New Delhi:For over a year now, the Government of India has been suggesting the creation of a Federal Intelligence Agency to combat terrorism.
The suggestion has been made at the conferences of Chief Ministers and the Director Generals of Police. The Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister have been underlining the need for it in Parliament and elsewhere.
After the recent serial bomb blasts in Jaipur, which claimed the lives of over 60 persons, the need for such a force has acquired an urgency. The National Security Advisor, M. K.Narayanan , was frank enough to admit the weaknesses in our system.
Hardly were the bodies of the dead in Jaipur cremated or buried, and the incident has became a debating point among political parties, particularly during the Karnataka elections. The opposition leaders have been blaming the United Progressive Government for being 'soft' on terrorists, and for amending the POTA, as if no violence had occurred when the Act was law.
One has only to recall the dozen or more terrorist attacks when the National Democratic Government was in Office: Coimbatore in February 1998 (81 killed), Delhi-attack on Parliament - in December 2001 (7 killed), Jammu in July 2002 (28 killed), Akshardham in Gandhinagar in September 2002 (34 killed) and Jammu in November 2002 (12 killed) and Mumbai in August 2003 (46 killed).
When the Government at the Centre changed in 2004 at the United Progress Alliance assumed office, it was felt that the POTA needed an amendment to make the law more humane, in response criticism from Human Rights Organisations. The track record of violence has not changed.
Starting from Delhi in October 2005 (62 killed) Varanasi in March 2006 (21 killed), Mumbai in July 2006 (209 killed) Malegaon in September 2006 (40 killed), Panipat in February 2007(66 killed) and the recent blasts at Jaipur. The nation has had to face one tragedy after another in a regular sequence.
To add to the sense of insecurity, there has been continuing violent activities by Naxalites in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra, Maharashtra and Karnataka. In 2007, 696 persons were killed in 1565 incidents. During the first three months of this year, there have been 358 incidents, in which 89 civilians and 45 security force personnel were killed.
The law and order machinery in the affected areas have been only silent spectators. One hears of security measures being 'tightened' and leads being followed to search for the perpetrators of the criminal acts, and the incidents are forgotten. The Central Government sends letter to the States, and the States in turn will send replies.
When India could not be vanquished in war, efforts were made to divide our society by promoting proxy war. Initially in the sixties, efforts were made to promote insurgency in Nagaland, followed by adjacent areas like Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Assam. In the west, Pakistan made efforts to promote insurgency in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian Constitution entrusts the task of maintaining internal security to the States. The existing powers and equipment with the State police forces were adequate for the tasks in the early years. But they were not equipped to combat terrorist violence. Efforts were made to strengthen the police forces. Whenever the situation goes out of control, the States request the Central Government for additional forces. In many cases the damage would have been done, before the Central forces arrive on the scene.
Besides strengthening the police organizations in different States, it is necessary to strengthen the intelligence set up. In combating adversaries of the country, the intelligence organizations have had an important role. The Indian intelligence organization has been rated as one of the best in the world. But to prevent terrorist incidents occurring in different parts of the country, the need has been felt for a Federal Intelligence agency.
As of now, the Intelligence Bureau has no authority over the state intelligence organizations. After every terrorist incident, usually allegations are traded accusing the Centre of not having informed the States about the possibility of the incidents.
Suggestions to strengthen the intelligence set up have been recommended in the Status paper on Internal Security prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily has suggested positive proposals to strengthen the intelligence machinery - both its human intelligence system and the technical intelligence apparatus. Nearly two years ago, a model Police Act was drafted, but nothing has materialized.
India was a unitary State when the British ruled it. When we attained freedom, our founding fathers drafted a Constitution that was quasi-federal. The Congress party held office both at the Centre and the States for nearly two decades after Independence.
With coalition Governments holding office at the center, the country is now more of a Federal State.
It is time we set up a Federal Intelligence Agency, if we want to bring down incidents of terrorist violence. It will only strengthen the States rather than take away their authority. There is no need to amend the Constitution, as even after creating such force, the law and order will continue to be the responsibility of the State Governments.
During my early years of service as a communicator in the central Government, a great deal of effort was spent on inculcating among the people that the strength of India is her unity in diversity. We were also aware that India faced dangers when its people were divided.
History tell us that India faced dangers when it was divided. The way our political parties have been trading charges after the violent incidents in Jaipur, it looks as if we have learnt nothing from history.
I.Ramamohan Rao, former Principal Information Officer, Government of India.-mail: email@example.com By I. Ramamohan Rao