'Federalism is Dead, Conspiracy Clear', Modi Govt Slammed for Changing Rules to Guard Borders
The Indian Home Ministry has introduced amendments to existing laws to empower the Border Security Force, a federal agency guarding international borders, to arrest, search and confiscate anyone up to 50 km inside the states that share a border with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The move is fast snowballing into a political debate.
The Indian Home Ministry has been slammed by country's main opposition party Congress for unilaterally changing federal rules and giving a national agency, the Border Security Force (BSF), sweeping powers in states along international borders.
On Thursday, Congress politician Randeep Singh Surjewala said that recent events have shown that "federalism is dead, conspiracy clear".
For its part, the Ministry of Home Affairs has contended that a recent incident where weapons were dropped from across the border has compelled an expansion in the jurisdiction of the BSF.
In August, security agencies had recovered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), hand grenades and other ammunition packed in a bag from the Dalike village in Punjab along the Indo-Pak border. There have been several incidents in the recent past of suspected Pakistani drones being sighted in the Indian territory, which when fired upon flew back to the neighbouring country.
Earlier the BSF could arrest, search and confiscate suspicious material only within 15 km of the border (which has now been extended to 50 Km).
The new rules also empower the BSF to search and arrest in the states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, and the union territory of Ladakh.
The notification also allows BSF officers to conduct searches and make arrests without requiring any order from a magistrate and without a warrant.
The new rules have come into effect after the Narendra Modi-led federal government issued a notification about an amendment to Section 139 of the Border Security Force Act and modified the "schedule" of the border areas where the BSF will have the power to make arrests under Acts like the Passport Act, Customs Act, and Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a member of legislative assembly in Punjab state, also came down heavily on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led federal government for converting Punjab into a "BSF state" after turning Jammu and Kashmir into a "military state".
The erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state now exists as federally-administered union territory of India.
Politicians from opposition parties have objected to the federal government's move, saying this will lead to regular confrontations with local police, and villagers when searches and seizures are being done as the BSF would be now operating well within the jurisdiction of the three states.
Punjab State Chief Charanjit Singh Channi has also objected to the federal government's move and demanded an immediate roll back of the "irrational decision".