On Terrorism And Riots And Maoists And India

English: A police officer in riot gear at the ...
English: A police officer in riot gear at the London student protests, 9 December 2010 License on Flickr (2011-02-03): CC-BY-2.0 Flickr tags: riot, police, london, oxford street, protests, topshop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Neither terrorism nor riots are strictly law and order problems. There are deep political, social, economic, religious, ideological undercurrents. But let's for one moment think of them as pure law and order problems.

You can't send an army battalion to go counter terrorists. Terrorists fight an asymmetrical war. Intelligence is way more important than weapons. Nabbing a terrorist and collecting information is valuable. Information sharing across agencies and across countries is valuable. But once in a while, you do have to physically fight them. And there you need a few super well trained soldiers. It is a war of asymmetry. Many rules get broken.

Riots are at the other end. They happen out in the open. They are large scale. They are mob behavior. It is true nefarious characters can incite them and get mileage out of them. But it is possible to contain them. There ought be a national alert system. If certain preconditions are met, the alarm should go off, like a fire alarm. As in, we think this situation is fast developing and could become a riot. Sending in especially trained riot police on the ground as fast as possible might be a big help. Tear gas and curfews could be useful. A rapid, large scale mobilization of security personnel could douse the fire. And once the emotions are contained in a few hours or a day or two, then you have done your job. This national alert system would be key. It is possible for India to go riot-free.

The underlying political, social, economic, religious, ideological undercurrents need to be tackled during normal times on an ongoing basis. But when a riot is about to happen, it ought be tackled as strictly a law and order problem that can be resolved.

Israelis proved you can actually nab suicide bombers before they strike. You can infiltrate their organizations. Similarly, riots are like the flu hitting a population. It is said Google can predict flu outbreaks before anyone else. People start searching for flu symptoms.

Telltale signs of riots should be collected. There should be a mechanism to do that. And security personnel should move in in large numbers before the storm has had a chance to break into showers.

A third problem is Maoist violence. Measured in proportion, that problem was much, much bigger in Nepal. At their peak the Maoists of Nepal controlled 80% of Nepal's territory. But Nepal has proven the Maoist problem can be solved. The trick is to think of it as primarily a political problem.

The thing about riots is, do we think of pickpockets and burglars as people who will only respond to change of heart, or do we train the police to nab them? We train the police to nab them. Similarly, riots are escalated by some anti-social elements who have to be thought of as pickpockets and burglars. Rioters don't speak for this and that religion any more than terrorists do. They are simply negative forces that need to be countered. Localized and countered, apprehended and put away.

Rioting is a crime like burglary, and the security forces need to step in.