The ongoing surge of violence in Delhi which transgressed from contention over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to a communal flare-up which lasted for over four days was shocking to many.
That the President of the United States, Donald J Trump, was on a high profile visit to India during the same period was a reflection of the contrasts that can exist in modern societies.
Comparison is being made with 1984 violence in Delhi or the 2002 flare-up in Gujarat. Thankfully the situation in Delhi has been controlled in terms of the number of casualties regarding the past incidents but continues to remain incendiary.
A simplistic explanation could veer on to inefficiency of the Police or even worse political direction for inaction; however, these can only be substantiated when adequate evidence is available which can only be obtained through a judicial enquiry into the incidents
The underlying trend of hybridisation of law and order in recent years, however, can be inferred upon with reasonable certainty.
The hybridisation of law and order goes beyond simplistic situations obtained by the Police in the past wherein local issues conflagrated but could be controlled by the deployment of local and central Police.
The Central Reserve Police Force, Rapid Action Force (RAF) is specially trained for this purpose, why this was not deployed in Delhi when the situation was conflagrating is another question?
In the ghettoisation of portions of our metros today, pockets of socio-economic, religious and communal divides exist, North East Delhi is a typical example of the same.
These are tinderboxes which can be set alight especially when there is an underlying grievance which has been in the political ferment for some months now the CAA combined with National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register for Citizenship (NRC).
There are sufficient grounds to believe that polarisation on the three issues frequently taken as a block has taken place not just in Delhi but also in other parts of the country, but the national capital against the backdrop of the prolonged blockade in Shaheen Bagh has become a focal point.
Societal faultlines remain vulnerable. Where community and state leadership does not attempt to bridge the divide these can be exploited today far more effectively in the past due to proliferation of information and media channels.
Exploiting the divided sentiment in the community using social media which has now become a primary tool for generating hybrid threats is accepted.
Fake news, reports which demonstrate communal intent of protests, twisting headlines, morphed videos and so on is part of the tool box that is used to advantage by the antagonists.
When top leaders make disruptive statements these receive instant recognition and the spread is contagious and rapid.
The Police has to be live to the situation hopefully having eyes and ears hooked to the social media including wholly public channels as Twitter and Facebook as well as entrée in What’s App and other messaging groups.
In Delhi as media reports indicate there were adequate inputs of a possible conflagration which were ignored and these were coming from the Delhi police’s own intelligence set up.
A timely warning with appeals could defuse the faultlines while ignoring these for what ever reason is a recipe for disaster.
Local inter faith groups and Aman committees can quickly defuse tensions, in Delhi, it is apparent that these were either not existing or were not activated.
Yet common citizens do not indulge in violence except for in self-defence, the explanation for the mass surge in attacks can be proliferation of vigilante groups spontaneous or organised targeting the other community including people and property.
These groups are violent arms of a hybrid threat which as they go on a rampage are difficult to control by the state police and specialised riot control central force the RAF of the CRPF or the Army would have to intervene.
Such a force will create an atmosphere of fairness raising confidence of the community but will require time to be effective given the lack of adequate familiarisation with the local social, political and terrain conditions.
On the whole meeting hybrid law and order threats requires systemic actions. At present it is apparent that there is limited realisation of the scenarios that may emerge either at the political level or the Police and thus proactive actions to prevent divides from conflagrating to uncontrolled violence are lacking.
Where Police is alive to such scenarios – some metros in the South such as Hyderabad have shown admirable understanding in this regard, the situations can be controlled.
The need of the hour is to train our first responders the local law enforcement agencies to proactively pre-empt the new forms of threat that if manifested do not benefit individuals society or the state.
In case you come across any suspicious activity, any suspicious movement or have any information to tell to the Anti-Terror Squad, please take a note of the new ALL INDIA TOLL-FREE Terror Help-line '1090'. Your city's Police or Anti-Terror squad will take action as quickly as possible. Remember that this single number 1090 is valid all over india. This is a toll free number and can be dialled from mobile phones also. Moreover, the identity of the caller will be kept a secret.
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