National Action Plan: Combating radicalisation

radicalisation

While the state has a constitutional obligation to address radicalisation, the law enforcement agencies do not have a concerted response as radicalisation is yet to be legally defined.

The faith of the people reposed through their electoral mandate requires the incumbent government to uphold the constitutional ideals of – social, economic and political justice; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; promotion of fraternity based upon dignity of the individual; and ensuring the unity and integrity of India.

Article 355 of the Constitution, enjoins upon the Union a duty to protect the states against internal disturbances and to ensure that governance is carried on in accordance with the provision of the Constitution. In the exercise of their functions prescribed in lieu of their offices provided for by the Constitution, the government must, first and foremost, uphold, defend and protect the constitutional ideals.

The phenomenon of radicalisation threatens to not only subvert these ideals but to tear the very social fabric of our nation. Recognising this threat, in December 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs had set up a Counter Terrorism and Counter Radicalisation division which was tasked to come up with an Action Plan to combat radicalisation. The requirement of such a plan cannot be over-stated. Currently, the mindset of the policy-makers and legislators for combating radicalisation has been haphazard and compartmentalised as opposed to a compressive and holistic approach required to tackle it. The results of the 2019 general elections provide a unique opportunity to the government to devise and implement a coordinated and effective Action Plan.

The development of an efficacious Action Plan, however, requires adherence to a certain basic set of principles in line with the constitutional values. First, policy makers must shed their security centric mindset and focus instead upon reformative and rehabilitative approaches aimed at achieving a lasting break between the individual and the ideology. Second, radicalisation should be understood as a process which can, under a compulsion of circumstances and events, influence the thought process of any individual regardless of age, sex, caste, creed, religion, place of birth, place of residence, socio-economic status or level of education.

Third, radicalisation and all associated interventions to combat it — disengagement, de-radicalisation, counter radicalisation and anti-radicalisation — must be defined statutorily. This is to ensure a uniformity in the understanding of these terms across the length and breadth of the country. These definitions must be constructed in a value neutral manner — requiring thereby, for the definitions to not single out any particular religious, social, political or economic ideologies or be influenced by them.

Fourth, the Action Plan must not be limited to tasking the Union ministries and instead, must create a superstructure of authorities at all three levels of governance — Centre, states and district — to fight radicalisation. The appointment of professionals such as psychologists, psycho-social workers, sociologists and criminologists to these authorities should be without any caste, religious, economic or political considerations. The Action Plan must detail the powers, duties, functions and other modalities of these authorities. The interventions by these authorities, must be tailored to the nature of radicalisation and proportionate to the extent of radicalisation.

Fifth, the threat of radicalisation in India emanates from several quarters. The Action Plan must comprehensively account for all such ideologies without singling out any one particular ideology or community. While the interventions themselves must be tailored to the particular radicalising ideology, it is equally important to give weightage to all shades and hues of radicalisation.

Sixth, it should be kept in mind that the interventions must not be in the nature of a shift from a ‘post-crime society’ to a ‘pre-crime society.’ In a post-crime society, such as ours, the criminal sanctions are imposed only after the commission of an offence or at the maximum, in its preparation. In their preventative function, it must be ensured that the interventions are not in the nature of criminal sanctions i.e. they shouldn’t be punitive or retributive, but should be reformative, rehabilitative and re-integrative in their objective.

Encouraging dialogue

Finally, potentially controversial interventions such as anti-radicalisation, including the dissemination of counter narratives, may raise questions of perceived or actual rights infringement. To avoid the same, the Action Plan must encourage the communities and/or localities to find the solutions rather than enforcing a State-sponsored belief upon them.

For this purpose, the Action Plan must establish committees comprising of eminent leaders from the communities and respected persons in the localities to encourage both intra and inter-community dialogue. Such a dialogue would not only facilitate the inter-mingling of various communities, but also provide a safety net by amicably resolving any differences between the communities in the event of exigencies.

As it stands on the precipice of social, economic and political changes, India is about to cross a Rubicon that will define decisively both — us as Indians and India as a nation. In this decision, India must be guided by the moderated temperance of constitutional morality and not the extremist fringes of its social and/or political moralities. The Action Plan for combating radicalisation should promote and inculcate among citizens scientific temper, humanism and rationality.

The consequences of non-adherence to constitutional ideals would be gravely counter-productive to the aim of the Action Plan. Lessons should be taken from the improper implementation of the PREVENT programme in Britain. The programme became a ruse of mass surveillance and official stigmatisation of an entire community. Consequently, it bred further distrust between the community and the State. Given that the Action Plan in India is still at the stage of inception it can avoid such pitfalls by reflecting the values and principles detailed above.

(Bajpai is a Professor & Chairperson, Centre for Criminology & Victimology, and Kaushik is LL.M. student, National Law University Delhi)

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