Covid, insurgency, armed forces kept MHA on its toes

Covid-19, civilian attacks, tackling terror kept Ministry of Home Affairs busy in 2021

For the first time since Independence, the MHA declared that August 14 will be observed as the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day

Amit Shah in Srinagar earlier this year. Credit: PTI File Photo

Battling the Covid-19 crisis, handling the situation arising after attacks on civilians in Jammu and Kashmir, ambush on security forces in Chhattisgarh and Manipur, among a host of other issues, kept the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) busy in 2021.

Bringing in high-capacity cryogenic tankers from abroad to deal with oxygen shortage during the brutal second wave of the pandemic, tussle with the West Bengal government over political violence in the state and actively supporting the states that bore the brunt of natural disasters are some of the other key issues that the home ministry handled during the year.

Like the previous year, in 2021 too, the MHA was the nodal authority for regulating the Covid-19 curtailment measures -- imposing restrictions where required and relaxing them when the situation improved. Every month, throughout the year, the Union Home Secretary issued pandemic guidelines to the states and Union Territories.

Also Read — MHA asks states and UTs for rigorous screening of international passengers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah was instrumental in importing high-capacity cryogenic tankers from countries like Singapore and UAE, for transportation of oxygen from one part of India to the other, when the country was fighting the second wave amid oxygen shortage. Shah was also involved in assisting the states to handle the situation, including issuing directions to revive defunct oxygen plant for augmenting production of the essential public health commodity.

The MHA was on tenterhooks when terrorists carried out multiple attacks on civilians and police in Jammu and Kashmir since October.

Jammu and Kashmir, which has been on the edge since August 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated and the erstwhile state was bifurcated into two Union Territories, also saw a visit by Shah in October, amid the civilian killings.

Killings of 22 security personnel in Chhattisgarh in April by naxals and a Colonel, his wife, son and four security personnel in Manipur on November 14 by the Naga insurgents also reminded everyone that the violence perpetrated by extremists continued unabated in some parts of the country.

Also Read — MHA creates taskforce to prevent suicides by Central Armed Police Forces troops

A bitter feud began in May between the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government and the Centre when the MHA had summoned the state's then chief secretary Alapan Bandyopdhayay to serve in the Central government after he remained absent at a review meeting on Cyclone Yaas chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28. A tussle between the West Bengal government and the Centre was also witnessed in the run-up to the West Bengal assembly elections held in April-May over the political violence.

The MHA and the home minister were also busy in dealing with the situation arising due to the clashes along the Assam-Mizoram border in July in which six Assam Police personnel were killed and 50 others, including the district SP, injured.

Assam's Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi share a 164-kilometre-long border with Mizoram's three districts of Aizawl, Kolasib and Mamit. Following a territorial dispute, there were clashes along the inter-state border in August 2020 and February this year before the massive flare-up in July.

Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra has been facing opposition onslaught ever since his son Ashish was allegedly involved in mowing down four protesting farmers in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri in September. Even though the opposition disrupted the proceedings of both houses of Parliament during the just concluded winter session, Mishra continued to function normally, attending his North Block office regularly.

Also Read — TMC holds protest outside MHA against police action in Tripura

Shah was also seen leading the government's strong defence in the wake of Pegasus snooping controversy. Hitting out at opposition Congress and international organisations, he denied government's involvement in surveillance of politicians, journalists and others, saying such "obstructors" and "disruptors" were only aiming to humiliate India on the world stage.

Maintaining that such issues will not be able to derail India's development trajectory with their conspiracies, Shah said those who intend to derail India's progress were peddling the same old narratives about the country. Shah also questioned the timing of the "selective leaks" ahead of the Monsoon Session.

"People have often associated this phrase with me in lighter vein but today, I want to seriously say - the timing of the selective leaks, the disruptions…Aap chronology samajhiye! (you should understand the chronology)," he said.

In the wake of a coup in Myanmar, many people, including police, from the neighbouring country, entered Mizoram to take shelter. This prompted the MHA to caution four northeastern states — Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh — bordering Myanmar against influx from the neighbouring country in view of the large-scale protests there and take appropriate actions according to law.

Also Read — Peace elusive in Jammu and Kashmir, 2021 leaves behind bouquets and brickbats

India shares about 1,700-km-long porous border with Myanmar, where mass demonstrations are being held in protest against the declaration of a year-long emergency by the country's armed forces.

For the first time since Independence, the MHA declared that August 14 will be observed as the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day in remembrance of those who sacrificed their lives during the country's partition. Before the MHA announcement, Prime Minister said that the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day will be observed every year in the memory of the struggles and sacrifices of people as the pain of partition can never be forgotten.

In a notification, the home ministry said people of India while celebrating 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' salute "those sons and daughters of the country who had to sacrifice their lives during the partition of India".

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