Manipur to Kashmir, 9 challenges ahead for Home Minister Amit Shah


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Along expected lines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah is back as India’s Home Minister. This will be Shah’s second term in the North Block office, since he held the same portfolio in 2019 as well.
In fact, Shah is only a year away from creating a record as the longest-serving Home Minister of the country. Party veteran LK Advani, who incidentally represented the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat before Shah, holds the record now (six years, 64 days) with Congress’s Govind Ballabh Pant close behind (six years, 56 days).
The continuity in office is expected to ensure that there is no disruption in the crucial Ministry’s pace of work. Shah, in separate posts on social media platform X, has hinted at pretty much the same, asserting that “the MHA will continue to accelerate and strengthen security initiatives” and introduce new approaches to take “India’s security to the next level and build Bharat as a bulwark against terrorism, insurgency, and naxalism”.
However, that is easier said than done. While Manipur has been awaiting peace for more than a year now, troubles have erupted afresh in Jammu and Kashmir even though the situation during the Lok Sabha polls had seemed positive, with promising voter turnouts.
Here is a list of the challenges that await the astute politician in the Ministry of Home Affairs, which will have two junior Ministers—Bandi Sanjay Kumar and Nityanand Rai — down from three last term.
1. Checking Manipur violence
Not being able to check the Manipur violence was a big failure on part of the previous Modi Government, and the results were evident in the Lok Sabha polls, when Manipur voted resoundingly against the NDA. While BJP lost the Meitei-dominated Inner Manipur seat, its ally Naga People’s Front lost the tribal-dominated Outer Manipur seat — both to the Congress.
Even RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat stated recently that the Government should prioritize Manipur and restore peace in the ethnic and strife-torn North Eastern State as early as possible. There has been wanton killing of youth, sexual violence on women, and the looting of arms and ammunition, of which several, including AK-series guns and automatic rifles, still remain untraced.
While Modi has failed to mention the State even once in the past one year, Shah has visited it only twice since violence broke out — the latest in April, mainly to campaign for the polls, when a large number of women protesters hit the streets to voice their anger against the Centre.
The Centre appointed former CRPF chief Kuldiep Singh as the State’s security adviser shortly after the violence erupted last year. So far, the wanton violence has been curbed to some extent but sporadic incidents continue to be reported, including murders, clashes, arson, and targeted extortions.
In the latest incidents, on June 8, two police outposts, a forest office, and at least 70 houses were torched in Jiribam, prompting the administration to transfer the SP. Two days after that, Manipur’s now-hugely-unpopular Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s advance security convoy was ambushed, leaving one personnel injured.
Even by conservative estimates, some 60,000 people have been displaced in the violence and at least 220 have died. As Bhagwat pointed out, “who will pay attention” to Manipur which is “still burning”? It is up to Shah to heed the advice.
2 Concluding Naga peace talks
After a hiatus, the Centre resumed Naga peace talks last year but it remained inconclusive. The talks are expected to continue again as the new Government gets going, taking over from where it left off before the polls. All in all, Shah has his hands full.
3. J&K Assembly polls and restoration of Statehood
Even though the previous Modi Government tom-tommed the “return of peace and normalcy” in Kashmir on several occasions, gunfights between the forces and terrorists have been a regular affair.
A reality check came just as Modi 3.0 was being sworn in at Delhi on June 9, as terrorists opened fire on a pilgrims’ bus in Jammu’s Reasi district, making it roll down a gorge, killing nine and injuring 33, 10 of them suffering gunshot wounds.
The Pakistan-backed The Resistance Force (TRF), an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which had also done so for the attack on an army convoy in Poonch on May 5, which left an Air Force officer dead and four injured.
Close on the heels of the Reasi attack came two encounters between security forces and terrorists in Kathua and Doda, leaving a CRPF jawan dead and six security personnel injured. The Narendra Modi government’s “Zero Tolerance” policy on terror seems to have had little effect on the ground as this group of terrorists has been striking at will and not much headway has been made in stopping them.
These attacks assume further significance in light of two impending events — one, the Amarnath Yatra that is scheduled to begin from June 29, and two, the Assembly elections in the Union territory for which the Election Commission has already started preparations.
Amid such circumstances, the Union Home Ministry will have the onerous task of ensuring a safe Amarnath Yatra, and a smooth conduct of Assembly elections, among other things. Plus, the government has to fulfil its promise of restoring statehood to Jammu and Kashmir after the polls.
4. Curbing pro-Khalistan Sikh militancy
India’s relationship with Canada has nosedived since last year over the unrestricted activism of Khalistani separatists on foreign soil. Recently, a poster on the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was condemned even by Canada, which has constantly harped on the need for “free speech”. However, the surge in the influence of Sikh hardliners is not restricted to foreign shores.
In the recently-concluded Lok Sabha polls, Khalistan ideologue Amritpal Singh, who is lodged in Assam’s Dibrugarh jail, won the Khadoor Sahib seat in Punjab as an Independent candidate. Another surprising win was that of Sarabjeet Singh Khalsa, son of Beant Singh, one of the assassins of Indira Gandhi, from Faridkot, also as an Independent.
Shah has to watch out for the growing footprint of radical Sikhism in India, especially Punjab, and nip it in the bud in good time.
5. Eliminating Maoist violence
This is one area where the Home Ministry under Shah has done commendable work. While his ministry data claims that violence in Maoist-hit states is down by 70 per cent, some constituencies on the Red corridor made news these general elections by voting for the first time in many years.
However, security forces’ encounters with the extreme-Left rebels keep making news every now and then. Will Shah be able to wipe out Maoist terror in the next three years, as he promised earlier? It remains to be seen.
6. Implementing new criminal laws
From July 1, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam 2023 are set to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and the Indian Evidence Act, respectively.
While the government’s move last year was aimed at modernising and updating the outdated British-era legislation, it is up to the Home Ministry to ensure a smooth transition. The Modi 2.0 government had been training judicial and police officers and it will continue now, but smooth implementation may still be a challenge since many states have reportedly voiced their concerns about inadequate trained personnel.
7. Census and implementation of Women’s Reservation Bill
The decennial population census has been delayed by three years already with the last one being held in 2011.
While it was reported in March that the government may go ahead with a new population census after the Lok Sabha elections, only Rs 1277.80 crore was allocated to census surveys and statistics in the interim Budget earlier this year. The entire census and National Population Register (NPR) update exercise is likely to cost the government over Rs 12,000 crore. This will also be the first digital census, allowing citizens to self-enumerate.
The Women’s Reservation Act or the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam will also be implemented only after the decennial census has been conducted. Many political parties have also demanded a caste census. Decisions have to be made and implemented regarding these.
8. Rolling out Uniform Civil Code
Shah himself asserted shortly before the polls that the BJP, if back to power, would ensure the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code within the next five years. However, things have become slightly more challenging for the BJP now, since it has not got a majority, and its NDA allies Telugu Desam Party and Janata Dal United having a strong Muslim voter base. Therefore, how it pans out remains to be seen.
9. Checking rise in cyber crime
The impact of the rise in cyber crime was felt by political parties even during the polls, with deepfakes becoming a regular affair. Protecting citizens’ data, preventing the dissipation of fake news, and keeping the country’s cyber infrastructure safe are the relatively new challenges for the Home Ministry. The Federal