Almost all major democracies have created agencies to tackle transnational terrorism. This has been done within the framework of their federal structures, placing national security concerns above partisan politics. So, what are our state leaders squawking about?
“In the room, the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo”—T S Eliot, Love song of Alfred Prufrock
I am blinded. A wave of blood drenches me, my spectacles and my eyes. A flying, bodiless arm smashes into my face and I stagger backwards. As I fall, a slice of shrapnel from the terrorist bomb pierces my stomach. Incredible pain. Intolerable pain. I collapse. Unconscious. But I am alive. Not so the fifty others that the bomb ripped apart.
This is not an eye-witness account of a terrorist attack in Mumbai, or Delhi, or Chennai or Hyderabad. It is a victim-witness account which makes us wail “how long, O Lord, how long must we suffer these cowardly killings of innocents?
We the people of India have to suffer as long as the politicians of all parties continue to waffle about police powers and trading on federalist toes; as long as concrete heads refuse to accept that the country needs a central organisation specially designed and trained to counter terrorism and catch terrorists before they attack.
I do not think many of us citizens, including me, are clear about the states’ objections to the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). Are they really so serious that it takes voting in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and a realignment of political forces?
Whatever they are, we know who is to be blamed if terrorists attack in the near future and more innocents are murdered. We will blame Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha, who has filed a case against the NCTC in the Madras High Court, all the political parties that want the NCTC thrown out, baby and bathwater, and the UPA for not moving quickly enough to change the structure of the NCTC to satisfy the states’ demands.
“Not all the perfumes of Arabia” can wash their hands of the blood of the innocents.
Anil Chowdhry, former secretary, internal security, ministry of home affairs, provided a solution and a proper perspective on the NCTC in a recent article.
He said anyone who has dealt with or understands internal security issues will tell you that the National Counter Terrorism Centre is imperative. Such a body is required to meet the growing threat of terrorist violence which recognises neither national nor international boundaries.
He suggested the prime minister should perhaps drop the police role of the NCTC, leaving it free to focus its energies on intelligence gathering, coordination and operations. Under the Constitution, law and order and policing are the responsibility of the state governments. But at the time the Constitution was framed there were no organised terrorist groups of the kind operating globally today. The worst the police had to handle was violence driven by communal forces or political ideology. Now it is quite different.
As Chowdhry pointed out, almost all major democracies have created agencies to tackle transnational terrorism. This has been done within the framework of their federal structures, placing national security concerns above partisan politics.
So, what are our state leaders squawking about? Haven’t they heard of Nero fiddling while Rome burnt?
(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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