India in the 21st century holds the titles of world’s largest democracy and the fastest growing economy. Not to mention, we have reached this height while having a population of 1.3 billion people coming from a variety of cultures, ethnicities and social backgrounds. ‘Unity in Diversity’ has been a defining trait of India, but we have simultaneously been marred with many anti-national elements that have been disrupting the harmony and integrity of the nation.
While some of these harmful factors have existed in the region even before independence, many have also risen after the birth of Modern India. Criminal activities, inciting violent mob mentalities, spreading fear in common men, the perpetrators of such unlawful undertakings are no doubt a huge threat to the Internal Security of India and pose a massive challenge against ensuring stability in the country.
National and regional security has always been one of the top priorities of every nation. While we have one of the largest Armed Forces in the worlds and a stable government to help defend our borders and maintain external security, use of the armed forces to enforce Internal Security would only result in further unrest in the public. Hence there exist current police and paramilitary forces. But are they enough to maintain internal security? Are there any other aspects to this?
With the advent of technology, the Indian governing agencies and watchdogs have been empowered to tackle such crimes that hamper the internal security by improved monitoring and taking timely and effective counter measures. Two of the most powerful tools which have helped the governments and administrations of both public and private sectors are media and social networks.
While the former has existed in the country since time immemorial, the latter is the product of the internet revolution which took the world by storm with the dawn of the new millennium. With the evolution of the modus operandi of anti-social and anti-national elements that disturb the peace and prosperity of the nation, it is important for us as responsible citizens to understand how these two weapons have been used to check on the said activities and how they can be used further in securing internal security.
Internal Security Challenges faced by India
A country’s security is a crucial element in maintaining its integrity and growth. Various examples around the globe already exist that bear witness to this. The United States of America, one of the major super powers of the world has the largest and one of the most efficient military and paramilitary organisations in the world. This has not only helped in maintaining the nation’s security, but also acted as a deterrent for other nations as well as domestic anti-social and anti-national perpetrators from taking any major step to challenge the country’s security arrangements.
Security has two aspects- the external frontier which includes threat from foreign nations and terrorist organisations; and the internal frontier- involving curbing internal conflicts and maintaining law and order inside the boundaries of the nation. While security at both the fronts is equally important and should be given equal priority, the emphasis on internal security is of interest as a lot of disturbing elements are on the rise in the present times. The following are the major internal security challenges faced by India:
Militancy/Terrorism: This problem has been faced by our nation ever since its conceptualisation and independence from the British rule. The Indian sub-continent achieved its freedom at the sacrifice of division of the land. In the aftermath, huge communal exodus was carried out by extremists that led to a refugee crisis in the nation along with a chronic border conflict on the west with the newly formed state of Pakistan.
Problems further occurred during the unification of the Dominion of India as the North-Eastern extremist rebels proved to be a source of problem for the procedure of unification. These issues have waxed and waned over the years and remain a constant threat to internal security. Kashmiri separatists on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and Naga insurgents in the north-eastern territories have been disrupting peace and growth in their respective regions.
Left Wing Extremism: More popularly known as the Maoists and Naxalites, left-wing extremists have become a menace to our internal stability. There exist around 30 LWE groups which are operating independently, politically as well as maintaining underground cadres.
They have forever resorted to violence and create havoc for the security forces and the governments. Furthermore, they have gained the sympathy of the tribal and backward areas in many regions which help them in networking and free movement in the areas.
As of recently, this ideology has spread to cities and metropolitan which has resulted in a new class of LWEs coming into existence- the urban naxals. Maoists do not only disrupt stability, but also engage in illegitimate trade like weapon and ammunition trafficking which affects the economy of the nation too.
Communal Divide: India one of the most well-known examples of ‘unity in diversity’ with the several types of communities and ethnicities that call the nation their home. While this holds true in all aspects, there do exists certain factions which practice anti-social activities which fuel disdain between communities.
The Indian communities are usually classified as well as stratified on the basis of religion, caste, gender and social status. Examples can be found in the Hindu-Muslim communal riots in Gujarat and the Dalit massacre in Maharashtra. The source of the hatred is the deep rooted social stigma the communities hold against each other based on incidents of past.
This stigma is manipulated by the instigators who incite the common men using propaganda’s that lead to violence and instability. Communal disharmony can escalate into a grave threat to our sovereignty and can lead to fragmentation in the worst case scenario, if it is not checked.
