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Fight Against Terror:NEEDED: FEDERAL POLICE FORCE, by TD Jagadesan,15 October 2007 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 15 October 2007  

Fight Against Terror


By TD Jagadesan

India has stood witness to two dastardly terror attacks in the last ten days alone. The first at the dargah of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, Rajasthan, a shrine in revered alike by Muslims, Hindus and Christians, which killed 2 and left 17 injured. The second at a cinema hall in Ludhiana, Punjab which killed 7 and maimed over 40 people.

Coming on the heels of the twin blasts at Hyderabad last month the incidents have once again pushed the Centre and the State Governments into the dock. More so, as the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil had issued a stern warning against terror attacks to the States at the conference of Director Generals and IGs of Police New Delhi last fortnight.

Raising a million dollar question: How does one fight terrorism and stem the tide with a firm hand? The answer is to create a Federal Police Force to tackle this two-headed monster, always hungry and always on the move.

Sadly, till now India’s counter-terror strategy usually follows a predictable pattern after ever act of terror. Grandiose statements are made by our polity that we will not “tolerate” terrorism and the nation will not be cowed down by such acts of “cowardice.” An avalanche of VIP visits follow, disturbing the law and order machinery.

After this a competition starts within the media with different news agencies airing divergent theories about the perpetrators. Subsequently leaks appear that the Central agencies had already alerted the State concerned. But the latter had failed to act upon the prior “intelligence.”

The State Chief Minister hurriedly announces that a “new” agency would be created to tackle terrorism. In the end, everything dies down. Until another terror attack takes place and the charade starts all over again.

The Hyderabad attacks are a case in point. Immediately after the two incidents at Lumbini Park and the Old City, media speculation about the perpetrators ranged from the Naxalites, HUJI, LeT, Dawood and the JeM. Initially, the Andhra Chief Minister Rajasekhar Reddy pleaded helplessness asserting that the conspiracy had been hatched abroad. His statement regarding the complicity of Pakistan evoked a sharp riposte from Islamabad.

Then the Government changed it tactic and stated that an allied force like the “Greyhounds” would be created. It was also announced that the State would recruit 100 linguists (knowing Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Pushtu, Bangla, Uzbek, Baluchi, Kurdish, Hebrew, Spanish and Chechen) to “fight terror”. One only hopes that this will not give rise to another diplomatic furore, since the countries which use these languages can legitimately protest that they are not the places of origins of such terror.

After which another information got leaked that the State had failed to act upon the Intelligence Bureau’s (IB) warning. The contents of the warning were never spelt out. Only one newspaper published that the warning “was too vague.”

It also said that the modules could take up “some sensational terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Bangalore or Hyderabad.” Does this amount actionable intelligence? A retired IB Director defended such alerts by stating that it was left to the State police to infiltrate such modules and extract actionable intelligence.

However, recall that after the railway attacks of 7/11 in Mumbai last year, the then Mumbai Police Commissioner had asserted that he had never been given any indication that the Mumbai suburban railway system would be attacked in his several meetings with the IB at the highest level before the incident. In fact, it seems that the Central intelligence agencies had only indicated that the religious places would be targeted.

Yet, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gently chided the Mumbai police in one of his speeches. Clearly, this shadow boxing has to stop. The public is tired of these ping-pong battles between the States and the Central agencies. The State satraps have to realize that they cannot replicate national intelligence agencies at the State level. Immediately after 7/11 it was announced that Maharashtra would “revamp” its intelligence machinery and recruit “non-police officials” similar to the Old Bombay Special Branch.

One does not know what happened to that. Even if such “revamping” is done, its results will be experienced after decades. The Old Bombay Special Branch had a hard core of non-transferable non-police officials who met the then challenges admirably. Unfortunately, that system was allowed to wind up and the non-police officers gravitated to “profitable” police influence. Where is the guarantee then that something similar will not happen again?

Acting upon the Maharashtra and Andhra decisions, other States might also announce the creation of such “elite” forces. But recruiting 100 linguists for a State force for communicating intelligence can at best be a pipe-dream.

Especially against the backdrop, that even our Central agencies are perennially short of linguists proficient in foreign languages. Shockingly, most of these posts are lying vacant. Even if one is able to recruit linguists has anyone considered the sheer volume of data that has to be transcribed and converted into actionable intelligence?

Our State leaders must realize the inherent handicap the forces face in penetrating terrorist modules. Terrorism is transnational, professional and secretive in nature, conducted by highly motivated cadres. On the other hand, the State police units are fragmented, largely inefficient, slow in reaction, badly trained and highly politicized.

Not only that. The operational efficiency of the police units differs vastly from State to State. Coordination between the police units is hardly satisfactory. Worse, the interrogation reports are not shared promptly. Needless to say, a Centralized operation against terrorism has always produced better results, although there is no guarantee that it would eliminate terrorism. However, at least there would be greater accountability as none would be able to pass the buck.

Recall, a Group of Ministers (GoM) set-up by the previous NDA Government had recommended the setting up of a Federal Police Force to tackle a federal crime like terrorism and to curb the Naxalite menace. However, the meeting of Chief Ministers called by Manmohan Singh in September 2006 to take up the NDA proposal brushed aside the recommendation. In fact, even Chief Ministers belonging to the BJP opposed the move, fearing the erosion of their power.

Since then, several eminent jurists have supported the idea of having a federal anti-terrorist force to tackle this nation-wide scourge. But it is the State Chief ministers who are resisting the idea.

How many more 7/11s, Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, Ajmer and Ludhiana incidents need to take place before these power hungry politicians are made to agree to this excellent suggestion of a federal police force! ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

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