Centre-State cross-fire over Internal security at CMs meet

New Delhi: The meeting of the chief ministers convened on 1 Feb. 2011 to discuss internal security and police reforms resulted in a sparing S.P. session. While the State chief ministers did not mince words in blaming the centre the union home minister did not lose time in giving a befitting rebuttal. He even expressed his concern at some state governments’ apathy towards several proposals. In his inaugural speech the prime minister while giving a pat to the home minister for managing investigations successfully leading to new findings he expressed his concern on "new terror groups" based on religious fundamentalism being discovered. Neither he nor did the home minister make any specific reference to the right wing groups when they mentioned "new sources of terror."

The prime minister cautioned, "we all need to be conscious of the fact that serious challenges and threats – primarily from left-wing extremism, cross-border terrorism, religious fundamentalism and ethnic violence – still persist." He expressed his happiness that the National Investigation Agency formed constituted in the aftermath of 26/11 has gained much ground "in unravelling the activities of new terror groups."

Expressing his concern of complacency the union home minister said that his biggest worry was "that we might slide into complacency and begin to think that ‘God is in heaven, and all is well with the world’ Terror attack at Pune and Varanasi "should jolt us out of complacency." Disappointed that states had not utilised even half of the training slots kept for police officers at specialised training camps run by the army and para military forces; he pointed out that 17 states had not yet sent proposals to spend crores of rupees allocated by the Thirteenth Finance Commission."

The home ministry wants to emphasise the use of non-lethal handling of public protests which necessitates evolving standard operating procedures for crowd management. It wants states to procure non-lethal equipment such as pump action guns, full-body protection gear and tears gas guns and to form special police battalions.

The surprising turn out of the meeting was the silence maintained by Narendra Modi during the meeting (though on the sidelines of meeting he was his usual self – unsparing, making fun of centre on its policy on Swiss bank deposits). However, it was Nitish Kumar and Omar Abdullah’s turn to win applause from others. Mayawati, like last time, was conspicuous by her absence. About her charge that the centre did not provide much inputs about the Varanasi blast; the home minister replied that nothing more than those inputs could be provided, "It would be unrealistic to expect that the intelligence can be any more specific than what was gathered and shared…. Lesson that must be learnt is that vigilance is not an ‘on and off’ matter."

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 March 2011 on page no. 9

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