‘Some Violence Seen During Anti-CAA Protests Was Clearly Organised’: Swarajya Interviews MoS Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy
“The attacks on police forces and acts of stone pelting in many cities were clearly organised,” Reddy said.
Ever since the second term of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister took off, a lot has been happening in the Union Home Ministry. Swarajya engages with Minister of State for Home Affairs, G. Kishan Reddy, through email, to ascertain 2019’s highlights in this part of North Block.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
1. It has been an eventful year for the Ministry of Home and allied departments. What are some of the details you can share about the accomplishments of the ministry and how challenges were met, through this interview?
India is a large country with complex challenges, which vary on many dimensions. While guarding the borders is always important, the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given the highest importance to maintaining internal security.
Our view is guided by three factors. First, Home Minister Shri Amit Shah has been at the helm of the ministry, working relentlessly on crucial issues outlined in our election manifesto.
Second, we are working in full coordination with security agencies and states, not in silos, to maintain internal security and peace. Third, meticulous research and planning has gone into all major decisions, their legal aspects and their implementation. This detailed orientation is the hallmark of PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
The Home Ministry has worked on several fronts in the last six months. Let me give you a month-wise view of the accomplishments.
In June, sanction for prosecution for filling the chargesheet against 44 accused persons was accorded under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 for terrorist and anti-national activities.
In July, the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to amend the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was passed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on 19 July, 2019 and 22 July, 2019 respectively.
The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2019 was published in the Gazette of India on 27 July, 2019. Sanction for prosecution for filling the chargesheet against 38 accused persons was accorded under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 for terrorist and anti-national activities.
In August, the focus was on the legislative changes for Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 was abrogated in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 was issued under Article 370(1) which applied all provisions of the Constitution of India without any exceptions and modifications, thereby removing article 35A and other Constitutional ambiguities in relation to Jammu and Kashmir.
Two new union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were carved out, which came into being on 31 October. The Home Ministry has put in all efforts to maintain peace in the two union territories, which involves working closely with our agencies.
Also in August, the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 were passed by the Parliament during Monsoon Session and provisions of these Acts came into force on 2 August, 2019 and 14 August, 2019 respectively.
These changes strengthen our investigation agencies further. The Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (Jel), Jammu and Kashmir were declared unlawful associations under the provisions of the UAPA.
In September, the Union Home Minister launched the 'Private Security Agency Licensing Portal' relating to issue of online license to private security agencies. Maulana Masood Azhar, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar were also declared as individual terrorists.
Sanction for prosecution for filing the chargesheet against 10 accused persons was accorded to NIA. Cyber Crisis Management Plan (CCMP) of the Ministry of Home Affairs was also released.
In November, the PM inaugurated the Integrated Check Post at Dera Baba Nanak, Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. Indian pilgrims can now visit the holy Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan through this arrangement.
During the month, sanction for prosecution for filing the chargesheet against 30 accused persons was accorded. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was declared an unlawful association.
Under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1976 ban on Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) of Meghalaya, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) as unlawful associations has been extended for five years.
In November, in the wake of the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi verdict by the Supreme Court of India, the ministry ensured that law and order was maintained across the country. Ample precautions were taken for the same.
In December, India passed the historic Citizenship Amendment Bill, which has now become an Act. The ministry coordinated with various states to maintain law and order in the wake of the protests in December against the Act.
This has been a historic year for the Ministry for Home Affairs and the credit goes to the strong leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
2. Do you think the Home Ministry should have gone big on pro-CAA messaging and explainers while the bill was being introduced in Parliament? Now, it seems as if the government is reacting to the protesters.
The Citizenship Amendment Act has always been on the agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The corresponding bill was presented earlier too in Lok Sabha. It was a key part of our manifesto.
If you watch the speeches made by Home Minister Amit Shah in Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha, every single point raised by all members was clarified with patience and in full detail. The government has clearly stated that the central premise of the Act is to give citizenship, not to take away anyone’s citizenship.
We continue to stress the point. There are vested interests which have spread misinformation. But for the citizens of India, we have emphatically stated the purpose of the Act and will continue to reinforce the message.
3. Do you think the protests against the CAA are organised and are being orchestrated to undermine the government?
Let me clearly state that protests are a part and parcel of any vibrant democracy. The government has no issues with people protesting against any of its decisions, as long as it is done peacefully and after seeking all relevant permissions and approvals. However, destroying public property or attacking police forces is not acceptable.
