Bomb blasts have become a never ending misery in India. The latest blasts at Pune was just a reminder as to how vulnerable our security set up is. More importantly it goes on to show that we have not learnt our lesson and continue to let ego dominate security.
This brings us to the very crucial question regarding the standard operating procedure that is to be followed at the time of a blast. As usual we saw the Maharashtra ATS and the Pune local police in the midst of all the action when this blast took place. One often wonders as to what role is the National Investigating Agency playing in all this. It is clear, they continue to play second fiddle and are picking the left overs from the local police and continuing with the investigation.
However this is not the way it is meant to be. The National Investigating Agency was set up post 26/11. It began with a lot of confusion, but after the 13/7 blasts, the Home Ministry of India had decided that enough was enough and sought to set down a fixed set of guidelines or a standard operating procedure where the NIA was concerned. The consortium comprising, the Home Ministry, Intelligence Bureau and also the Research and Analysis Wing met and decided that it would the NIA which would lead every probe concerning an act of terror.
It was decided that in the wake of a blast, the standard operating procedure would be for the NIA to lead the probe and the local police ought to help them with the probe. It was stated that in the event of any blast, it would be the local police who would first have to inform the NIA. The NIA would be the one visiting the spot and taking the lead with the investigation while the state bodies would assist the probe.
The NIA on the other hand has held a series of meetings and had decided that all intelligence both from the central and state intelligence wings ought to be shared with them. Moreover the first information or at the time of drawing out a mahzar it would be shared first with them so they could handle the probe from the beginning to the end.
With the needle of suspicion pointing towards the Indian Mujahideen, the NIA today finds it difficult connecting the dots. Take for instance the recent blasts, the Delhi High Court, 13/7 among others. The NIA has always come in last and has been privy to second hand information. This in no way is helping them build a data base and hence they struggle while trying to join the dots. NIA sources say most of the information is with the local police. There are ego clashes at times and only half the information comes to us. Moreover we are roped in very late and at any blast scene we find a parallel investigation that is taking place.
Another fact that none of the state government have seriously set up the internal security wing. This was a wing which was to act as a liasoning body between the local police and the NIA. The government felt that the local police would share better with a local wing which in turn could pass on information to the NIA. Not only was the local police supposed to share investigation updates with the internal security wing, but all intelligence inputs from the state level was also supposed to be shared so that it could be passed on regularly to the NIA.
While it is the Intelligence Bureau which does most of the work regarding sharing of alerts, the rule is that the premier investigating body, the NIA had to be kept in the loop about all these alerts. However the major complain by the NIA is that alerts often go to the state police and they very often do not share such information. Our job is not only to investigate into the matter, but we need to be aware of every possible movement.
Now there is a standard operating procedure in place, but unfortunately it is not being followed. Not only does it put the NIA on the back foot, but it puts the country too at a great deal of risk. The NIA came in late into the picture where the Delhi blasts and the 13/7 blasts were concerned. In fact it was the local police which dealt with the issue. Sources say what the local police are failing to understand is that terrorism is not a local subject. If a blast were to occur in New Delhi, it does not mean that some one from Delhi has done it. We have also seen that in the 13/7 blasts, it was a module from Bihar which undertook it. In such an event it is best that a centralised agency handles the probe since the local police would again face jurisdictional problems when it comes to dealing with issues in another state. The NIA does not have any such jurisdictional problems and is at liberty to probe in any state.
Moreover it only helps the cause if one agency probes all the cases considering that these incidents are inter-linked. If the standard operating procedure is followed then it would be the NIA which would probe all cases and every time they start they would be in a stronger position as they would have the data base on their finger tips from the previous case. Moreover during the course of their investigation they are also likely to pick up vital clues not only pertaining to the current case, but would also be able to warn about future strikes. However now with the local police trying to grab all the attention it only defeats the cause since they tend to stick to only their jurisdication even if the attack has had a national ramification.
The North vs South- While it has been written very many times that there is a major ego clash between the local police and the NIA, what has also been found that officers from North are not cooperative with those from the South and vice versa. There is a major lobby of these police forces. Looking at the NIA case, it is considered to be a wing from North since it is based out of Delhi and hence officers from other parts of the country are not too keen on sharing information. Many in the IB and the NIA believe that the Internal Security Wing needs to operate properly so that there is some middle path where information could be shared with no ego hassle coming in the way which in turn would help the country a great deal in the long run.