Take non-lethal measures for crowd control, Manmohan tells top cops

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 27 2010, 06:22am hrs
Voicing serious concern over the spate of violent protests in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday highlighted the need to revisit standard operating procedures and crowd control measures by security forces to deal with public agitations.

Despite the curtailment of militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir, the public order dimension in the state has become a cause of serious concern, Singh told the three-day conference of DGPs and IGPs.

We need to revisit standard operating procedures and crowd control measures to deal with public agitations with non-lethal, yet effective and focused measures. We also cannot have an approach of one-size-fits-all, he said.

His comments come against the backdrop security forces in J&K facing flak for the killing of over 60 civilians in police action to quell violent protesters since June this year.

Singh asked home minister P Chidambaram to establish a high-powered task force to come out with a set of norms on non-lethal crowd control measures in the next two to three months.

He said that instead of single standard sequence for the use of force, other countries have put in place procedures that vary according to the situation.

The Prime Minister cited the experience of Rapid Action Force for non-lethal crowd control which has been successful saying it should be examined for being followed by other police forces also.

He said policing in the country has become increasingly complex over the years. Social tensions, religious disputes, growing economic disparities and regional, linguistic and ethnic differences have long been major challenges to effective policing in the country, he said.

But of late the growing presence of non-state actors, fundamentalist groups and left wing extremists has further complicated matters, he said.

Singh said the growing inter-linkages of destabilising and criminal forces, across states and across our borders, call for far greater vigilance and coordination between the security agencies than ever before.

He said after a relative lull in 2009, the challenges to countrys internal security seem to have re-emerged in more virulent forms. While we have made good progress in terms of recruitment and setting up of better institutional arrangements for intelligence, investigation, coastal security and counter-terrorism, the problems we face remain daunting, he said.

Singh said there was need to do much more to meet the challenge of Naxalism. We recognise that the Naxalites are our own people and are ready to talk to them provided they abjure the path of violence. We also stand committed to making special efforts to develop the areas affected by Naxal violence, many of which are inhibited predominantly by our tribal brothers and sisters, he said.

Referring to the north-east, he said the situation in the region was better now than what it was in the recent past, though some areas of concern still remain.

In Manipur, for example the Naga-Meitei divide has accentuated. The unfortunate growth of identity-based assertiveness in the North-East, particularly in Manipur and the North Cachar Hills (Assam), needs well thought-out and sensitive handling. The situation in Darjeeling hill area also needs a careful watch, he said.

Singh said the writ of the state should be firmly established in all these areas and the state police and Central paramilitary forces should take firm action against those who take the law into their own hands.

The PM said within the police forces, the current system of promotion is based essentially on seniority and it needs to be suitably recalibrated to catalyse better performance and motivation. For example, a successful stint in an extremism-affected district, should result in greater career benefits to the officers, he said.