Centre's diluted NCTC fails to convince CMs

Centre's diluted NCTC fails to convince CMs

In a subtle attack on non-UPA parties opposed to Centre’s counter-terrorism initiatives, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday requested states to rise “above narrow political and ideological divides” to meet challenges of terrorism, communal violence and left wing extremism.

“I think each one of us needs to be completely objective in our approach to these issues, acting in national interest rising above narrow political and ideological divides,” Manmohan Singh said in his opening address at the chief ministers’ meeting on internal security, held in the national capital.

He urged to explore ways to “achieve even better coordination between the Centre and states”. Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and home secretary R K Singh were among dignitaries who shared the dais with PM.

PM’s appeal could be driven by strong political opposition to the Union home ministry’s move to constitute National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which is touted as the answer to fighting terror. Though proposed NCTC has been diluted to a great extent to accommodate states’ reservations on some key propositions, including taking it out of the ambit of the Intelligence Bureau and the provision to solely carry out raids and arrests, the CMs are still suspicious about  the UPA’s intentions in intruding into their law and order turf. 

Many states in their speeches, including vocal Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, have said that it was not acceptable even in this present form. “I made a very grave allegation today. That they talk of national security but their actions are for political security. The formation of new institutions is to serve this purpose,” Modi stated.

Modi’s barb was countered by finance minister P Chidambaram, whose brainchild was NCTC. "If even this form of NCTC is opposed, the country will pay a price," Chidambaram, present at the meet, told reporters.

Interestingly, Congress-led Karnataka’s new chief minister Siddaramaiah, in his written speech too sounded caution. “...Some safeguards are necessary before setting up NCTC so that they are not given unbridled powers to encroach upon the states domain,” he pointed out. The focus of the internal security conference was the May 25 audacious attack on Congress leaders in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, as it found profound mention in the speeches of PM, home minister and home secretary. The CMs adopted a resolution condemning the attack. “It was a direct attack on democracy and freedom. We strongly disagree with the ideology of the Maoists.

The Maoists want to overthrow Parliamentary democracy and the Constitution of India through violent means. This must be resisted with all our might,” the resolution said. The PM assured states that the naxal problem is getting serious attention from the Centre and emphasised on the two-pronged strategy of sustained proactive action and development of the 82 affected districts in nine states.

He acknowledged that the Chhattisgarh naxal attack, killing 26 persons including state Congress leaders, was a “setback” to the government’s success story on containing Red terror.  The PM called for putting in place “institutional mechanisms to ensure the safety and security of women and children, particularly in the urban context”.

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