Counter terrorism machinery a must

Counter terrorism machinery a must

The recent blasts in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad has stirred the nation out of its nonchalant slumber. This is just another instance of a devastating terror attack that has caught us unawares and rendered the state machinery ineffectual.

 Instead of contemplating seriously on the measures we need to combat this harrowing menace, we are now witnessing a vicious blame game between the central government and the states.

While it is futile to partake in this blame game, serious questions need to be raised about our nation’s counter terrorism strategy and the effectiveness of our intelligence agencies. Why are we unable to prevent such attacks? Clearly intelligence agencies play a crucial role in preventing such attacks. However in the absence of a strong central agency that can disseminate intelligence data and also carry out punitive actions against terrorists, the fight against terrorism will prove to be a perennial nightmare.

The setting up of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) had been vehemently opposed by some states that had feared that a powerful NCTC, with the powers of seizure and arrests would be an encroachment into the states’ right of policing. This project was virtually abandoned on grounds that the ‘federal’ structure of the constitution was being violated. This decision was rather impetuous.

Complex matrix 

There are some persuasive arguments in favour of reviving the NCTC. It is still unclear as to how the complex matrix of ‘intelligence information’ is being disseminated. The home ministry appears to be irresolute and at times imperious. It has assumed the role of a ‘forwarding’ agency which passes on very few credible intelligence alerts that are ‘state specific’ which the state security agencies can successfully expedite. 

It is evident that we require a nodal agency that can piece together manifold fragments of information and assist the states in launching a meaningful counter terrorism strategy. The states have to be a part of this effort. However the states cannot do this on their own. They do not possess a very good record of cooperation between themselves as was evinced in the recent acerbic outburst of the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar when police officers from another state tried to arrest criminals residing in Bihar.

It would be delusive to mount a counter terrorism strategy in the absence of a well coordinated effort between the centre and all the states. The Hyderabad blasts epitomise the woeful lack of coordination and ineptitude of the stakeholders. Many intelligence alerts were sent to the state authorities on places earlier recced by terrorists in Hyderabad, including Dilsukhnagar. This information was given four months earlier and yet the state authorities were unable to prevent the attack. This strengthens the case for the creation of an agency like the NCTC.

The National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), which is a counter terrorism measure that collects and collates a host of information needed for counter terrorism, is on the verge of being operationalised. It would make perfect sense to have the NCTC in place to utilise the crucial inputs from the Natgrid.

The centre can amend portions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) from which the NCTC derives its powers. The states seem to have two major concerns. Firstly they are worried about the operational part of the agency which gives it the power to arrest suspected terrorists. The states are unhappy with this as they feel that it reduces the powers of the state police force.

The other irritant for the states is the fact that the NCTC is a part of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), with its director reporting to the Director of IB (DIB). This is viewed with a great deal of hostility by the states because they feel that the IB is perceived to be very close to the ruling party at the centre. Both of these concerns can be addressed through evolving new mechanisms. The power to arrest can rest with the state police and the NCTC will have to receive the permission of the state DGP to arrest anyone. The NCTC can also be taken out of the IB’S control by making it an independent agency.

The paucity of an effective counter terrorism architecture is exacerbated by the perturbing fact that most of these cases remain unsolved, be it the Pune German bakery case, the Varanasi blasts or the Delhi high court blast. Somebody must be held accountable for this impasse. Given the present state of affairs,it is near impossible to apportion responsibility to anyone. Setting up the NCTC will remedy this predicament. The nation’s patience is waning.

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