M A I N   N E W S

row over national Counter Terrorism Centre
Centre reaches out to CMs
Chidambaram will write to states; PM may meet chief ministers
Subhrangshu Gupta & Ajay Banerjee

Kolkata/New Delhi, Feb 18
Faced with stiff opposition to the new “overarching” anti-terror body, the ruling UPA today sought to reach out to non-Congress Chief Ministers as well as its ally Mamata Banerjee.

The proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), to be operational from March 1, has drawn flak from opposition parties, which fear that it will violate the country’s federal character. Many states ruled by non-Congress parties believe that the new anti-terror body would infringe on their rights to maintain law and order, a state subject.

Inaugurating an NSG hub in Badu, near Kolkata, Home Minister P Chidambaram said the security of the country was a shared responsibility, and that without coordination among states, the war against terror could not be won.

The Home Minister will send a detailed note to each of the protesting CMs to allay their fears on the NCTC. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also expected to meet the CMs, sources said. "If the Chief Ministers have expressed their concerns, the Central Government will talk to them and certainly try to address their concerns," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said in Delhi.

Chidambaram said the Constitution assigns law and order to the state government and also to the Centre to protect the country against external aggression and internal disturbance. The Home Minister said the founding fathers of the Constitution were also wise when they made Article 355. "That’s why they made national and internal security a shared responsibility. I have a responsibility to work with the states to quell terror, any militancy or rebellion,” he said.

The Home Minister is expected to shoot off letters to CMs this week. The Home Minister was to brief the CMs about the NCTC on February 15 at the annual internal security meeting of CMs. The meetin was, however, postponed till April due to the ongoing Assembly elections, added sources.

The Home Minister is expected to have a tough time explaining to states how he will curb the misuse of the NCTC - whose director will be under the Intelligence Bureau. The IB is not answerable to Parliament and reports directly to the political and administrative authority under the Prime Minister. It is not even covered under the Right to Information Act (RTI). The police is answerable to the legislative authority while intelligence agencies are not. One of key points that the ministry hopes to highlight is clause which provides for NCTC standing council. It will include officers from state government's anti-terror units.

Top former police officers back the NCTC project.

“It’s a matter of national security. The Chief Ministers are raising an issue that is not important. There was time when some states refused to take action against SIMI even after it was banned. Even the CrPC gives powers to an SHO to go to another state and make arrests. So where is the threat to states and their authority,” he asked.

Former DGP of BSF, Prakash Singh said it was regrettable, disturbing and unfortunate that the states were opposing a counter-terror body like the NCTC. “The states are not the fiefdom of CMs. This approach cannot help combat terror,” he remarked.

However, former head of the counter-terrorism division of Research and Analysis Wing, B Raman is skeptical of special powers being given to the Intelligence Bureau, under which the NCTC will function.

“A government with authoritarian reflexes may be tempted to misuse the powers of arrest given to the IB through the NCTC for having its political opponents arrested,” he wrote on his blog ramanstrategicanalysis.blogspot.in.

“The IB is a secret intelligence organisation. It has no accountability to Parliament in respect of its work. We do not have a system of parliamentary intelligence oversight committees,” he added.





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