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Kota Neelima is the Political Editor of the Sunday Guardian.

UPA plans to prevent Tahrir type protests

Egyptians celebrate the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square in Cairo (AP/PTI)

he UPA government, nervous about the impact of the innumerable scams on the patience of the common man, is planning moves to pre-empt and counter popular uprisings inspired by the success of the Egyptian movement that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

According to sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs, the draft plan includes identification of problems that could turn into epicentres of such an uprising. The two main issues that could unite people nationally were found to be corruption and price rise. Separatist movements are also being assessed anew.

"We are watching the separatist groups of Kashmir and Northeast very closely," a senior official said. Demands for separate states within the country, like Telangana and Gorkhaland, are also high on the list of issues that have the potential of gathering momentum.

Other inflammable issues, though regional, include land acquisition and displacement due to developmental works, like in Jaitapur in Maharashtra or Niyamgiri in Orissa; and the Gujjar demand for reservation in Rajasthan.

Officials also point out that the range of problems in India is far more diverse than other countries, including Egypt. For this reason, the best containment policy remains political engagement. "Peace talks, negotiations, confidence-building measures are crucial for the stability of governance," the official added.

Along with this, intelligence gathering has been sharpened about possible troublemakers who have the capacity to "ideologically instigate" people and rally them around certain issues. "Counter measures need to have specific intelligence inputs of such trouble spots and troublemakers," the official said.

The focus will be on people who are perceived as crusaders against corruption. In this context, agencies will be assessing the impact of the major rally to be organised by Baba Ramdev in Delhi next week. At the rally against corruption, Ramdev will be showcasing the people responsible for exposing corruption in high places, like the 2G spectrum scam.

Social networking sites were found to be instrumental in the spread of the Jasmine Revolution from Tunisia across the world. Keeping this in view, the government is planning to include cyber experts to monitor traffic on social networking sites over time.

The Egyptian experience has also shown the government that the television media can be an important catalyst. "We cannot rule out media abetting such uprisings and creating a cascading effect throughout the country," the official added.

In this context, candlelight vigils are also on the list as they are "very popular" with electronic media, which provides their issues a platform.

The presence of media is expected to make it impossible for the authorities to disperse mobs. Besides, as seen in the past, the telecast of police action against agitators only serves in rousing sympathy for the agitation. Physical prevention of media presence at spots of trouble and visual blocks against camera coverage are among the solutions suggested.

As a Tahrir Square style movement would need space to accommodate such crowds, the agencies are listing centres, plazas, chaupals and other places across the country that could fit the bill.

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