New Delhi/Kolkata: The
government Saturday said it had no intention to encroach upon the
rights of the states while fighting terrorism. But the assurance
didn't calm down voices against a proposed anti-terror
intelligence hub, claiming its provisions threatened federalism.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was the latest to join his
counterparts from other states, including West Bengal, in strongly
opposing the just approved National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC),
a brainchild of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, which has the powers
to set up inter-state intelligence support teams.
"Without discussing and taking opinion of the state governments,
setting up of such anti-insurgency hub is against the federal
structure of the Indian constitution," Sarkar told reporters,
demanding the withdrawal of the executive order on the NCTC.
As the clamour over the setting up of NCTC grew louder,
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the matter
should not be "politicised" because the agency was key to
pre-empting terror strikes in India.
Soni reiterated that the NCTC proposal didn't talk about making
amendments in any existing law but would derive powers from the
anti-terror legislation already passed by parliament.
"In my understanding, it (setting up of NCTC) is an administrative
decision. And I don't think that the central government in any way
wants to interfere in the federal system or weaken it. I think the
chief ministers also know that Manmohan Singh's government would
not want to do this."
Amid the confrontation, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,
whose Trinamool Congress is the second largest constituent of the
ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), skipped a security event
in Kolkata that was presided by Chidambaram.
Apparently unhappy with the home minister's move, Banerjee gave a
last minute miss to Chidambaram's inauguration of the National
Security Guard (NSG) hub in Kolkata.
But the home minister defended his stand on NCTC. "Internal
security is a responsibility that is shared by the central and
state governments," the home minister said.
He stressed that while the constitution has assigned law and order
and police to the state governments, it has also given the
responsibility to the central government for protecting every part
of India from external aggression or internal disturbance.
Striking a conciliatory note, the home minister showered praise on
the Mamata Banerjee-led government and said the central government
was "very happy" to work with West Bengal.
"Under this government, Maoist activity has been substantially
controlled. In some time, we hope to put down the problem and rid
West Bengal of the menace. It is good that the state accepted our
advice and conducted joint operations against the rebels."
The home minister's remarks come a day after Banerjee joined other
state governments to express resistance over the powers given to
the anti-terror agency that is being set up March 1.
The NCTC derives its powers from the Unlawful Activities
(Prevention) Act (UAPA), which allows it to make arrests or
searches in terror-related cases.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is leading the war against
NCTC but it is the Trinamool Congress opposition that has even
threatened the existence of the UPA government. The party lends a
crucial support of its 19 MPs to the coalition.
The other chief ministers who have protested against the NCTC
include J. Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu, Narendra Modi of Gujarat,
Nitish Kumar of Bihar, Prem Kumar Dhumal of Himachal Pradesh, and
Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh.
In a related development, Home Secretary R.K. Singh said that the
war against terror won't be winnable if states worked
"It is the duty of the central government to deal with terrorists
and to coordinate with states to tackle terrorists. If all states
work independently and if there is no coordination, can we win
this fight," he said at an event in Haryana.
He said it is the central government's responsibility to fight
those who wage war against the nation.
"We can't fight terrorism in this manner."