26/11 Mumbai threw up many emotions — grief, anger, trauma, fright. 26/11 Mumbai also threw up many questions regarding the effectiveness of our intelligence and security agencies. A quick answer was found in the establishment of NIA. The long lasting and more efficient one however is in limbo as states and centre fight it out over the operation procedures of NCTC.
National Counter Terrorism Centre, or NCTC, was proposed by the Home Minister Shri P. Chidambaram after his visit to US, which has a similar body constituted after the 9/11 attacks. NCTC is projected as a top anti-terror body, an umbrella organization, under the Intelligence Bureau, which would analyse intelligence, maintain relevant data and develop appropriate response. Post-mortem inquiries of various cross border as well as internal acts of terror have pointed to intelligence and operational failures and hence the need for a unified assault on terrorism is absolute. NCTC is proposed to set up small offices throughout the states for real time information gathering, to be headed by a Director and report to the home ministry.
This ambitious project of the Home Minister has met with dissent across various states with most of the non-congress chief ministers, most notably Mamata Banerjee airing their apprehensions of the same. Mamata, a key ally of the UPA government, has maintained that she remains opposed to NCTC along with other noted CM’s like Akhilesh Yadav, Naveen Patnaik, Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar and Jayalalitha. The point of debate has been that according to the proposal, NCTC would have the power to arrest and carry out searches under the unlawful activities prevention act without the authorisation of the state government, a clause that many states are not comfortable with. Equipping the IB with draconian power may cause political conflicts, another point of contention for the opposition as well as states. The states have also resented that there were no consultations with their governments when the NCTC was drafted. Their alarm is that such powers in an agency would be a threat against the federal structure and that it would cut into the policing of the state.
The centre along with the Home Minister and the Prime Minister should take these apprehensions into notice and engage in wider consultations with the opposing governments to re-examine the deficient provisions that have been pointed out. The chief of the state police and the anti-terrorism squads in the respective states should be kept in the loop and information shared, a dilution that Centre has agreed to by creating a standing council in the states, thus keeping the state’s fears at bay. NCTC should be kept equidistant with both IB and RAW, for both national and international terror aspects to be taken care of. The fate of the proposed separate ministry for internal security, which remains uncertain, should be expedited. The formation of a new organization should not end up as a case of too many agencies resulting in lack of co-ordination and turf wars. The centre along with the state governments as well as opposition should rise above partisan politics to strengthen the nation’s security.
Through the tides of history, India has suffered enough terror attacks from all quarters. Strengthening of intelligence agencies is imperative to abate these acts of terror and for this we need to create a nationwide strategy in challenging terrorism. Lack of infrastructural support should not be a cause of violence on our motherland and her children. This requires a strong commitment from everybody involved to uphold the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country.