Organised Crimes: This sector was touted to be the Achilles Heel of the Indian Economy, but with good governance and vigilant law enforcement measures, they have been brought under control—to an extent. Organised crimes still pose a sizeable threat to the nation. These activities include Ponzi scams, drugs and weapons trafficking, illegal mining of resources and precious stones, etc. Unfortunately, there is no law that specifically targets ‘organised crimes’. Their business does not only hurt the country’s economy, but also the society.
There are numerous youths who buy their illegal drugs and lead to unproductive and unsocial lifestyle. Many innocent and poor people end up getting caught in these illicit rackets and are prosecuted. Additionally, organised crimes under the leadership of mafias with political influence pose an even greater threat to the national security, internally.
Cyber crime: The most recent and a deadly challenge to internal as well as external security is cyber crime. Using the internet as their platform and knowledge about digital networks, the perpetrators, who in the cyberspace are more famously known as ‘hackers’ can deal a huge blow to the country’s economy, security and society.
Cyber crime varies from theft of personal information, access of restricted data forcefully, financial frauds through e-commerce portals, system hijacking , unlawful spying and stalking of protected networks and profiles of individuals, leaking personal information, instigating mob mentality and spreading fake news. It is one of the most effective tools of havoc as well as the cheapest too as it requires only a laptop and a good internet source to initiate the chain of events that lead to the crime.
The Role of Media in Curbing Internal Security Challenges
Lord Macaulay, the first British Member of Parliament, had given media, also referred to as ‘the press’, the title of the fourth pillar of democracy. India, being the largest democracy in the world, requires a media which has a strong foundation and an upright structure to be able to support itself.
The paramount role of media is to act as the watchdog and a whistle blower to be able to keep the other three pillars namely- legislation, executive and the judiciary- and make sure they do not cross the limits of the powers that they exercise. Additionally, it also has the task at hand to act as the medium (hence aptly termed as ‘media’) between the common man and the government.
Media is a means of communication which bridges the distance gap and is able to circulate the events and happenings inside the country and around the world to make people less ignorant and more aware.
But what if media is bound to be influenced by the ideologies of the other pillars? After all, in itself, media is not a mechanical organisation. It is run by humans who can have different perspectives on a particular subject. Hence, what media promotes is subjective to what the people pulling the reigns of media desire to be shown. It is therefore vital for the media persons themselves to stay as unbiased as they can and communicate the truth to the people.
In the modern world, media is, in one way or the other, being manipulated by political influences. But thankfully, the journalism industry has a huge outreach and has grown over the decades. This means that whatever stories that are covered, while one news channel is propagating the positive aspect, another might be showcasing the negative aspect– the positives and the negatives being subject to the viewer’s interpretation.
This availability of varied information being broadcasted by the media, to the billion lives strong population of the country helps shape opinion regarding the existing policies and way-of-things in the nation and if the people feel a change is required, relay the people’s opinion back to the government.
This power plays a crucial role to maintain the internal security of the nation. The occurrence of militancy and insurgency or left wing extremist violence is rapidly transferred through them to the government and the people of the nation. This helps the people to be aware of the situation and react accordingly. The government can deploy security forces and paramedical assistance to the regions for example.
Furthermore, if the people are unhappy with the actions taken, the media acts as the wire which transmit the public sentiment as a feedback to the government which can change to improve its performance. Their function extends to help people become aware of crises or provide them with answers to their existing crises.
In recent examples, we have cyclone Fani, one of the strongest tropical cyclones hit the eastern regions of India. But unlike the previous times, this time, there were lesser casualties. While the Meteorological department’s prediction played significant role in determining the path and the government’s planning helped reduce the loss of lives, it was the media which intimidated the gravity of this cyclone and informed them about its course, the existing counter-actions, safety precautions, etc. This armed the common men with information and made them self-reliant.
Lastly, it also plays a major role in filtering what people hear and see. News comes in various forms and it is the media’s responsibility to establish their authenticity. The media persons might have different opinions, but the facts and figures are not subject to opinions hence should be presented to the public in crystal clear vision without any bias tampering of information.
Misinformation can turn into a big blunder as whatever the people see on their televisions or hear on the radio effects their mentalities and becomes the causal aspect of their actions. On the same lines, media can help curb any antisocial psychology arising in the public by promoting the positive news more and highlighting the negative ones lesser.
