As the Supreme Court began hearing a bunch of petitions related with the present situation in Manipur, it came down heavily on the state government summoning its Director General of Police (DGP) to appear personally and commented that there is absolute breakdown of law and order and (constitutional) machinery in the state.
Although this prima-facie observation was missing in the written order of the apex court, it was enough to warrant a change of perspective on the part of the Union Home Ministry.
However, a pertinent question has come up as to who is really in charge of the law and order in the state. Is it the Chief Minister N Biren Singh holding the Home portfolio or the Security Advisor Kuldiep Singh?
Former Director General of CRPF, Kuldiep Singh was appointed by the state government after he was handpicked by the Home Ministry to take over the law and order portfolio from the state chief minister, a few days after the breakout of violence in the state.
There was some controversy as to whether Article 355 of the Indian Constitution had been invoked in the state following his appointment. Top officials of both the Centre and the state continue to clarify that the Article has not been invoked though all indications say that security-related matters besides law and order had been taken over by the Centre.
After Kuldiep’s appointment, an Additional DGP AK Sinha was asked to take over command of all state forces from DGP Paotinlal Doungel, a senior IPS officer belonging to the Kuki community.
The state police bureaucracy was top-heavy with officers from the said community then and it became a cause of concern. So, a new DGP in the person of Rajiv Singh of Tripura cadre 1993 batch was brought in through inter-cadre transfer on the instructions of Home Ministry and he took over in June first week.
Even the state Chief Secretary Rajesh Kumar, serving on extension for six months, was replaced and a senior IAS officer on central deputation Vineet Joshi was brought in as the new Chief Secretary. All this while, there was speculation as to whether Chief Minister N Biren Singh was really out of action in the law and order affairs and made to watch from the sidelines as the state continued to burn.
Some say, it was just for public consumption and that he was still in charge and very much involved. But, nobody really knows.
After Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state, he announced that the Unified Command usually chaired by the state Chief Minister would be taken over the Security Advisor Kuldiep Singh.
However, after meeting Amit Shah in New Delhi, Chief Minister N Biren Singh informed media-persons on July 2 that a decision to dismantle all bunkers in both the valley and the hills was taken at a meeting of the Unified Command chaired by him and it was attended by representatives from the Army, paramilitary forces and the state police. As per his announcement, the dismantling of bunkers and combing operations involving both state and central forces began in right earnest. However, the question as to who is really in charge of the law and order affairs of the state never stopped coming.
A nagging thought has been the visible lack of a Amit Shah stamp in the handling of security-related issues and violence, all through. If one goes by procedure, the state Chief Secretary and the DGP is answerable to any questions on the failure of law and order or breakdown of state machinery. It would not be the Union Home Minister or the Chief Minister or the Security Advisor but these two top officials who would be in the dock of the apex court when called for. So, would the Man please stand up?
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