Pillai’s scheme of things

G K Pillai, Union Home Secretary, has unveiled an ambitious plan to hold seminars in remote areas of J&K state with a team of 100 officers of the Centre along with state government officers, in order to locate problems and devise solutions. He stated that this has already been adopted in Northeast, where people have taken to it in such a manner wherein they come to him to relate their problems

 “You will be surprised that most of people still come to me from distant districts in North Eastern areas because I held such seminars there,” he said.

The Pillai scheme of things could have consequences of undermining the authority of the state government, in an era where desirability of states acting on their own is increasingly being expressed. The home secretary was in fact asked on the possible fallout on the authority of states; Pillai explained that the state government will be on board and the location will be selected by them. Vis-a-vis J&K State, Pillai harped on “We don’t have any Panchayati Raj in Jammu and Kashmir for last couple of years,” implying there is no one to attend to small local issues, hence Delhi bureaucracy with State bureaucracy on board needs to rush to the farthest corners of India’s problematic peripheral states-J&K and Northeast, to diagnose the problem via seminars and provide solutions by centrally administered medicine!

The home secretary said that in many remote areas, people do not know whom to contact. He could be right, but if people do not know whom to contact in the state to settle their problems how could they be expected to know on a perpetual basis whom to contact in Delhi? Or what difference could a few seminars make in problem location and settlement; the centre cannot hold seminars on a perpetual basis without questions being asked on Centre/State relations, hence the roadmap for problem location and solution in distant areas of problematic peripheral states is a zero sum game!   

Home Secretary, G K Pillai, has in fact been much in news for the past week or so. As his announcement indicated, centre plans to withdraw nearly 10,000 paramilitary personnel from Jammu and Kashmir this year as it feels that the state can do with less central forces. The announcement also made out that  amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) are still on the table and hope was expressed that Unified Headquarters in the state declares some areas in the state as “not disturbed” to make the controversial law redundant in those parts. While answering a query on the modus operandi of pulling out of central forces from the state, he said that in 2009 the centre pulled out 10 battalions (10,000 men) from the state. The process as per Pillai was stopped last year, because of the agitation from June to September.

Pillai talk has external dimensions too, related to overall security situation. He is expected to invite his Pakistani counterpart Choudary Qamar Zaman, as early as next month-the scheduled meeting being a part of recent Thimphu understanding arrived at foreign secretary’s meet. The decision to refer internal security issues to home offices seems to be prudent, as foreign offices remain short on data needed to address internal security issues. This could be quite helpful where states involved are living in neighbourhood, as close as India and Pakistan. This will be first structured bilateral secretary-level meeting on counter-terrorism, including progress on the 26/11 trial in a Rawalpindi court.

Pillai had made out agenda for his Pakistani counterpart “From our side it will be, of course, progress on investigations (26/11)
we will ask for voice transcripts even though the trial court has said no. We will ask them why they have not gone and appealed. I am sure the High Court or the Supreme Court may have said that the voice transcripts can be given,” Pillai said. Indian home secretary appears to be unimpressed by what Pakistan has done so far. In his opinion, Pakistani action has remained limited to catching “chaps who have sold outboard engine or driven a taxi and not anyone of the main people whose voice has been identified by Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley,” while as in Pillai’s opinion “they should have arrested main persons behind it (Mumbai attacks).” The real controllers, as per what Pillai implies have not been targeted, “despite India providing them the names, photographs and their addresses.”

Headley evidence continues to be the sore point between India and Pakistan, which Pillai believes shows support of certain elements in Pakistan state. Pillai highlights “total deniability” of getting to those elements. Contrary to Indian accusation of Pakistan dragging its feat on 26/11 investigations, Pillai believes India is playing fair in the investigations into the Samjhauta Express blast indicating involvement of right-wing extremism. Pillai ruled out that it will put pressure on India while talking with Pakistan on terrorism. “It will not put pressure on us. We are open about it. The investigations are open. Our courts are free. We are investigating the same. We had told them in June also that the investigations are on and as something crystallizes, we shall share it with them.”

How fair is India going to be will be known in the days to come, right wing extremism in India has been highlighted in recent part by the higher echelons of ruling Congress-by Digvijay Sigh more than anyone else. Rahul Gandhi has expressed concern to American diplomats; the left parties in India want the government to move faster in containing the menace. And with some army officers getting involved, state players come to fore, though the level of involvement might be marginal-a dangerous trend nevertheless. Pillai might play down the concerns, but India would have to get pro-active in bringing the foul elements to fore, in order to prove that in word and deed it means business, as far as anti-terror measures go!

The Indian security scenario continue to be dilemmatic as home office says AFSPA revocation, rollback-partial or total is the decision falling within the purview of ‘Unified Headquarters’ chaired by Chief Minster Omar Abdullah. No cause for worry stands amply related by Army top brass “Army is fully geared up as far as the security of the borderline with China and Pakistan is concerned. We have taken elaborate measures,” said General Officer Commanding (GoC) 9 Corps Lt. Gen A K Choudary. The General expressed satisfaction security situation in Jammu and Kashmir calling it “satisfactory” with level of violence going down. However a few days later, Defence Minister Anthony ruled out rolling back AFSPA. Yet another evidence of confusion amongst higher echelons of security establishment.   

In the overall scenario, long term political solutions are imperative to address issues with geopolitical implications. Until that is sincerely attempted and achieved, the security situation would continue to be dilemmatic-open to varied interpretations by security agencies involved-the confused state being a natural corollary of prevalent conflict with contending stake holders. The stakes involved make maintenance of security a nightmare! Addressing issues in internal and external dimension by un-interrupted and un-interruptible dialogue is the need of the hour! 

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi
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