Listing tribal unrest and student protests among the key police challenges that could emerge in the near future, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is learnt to have told over 750 police officials at a conference last week to adopt a different and more “conciliatory” approach to such issues.
Mr. Shah chaired the National Security Strategy Conference, organised by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), on August 24 and 25. Top police officials from across the country attended the meeting, held in hybrid mode.
A senior government official told The Hindu that Mr. Shah pointed out that policing is not the only solution for issues such as tribal unrest.
“The Minister stated that tribals comprise around 9% of the population and [said that] while handling their issues, police should be conciliatory. A broader perspective is required and their issues should be prioritised, specially in areas where it is not bordering on insurgency,” the official said.
Another official said that the Minister had asked the police to be cautious, as the matters and cases related to tribals could be misused by “vested interests” to create trouble in parts of the country.
In the ethnic violence that erupted in Manipur on May 3 between the tribal Kuki-Zo and the Meitei community, more than 150 people were killed and more than 50,000 people have been displaced. The immediate trigger was the violence that erupted during a tribal solidarity march organised to protest a High Court order directing the Manipur government to consider including the Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes.
In July, Mr. Shah had assured a delegation from Nagaland, led by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, that tribal areas would be exempt from the purview of a Uniform Civil Code.
In 2019, most parts of northeastern India were exempted from the yet-to-be-implemented Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura which are included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the entire States of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur are exempt from the provisions of CAA, a law that fast tracks citizenship to undocumented migrants belonging to six non-Muslim communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
At the conference, Mr. Shah also remarked that student protests should be dealt with differently. “He spoke about the protests that emanated after the Agnipath scheme was announced, and the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) earlier this year when thousands hit the streets against change of pattern in examination,” another government official said.
Police input on criminal codes
A Ministry statement about the conference, issued on August 25, said that Mr. Shah had urged the top police officers of the country that they should be ready to implement the new criminal laws at the grassroots once they are passed by the Parliament.
A third official said that the Home Minister sought suggestions from the members present at the conference regarding the three new criminal codes. “He said that the Bills that have been introduced in Parliament are not final and any constructive suggestions could be accommodated. He said since the police officers have vast experience in the field, they could help in improvising the codes,” the official said.
The three new criminal codes — the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023, and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 — will replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively. The Bills were introduced in Parliament on August 11 and have been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs for examination.
Mr. Shah also flagged the emergence of technological advancement in Artificial Intelligence and termed it as a threat as much as an opportunity, asking the police to learn to use AI to their advantage.