It is not for want of laws or agencies that anti-terror investigations in India are stumbled. It is the lack of political will. Instead of acting tough on terror suspects and punishing those convicted, the UPA government is playing footsie with them. One need not recount here the number of terrorists who had been let off on lack of evidence and those who are yet to be hanged for their crimes.This is the government that repealed the effective law POTA, to pander to the minority community.
The latest move of the UPA government to set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) – to coordinate the work of all the agencies involved in terror investigation, is nothing but an attempt to centralise the power in the hands of the Home Minister to act over the head of the state governments in terror related cases. It would have search and seize powers, directly across the country, without the involvement or even knowledge of the state governments. According to reports, the NCTC, set up under the Unlawful (prevention) of Activities Act 1967, would be part of the IB (Intelligence Bureau), which in turn is under the Home Minister. NCTC would coordinate with all other agencies like NIA, CBI and RAW. This is an impossible proposition in practice as none of these would agree to report to the IB, which itself is a “clandestine organisation, for the secret collection of intelligence.” As pointed out by Shri B Raman, a former senior officer of the RAW, in no democratic country the intelligence set up is empowered to arrest and act. Only in dictatorship regimes, the intelligence doubles-up for implementing also.
All the non-Congress chief ministers have rightly protested the move. They all have pointed out that Public Order and Police are state subjects and the NCTC, as it stands now, over-rides this power, eroding the authority of the states. The chief ministers have written to the Prime Minister expressing their apprehension. The usually shrill UPA has suddenly softened with the Prime Minister replying to the chief ministers, only because its ally Mamata Banerjee has voiced her opposition. But for her clear and unyielding stand on the issue, the central government would have ramrodded the decision.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has questioned the motive behind the move and asked the Prime Minister, as to how while the central approval for stringent anti-terror law Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Act (GUJCOC Act) has been pending for five years, the NCTC had been notified in a matter of days.
The UPA government has been acting arbitrary, vindictive and selective in terror cases. After having raised the bogey of Hindu terror, it has been picking up people and linking them, to form a long chain of conspiracy. The classic case is of the Samjhauta Express blast. After investigations had been closed, with international agencies, including the UN, pointing to the involvement of Islamic terror outfits, the Union Home Ministry floated the theory of Hindu terror. It now has in the custody of the so-called mastermind, the script writer and the executor of the plan, who mutually claim no knowledge of the other. Amidst all these, there were reports that a series of four IPS officers handling the case have sought transfer back to their home state, one after another. Though four years have passed since the unveiling of the ‘Hindu terror’ outfits except select media leaks, not one chargesheet has been filed in the cases.
On the other hand, the Congress Party, with the silent indulgence of the UPA government goes about branding genuine anti-terror operations as ‘fake encounters.’ Till date neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Minister have publicly called the lie of Digvijay Singh and now joined by Salman Khurshid and Rahul Gandhi on Batla House encounter. Since the UPA came to power, in the last seven years, not a single terror case has been solved and the guilty punished. The investigations are being soft-pedalled, derailed and diluted. Post 26/11 NIA was constituted with hurried Parliament approval. But what is the outcome of the case? Zero.
It is the performance of the Central Government and its kid-glove attitude to terrorism that is making its intentions suspect in the setting up of the NCTC. Many believe that the Home Minister, known for his devious methods as Finance Minister for snooping into middle class peoples’ savings, is out on a trip to collate all sorts of power that can be wielded against politically incorrect states. The central power to search and seize already exists under the NIA, but what makes the NCTC a bad move is the fact that it is not an independent body but answerable to the political power of the Home Ministry, superseding the elected chief ministers. In the American model that P Chidambaram tried to copy, the NCTC has no power to arrest or interrogate. That rests with the FBI. There the NCTC role is restricted to collecting and disseminating information to relevant authorities on terror. Several actions of the UPA in the past have been politically motivated, including the brazen abuse of the CBI. Is it anybody’s fault that the NCTC has met with such disapproval?