Tag Archives | law

The right role

To begin with, can we articulate a proper role for the CRPF?

The recent performance of the Central Reserve Police Force [CRPF] against the Maoists has been under the scanner. Based on the results so far, it has rightly attracted a fair share of criticism from most knowledgeable quarters. Valid questions have been raised about its training, operational readiness, equipping, leadership, and morale and motivation of its troopers. And authorities have failed to provide any honest answers so far.

But what precisely is the role of the CRPF? As its official website states:

The Central Reserve Police Force is an armed Force of the Union of India, with the basic role of striking reserve to assist the State/Union Territories in Police operations to maintain law and order and contain insurgency. Its role is that of a catalyst in maintaining law & order, and returns to barracks once this objective is achieved. The force is also being used for various police duties in various States.[Link]

The role is too broad-based for the CRPF to be effective in any serious counter-insurgency campaign. Moreover, it is inappropriately defined for the current tasks it is being charged to perform in Maoist-infested areas. This is not to indulge in nitpicking, but “striking reserve” was perhaps meant to be an “offensive reserve” [Incidentally, "striking" as an adjective has only two meanings, both inappropriate here: Sensational in appearance or thrilling in effect; and Having a quality that thrusts itself into attention]. Even when it comes to insurgency, CRPF’s role is limited to “assist… contain insurgency”. If you include the bits about “catalyst” and “return to barracks” after the catalytic action, it is not difficult to understand why CRPF appears to be struggling against the Maoists.

Now this is not to suggest in any way that merely a change in the role of the CRPF will miraculously transform it into a crack counter-insurgency force. But a clearly-defined and properly-articulated role is certainly a reflection on the clarity of purpose in the minds of the top leadership of the organisation. It also provides a start-point for creating a roadmap that allows the organisation to effectively and efficiently deliver in its obligations. If there is not even a proper role to begin with for the CRPF, it is unrealistic to harbour great expectations from it while operating against the Maoists.

Incidentally, other central police organisations operating under the Home Ministry, unlike the CRPF, have clearly defined roles. Here is the role of the Border Security Force:

Security of border of India and matters connected therewith.[Link]

Similarly, the official mandate of the Central Industrial Security Force is:

…to provide security to major critical infrastructure installations of the country in diverse areas.[Link]

To be fair to the establishment, the Home Ministry seems to have realised that the CRPF, with such a broad-based role, is not particularly suited for intensive counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists. This consideration seems to have influenced its decision to carve out 10 COBRA[Combat Battalion for Resolute Action] units out of the CRPF to counter the Maoists. Four battalions of this specialised force, which has been since rechristened as a more politically correct Special Action Force[SAF], have been operationalised last month. Currently, these battalions are too few in number to make a significant difference on the ground and will always be in high demand from all the states. This will present its own challenges as witnessed after the massacre at Dantewada when five platoons of SAF were sent to reinforce and assist the 62nd Battalion CRPF. Moreover, maintaining the quality of the SAF while increasing their quantity in a short span of time will also place a herculean demand on the ministry and the CRPF.

Perhaps the CRPF can look to emulate the army’s raising of Rashtriya Rifles [RR] while raising the SAF. The RR, as a specialised counter-insurgency force in Jammu & Kashmir, has allowed the regular army units to focus on their primary duties. RR has thus been able to gain from its continuity and permanence in deployment — institutionalised learning, best operational practices, coordination with civil police, proficient intelligence gathering and closer relationship with the locals. Indubitably, SAF, with the right impetus from the ministry, could be geared to perform a role akin to the RR, in counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists.

When it comes to the CRPF and the SAF, articulating the appropriate role and finding the right model respectively does not diminish the gargantuan challenges faced by the Home Ministry. But at least, they are good markers for the ministry to start its tough journey from.


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The quality of police capacity

In this debate over building police capacity, quality is as important, if not more, than the quantity.

In the aftermath of the massacre of ill-trained and poorly-equipped policemen in West Bengal by the Maoists, Saikat Datta of the Outlook magazine unravels the depth of the crisis engulfing the Indian police forces. And Saikat does it by referring to a government document — a CAG report of last year on the subject.

Vinod Rai, the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, was so disturbed by his department’s findings that he shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year. Rai pointed out how “most police stations continue to depend on outdated and obsolete weapons, the police communication network was non-functional, the mobility of the force had been ignored and there was a severe shortage of police personnel in most states”.

