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Politics of internal security laws discussed at Dr. Kishan Memorial Lecture

By Dr. Syed Ahmed, for TwoCircles.net,

Imphal: Politics of internal security acts since Independence was the focus of the 2nd Dr Kishan Memorial Lecture held on 28th June 2011 at the auditorium of Maharaja Bodhchandra College, Palace Compound, at Imphal. The memorial lecture is held annually by Dr. Thingnam Kishan Foundation (DTKF) organized to commemorate the birth anniversary of Dr Thingnam Kishan.

Dr. Kishan, who served as Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) of Kasom Khullen in Ukhrul District of Manipur, was killed brutally along with two of his staff members, mandal Yumnam Token Singh and driver Aribam Rajen Sharma by the cadres of an insurgent group after they were abducted on 17 Feb. 2009. Dr. Kishan was just 37 years old.

Kumar Sanjay Singh delivering the lecture

Associate Professor of Swami Shardhananda College, Delhi University, Kumar Sanjay Singh delivered the lecture on the topic, “Politics of Internal Security Acts 1947-2001.” The lecture put forward a theoretical premise to explain and evaluate the existing draconian acts like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Terrorist and Destructive Activities Act or the National Security Act.

Sanjay Singh contested the episodic understanding of internal security legislations advanced by the state and its supporters. He said that the state justifies that the internal security legislations are the product of internal and external threats. The speech given by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the Lok Sabha, on Aug. 1952, clearly laid down the state’s rational for the promulgation of the extra-ordinary laws, he stated. Nehru said there would be no compromise as far as the safety of the state was concerned whether the threat emerged from within India or without.

Sanjay Singh further said that the state and the apologists endorse a one to one correspondence between episodes of internal or external threats and the promulgation of internal security legislations. The state further argues that the criminal laws existing in the country are not powerful enough to deal with such threats, and these threats are offenses of very specific nature which needs specific laws to handle them.

He also added that by the late 1990s the policy-makers, stressing the need of an inclusive anti-terrorist law, argued that the existing laws are insufficient to tackle the “terrorist acts,” hence once again emphasizing state’s rationale for making the legislations.

He also observed that critiques of the excessive internal security acts have questioned the constitutionality, efficacy and the need of these legislations in the face of existing laws, however they have not yet questioned the government the reasons behind the implementation of the laws.

Sanjay Singh further examined that official explanation for the promulgation of extra-ordinary law is insufficient on 3 points: “First, there is no one to one correspondence between the promulgation of internal security legislations and the episodes of internal threats. Secondly, though the acts, being a response to specific threats, claim to be specific laws, a fact that is reflected even in their nomenclature, in their application betray any claim to specificity. In fact acts promulgated to deal threats in specific areas or of a specific type are soon applied in different areas and on even remotely connected to the purported causes behind the act. Third, this episodic explanation fails to take into account the texture of promulgation of the internal security legislations in the country. It does not even attempt to explain the reason behind the fact that while all the acts prior to 1975 were central acts, from 1978, especially 1980, there was a spurt of promulgation of internal security acts from the state legislatures.”

Sanjay Singh also argued that the internal security legislations are not responses to episodes of internal threats but are a result of “deep-seated structural crisis of the state.” He explained that the post-1947 Indian state was faced with a unique dilemma whereby the ruling classes though economically powerful were socially and politically not strong enough to sustain the fledging state which necessitates the state to search for a social base to grant it viability and legitimacy.

According to Sanjay Singh, the attempted multi-class alliance had 2 distinct phases: first phase, from 1947-1975, was based on petty bourgeoisie; second phase, from 1978 onwards, was based on the lower castes. While the first phase resulted in the “centralization” of the form of politics the second phase resulted in the form politics becoming “regional and rise of caste and community based politics.” It is, indeed, this transformation that is responsible for the temporality and the texture of promulgation of internal security legislation, he said. In the first phase as the form of politics was central the character of the internal security legislation was central, in the second phase when the form of politics becomes regional the promulgation of the legislations by the state assemblies gain momentum.

Sanjay Singh analyzed that in the first phase 12 acts were passed through central legislations. Interestingly in this period the state assemblies passed no extra-ordinary acts. On the contrary, from 1978 till 2001, 14 extra-ordinary legislations were made by different states. In all, 13 of the legislations have been promulgated in post-1980. The maximum number (3) was made by Maharastra Assembly, while the assemblies of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and J&K made 2-2 each.

Internal Security Legislations 1947-2001
Central Legislations

  1. The United Nations Security Act, 1947
  2. The Merchant Shipping Act, 1948
  3. The Punjab Security of State Act, 1953
  4. The Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955
  1. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Regulation, 1958
  2. The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958
  3. The Nagaland Security Regulation, 1962
  4. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
  5.  The Passports Act, 1967
  6. The Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971
  7. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  8. The Conservation of Foreign and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974
  9. The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts)Act, 1976
  10. The Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators Act, 1976
  1. The Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980
  1. The National Security Act, 1980
  2. The Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1981
  3. The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982
  4. The Suppression of Unlawful Acts against safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982
  5. The Punjab Disturbed Areas Act, 1983
  6. The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987
  7. The Armed Forces (J&K) Special Powers Act, 1990
  8. The Prvention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988
  9. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 1995
  10. The Information Technology Act, 2000
  11. The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, 2001


Source: Kumar Sanjay Singh, “Politics of Internal Security Acts 1947-2001”

The multi-class alliance, according to Sanjay Singh, was inevitably unstable leading to periods of consolidation as well as erosion of the alliance. The fact remains that the vicissitudes of the multi-class alliance and the promulgation of internal security legislations exhibit a greater correspondence than that between the acts and the instances of terrorism, Sanjay Singh concluded.

The lecture was followed by a discussion session. Academicians, social and human right activists and students who attended the memorial lecture discussed and shared their views and opinions on the theme. Retired District Session Judge C Upendra moderated the discussion session.

During his short span of life, Dr. Kishan, who “believed in a world free from exploitation, subjugation and suppression,” addressed many crucial issues which affect the people of Manipur and the North-East India in his writings. He was the founder editor of the research journal, Alternative Perspectives (formerly known as Alternative Frames). The journal provides serious and constructive evaluation of the existing conditions and circumstances in North-East India. Besides numerous articles, Dr. Kishan also authored some books. His book, “Rethinking Colonialism,” was published by World View, N. Delhi in 2006. Another book, “India’s Look East Policy and India’s Northeast: Polemics and Perspectives” was published by Concept Publications, N. Delhi in 2009.

Dr. Kishan was born on 26 Feb. 1972 to Thingnam Surendra and Thingnam Ongbi Pramo Devi at Nagamapal Kangjabi Leirak, in Imphal West District. He completed his Graduation (1992) and Post-Graduation (1994) in English from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He did his M. Phil (1997) from Delhi University and Ph. D from Manipur University on the thesis, “A critique of the novels of Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiang’O (2004). Before he joined Manipur Civil Service (2007) he taught English in Shyamlal College, Delhi University (1996-99), DM College of Arts, Imphal (2002-05 and 2005-07), Churachandpur College, Churachandpur District (2005), and also in Manipur University (2007).