In this way they become the crowd pacifiers and can prevent major outbreaks of violence from occurring and add to the numerous ways they can contribute to keep internal security challenges at bay.
Role of Social Networking Sites in Checking the Internal Security Challenges
“Online is old news. Online in social media is today’s news. Social Media is not a subset of the internet anymore. Social Media is the internet.”
Social Networking site is defined as online based platforms that can be accessed through computers (PCs, smartphones, tablets, etc.) that enable an individual or a group of individuals to communicate exchange and share information and user generated content via a multitude of tools like blogs, micro-blogs, videos, digital pictures, etc.
The history of social media websites is almost as old as the internet itself. The first traces of social media can be found in 1997, following which, the industry saw a bloom with the foundation of blogging and social networking sites in the early 2000’s in the form of MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
With the advent of technology, personal computers evolved from bulky immovable desktops to compact and potable smartphones. Additionally, with the improvement in economy, more and more individuals started to own smartphones and computers. Especially in our nation, the Digital India drive has exposed more and more citizens to the internet and social media.
With such a widespread usage of this digital tool, social networking platforms have proved to be a double-edged sword for the nation and hence needs to be handled with precaution.
Connecting people was the original aim of social networks, but in recent times, it has also started to emerge as a platform for unethical practices like cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying as well as spreading of ‘antisocial’ propaganda. Social media as compared to conventional media, has a faster and wider reach to the demonyms of India.
News and ideas spread like wildfire when it comes to social media and unlike media, most of the information goes unchecked and can cause misunderstandings amongst the public. Furthermore terrorists and extremists have found it as an effective medium for propagating their ideologies to the youth and brainwashing them and at the same time instigate mobs and riots to disrupt peace in a region. In the last few years, Social networks have also been responsible of spread of fake news which has culminated into mob-lynching of innocent people.
Hence, how we use the social networks is vital in safekeeping the integrity of the nation. Measures have been taken to prevent such problems. Firstly, the companies themselves have ensured the users privacy and security and take strict action in eliminating any suspicious activities on their platforms. Secondly, the government and its administration is creating awareness regarding such issues through advertising campaigns.
Additionally, Cyber Cells and IT departments have been set up to monitor the social media activity as well as enforce law and order in the online realm. The IT Act of 2000 has described cyber crimes along with apt penalties to the offenders. Finally, we as users, should understand that our information is vulnerable online and should cooperate with the social networks as well as the government to ensure our own safety and keep a vigil eye to report any malicious activity that we spot. After all, it is our personal security that guarantees the nation’s security.
But the role of social networking sites is not limited to this only. It can be utilised to improve e-governance and promote the policies as well as schemes by the government. This makes the users aware of the privileges that the government provides them and benefit from them. Politicians have taken to the likes of Twitter and Instagram to promote their campaigns and reach out to the people of India.
Even the law enforcing agencies like city and state police forces have set up social network accounts to improve their reach. Social networks are not a one way channel like conventional media, but a two-way communication between the people and the government. If the people are unhappy with the policies, their voices can be heard through social networks and can be utilised as feedback by the government.
This aspect of communication is of utmost necessity to the health of a nation. The Arab Spring is the black demo of why there should be a two way channel between the government and the people. Social media played the most significant role in the spread of the revolution in the Arab and African countries which blatantly displayed their discontent with their oppressive leaders and led to instability in the region. Hence, social media plays a key role for the leaders of a nation to understand the psychology of their people and act appropriately.
The press has always acted as a medium of communication between the public and the leaders. Social media add another dimension to the existing media by making the two-way channel of communication more efficient. For India to maintain its growth and development, it is important that we stress on the internal security of the nation.
This can be achieved only when there is a proper coordination between the government, the administration and the people of the country. Media and social networking sites have emerged as one of the most crucial tools to empower and maintain this bond which helps every citizen to contribute and cooperate in the upkeep of internal security.
Internet has made lives convenient for some and ‘way too’ convenient for many. Responsible usage of social networks is hence mandatory for our own safety as well as nation’s safety. This goes hand-in-hand with the press which has been delivering us news around the world to make us aware of our surroundings as well as our country and act to benefit the latter.
As long as we the citizens, who run the companies, the government and the administrative bodies of the nation as well as are a part of a family, a society, a community as well as a region, understand the roles that the media plays in reinforcing the internal security of India and responsibly utilise the platforms to generate awareness and expose the truth, our nation will definitely gain victory over the enemies that have been troubling us from within the boundaries.