Centre seeks States' responses to hostage policy

Centre seeks States' responses to hostage policy

Draft policy was sent to States hit by left-wing extremism

The Union Home Ministry has circulated an anti-hostage policy to nine states, seeking their views on the suggested standard operating procedure (SoP) to be followed if important people are kidnapped by Maoists.

The need for the anti-hostage policy was felt after Naxal cadres had abducted Chhattisgarh’s Sukma Collector Alex Pal Menon on April 21 from a public meeting he was taking, after killing his two security officers.

The 2006 batch IAS officer was released by the Maoists after 12 days owing to intense parleys carried out by negotiators.

The draft policy is believed to have outlined various hostage scenarios and counter-responses to deal with the possible crisis — a move that is intended to absorb the criticism that India is a soft state when it comes to handling terrorism.

Earlier in 2010, the UPA government amended the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982, to make it more stringent by amending a provision for handing over death penalty to hijackers.

It is learnt that the SoP gives details of some hostage situations that are deemed to be non-negotiable and for others’, it suggests that the states should not concede kidnapers’  major demands.

It also suggests constituting a committee that would be empowered to take quick decisions to handle sensational kidnappings. Sources said negotiation skills required at the time of kidnapping, too, has been incorporated in the draft, apart from how to keep them engaged for longer duration which would help the state to chalk out strategy for crisis management.

The home ministry had dispatched the draft policy exactly a month ago seeking views of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as they are the majority stake holders when it comes to dealing with left wing extremism.

Also, the ministry wanted to avoid a confrontation with the states, as it happened in case of establishing the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) when some chief ministers pounced on the Centre for encroaching on their domain by bringing in a new anti-terror body that would usurp state police powers in handling terror cases.

So far none of the nine states have responded to the draft policy, sources said. Spate of kidnappings and release of important people prior to Alex Menon — including that of BJD legislator Jhina Hikaka, two Italians and Malkanagiri Collector R Veenel Krishan — had given rise to a fear that the Maoists had embarked upon a convenient strategy of kidnappings to seek release of their leaders.