What does NCTC imply?
Let it not be National Centre for Terrorizing Citizens!
DR. AKHTAR HUSSAIN MIR
On 3 February 2012, the Union Government’s Home Ministry issued an executive order (office memorandum III 11011/67/05-IS.IV) establishing the NCTC with effect from 1st March. The office memorandum references Article 73 of the Constitution says that Union’s executive power can be exercised in relation to those matters on which Parliament can legislate; but not those that also fall within the powers of a state’s legislature. Criminal law and procedure, preventive detention and public order are all matters in this common zone. The effect of this legal feint-and-dodge is ominous in purpose and sinister in design. Not established under law, the NCTC sits under the Intelligence Bureau (IB), itself ungoverned by any statute, one originally designed by the British during the Great Game to watch the Russians in the North-West Frontier. This means that the IB has no Parliamentary supervision; but the IB also has no powers of arrest or seizure, since that would require a law. : Like the IB, it has no governing law, but by executive fiat it derives power under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). This law was twice amended in 2004 and 2008 to deal with terrorism, and what this means is that the NCTC can do today what the IB cannot: it can arrest, detain, interrogate and prosecute. This is far beyond the powers of the American model on which the Indian NCTC claims to have been based. The bitter politics now enveloping the proposed revamp of India’s national security structures is the result of two impulses. First, no bureaucracy or power system likes giving up control. Indeed Mr. Chidambaram’s initial idea to create a separate Ministry of Internal Security which would control the proposed NCTC made much more sense but ran into entrenched opposition long ago. The second more obvious reason, as some experts have pointed out, is that the proposed NCTC would report to the Intelligence Bureau and the fear is of unmitigated power being misused by shadowy agencies with political motives. This objection is a valid enough but it can be fixed easily if there is a genuine discussion on administrative rules and reporting lines. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?
Just as India needs a truly autonomous CBI to deal with corruption, it also needs a professional anti-terror mechanism. The NCTC is far more than a monitoring unit. Its personnel can fly into any state without reference to local police or the state’s home department, arrest any suspect and, in a domestic version of that wonderful American euphemism, perform ‘extraordinary rendition’ by flying the suspects right out to be held for up to four months without trial. We should see this for what it really is: an attempt to brand every single citizen of this country as a potential terrorist. The very real problem of terrorism has, in the hands of this government, became an excuse for the violation of civil liberties and fundamental rights, and by repeatedly raising the spectre of terrorism we are asked to surrender hard earned freedoms. Just look at the criticism of Mr. Chidambaram’s proposal. Six BJP chief ministers (Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh, DV Sadanand Gowda, BC Khanduri and PK Dhumal) have joined a stage-managed chorus of state rights being trampled in concert with Naveen Patnaik’s BJD and J. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK. Add the embarrassing opposition by the government’s own allies, Trinamool Congress and National Conference, with the loud noises from the CPI, and it seems like yet another case of bad political management by the Congress .Omar Abdullah in his address to state Assembly on 27th March declared that the state has given “conditional consent” to its formation and declared that “state will not in any way allow the independence of operation by central agencies in the state, we have very bad experience of the central agencies going for independent operations, without taking the state police along” Whether it is the fight against terrorists or the military battle with the Naxals, plain common sense would tell you that solid state level intelligence and policing must always be complimented by a centralized command and control structure. It is a no-brainer and in the states most affected by insurgencies, terrorism of all forms including saffron terror threat, counter-insurgency operations have always been coordinated by a unified command headquarters. This is a bare minimum for collating the inputs of multiple agencies and for the basic practicalities of day-to-day work. The original idea itself draws from the experience of the United States which revamped its intelligence gathering after 9/11 and set up its own National Counter Terrorism Centre under the Director of National Intelligence who directly reports to the President. The US setup was a response to the serious problem of poor coordination of intelligence between agencies that 9/11 exposed and Mr. Chidambaram’s proposal is the ultimate outcome of similar problems that were obvious in our own response to the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. The oddest thing about this word “terrorism” is that it is so closely tied to “liberty”. It comes from the Latin verb `terrere', to frighten, and later from the French `terrorisme'. Nearly 300 years ago, during Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, it was used as a means of governance against enemies of the newly-founded state. Today it references non-state and anti-national elements acting against the state. But what do you call it when the state arms itself with powers to terrorize its own? The NCTC: the National Centre for Terrorizing Citizens.
Dr. Akhtar Hussain Mir
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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