He also pointed out that states like Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa have been the worst performers when it came to filling up police vacancies. Orissa, which has borne its fair share of Maoist violence, has nearly 10,000 vacancies for policemen. Even if this shortfall were to be made up, the state lacks adequate training facilities to keep the men in shape. In Bihar, a mere “10 per cent of the total force” was trained in one training centre. The “training infrastructure was inadequate in the training schools”, the CAG noted. In his letter to the prime minister, Rai pointed out “there was a severe shortage of police personnel in all the categories in the state”. Even the available force, Rai said, “is not being trained at regular intervals as per Bureau of Police Research & Development norms, which inhibits them from tackling security-related incidents effectively”.[Outlook]

In a rather convoluted way, the rising power of the Maoists would have done this country a great favour if their ferocious assault against the state can help usher in a modern police force suited to a modern India. This is the debate — on how to create a modern police force amidst the burgeoning Maoist threat — this country needs today. The biggest security and governance challenge facing India now is of kick-starting police reforms.

Police in India — from the colonial pre-independence era — have been seen as a coercive instrument of the state rather than as public servants upholding, and bound by, the rule of law. This view has been exacerbated in Maoist-affected areas due to the ongoing violent conflict. Upholding the rule of law is a challenge in highly developed countries with well-educated professional police. Yet, somehow, when it comes to the Maoists, the poorly educated and minimally trained state police forces are expected to uphold the rule of law in regions afflicted with violence, poverty and political effeteness. Not surprisingly, the police fail ingloriously and suffer at the hands of the Maoists.

The expedient solution for the government then is to raise more central paramilitary forces and pump them into these troubled areas. If the centre is slightly reticent in sending paramilitary forces, the states ape the centre’s model by raising their own specialist police forces or pushing in reserve police forces into these areas.

However it is the civil police that will have to be the lynchpin of any successful counter-Maoist campaign. The local ties of the civil police provide intelligence and facilitate the development of symbiotic relationships between the community and the government, something not possible with the reserve police or the paramilitary forces, which have been brought in from outside the community.

Notwithstanding the constraints of a pan-India operational doctrine or a grand strategy, each state has to tailor its security operations against the Maoists to the local environment. As India’s successful experience of eradicating militancy in Punjab — where the state police were the key to defeating the Khalistani terrorists in the state’s critical rural periphery — demonstrates, the civil police deserve to be the major focus of our efforts against the Maoists.

However the reason for modernising the police must go beyond countering the threat of the Maoists. And it must also go well beyond the latest fad of just building up the numbers anyhow. The vast majority of the existing police force in India is perceived to be incompetent and corrupt; police reforms are thus a must concurrent to, if not prior to, expanding the police force. If efforts and resources are dedicated solely to expanding the police force, fewer will be available to reform the existing police. Even worse, putting more police into a corrupt and ineffective system will only breed more corrupt and ineffective police. The system has to be fixed immediately, or this expansion may end up doing more harm than good.

When it comes to expanding the police, quality is equally — perhaps even more — important than quantity.

Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality. ~George Santayana

P.S. — It irks this blogger no end that the CAG report referred to in the Outlook report is not available online — neither on the CAG nor on the MHA website. In today’s time and age of viral transmission and proliferation via social media, it is almost mandatory on the government to place such reports in the public domain. This is all the more incomprehensible when increased transparency in governance is the order of the day and the Union Home Minister has himself been rather open and forthcoming about the accountability of his ministry.

Incidentally, the website of the Bureau of Police Research and Development [BPRD] has the reports of all the police commissions and a resource page on police reforms. Kudos to them.


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Union Home Minister’s arguments for amending the AFSPA are prudent.

Anyone who makes an honest effort to understand the background of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act [AFSPA] will find it extremely hard to disagree with Union Home Minister, P. Chidambaram.

