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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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  Combating Terror
-Sankar Sen

Serial bomb blasts by the terrorists at Jaipur killing nearly 50 people and injuring about 170 have clearly demonstrated their capacity to strike at will with devastating effect at any place of their choosing. The police and security agencies, by and large, remain clueless. Earlier terrorist bomb blasts at Mumbai, Hyderabad, Varanasi have remained undetected. The unpredictability of terrorist attacks has heightened public fear and given rise to the apprehension that more such strikes are in the offing. This unpredictability of the danger, which is a psychologically damaging factor, is very much amenable to manipulation by the terrorists.

There is also a shrill and loud cry of intelligence failure. Many political leaders as well as members of the press have castigated the intelligence agencies and also the National Security Advisor for failure to provide precise and timely intelligence about the strike plans of the terrorists. The criticisms, though understandable, are not very fair and correct.

Collection of intelligence about terrorist outfits is an extremely difficult and challenging job that requires careful planning and long-term preparations. Modern terrorists operate through small centrifugal groups. Penetration into one may not throw light on the activities of other groups. Terrorist cells consist of small groups of trained men who remain unaware of the operations of other cells and hence detection of some operatives does not help in unearthing operations planned by other outfits. Different modus operandi of the terrorist groups, random nature of attacks and the absence of discernible Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) make it difficult to get reliable, advance warning about terrorist attacks. Normally there are very few Early Warning Indicators (EWIs).

It is not known that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) is a professional organizations manned by competent officers and the officers of central intelligence agencies have been able to foil a number of planned attacks of the terrorists. These achievements remain unknown and untrumpeted. But operations of many other terrorist cells crouching for spring remain undetected.

The security scenario however remains very grim. According to intelligence estimates there are a number of organizations working on Indian soil breeding a sense of alienation among the Muslim youth groups and sucking them in the global whirl of Jihad. The collusion of some of the local Muslims with the Jihadis enlarges the scope and magnitude of the terrorist threats in the country. Thus Jihadi terrorism has now been Indianized and they have been able to set up a number of sleeper cells which can be activated at appropriate time and places. Surprise is the corner stone of any successful terrorist operation. Security forces are always stronger than the terrorists and hence the latter seek to minimize the disadvantage by choosing time, method and location of attacks.

After the blasts the usual blame game has started. BJP leader L.K. Advani has blamed the UPA government for going soft on terror and failing to enact a strong anti-terror law. The UPA government after coming to power had scrapped POTA because of its reported abuse and misuse against the minorities by the law enforcement authorities. However, the need for strong anti-terror law to combat terrorist menace cannot be gainsaid. To deal with this omnibus menace the police need powerful anti-terrorist laws to intercept communications, cut of supplies of fund, tracing the hideouts, seizing the properties of the terrorists. After 9/11 the United Nations has also asked member states to pass stringent laws to deal with terrorism and countries like USA, UK have done so. Indeed the country needs special law to combat the hydra headed monster of terrorism. Some of the States like Maharashtra has passed the anti-terrorist law, viz., Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999, which are of great help to the authorities in containing the activities of the terrorists. The act also contains adequate safeguards to prevent its misuse.

I still recollect that the officials of the Home Department of the Government of United Kingdom who visited the National Human Rights Commission in 1995 (immediately after the non-renewal of TADA by the Parliament) during discussions with us clearly expressed the view that the police and the security forces would not be able to checkmate the terrorists without a stringent anti-terrorist law.

But strong anti-terrorist laws are of little avail unless there are effective and competent agencies to painstakingly investigate the cases and bring the offenders to book. The contours, patterns and modus operandi of the terrorists have now undergone significant changes. Investigation of terrorist crimes which are often transnational in their ramifications, require specialized expertise of a very high order and States, because of their limited means find it difficult to provide specialized investigators in large numbers. Indeed there is a felt need to have a specialized agency for investigation of crimes which are to be viewed as federal crimes. Malimath Committee in its report on “Reforms of Criminal Justice System” strongly urged favour of a federal law and a federal investigation agency which have an all-India character and which will investigate crimes that affect “national security and activity aimed at destabilizing the country”. In USA, FBI is entrusted with the responsibility to investigate and prosecute offences that affect the security of the country. The list of federal crimes in USA includes offences like terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking, trading with the enemy etc. During the last few years there has been a steady increase in the number of offences declared as federal crimes.

At present CBI investigates crimes with interstate linkages with the concurrence of the state government. A suitable amendment of the constitution would facilitate the enactment of a central legislation. This is necessary because police and public order are state subjects. Perhaps even without an amendment it may be possible to classify some offences as federal crimes and entrust the investigation to a central agency as has been done in the case of NDPS Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act. But for successful investigation of terrorist crime, closest cooperation and coordination of the State is necessary without this a central agency will not be able to function effectively.

Besides, strong anti-terrorist law and an efficient federal agency for investigating terrorist crimes, some other measures are also urgently necessary to deal with the darkening situation. First, special branches of state police forces have to be activated by induction of competent officers. At present most of the state special branches are packed with people who lack professional expertise and were picked up for considerations other than competence. They are often used for political surveillance, collection of intelligence regarding intra-party and inter-party problems, and not for counter terrorist work and operations. Second, it is necessary to make the public aware of the magnitude and dimensions of terrorist threats and steps necessary to counteract it. Collection of intelligence becomes easy when police enjoy some degree of public cooperation and confidence in the society. To get reliable information about the Jihadi terrorists groups, police must also enjoy some measure of confidence of the minority groups. And hence sensitivities of minority communities cannot be ignored. Third, training, equipping, empowering and motivating officers at cutting edge levels is a must. Fight against terrorism is essentially a foot soldiers’ battle and not a generals’ one. Unfortunately not much has been done to improve the skills, knowledge and operational proficiency of the police officers of different states on the ground.

Fourth, India should draw lessons from the working of the Homeland Security in USA. Since 9/11 not a single terrorist attack has taken place there. The Department of Homeland Security with a variety of alert measures and drills has rebuffed attempts by Al-Qaida and its sympathizers to launch terrorist strikes. Some of the measures with necessary modifications keeping in mind our requirements can be introduced.

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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