Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar
New Delhi: The states may have valid reasons to resist overarching powers to central investigative agencies given the federal structure of the Indian union, where law and order is mandated as a state subject, but the manner in which Tamil Nadu has kept the National Investigation Agency out of the Chennai blasts probe may set a bad precedent.
The Centre had acted swiftly after the two low-intensity bombs exploded on two coaches of the Bangalore-Guwahati train at the busy Chennai Central Station yesterday morning that left one young woman dead and 14 others injured. An NIA team was readied in Delhi, while the National Security Guard (NSG) and forensic experts in Hyderabad were asked to pack their bags for Chennai.
However, the Tamil Nadu government had other plans. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who is also the state home minister, ordered a CB-CID probe. The TN government followed it up by conveying to the Union Home Ministry that it was equipped to handle the investigation on its own.
An embarrassed home ministry said that it has asked the NIA team in New Delhi to stay on hold since the state government has not yet sought an NIA probe into the incident.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde put up a brave face and, officially, directed his officials to provide all assistance to the state government.
However, the development, when taken in context of Jayalalithaa`s long standing opposition to any interference from Central agencies on the subject of law and order, appears to be clear snub to the Union Home Ministry.
Jayalalithaa had earlier stone-walled the UPA government’s ambitious National Counter Terrorism Centre, along with non-Congress chief ministers, including BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
“MHA wanted to belittle us (state government) and treat us like pawns on a chessboard,” she had said.
A joint team of NIA-NSG - NSG`s bomb data centre is mandated by an Act to collect forensic evidence of all explosions in the country - is expected to reach today but it remains to be seen how much evidence they can gather given the time lapse - over 24 hours - since the blasts.
While the CB-CID of Tamil Nadu Police may be competent enough to crack the case, especially because they have one suspect under custody, the delayed decision on NIA, NSG could make other state governments also resist central intervention in terrorism-related cases.
Tamil Nadu DGP (intelligence) Anoop Jaiswal said National Security Guard (NSG) experts would “assist” the Tamil Nadu Police.
The gap between actively probing the blast and only assisting the probe is the one that poses serious questions on the mandate of central agencies like the NIA and NSG.
Following the 9/11 Mumbai terror attacks, crores have been spent on creating a anti-terrorism structure in the country and the manner in which the Tamil Nadu government chose to distinguish between the Centre and the state, one is left wondering whether the money was well spent and whether the country can give a coordinated response to terrorism, ever.