Why Did the Union Govt Pull Down Academic Papers Written By its Own Police Officers?

The DGP conference is a major event which brainstorms issues of internal security. Merely pulling down papers will not make them go away.

We are used to seeing governments trying to censor the media. But the Narendra Modi government has done better ― it is censoring thoughtful academic papers written by its own police officers.

According to a report in the Indian Express, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah recently attended an important annual conference of directors general and inspectors general of police, where papers were presented by young police officers on increasing Islamist, Hindu and left wing radicalisation in society. Some of them said Sangh parivar organisations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal are radical outfits which have promoted majoritarianism via ghar wapasi and beef ban campaigns, which radicalise the youth. In reaction, there is greater Islamist radicalisation. One paper also mentions the case of Nupur Sharma’s comments on the prophet, and its fallout. Another paper talks about how restrictive or no patrolling by Indian Security Forces has resulted in India losing access to 26 out of 65 patrolling points in eastern Ladakh.

Some of these papers were put on the conference website, but were pulled down later, evidently to avoid media attention. But media organisations managed to get copies of the papers. Such things, like the BBC documentary, can’t be brushed under the carpet. Censorship is always a bad idea. It draws more attention to the issue being covered up.

The DGP conference is a major event which brainstorms issues of internal security. Merely pulling down papers will not make them go away. The police officers are merely trying to analyse the causes of growing politico-religious violence. In a parallel, the American police and national agencies like the FBI have officially recognised growing violence and radicalisation among white supremacist groups in the US. For internal security, the FBI says it could be a bigger threat than any other form of extremism.

So, why hesitate to call a spade a spade in India? The BJP government has a problem admitting to youth radicalisation around campaigns like ghar wapasi because RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat himself had given the first clarion call for it, after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. So one can understand the eagerness to take down such papers from the website.

Oddly, Bhagwat’s exhortation had come right after Modi’s first Independence Day speech at the Red Fort, where he gave a general call for observing a 10-year moratorium on all divisive issues. What went on between Modi and Bhagwat then is still a mystery.

Also read: Censorship Comes in All Shades and Sizes in India

Sangh parivar outfits like the VHP and Bajrang Dal have acted with impunity all these years. The police establishment has to constantly firefight violence flowing from radical extremism from all quarters. In fact, one paper argues that this is a deeper problem which cannot be solved by policing alone. Other social and psychological interventions are needed urgently. But the hate factories must be shut down first.

Some belated corrective measures seem to be materialising in recent months. The I&B ministry, for instance, has sent dozens of notices to news TV channels threatening to cancel their licences if incendiary and polarising content is not taken down. This might seem too little too late because media, especially TV channels, have played a big role in radicalising people through toxic debates. That such polarising debates have also helped the BJP electorally is an open secret.

The papers presented in the conference also spoke of left-wing radicalisation. An interesting aspect of ultra left wing movements, like the Maoists, is that the mainstream parliamentary Left has a history of active hostility towards them. In turn, Maoists regard the parliamentary left as collaborators of the bourgeois State. However, that is not the case with a right-wing parliamentary party like the BJP, which has never openly condemned actions of the VHP and Bajrang Dal, and vice versa. They seem to act in tandem. The researchers in the police department would do well to study these aspects, too.

This piece was first published on The India Cable – a premium newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas – and has been republished here. To subscribe to The India Cable, click here.