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Issue No.: 559 | January 2014

Need to Move from Dvaita to Advaita

G. R. S. Rao
It is astonishing to find some Chief Ministers observing, if not arguing, that their states are "islands of peace” as if by implication, national security would not bother them.

Terrorism in all its myriad manifestations has been discussed ad-nauseum, at different levels in various forums. The issue of setting up of a National Centre for Counter Terrorism (NCTC) as proposed by the Union Home Ministry created a flare of centre-state relations. Several Chief Ministers expressed their concerns that NCTC would be an attack on the federal character of the nation and that it will undermine the functions of the states. The objections  by Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Tripura, HimachalPradesh, Jharkhand and Karnataka lend a partisan flavor of a political alignment to the issues of national security management.

The Union Government asserts that it doesn’t "believe” that the setting up of the NCTC violates any "federal principles” or the "rights of the states”. The Prime Minister himself had reiterated that NCTC would not take away the "powers/authority” of states.

All this flare only brings out the continuing partisan political debate expressed and manifested in terms such as: ‘ruling versus opposition’, powers of "centre versus that of states”; and federal character of the polity. If we expand the time frame a little earlier to POTA times, the predominant focus of political debate was the fear of potential misuse and abuse of powers but not on the need for a law to fight terrorism. All those "fears” were shattered by the menacing 26/11 cake walk of terrorists on Mumbai. The nation had to go through a trauma for a government to act, nay, to react, and then enact an anti-terror legislation and setting up of the National Investigative Agency (NIA), in order to strengthen national security.

India seeks and secures cooperation from other countries and international organizations such as the Interpol, to tight terrorism. The differentiation between the ‘internal’ and the ‘external’ dimensions of national security has long been lost, as the two dimensions have fused into a continuum.
Yet in our public policy debates we continue to be driven by the rights and powers of the centre via a vis. the states, fears of misuse and abuse of powers, and concerns for the federal character. It is astonishing to find some Chief Ministers observing, if not arguing, that their states are "islands of peace” as if by implication, national security would not bother them. Also, does it imply that "a state of peace” repels terrorists’? Partisan political factors cloud the vital issues of national security and integrity. National security policy debate is characterized by the fault-lines of partisan politics. The fact that all the regional political parties have joined hands to oppose the initiative from the "centre” is accentuated by the twin adjunct facts viz. (a) some of them are members of the ruling UPA alliance at the Centre, and (b) none of the states where the Indian National Congress is in power had expressed any opinion on the issue. It is not as though the INC had discussed the issue in any of its party forums leading to a consensus at the national level within the party. 

It is equally significant that the only other national party, the BJP, that had led a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) earlier, and experienced partisan political turbulence in regard to POTA, was muted on the issue of NCTC, while the state governments governed by the BJP expressed reservations on the issue. Should not the national level political parties make up their mind and seek to promote a unified vision of ‘national security’ bringing on board, the regional parties’?

The cardinal feature of consensualism that emerged as the hallmark of Indian democracy, set in motion by the mainstream of Indian National Congress seems to have faded out due to the contemporary character of an all pervasive dualism – Dvaita, thanks to the politics of power.

The contemporary scenario reminds us of the childhood game of ‘cops and robbers’. For those who may have forgotten, it can be encapsulated that children divide themselves into two groups, one group assumes the role of cops, another that of robbers. The group that plays the cops demonstrates authoritarianism, high degree of morality, and look down upon the group that plays robbers who dramatize submissiveness, guilt feeling and pray for lenience. When the two groups change their role in the second round, they exchange and demonstrate, with dramatic effect, the role play. But children can be childish in a childhood game. Indian democracy demands mature performance from all parties not to play the game of ‘Ruling’ versus ‘Opposition’ like the children play the cops and robbers, especially when it comes to national security and integrity.

Partisan dispositions of ‘Ruling’ versus ‘Opposition’ especially in the management of national security can endanger democracy. Distortions of dualism - ‘Dvaita’ - must be corrected quickly, corrected in order to promote a unified policy of Advaita, inspired by the shared vision of India, a pride of nationalism and citizenship. National and nationalist political parties have a challenge and an opportunity to formulate a national policy to fulfil national responsibilities of governance.

Power and authority obtaining both at the national and the state levels are complementary, aimed at fulfilling one common national responsibility of the government. Centre and the states together have to co-opt in managing and promoting national security. There is only one National Integration Council at work; thank God the states are not proposing their own respective national integration councils. Here again, there is a lot to redefine and redesign the National Integration Council, to make it functional, from being or ornamental.

The Prime Minister has rightly and repeatedly emphasized that extremism and terrorism together constitute the greatest threat to national security. And the whole world knows that there is a tremendous cooperation among all extremist and terrorist outfits not only within but across the national boundaries. Should not all political parties, all the states and the centre interact like one nation and act in unison to contain and eliminate terrorism? Time to evolve a unified Advaita policy for national security management.

The creation of Special Police Officers (SPOs) in Chhattisgarh has only accentuated the conflict between the police, the extremists and cadres of Salwa Judum. A PIL before the Supreme Court has brought out the policy distortions that had exasperated the management of security. The State Government pleaded before the Supreme Court that the institution of SPOs was in vogue during the British regime when the Court observed "don’t divide the society into pro and anti naxalite supporters”. Paradoxically, the counsel for the Union Government argued (during the year 2011) that the state has only 40 battalions as against the need for 70 battalions and hence the need for SPOs. The logical questions raised by the court as to (a) whether any rules had been framed under the Police Act, the counsel said: "no, the matter is pending before the Police Reforms Commission”. When the Court asked whether the issue of SPOs was referred to the Commission there was no answer. Dualism in national security management could lead to distortions and national disasters. Let not our states act like 29 countries but as 29 states of the Indian Republic.

Dr. G. R. S. RAO, formerly Chair Professor in Public Policy
at the Administrative Staff College of India. E-mail:





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