Homeland Security

Politics at the Cost of India's Security
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 13 Oct , 2010

The indifference and lack of understanding amongst the country’s political leadership on matters relating to national security has been a part of our national culture. Several reasons could be ascribed to this phenomenon.

The entire discourse on security issues got skewed right from the time of independence primarily owing to the exaggerations and untruths that were bandied about the great struggle, sufferings and sacrifices of our political leaders in driving the British out. The fact, however unpalatable is that between 1920 and 1947, the occasions wherein the people of this country could be mobilized in any organized manner against the British rule, can be counted with some difficulty. That India achieved Independence without much bloodshed cannot be disputed. It is also true that the British left, as they did during that period from most colonies, and were not driven out.

The British rulers were able to rule this country because they treated the military and the police as complementary.

The same leaders who claimed to have suffered and sacrificed so much in the independence struggle, in their new avatars as ministers and professional politicians became most callous and corrupt. It was because, to begin with, their heart did not lie in the welfare and uplift of the people the served. To legimitise their claim over rewards of office they created such a halo about their mythical sacrifices that they felt threatened by the respect, efficiency and integrity of the Army, and the relative impartiality of the police. Therefore, they began to subvert the security apparatus.

Security of the country and its people over a period of time became a non-issue for the politicians and their own security, and the security of their family attained primacy.

After the war with Pakistan in Kashmir in 1947-48, the Army began to be tolerated as a necessary evil. Earlier, Nehru had maintained that he could do away with the Army and ensure the security and integrity of India by just by the Police.

The British rulers were able to rule this country because they treated the military and the police as complementary. Whenever the police found itself unequal to the internal situation, the military stepped in. There was no procrastination and there were no political fiefdoms.

Post-independence, however, the political class began to treat the Police as personal fiefdom. The police was only too willing to play this role and partake in the new feudal arrangement scripted by the self-serving politicians.

The result of “˜personal-oriented-security was the politicization of the police. The police too began to exploit the symbiotic patron-client relationship.

The result of ‘personal-oriented-security’ was the politicization of the police. The police too began to exploit the symbiotic patron-client relationship. Vote-bank politics infused a huge financial element in this relationship. Terms like ‘lucrative postings’ and ‘shunting posts’ came into being.

In order to escape the wrath and victimization by inconvenient governments, the police then sought to increase its avenues at the central government level, i.e. R&AW, IB, CBI, CISF, BSF, NTRO and the latest being the National Investigative Agency (NIA). It is the same manifestation that we are witnessing in West Bengal. Some police officers, who ingratiated themselves to the CPM government, which they considered as immortal, are suddenly unnerved by the prospect of a Mamta led government in the state.

A large number of West Bengal cadre police officers, are using every leverage to find shelter in the central agencies. Can these very officers, who are responsible for the total degeneration of security and governance in the state, make any contribution to national security? This is the question, which needs to be urgently addressed by the Home Minister.

The para-military forces have a fair share of such officers. It is therefore no surprise that the CRPF is proving unequal to the military challenge posed by the Maoists. One cannot create ‘fighters’ out of personnel, bred in the police culture, in the Indian context.

The politician-police equation resulted in the urban orientation of the police officers. Even as the population grew many times, the police setup in the rural areas remained the same.

The political leadership did not have the imagination and the intention to preserve the good and fair aspects of the British pattern of policing and change the colonial aspects that were contrary to the dignity and aspirations of the people. The fact of the matter is that they were so overawed by the colonial dispensation and colonial bungalows that moving into them became their ultimate ambition. The police on the other hand had a vested interest, in terms of pelf and power, to extend its reach and influence in newer areas of security and administration.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

RSN Singh

is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW and author of books Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and The Military Factor in Pakistan. His latest book is The Unmaking of Nepal.

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