Terror lurks, Anti-Terrorist Cell gropes in the dark

Bengaluru: Terror lurks, Anti-Terrorist Cell gropes in the dark

The chamber of ACP (ATC) in Bengaluru police commissioner's office.

Amid growing terror threats and extremists seeking sanctuary in Bengaluru, one would expect the state government to be on its toes.

But here’s the reality: The Anti-Terrorist Cell (ATC) set up under the Bengaluru City Police is barely functioning, even though four months have passed since it was announced with much fanfare. Right now, the ATC has only one officer of the rank of ACP while two inspectors recently posted to it are yet to take charge, a far cry from the 200 staff the police commissioner promised.

Interestingly, this staff-less ATC was tasked by Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao to probe the alleged illegal activities of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) — Bengaluru Terror Module, Chapter 1 — besides investigating the IRCTC ticketing scam.

Not surprisingly, the ATC has not taken it up since there are no men. The two inspectors posted to the ATC are allegedly not interested and are said to be trying to get posted to police stations.

No office

When the ATC was formed, Rao had addressed a presser, saying the ATC will have at least 200-250 men including constables, sub-inspectors, inspectors and an ACP. That has failed to fructify.

Nothing illustrates the bizarre state of affairs in the ATC than the plight of the ACP who is currently heading the ATC.

According to sources in the Central Crime Branch, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Venugopal has been asked to probe two cases of fraud and misappropriation instead of keeping an eye on terror activities. Even worse, he didn’t have an office or a chamber till recently.

On February 3, Venugopal finally decided enough is enough and occupied the City Special Branch’s police inspector chamber located on the third floor of the police commissioner’s office.

A senior officer said that along with men, ATC also requires infrastructure, including computers, phones, gadgets to keep track of terror elements. Only then will the ATC come into play, otherwise it is just an eyewash, he said.

In October 2019, Rao had issued a circular to all eight divisional DCPs to identify policemen in their respective divisions to be trained in handling terror cases. He said there is a requirement of 42 ASI/HCs and 40 PCs. But not even a single name was submitted to Rao’s office by any of the DCPs.

When contacted, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Sandeep Patil said the ATC is at present investigating the IRCTC case transferred from Rajagopalnagar police station. A retired DCP-rank officer, who worked on many terror cases, said one person can bring no change to terror cases.

“There is no one willing to take up the ATC challenge because there is no income in it. The police, in turn, have to spend money on their informants. It is better the government appoints a separate staff and provides funds exclusively for the ATC or thorough training is required for men who are going to be part of it,” said the retired officer.

Normally, ATC officers should have relationships with other agencies like the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and policemen in other states, including defence intelligence, to keep track of the activities of terrorists.

“Terrorists are like white-collar criminals, they are smarter than the police sometimes. Without any concrete evidence, it is difficult to even detain them or get them convicted,” another retired officer said, highlighting the uphill task faced by the police.

Speaking about the issue, Rao told DH that a few officers had been identified and they would be given training.

“The RSS worker case has not been transferred to the ATC, it is being investigated by Kalasipalya police,” he said.

“Now we have an ACP who is a supervising officer. We need people who are voluntarily willing to work in the ATC. They must be dedicated and motivated. Let the ATC get strengthened, then it will function properly.” 

Terrorist presence

The arrest of fundamentalist elements who were very active and executing their plans from Gottigere in Suddaguntepalya police station is an eye-opener for the police to take terror issues seriously.

Apart from this, the NIA had also informed the government about the presence of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and other outfits who are being trained in Karnataka and want to spread their network.

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