Pragmatic | Understanding Mamata’s logic

Maoist insurgency is a national security issue but terror is exclusively a state subject

Despite the Union Home Ministry coming out with a six-point standard operating procedure (SOP) for the operations division of proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) — under which the NCTC’s power to arrest, search and seize will be shared with heads of the anti-terrorism squads (ATS) of the states, who would be the designated authorities of the NCTC at the state level — West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continues to oppose the NCTC. She in fact does not want NCTC in any form as it goes against the federal structure of the Indian republic.

Clearly, Ms Banerjee is firm on the principle that law and order is exclusively a state subject. Law and order, for her, also includes terror,  and thus the Centre should have no direct role to play in countering terror. Logically, if terror is a law and order issue, so should be the threat posed by the Maoists. Thus the same principle of terror being an exclusive state responsibility must also apply to the Maoist problem.

Not so when it comes to Ms Banerjee. Here is what she has told the Union Home Ministry when it asked the West Bengal government to reimburse the cost of central forces deployed in the state:

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has now taken on the Centre over the Home Ministry’s letter asking Bengal to pay Rs 423 crore for retaining Central forces… Mamata, sources said, has written back to the Centre arguing that Maoist insurgency can’t be seen as just a law and order problem since it involves issues of national security. Therefore, she reasoned, if Central forces are deployed to counter this problem, the expenses have to be entirely borne by the Centre.[Indian Express]

Maoist insurgency can’t be seen as just a law and order problem since it involves issues of national security. But terror is a law and order problem which doesn’t need any action by the Centre. Only Ms Banerjee can explain her contradictory assertions. Or perhaps she doesn’t need to. After all, India is passing through weird times where “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” and it’s all covered in “fog and filthy air”.