to fully harmonise these conflicts in a peaceful manner. Violence erupts when conflicting interests cannot be consensually reconciled. The hostile external forces, taking advantage of this situation through subversive propaganda, further accentuate these conflicts. They give material and ideological support to aggravate this sense of grievance to such an extent that a small minority are willing to become tools in their hands to subvert the stability and security of the country.
In addition, a number of secessionist and the so-called revolutionary movements are operating in India today. Their goal could be to overthrow the government and bring about revolutionary changes in the structure and functioning of the state, or even secession from the Indian Union. Ever since independence, India has been facing all types of violent conflicts based on religion, caste, language, ethnicity and regional loyalties. Political insecurity further compounds the problem. Preoccupied with the problem of survival, the governments in some of the most affected states are not looking at the problem from a long-term perspective. They have bought temporary peace by compromising with the subversive forces.
Such shortsighted policies can have disastrous consequences in the long run. Instead of effectively dealing with them in the initial stages when the problem is manageable, they have allowed these anti-national forces to take roots and spread their tentacles far and wide. When a state government is unable to effectively deal with them, instead of strengthening the state police machinery, it rushes to the Centre to hand over its responsibility at the first sign of any serious trouble. It is not surprising that in these states some sections of the police have actually joined hands with the subversive forces against the central forces.
The police-politician-criminal nexus can embolden the criminal elements. Their activities can create an environment of lawlessness, where influential and rich people violate the law with impunity. The police is not the only component of the criminal justice system that has suffered because of this nexus. In fact, the entire criminal justice system is under strain. Not all crimes are being registered and those registered are not being properly investigated; and even out of those charge-sheeted, very few are ending in conviction. The conviction rate in case of heinous crimes is steadily falling. In some North-Eastern states it has reached almost zero level, where the police have stopped even submitting the charge sheets in the insurgency-related cases. When the fear of legal punishment disappears, organised crime finds it convenient to spread its tentacles.
The crime syndicates are finding the new communication and information technology very useful. Extortion and payment of the so-called ‘protection money’ is more widespread than we would like to believe. According to some reports, direct extortion from the government funds runs into hundreds of crores of rupees. Many of the insurgent and militant groups are not driven by ideology, but by sheer greed. Money power is a bigger motivating factor than ideology. Vested interests have developed around these groups with active connivance of corrupt politicians, police officers and civil servants. Some politicians even take their assistance during election times.
They have to return their favours when they come to power. This mutually beneficial relationship has seriously damaged the quality of governance in the interior areas. The real losers are the people. The development process gets seriously hampered in a violent environment. When large development funds are siphoned out by this unholy alliance between the criminal and corrupt forces, even the delivery of the most basic services like water, power, healthcare, education and communications becomes a stupendous task.
A vicious circle starts. The deprived and the marginalised sections of the society, unable to survive in the present system, get alienated. The militant and extremist forces thrive in this environment. The rise of Left extremism is more due to these compulsions than on ideological grounds. There are media reports about the carving out of a corridor by the Left extremist forces from Nepal to Tamil Nadu. Even if there is no truth in these reports, the involvement of hostile external forces in support of the Left extremist forces to destabilise the country cannot be ruled out.
The mushrooming of armed ‘Senas’ on caste and ethnic lines in some parts of the country is a direct consequence of the polarisation of the society. This phenomenon has also affected the police and the administration in general. Loss of public confidence in the capacity of the state to protect their life and property is the primary cause of this dangerous development. Far from controlling them, a politicised and partisan police actually encourages this development. The tensions in some parts of the country, especially in the tribal areas, due to a perceived threat to their identity is not new, but the rise of so many violent movements is a relatively recent development. In the border states these movements become secessionist because of the support they receive from the hostile neighbouring states.
The rise of fundamentalist forces is posing the most serious threat to India’s security. Fired with religious zeal these forces have created an entirely new situation. The intelligence agencies in our neighbourhood and the organisations, like Al Qaida, and Jaish-e-Mohammad, are encouraging the so-called ‘Jehadis’ to enter India from outside. After first targeting the border states they have now spread deep inside the country. These bands of fanatics are not only indulging in subversive activities, but are spreading the virus of fundamentalism among the Indian Muslims. The break-up of the Indian Union continues to be the main goal of Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policy. Easy availability of deadly weapons with the subversive groups operating in India has created new dangers for India’s security.
Naxalism is considered to be one of the biggest internal security threats India faces at the moment, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in 2008. Every year, many security personnel are killed in various attacks perpetrated by naxalites. Although the forces are trying hard to root the red menace out of the system and ensure security for the people of the country, policy makers seem clueless about how to deal with the menace. Let us try and understand what this ideology that professes violence against the state is all about.
The roots of Naxalism go back to the 1967 uprising of peasants in Naxalbari, West Bengal’s feudal society. Oppressive feudal lords, also known as Jotedars, owned land and landless peasants and farmers worked on them for little to no reward. Leading up to the uprising, Jotedars tried to manipulate land records to deceive farmers but the tipping point for the Naxalbari uprising was when on March 23 sharecropper, Bigul Kisan, was beaten up by the local Jotedar for ploughing a patch of land.
In the months that followed, the struggle swept West Bengal and peasants took up firearms and looted Jotedars and used force to occupy land. A similar peasant uprising followed in Srikkakulam of Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh led by C. Pulla Reddy.
Critics of this movement have somewhere tried to suppress the importance of Charu Majumdar, the man who launched this violent revolution that had a ripple effect on large parts of the country. Although he was born into a landlord family and associated himself with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), he took it upon himself to free Naxalbari from landlords and wrote the Historic Eight Documents that called for an armed revolution in India.
There are indeed reported atrocities against tribal people in the country, however, violence, as seen over the years, is not a good option. It only multiplies dead bodies and shrinks the margin of trust between the state and its citizens. People who have left red violence and come to the mainstream are the examples of beginning a new life all over again.
106 districts that span 10 States — Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — are described as those affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) and constitute the ‘Red Corridor.’
Of these, 44 districts are said to be the worst-affected.
The considerations on which the government has examined the districts with LWE features are: their violence profile, an assessment of the kind of logistical and other support provided to armed Maoist cadres by their sympathisers and “over ground workers”, and the kind of positive changes brought about by development work that these districts have seen.
The Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) has already given the go-ahead for an ambitious road project in the 44 worst-affected districts. Under this project, the government proposes to construct 5412 km road length and 126 bridges and it would cost Rs. 11,725 crore. For instance, for the last four years in Bankura, West Midnapore, Purulia and Birbhum districts of West Bengal, there has been no reported incident of Maoist-related activities.