The events of the last few days in the country bear testimony to the truth of Lord Wavel'sobservations: ?Indians can be governed firmly or not at all.? The terrorist attack in Hyderabad, the breakdown of public order in Agra and several places of Haryana and the manner in which a petty criminal was treated by the mob and police officials in Bhagalpur reinforce the apprehension that India is on the verge of writing a new grammar of anarchy. The internal security situation is grave. Terrorism and subversion in Kashmir, Assam and Naxal-affected regions show no sign of abatement. The frequency with which the public order breaks down is on the rise. And the maintenance of the general law and order is getting poorer by the day.
Before delineating the contours of the current scenario, it may be necessary to invite attention to the precise parameters of the three terms?(i) internal security; (ii) public order; and (iii) general law and order. In public discourse, these terms are often mixed up. All acts of terrorism and subversion, committed with or without the support of foreign powers, by forces which are inimical to the integrity and stability of the country, would constitute problems of internal security. The large-scale violence, such as the one that occurs during communal or caste riots, would fall in the sphere of public order. The ambit of general law and order would encompass crimes of individual or small group of individuals. Each of these categories of cases calls for a separate examination.
Coming first to the issues concerning general law and order, it may be noted that, while the number of criminal cases and the scope for committing them have been increasing, neither the methods of investigation and prosecution nor the attitude and conduct of the police force, particularly at the subordinate levels, have improved. Notwithstanding the fact that a large number of cases are not reported to the police, or not registered by it, three IPC crimes and six special and local laws, crimes are on an average, committed every minute in the country. The position with regard to crime against women is especially disconcerting. There is one molestation case every 15 minutes in the country, one rape case every 29 minutes, one dowry death every 77 minutes, and one case of sexual harassment every 53 minutes.
Only 30 per cent of the cases registered are sent for trial. The conviction rate in IPC cases has come down from 64 per cent in 1961 to 42 per cent in 2005. At the same time, the number of persons dying in police custody has gone up. This number increased from 207 in 1995 to 1340 in 2002. The Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice system, has rightly observed: ?Violent and organised crimes have become the order of the day. As chances of conviction are remote, crime has become a profitable business.?
As regards the public order, the people in general are fast developing a habit of taking law into their own hands and causing large-scale disturbances. If there is a traffic accident, as it happened in Agra on August 29, or during the kanwaris processions last month in Rajasthan and Haryana, a mob gathers and starts attacking police and burning vehicles, even of innocent passers-by. For several hours, traffic on busy highways is held up. In the same strain, a large-scale violence is often caused, following a case of individual crime, as was done last week in several towns of Haryana after a Dalit youth was murdered at Gohana on August 29. Such a case is turned into a crime against the caste, without giving even an opportunity to the police to investigate the matter.
All this speaks volumes about the general health of the Indian society?its growing indiscipline and fragmentation. The caste, communal or group interest are throwing up a number of irresponsible leaders at various levels, who show scant respect for the rule of law and are ever ready to exploit any incident to build up their leadership.
In so far as the issues of internal security are concerned, the conditions are getting grimmer by the day. The terrible blasts that were triggered on May 18 and August 25 at Mecca Masjid, Lumbini-Park and Gokul Chaat Bhandar in Hyderabad, killing about 50 persons, should serve as a chilling reminder of the extensive inroads that the terrorists and subversives have made in our set-up. In fact, of late, terrorism in India has been assuming the form of a mega terrorism. To recount some of the recent deadly incidents, sixty-five people were killed on October 29, 2005, in a series of blasts that occurred in Delhi. On December 28, 2005, the pride of the Indian science, the Institute at Bangalore, was attacked. Right on the bank of Ganga, in one of the most sought-after Hanuman temples in the country, Sankat Mochan, Varanasi, were caused two powerful explosions, on March 7, 2006. On July 11, 2006, a horrible drama was enacted in the suburban trains at Mumbai, when 192 commuters were killed in a series of bombs blasts in the crowded compartments.
In Assam, the serious threat posed by subversives to India'sintegrity persists. The brutal killing of over a hundred ?outsiders? mostly from Bihar, in the last few months show how grave are the conditions. So far, 168 civilians have been killed this year by ULFA outfits in Assam. Amongst the states affected by subversion and terrorism, this is the highest number of civilian casualties.
The Naxalites have rapidly transformed themselves into a modern guerrilla force. They no longer depend upon country-made pistols. They now possess sophisticated communication system and weapons?AK 47, grenades, rocket-launchers, landmines etc. They have a militia of about 25000 persons?well-trained and well-motivated. All this has added immensely to the striking power of the Naxalites. In the State of Chhattisgarh alone, as many as 365 civilians were killed by them in 2006. The objective of the Naxalites is to establish a ?compact revolutionary zone? in the heart of India and use this zone and the red corridor for extending the Naxalite movement to the cities and seizing the power-structure of the state.
The distressing conditions obtaining in all the above three areas of our national life, viz. internal security; public order; and general law and order, show that the governance machinery in the post-1947 India has yet to learn the art of acting fairly, firmly and in time. Its soft and permissive attitude is reflected in what has come to be known as the ?broken window syndrome? in the governance-literature: ?If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and that no one is incharge. One unrepaired window is an invitation to break more windows, and lawlessness spreads outward from buildings to streets and then to entire communities.?
(The writer is a former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and a former Union Minister and can be contacted at E 48, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, E-mail: [email protected])