Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi took to Twitter on Wednesday to condemn the Centre’s decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force to a 50 km belt along the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. Earlier, the BSF’s jurisdiction was a 15 km belt along the border.
In the area under its jurisdiction, BSF officers have powers of arrest, search and seizure on par with their counterparts in the police.
Punjab CM Channi called the central government’s move “a direct attack on federalism” and urged Union home minister Amit Shah to roll back the decision.
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 @AmitShah to immediately rollback this irrational decision.
— Charanjit S Channi (@CHARANJITCHANNI) October 13, 2021
HOME MINISTRY’S NOTICE
In its notice, the Ministry of Home Affairs had written, “The amendment effected on October 11, 2021 establishes uniformity in defining the area within which Border Security Force can operate as per its charter of duties and execution of its role and task of border guarding in its areas of deployment. This will also enable improved operational effectiveness in curbing trans-border crime.”
The area under BSF jurisdiction in Gujarat has been reduced to a 50 km belt from an 80 km one. It has remained the same in Rajasthan at 50 km. In Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, no limit has been prescribed, as was the case earlier.
Section 139 of the Border Security Force Act, 1968, which empowers the Centre to notify the force’s jurisdiction, requires that any such order be laid before each House of Parliament. The Houses can modify or annul these orders.
PUNJAB DEPUTY CM SLAMS CENTRE
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister S Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa also issued a statement criticising the Centre’s move and asking Amit Shah to withdraw the decision.
He said that this “illogical” decision was absolutely against the spirit of the raising of border guarding forces, which are required to focus on the international border and act as the first line of defence. He added that policing in the hinterland is not the role of a border guarding force.
S Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “Punjab Police is a nationalist force which ended terrorism in the state… Centre must have faith in its capability.”
He called the move an attack on federalism and said he would personally call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah to resolve this issue.
“There are no justifiable reasons for unilaterally changing the existing arrangements by the Government of India, except to weaken the State Government and the spirit of federalism,” asserted Deputy CM S Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.
Opposition parties, including the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), criticised the Centre’s decision.
SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said, “By doing this, the central government wants to rule Punjab indirectly and this is an attack on federalism. Akali Dal openly opposes this decision of the central government.” Shiromani Akali Dal termed the Centre’s decision “an internal emergency”.
Not only the Centre, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sardar Sukhbir SIngh Badal also criticised the Congress government in the state for what he described as “central rule by proxy”.
“It is most unlikely that the Centre would have taken such a drastic decision without the knowledge and prior consent of the state government. All the noise which Mr Channi and his colleagues are now making are a mere attempt to hide their complicity in this decision,” he said.
“You must tell the people what exactly you propose to do to put a stop to this humiliating move from the Centre,” Sardar Sukhbir SIngh Badal urged CM Channi.
Meanwhile, the Punjab unit of AAP said the Centre’s decision compromised “the rights of the states”.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Kultar Singh Sandhwan said, “It seems that the central government is taking revenge against the people of Punjab for continuously raising their voice against the central agricultural laws.”
VOICES FROM WITHIN CONGRESS
Congress leader Sunil Jakhar criticised Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi over the development.
He wrote on Twitter, “Be careful what you ask for! Has CM Channi unwittingly managed to hand over half of Punjab to central government? 25,000 square kilometre [out of total 50,000 square kilometres] has now been placed under BSF jurisdiction. Punjab Police stands castigated. Do we still want more autonomy to states?”
Sunil Jakhar retweeted a screenshot of an October 5 Facebook post by CM Channi in which the chief minister had written, “Further asked Home Minister Amit Shah to seal the international border with Punjab to curb trafficking of drugs and weapons. I hope that the HM will take strict action on these matters immediately.”
Be careful what you ask for ! Has @CHARANJITCHANNI unwittingly managed to handover half of Punjab to Central govt. 25000sq km (out of total 50,000sq km) has now been placed under BSF jurisdiction. Punjab Police stands castigated. Do we still want more autonomy to States ? https://t.co/JlGB7G0Pnj
— Sunil Jakhar (@sunilkjakhar) October 13, 2021
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari also took to Twitter to express his opinion on the issue.
MHA Notification enhancing operational mandate of BSF,15 to 50 KM’s in Punjab,West Bengal &Assam transgresses upon Constitutional Public order & Policing remit of States Half of Punjab will now fall under BSF jurisdiction
@CHARANJITCHANNI must oppose it
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) October 13, 2021
WHAT DOES CAPTAIN AMARINDER HAVE TO SAY?
Former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh backed the Centre’s decision via a tweet posted by his media advisor Raveen Thukral.
He said, “Our soldiers are being killed in Kashmir. We’re seeing more and more weapons and drugs being pushed by Pak-backed terrorists into Punjab. BSF’s enhanced presence and powers will only make us stronger. Let’s not drag central armed forces into politics. “
Amarinder Singh added, “Partisan considerations can’t and shouldn’t dictate our stand on issues of national security. I’d said that at the time of the 2016 surgical strikes and am saying it again. We’ve to rise above politics when India’s security is at stake, as it is now.”
‘Our soldiers are being killed in Kashmir. We’re seeing more & more weapons & drugs being pushed by Pak-backed terrorists into Punjab. BSF’s enhanced presence & powers will only make us stronger. Let’s not drag central armed forces into politics’: capt_amarinder 1/2
(File pic) pic.twitter.com/nu4DhAQnAz
— Raveen Thukral (@RT_Media_Capt) October 13, 2021
TIFF BETWEEN CENTRAL, STATE AGENCIES?
On condition of anonymity, a senior Punjab police officer told India Today, “The move will lead to increased tiffs between central and state agencies. They will have influence over who to arrest at the Centre’s behest. 50 km means half of the state, including crucial districts. It may also have some overlap with Haryana, which has no mention in the notification.”
Meanwhile, an official from BSF said, “The notification was the need of the hour. In Punjab, if a drone goes beyond the 15 km area, should we not chase it down? Similarly, BSF soldiers are at times attacked at the Indo-Bangladesh border, The attackers escape, knowing fully well that they cannot be chased beyond 15 km.”