By Sankar Ray
For the first time, the Trinamool Congress, CPI(M)-led Left Front and Indian National Congress together protested against the Union ministry of home affairs’ arbitrary extension of the territorial jurisdiction of the Border Security Force through a notification on 11 October from 15 km to up to 50 km from the international border. The resolution was passed in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly under Rule 169 for legislative assemblies, with 112 Trinamool Congress MLAs voting for it and 63 BJP legislators against. The extension of the territorial jurisdiction of BSF is interference in the internal matters of the state, which will destroy the federal structure of the country, it stated.
It was a culmination for the protest-in-unison that began with LF chairman Biman Bose’s letter chief minister Mamata Banerjee. While underscoring that the notification is one that the Union government couldn’t have issued ‘neglecting the federal structure of the Constitution; that would ‘create a dangerous impediment in the daily lives of the lakhs of people of those areas,” he urged the CM ‘to immediately register the state government’s protest against this decision that violates the federal structure of the Constitution. The CM stated at an administrative review meeting that her government lodged a protest in writing against BSF’s atrocious posture. .There were incidents of firing in north Bengal. This is an attempt to interfere with the federal structure of the country.”
Under compelling circumstances, the TMC government is on a headlong collusion with the NDA government. It’s a tiff between Union minister for home affairs Amit Shah and CM Mamata Banerjee, who is in her habitual street fighting mood. The LF and INC backing has earned her an unprecedented political dividend in her endeavour for anti-BJP build up keeping the 18th Lok Sabh polls in 2024. However, she is reportedly annoyed with absentees during the debate. Less than half of legislators could turn up on Tuesday.
The West Bengal Pradesh Congress president and leader of Congress Lok Sabha group Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury suggested a few days back that the Assembly pass a resolution registering protest against the detrimental circular and demanding its withdrawal. The first state legislature to pass a similar resolution was the INC-led Punlab. Punjab CM Charanjit S Channi in a tweet wrote: ‘I strongly condemn the GoI’s unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 KM belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShahto immediately rollback this irrational decision. In a blistering attack at the NDA government at an all-party meeting, Punjab PCC president Navjot Singh Sidhu described the recent extension of the jurisdiction of BSF as Centre’s plan to weaken federal structure by creating ‘a state within a state’.
The West Bengal minister for parliamentary affairs Partha Chatterjee, who moved the resolution, told the media, “If the notification is implemented, 11 districts or 37 per cent of the state’s territory will come under the control of the BSF, and in a way under the control of the Centre.” In fact, a few days back, civil rights bodies at a press conference in Press Club of Kolkata, where the noted film director Aparna Sen was present that implementation of the new notification would bring 127 assembly and 18 Lok Sabha constituencies under the jurisdiction of BSF, thereby snatching away law and order from the state government which has exclusive constitutional rights there. Now even for any meeting or procession by political parties and mass fronts, permission will have to be sought from the BSF. The most worrisome aspect of the notification, the civil rights activists like Kirity Roy representing Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha and Sujato Bhadra of Committee for Release of Political Prisoners is BSF’s threat to conduct searches at any household and arrest anyone simply on the basis of doubts even though unfounded. Aparna Sen termed the MHA’s circular as a step towards ‘militarisation’.
Significantly, TMC MLA Udayan Guha, elected in the bye-election from Dinhata assembly seat in Coochbehar district in Bangladesh border with the all-time high margin defeating the BJP candidate, alleged during the debate that BSF personnel were indulging in excesses on the border population, particularly women. However, there was a heated exchange between him and BJP member Mihir Goswami of the same district.
Independent political analysts and poll experts smell a rat in the notification empowering BSF stronger than ever. Unable to unseat the TMC from state power and inflicted with a humiliating defeat, the saffron biggies in Delhi, backed to the hilt by the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, are hell bent to disable the TMC government which has 215 out of 294 MLAs in the state. It’s another way of strangulating an elected state government. Chatterjee pointed out, territorial jurisdiction of the BSF has been increased without any consultation with the state, in order to curb power of the state police. The hidden motive was explicit in the speech of BJP group leader Suvendu Adhikari during the debate. Very bluntly, he said that BSF’s jurisdiction should be increased more to 80 km and alleged that Rohingyas have entered the state, where terrorists are mushrooming. (IPA Service)