On AFSPA – the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee recommended repealing it. If they had stopped there, I would have been happy. But they suggested making another law or amending the existing one to virtually incorporate the offending provisions. Anyway, having read that report carefully, I have proposed amendments to AFSPA which will make it a more humane law, and yet serve the purpose when the army is deployed. The army refuses to be deployed in a civil conflict situation unless it has certain protections. There are only two ways to go about the: One, we can say the army will not be deployed: the matter ends there. The other is to say, the army will be deployed if necessary, but we will give them adequate protection, not excessive protection. You have to strike a balance and make a judgement. Right or wrong, it will always be criticized.  I have made a judgement and proposed amendments. But can I simply wield a magic wand and bring them into force? No. I have to clear it through Cabinet and Parliament. I may stumble on the way, I may succeed in my effort but at least I am trying to amend AFSPA. I have told everybody in Kashmir and Manipur the amendments are ready, it’s before the Cabinet. Now we have to wait and see what we can deliver.[Tehelka]

Oh, and the venerable Home Minister forgot to mention that his estimable colleague, the Honourable Defence Minister — whose default geniality is so pronounced that it verges on apathy — has opposed any such moves to amend the AFSPA.

Support for continuing the AFSPA in its present form has become, in many circles, a sort of litmus test for compassion and caring about the armed forces. It is a case of casual misrepresentations feeding the willed delusions of these proponents.

For those in the opposing camp, doing away with the AFSPA is a moral cause; leftist liberals — supported by the organisations like the Amnesty International — claim that what is at stake here are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of a democratic, liberal state. They forget that it is the details of policy that change people’s lives. The moral imperative for any state is to get them right.

One hopes that the Union Cabinet is able to get the AFSPA right. Soon.

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Neither good nor bad, only ugly

All Taliban is anti-India. Distinction between Af & Pak Taliban is fanciful.

After the restoration of Sharia law in Swat, there are a few utterances attributed to the US which should raise our antennas.

Spokesman Gordon K. Duguid, asked to comment on enforcement of Sharia-based justice system in Swat said, “as I understand that Islamic law is within the constitutional framework of Pakistan, so I don’t know that is particularly an issue for anyone outside of Pakistan to discuss.”

Pressed if Washington saw the agreement as a good or bad development, he said “We have seen these sorts of actions before,  what is important is that we are all working together to fight terrorism, and particularly to fight the cross-border activities that some Taliban engage in, in attacking in Afghanistan.”[APP]

Here is another one.

On Tuesday night however, US officials in Islamabad privately backed the deal as an attempt to drive a wedge between Swat’s Taliban, which is focused on its demand for Sharia law, and the al-Qaeda-linked Taliban led by Baitullah Mehsud, the notorious commander who controls much of North and South Waziristan and other tribal areas along the Afghan border.

While they expressed fears that the deal might yet be sabotaged by some Swat Taliban militants who support al-Qaeda, they said that if successful, the deal would break up the alliance between the two groups, which has caused alarm throughout Pakistan and in Washington.[The Telegraph]

There are three major arguments being made for justifying this distinction between the good Taliban and the bad Taliban or Taliban-A and Taliban-P. These are not new arguments, for they have been made in many variations by Musharraf and his apologists since 9-11.

1] Pakistan Taliban is different from Afghanistan Taliban. Pakistan Taliban is only interested in establishing a truly Islamic republic in Pakistan. It is benign towards the US and doesn’t pose any direct threat to the US. It is the Afghanistan Taliban that is directing its ire against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and it was the one that supported the al Qaeda.

2] There is nothing wrong in having an Islamic Republic of Pakistan, run as per the Sharia law. It can still be an ally of the US. After all, Saudi Arabia is a non-democratic, Islamic republic run as per the Sharia, and still friendly to the US. The US should look at a Talibanised Pakistan in the same light as it considers Saudi Arabia.

3] Divide ut imperes — Divide and Conquer as a strategy against the two forms of Taliban. It always appeals to the military strategists, especially to some one like Admiral Mullen, who is so fond of drawing parallels with the Roman empire.

The same arguments were put forward during the Bush administration when selected al Qaeda operatives were arrested and handed over to the US while the Taliban was left untouched by the Musharraf regime. So, there is little likelihood that a chastened US administration would buy the same argument any longer. As David Sanger has noted, the incursion by ground forces started after Kayani was tapped calling Haqqani a strategic asset of the Pakistan army. And the increased frequency, scope and severity of the drone attacks suggests that US is rather indifferent to the arguments put forth by Pakistan.

However, there remains a short-term need for the US to conduct successful presidential polls in Afghanistan later this year. The need for having a conducive security environment to conduct credible elections may force the US to seek cooperation with Pakistan by temporarily agreeing to its groundses. While the violence is contained in the short-term, this window of opportunity will allow Petraeus to finalise alternate supply routes for coalition forces in Afghanistan. If this compromise with Pakistani interests is part of a coherent, long-term strategy, then where the US goes to after the presidential polls in Afghanistan will determine the future of the region.

