By Kishore Dash, While campaigning against the National Counter Terrorism Centre(NCTC) taking the plea that the proposed anti-terror body would nibble away at India's federal structure , Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik forgot how inept his own babus, policemen and intelligence apparatus were.
Today, Orissa's crusader for federal rights finds himself in a very tight corner. His administration has surrendered to every demand made by a faction of Maoists led by Sabyasachi Panda, to secure the release of hostage Paolo Bosusco, an Italian, after a month in captivity. Reality is different. Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (BJD)-led administration in Orissa caved in to every demand made by a rebel’s outfit led by Odiya leader Sabyasachi Panda during the recent past. The administration released every prisoner that the rebels wanted, in order to secure the release of a single Italian named Paolo Bosusco, who they had held for a month in captivity.
Certainly, the BJD regime has capitulated to the outlawed Maoist demands many times in the past to get the hostages released when ever there was incidence of abduction. In his zeal to protect federal rights, Patnaik seems to have grossly overestimated the abilities of the state's police, intelligence and administrative corps. Many democracies have a policy of not negotiating with hostage takers. Capitulation before one set of terrorists encourages others to perform greater atrocities and exact larger concessions. The journey down this slippery slope began last year, when Orissa's bureaucracy banded together to campaign for negotiations to free R.Vineel Krishna ,the than collector of Malkangiri, held hostage by Maoists. Few states negotiate as ardently with terrorists and give up so much for so little as Odisha has done in recent months. While Krishna was held by the Maoists, the state bureaucracy whipped itself up into frenzy, demanding that the administration do 'something' to get him out. Faced by the wrath of its babus, Patnaik's government lost its nerve and agreed to the swap. Today, the situation at home is worse but Patnaik continues to grandstand against the NCTC and for greater federalism.
It is now paying the price of that surrender. Today, Left Wing Extremists operates across the borders of several states. Odisha by itself cannot curb the menace. The rebels can move in and out of the state, but the state's jurisdiction ends at its borders. Something like the NCTC, working across states, might have a better shot at success. For the political part of the anti-Maoist agenda, too, we need federal cooperation. Pattnaik should not forget that the gravity of the law & order situation, in the state is altogether different from West Bengal & Tamil Nadu. It would be wrong to conclude that Bengal's handling of Naxals has been far better than Odisha. For Maoists, Bengal's diminished economics means that pickings are leaner compared to what can be grabbed in mineral-rich Orissa. This also means that Patnaik has much more to lose than Mamata if he fails to control Naxals. Recent events in the state suggest rebels have the upper hand over Patnaik.
While Naveen Pattnaik opposes the proposed anti-terror body in the pretext of federal structure, the Maoists who too oppose the NCTC have their own reason best known to all. It is beyond doubt that this counter terrorism body would certainly help Odisha in tacking the Maoist menace in a better way. This the rebels know well. For them, anything that purports to strengthen the government is bad because their whole purpose is to weaken the government. They believe that the proposed NCTC will impact the security forces functioning in the region. So they are opposing it on the standard grounds that it is civil oppressive, etc. but it is the same age-old Maoist rhetoric," say the conflict management experts. After all, the thousands and thousands they have killed, how many are actually the so-called class enemies. And even that class enemies are petty traders, moneylenders who are by all standards poor. The policemen they kill are poor. The civilians who get killed are mostly tribal. Maoist methods are extremely violent and they are violent against the same constituency, which they claim to be representing. Experts say the Maoists are waging a war against the Indian state. It is a war against democracy, against the rule of law and against freedom and Naveen should understand this. With more than 15 out 30 districts are Maoist infested, the Odisha Chief Minister should have a fresh look at the revised NCTC proposal with the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) - the apex decision making body of the country on security issues, headed by the Prime Minister. The CCS is likely to consider the proposal in the last week of July after the Presidential election, scheduled for July 19, concludes.
With the NCTC has been kept out of the ambit of Intelligence Bureau (IB) in the revised proposal as desired by many Chief Ministers including Naveen Pattnaik. The NCTC will now be a separate organization which will directly report to the Home Ministry. The Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) - a platform to share varied intelligence inputs coming from various agencies like the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Economic Intelligence Agency, Enforcement Directorate etc. - will be placed under the NCTC. As of now the MAC is within the IB. In addition to this, the NCTC's ability to carry out counter-terror operations on its own, independent of State Police organization was also a major stumbling block. Although, the Union Home Ministry had argued that independent anti-terror operations would be limited and the apprehended suspect would be immediately handed over to the local police, the States, however, weren't convinced with this argument. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and several others had refused to buy this argument. Instead they claimed that law and order was a state issue and independent anti-terror operations without involving the state police organization would violate the federal structure of the constitution. It is believed that the NCTC will now be able to carry out anti-terror operations only in the rarest of rare cases.
The Centre can surely be faulted for its initial unwillingness to consult the States, but since then it has more than made up for that lapse by going hallways to address the State governments’ principal concerns over the NCTC. It’s now for the Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik to demonstrate that he is capable of rising above his provincial mindset and have an open mind about the NCTC when the union home ministry comes out with a revised notification soon after the presidential election concludes. To claim that he along with his many counter parts oppose the NCTC “in whatever form” is the height of unreason. Being in a permanent state of opposition to every proposal does little justice to these leaders’ status as heads of government. Such extreme and irreconcilable positions make a mockery of States’ claims that their stand is principled and based on protecting the federal nature of the polity. They only breed cynicism that some State governments are stooping to partisan politics even on importance matters of national security.
The author is the Senior Editor with www.orissadiary.com and can be reached at email@example.com