Home ministry on tenterhooks for next three months

Home ministry on tenterhooks for next three months

New Delhi: India’s already stressed security forces will be asked to stretch themselves further as the government readies to meet the “spillover effect" of a court ruling on the 1992 demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, expected to be delivered on 17 September.

Several senior leaders of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and some other parties and religious groups have been charged with inciting a mob to bring down the medieval-era mosque that stood on disputed land.

The demolition had sparked widespread riots in many parts of India between Hindus and Muslims. The upcoming verdict of a special bench of the Allahabad high court has sparked concerns of unrest.

“We have alerted all the states to take preventive measures as the judgement may have spillover effect," said a senior government official in New Delhi, requesting anonymity.

Uttar Pradesh alone has asked the Union home ministry to deploy 485 companies of paramilitary forces—or more than 50,000 personnel—to maintain law and order. The ministry is yet to take a decision.

Around 40,000 securitymen are likely to be deployed around Ayodhya. “We have made extensive arrangements to maintain law and order in the state," said Brijlal, additional director general of Uttar Pradesh police, who uses only one name. “No one will be allowed to take the law in their hands."

“The (court) decision is coming at a time when we are already pressed for Commonwealth Games security," the official in New Delhi said.

More than 100,000 police and paramilitary personnel will be deployed in the national capital for the Commonwealth Games. Some 10,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries are expected to start arriving on 15 September for the 3-14 October event.

The ministry has also sent Central security forces in large numbers to Jammu and Kashmir, which has been reeling under a surge of violence over the past three months, and to states across central India to deal with a Maoist insurgency.

“The home ministry is aware about location deployment of all paramilitary forces," said Vikram Srivastava, director general of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. “(However) we will send our personnel wherever the government will ask us to go."

Soon after the Commonwealth Games, forces will have to be deployed in Bihar, where assembly elections are likely to be held between 20 October and 20 November. US President Barack Obama is also scheduled to visit India in November.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently chaired a meeting of senior home ministry officials to review security preparations and asked the ministry to be ready with a contingency plan.

“The home ministry is analysing all hypothetical situations that can emerge in the next three months," said a senior ministry official, who did not want to be named.

The official said political and religious groups that may attempt to incite violence in the wake of the court verdict have been lying low until now. “The situation may not play up too much as the grieving party will approach the Supreme Court to challenge the Allahabad high court order," the official said.