The other arguments to punch holes in the Pakistani argument are too well known to be repeated. The fountainhead of both, Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban, are the Madrassas of the frontier areas and Taliban-A and Taliban-P have fought together against the US and NATO forces inside Afghanistan. Besides this strong ideological connection, there is little distinction between the two Taliban except for the word of their handlers: Pakistan army and the ISI — X is a good Taliban and Y is a bad Taliban. Furthermore, the rise of Taliban inside Pakistan has to be seen in light of the increased radicalisation of Pakistan army, which directly controls the nukes in that country.

As far as India is concerned, there is no good or bad Taliban for it to face; all of them are anti-India and the face of this amorphous jehadi entity is only one — ugly. By now, India has realised that there is no independent course that it can charter in AfPak, except influence US policy in its favour. This is an unfortunate fact and India has to live with that. What India must do is to continously emphasise the jehadi-army-nuke connection inside Pakistan besides actively supporting — diplomatically and militarily — all US endeavours that at worst, contain, and at best, destroy the jehadi radicalism in the region.

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Nothing to rejoice over

Five steps backwards, half a step forward.

What all the wise men promised has not happened and what all the dammed fools said would happen has come to pass. ~Lord Melbourne

What is so much hullabaloo about? Pakistan has accepted that the Mumbai terror attacks were partially planned on their soil. Great! If Islamabad didn’t say so, would the truth be any different. And would any one believe Pakistan if they continued with their denials.

Oh, it is a great step. Pakistan has for the first time accepted its role in terror. No, it hasn’t. It has just crucified some foot soldiers of the jehadi crusade to lower the temperature.

But we must admire the courage of the civilian government in Pakistan. Really! As if  Zardari would have done this without the concurrence of the Pakistan army and ISI. Remember the story about ISI chief coming to India after 26-11 and how it ended.

Something is better than nothing. At least, these chargesheeted guys will be tried in Pakistani court and punished as per law. The law there is a big joke. So many military dictators have taken recourse to the “doctrine of necessity” to justify their coups in Pakistan. If you still don’t believe it, just look again at the images of the Father of Islamic bomb, AQ Khan smiling triumphantly outside Islamabad High Court just last week.

But honestly, had you expected this even a week back. If someone had told you that Pakistan was going to make this partial admission, it would have sounded incredulous. Right, that is because Pakistan had set the bar so low that even a minimal step to get itself out of jail sounds like a big achievement to our ears. They had taken five steps backwards since 26/11 and thus even this half-step forward makes our hearts go gaga over this stupendous achievement.

Now we must support the civilian government in Pakistan and cooperate in this probe. Damn! As if India has been left with any other option. It stands entrapped by this clever Pakistani move. The international pressure that has led to this diplomatic “victory” for India would now clearly be on India. Pakistan’s civilian government, against the wishes of the Pakistani army, ISI and common public opinion, has taken such a bold step and New Delhi must reciprocate now. Please reciprocate. Hand over Kasab to FIA/ ISI and order a joint probe. Or hope that the matter dies its own death with passage of time so that international pressure on India subsides. Let us trust the propaganda machinery of Pakistan to remind India of this issue at every possible fora. Indians have never learned the lessons from internationalising an issue like Kashmir. When will India learn?

What should Indian government do now? Welcome this step but denounce it as too little, too late. Stay consistent with its original demands of extraditing and charging the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attacks. Provide all the information that Pakistan seeks but ask for a time-bound response. Dissociate itself completely from the western theories about internal dynamics of Pakistani state — we should support a civilian government in Islamabad and all that bunkum. If that sounds unreasonable to the international community, so be it. Israel has never sounded reasonable about its intents and actions when it comes to its own security. And being reasonable and liked by everyone doesn’t matter, Indian national interest does.

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Amnesty International should read Moynihan’s law

As expected, Amnesty International has criticised the new anti-terror laws passed by the Indian parliament as one that “jeopardise human rights”. The Communists have also levelled a similar criticism against these laws. They will soon be echoed by some Muslim organisations and recited by sympathetic media houses.

The folks at the Amnesty International are educated and intelligent people. They might have heard of something called the Moynihan’s law, coined by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The amount of violations of human rights in a country is always an inverse function of the amount of complaints about human rights violations heard from there. The greater the number of complaints being aired, the better protected are human rights in that country.

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