Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday cautioned the chiefs of State police forces, security and intelligence officials against continuing attempts to infiltrate militants into India as well as the recently uncovered phenomenon of "saffron terrorism".
"There is no let up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India. Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past. My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build, at the Central and State levels, our capacity in counter-terrorism," he told top police and security officers.
Inaugurating the three-day conference of State police chiefs and Inspector-Generals of Police here, the Home Minister dwelt at length on the prevailing security scenario in the North-East region, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and on Left Wing extremism.
Describing as "unfortunate" the unexpected turn of events since June in Jammu and Kashmir, he said the Central Government has offered a dialogue with all sections of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and all political parties and groups.
"We are concerned that we have not been able to stop the vicious cycle in which that State is caught. However, it is my hope that in the next few days, we would be able to find that elusive 'starting point' from where we could reach out to the protestors, reassure them of their rights and dignity, restore peace and order, redeem the promises made, and re-start the process of dialogue that will lead to a solution," he said, adding that the Central Government has acknowledged that a political solution must be found to the problems of J&K.
The Home Minister said that Jammu and Kashmir was caught in a vicious cycle of stone-pelting, lathicharge, teargasing and firing, leading to casualties, and resulting in more stone pelting. "The security forces have been instructed to act with great restraint. The situation has not yet returned to normal. Nevertheless, amidst serious disturbances, 457,324 yatris completed the Amarnath Yatra, exceeding the number of 292,000 yatris last year. So far, 516,970 tourists have visited J&K, and that number also exceeds the 355,960 tourists of last year," he added.
Referring to Left Wing Extremism, Mr. Chidambaram said while the loss of every life was a matter of grief and regret, nothing was more painful than the killing of innocent civilians after naming them as 'police informers'. He said this year alone, 424 civilians have been killed and, of these, 192 were killed after being named 'police informers'. Asserting that the government has called upon the CPI (Maoist) to abjure violence and come for talks, he regretted that there has been no direct and credible response to the offer.
Apart from containing terrorism, he said the best record of achievement has been in the North Eastern States where 2009 was a distinct improvement over 2008 and 2010 has so far seen a dramatic decline in the number of incidents and casualties. He admitted that Manipur and Assam have been affected by long-duration blockades and bandhs and by intermittent violence.
Pointing out that a number of groups in the North East were engaged in talks with the government, the Home Minister expressed the hope that ULFA would also formally come forward to begin talks with the Centre and the Assam government.
Flagging other concerns, the Home Minister said that one of the main area was the maintenance of communal peace and harmony as even most petty disputes and imagined slights trigger conflicts between communities and groups.
Touching upon some of the key measures taken by the Central Government over the last one year, the Home Minister informed that allocation for internal security had gone up to Rs. 40,582 crore in 2010-11 as against Rs. 25,923 crore in 2008-09 and the two schemes of modernisation of police forces for the States and for the Central forces has been extended to 2010-11. He said the Government has sanctioned raising of an additional 38 battalions in the CRPF, 29 in Border Security Force, 32 in the Sashastra Seema Bal and 14,259 personnel in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The strength of the IPS has also been increased from 4013 to 4730.
Mr. Chidambaram spoke of the idea of transfer of funds under the modernisation of police force scheme directly to the Director General of Police of the State. He asked the State police chiefs to spell out the steps taken to enact a new Police Act based on the model Bill that was circulated to the States and also wanted to know what steps had been taken by the States to set up the State Police Establishment Board and the Police Complaints Board.
Admitting that security forces too have their shortcomings, he pointed out that "nothing that is said or written can take away a jot from the fact that the security forces are the first line of defence of our democracy and liberty". He also acknowledged the willing cooperation by the State governments in standing up to the challenges posed by forces inimical to India both within and outside the country. Earlier, Mr. Chidambaram gave away police medals for meritorious service to officers of Intelligence Bureau (IB). In his address, Director, IB, Rajiv Mathur warned that "inimical agencies from international bases" were trying to revive Sikh militancy in Punjab by forging an alliance between Sikh militant groups and Lashkar-e-Taiba.