Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora their structure, mandate.
General Studies 3
Role of external state and non?state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Spread of ISIS in India
Terrorism is a major challenge to the world today. Spread of ISIS and use of technology to carryout remote and lone wolf style attacks is spreading fear across the globe. India with porous borders and difficult neighbourhood is prone to challenges on the similar front.
The arrest of two suspected Islamic State associates from Gujarat once again raises the question whether the terrorist group is finding support in India.
Coincidentally, the arrests happened the same day that Hafeezudin T.K., one of the 21 persons who went missing from Kerala last year and were believed to have joined the IS, was reported to have been killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan.
If these allegations and reports are correct, it would show that the IS is gaining some influence at least among a handful of youth in India.
In recent months, anti-terror officials have arrested young people from different parts of the country — in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, West Bengal and Rajasthan.
The IS thrives on support from foreign jihadists, largely the young. Ever since the organisation declared a ‘Caliphate’ in 2014, it has attracted tens of thousands of fighters from around the world.
It used two tactics — urging sympathisers either to travel to Iraq or Syria, its strongholds, and join the war, or carry out terror attacks in their own countries after declaring allegiance to the ‘Caliph’, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
India has remained largely insulated from this trend. The number of Indians to have joined the ranks of the IS is very small.
According to a December 2015 report by the intelligence company Soufan Group, the number of Indians who have joined the IS was 23, compared to 760 from the U.K. and 150 from the U.S.
The IS Phenomenon and India
The IS’s censorious or strict, one-size-fits-all brand of Islam hasn’t found much resonance in India.
Given the unique and diverse nature of Indian Islam, it is extremely difficult for groups such as the IS to become popular among Muslims, as it did in parts of Iraq and Syria.
But lone- wolf attacks, inspired by the IS world view and tactics, could pose security risks.
The IS is not recruiting people through local communities as in the case of other terror organisations or, as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, through madrasas.
The IS’s medium is the Internet. It reaches out through online propaganda.
It is all the more significant at a time when the IS is under attack in its core territories and is desperate to expand its reach beyond West Asia.
Of late it has carried out major terrorist attacks in India’s neighbourhood — in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, including the deadly bombing at the Sehwan Sufi shrine in Sindh.
This outreach to South Asia should worry India.
To prevent the group from gaining a foothold on its territory, India needs high-level intelligence and counter-terror operations to continue.
Equally important is better coordination between the state and Muslim religious leaders in countering radicalisation and having in place specific de-radicalisation programmes, as western governments do.
It is important to not let these isolated arrests be blown out of proportion to target the larger Muslim population, which right-wing elements often try to do. Bigotry cannot be checked with bigotry.
Terrorism like issue should be dealt with global consensus and most importantly bipartisan support. It should be politicized and this will help counter the spread of the threat. Measures should be holistic from security initiatives to social and political brainstorming.
Connecting the dots:
How can the spread of IS like groups in India be countered. Especially with the use of technology and remote reach as observed in recent days enumerate the measures that can be initiated.
TOPIC:General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
NOTA option- Result yielding option
In 2013, Supreme Court of India upheld the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections, saying it would go a long way in cleansing the political system of the country.
In a major electoral reform, the apex court directed the Election Commission to have an option of ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India judgment.
Thus, India became the 14th country to institute negative voting. But, NOTA is not ‘right to reject’. Here, the candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
This NOTA option is at the end of the candidates’ list. Earlier, in order to cast a negative ballot, a voter had to inform the presiding officer at the polling booth. A NOTA vote doesn’t require the involvement of the presiding officer.
The alternative before
Before the NOTA option came in existence, people casting negative votes were required to enter their names in a register and cast their vote on a separate paper ballot.
Under Sec 49(O), of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, a voter could enter his electoral serial number in Form 17A and cast a negative vote.
The presiding officer would then put a remark in the form and get it signed by the voter. This was done to prevent fraud or misuse of votes.
However, this provision was deemed constitutional by SC as it did not protect the identity of the voter.
NOTA in use
The statistical figures for NOTA use are still small. On average, the maximum NOTA vote has been 2.02% of the total votes polled in any election cycle.
Hence this proves that the perceived distrust of Indian voters against the political class seems exaggerated.
However, it is worthwhile to look at patterns of NOTA voting to know how people have used their option of negative voting.
In 2013, NOTA button debuted in four States — Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the former Union Territory, Delhi where it constituted 1.85% of the total votes polled.
In 2014, the average NOTA vote share dropped to 0.95% in the Assembly elections in eight States — Haryana, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Maharashtra.
In 2015, the share of NOTA increased to 2.02% in Assembly elections held in Delhi and Bihar with Delhi polling 0.40% NOTA whereas Bihar polling 2.49% NOTA votes.
There was some active canvassing for NOTA seen in 2016 Assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu to express dissent against all the contestants.
For instance, Kerala saw a group of women activists urging eople not to elect any candidate if no woman was present in the fray. In Tamil Nadu, a youth group campaigned for NOTA as a protest vote against corruption. However, NOTA vote share dropped again to 1.6%.
In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, NOTA constituted 1.1% of the total votes.
Thus, across the elections, the number of NOTA votes polled was larger than the winning margin in 261 Assembly constituencies since 2013 and 24 constituencies in Lok Sabha elections.
NOTA in BMC
First time NOTA was used in the BMC elections and 1.91% of votes went its way.
It means that on average, 386 voters selected NOTA in each of the 227 wards of Greater Mumbai.
It can be inferred that in the above constituencies, NOTA votes did make a difference to the election results assuming that in the absence of this option a majority of NOTA voters would have preferred one or the other candidate in the fray.
Even if the maximum number of votes cast is for NOTA, the candidate getting the most of the remaining votes would be declared winner. Thus, NOTA option would not impact the results of the elections as NOTA option on EVMs has no electoral value. This would encourage negative voting and candidates can be rejected in that constituency.
As per a former CJI, if the right to vote is a statutory right, then the right to reject a candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution.
What does NOTA votes have to say?
The reserved constituencies have seen a relatively larger number of NOTA votes. This points to the fact of continued social prejudice against political reservation for SC/STs.
Constituencies affected by left-wing extremism have also recorded higher NOTA performance. Here it can be served as an instrument of protest against the State itself.
For example, constituencies like Gadchiroli, Jhargram, Kalyan Rural, Bastar, the Nilgiris and Nabarangpur have seen highest NOTA polled.
Given the disaffection among the people in these areas against the Indian state, these numbers are expected.
But at the same time, important to note that these voters have used the democratic means of NOTA to express their resentment rather than boycotting the polls outright.
NOTA figures are comparatively higher in those constituencies which have seen a direct contest between two mainstream national political parties.
This may also indicate people’s disenchantment with these two political parties and yearning for alternatives.
The Indian voters seem to be using NOTA not just to show their disapproval of the candidates in the election but to express their protest against many things they perceive wrong in the political system. For now, a small number of of Indian voters have come to see NOTA as an instrument of protest.
Now is the time to explore these early trends of NOTA with more statistical and ethnographic analysis. NOTA as an option will become a meaningful means of negative voting only if it becomes a ‘right to reject’ rather than being a symbolic instrument to express resentment as it is now.
A PIL has been filed in Madras HC seeking the full ‘right to reject’ in place of NOTA.
Connecting the dots:
What is NOTA? Examine the significance of NOTA in India’s electoral reforms and compare with other similar measures around the world.