If you examine the videos and pictures now coming out of the protests, in several cases, the protesters crossed the lines of what is acceptable in a democracy.
Such acts cannot be condoned and the police forces will take appropriate actions against such people. In fact, this is already being done in various states like UP, Maharashtra and Karnataka. This is not about politics, but rather following laws of the country.
While there are genuine cases of protests, surely some of the violence we saw could not have been leaderless. The attacks on police forces and acts of stone pelting in many cities were clearly organised.
The opposition may be hiding behind those who may have some differences on the CAA. I will appeal to all citizens to have a constructive dialogue with the government on the issue and ensure that no political party is using any citizen directly or indirectly to spoil law and order situation.
4. Home Minister Amit Shah, in his address to the CRPF last month, asked them to go after Urban Naxals and their facilitators. What is the Home Ministry's definition of an 'Urban Naxal' and what are the plans to check and stall such forces?
Right from the days of the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh, Maoist violence and the Naxal issue have been identified as a big threat to the Indian state. Our government under PM Narendra Modi has been working relentlessly to break the back of the Naxal movement.
This involves not just the ground operatives but their active sympathizers, who maintain an exterior of normal social participation, but may be helping the Naxal operatives with logistics or shelter or other such allied activities.
We are fully committed to bringing to book not just the terrorists themselves, but also anyone who aids terrorism knowingly. I cannot reveal specific details on what security agencies are working with to achieve this objective. But internal security is a critical priority of the government.
5. Looking back at 2019, how has the year been with respect to combating Naxal terror?
Through the last five years in the first term of the Modi government, the Naxal violence and its ideological spread has been on a decline. In 2019 too, the same trend has continued. This year was the year of crucial elections.
Let’s start with December 2018, when the Chhatisgarh polls took place. After that we had the nationwide Lok Sabha polls. This was followed by Maharashtra and Jharkhand polls. None of the polls were marred by Naxal violence or intervention.
The polling was not just peaceful but the turnout itself was in record numbers. This shows that people are also fed up of Naxal violence.
We did have one big incident in Gadchiroli in May, where 15 of our brave commandos lost their lives. However, the National Investigation Agency has already filed a chargesheet in this case.
The Naxals were desperate to take revenge for the April 2018 action of the specialised Maharashtra C-60 squad. The NIA has this in the chargesheet against 12 Naxals. The NIA has also filed revised chargesheet in the 2013 Darbha case from Chhatisgarh and several accused have been arrested already.
The government has been tough on the wider Naxal network as well, trying to get to the root cause of the problem.
All in all, I believe that with the cooperation of all states concerned, we are steadily working to eliminate this problem and bringing a better life to our tribal population caught in the spiral of Naxal atrocities.
6. How do you assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir? What is the government game plan on this front?
Since the repeal of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the government has worked hard to bring normalcy to the union territory. Just this week, mobile Internet ban has been lifted from Ladakh. SMS services have been restored recently. Broadband Internet is being partially restored. The toll post in Lakhanpur in Kathua has been removed.
Pakistan has been constantly provoking India with ceasefire violations. Media has already reported on this extensively and regularly. Several infiltration attempts have been foiled by our forces. In that sense, the challenge on the LOC remains and we have to be vigilant.
The situation on the LOC also has to be looked into. While from our side, the government has worked to get normal life restored quickly with open schools, markets and hospitals, we remain conscious of the cross-border threat.
A round of local body polls was also conducted and that went off peacefully. Importantly, look at Ladakh too – things have been totally peaceful there, and people are eagerly waiting to welcome tourists and industry alike.
We are committed to maintaining peace in both the union territories and bringing the full fruits of development to the people there. At the same time, the government will not be forced into taking any actions which are detrimental to the security and safety of our people.
7. What can you share with us about the constitution of the Trust that has to be created for construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya?
I welcome the judgment given by the Honourable Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi issue. This was a matter of our faith and it gives great satisfaction to see that the issue was resolved peacefully.
The court has given a time-frame to set up the Trust with appropriate representation and monitoring. Since the process to form the Trust is on, I will not speculate on its nature or its composition. The picture should be clear in the coming weeks.
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