The way the state governments’ chorus over NCTC (National Counter Terrorism Centre), appointed at the instance of the centre, is getting louder; it clearly raises doubts on the intentions of our politicians whether they are really serious about combating the crisis. Union Home Ministry considers the NCTC, scheduled to become functional from March 1st, as an agency which will be able to deal effectively with the menace. NCTC has been assigned a task to check the acts of terror in the country while working in tandem with the state governments especially their anti-terror squads. It has been constituted under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Whatsoever be the reservations of the state governments over the NCTC, but nobody can deny the fact that there is an urgent need of uniformity in our policies at national level and their effective implementation to fight against terrorism. This requirement can be fulfilled only by constituting an agency which accommodates the views of both the centre and the state governments.

It has so far been observed that different states have different mechanisms to counter terrorism. The state governments not only intervene in the functioning of the state police but they also hinder any bid for coordination between centre and the state governments. So many instances in past have been witnessed which accentuated the lack of coordination between central and state agencies. It has also been revealed that either some state governments are reluctant to fight the menace effectively or different state governments have different views on a terrorist outfit. It is so especially when, everyone admits that terrorism has nothing to do with any caste or religion. It has become a general phenomenon that every terror incident is followed by allegations and counter-allegations between centre and state governments. In the light of these facts, the formation of NCTC should be viewed as a welcome step.      

To contest the reservations raised by the states over NCTC, the centre argues that the formation of any agency is its constitutional right and it doesn’t require to take the consent of the state governments as the agency has been formed as per the provisions of a law which is already in existence. It may be precise. But why were the state governments not consulted over a task which can’t be carried out successfully without their cooperation. It is a bad idea to avoid seeking counsel of the states for the formation of a central organization or institution. But at the same time, it is also wrong on parts of the state governments to oppose the formation of NCTC fearing the infringement of their rights by the centre. No doubt, the federal structure of the country has to be kept intact but we can’t afford to ignore the fact that the terrorism has emerged as a menace posing serious threat to the sovereignty besides endangering our national unity and integrity.

It is disappointing that at this juncture when it is highly required on parts of the states to show promptness to combat terrorism, they are raising their decibel levels in the name of infringement of their constitutional rights. It appears that a controversy has once again cropped up in the country over the issue of internal security. Similar political battle was triggered over TADA and POTA. The Congress had made a poll plank out of POTA and promised to abolish it if voted to power. After its return to power 2004, the Congress led UPA government immediately revoked the law. Besides Congress, its allies too had clamoured over the two laws. Similar things are being repeated by the non-Congress parties at present. It is also an interesting fact that Naveen Patnaik who is heading the state governments’ protest over NCTC, is also looking for the possibility of the formation of a third front besides championing the issue of the rights of the states.

It can’t be denied that the subject of the law and order comes under the purview of the state governments. But lack of coordination and concerted efforts among states and between the centre and states is promoting terrorism and unlawful activities of terrorists, naxalites and mafias in the country. A lack of coordination was accentuated recently when Delhi police claimed that the head of outlawed terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, Riyaz Bhatkal, succeeded in fleeing out of Mumbai only due to off-the-cuff action of Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad. Later the Maharashtra ATS arrested an informer of the Delhi police. However, the Delhi police settled the score by not allowing a Maharashtra ATS team to carry out its operations in Delhi. The dispute between the two machineries became so intense that it was taken in the Supreme Court for hearing. The issue is not only confined to the lack of coordination between the centre and state agencies. Rather, it has been observed that Delhi police is showing reluctance in cooperating with National Intelligence Agencies and National Security Guard (NSG) to probe the recent terror attack near Israeli Embassy. On account of dispute between the centre and states over the issue of internal security, we have failed to realize the concept of setting up a federal police. The State governments are intentionally trying to overlook the fact that federal police are successfully working in many countries. The criminal activities at the inter-state level can only be tackled effectively when a police force of federal nature is allowed to function. America is successful in dealing with the menace of terrorism effectively, largely because of its federal police, the FBI. The concept of Federal Police is greatly successful in many of the European countries. It is a fact that if the law and order is a state subject, the internal security is a mater which is a matter which has to be handled by the centre. The Centre will have to reassure the states that they won’t breach their limitations. Actually the state governments’ skepticism towards centre is not baseless. It has always been alleged that the CBI works on the instructions of ruling party at the center. In the light of the possibility of misuse of a central agency, the parties in power in the states denied to back Lokpal-Lokayukta bill recently in the Parliament. The State governments are fearful that if central institutions are strengthened, they could be misused by the party in power at the centre. Though the fear is not baseless, but it is difficult to understand why the same fear is being expressed by the states when it comes to counter the menace of terrorism. At least parties are expected to rise above their political interests to combat terrorism. It will be difficult to fight against terrorism if vested political interest of the parties is not checked. Actually it is the duty of the security agencies to fight against terrorism and this task should be assigned only to them. 

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on February 26, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)